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Sunday, 30 January 2011

From Today's Papers - 30 Jan 2011

11 pirates killed as Navy sinks hijacked ship
 15 sea brigands held, 20 fishermen freed Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  An Indian naval warship, acting in self-defence, sunk a hijacked ship that was being used by pirates in the Arabian Sea. The incident occurred some 200 nautical miles (360 km) west off Kochi in Kerala.  New Delhi, January 29 In a major strike, an Indian naval warship, acting in self-defence, has sunk a hijacked ship that was being used by pirates in the Arabian Sea. A total of 11 sea brigands are feared killed while 15 of their accomplices have been captured alive and 20 hostages have been freed from the clutches of the pirates.  The pirate vessel, a hijacked Thai fishing trawler MV Prantalay, was being used by the sea robbers to launch attacks near the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. A major sea shipping lane called the 9 degree channel passes just north of the Islands. The incident occurred last night some 200 nautical miles (360 km) west off Kochi in Kerala, Indian Navy spokesperson Commander PVS Satish confirmed this morning.  MV Prantalay was being used by the pirates since April 2010 and was involved in several piracy incidents. The Indian naval ship INS Cankarso, a water jet propelled fast attack craft that can travel at speeds of 35 knots, carried out the operation. The naval crew and the ship, which was inducted in June 2010, are safe, officials confirmed. This ship was later joined in by INS Kalpeni and Coast Guard Vessel CGS Sankalp.  The chase for MV Prantalay started yesterday morning on the high seas when the pirates had used the ship in a piracy bid some 220 miles off Kochi. The attempt was to take over a 73,000-tonne merchant vessel MV CMA CGM Vedri, but it was foiled by the Navy and the Coast Guard. The pirates, using small fast speed skiffs, made good their escape and boarded MV Prantalay.  By 5 pm yesterday, INS Cankarso closed in on the pirate ship and made efforts to establish communication on the international Mercantile Marine Band, but there was no response. In keeping with internationally accepted norms, INS Cankarso fired a warning shot well ahead of the pirate ship to compel her to stop. Instead of stopping, the pirates opened fire. The return attack of the Navy caused a fire in the pirate ship.  The Navy men then released 20 fishermen of Thai and Myanmarese nationality. They were the original crew of the fishing vessel and were being held hostage for several months.  Yesterday’s incident is the second major score for the Navy since it was tasked, some two months ago, to focus on pirates operating some 400-500 miles away from India’s western shoreline. In late November last year, the Navy had apprehended 14 Pakistanis and five Iranians on a dhow sailing suspiciously in the area.  The pirates, under pressure from international navies operating off the coast of north-eastern Africa and the Gulf, have started moving closer to the Indian coastline. The Defence Ministry has ordered three warships on permanent patrol and has also opened a new Coast Guard station on the Lakshadweep Islands.  Separately, the Navy, since it was deployed in the Gulf of Aden in October 2008 has foiled some 27 piracy attempts in the international waters.

Link between pirates, ultras: Intel agencies
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, January 29 In what could be a nightmare for India and also for other countries, Indian intelligence and security agencies and the Indian Navy have warned that pirates operating in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean have definite links with terrorist organisations like the Al-Qaida and the Laskhar-e-Toiba.  Well-places sources confirmed that sleuths have warned of links between pirates and terrorists with the possibility of the two sides working in tandem. This emerged at a closed door, meeting of all stake-holders on coastal security on January 21 at Mumbai. This meeting was attended by representatives of the Navy, Coastguard, and security agencies working under the Home Ministry, besides the shipping, fisheries and finance ministries. “Pirates, who are anyway gun-toting mercenaries working for a ransom, can be picked up by terrorist organisations to launch a terror strike using the sea route like the one on Mumbai in November, 2008”, a source said while narrating a warning that emerged at the meeting. In the past, Naval warships doing anti-piracy patrols have noted that “maritime comfort-level and competency of the pirates has improved and is much superior”. This indicates that land based capability is backing the efforts of the pirates on the high seas.  Pirates have developed significant support structures whereby they are able to hold hijacked ships and crew hostage for months. This could be catastrophic in case of hostage situation like the one faced in 1999 at Kandahar when IC-814 was hijacked, opined a functionary.  The assessment is based on facts that pirates now operate from big ships which they hijack at high-seas. Indian security agencies have also briefed the top brass on the military and political side.  Last month, the Navy issued an alert asking all fishing vessels and merchant ships plying on the western coast to maintain a safe distance from Indian naval ships. The Navy fears that explosive-laden fast boats and trawlers could be rammed into a Naval ship to explode it. US Navy and French Navy ships also operate in the Arabian Sea.  Four days ago Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s ambassador to the UN had conveyed to the Security Council a five-step approach to tackle piracy  India wants tracking of the trail of ransom money to different parts of the world, prosecution of the beneficiaries of ransom money for abetting piracy, conduct of naval operations under the UN, sanitation of the Somali coastline through identified corridors and enactment of national laws to criminalise piracy.  Security agencies worry at the easy flow of money accruing from the ransom in lieu of ships and hostages. The latest international study by a London-based think tank estimated the total of ransoms paid to pirates in 2009 and 2010 at $425 million (Rs 2,200 crore approx). The study pegs the sum at $830 million when costs of negotiations and delivery fees were added.  The average ransom for each ship has gone up. In 2010 it was $5.4 million, compared to $3.4 million in 2009 and $150,000 in 2005, says the study. Already, shipping costs in the Indian Ocean have risen resulting in world economic losses estimated at $7 billion annually.

