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Monday, 11 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 11 Apr 2011

Pakistan in difficult straits Its army must retire to the barracks
THE architect of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, in his inaugural speech on August 11, 1947, to the newly constituted Pakistan National Assembly outlined his vision for his infant nation. Jinnah unequivocally expressed to his predominantly Muslim legislators that “You are free, you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other place of worship in the state of Pakistan”. The newly born Muslim nation’s Quaid-e-Azam (Supreme Leader) further clarified that “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.  Six decades later the inclusive dreams of Pakistan’s creator lie fully shattered at the altar of worsening Islamic radicalisation — a collapsing economy, a sham democracy, a weak government gasping for army-administered oxygen to survive, an army bigger than the state and the sole arbiter of its destiny. Pakistan displays all the attributes of a failing state with its very existence at stake. Jinnah rightly envisioned an “ideological balance” in his nation, but surprisingly, it was the rule of an army dictator, Gen Zia-ul-Haq which sowed the seeds of Islamic fanaticism corroding even state institutions, including the army. This strategic blunder caused much damage from which Pakistan has not been able to rescue itself and is now sliding down inexorably to an ominous destination which may have grave repercussions for the entire region.  Pakistan remains the hub of terror and instability. The terror machine and the terror infrastructure it developed, for operations in India and Afghanistan, is haunting it now with frequent blasts targeting innocent Pakistani civilians, religious shrines, high profile army and intelligence assets, etc. The recent assassinations of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, the sole Christian minister in the Pakistani cabinet, within weeks of each other, both for supporting the repeal of the one-sided blasphemy law portends the dangerous slide towards Islamic fundamentalism. Prominent Washington Post journalist Thomas Friedman recently expressed that “ What are we doing spending $110 billion this year supporting corrupt and unpopular regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are almost identical to the governments we’re applauding the Arab people for overthrowing?”  Pakistan continues with its myopic and inimical policies towards both India and Afghanistan forgetting the basic tenets and usefulness of good neighbourliness in today’s changing world. It persists with double-dealing with its financial mentor, the US, by its duplicitous participation with them in the so-called war against terror. It continues its patronage of fundamentalist parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamat-ud-Dawa and its terror syndicate, the now internationally banned Lashkar-e-Toiba(LET) and the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen for anti-India operations in Kashmir. Obsessed with its outdated fixation for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, Pakistan has kept supporting the Haqqani network, the anti-US Afghani Taliban and the old warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the hope of having a pro-Islamabad government in Kabul as and when the US departs from Afghanistan. Thus, it remains not overly enthusiastic in taking on the Afghani Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in the badlands of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and South Waziristan. In keeping with its highly anti-India stance in Afghanistan, Pakistan through its ISI and local agents persists in targeting Indian personnel engaged in development activities in Afghanistan, not even sparing the Indian Embassy in Kabul by targeting it twice.  A Washington-based NGO, the Fund for Peace along with the prestigious magazine, Foreign Policy, based on a survey of 177 countries, has ranked Pakistan as the 10th most failed state with Somalia as the first and Afghanistan at number 7. Myanmar is ranked 13th and India at a respectable 87th ! Norway ranks as the most stable country in the world. The survey adjudges Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous country and the areas astride the Durand Line and especially FATA and South Waziristan as the sanctuary of the top leadership and cadres of Al-Qaeda, and the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. It notes that since 2009 nearly 3 million Pakistani civilians have been uprooted owing to counter-insurgency operations — “the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide. The report also opines that President Asif Zardari heads a lame-duck government which has virtually no control over its nuclear-armed forces or the ISI, which nurtures the Afghan Taliban. An assortment of political, economic and social indicators, including developmental indices, also point to the precarious state of Pakistan.  