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Monday, 20 June 2011

From Today's Papers - 20 Jun 2011





The state of US-Pak ties Emerging scenario after Osama’s killing

by P.R. Chari  Understandably, there was much exultation in the United States and gloating in India when Osama bin Laden, sequestered in Abbottabad by the Pakistan Army and its faithful ISI, was eliminated in a clinically executed operation by U.S. Navy SEALS. Pakistan protested loudly that its sovereignty had been infringed when its territory was invaded and Osama killed in Abbottabad. This is all very true. Recent reports from Islamabad inform that General Kayani is under pressure from his corps commanders to loosen ties with the US to express their dissatisfaction with Washington’s cavalier behaviour.  These overt protestations, however, are only histrionics meant for domestic consumption. Why? Pakistan is living far beyond its means — its defence budget reportedly exceeds its revenue income; it has to depend, therefore, on external assistance to remain solvent. Significantly, US financial aid to Pakistan since 9/11 — estimated around $20 billion — is much greater than the assistance provided to Pakistan by Saudi Arabia and China. This should be a sobering thought for Pakistan’s ruling elite, who might glibly calculate that if the US withdraws its subvention to its bankrupt economy, Islamabad could turn to the eager Saudis and/ or the Chinese to bale them out. In short, Pakistan’s current fulminations with Osama’s elimination in Abbottabad and its sovereignty being infringed are hugely contrived, and will settle down quickly. And Pakistan will hope to revert to its earlier status as the most favoured client ally of the US.  But will the US continue as before in its dealings with Pakistan? It had anointed Osama with a larger-than-life image as Al-Qaida’s supreme leader, who perpetrated the 9/11 outrage and diminished America’s global image. Osama’s capture or elimination had become the Holy Grail of US foreign policy, and it had expended considerable blood and treasure on this enterprise, which only makes Pakistan’s perfidy more perfidious. No doubt, the US remains dependent on Islamabad to permit logistics supplies for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan to use the land route from Karachi. In the past, Pakistan had connived at these supply lines being attacked and looted to convey its disapproval with some aspect or the other of American policy. This could be seen in the drone attacks that have Pakistan’s tacit approval, but have occasionally caused disproportionate civilian deaths or strayed into unapproved areas. Will Pakistan continue these blackmail tactics post-Osama?  Perhaps, the first indication that the US expects more credible cooperation from the ISI was the recent drone attack that eliminated Ilyas Kashmiri. Suspiciously, few details of this incident are available in the public domain. But timely and accurate information of Kashmiri’s presence had permitted this successful attack since the top Al-Qaida leaders have been observing great discipline in their use of electronic communications. The human intelligence regarding Ilyas Kashmiri’s location could have been provided by the ISI as part of a new post-Osama deal with the US. Ayman al-Zawahari is next on the list. Watch this space. Still, American concerns persist. Washington is disturbed by Pakistan arresting several persons who gave information to the CIA regarding Osama’s hideout. And the US greatly fears that Pakistan might proliferate nuclear-weapons technology to aberrant states and/or terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda. Pakistan has a long history of proliferation to Iran, Libya and North Korea by the former head of its nuclear weapons programme, A.Q. Khan. There are further concerns that insiders could collect weapons-usable nuclear material from Pakistan’s nuclear facilities to build a crude nuclear device.  There are some indications, however, that the US is getting increasingly reconciled to a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan, and is preparing to abandon President Hamid Karzai. Hence the logic proceeds; it will compromise with Pakistan to establish a stable government in Kabul before it pulls its forces out in 2014. But there are other indications that the US is unlikely to commit the same error that it did in 1990 by abandoning Afghanistan, which enabled the Taliban to overrun the country, provide shelter to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida, leading to 9/11, and the present imbroglio. No doubt, there is tremendous domestic pressure on the US Administration to “bring the boys back home” and leave Afghanistan to its fate, but the inevitability of another Greek tragedy unfolding will influence Washington DC to continue its physical presence in Afghanistan, either in the form of training teams or airbases from which drone attacks and surgical strikes could be launched. It is most unlikely, indeed, that the US will leave Afghanistan in 2014.  So, what does all this portend for the totality of Pakistan-American relations? Quite obviously, the US will not loosen its grip on Pakistan. Nor will Pakistan, despite its protests and protestations, loosen its semi-alliance with the US. The glue will be American global interests in the oil-rich Gulf region, while checkmating China and Russia in Central Asia. Pakistan’s interests will largely be monetary. A new relevance will attend the hyphenation of Afghanistan to Pakistan constituting the Af-Pak nexus, which epitomises the current threats to international security — religious terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation and the consequences of states’ facing disintegration. Clearly, the US, which occupies the apex of the international security system, cannot deal singly with these diffuse security threats emanating from the Af-Pak region, but will need to harness the neighbouring countries to grapple collectively with them. And, this harsh reality provides the most convincing reason for the US staying engaged with Pakistan and the Af-Pak region.  So, what are India’s options in this milieu? There is little reason for it to be apologetic about its strategic interests in Afghanistan by rebuilding its shattered economy, or by strengthening its governance structures. But a greater coordination of its efforts in these and other feasible directions with the US is required. An opportunity for discussing these issues post-Osama will come next month when Mrs Hilary Clinton visits New Delhi for the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue.