Beating the Retreat ceremony is a grand spectacle
The Republic Day festivities culminate with Beating Retreat at Vijay Chowk on January 29 at 5 PM every year. Here is an informative peace for the newcomer. CJ: Chitranjan Sawant          
MAHABHARAT WAS the biggest and longest battle fought on an All-India basis about 5,000 years ago.It was called a war of Righteousness or Dharma. The battle began and ended at the appointed hour of the day. In the morning conch shell were sounded and the battle began.   Bringing the battle to a halt was altogether another matter. It was difficult for an attacking or a defending warrior to cease fire in the heat of the battle. So, cease fire had to be obeyed as an order and the order had to be communicated in such a manner and by such a method that it was heard without doubt in order to be obeyed without infringement.    
All warriors, irrespective of their rank, were required to come to attention and no movement was to be tolerated thereafter. Beat of drums, sounding of trumpets or loud bugle calls by many buglers or trumpeters in unison was sounded on a signal given by the commander in the battlefield and it was named as
On hearing the first note of Retreat, a sword about to cut a limb of the enemy would go back into the sheath, the point of a lance would be made to point towards the ground and later when guns were introduced, their barrell would be lowered to incapacitate it from any mode of attack. Thus Retreat was sounded and obeyed without a hitch.    
The bandsmen played the role of stretcher-bearers in battle to carry their own wounded personnel to the Regimental Aid Post from where the wounded were evacuated to different hospitals depending on the injury sustained. Where was the time or availability to assemble bandsmen to play tunes of Retreat or enthuse love of motherland or the Regiment to keep the morale high. The band in full was neither called nor played. Their role was devised to be in the ceremonial Retreat like the one in New Delhi Vijay Chowk as a part of the Republic Day activities of the Republic of India.     On the final day of the festivities, at the Vijay Chowk, all bands, both Military and Pipes and Drums, were assembled and various movements of single and massed bands were carried out to entertain the vast multitudes assembled there. The Indian masses deserve to be mentioned in despatches for taking the risk of losing limb or life in a terrorist attack in an open area like the Vijay Chowk.     Beating Retreat ceremony there lasts one hour and every single moment is enjoyed by both the civilian and the soldier. The three services make their bands available for the grand ceremony to be conducted by a trained officer of the Music wing. The President of India drives in and back to the Rashtrapati Bhawan escorted by 46 horsemen of the President's Body Guard. It is a grand spectacle in itself. The media, both print and electronic, covers the event well. Thus it is no more a battle field where the Retreat is sounded to halt the battle of the day and enable the warriors of the two sides to have an exchange of views.     Beating the Retreat is now a ceremonial event organised and witnessed by the elite and the commoners. Indeed it is a treat to the eyes and ears and a must see event whenever and wherever possible.

Indian Navy, Coast Guard rescue Thai vessel from pirates 
Press Trust of India, Updated: January 29, 2011 19:48 IST Ads by Google  The Economist Magazine – Get a World view Every Week. 12 Issues for Rs. 500 only!  Kochi:  In a joint operation, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard intercepted and neutralised 'Prantalay' Thai fishing vessel, which was being used by Somali pirates as 'mother vessel' since April last year for piracy at various locations in the Arabian Sea, a Defence press release today said.    There was an exchange of fire between INS Cankarso and the pirate vessel, following which fire was noticed in 'Prantalay' and some personnel were seen jumping into the waters.    Twenty Thai and Myanmarese fishermen, the original crew of the vessel, who had been held hostage by the pirates and 15 pirates, were pulled out from the waters by INS Cankarso. INS Kalpeni, CGS Sankalp, Naval and Coast Guard ships and aircraft are presently in the area searching for any fishermen or pirates, the release said.    This vessel had been a risk to international shipping for many months and has carried out several attacks, the release said
Yesterday, a Coast Guard Dornier while responding to a Mayday call from MV CMA CGM Verdi, a Bahama Flagged container ship, located two skiffs attempting a piracy attack. Seeing the aircraft, the skiffs immediately aborted their piracy attempt and dashed towards the mother vessel Prantalay which hurriedly hoisted the two skiffs onboard and set a Westerly course to escape from the area, the release said.    This action cleared all doubts of 'Prantalay' being used by pirates as a mother vessel. While Coast Guard and Naval Dorniers continuously tracked 'Prantalay', Indian Naval Ship Cankarso (a recently commissioned Water Jet Fast Attack Craft) which was already deployed in the area for anti-piracy patrol, was directed to intercept and investigate Prantalay.       At about 1700hrs, INS Cankarso closed on to 'Prantalay' and made all efforts  to establish communication on the international Mercantile Marine Band, but the vessel did not respond and continued to proceed westwards in the hope of escaping.       In keeping with internationally accepted norms, Cankarso fired a warning shot well ahead of the bows of Prantalay to compel her to stop. 'Instead of stopping, however, Prantalay suddenly opened fire on INS Cankarso. INS Cankarso returned limited fire in self-defence out of necessity and as a proportionate measure only', the release said.    Thereafter the fire broke out on Prantalay (mother vessels are known to carry additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs) and the 'personnel were seen jumping overboard.