As the leading country in South Asia and its immediate neighbour, India has a vital stake in the stability of a nuclear Pakistan. For years, India has made many friendly overtures to it in the larger interest of peace in the subcontinent, including the offer of a no-war pact by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan over five years back. He showed political courage in inviting his Pakistani counterpart to the World Cup semi-final cricket match at Mohali. Now Pakistan has to seriously introspect to ensure its own existence as a progressive and moderate nation-state.  The first and foremost step the Pakistanis need to adopt is to eschew utilising terror as an extension of state policy and stop support to terrorists of all hues, countless-terror organisations and dismantling the terror infrastructure. It must whole-heartedly participate in the war on terror in cooperation with the US, India, Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan must realise that ensuring good neighbourly relations with India, in particular, is not a zero-sum game and it will itself benefit immensely. Pakistan must comprehend the fact that India does not behave as a regional hegemon and all outstanding problems can be resolved in a spirit of mutual accommodation.  However, it has to discard the export of terror to India, overcome its Kashmir-fixation and must appreciate the current ground realities. Whether Pakistan can ever achieve true democracy or not is, in reality, their problem but even under an army dispensation, it can strive for improvement in its relations with India for mutual benefit. Pakistan must never forget its many perilous faultlines, and only when it accords respect and succour to its minorities and the hapless people of Baluchistan and Sindh will its internal situation improve.  Meanwhile, the Pakistan army has to meticulously ensure the security of its nuclear wherewithal to prevent them from falling into wrong hands as the world fears. To survive and become a modern and moderate state as envisioned by its founder, Pakistan has to change tack. Perhaps, its most powerful state institution, the Pakistan army, has to take the lead and finally retire to the barracks!
Two senior Navy officers to face court martial
‘Bungled’ govt funds on pretext of taking part in adventure sports  New Delhi, April 10 Two senior officers of the Navy's skydiving team will face court martial after the Board of Inquiry accused them of irregularities in management of government funds.  The inquiry against the two senior-most members of the Navy's skydiving team had probed several cases of monetary bungling by the two officers which were allegedly carried out by the duo on the pretext of taking part in adventure sports activities.  “Commander N Rajesh Kumar and Lt Cdr Mahesh Birajdar were found guilty of the charges levelled against them in the BoI and disciplinary action was recommended against them. Their Summary of Evidence (SoE) has also been completed and their court martial proceedings will begin soon,” Navy sources told PTI here.  However, the officers have challenged the disciplinary action against them in the Armed Forces Tribunal, saying they were not even given opportunity to defend themselves in the probe. “We have appealed in the Tribunal against the disciplinary action against Rajesh and Birajdar as Navy authorities have violated Navy Rule 205 which makes it mandatory for the Navy to record statements of the witnesses in presence of officers or men whose military reputation is being questioned,” Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, counsel of the two officials said here.  He said the authorities had not even provided the convening order of the BoI to the two officers, who have been attached with the Navy headquarters here for the last two years without work. — PTI
Army personnel show maneuver stunts at Nowshera 'Fauji Mela'  Read more:
The Indian Army organised a 'Fauji Mela' at Nowshera in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri District to ensure the general public that they are capable enough to defend the country's border.
"This Army Fair has been organised near the border. This has been organised to assure the general public that the army is capable and ready for defending the borders of the nation. And when given the chance, we can go into enemy territory to maintain our borders," said Om Prakash, General Commanding Officer of the Division.  The show, which was organised close to the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan, had some magnificent display of talents by the army gliders and horse riders, who showcased some great stunts before the audience.  A special feature of the show was the fly past and maneuver stunts of the Advanced Light Helicopters of the Army.  "In this Army Fair, there has been a complete synergy between the army men and the civilian population. This can go a long way in increasing co-operation between the civilian population and the army," said Mohammad, a local resident.  For the army personnel, the event was a display of their might and preparedness for any untoward incident that may take place in the future.  The fair, which attracted huge crowds of civilian population from the adjoining villages, left the audience spellbound.  The Army band later enthralled the audience with their performance to bring an end to the fair.
