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Monday, 9 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 08 May 2011

Meet Marcos, India’s version of Seals
Indian naval marine force has carried out joint exercises with US counterparts Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 7 Away from the public glare, the Indian Navy, in the past two decades, has prepared its own special forces on the pattern of the US Navy Seals-the team that killed Osama Bin Laden earlier this week in a stealth operation carried out in the dead of the night using choppers and sophisticated equipment.  The Indian Naval Marine force called the ‘Marcos’ has been modelled on the US Navy Seals in the training pattern, working style and the secrecy. The Indian unit came up some two decades ago and was started with training being imparted by the US Navy seals in the latter part of 1980s. Diplomatically, this was no mean feat since those were the Cold War years when India was an ally of the USSR. The beard disguises facial features.  The secrecy around the Marcos is the same as around the ‘Seals’. Within the Indian Navy, the deployment and training pattern of Marcos is not discussed openly. Men, no women in the combat zone, are posted to ‘diving units’ and as ‘sub-mariner’ to disguise their real posting, said sources. Officials admitted that India may not have stealth choppers like the US, but Marcos have Sea King choppers, while the weaponry is largely from Europe and Israel.  The ‘trust’ of the Marcos on the Seals and vice versa is evident from the joint exercises conducted to fine tune special operations. This is something such crack teams do not carry out with other navies without being in the comfort zone. In April last year, the two specialised forces carried out a joint exercise off the coast of Goa. This was the last documented exchange between the two units.  Sources confirmed that periodically Indian Marcos have been visiting the ‘Seals’ in small units of two to three. “This largely to see what new techniques and technologies are available ”, said an official. Apart from this, in 2009, the ‘Seals’ carried out a joint exercise with Indian Army special forces at the Army’s jungle warfare school at Warangal.  Indian Marcos have taken part in several operations like the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The Marcos are also attached with the Army in counter-insurgency duty in Kashmir for operations in the lakes in the Valley, earning them the sobriquet “magarmach’ or crocodile from the locals.  Unlike the US, India’s immediate adversaries are closer to home, hence the Army Special Forces have also been developed in the past 40 years or so. The US uses the navy forces more, while India has the option of the Army units - some 8 in number, of 600 men each. The US has a sea-going force and has traditionally fought away from home using warships, hence the greater stress on navy Seals and aircraft carriers. Indian special forces have the capability to be launch a contingent of a small strike group on board choppers or specialised amphibious ships that do not need a jetty to berth near a coast.

Pak may continue to shelter ‘most wanted’ terrorists
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, May 7 Despite earning the dubious distinction of becoming a state that hosted the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden, Pakistan is unlikely to pay any heed to New Delhi’s demand to extradite any of the 20 ultras wanted in India for heinous crimes committed by them on the Indian soil. Indian officials candidly admit that it was next to impossible for New Delhi to bring to justice in an Indian court people like underworld don Dawood Ibrahim or JuD chief Hafiz Saeed who continue to enjoy the patronage of the Pakistani establishment. “I don’t believe we can achieve much progress as far as the return of these criminals to India is concerned,” a senior MEA official said.  India has given to Pakistan from time to time a list of 20 of its ‘most wanted’ terrorists, who have been provided safe havens in the neighbouring country. New Delhi has demanded that these terrorists be handed over to India. Islamabad has, however, turned a blind eye to India’s demand, claiming that many of those named in the Indian list have never even entered Pakistan. Asked if India would continue to press Pakistan to extradite these terrorists, sources said, “we can understand the sense of frustration among the people of India over the fact that we have drawn a blank in our efforts…however, we hope good sense will prevail on Pakistan sooner rather than later.”

Pak credibility suffered serious blow: report
Press Trust of India / Washington May 7, 2011, 12:13 IST  Pakistan's credibility has suffered a "serious blow" in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden at a compound near its premier military academy in Abbottabad, where the dreaded terrorist had been living for years, a Congressional report has said.  The location and circumstances of bin Laden's killing have "exacerbated Washington's long-held doubts about Pakistan's commitment to ostensibly shared goals of defeating religious extremism, and may jeopardise future US assistance to Pakistan," the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report on the implication of the al-Qaeda chief's death.