2011 will see India entering the fighter plane industry
Anybody would have felt proud of one's country, sitting and watching the military prowess of India live. We were lucky being part of the audience of the full dress rehearsal of Republic Day Parade 2011. Spectacular welcome show by warplanes and helicopters, brave Indian children being rewarded, motorcycle rides by the daredevils contingent of the army, handsome marches by the para-military and other services, women marching ahead, synchronized dance performance by kids, fighter plane `Tejas' and beautiful tableaux showcasing India's rich diversity, were all there to fill you with a sense of awe.  The country's latest and the best military hardware were displayed at the full dress rehearsal. The weapons and planes ranging from battle tanks to missiles were flaunted at the parade show. Although it was only a dress rehearsal, but was a replica of the January 26 parade, projecting India's prowess as well as its rich diverse culture.  While on one hand it was an escalation of self esteem being a citizen of India, on the other hand it was a true showcase of negligence, carefree attitude, and apathy of our so-called authorities and security system towards the general public and kids. Well, the parade show was undoubtedly incredible, but the security and sitting provision was despicable.  The reason why this year's parade was important was because it was the first year when India will be turning into a participant in the global fighter plane industry with the Tejas and the PAKFA-T-50 .  Now instead of the US-Soviet Cold War, we may very well enter an era of the Indo-US cold war with fighter planes posing over the Indian ocean.  The watching public is always maddening, but there has to be a system to put things in a proper way. The VIP passes were distributed disproportionately to the available number of seats. The result was people were asked to shift to other sitting bridges. Audiences with infants were callously asked to chuck off their water bottles, biscuits and toffees/chocolates at the entrance gates only. Imagine the plight of kids without water and eatables for three hours, as there was no provision for drinking water at the sitting sections. Amazingly, one of audiences was not even permitted to take his homeopathy medicine inside. All was in the name of security.  Now let's look at the security provisions. Apparently, general public was asked to enter the sitting enclosures clear handed. But I, somehow listened to some clickclick sounds. Well yes, when I looked sideways squintedly, I found people clicking pictures with their cameras and mobiles. Were they from media? No. So who were they? They were defence people and their family members . Yes, that particular sitting enclosure belonged to the defence personnel and their familes. Total security breach it was.... Astonishingly, they were allowed to carry their baggage inside. And, on the other side, kids of other public were crying out hunger and thirst.  Also, interestingly public got to hone their cleaning skills as all the seats were soiled and had droppings. Hopefully, audiences wouldn't have faced similar security and sitting mess on January 26.  Now with the Tejas and the Pak-FA-T-50, we shall have shifted the focus of the fighter plane industry from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean where the United States will be using the F word (F-16, F-18, F-35, F-22 ) and we shall be equally responding.  There's been a few people talking about the massive ad campaign that Lockheed Martin has been promoting for its F22 Raptor plane in the United States press. We don't have too much to add to the discussion, other than to voice our disgust at having to see the full-page ads in the Washington Post back in 2008. Lockheed Martin are supposedly protecting 300 million people with their F22 Raptor (against whom, I have no idea - Shaktimaan? Spiderman? Doc Ok ??). I had no idea that a few hundred fighter interceptors would be doing so much work. Thankfully, our Tejas makes no such claims having been churned out by a public sector company.  And then there are the 95,000 people in the United States supposedly reliant on the F22 for their livelihood (because it's the little people we worry about, not the defense firm's well-paid management). Interestingly, the production of 187 planes will run through 2011, so they all have steady employment for at least two years. And then there will be the substantial maintenance and operations needed for the planes - that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more every year. But let's get past the American argument of whether defense spending is a stimulus bonus.  A few decades ago, the US government had to make a call on the number of F15 and F16 aircraft it would buy given that it had a locked budget. The discussion revolved around high-low tech mixes of the two systems (you Air Force proponents already know where this is going). This was because the Air Force didn't have the budget to buy all the F15s it wanted. That argument exists today with the F22 and F35 aircraft.  "The Air Force has been very successful with what we call the high/low mix," the American general had said back then. "The F-15 for example, is high end. (It has) fewer numbers and is more expensive because of its capabilities. The F-16 is the low end of the mix -- more affordable, more numbers, optimized for air-to-ground vice the air-to-air mission of the F-15 "  The general told members of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on tactical air and land forces that the Air Force meant for there to be a similar relationship between the F-22 A and the F-35 aircraft , both "fifth generation" fighters.  "The two are very complementary to each other because of the optimization of the F-22 A for air-to-air (combat), and its ability to suppress or defeat enemy air defenses.  The Joint Strike Fighter is optimized for air-to-surface and its ability to strike hard ... (with the) persistent numbers that we would like to buy of the aircraft," he said. "It is very important to us."  Of course, the major difference in these two cases is that the F15 and F16 unit costs are $30 million and $20 million respectively, and the F22 and F35 unit costs are $140 million and $90 million, respectively.  Small difference of scale, there, and the Americans aren't getting into the discussion of how ridiculously overbudget the research and development costs are for both programs. But the point is that the US Air Force's original plan, by its own testimony , was that it wasn't going to buy as many F22s because of the high cost of the plane. So why this highpressure sales job? Wouldn't we see a defense stimulus just by the fact that the defense budget isn't going down at all? This sales job is not warranted under any sane argument.  For those Repubs who want to accuse the Obama administration of weakening America's armed forces because of program cuts, that's a facetious argument. The defense budget isn't being cut, it's being rebalanced . If Congress and the Defense Department don't bring some serious accountability to major defense acquisition programs that continue to grow by leaps and bounds beyond their projected cost/schedule, then that's where the blame needs to go.  Let's not reward bad behavior by program managers who have no appetite suppression and by service acquisition officials who refuse to program within their budgets.  Let's use good judgment and reign in the out-of-control programs, as SecDef Gates has called for. India just like the United States, should save the stimulus funding for serious costs, such as our infrastructure and and other domestic priorities . There's plenty of time to extend the F22 production and India can achieve the Pak-FA-T-50 alongside, if the argument can be made and if the budget allows in both countries.