Commission for Male Nurses in Army
The passage of time changes everything and nothing stays permanent. The male nurses have existed in India for nearly as long as female nurses. However, the government, the military and the public mostly ignored their existence. Their story speaks of gender discrimination and the struggles to attain professional stature and acceptance while serving their nation. I don’t understand why there should be such discrimination between the two groups. Men nurses receive the same training as the women; are accepted for membership in the national nursing organizations and are eligible for registration in every State of the Indian Union. Yet, in spite of equal training, they are not accepted for peace time or war service in Military Nursing Service. The times have come to the expansion of the Military Nursing Service to an all gender organization. Under the present law the Nursing Services is for women only; the section 6 (1) of the nursing services act restricts appointment only to women Indian citizens. Hence, the journey of the male nurse to achieve equal stature within the Indian Army would be one fraught with obstacles.  The Indian Army Nursing Service formed in 1888; with changes made over the years became Military Nursing Service as we know it today. Most of its past 123 years of existence, it was the only Corps/Service in which women were allowed to serve. However opening up of the armed forces over the past two decades saw women serve in almost all the arms and services in noncombatant roles. Some of those women who fought against the gender discrimination in granting permanent commission have won their case, and soon we will see women in decision making roles. All these years we have kept the men away from the Military Nursing Service. Such gender discriminatory policy shall end; the law needs to be changed and male nurses also should be granted commission in the Army.  Historical evidence places male nurses on many battlefields throughout the course of Indian History. As early as 1842, during the 1st Afghan war, male nurses serving in the British Indian Army died in Afghanistan. The male nurses actively sought service in both World Wars, and post independence saw action in all the five major wars we fought. The male nurses have the same training and hold the same State Diplomas yet they are classed as orderlies or nursing assistants and paid about one half the salary of a female commissioned nurse. We need to question the status of male nurses who desired to serve their country. For those men trained as nurses, no opportunities exist within the Military Nursing Service. Presently in Army, Navy and Air Force the utilization of qualified and eligible graduate male nurses is stressed upon. However, no provision of law exists which authorize the commissioning of the male members of the nursing profession as such in the Armed Forces. This ceiling has to be broken to ensure gender parity and equal opportunity for male nurses. Today, commissioned male nurses represent over 35% of the US Army Nurse Corps, they have considerable presence in the Army Nurse Corps of UK, Canada, France, Singapore, Australia, Qatar, Yemen, China and many more.  The Military Nursing Service strives to represent the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The Nursing Services expresses these values through the motto “service with smile.” The male nurses also should be granted commission to serve parallel to their female counterparts, providing opportunity to exhibit their immense skill, compassion and professionalism; while continually upholding the core values of the Indian Army.
Indian defence scientists develop hi-tech foods
MYSORE: Stress-relieving biscuits and anti-fatigue food bars will soon appear on more supermarket shelves as scientists at the Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) commercialise food technology created for the armed forces. Their goal is to make convenience foods better than what nature has to offer.  From memory enhancing chocolates to performance enhancement foods, the laboratory is employing a small army of food scientists to help make the next generation of foods healthier and tastier, with a more understandable ingredient list.  "The food habits of people are changing fast. Working couples have less time to cook," says Dr A S Bawa, director of DFRL, one of the laboratories of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).  So the laboratory which caters to the varied food challenges for the Indian Armed Forces is now bringing these hi-tech foods to the wider market, by transferring technologies to entrepreneurs.  "One high energy chocolate bar can help a human being survive for days without food," says Bawa whose laboratory resembles a kitchen. Carefully labeled jars hold freeze-dried mangoes, dehydrated vegetables, curries and fresh salt. Interspersed within are glass beakers, large syringes, digital thermometers, food testing kits and bio-reactors used to test and certify the food.  