CRS, an independent research wing of the US Congress, prepares periodic report for lawmakers, which is strictly for circulation among Congressmen.  "For a wide array of observers, the outcome of the years-long hunt for OBL (Osama bin Laden) leaves only two realistic conclusions: either Pakistani officials were at some level complicit in hiding the fugitive, or the country's military and intelligence services were exceedingly incompetent in their search for top AQ (al-Qaeda) leaders," it said.  "In either case, after many years of claims by senior Pakistani officials -- both civilian and military -- that most-wanted extremist figures were finding no refuge in their country, Pakistan's credibility has suffered a serious blow," said the CRS report authored by John Rollins, Coordinator Specialist in Terrorism and National Security.  Although there is considerable agreement in US government circles that disengaging from Pakistan is an unwise course, intensive Congressional scrutiny of US assistance to Pakistan is already underway, CRS noted.  In the wake of revelations that the world's most-wanted terrorist had apparently been living for years in a comfortable home in a relatively affluent city and only one kilometre away from Pakistan's premier military academy, Congressional scepticism about the continuation of large aid disbursements to Pakistan has deepened even further, it said.  On May 3, the Pakistan Foreign Aid Accountability Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives.  The Act would prohibit future foreign assistance to Pakistan unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Pakistani government was not complicit in hiding bin Laden.  Depending on the course of Pakistan's future policy statements and levels of cooperation with the US, Congress may choose to adjust current assistance funding levels.  Such funding flows are already hindered by US concerns about corruption and lack of transparency in Pakistan's implementing partners.

Why US had no other option but to kill Osama
On May 1, United States President Barack Obama [ Images ] announced at the death of Osama bin Laden [ Images ] at the hands of United States military assets. The instrument of bin Laden's death was SEAL Team 6 or as they are known today by their counter-terrorism title, DEVGRU. The location, within the walls of bin Laden's compound located in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Many around the world are struggling to wrap their minds around the stated fact and clear supporting evidence. The sloppy handling and mixed messages put out by the Obama administration's media mill lends credibility doubters screeching for the release of photos documenting bin Laden's grizzle visage in death.   On the whole, the Pentagon [ Images ] press shop and leaders such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen [ Images ] would have done the superior job handling the press and disseminating information on a straight line.  The Pentagon knows the nomenclature and the mission better than anyone. Yet, the success of the mission, made handling the press a White House show.    What's chiefly showing at the White House is Spokesman Jay Carney's slip. The preponderance of evidence suggests the Navy SEAL based at Little Creek, Virginia were sent on a hit or kill mission; yet it was an unfortunate loss for the intelligence community that bin Laden's courier was also killed.    Where to detain a captured bin Laden for interrogation if captured alive? The Central Intelligence Agency jails in foreign lands, mostly in Eastern Europe, were abandoned as soon as Obama took office. This decision forced increasing reliance upon rendition that reduced options as to where captured terrorists were temporarily housed for interrogation.  As the breezes of the Arab Spring still sweep Egypt [ Images ], its former president Hosni Mubarak [ Images ], once prolific rendition partner now fights for his life or lifestyle.  For his army and security forces that once participated in the programme, those leaders may eventually take their lumps for those decisions made under Mubarak.   Today, with the army in charge, one more rendition, especially of an all too hot bin Laden, would be one too many.  Other rendition partners, although not consulted ahead of time by the US including Jordan, Uzbekistan, Morocco and Thailand, would all eventually feel the fallout as the place where bin Laden was first imprisoned and to whatever extent is allowable these, tortured.  The only options left for Obama for extending bin Laden's life were Camp Platinum, home for the high-value detainee, at Guantánamo Bay, commonly referred to as Gitmo. Closing Gitmo, not adding high-value detainees, is the political position taken up by Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder, on 22 January 2009.  The other choice remains Bagram Theater Internment Facility, a prison for battlefield detainees well inside the wire of Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. If the choice were Bagram to jail bin Laden, the news of such events would not be slow in reaching the Al Qaida remnants and the Taliban [ Images ]. Each could again target the base with more fervor including suicide bombings or gird up for a uprising with the possibility of delaying Obama's July date to begin the quitting of Afghanistan.  So the only workable option for Obama was to kill bin Laden. Fortunately, the SEALs saved his brain, the brain being his computers and stored computer discs.   For those who say why not a cruise missile or airstrike instead of risking the lives of the US military? It was Osama's data and the ability to retrieve it that made the decision.  On Friday, word trickles out from Jihadist websites with the message they believe bin Laden to be dead and to keep faith in the Al Qaeda [ Images ] movement. For many US citizens and some of their elected leaders who argue that releasing the photos of bin Laden's death face will convince the world of his death.   If Al Qaeda affiliates and followers believe their leader is dead, then what's the point? The outcome rested upon Obama's prior decisions leaving no desirable place suited to the long task of breaking a terrorist like bin Laden without the aid of enhanced interrogation techniques.   Hence, bin Laden was shot on sight, according to plan.

Can’t defeat them? Reform them!