Matter of choice
 by Major-Gen GG Dwivedi (retd)  There was a breed of British officers who on completing their service with the Indian Army chose to stay back rather than return to the native land. Colonel Mac was one of the flock. Having spent over half a century in the subcontinent, he proudly claimed to be a natural Indian and settled down in a wayside town in the North-East.  A diehard professional, known to be stickler for traditions, he had extended an open invitation for anyone in olive green to call on him. Coincidentally, I happened to be transiting through the remote town to take up my maiden assignment in the unit. Enthusiastic to make a sound debut, I thought it opportune to take a few tips from the seasoned soldier.  The Colonel was attired in his Sunday best and was excited to have a keen greenhorn of the same regiment as a visitor. He complimented me profusely for choosing to join Infantry, the “Queen of Battle”. Over meticulously laid out tea, he shared the salient traits of my regiment. “Our men are tough as rock, easy with trust but never accept betrayal,” summed up the Colonel. As war clouds were building up, the veteran’s recipe to “live to fight another day” was: “ Personal weapon is the most valuable limb of the body; hence handle it with extreme care. The closer you remain to Mother Earth, the safer you are. And treat the buddy like a Siamese Twin.” After a pause he went on to add: “An officer leads by example and his location is always at the head of the pack”.  While taking a walk through his bungalow, Mac stopped by the shoe rack and pointed to the neatly laid out footwear. With a mischievous smile, he let out the secret of his charismatic personality, attributing it to strict pecking order. “The seniormost is a pair of fleets with which I start the day and last one in the lineup, the dancing shoes, are to wind up the evening”. While showing me one of the family photographs, he expressed regrets about his son not joining the Army. “He is a bloody poopy civilian! Even had a heart attack recently,” lamented the old man.  As I prepared to take leave, he narrated an anecdote while escorting me out to the gate. Recalling his days as a young Lieutenant, he said the first prized acquisition then, was a bicycle. He reminisced that the owner of the bicycle store in a particular military station was a retired Sergeant. As part of freebies by way of accessories, the Sergeant gave a choice of either a “stand” or a “carrier’. The metaphoric justification was that as an officer one had the option to either pursue a “career” and go up the ladder, or take a “stand’ to abide by one’s conviction.  Elaborating further he continued: “In case you keep taking a ‘stand’ all through your service, then be prepared to end up as a Major. On the other hand, as a ‘career’ seeking individual, there is a good chance to rise to be a General”. “What sir, if one wants to pursue both,” I asked.  Mac took a deep breath, and patting my shoulder softly, whispered: “You mean burning candle at both ends? Perhaps a hybrid product, a Major-General”. Firmly pumping my hand, the veteran wished me God’s speed and happy hunting with the parting words: “Life offers choices! For a soldier the only choice is ‘Service before Self’, a price one ought to be proud to pay, for the faith reposed by fellow countrymen”.

