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Thursday, 3 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 03 Mar 2011

Davis issue remains unresolved US Af-Pak policies in disarray
by G. Parthasarathy  IT could well have been a scene from a Sylvester Stallone “Rambo” thriller. The “good guy” is “Rambo” Raymond Davis, a Special Forces sharpshooter-turned-CIA agent, sent in to eliminate “bad guy” terrorists in a “major non-NATO ally,” Pakistan. Davis is followed by two “bad guys” through the shady areas of Lahore on January 27. The “bad guys” are actually ISI agents assigned to trail Davis, who has been eliminating the ISI’s jihadi and Taliban assets in Pakistani terrorist badlands, including in the tribal areas, straddling the Af-Pak borders.  The ISI stalkers with pistols in their hands move towards the car of Davis. He takes out his trusty six-shooter and brings down the two bad guys. He radios for help and an American Consulate car rushes to the scene, with the rescuers running over a pedestrian while driving the wrong way, on a one-way street. He is overpowered and jailed. All hell breaks loose between the two “major non-NATO allies”.  The American version of the status of Davis is that he holds a diplomatic passport and was issued a visa, being designated a “regional affairs officer” — a euphemism for his being a CIA operative, with his background known to the hosts. He was also listed as “administrative and technical staff” which entitles him to diplomatic immunity. According to the Pakistanis, Davis is actually an employee of a private security agency, Hyperion Protective Consultants. Oddly, while the Americans claimed he is an embassy employee, the State Department spokesman described him as a “(Lahore) Consulate employee”. Amidst these flip-flops by the Obama Administration, former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who had avoided a scheduled visit to Munich, evidently fearing that he was on the verge of being fired, joined issue with others immediately after he lost his job. Qureshi claimed that his ministry had carried out a detailed study and concluded that Davis was not entitled to diplomatic immunity.  These developments came at a time when Pakistan’s politics was becoming increasingly volatile. The Zardari regime in Islamabad does not want hassles in relations with the Americans. The issue would have been settled and Davis quietly repatriated to the US if the incident had taken place in the Federal Capital Area, where President Zardari controls the police. But Lahore is not the federal capital. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has shown no inclination of making life easy for President Zardari. After easing President Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party out of the ruling coalition in Punjab, moves will be initiated to get his brother Nawaz Sharif back as Prime Minister.  Nawaz Sharif knows that his PML (N) will sweep the polls in any national election. The Sharif brothers also have no inhibitions in being seen to be supportive of the growing anti-Americanism in Pakistan. Shahbaz has funded Hafiz Saeed’s Jamat-ud-Dawa after it was declared an international terrorist organisation. The Punjab Police swiftly arrested and charged Davis with murder, knowing that the judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is virulently anti-Zardari. The Lahore High Court has deferred the case till March 14. In the meantime, Davis sleeps in a Lahore jail, despite assertions by President Obama himself that he enjoys diplomatic immunity and should be released.  Stirring this boiling cauldron is the all-powerful Gen Ashfaq Kayani and his ever loyal ISI chief, now under extension, Lt.-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha. There has been no love lost between the CIA and the ISI in recent days. The CIA is furious that its base in Khost province of Afghanistan, near the Af-Pak border, was attacked and destroyed by jihadis from across the Durand Line. Tensions between the two intelligence agencies escalated when the ISI leaked the identity of the CIA station chief, then working undercover in Pakistan. Moreover, Davis was undermining the ISI by establishing his own links to eliminate the jihadis in the Pashtun tribal areas along the Af-Pak border. Worse still, he was evidently attempting to undermine and infiltrate the citadel of the “holiest of the holies”, the Lashkar-e-Toiba chief and patron saint of the ISI, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.  The army quietly joined the chorus seeking to push the Americans to a corner and force them to offer concessions, though General Kayani does not exactly love fellow Punjabi Nawaz Sharif. What the Americans, like some in South Block, have failed to acknowledge is that General Kayani believes that the US needs Pakistan just now more than Pakistan needs the Americans. He evidently feels that the Americans will blink first, which they show every inclination of doing in this standoff.  The Raymond Davis affair is a manifestation of the larger malaise afflicting the transactional US-Pakistan relationship. Thanks to some adept diplomacy by India, the Obama Administration soon gave up the thoughtless proposal mooted by Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid that it should actively involve itself in meddling on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir by appointing Bill Clinton as a Special Envoy. Moreover, its initial honeymoon with China soon led to estrangement, accentuated by the global economic downturn. The realisation dawned on Washington that India would be a useful partner in fashioning an inclusive Asian architecture for security and cooperation. While Prime Minister Gilani and his mandarins have been constantly moaning that the Americans are not treating them “equally” with India and denying them a nuclear deal, General Kayani appears hell bent on giving the Americans a difficult time by providing support and haven to the “Quetta Shura” headed by Mullah Omar and to the Taliban’s Haqqani network.  American diplomacy in Afghanistan also needs to be reviewed. President Karzai disagrees with US policies and is meeting General Shuja Pasha regularly, seeking Pakistani cooperation for “reconciliation” with the Taliban. The present institutions of governance in Afghanistan do not inspire confidence in the minds of ordinary Afghans. The Americans have also not evolved a coherent strategy of how to get the Taliban to renounce violence and abide by the Afghan constitution. Nor is there confidence that the Afghan National Army will develop the capabilities to overcome Taliban depredations by 2014.  The realisation has to dawn that General Kayani has no intention of acting against either the Afghan Taliban or his favourite jihadi groups. Terrorist safe havens in Pakistan cannot be eliminated unless the US reduces its dependence on Pakistani logistical support and fashions alternative logistical arrangements with Russia and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours. Only then can the international community evolve viable policies for governance within Afghanistan and ensure that Af-Pak borders are no longer what Admiral Mullen called “the epicentre of global terrorism”.

