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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 18 May 2011





Sri Lanka rejects UN report on war crime charges
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, May 17 Sri Lanka today dismissed a report of the UN Secretary-General’s expert panel, accusing the government of the island nation of having committed ‘war crimes’ during the war with the LTTE, which eventually led to the annihilation of the terrorist group in May, 2009.  “The report is replete with contradictions…it is not based on credible evidence but on unsubstantiated evidence. We call upon the Secretary General to refrain from taking any action on the basis of the report. Any action on the report would be horrendously unfair,” Sri Lankan foreign minister G L Peiris said at a press conference at the end of his meetings with top Indian leaders.  Describing the report as a ‘negative development’ for restoring peace in the island nation, he said it was time for his country to leave behind the anguish of the past and face the future boldly as a united nation. Asked if the issue of ‘war crimes’ had also figured during his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and other Indian interlocutors, he did not give a straight reply..  A joint statement issued by the two countries after Peiris’s visit said Krishna urged the expeditious implementation of measures by the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure resettlement and genuine reconciliation, including early return of Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) to their respective homes, early withdrawal of emergency regulations and redress of humanitarian concerns of affected families.  Talking about the IDPs, Peiris said there were some 290000 IDPs when the war with the LTTE ended two years back. Now there were only 10000 IDPs who were to be resettled. Many of them were living in camps since all basic amenities were available in these camps.  Referring to ex-combatants, he said several of them had joined educational institutions. Nearly 390 of the ‘misguided youths’ would take up jobs in police and deployed in the Tamil-dominated Northern province. “Rehabilitation does not mean physical rehabilitation but also access to good life.” Sri Lanka had also cleared 70 per cent of the land which had been mined by the LTTE. “We are acutely conscious of the need to revive the political processes there,” Peiris said.






Shift in India’s Afghan policy
The emerging reality can’t be ignored  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Kabul was more significant that his earlier one owing to four main factors. One, it came immediately after the killing of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan’s garrison town Abbottabad, leading to strained relations between the US and its “key ally” in the war on terror. Two, the international community has expressed its readiness to encourage Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to induct in his government the Taliban factions (the good Taliban) willing to give up the path of violence as advocated by last year’s 60-nation London conference. Three, there is new willingness to allow India to play a more significant role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in view of Pakistan having been exposed as an undependable nation in the fight against global terrorism. Four, India cannot afford to ignore the fact of China increasing its presence in Afghanistan, which may ultimately benefit Pakistan.  Yet, Dr Manmohan Singh avoided targeting Pakistan while expressing his views on the need for the countries in the region to work together to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. He also made it clear that there was no likelihood of India undertaking a US-style exercise to flush out the terrorists in Pakistan on India’s wanted list. He reiterated India’s assurance to Afghanistan to help it in all possible ways to rebuild its infrastructure. Kabul will now get another $500 million development assistance from India, taking New Delhi’s aid to Kabul to $2 billion. India has no intention of involving itself militarily in Afghanistan. It will, however, continue to train the Afghan police, as desired by the Karzai government.  What is more significant than all this is that India is ready to accept the reality of the “good” Taliban as part of the government in Kabul. This is a clear policy shift, but unavoidable under the circumstances. This may help blunt the Pakistani propaganda that India is opposed to any reconciliation effort to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. In fact, it is difficult to go against the international view that the Taliban movement can be weakened by dividing it and then taking on the hardcore groups head on. What is also needed is a drive to ensure that there is no outside intervention (from Pakistan) in the affairs of Afghanistan.






NATO choppers fly into Pak, fire on troops
Miranshah (Pak), May 17 NATO helicopters from Afghanistan intruded into northwest Pakistan today, wounding two soldiers, officials said, prompting a protest from the military already seething over the secret US operation to kill Osama bin Laden.  The Pakistan army said it had lodged a “strong protest” and sought a flag meeting with NATO commanders over the incursion in Pakistan’s North Waziristan near the Afghan border, which has been repeatedly targeted by US drone aircraft.  A local government official said two NATO helicopters crossed into North Waziristan and remained for about 10 minutes in the area, known to be a hub for Al-Qaida-linked fighters.  A Western military official in Kabul, however, said two NATO helicopters supporting a base in eastern Afghanistan had returned fire after being attacked from Pakistan, but declined to say whether they had crossed into Pakistani airspace. A senior Pakistani security official said NATO has complained of “unprovoked firing.” — Reuters