Marvi Sirmed   Continuous interference in political affairs in the last 60 years has robbed the armed forces of their real strength — discipline and defence capability  Last week brought odd moments to Pakistan and sheer embarrassment to some of its holy cows. The bin Laden kill saga not only shamed Pakistan’s security agencies, but also pointed questions at the security forces fighting the ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWoT). And, if answered honestly, the questions could wreak havoc in the world of counter-terrorism. In the post-bin Laden world, clearing of the fog that envelops the mystery of ‘howdunnit’ will give a new perspective to the global balance of threat. For the Americans, nothing is going to change vis-à-vis Pakistan if it maintains its status quo on its GWoT strategies. But for Pakistanis, it is important to come out of the episode unscathed, to introspect, reflect and transform in order to repair the damage done to its already blotted image. At this difficult moment, the army can either be termed as incompetent for not knowing that the highest value target was dumped literally in its courtyard or we can say it was complicit in providing a safe hideout to him. Both arguments seem weak against an all-powerful institution of this country that wields unbridled power in foreign and defence policies. More than anything, Pakistan needs to restore its integrity (as opposed to superficially defined ‘sovereignty’ by a section of the media and intelligentsia) in the world of nations and help in eradicating the scourge of terrorism from its soil. And, finally, Pakistan must overhaul the structure and functioning of its security sector. Time was never so ripe for a thorough reform in the defence sector of Pakistan after 1971, as it is now. More than any other institution, the army has to undergo a complete revamp and bring out soldiers from the current unprecedented low morale. The government, political forces and civil society must campaign with operational, viable and realistic proposals to reform the entire security sector for efficient counter-terrorism. The security sector of a country comprises a policy making supra body (the ministry of defence), an oversight body, which in a democratic country is a legislative body (e.g. parliamentary committee on defence) and functional forces to ensure security (e.g. armed forces, intelligence apparatus and law enforcing agencies). In Pakistan’s case, the army is the almighty supra body. This has weakened the army more than any other institution of the country. Continuous interference in political affairs in the last 60 years has robbed the armed forces of their real strength — discipline and defence capability. For any army to work professionally, it must separate itself from political responsibilities. After taking over as chief of army staff (COAS), General Kayani introduced few reforms, including no appointments in civilian positions, no meetings with political leaders, increased recruitments of the Baloch and decrease in the number of Punjabi recruits, etc. Almost a year and a half later, the nation should ask the army to present a status report on the reforms undertaken and future plans for the second phase of reforms. The good general might have to answer why he chose to meet with some politicians without the approval of his supreme commander in the past two years, especially on the late evening of May 1, when a few hours later a foreign force violated our frontier. Separating the military and intelligence apparatus from politics is not limited to no interaction with politicians, but should also entail a review of the mandate and functions of the intelligence agencies as well. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) should be limited to its original aim: coordination among the forces and intelligence related to defence objectives. The task of foreign intelligence should be transferred to a civilian agency, which should be under the cabinet division. This model works in neighbouring India with Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) doing foreign intelligence with zero interference in domestic affairs. Another important task is to strengthen the ministry of defence, which should be in the driving seat conceiving defence policy, and not the armed forces. The work of the ministry should be monitored and overseen by a democratic and representative parliamentary committee on defence. Both institutions need to be empowered to take punitive actions on such grave negligence like the one we witnessed a week ago. For now, General Kayani owes the nation an explanation and a couple of sackings, including key figures in the ISI and the air force. Some key decisions have been long pending for making the army function professionally. The strong religious symbolism in army exercises and the rank and file should be removed because references to religion have only brought poisonous sectarianism and confusion among the troops. That is why the military authorities have been hesitating to crack down on North Waziristan. A strong pretext for not going deep into the tribal areas has been that the jawaans (young soldiers) might feel bad while fighting their own people. Own people? The ones who have been killing innocent citizens? We have seen what happened to our own people in East Pakistan or later in Balochistan and then Karachi. Or did we never consider the Bengali, Baloch and Karachiites as ‘our own people’? This religiosity has been killing the army from within, which must now be reversed. The army has also been weakened for decades because of its sickening obsession with India. Everything in our defence and foreign policy revolves around this. While our flight is limited to India, India looks to the world. Sticking to their principle of no-first-strike, they have not only earned a moral high ground in the world, but are exploiting it in capturing world markets by concentrating on economic development and expanding international ties with a focus on interests rather than superficial honour. Their open arms towards China worried our generals. When they confront us, they do it through means like their recent opposition to Pakistan’s request for preferential treatment for trade in EU countries. And we? We do it through means challengeable morally, ethically, legally and with human rights perspectives. When it comes to our relations with the US and Afghanistan, our India-centrism is loud. The US should not have any ties with India, which should be neutralised in Afghanistan too through a ‘friendly’ (read puppet) government. Countering a big neighbour must be very important, but that is for the civilian leaders to decide. Let them revisit the Afghan policy and foreign policy as a whole. The army should stop using the media to sabotage civilian initiatives and should stop making military advances without taking elected governments on board. If it is about defeating an enemy, let us defeat it in education, prosperity, poverty reduction, progress in science and technology, trade and manufacturing and, last but not least, in upholding human rights and democracy. Superiority by these means is the only way to dominance. In a globalised world, no one wants a strike on a country and economic sanctions. Better to transform a parasitic relationship with world powers into symbiotic ones for international and regional actors. Detente is the best option for the people. There were 90-minute speeches against the army and ISI’s political role in the National Assembly two weeks ago. One hopes all the parties will unite and ask the army to come up with an explanation for their incompetence and take punitive action against those responsible. Failing which, the opposition will prove that all they need is a turn in government and the government will prove it is not interested in reforming the polity for a better Pakistan. At this juncture of our history, the army’s leadership and political parties need to get their act together. I wish those who organised a long march for the judiciary do so now for essential reforms. All the political forces, including those outside parliament, must unite and make the army accountable to the people of Pakistan.