12,000 additional troops to guard China border
Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, March 2 Faced with a rapidly expanding military might of its neighbour, New Delhi has cleared a Rs 2280-crore plan to have additional 12,000 troops to guard the border with China that runs along the rugged heights of the Himalayas.  Last fortnight, the Ministry of Home Affairs gave its nod to set up an additional 13 battalions - roughly 900 men in each -- of the Indian Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).  The additional troops will reduce the gap between one border outpost and the other along the 3,488-km border with China.  At present, the gap between two border outposts varies from 25 to 100 km. With the infusion of additional men, the gap will be brought down to about 20 km. It will take nearly two years to raise 13 battalions which includes training the men in mountain warfare.  So far, the ITBP has 49 battalions. Five of these are engaged in the anti-naxal operations while the remaining guard the China frontier in the south eastern Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.  In its areas of deployment, the ITBP forms the first line of the armed defence at the border. In natural calamities, the ITBP has done exceptional work, the notable being during the 2005 flash floods in the Sutlej when the Hindustan-Tibet road was washed away beyond Rampur, north of Simla.  Part of the multi-crore plan is directed at establishing new training centres and also ramping up intelligence gathering along the border.  Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s plan is to have a counter-insurgency and jungle warfare school and three recruit training centres (RTC). The foundation stone of one such RTC was laid in Tamil Nadu three weeks ago.

Axis Bank signs MOU with Indian Army for Power Salute Salary Account
 Mar 2, 2011  Mumbai : Axis Bank, India’s third largest private bank, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Army for the Power Salute, a salary account exclusively for the Army personnel.  The MoU was signed by Lt General V K Chaturvedi, PVSM, AVSM, SM, Director General (MP & PS), Indian Army and Mr. S. K. Chakrabarti, Deputy Managing Director, Axis Bank in the presence of Lt General Mukesh Sabharwal, PVSM, AVSM **, VSM, Adjutant General Indian Army, other Army and Axis Bank officials.  Mr. S K Chakrabati, DMD – Axis Bank, speaking on the occasion said, “It is a matter of pride for us to be of service to the Indian Defence personnel. We at Axis Bank strongly believe that it is a debt we owe the armed forces and feel honoured to be able to offer Defence personnel special and exclusive products and services. As a Bank, we acknowledge their efforts and we will keep evolving similar special and exclusive services for our Services personnel.”  Axis Bank, as a part of the Power Salute Salary Account has introduced a ‘NIL LOAN PROCESSING FEE’ for all categories of Defence Forces. Apart from this, the features of the account include: Unique life time account number which can be used at all Branches of Axis Bank anywhere in India; Zero minimum balance requirement and services like ATM cards; Net Banking/E-statement/Draft at Axis Bank locations; Fund transfer through RTGS/NEFT and UNLIMITED number of transactions at other Bank ATMs are offered totally free of cost along with the Power Salute account.  A testimony to Axis Bank’s commitment to the Armed Forces is the ATM in Thegu (13,200 feet) close to Nathu La Pass in Sikkim which till date it is one of the highest ATMs in the world. The Bank’s relationship with the Army today stretches from the deserts of Rajasthan to the hills of Nagaland and from the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir to the sun-soaked beaches of Kanyakumari.