India, US to hold security dialogue
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, May 17 Within a month of the killing of Osama bin Laden, India and the United States are set to hold their first-ever homeland security dialogue here on May 27.  The Indian side would be led by Home Minister P Chidambaram while the American team would be headed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.  US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Jane Lute this afternoon called up Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to discuss the programme and the agenda of the security dialogue. The two senior officials noted that working together to address the shared challenge of security was a strategic priority for both the nations. They hoped the security dialogue would further strengthen the Indo-US cooperation for the security of the two countries and their people, official sources said.  A new dialogue on homeland security was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama in November 2010. India and the US have been cooperating on counter-terrorism initiatives since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.  Sources said the Indian side would obviously like to know at the security dialogue the details of the Abbottabad operation carried out by the US forces in Pakistan on May 2 in which the Al-Qaida chief was killed.






Five CRPF jawans killed in Naxal attack in Dantewada
Dantewada:  In yet another strike on paramilitary forces, five jawans belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were today killed after Naxals blew up their escort vehicle in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.  Three CRPF personnel were also injured in the landmine blast.  The incident occurred when the jawans were travelling from Kerlapal to Sukma in Dantewada, 280 kilometres from the capital Raipur, Additional Director General of Police Ramniwas said.  Initial reports suggest that the blast was triggered by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).  
Additional forces have been rushed to the site and the injured have been admitted to Jagdalpur hospital, he said.  Security forces have intensified combing operations in the area, he also added.  (With PTI inputs)  






Nato hits targets in Gaddafi stronghold
Nato airstrikes pounded two government buildings early today in the Libyan capital, including the interior ministry, setting them on fire and prompting a government spokesman to suggest the ministry was targeted because it contained files on corruption cases against senior members of the Benghazi-based rebel leadership.  The latest strikes on Gaddafi's stronghold came just hours after the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor sought arrest warrants for the Libyan leader, his son and the country's intelligence chief for authorising the killing of civilians in a crackdown on anti-government rebels.
Gaddafi's government denied the allegations.  The call for the inquest was the first such action in the Netherlands-based court linked to the Arab uprisings. It opened another potential front against Gaddafi's regime even as the autocratic leader stands firm against widening Nato airstrikes and rebels with growing international backing.  A Libyan government spokesman appealed for a ceasefire and said authorities were likely to release four foreign reporters held in a Tripoli after they face trial in an administrative court, expected later today.  Nato has stepped up strikes on Tripoli in an apparent attempt to weaken Gaddafi's chief stronghold and potentially target the leader himself. One of the buildings hit early today was used by the Interior Ministry which is responsible for internal security.  Government escorts took reporters from their hotel to the site of the overnight airstrikes. Smoke and flames engulfed the top floors of the Interior Ministry building as dozens of young men, many of them armed with assault rifles, milled outside the shuttered gate early today.  Some of the men carried a life-sized portrait of Gadhafi, danced before the burning building and chanted: "The revolution will continue!"  Nearby, black smoke poured out of a complex that officials said included offices used by authorities overseeing corruption cases. Soldiers collected half-burnt papers strewn amid the smashed glass and twisted metal as fire fighters sprayed water on the flames.  Moussa Ibrahim, the Libyan spokesman. Suggested the ministry was targeted because it contained files on rebel leaders in Benghazi, the de-facto capital of the eastern half of the country, which is under opposition control.  "If they (Nato) are really interested in protecting civilians ... Then we call upon them to stop and start talking to us," Ibrahim said.






India not biggest enemy: Sharif
Afzal Khan in Islamabad  As the powerful military here held out threats to India, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said Islamabad must stop treating New Delhi as its "biggest enemy" and conduct a reappraisal of ties with New Delhi "if we want to go forward and progress". Sharif, who was in power when the Kargil crisis erupted, also sought a probe into the 1999 conflict with India.  Sharif had signed the famous Lahore Declaration in early 1999 with the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to resolve all issues peacefully through dialogue, including the Kashmir issue. But the Kargil operation launched by Parvez Musharraf a few months later, apparently without Sharif’s approval, subverted the accord.  Meanwhile, Sharif described the decision to set up an independent commission to investigate the Abbottabad fiasco as a first step to making Parliament sovereign. “We need structural changes and this inquiry has provided an opportunity to move forward and put the country on the right track, correct its direction by putting our house in order, establish the rule of law and bring all institutions under civilian control,” Sharif observed.  The PML-N chief said if the government fixed responsibility for the Abbottabad incident and punished those found guilty, a message would go out to the world at large that the people of Pakistan would not brook another Abbottabad-like embarrassment.  Asked whether he would get in touch with MQM during his stay in Karachi, he said rhetorically: “What for. They are now part of the government. And May 12 should not be forgotten because if we forget the tragedy, similar incidents will continue to happen.” Mr Sharif was alluding to the bloodshed in Karachi on May 12, 2007, - the day Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was unable to come out of the city’s airport.  “I don’t want to say anything lest I be misconstrued. However, an inquiry should be instituted into the May 12 happenings and the guilty brought to justice,” Sharif said.