Pak warship PNS Babur a ‘history-sheeter’

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 19 Pakistan Naval Ship PNS Babur, which, New Delhi claims, jeopardised the safety of ‘INS Godavari’ and its crew on high seas this week, is said to be a ‘history-sheeter’.The Pakistani vessel has, on a couple of occasions in the past also, caused problems for Indian ships in its vicinity.  However, India would like to put behind the diplomatic stand-off with Pakistan on this issue. The incident had only reflected the need for some Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries to deal with any issue on high seas, government sources said today.  The sources recalled that the two countries had been discussing a document on avoidance of incidents at high seas before their dialogue was suspended in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. “There is no need to whip up frenzy on this issue…we need to talk,’’ they added.  The face-off between ‘PNS Babur’ and ‘INS Godavari’ is believed to have happened following the release of Egyptian-owned vessel M V Suez from the clutches of Somali pirates. The hostages on board included six Indians. The ship is now on its way to Oman, escorted by ‘PNS Babur’  The sources said Somali pirates continued to pose a threat to India as well as to other countries around the globe. There were still 591 people in the custody of Somali pirates, including 39 Indians.  New Delhi was in close touch with the United Nations, UN contact group on piracy and the International Maritime Bureau to see a coordinated solution to the threat posed by piracy.








Army denies info to RTI activist

Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, June 19 The Right to Information (RTI) Cell at the Army Headquarters has adopted a novel method to deny information to a RTI activist of the region by maintaining that he could seek information only as an individual and not in his official capacity.  Pankaj Chandgothia, an advocate residing in Panchkula, wanted information from the Army Headquarters about various methods and modes of retirement of Army personnel. He had sought the criteria and eligibility for retirement and entitlement of pension of various categories of retirees. He had sent his request to the Army on June 6. Yesterday, he received a letter from the RTI Cell rejecting his request. “It is intimated that the RTI is an individual right, applicable to Indian citizens. On perusal of your application, it is seen that you are seeking information in your official capacity and not as an individual citizen,” the letter stated.  Chandgothia has contended that a person does not cease to be an individual citizen if he is an office bearer of an organisation. Moreover, the Army’s letter addressed him as an individual by his name and not by his official designation. He has further claimed that the Section 6 of the RTI Act, which relates to procedure for making applications, refers to a “person” and not an “individual citizen”. It states that a person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means accompanied by fee as prescribed.  The Section 2(42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, stipulates that a person shall include any company or association or body of individuals whether incorporated or not.