Tackling terror threats Beef up India’s security
by Lt Gen Kamal Davar (retd)  The first decade of the millennium has faded into eternity with the world witnessing unprecedented violence attributable to the expanding footprint globally of jehadi terrorism, economic upheavals caused by a severe recession and deepening chasms in the world community to manage the world’s environment and climate. Through all this turmoil, the UN stood a mute spectator to the unwarranted nuclear ambitions of some nations like North Korea, Iran and Mynamar, besides not being able to thwart the irresponsible assertiveness of the emerging superpower China.  Nearer home, the Af-Pak region has continued in its downward spiral of extreme and daily doses of violence with the beleaguered Afghan President Hamid Karzai being forced to reintegrate some among his deadly enemies from the Taliban to broker an uneasy peace for the survival of the Kabul government. India’s terror-exporting neighbour, Pakistan, continued with its myopic and self-destructive anti-India stance while dangerously sliding into fundamentalism. The assassin of the liberal Pakistan Governor Salman Taseer being hailed as a Ghazi (religious warrior) and showered with rose petals a couple of days ago even by lawyers in Lahore symbolises the Pakistan of today struggling for a moderate Islamic identity.  Nevertheless, the last decade was one of promise for ‘India Unbound’ to realise its vast potential in the coming years. Even though facing varied challenges, India unmistakably stands at the threshold of its long-awaited destiny, notwithstanding the deplorable efforts of some political parties in India to shake the very foundations of certain institutions for which India is respected the world over.  However, not much can be ever achieved in these highly violent times if India does not accord adequate attention to security matters to ensure a secure and safe environment within and around us. This aspect, for the past many years, has not been given the importance it deserves and the minimum acceptable combat capabilities of our armed forces have been slipping to alarmingly low levels vis-a-vis our potential adversaries. This aspect has to be addressed by the government with the urgency it deserves for capital acquisitions and military capabilities take a very long time to develop.  It is a basic security imperative for the Indian armed forces to maintain a reasonable and deterrent capability to cater to a two-front threat in a nuclear overhang in the worst-case scenario. The massive infrastructural development in Tibet, increasing Chinese presence in Khyber-Pakhtunwa, parts of occupied Kashmir and in the restive Baluchistan underscore a growing Pak-China military axis directed against India and should be a cause of much security concern to us.  In the last one year and a half or so, fortunately, in the areas of internal security and intelligence, under a determined Home Minister, some overdue steps have been initiated which need to be followed up with vigour to combat not only the formidable terror threats from outside our borders but also the alarming Maoist/Naxal threats from within the Indian heartland where out of 619 districts, nearly 220 have been grossly affected. The growing violence perpetrated on governmental assets and innocent villagers by the Naxals is a grim reminder of serious voids in our internal security preparedness.  The Indian security forces, including the BSF and the CRPF, need to gear up to counter the alarmingly growing internal security threats by motivational leadership, penetrative intelligence at the grassroots level, ensuring adequate prophylactic measures and innovative tactics against these anti-national elements, who also now reportedly have established links with their counterparts from Nepal, the Lankan LTTE and, not surprisingly, with Pakistan’s ISI.  The excellent example of the Indian Navy, now overseeing anti-terrorist operations emanating in the maritime dimension, along with the Coast Guard and the new Coastal State Police set-ups could be replicated in the hinterland also by the ground forces. Since 2010 was virtually a terror-free year for India, except Jammu and Kashmir, the notorious ISI with its henchmen of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen will plan to go into an overdrive all across the country and also try to reignite unrest in the Valley, using innocent youth and children.  Also, in concert with its dormant cells of SIMI in India, it will endeavour to mastermind blasts and violence wherever our security falters. The security of our countless strategic assets, critical infrastructure and institutions has to be fully geared up. Meanwhile, the government must also speedily implement the major recommendations of the various national commissions on police reforms to energise the police and the para-miltary forces.  With ten years having elapsed since the last major security review (post Kargil), the government may wish to carry out an all-encompassing security review to look at all challenges to the country in the coming decade, including the military, internal security, nuclear and space dimensions. Thus, the establishment of a National Security Commission to look into all these critical aspects is recommended.  As we endeavour to strive for a multi-faceted relationship with a now friendly Bangladesh, notwithstanding its old linkages with the Pakistani armed forces and the ISI, India must establish a professional relationship with that country’s security organs. Bangladesh’s efforts to curb extremist activities and its successful drive against terrorists need to be appreciated not just in South Asia but the world over. India’s healing touch is also required in Sri Lanka, Mynamar and, importantly, in Nepal too.  A nuclear-armed Pakistan, despite being in danger of imploding and becoming dysfunctional by the day, refuses to see reason and continues to be the incubator and exporter of terrorism to India, Afghanistan and the world over. Until the ISI and the Pakistan army wash their hands clearly off their erstwhile ‘strategic assets’, namely the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqanni network, pro-Taliban warlords like Gulbuddin Hekayatmar and its sponsoring of home-grown terrorist organisations like Jaish-e-Mohd, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Sipahe-e-Sanghvi, peace and stability would not return to Pakistan.  India, therefore, has to be vigilant 24/7. The US continues to reward Pakistan with generous financial and military aid despite its continuing delinquent acts in the subcontinent and thus Pakistan remains selective, duplicitous and on a high horse in the war against terror in this region. Meanwhile, India must, politically and economically, venture out to frontiers, as yet significantly untapped, with South American nations, Iran, South Africa, Vietnam, Central Asia and the European Union. The year 2010 witnessed the rare phenomenon of leaders of all the permanent Security Council members visiting India, thereby acknowledging India’s emergence on the world stage.  Notwithstanding the siege within and myriad external challenges in its march forward, India stands to play an increasingly significant role globally in the years ahead as long as we can successfully manage the diverse formidable challenges to our security.

NCC strength to rise: PM
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, January 28 The National Cadet Corps (NCC), the country’s movement to groom students for future role in the armed forces, will grow in strength and touch the 15-lakh mark soon, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here today.  “I am very happy to inform you that the government has sanctioned an enhancement in its authorised cadet strength of the NCC from 13 lakh to 15 lakh,” the Prime Minister said while addressing the cadets at the Prime Minister's NCC Rally here.  The cadets have been in Delhi for the past one month as part of the annual Republic Day camp. The increase in the strength of the NCC will add five new group headquarters and 40 new units in schools and colleges across the country. The NCC is also planning to raise its current girls cadet strength from the present 24% to 33% in the next five years and ultimately to 50 %.