MoD drops use of term PBOR in Armed Forces
 Bhartesh Singh Thakur Posted online: Thu Mar 03 2011, 00:36 hrs Chandigarh : The Ministry of Defence has accepted a long-pending demand of ex-servicemen to drop the use of the term ‘Personnel Below Officers Rank’ (PBOR) in official communication.  A letter to this effect has been issued to all command headquarters of the Army, Air Force and Navy.  Henceforth, in official communication, soldiers will be referred as Other Ranks (Sepoy, Naik and Havildar), Junior Commissioned Officers (Hony Naib Subedar, Naib Subedar, Subedar, Subedar Major) and Officers (Lieutenants and above).  Officers are commissioned in forces, so are Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). The JCOs also put on stars on shoulders like officers.  The JCOs are Class II gazetted officers and their gazette notification is also signed by the President of India. Some JCOs do take on officer’s duties, responsibilities and also draw officiating allowances for that.  Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd), former Vice-Chief of the Army and chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said: “I am happy the system has recognised it. It was unfair to call Junior Commissioned Officers as PBORs.”  The term PBORs is considered derogatory because it draws a line between officers and the other ranks. “It creates a deep sense of difference in the hearts and mind of ex-servicemen and also in forces,” said Lt Col SS Sohi (retd), president of the Ex-servicemen Grievance Cell. He had also petitioned the MoD to drop the term.  Bhim Sen Sehgal, chairman of the All-India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association, however, said everybody should be called ex-servicemen after retirement. "After retirement, all are equal and categorising soldiers who have served at the lowest ranks as Other Ranks should also be avoided," he said.

 If India’s political, administrative and security bosses believe that the February kidnapping of two government officials in Malkangiri district of Orissa by Maoists, and their subsequent release after the state government agreeing to a few demands will set a precedent, they are correct. But to my mind, such actions are likely to be driven not so much by governments giving in—Orissa agreed to release one mid-level Maoist leader and offered empty promises on policy to uplift the lot of villagers and tribal folk—but by Maoists taking the battle from skirmishing and recruiting to applying the squeeze in yet another way. To use a business analogy, Maoists, now under considerable pressure on account of counter measures by the central government and several state governments, must go ever more lateral to survive. The approach isn’t a surprise. Several strategy-and-tactics documents of the erstwhile Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War, and the entity it merged into in 2004, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), point to the necessity of reaching out in every possible manner to recruit cadres in cities to feed both logistics needs and the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army. These documents also speak of the need to build alliances with civil society groups (already and visibly in play), and infiltrate police, paramilitary and administrative machineries. Basically, work to build capacities to spread and consolidate the rebellion in rural areas and, whenever practicable, break into urban India. If anything, Maoist rebels are aware of their weakened position after several arrests and deaths of key leaders and several cadres over the past two years. They are also acutely aware of the overwhelming numbers-superiority that India’s police and paramilitary present. Though home minister P. Chidambaram only weeks ago acknowledged at a security forum Maoists as a still-potent force, and despite repeated announcements by defence minister A. K. Antony and army brass that India’s Armed Forces won’t engage the rebels, the decision to move several hundred soldiers ostensibly for training near a key rebel stronghold in Chhattisgarh must seem to Maoists as a poised sledgehammer. In this situation, hitting back can assume the form it did in Malkangiri. The cornering and kidnapping of officials of the administration and using captured police and paramilitary as bargaining chips to free jailed Maoist cadre and leaders and score propaganda points seems more likely than ever in this crunch situation. There could also be an escalation of this modus operandi to include executives of business engaged in mining, metals, and power—or businesses in the process of acquiring land for such projects. Indeed, I would be surprised if such instances do not occur in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand where some riotously controversial land acquisition and resettlement methods are under way. And, in states such as Andhra Pradesh, which on 28 February saw police killing two villagers protesting the setting up of a power plant in Srikakulam district. It would be quite easy for rebels to hit executives of such projects to gain “pro-people” propaganda points and the release of jailed comrades. This is, of course, a step up from the relatively lower level functioning of what I call the Red Economy—to differentiate the rebel economy from India’s legit and deeply Black economies—which functions largely from “donations” from local, contractor-led businesses in a range of activities from timber to minor road and bridge projects and even loan recovery for vehicles, in several zones where Maoist rebels hold sway. This works on the principle of pay-and-prosper, not the ideology and tactic-driven play of, say, a kidnap or hijack. The thing is, such a play could quickly spiral out of control, as it did so dramatically in Assam during the heyday of the United Liberation Front of Asom in the 1990s and early 2000s when extortion was common currency. Non-payment by businesses—including some of India’s blue chips—could lead to the death of an executive. A splintering of the Maoist rebellion into various factions—in north and central Jharkhand this is already a reality—and battles over areas of influence can morph ideology—and tactic-oriented actions to quickly escalate into an extortion racket for the simple expedient of cash flow. This is the nature of movements that are either corrupted, or squeezed for space and funds. While even India’s rulers won’t in private claim that the Maoist rebellion is unalterably corrupted, there is little doubt that it certainly is cornered. And desperation is as good a trigger as any. Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country. This column, which focuses on conflicts that directly affect business, is his last, as Sudeep leaves to accept a full-time media assignment.