Snag-hit MV Suez sailors shifted to Pak warship

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 19 MV Suez has developed a major snag some 75 nautical miles off Salalah in Oman delaying the arrival of the men back home by a few days, at least.  Six Indians and 18 other sea-men from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Eygpt have been shifted to Pakistan navy warship PNS Babur. MV Suez could even capsize and in choppy waters it would have been dangerous for the sailors to be on a ship that was sailing on its own.  Reports from Pakistan say PNS Zulfiqar, a Chinese-built frigate, has been dispatched to the location. Being on counter-piracy patrol of the Bahrain-based combined task force 151, PNS Babur cannot move out of the area. Officials here see the move of sending a new ship as a possibility that sailors could land at port other than Salalah. In case they are ferried to Pakistan, it will take few more days before the men return to India. They were released last week after 10 months from the captivity of Somali pirates.  Since its release the ship has run through series of misfortunes. First it was re-attacked by pirates. It send an SOS and Pakistan navy warship PNS Babur responded to it. The Indian Government dispatched INS Godavari. The two navies have had a war of words. Just short of Salalah, the ship ran out of fuel. A tug boat was arranged from Oman, but it returned due to bad weather leaving MV Suez stranded.









N-issue, Kashmir CBMs on agenda

Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 19 Indications are that confidence building measures (CBMs) on nuclear issues and Jammu and Kashmir could be on the table when Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao meets her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Islamabad on June 23-24.  New Delhi, however, made it clear again today that there was no dilution in India’s stand that Pakistan must bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.  Indo-Pak talks on June 23-24  The two top diplomats would review all the developments and the progress in the trial of the seven persons in the custody of the Pakistani authorities for their involvement in the Mumbai incidents.   The three main items on the agenda would be: peace and security, including CBMs, J&K and promotion of friendly exchanges.  “We will go (to Islamabad) with an open and constructive approach…we have a realistic approach. The dialogue (with Pakistan) is a process and not an end in itself,” official sources said.  They said the two top diplomats would review all the developments and the progress in the trial of the seven persons in the custody of the Pakistani authorities for their involvement in the Mumbai incidents. The three main items on the agenda would be: peace and security, including CBMs, J&K and promotion of friendly exchanges.  Emphasising that recent meetings between the two sides on issues like Siachen, security, trade and commerce and water have led to a “better understanding” between them of each other’s position, they said New Delhi was satisfied with the pace of the dialogue, which was resumed in February after a hiatus of more than two years in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. The foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to meet in July in New Delhi. The sources said the absence of a Cabinet-rank foreign minister in Pakistan would not have an impact on the dialogue process.  The sources said India desired more CBMs to facilitate easier trade and travel between the people on the two sides of Kashmir. This could include increasing the frequency of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus and opening of more points to facilitate border trade.  The sources would not disclose much on the nuclear CBMs being considered by the two countries. The two countries had discussed the issue in 2007 also. Since then, India’s worry about the safety of Pakistani nuclear weapons has grown manifold, particularly in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi recently.  Regretting the ‘glacial pace’ of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan, the sources said India was ‘least satisfied’ with it. They also drew attention to the fact that the court proceedings in the case were adjourned for the fourth time recently.  “From our side, we have given all the documentary evidence that Pakistan wanted to take the trial forward. We need justice…the Mumbai carnage is not behind us,” they asserted. On the recent confessions about the 26/11 attacks by Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana in a Chicago court, New Delhi said its concerns included the larger conspiracy behind the Mumbai carnage. “Our concerns have not, in any way, been diminished by the resumption of dialogue. Through dialogue, you keep the chain of communication open...How can our concerns of terrorism not be addressed by us? Terrorism is central to our concerns.”