Talks with Pakistan to be ‘exploratory’
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, January 28 Ahead of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Thimphu on February 6-7, India today said it was looking at the upcoming meeting as an ‘exploratory mission’ for putting the dialogue process back on track.  South Block mandarins were, however, cautious not to raise the level of expectations from the talks in Thimphu on the margins of the SAARC Standing Committee meeting.  “Don’t expect anything dramatic… it is an attempt to unlock the process once again,” senior Indian officials said.  The two foreign secretaries have been talking on phone for the past few weeks and the meeting in Thimphu would provide a “little more clarity” on how to go about solving outstanding issues, the officials said.  Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi is not visiting Thimphu for the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting on February 8 at which External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will represent India.  The meeting between the two foreign secretaries is expected to consider the date for Qureshi’s much-anticipated visit to India. However, the exact date would be finalised later and not during the course of the Thimphu meeting. Indications are that Qureshi would visit India in March.  Asked if India had noticed any change in Pakistan’s behaviour which had prompted it to renew efforts to re-engage the neighbouring country, they said there was no alternative to talking to Islamabad and impress upon it the need to take effective and proper steps to deal with terrorism.

ISI blames India of 'playing dangerous game' by funding 'extremist elements' in Karachi
 Senior officials from the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army said in interviews with Gulf News that they 'have evidence' of Indian involvement in the terrorist attacks in Karachi and Lahore. CJ: Daljit Singh Bhatia   Fri, Jan 28, 2011 14:50:11 IST Views: 26    Comments: 0 Rate:  1 out of 5 2 out of 5 3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 5 0.0 / 0 votes    PAKISTAN'S INTELLIGENCE and military officials have accused India of “playing a dangerous game” by attempting to “destabilise Pakistan”.  Senior officials from the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistan Army said in interviews with Gulf News that they "have evidence" of Indian involvement in the terrorist attacks in Karachi and Lahore.  A senior ISI official alleged that India attempts to "destabilise Pakistan" by supporting militant groups in Karachi by "funds and arms".  Karachi, the economic hub of the country, has witnessed dozens of attacks and target killings over the past few years. Pakistani officials say the attacks, especially those on shrines, were aimed at "fomenting sedition among religious communities" to destabilise the country.  "India is playing a dangerous game" in Karachi, a top ISI official was quoted as saying on the condition of anonymity. He said his agency had "evidence" that Indian intelligence was arming and funding "extremist elements" to weaken their neighbour.  "People are getting money from India to create problems for Pakistan in Karachi" and other areas, he stressed, adding, "India should understand that it will be affected most if Pakistan is destabilised."  The Pakistan Army’s official spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said India realises that Pakistan’s military is "over-stretched" because of extensive anti-terror operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.  "Therefore, they support elements that engage in terrorist campaign on our urban cities," he added.  Abbas also said India was being suspected of arming and funding extremist elements, and even distributing ‘anti-Pakistan hate literature’ in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan. 

Made to polish senior's shoes, wash his clothes: NSG commando, Updated: January 28, 2011 11:37 IST Ads by Google  The Economist Magazine – 12 issues now for Rs. 500/- Special Online Offer, Hurry!  Mumbai:  In the rigorous modules that train them for urban warfare and strategic counter-attacks, commandos of the National Security Guard, country's elite task force, might as well have been given a crash course on household chores.  This is what the formidably skilled personnel were allegedly made to do at the behest of those higher-up in the chain of command.  As was revealed by an NSG commando's complaint, he and others like him are made to shine their senior's shoes, wash his laundry, and run sundry errands.  In a letter to the Director General of the NSG in New Delhi, dated January 11, 2011 (copy with MiD DAY), Om Prakash Shukla complained that his senior Major Mohammed Israil of Marol unit, treats him and many of his colleagues as slaves
Speaking to MiD DAY, Shukla said, "I became a commando to fight for my country, not be a slave to my senior. I won't clean his shoes or wash his wife's clothes. I am a vegetarian and cannot get non-vegetarian food for him from the market. So I refused to work as his orderly."  A Border Security Force personnel who joined the Guard in 2009, Shukla was posted to Mumbai in March 2010.  Earlier in the month, he went to New Delhi to file the complaint. The letter mentions the alleged slights and atrocities that Major Israil inflicted on his juniors.  Shukla said that since he did not want to be dictated terms, he defied the Major, and is now the focus of the other's undeserved retribution.  According to the complaint, in April, a commando working as an orderly for Israil took ill, and Shukla was asked to take over.  "The Major wanted me to toe his line just like the previous orderly. But I resisted him. Since then, he has been harassing me. He finds faults in whatever I do," Shukla said.  Citing an instance, Shukla said,  "When I asked for leave, he refused it, saying that another commando wants one as well, and that there would be a toss to decide who gets to go. This is not fair as I am entitled to taking a leave."  Allegedly, the Major also said that Shukla should be fired, as he doesn't fit the bill of a commando, and that for the salary he draws, four men could be hired instead; he also threatened to file a chargesheet against Shukla, if he continues with his insubordination.  Shukla alleges that the officer forced him to wash his wife's laundry and perform other household chores  Standing firm, Shukla said, "I would have been left carrying his wife's laundry in one hand and his children's school bags in the other (had I not spoken out). I would have had to polish his shoes. I have been harassed for almost a year and now want to put an end to this. I want him to be punished as he has made many suffer."  Shukla has given a copy of the complaint to the Patrakar Vikas Sangh in Mumbai.  The president of the Sangh, Anand Mishra, said, "He has given us a complaint letter and we will be bringing up the matter with the NSG head and the government.  This is a serious issue. It is unacceptable that a commando, who helped us during Mumbai attacks, is made to do such odd jobs."  Major Mohammad Ismail, the B-team commander against whom Shukla has made the allegations, said, "Shukla keeps on asking for leave and it is not possible for me to grant it every now and then. So he is making baseless allegations against me. I never make anyone polish my shoes or do my household work. This is all false."