Sikorsky to make helicopters in India for local, overseas markets
US company looking at manufacturing choppers by 2015-16; will design and make both civilian and military helicopters P.R. Sanjai US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. plans to design and manufacture civilian and military helicopters in India for the local and Asia-Pacific market in four years, the first time a foreign aircraft company will use the country’s aerospace know-how to make choppers for the overseas market. “We are looking at manufacturing an indigenous helicopter by 2015-16. We already have the helicopters that are suitable for the Indian climate,” said Arvind Jeet Singh Walia, managing director (India and South Asia) at Sikorsky Aircraft. “We intend developing further technologies to cater to defence requirements for high-altitude and high-performance machines.” He did not give details of the investment involved in the proposed manufacturing plan. Sikorsky, a unit of American military contractor United Technologies Corp. and one of the world’s largest helicopter makers, has an existing tie-up with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, a Tata group company, to make helicopter cabins for the global market. A boom in India’s civil aviation market, among the fastest growing in the world, and a military upgradation plan that may be worth $100 billion (`4.5 trillion) in the next 10 years, is persuading global aircraft makers to form joint ventures with local companies to take advantage of the business opportunity. India has an offset clause for high-value defence purchases that requires overseas companies to base part of the manufacturing in the country. At the same time, global aerospace firms, facing a shortage of skilled workers back home, are seeking to take advantage of local talent groomed by India’s nascent aerospace industry, which is led by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the only company that has the capability of manufacturing helicopters in the country. Roughly a quarter of the 637,000 aerospace workers in the US could be eligible for retirement this year, raising fears that the country may face a skills shortage in factories that make commercial and military aircraft, Aerospace Industries Association president and chief executive Marion Blakey was cited as saying by trade publication Airport Business on 12 January. HAL’s home-grown aerospace products include the Tejas light combat aircraft, the Dhruv advanced light helicopter and the intermediate jet trainer. Three new helicopters, including the light combat helicopter and the light utility helicopter, are being built for the Armed Forces. HAL has orders for 1,500 helicopters, including 100 Dhruvs, 300 light utility helicopters and 400 Indian multi-role helicopters. Besides this, HAL has orders for 159 Dhruvs from the army and the air force. “Manufacturing indigenous helicopters is eventually possible for Sikorsky,” said Dhiraj Mathur, India leader for aerospace and defence at audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd. “Essentially, it will be shifting some of its manufacturing facilities to India in a phased manner. It will be highly beneficial if Sikorsky can make India a hub for the Asia-Pacific region.” However, the 26% limit on stakes in military projects held by overseas companies is discouraging investment, he said. Walia said his company would be keen to increase its holding in local firms as and when the government relaxes the limit. He estimates India’s market potential for the company at $21.4 billion in 2011-31. Out of this, $14.4 billion will be military-related and the rest for civil use. Tata Advanced Systems has set up a unit in Hyderabad to make cabins for the Sikorsky S-92, following a June 2009 agreement. “As of now, this partnership is restricted to component manufacturing,” Walia said. “We will explore future possibilities based on certain milestones set by the joint venture company.” The Tata group’s public relations company said the association with Sikorsky was restricted to component manufacturing and nothing had been finalized for the future. Sikorsky, apart from Italy’s AgustaWestland NV, is in the race to sell 123 helicopters for general use by different departments of the Indian military as well as other agencies. The deal is valued at $4 billion. “We have already sold five Sikorsky VVIP helicopters in India. We just signed an agreement to sell one more to the government of Maharashtra and are in dialogue with police department of the state,” Walia said. The company also plans to set up a maintenance, overhaul and repair facility for helicopters in India. “India has a huge talent base and skills that can be exploited to achieve our objectives,” he said. Tata Advanced Systems, which focuses on aerospace, defence, homeland security and disaster management, signed an agreement in mid-February with Lockheed Martin Corp. to form a joint venture, Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures, to build components for the C-130 aircraft produced by the US company. Tata Industries Ltd, another group company, formed a joint venture with Boeing Co. in 2008 to manufacture defence-related aerospace components in India for export to Boeing and its clients worldwide. The deals have boosted the Tata group’s chances of becoming the preferred local partner of US firms bidding to sell medium multi-role combat aircraft to India in the world’s largest fighter jet deal.