The Gurkhas: Special Force by Chris Bellamy – review
It used to be said that theses on Moby-Dick had replaced whaling as New England's major industry. Similarly, it could now be said that the fewer the Gurkhas serving in the British army, the more books are written about them (I should know, as I wrote one of them). Many of these are written by ex-Gurkha officers. But Chris Bellamy is not an ex-Gurkha; he used to be a defence correspondent – "a dying breed", as he calls it – and has also been a professor of military studies.     1. The Gurkhas: Special Force    2. by Chris Bellamy    3.    4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop  Search the Guardian bookshop  The Gurkhas: Special Force is thoroughly researched and clearly written. By and large it sticks to conventional military history, covering the many campaigns and battles in which Gurkhas have fought over a period of almost 200 years (and providing a number of useful maps of these). The text is studded with the Victoria Cross citations of individual British officers and after 1911, the year in which VCs were made available to non-British troops, Gurkhas as well.  Professor Bellamy's grasp of military theory and in particular Russian history enables him to put the "Great Game" and the 19th, 20th and 21st-century wars in Afghanistan in illuminating context. He also has an interesting chapter on Gurkhas – or Gorkhas, as they're more phonetically called – in the post-independence Indian army, where their numbers have expanded in inverse proportion to their contraction in the British army; so that while the four British Gurkha regiments have been reduced to the single Royal Gurkha Rifles, all six of the Gurkha regiments that went to India continue to flourish intact and the 11th Gurkha Rifles, which was raised during the first world war and did not long survive it, has been revived.  Bellamy does have an axe to grind and this is reflected in his subtitle. His mildly controversial thesis is that Gurkhas have always been used as "special forces", not just in such obvious examples as Orde Wingate's Chindits in Burma during the second world war. From their "irregular" beginnings in the army of the East India Company, as "scouts" through the earlier wars in Afghanistan and on the North-West Frontier correctof India (now Pakistan) and in the Borneo campaign of the 1960s, right up to the present conflict in Afghanistan, Gurkhas have often been called to perform "specialised" roles and have responded superbly.  Bellamy may be a little over-insistent on this theme – characterising the four Gurkha regiments involved in the "Emergency" in Malaya and "Confrontation" in Borneo as "the British Foreign Legion", for instance. As a corrective to the once commonly held view that Gurkhas were none too bright and lacked initiative when deprived of their British officers, he certainly has a point. And he is scrupulous enough to quote against himself the "common-sense view" of an unimpeachable authority "that all operations of war are 'special', in one way or another, and that, apart from those carried out by very small groups, all operations by large bodies of men should be regarded as 'conventional'". These words of wisdom come from perhaps the greatest British general of the second world war, Bill Slim.  That the British Gurkhas have survived into the 21st century is largely because of difficulties in recruiting adequate (both in numbers and in calibre) British nationals. Now, as ever in a recession, recruitment here is not so much of a problem and voices are once again being raised for the Gurkhas to go before any more British regiments are scrapped or amalgamated. Bellamy quotes the Tory MP and ex-army officer Patrick Mercer, interviewed in this newspaper on 29 August 2010, saying: "The first people to go will be the Brigade of Gurkhas, probably in their entirety. In the past, the Gurkhas' existence was guaranteed by the fact they are cheaper to run than British troops, and that there was a shortage of British troops. Recent changes mean they are now just as expensive, and recruitment is extremely healthy at the moment. I am afraid the writing is on the wall."  By emphasising the special forces element of the Gurkhas – their "frequent association with the Paras", for example – Bellamy makes a strong case for their retention, now that the wars the British army is called on to fight demand precisely these kind of skills. But the fate of the Gurkhas does not rest entirely in the hands of the British government. What Bellamy calls the "unstable political situation in Nepal" may play a part, too. They are living on the edge in more senses than one.  Tony Gould is the author of Imperial Warriors: Britain and the Gurkhas (1999)

Pakistan troops along LoC put on high alert
NEW DELHI: An embattled Pakistan Army has put its troops along the Line of Control (LoC) on a high state of alert as it scrambles to emerge from the embarrassment of having been caught unawares by the US troops, who raided the cantonment town of Abbottabad to take out Osama bin Laden.  According to authoritative sources, all units of Pakistani Army along the entire 740-kilometer LoC and the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line in Siachen were on Friday put on a "higher state of alert". Accordingly, "active deployment" has been beefed up along forward posts, said a senior official of Indian Army.  The officer said Indian Army has been careful not to respond to the high state of alert by Pakistan and "would not respond to it." Traditionally, the two sides are used to tit-for-tat responses to military actions.  Pakistan Army's move came a day after its corps commanders met with Army chief General Pervez Kayani to warn India against any misadventure. The statement was meant to be retaliation for remarks of Indian Army and Air Force chiefs that India has the capability to carry out an operation like the one executed by the US Seals in Pakistan.  The Pakistan Army top brass said in a statement on Thursday, "The forum, taking serious note of the assertions made by Indian military leadership about conducting similar operations, made it very clear that any misadventure of this kind will be responded to very strongly. There should be no doubt about it."  