Army move to close road for traffic irks motorists in St Thomas Mount
CHENNAI: As a child, S Perumal frequently travelled on a road dividing a large open plot in Defence Colony, Nandambakkam.  From Wednesday, the 36-year-old DMK councillor of the Nandambakkam town panchayat and scores of others will no longer able to use the two-km-stretch. The Army has decided to close it for traffic to prevent it from being misused to dump and burn garbage on the open lands of the Defence Ministry in the area.  This, Army officials say, has been affecting patients at the military hospital in the Defence Colony. Besides, cabs and other vehicles parked on both sides of the stretch have become a nuisance. "Many drivers openly drink alcohol and convert a part of the stretch into a workshop. Travel on the stretch, especially at night, is risky due to poor lighting facilities," said army sources. The poorly-lit stretch, said sources, is ideal for those indulging in petty crimes like chain-snatchings and convenient for sand and brick lorries to enter the city where their movement is banned.  However, residents and motorists want the stretch to be open for traffic. On Tuesday, Alandur taluk revenue officials measured the actual land that had been used as a road all these years. A peace committee comprising army officials, the suburban police, residents and Nandambakkam panchayat officials was formed to sort the issue. "As per government records, no road exists. The one being used now is actually part of open land belonging to the Defence Ministry. We can only request the ministry to allow motorists to use it," Alandur tahsildar K Prabhavathi told The Times Of India.  The open land, over the years, became a pathway thanks to its frequent use by residents of surrounding areas. The locality assumed significance in the 1870s when the Madras Regiment was posted in St Thomas Mount. It encouraged people to settle in nearby places and began to develop areas termed civil lines'. After Independence, a few companies came up along the route and their employees began using the stretch. In 2008, an army public school was started there. From time to time, the Cantonment Board laid the road with bitumen. "Residents have been using the road for decades but the final decision is with the Army. An alternative route will be longer and congested," said Nandambakkam village administrative officer S V Kumar.  To safeguard its land from encroachments and better use its resources, the Army has been constructing housing quarters for its personnel on the open land. The remaining land is being fenced. Two weeks ago, a check-post was erected at the entry point of the road to monitor vehicles using the road. It was also aimed at preventing cabs from parking along the stretch.







India to have a sharper eye in the sky soon
Bangalore: After successfully demonstrating the Akashdeep aerostat system, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will develop a bigger and better aerostat system with additional payload. DRDO chief controller, R&D (Aerospace & Services Interaction) Dr Prahlada told that the new aerostat system will be bigger in size compared to the medium-range Akashdeep.  India's new eye in the sky can carry out surveillance up to a radius of 450-500kms and is being developed based on the feedback from the Air Force and the Army received during the Aero India 2011. The new system will be used by the army and paramilitary forces.  Dr Prahlada said paramilitary forces have showed interest in the aerostat which can be used for surveillance activities in the Maoist-infested areas.  The aerostat system, to be developed by the Agra based by Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), will be equipped with a wide range of payloads. It can carry out surveillance during night and in low-visibility condition and also intercept a variety of communication.  The aerostats gimbals, with 360 degree azimuth freedom, can carry out steering, scanning and tracking with high precision.  Defence experts say the deployment of aerostats at the borders along with the Airborne Early Warning & Control System (AEW&C) will redefine the battle surveillance capabilities as armed forces can neutralise attacks from adversaries well in advance.  In addition to the aerostat, India's indigenous Airborne Early Warning & Control System (AEW&C) which is being built on a modified Embraer EMB-145 aircraft in Brazil will be brought to India in August, said Prahlada.  The modified aircraft will be integrated with Active-Array Antenna Unit, mission systems, radar, etc by the Bangalore- based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS).  "Following the integration the first flight is expected to take place in January next year," he added.  




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