During the Kargil War, DFRL supplied tonnes of food packets to provide sustained nutrition and control hunger. "These are foods designed to keep a person alert even during stressful situations such as war, tsunami and earthquakes," says H V Batra, associate director, DFRL.  The Lab has already completed over 550 technology transfers to nearly 220 entrepreneurs, who have built businesses on them. "The technical know-how has been transferred to leading food manufacturers such as MTR Foods, lTC Ltd, and companies such as ADF Foods apart from many entrepreneurs," says A D Semwal, scientist at DFRL. The institute is now setting up an incubation centre in Kerala to speed up the process of commercialising these technologies.  One of the early adopter of these technologies is Mumbai-headquartered ADF Foods. The company which owns brands like Ashoka, Camel, Aeroplane, Khansaama and Truly Indian has acquired a packaging sterilisation method from DFRL. Prior to this it used to pack ready-to-eat products in cans. "Acquiring this technology has helped us enter the packaging sector with easier to heat, non-messy packs of ready-to-eat products," says Sapna Nair, the Quality Assurance Executive at ADF which exports ready-to-eat foods to markets such as USA, UK, Australia and Middle East.  The technology transfer has also helped Bangalore-based MTR Foods emerge as one of leading processed food makers. The firm, acquired by Norwegian food-to-metals group Orkla, sells ready to eat authentic Indian meals like curries, rice meals and soups across the country. "Ready to Eat is relatively a new category in India. We expect this to become an important category," said an MTR spokesperson.  Pune-based ready-to-serve food maker Tasty Bite Eatables Ltd is also one of the early recipients of the technology transfer. "They played a path-breaking role of providing the technologies to the companies. Now private sector has moved up the value chain and is using more advanced technologies," says Ravi Nigam, managing director of Tasty Bite and promoter of its parent company Preferred Brands International.  The range of foods includes staples such as chapattis, parathas, chicken biriyani to curries and protein rich egg biscuits, cut fruits and juices. Apart from the convenience these foods are also designed to have a shelf life of more than one year.  DFRL has also developed more sophisticated packaging technology. These foods are packed in therm-o-packs, which are chemical-based self heating systems and do not need an outside heat source. It is activated on opening and rubbing the food packet. The food can be repacked back and it remains warm for a long time. "The system is designed in such a way that there is no direct contact between the chemical heater and the food pack at any point of time," explains K Jayathilakan, scientist at DFRL.  Some institutes such as Indian School of Business (ISB) have also realised the commercialisation potential of the technologies that are being developed at various research labs in the country.
Dabi urges Arunachal youth to join Army
ITANAGAR: Arunachal Pradesh home minister Tako Dabi has appealed to the youth of the state to join the Indian Army, stating that the Indian defence force, like its global counterparts, was on a modernization mode.  "I wish to see many of our youth as part of the Indian Army", he said while visiting the recently established Army Brigade Headquarter at Rayang in East Siang district on Saturday, sources said on Sunday.  The minister intended to inspect security arrangements and progress on infrastructure for the defence forces and existing operational activities that have been carried out by the Army to restore normalcy in the state.  Complimenting Brigadier A S Harge for his "vision and mission", Dabi pitched for conducting physical training sessions for the youth from time to time to make them eligible for the Army recruitments, the sources added.  "Time has come when defence forces and social organization experts can work in tandem to get best results for the country," the minister added. "We have various stairs of development for which we need local youths as their natural acclimatization to the region's terrain, weather and environment would strengthen the Army," the brigadier said, while assuring to extend full cooperation to the youth of Arunachal.
Tatas bag record deal to modernise Air force bases
The Rs 1,094-crore contract with Tata Power SED involves upgrading 30 airbases to handle next generation fighter aircraft.  A Tata company has won the largest-ever defence contract awarded to an Indian private sector company through a competitive global tender. On March 16, the Ministry of Defence signed a Rs 1,094-crore contract with Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (Tata Power SED) for modernising 30 Indian Air Force (IAF) airbases across the country. Tata Power SED has 42 months to execute this strategically vital contract, officially called Modernization of Airfield Infrastructure, or MAFI.