According to Indian military sources, ever since the last Monday raid by US troops to kill Bin Laden, there has been panic, embarrassment and disbelief in the Pakistan military over the way US helicopters travelled through their airspace, carried out the Special Forces Operation in Abbottabad, and went away with bin Laden's body All the way through, the Pakistani air defence did not pick up any signals of the 'intrusion'. Worse, the first Pakistani fighters were scrambled almost a full hour after the American helicopters entered the Pakistan aerospace, shows Indian assessment.  Indian security establishment has been getting a stream of inputs showing the state of confusion and disbelief in the military. One senior officer pointed out that Pakistan Army's decision to put its units on high alert is reflective of the frustration of the strategic vulnerability exposed by the US operation. Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta, the nerve centre of Pakistan's nuclear programme, isn't very far from Abbottabad, meaning even strategic assets of Pakistan suffer from similar vulnerability, sources point out.  As more clarity emerge about the US operations, Indian military sources are now beginning to suspect that Americans may have deployed electronic counter-measures to jam Pakistan's radars from picking up the movement of the helicopters to Abbottabad and back, thus mocking normalcy. There are contradictory reports emerging from within Pakistan about what really happened to the radar network. While its foreign secretary hinted at the possibility of radars being jammed, the air force maintains that its radars were inactive on the particular day.

Radars were inactive, not jammed: PAF
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Air Force has assured the government that no foreign helicopters or fighter planes will be allowed to violate the Pakistani air space in future and if ordered, the PAF can shoot down the US drones.  Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman has accepted the responsibility of air surveillance failure but informed the government that the entry of American helicopters into the Pakistani air space was not detected because the radars deployed on the western borders were not active on May 2. He dispelled the impression that the Pakistani radars were jammed.  The success of American operation against Osama bin Laden has raised many questions about the capability of Pakistan Army and Air Force. Tension between Pakistan and the US further increased on Friday after another drone attack in the tribal area. The PAF clearly told the government that they never perceived any threat for urban areas of Pakistan from Afghanistan and that was why the radars deployed close to the western borders were “on rest”. It was learnt that radars deployed on the borders with India and the LoC with the Indian occupied Kashmir are active 24 hours and that was why Pakistan came to know about a possible Indian attack in December 2008 immediately after the Mumbai attacks. It was the evening of December 21, 2008 when Pakistan came to know about the unusual movement of Indian Army and Air Force. When the threat was confirmed, then within minutes Pakistan Air Force night fighters were ordered to fly.  Pakistan has two kinds of radars, high-level radars and low-level radars. High-level radars are meant to protect the air space. Low-level radars are used for training flights. The maximum life of high-level radars is 25,000 hours. These radars need overhauling after three years and they cannot work after nine years. Due to the expensive nature of high-level radars, Pakistan Air Force does not use these machines 24 hours on western borders and that was the reason the American helicopters entered Pakistan without challenge.  It was also learnt that Pakistan Air Force informed the government long ago for the need of a modern surveillance system, which could cover all the areas of Pakistan. On the request of the PAF, the former government made a deal with Sweden and China for the purchase of modern aircraft with radar systems.  The PAF has received three Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) planes from Sweden and one more will come in June 2011. China has provided one ZDK-03 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) plane and three more will come at the end of this year. These modern machines will be activated soon and it will cover the whole of Pakistan. In the meanwhile, PAF activated all radars deployed on the western borders after the May 2 incident, which means that foreign forces present in Afghanistan will now be considered as a threat to the security of Pakistan.  Defence sources are of the view that the CIA chief’s statement about Pakistan had forced them to think objectively and honestly about our real friends and real enemies. These sources clearly said: “Osama bin Laden declared war not only against America but also against Pakistan Army, we lost 3,500 soldiers, we arrested most of his close comrades but Americans never took us into confidence about the May 2 operation and even after the success of their unilateral operation, they tried to humiliate us in their traditional arrogant style but we will not tolerate their arrogance in future.”  When asked why there was another drone attack in North Waziristan on Friday, the defence sources said, “We can stop the drones like we destroyed one Indian drone a few years back at the night time, let the political government allow us and we will not disappoint our countrymen.” They insist: “We were not sure about the identity of intruders on May 2 but when the PAF chief came to know about the presence of some helicopters in Abbottabad through the Army, he immediately ordered his night fighters to shoot down the unknown helicopters. Night fighters were in the air within 15 minutes but when they reached Abbottabad, by that time the unknown helicopters had disappeared”.  These sources say: “Let them come again from the west or even from the east and the world will see our real action.”