US may allow India to buy its fifth generation jets
Press Trust of India / Washington January 28, 2011, 13:58 IST  The US is open to Indian participation in its Joint Strike Fighter programme that would finally lead to its purchase of fifth generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, a top Pentagon official has said.  "There is nothing on our side, no principle which bars that on our side, Indian participation in the Joint Strike Fighter. Right now, they're focused on these aircraft which are top-of-the-line fourth-gen fighters," Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter said yesterday.  Headed to India in the coming weeks, Carter said the decision to pursue the F-35 is to be taken by India only.  Carter was delivering a key-note address on "US-India Defense Relations" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on the occasion of the release of a report on India's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme.  At a cost of about $10 billion for 126 aircraft, the MMRCA competition is the largest Indian fighter tender in years.  Eight countries and six companies eagerly await the outcome of the selection process, which has garnered high-profile attention for its sheer size, its international political implications, and its impact on the viability of key aircraft manufacturers.  Carter argued that US-built F-16 and F/A-18 as being the most technologically advanced aircraft in the competition.  "I think that, without saying anything disparaging about the other entrants, both F/A-18 and the F-16 offers include the best technology," he said.  Authored by Ashley Tellis, the report says that in choosing an aircraft, the government of India must employ a speedy decision process that is focused on the right metrics, taking both technical and political considerations into account.  Tellis in his over 140 page report notes that the European aircraft are technically superb, but the US entrants prove to be formidable "best buys".  If Washington wants an American aircraft to win the game, however, it will need to offer generous terms on the transfer of technology, assure India access to fifth-generation US combat aircraft, and provide strong support for India's strategic ambitions—to counter the perception that the older US designs in the MMRCA race are less combat effective, the report notes.

India self-sufficient in missle technology: Saraswat
Share | Sat, 29 Jan 2011 - 01:53:36 UNI |  Bangalore : India is self-sufficient in missile technology and had the necessary technological wherewithal to produce various classes of missiles for the three Defence forces of the country, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister V K Saraswat today asserted.  Talking to newspersons here, he said during the current year, DRDO would be testing various new missiles including Agni-5 and few other strategic missiles required for Indian Air Force, Army and the Navy.  Beginning February, these tests would commence, he said adding that the need of the hour was to gear up the Indian industry, both private and public sector, to take up integration of missiles so that the required volumes could be produced.  He said the country could also emerge as an exporter of some of the missile systems such as Akash and Nag.  Asked whether some deals for such exports could be signed immediately, he said the prime responsibility at the moment was to meet the huge demand posed by the Armed Forces. ''We do have requests and we can think about it only after meeting domestic requirements'' he added.

SBI signs MoU with Indian Army for offering customized salary packages
Announcement / Banking January 28, 2011, 18:58 IST  State Bank of India and the Indian Army entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for offering a customised Salary Package to Army Personnel across India at a formal function at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi today.  Mr. Diwakar Gupta, Deputy Managing Director & Group Executive (National Banking Group) representing SBI and Lt.Gen V K Chaturvedi, AVSM, SM, Director General, Manpower Planning and Personnel Services, representing the Indian Army signed the MOU.  The package will offer, amongst other things, a Unique Lifelong Account Number which can be retained despite transfer and even after retirement to draw pension.  Under the MOU, SBI also offers, free Anywhere Banking and free additional ATM cards even for the single account holder so that even the family members away from the Army troops will be able to transact on the same Bank account through ATMs.  This package also offers automatic sweep to Multi Option Deposits ensuring higher yield on the salary savings and also free Personal Accident Insurance. There are also free drafts, free cheque books and free transfer of funds.  As a unique and innovative initiative under DSP Army, SBI is offering training facilities to Defence Personnel in State Bank Learning Centres, under the Train the Trainers concept interestingly called “Educate a Thousand, Empower a Million” which will equip them with knowledge on Banking, Investment opportunities and also impart “hands-on” training to them on Alternate Banking Channels like Internet Banking.  SBI also has tied up with some manufacturing majors Like HCL infosystems, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, TATA Motors etc to offer attractive schemes to Defence Personnel like sizeable discounts, free foreign trips and free maintenance warranties. All these come with loans at attractive interest rates.  Other initiatives under this Package include installing Point of Sale machines at their CSD canteens, which can be used free of cost and opening of new ATMs, Multi Function Kiosks and Branches to suit the needs of Army Personnel in the remotest places.