Pakistan criticises Indian warship incident, lodges protest

A PAKISTANI Foreign Office representative said in a statement yesterday that the office has filed a protest with the Indian government over the brushing of sides of Pakistan’s PNS Babur and Indian warship Godavari at sea on Friday. The incident occurred when PNS Babur was escorting MV Suez, an Egyptian-owned merchant vessel, which was captured by Somali pirates nine months ago and released earlier this week. The protest was lodged at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.   According to the Foreign Office representative, Godavari did not only obstruct PNS Babur in its humanitarian mission, but also indulged in dangerous exercises, which resulted in rubbing of sides of the two warships. The representative further noted that by indulging in such an act the Indian warship had breached international legislation on safe conduct at high seas, as well as the Indo-Pak agreement of 1991 on Advance Notice of Military Exercise Manoeuvres and Troop Movements. The Indian government has been asked to ensure that no such incident is repeated in the future.   MV Suez was released by the pirates after they received $2 million, earlier this week. The ransom money was paid by the ship’s owner with a little assistance from Pakistan. But a few hours after the ship was released, the pirates once again started encircling it. Scared, MV Suez sent SOS message to Indian and Pakistani Navy. While the Indian Navy ignored these calls, Pakistan responded immediately and sent its warship PNS Babur for help. The Suez has 22 people on board, including six Indians and four Pakistanis. The crew-members are expected to reach their respective countries by June 20.









Army wants operational control of ITBP for better border posture against China

NEW DELHI: With Chinese troops continuing with their aggressive "transgressions'' across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Army wants the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to be placed under its "operational control'' for better border management.  Defence ministry sources said the Army contends India's border management posture will acquire the much-needed "cohesion, coordination and synergy'' required to counter the People's Liberation Army's "offensive'' posture if ITBP is placed under its jurisdiction.  The Army feels such a step will prove operationally productive as well as ensure optimal utilisation of resources especially in eastern Ladakh where ITBP, one of the seven central police forces under the home ministry, is responsible for border management of 826 km of the LAC.  The Army is also present in depth along that stretch but it can exercise operational control over ITBP only during the outbreak of hostilities.  This is not the first time the Army has moved for getting ITBP under its operational wings along the 4,057-km LAC for "single-point control'' as well as effective "border-guarding'' rather than mere "border-policing''.  The defence ministry had six years ago taken up the Army proposal with the home ministry and the national security advisor, among others, but it all came to naught. Interestingly, one of the main objectors at that time was the external affairs ministry, which felt that it would needlessly antagonize China.  China has had no such compunctions. It continues with its policy of frequent troop incursions all along the three LAC sectors -- western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal).  Officially, India often downplays Chinese intrusions, holding that they take place due to "differing perceptions'' of the still-unresolved LAC. The fact, however, remains that China has been indulging in aggressive border patrolling for several years now to strengthen its claim over disputed areas and put pressure on India.  India's overall border management policy has remained largely muddled over the years despite having a porous land border of 14,880-km, running through 17 states and touching six countries. Moreover, it took the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai for the government to rethink security of the country's 5,422-km coastline and 1,197 islands.  The large land borders with both China and Pakistan, as also Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, continue to suffer from a lack of coordination among the different forces manning the border outposts, ranging from BSF, ITBP and Sashastra Seema Bal to Assam Rifles and of course the Army, which report to different bosses and ministries.  Incidentally, both the Border Management Task Force in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil conflict, and the subsequent Group of Ministers' report on "reforming the national security system'' in 2001, had strongly recommended the principle of "one border one force''.  "Multiplicity of forces on the same borders has inevitably led to the lack of accountability as well as problems of command and control,'' held the crucial GoM report. But since then, both the previous NDA and the present UPA regimes have taken only half-hearted steps to plug the gaps.