Pawan Hans grounding stalls China border roads
he grounding of helicopter operator Pawan Hans’ fleet after two shocking accidents in a fortnight near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh has claimed another casualty: Border Roads Organisation’s (BRO’s) strategic road building programme along the Sino-Indian border. With Pawan Hans’ helicopters no longer available to ferry bulldozers and materials to road building sites in remote areas, this crucial programme is experiencing further delay.  On April 19, a Pawan Hans Mi-172 helicopter had crashed near Tawang, killing 17 passengers as well as crew members and grievously injuring five more. On April 30, another Pawan Hans AS350 B3 helicopter crashed near Sela Pass, killing Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four others on board. Since then, Pawan Hans has suspended operations in the North-East region.
These grounded helicopters have been central to BRO’s success in by-and-large meeting tough road building schedules. Building sequentially, or starting from one end of a proposed road and working steadily to the other end, is a slow process. Instead, BRO divides roads into segments, selecting multiple ‘attack points’ to which road building materials are heli-lifted. Work then proceeds simultaneously from each attack point.  Among the first to be affected is the crucial road being built from Thingbu towards the 18,000-foot Tulung La Pass on the border, so far just a mule track on which the Chinese infiltrated in 1961 to outflank Indian troops ensconced on the mighty Sela Pass. Since BRO was using a Pawan Hans Mi-172 helicopter to carry a dismantled bulldozer to Thingbu, building has been stalled until it flies again. The Indian Air Force has already expressed its inability to support the BRO road building, since its helicopters are fully committed in provisioning the army’s remote border outposts.  Also stalling are several other BRO roads in the North-East region, where six of the 27 roads are facing schedule slippages. Another 12 border roads that BRO is building along the Sino-Indian border in Ladakh are not affected by the Pawan Hans grounding.  However, the Director General Border Roads (DGBR), Lieutenant General S Ravi Shankar, struck an upbeat note at BRO’s 51st Raising Day celebrations today, declaring that these 39 roads would be completed by 2013. He said 25 per cent of the BRO current annual budget of Rs 5,400 crore was earmarked for Sino-Indian border roads.  These 39 roads are merely the beginning of an ambitious Ministry of Defence (MoD) project to bring connectivity to the Sino-Indian border. Top MoD sources told Business Standard that the MoD’s general staff long-term perspective plan (GS-LTPP) caters for Rs 57,000 crore to be spent by BRO on new Sino-Indian border roads by 2022.  Despite this, India trails China substantially in building border infrastructure. Shankar said, “It is not fair to compare us with China. They began work in the 1970s and 1980s. In those days, we were making single-lane roads, which we thought would be enough. Today, we have more money and our thinking is different. So, we are double-laning those earlier roads. We are moving very fast since 2007.”  Senior BRO officers highlighted another emerging problem in executing its expanded road building programme, which the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) monitors closely. The rolling out of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) has resulted in growing reluctance among labourers — traditionally recruited from eastern states such as Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar — to leave their villages for the gruelling manual work involved in building border roads.  “BRO cannot pay its casual labour more than the minimum wage prescribed by the Central government, or by the state government where they work, whichever is greater. That amounts to Rs 120-170 per day, even in the tough conditions in which they work and live. As a result, they prefer to obtain employment at home under NREGA,” says DGBR.  Also, depleting BRO’s traditional labour pool is the growing demand from companies that are building hydel power projects in Arunachal Pradesh. “The hydel companies come and offer our labourers Rs 25 more than us. What can we do?” complained another BRO officer.  At a meeting with the Minister of State for Defence, M M Pallam Raju, on May 5, BRO proposed additional incentives for its workers, including subsidised rations, kerosene and clothing, to compensate them for the difficult living conditions in hand-built shanties by the side of under construction roads.  Alongside its 36,600 permanent employees, BRO has a workforce of about one lakh casual labourers. Over the last 51 years, BRO has built a 48,300-km network of border roads in India, 36 km of major bridges, and 19 airfields.  In Afghanistan, BRO has constructed the challenging 215-kilometre Delaram-Zaranj road at a cost of Rs 600 crore, finishing six months ahead of time with no cost overrun. In Myanmar, it has built the 160-kilometre road connecting Tamu-Kalemyo-Kalewa. In Bhutan, it has built a high percentage of the roads, as well as the international airport at Paro. And, in Tajikistan, at India’s only overseas military base in Ainyi, it rebuilt the runway.