India, Pak to restart talks as foreign secys meet next week
 New Delhi wants to move cautiously, "unlocking" the stalled peace process, focusing on the deliverables while finding ways to work around the difficult issues when the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan meet in Thimpu early next week.  Officials said they are not expecting any "dramatic outcome" as the two neighbours get back to the talking tables to lay groundwork for the visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to India, probably in March-April.  Maintaining that even Islamabad share this approach, trade issues, consular matters, a possible meeting between the two commerce secretaries, the meeting of the judicial committee on prisoners, counter terrorism and Sir Creek are among the issues were a positive outcome can be targeted.  The meeting between foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir will take place in Thimpu. Hoping that the meeting will provide "little more clarity" on how to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, officials said both foreign secretaries will be on "exploratory sort of mission" to plan for the months ahead.  There has been "some communication" in past few weeks as Rao and Bashir have spoken a couple of times on phone, they said.  Officials while taking note of the former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's remarks that Pakistan army was totally on board for the track-II peace initiatives maintained the ties between two countries are now at a different stage.  "It was an interesting speech of what happened in past few years between us. We are at a different stage of the relationship. We have seen the reactions that came out in last February, last June and July and of course before that there was Mumbai and the complication due to that...," the officials said.  It was not as if New Delhi has set aside what has happened in the past but it does not know "how ready Pakistani officials or establishments are to acknowledge all that was discussed during President Pervez Musharraf's time," they said.  They were also quick to point out Kayani's recent remarks that the Pakistani army was "India-centric" and said the army was part of the government and "we have no reason to doubt that there will be inputs from defence and army" on Indo-Pak relations. Officials said that the Delhi is discussing ways to address the Iran oil payment crisis.

National Defence Academy inducts 2,020 cadets
DNA / Rahul Chandawarkar / Friday, January 28, 2011 12:50 IST  For the first time since the National Defence Academy (NDA) came into existence, over 2,000 cadets have been inducted for imparting training to officer cadets for the three services. So far, the academy had been admitting about 1,800 cadets every year for training.  The NDA has been set up to impart military leadership and associated training to young men who qualify for service in India's army, navy and air force.  The armed forces have been facing shortage in officer ranks for some time now. NDA being one of the most popular and well subscribed entry, a conscious decision was taken to absorb full strength of intake in every course to mitigate this deficiency.  With the reporting of 125th NDA course in the first term in January 2011, the academy faced the daunting task of accommodating and training a strength of 2,020 cadets, which is way beyond its peak capacity.  NDA authorities undertook measures to absorb the additional strength without compromising on the comfort of cadets and the quality of training imparted to them. URL of the article:

‘It is unlikely Kayani will compromise with India’
Allana Posted online: Fri Jan 28 2011, 13:29 hrs Ahmed J. Rashid, journalist and author of several books on Afghanistan, talks to Alia Allana about the imminent change of scene in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s gradual descent into chaos and Indo-Pak relations.  Has Pakistan responded to Salman Taseer’s death appropriately?  Pakistan has been taken by surprise by the support given to his killer. The killing of Salman, a dear friend, indicates that extremist elements have spread to large parts of the community. By this, I mean the doctors, lawyers and the so-called intellectuals; this segment of the larger liberal society has been divided. The killing has polarised society through raising the question of blasphemy. Naturally, people are going to take sides. This poses the biggest challenge to a stable Pakistan, losing its liberals. In fact, Salman’s death marks a watershed in Pakistani politics, more of a watershed than Benazir Bhutto’s death was. Her death united society, here we see the opposite — a divided Pakistan. Now people fear copy cat killing of liberal intellectuals. This poses Pakistan with another challenge.  The establishment has been slow to react, what do you  make of this?  Pakistan Peoples Party has backtracked. They have failed to  defend Salman appropriately and by doing so, they have forsaken liberal values. Not many from the civil society are putting up a defence. Former information minister, Sherry Rahman, is putting up a fair defence, but that’s one voice. As for her bill (it proposes to reform the draconian blasphemy laws), it is unlikely it’ll go through. So, the situation is likely to worsen.  What of the military, of Kayani? Does he have a long-term strategy?  Currently, the military is obsessed with (first) Afghanistan and the Taliban and (second) India. Therefore and unfortunately, the army is not taking the domestic situation seriously. In fact, with Taliban’s increasing power, the high command is deeply concerned, (it’s a threat) that could arouse sympathies. They are worried that these sympathies are penetrating the security services. Kayani has an Afghan-obsessed agenda.  What about Indo-Pak relations?  It is unlikely Kayani will reach a compromise with India. He sees India as an activist army, an enemy. This is a problem for Pakistan as well. Unfortunately, the army is not looking at domestic issues. It must make peace with its neighbours — this is a view I have long held. Pakistan’s social crisis cannot be solved without peace with its neighbours.  The situation in Pakistan is dire — we’re in a complete economic crisis. Of course, the only real (and potential) investor could be India. We need to bring an end to this isolation. India is investing across the world; it can in Pakistan too. The liberal society, the industrialists, are crying for engagement. When relations were normalised five years ago (under Musharraf), we feared Indian products would swamp out markets but, Indians like our products too. The old fear, that India would swallow us economically, is no more. In fact,  renewable energy is a key issue that India and Pakistan can cooperate in. We are both short of energy — we both need pipelines for instance. These are common problems and this (economics) can unite us. We need dialogue.  What of the radicalisation of the youth and punishment for the perpetrators of 26/11?  The radicalisation that we see has been going on since the 1980s since the madarsas took root. But during that period people — in the establishment — did not give enough focus to them. This development now has become hugely disruptive. The state did not provide adequate educational reform, the syllabus has not been drafted adequately.  The perpetrators of 26/11 must be punished. There will be no rapprochement until they are punished. Clearly India has taken a strong line on this and rightfully so. But then there needs to be an improvement in relations so that they can be punished.

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