Kayani seeks to repair dented army pride

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s military chief is working to repair his army’s wounded pride in the bitter aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, a humiliation that has strained US-Pakistani relations and raised questions about the top general’s own standing.  Retired and serving officers interviewed by The Associated Press spoke of seething anger within army ranks over the secret strike the Americans carried out on May 2, undetected by Pakistan’s military.  The US helicopter-borne operation set off a nationalist backlash: The usually untouchable army was sharply criticized in the press and on television talk shows, people demonstrated here in the capital demanding accountability, and open calls were made for the resignation of Gen. Asfaq Parvez Kayani, the military chief.  The army is Pakistan’s strongest institution, and Kayani the nation’s most powerful leader, but he ”has to be very careful,” said retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood.  Like others interviewed, he doubted Kayani’s underlings would try to unseat him in an intra-army coup, but he noted occasions in the past when disgruntled officers were found to be plotting against their chief.  These rumblings generally occurred after the army suffered an embarrassing defeat, most notably Pakistan’s 1971 loss of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, when India took 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war who weren’t released for a year.  Last month’s raid on the al-Qaida leader’s Abbottabad compound resurrected public comparisons to that Bangladesh debacle.  In one sign of dented military prestige, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the withdrawal of a two-star general after his men were caught on video killing an unarmed youth. The court took the unusual action ”in light of the hostile environment in the society toward the military,” said defense analyst Hasan Askar Rizvi.  The public disquiet weighs heavily on the officer corps and down through lower ranks, Masood said.  ”It could all result in loose talk,” he said, but he thought it wouldn’t go beyond that. He noted that within days of the bin Laden raid, Kayani met with key corps commanders in an effort to assure his ranking officers they had not been humiliated.  There’s ”quite a lot of anger” within the military, retired Gen. Jehangir Karamat, a former chief of staff himself, said in a telephone interview from the eastern city of Lahore.  ”Maybe there is talk,” he told the AP. ”Maybe anti-US feeling has gone up in the army. But actually there is in the country a whole lot of anger over the way it happened and the humiliation suffered, and it is inevitably reflected in the army.”  But, he added, ”all this talk of him fighting for his job, his survival, I don’t see any signs of that.”  Kayani is consistently described as a ”professional soldier” by his own men and knowledgable foreigners. But the general, who as a younger officer did some training in the US, may face criticism because of the Pakistani army’s close past cooperation with the US military and dependence on US aid.  At the same time, the Pakistanis have come under sharp criticism in Washington for having apparently missed bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.  Knowledgable observers here said the fracture with Washington could set back military-to-military relations between the two countries by years, as the Americans seek to step up the joint fight against al-Qaida and other militant groups in the Afghan border area.  ”There is a very strong resentment, a very strong sense of betrayal of being discredited in the eyes of our own public. What our enemies have not been able to do they (the US) have done to us,” said a senior military official, who asked that his name not be used to speak candidly.  Pakistan has already sent home nearly 100 US military personnel, most of whom were training the Frontier Corps, the tribal force that patrols Pakistan’s long and porous border with Afghanistan.  Pakistan is holding up visas for CIA officials waiting to come here, and Pakistan’s intelligence agency has arrested alleged CIA informants said to have helped lead the Americans to bin Laden.  In Washington last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of State chairman who has been to Pakistan to try to patch up differences, said letting the relationship with this nuclear-armed nation deteriorate isn’t an option.  If the relationship crumbles or ”were we to walk away, I think it’s a matter of time before the region is that much more dangerous and there would be a huge pull for us to have to return to protect our national interests,” Mullen added.