Jyoti Malhotra: Their general and ours: Failing and flailing states
Why have Indian Service chiefs inserted themselves into an ongoing battle? Jyoti Malhotra /  May 8, 2011, 0:30 IST  Why have Indian Service chiefs inserted themselves into an ongoing battle between the people and the civilian leadership, on one side, and the Pakistani Army, intelligence agencies and extremists on the other?  In the past week, in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a text message on Pakistan’s various cell networks is said to have gone viral. The message reads: For sale! Obsolete Army radar, can’t detect copters, but can receive signals of Star Plus. Only Rs 999.
Pakistan is in the middle of one of its phases of self-doubting these days, believing it can, at least partially, be rescued through humour. In Islamabad last week, before Pakistan’s world fell apart — and the rest of the universe, more or less, was rejoined — several private conversations contained the plea that India, despite being periodically and systematically maimed by Pakistan, must reach out and help its western neighbour.  It was a simple enough argument, made much before the effect of boot-legged alcohol could hold sway.  “Pakistan won’t collapse, but it is a failing state. India is a democracy, it must be able to see that this thing called ‘terrorism’ was created by our Army to hurt you. Now these terrorists have outgrown their master and turned inwards upon the people of Pakistan. In the name of Islam, Muslim is killing Muslim, but the ‘terrorists’ continue to be in the hands of the Pakistani Army. It is the Army which believes India is its main enemy and it is the Army which exercises control over a divided political class inside Pakistan.”  We actually have, the Pakistani gentleman said in conclusion, the same enemy.  Clearly, a week is a long time in the life of any state. The people’s jury in Pakistan is still out on how deeply Ashfaq Kayani’s army and its handmaiden, the Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI, was implicated in protecting bin Laden in his Abbottabad preserve. Even as this goes to press, ISI chief Shuja Pasha has flown to Washington DC to explain his agency’s failure or complicity — depending whom you’re listening to — in the Osama affair.  The rumour is that Pasha will quit, if only to assuage the growing anger, shame and humiliation inside Pakistan, and the feeling that someone must take responsibility for creating a country which protects the world’s most wanted men. From the Kuwaiti-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed captured in Rawalpindi in March 2003 — he is said to have been the ‘architect’ of the September 11, 2001 incidents and the murder of Daniel Pearl — to the Indonesian terrorist Umar Patek, the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, they’ve all been found in the vicinity of Abbottabad in recent years.  Apart from the fact that Pasha’s urgent flight out to DC underlines the dysfunctional nature of the US-Pakistani relationship (on the one hand, Pasha must answer the summons of his master who pays the bills that runs his country, on the other, Pakistani officials, reflecting a deep resentment of the US, have at least publicly refused to allow the Americans to independently interrogate Osama’s wives and many children left behind in the Abbottabad compound), it calls to mind the fundamental question: Did Pasha, and indeed Kayani, apologise to their own elected government for the biggest intelligence failure in its history?  Or, if the Pakistanis, along with the rest of the world, believe that the Army-ISI protected Osama bin Laden and that he couldn’t have lived in Abbottabad for six long years without their permission, then did the Pakistani Army-ISI do this with the permission of Yousaf Raza Gilani’s elected government?  It boggles the mind to think that Asif Ali Zardari, whose party swept to power in the 2008 elections which threw out the dictator Pervez Musharraf, could have sanctioned a Kayani-Pasha decision that Osama must be kept alive because he could come in handy to resurrect Pakistani influence in Afghanistan once the Americans had left.  In this ongoing battle between the people and the Pakistani army, mostly fought under the radar but sometimes emerging overground, India has always been both witness and player. India’s elected political class, its people and media have contained both strains within, the aggressive and the reflective. Both Atal Behari Vajpayee of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Manmohan Singh of the Congress repeatedly sought to build bridges with the Pakistani people because they know it is only they who can fray the skeins of Army control they have allowed themselves to be wrapped in.  In this complicated scenario, it looks as if India’s own generals, not content with safeguarding India’s frontiers, are desperate to take a leaf out of their brother officers’ book in Pakistan: interfering in the civilian business of politics. For army chief Gen. VK Singh to say, in the wake of the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden, that India also had the capability of carrying out a similar operation, was clearly stepping out of line.  It was also endangering Manmohan Singh’s carefully-built peace process, dependent entirely on reaching out to Pakistan’s people.  