Starting with the Bathinda airbase in Punjab, Tata Power SED will refurbish and modernise airfield infrastructure so that the IAF can operate its next generation of modern combat aircraft from there. State-of-the-art Air Traffic Management systems will be installed, along with Category-2 airfield lighting systems and hi-tech navigational aids that will permit flying operations at night and in adverse weather.  The 30 IAF airbases that will be modernised under MAFI include eight key airfields along the Sino-Indian border such as Chabua, Tezpur and Hashimara. The IAF has already begun deploying frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters to the Tezpur air base in concert with the army’s raising of two new divisions to strengthen defences along the Sino-Indian border.  This will be followed by the MAFI Phase II contract for refurbishing another 28 airbases. The current contract has an option clause, which allows the ministry to invite Tata Power SED to execute the Phase II of MAFI at a pre-determined rate.  The ministry has not yet announced the award of this contract. Approached for comments, Tata Power SED declined comment until an official announcement was made.  India’s private sector defence companies view this as a major milestone in their protracted struggle to enter the defence sector on equal terms with defence public sector undertakings and foreign companies. On January 13, the ministry released the first-ever Defence Production Policy that explicitly encourages the private sector to enter defence production.  The MAFI contract has been bitterly contested, with Italian giant Selex Sistemi Integrati petitioning the Delhi High Court after its price bid of Rs 1,141 crore narrowly lost by Rs 47 crore to Tata Power SED’s winning quote (figures from Selex Sistemi Integrati’s petition to the Delhi High Court). Despite legal delays — in which the Delhi High Court and then the Supreme Court rejected Selex’s contention that the Tata consortium did not have the technical capability and experience to upgrade the 30 IAF airfields — the ministry managed to finalise the MAFI contract in just over three years.  The Defence Procurement Policy stipulates two-three years to finalise a contract.  Tenders for the MAFI contract were issued on January 4, 2008, and vendors submitted bids within six months. After a technical evaluation of the vendors’ proposals, the ministry opened their commercial bids on August 2009. Selex went to the court in November 2009 but, on November 24, 2010, the Supreme Court rejected its petition, declaring, “This court is not a Robin Hood… do you want us to stop the modernisation of the airfields?”  Selex Sistemi Integrati has executed several major contracts to modernise airfields in Pakistan and China over recent years. This fact, along with the legal challenge that it threw at the ministry, has seriously damaged its prospects of winning future defence contracts, say senior ministry officials involved in procurement.  Notwithstanding the courts’ relatively speedy rejection of Selex’s plea that the MAFI contract had been improperly awarded, the Italian company’s petition spun off a broader legal question —- whether foreign companies are entitled to the protection of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. This article, which Selex cited in its petition, provides citizens of India (note, not foreign nationals) freedoms such as those of movement, speech, assembly, formation of unions, etc.  The two-judge Delhi High Court Bench that considered Selex’s petition referred the question to a higher Bench, noting, “Almost all large tenders today are being challenged in writ proceedings before the Court and are coming up for judicial scrutiny. It is thus necessary to settle the legal issue in question.”  The Supreme Court is expected to pronounce a verdict on this question on May 19.
China troops' presence along LoC confirmed
New Delhi: Beijing and Islamabad may have denied reports about Chinese troops’ presence along the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), but a stamp of approval on the claims made by an Indian Army official has come from US security agencies, a leading Indian daily reported on Sunday.  Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik had said at a seminar last week that China's presence in PoK was "increasing steadily" and its troops were "actually present" along the LoC, adding the Chinese footprints are "too close for comfort" for India.  "Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Northern Areas is increasing steadily... There are many people who are concerned about the fact that if there was to be hostility between us and Pakistan, what would be the complicity of Chinese. Not only they are in the neighbourhood but the fact that they are actually present and stationed along the LoC," Parnaik said.  Both China and Pakistan had denied the claims. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the reports were baseless and ridiculous.  Islamabad too denied the reports as "totally baseless". "This is the most absurd piece of information I have heard. It is totally baseless," Foreign office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said.  However, US security agencies have confirmed to the authorities in India that China is actually lining up troops along the LoC.  "We have a strong real time intelligence sharing mechanism with the US and they have conveyed the same thing to Indian agencies including RAW – that these troops are stationed all along the LoC in PoK. They conveyed this to Indian agencies independently without us seeking any confirmation from them," an official told the newspaper.  "Their confirmation seemed to be based on technical intelligence. They said these Chinese troops seemed to be involved in construction activities," the official added.  Lt Gen KT Parnaik had said China's links with Pakistan through PoK "lends strength" to the "nexus" between the two countries which is a cause of "great security concern" for India.

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