Defence brass split over French Mirage upgrade deal

NEW DELHI: With the $2.4 billion Mirage-2000 upgrade deal with France in its final stages, India's defence ministry and air force top brass seem to be split over the high costs and likely benefits to the country's future air power needs.  With the contract papers said to be headed to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the volume against the deal is rising, top officials told IANS here.  Among points of contention is the deal cost to upgrade the 52 Mirage-2000 combat aircraft by French company Dassault Aviation. Taking into account $1 billion for new weapons and another $500 million for new facilities at Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ( HAL . for the upgrade, the cost could rise to $3.9 billion, the officials said.  "The upgrade programme will cost the Indian exchequer $7.9 million per Mirage-2000 aircraft. But India is buying 126 new Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) under a $10.4 billion tender that is to be finalised in this fiscal.  "The cost of the new fourth generation fighter jet works out to $7.9 million per plane. Is it prudent to pay the same price for a swanky new plane and just an upgrade programme for a 25-year-old plane?" said a senior defence ministry official.  Confirming the raging debate, Indian Air Force (IAF) officers said this was the reason the contract has not seen the light of the day yet, though it has been in the pipeline for years now.  There was a strong push for the deal when French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visited India in December 2010 and the country's Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was here in May this year.  Among the upgrades planned for Mirage-2000 under the contract include night vision goggle compatible glass cockpit, advanced navigational systems, advanced Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system, advanced multi-mode multi-layered radar, fully integrated electronic warfare suite and advanced beyond visual range (BVR) capability. The new weapons include 450 MICA interception and aerial combat missiles.  French firms Thales and MBDA will be the weapons systems integrator and missiles supplier respectively.  "In fact, Thales and MBDA were initially quoting much more," said IAF officers. "But even at this cost and age, an upgraded Mirage can operate efficiently for another 20 years and still be a potent, frontline fighter jet. The upgrade of the Mirages would provide it a fourth generation combat jet capability," the officers told IANS, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.  India bought 52 Mirage-2000s in 1982 and fully inducted these into the IAF in 1986. Two of the planes will be upgraded in France, another two in India with French help, and the rest 48 entirely by HAL.  Another issue is the nine-year timeframe given by Dassault, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of Mirages, to complete the upgrade.  "In comparison, the same firm is quoting deliveries of just six years if it wins the MMRCA deal, on the lines of what its competitor in the final fray, EADS, too has quoted," officials noted.  "Not only will the upgraded Mirages cost as much as a brand new twin-engine fourth generation fighter, but some of the Mirages will be 35 years old by the time they are upgraded," they said.  Dassault, officials said, had in the original 1982 contract guaranteed 30-year plus 10-year life for the planes. "Thus the upgraded Mirages will have just another five years of service left, provided there is no time or cost over-runs. Then why spend a fortune?" they asked.  IAF officers also noted that Israel had also offered to upgrade the Mirages, but at half the price. But the defence ministry quoted an old policy that only OEMs could carry out an upgrade.  "The same ministry has called for competitive bids in recent months for equally complex fighter aircraft, particularly those from Russian or erstwhile Soviet stable," they said.








Pak generals' salaries, perks shouldn't be more than Indian counterparts: PML-N leader

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan military has come under probably the severest criticism during a budget discussion in the country's parliamentary history.  This is because "Pakistan's people are now compelled (to ask questions)," the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) main speaker on the subject and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, said in a pointed speech.  Another prominent party figure and former minister, Ahsan Iqbal, and a couple of back-benchers also came hard on the role of generals for involvement in politics since first military ruler Field Marshal Ayub Khan seized power in 1958.  "Pakistan's defence failures for some years have shaken the people of Pakistan," the Dawn quoted Sardar Mehtab, as saying as he accused the General Headquarters of imposing its will on domestic and foreign policy issues.  "In the past few years, particularly in the past one year, people's confidence has been badly affected," he added.  Sardar Mehtab said the security policy bequeathed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had made the previously safe Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal region unsafe, besides plunging Balochistan into military operations.  The May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his Abbottabad hideout as well as militant attacks on the GHQ in 2009 and on Mehran Naval base in Karachi last month had "shaken Pakistan's foundations and shattered the feeling of security," he added.  Sardar Mehtab regretted that despite prevailing poverty in the country, the generals were said to be "owning 25 to 50 crore rupees" at retirement, and demanded that their salaries and perks should be not more than those of their counterparts in neighbouring India.  His another senior party colleague, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, called for more transparency of the defence budget, which he said would strengthen rather than weaken the defence services, while a Musharraf-era minister, Zahid Hamid, wanted the House to be told of more non-classified information about the defence budget.  Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar came out with only a brief ridicule of what he called Sardar Mehtab's "drum-beat" and politicisation of the situation, and declining to go into politics, said that the government would make every effort to strengthen the country's defence




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