In fact, India’s armed forces have been here before. In the wake of the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, then air force chief Fali Major strutted his stuff without worrying about the consequences. India could easily retaliate, he warned, in front of a TV-hungry audience baying for the blood of at least one Pakistani.  Fali Major’s comments were received with some horror by the political class, but no one knows whether Defence Minister AK Antony or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called him or VK Singh in, rapped them on their knuckles and told them to tape their mouths.  Far more dangerous has been the Army’s veto over a Siachen deal with Pakistan. Rajiv Gandhi, in 1989, had agreed with Benazir Bhutto that the Indian army would withdraw from the Saltoro range in the Siachen glacier, where they have been perched since 1984 and where more men have died from frostbite than bullet wounds. It’s the most ridiculous non-war the Indian army has fought against Pakistan for 26 years, but clearly no prime minister since has had the courage to defy his generals.  At least in Pakistan, which has lived with martial law for more years than democracy, it’s not surprising the generals are in full control. Of course there’s no comparison, but the shocking part is that in India men in uniform can speak the way they do, despite India’s 63-year experience with democracy.  If the PM’s dearest wish is to help Pakistan in its battle for normalcy against its Army, then he must first look within. Telling the army chief to go back to his barracks would be a good start. It will show them in what part of South Block the real power lies.

Yashwant backs Abbottabad-like strike by India
NEW DELHI: BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Friday backed Abbottabad-like surgical strike in Pakistan as he hit out at the US for differentiating between 9/11 and Mumbai attacks. He said India would be well within its rights to carry out such operations against terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and others as it was a victim of terrorism coming out of Pakistan.  "This distinction between 9/11 and 26/11 is unacceptable to us as Indian lives are as precious as US lives. India has been at the receiving end of terrorism for over two decades. India cannot be denied the rights that the US has, including that of surgical strikes," Sinha told a news agency. He was asked about US state department spokesman Mark Toner's response to a question whether the US policy of "right to self-defence" applied to other countries like India.  He took exception to the comments of Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir warning India against surgical strikes like the one carried out by US Navy Seals which killed Osama bin Laden. The government on Friday did not react to Bashir's comments which were seen as a response to an earlier statement made by Indian Army chief Gen V K Singh that Indian forces were capable of carrying out such operations.  "The manner in which the Pakistan foreign secretary has responded to our Army chief's innocuous statement and held out a threat to India is most unbecoming and shows the mindset of Pakistan that they will take blow after blow from the US but when it comes to India they talk of parity," Sinha said.  Asked if India should think in terms of surgical strikes, the former foreign minister agreed. "India should reserve the right of surgical strikes and hot pursuit against Pakistan irrespective of the consequences. As and when considered necessary, India should not hesitate to carry out such an attack," Sinha said.  In reply to another question whether the Indian government lacked the political will to carry out such an attack, Sinha said, "India has always been considered a soft state and it is time we shed this image."  He said there was no question of violation of Pakistan's sovereignty in carrying out such an attack. "Sovereignty of Pakistan has long been in tatters. US has been striking at terrorists and terror bases in Pakistan through drone attacks. Even today, 10 terrorists have been killed in drone attacks," Sinha said.  BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, however, took a more cautious line, insisting that it was up to the government to bring back wanted terrorists reportedly living in Pakistan, and whether it did so through diplomatic channels or surgical strikes was up to the government.  "Our Army chief has said Indian forces are capable of carrying out such attacks. We welcome this statement. We are not concerned with what the US says. 26/11 is more than 9/11 for us. Mumbai attacks were also unique as India was attacked," he said.  The Rajya Sabha MP maintained that countries like the US and Israel had "shown this courage (of carrying out surgical strikes)", but the Indian government of the day lacked this courage.  The ruling Congress, however, downplayed the distinction made by the US between 9/11 and 26/11 attacks. "We are not bound in any manner by the view of any other country in the matters of our security. That is their opinion. Our actions are premised on our own decisions and our independent policy. It is quite possible our independent policy can tally with any other country, but it will be our decision," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said.

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