AK Singh new general officer commanding-in-chief of Southern Command
DNA / DNA Correspondent / Wednesday, March 2, 2011 15:29 IST  Lieutenant General AK Singh has taken over as the new general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C) of the Indian Army’s Southern Command from March 1.  A cavalry officer of distinction, Singh was commissioned in the elite 7th Light Cavalry, which he later commanded. Singh commanded the first T-90 brigade during ‘Operation Parakaram’, as also the elite White Tiger armoured division.  A graduate of the Staff College in Kimberley (UK), higher command course at the Army War College in Mhow, and the National Defence College in Delhi, he has held challenging command and staff appointments in field formations and at army headquarters.  Singh is a recipient of the Ati Vishist Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Vishist Seva Medal. He is married to Suneeti Singh, an accomplished educationalist whose concern for the welfare of war widows and their families is well established.  Singh has two sons, Vishal, a merchant navy officer, and Udai, an equestrian rider of international repute.

‘New Delhi rolls back army downsizing plan’
By Aditi Phandis Published: March 2, 2011  Anomalies revealed in India's outlay for defence may have effect on growth and development of its fighting arms.  NEW DEHLI: A closer look at the outlay for defence in the union budget 2011-12 reveals some anomalies that could have a far-reaching effect on the growth and development of India’s fighting arms.  While accepting the 11.6 per cent increase in the defence outlay over last year’s revised estimate figures as adequate, experts say there are worrying trends in spending that need to be corrected.  On the revenue side, salaries and allowances have gone up by nearly Rs50 billion over the revised estimates. In fact, the revised estimates themselves had gone up nearly Rs30 billion over last year’s budget estimates. This clearly indicates that a plan by General VP Malik, a former chief of army staff, a few years ago to downsize the army has not been put into motion. “In fact, this plan (to downsize) has been rolled back and this is going to be a serious problem in the future,” said Laxman Behera, an expert on defence finance in the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. The army’s salaries and allowances outlay alone account for Rs642.51 billion, up from a revised estimate figure of Rs 605.30 billion in 2010-11.  The burgeoning size of the three arms naturally reflects in the pension bill. Defence pensions were Rs250 billion in the year 2010-2011. They have increased to Rs340 billion in 2011-12 on account of arrears accruing from the Sixth Pay Commission award. Pensions, Behera says, are growing at 10 per cent annually and raise questions about the long-term viability of defence spending.  However, experts say the fact that allocations for ‘stores; – the equipment, food and other day-to-day necessities– is going up (from a revised estimate of Rs213.82 billion to Rs227.99 billion in 2011-12) for the three services is heartening for it represents improvement in the quality of life of troops as well as officers.  On the capital outlay, Behera says the fine print suggests that although the three services did not return money to the treasury unutilised, there is a wide gap in the money allocated under some heads and its actual utilisation. For instance, in the 2010 -11 budget, the army was allotted Rs6.36 billion for aircraft. But it managed to spend only Rs1.48 billion. However, because it spent more than it was allocated under other capital heads, the gap is not visible. So the underlying issue – that of utilisation of money in time – continues to be a cause for concern.

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