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Saturday, 16 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 16 Jul 2011






India-US strategic ties The issues that need immediate focus

THERE are two major issues which may have a bearing on India’s relations with the US — the situation in Afghanistan after the US troop withdrawal is completed in 2014, and the new guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies — if Washington DC does not play a proactive role to help New Delhi in protecting its interests. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be in New Delhi on Monday on a three-day visit to India, must be ready with American answers to satisfy India’s concerns. India will be appreciative if the US shows its readiness to honour its commitments related to the fight against terrorism with the Af-Pak region in sharp focus and the NSG’s waiver granted to New Delhi as a consequence of the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is true that India does not figure in President Barack Obama’s scheme of things as prominently as it did during the days of the George Bush administration. But it is obligatory on the US to use its clout in the NSG to ensure that nuclear cartel’s new guidelines, announced recently, do not deprive India of the advantages that it got after the Indo-US nuclear deal was operationalised.  The US-led NATO pullout from Afghanistan is unavoidable in view of the American domestic compulsions, but there are factors which cannot be ignored in the interest of peace and security in South Asia and the rest of the world. The US should not allow Pakistan to influence the course of events in Afghanistan, where the Taliban continue to remain a major factor despite the international military drive to eliminate the extremists. There is need to keep aside the pro-Pakistan Taliban factions during the ongoing negotiations to induct the extremists in the Afghanistan government because of their masters’ (Islamabad’s) unholy intentions in the war-ravaged country.  The pro-Pakistan extremist elements in Afghanistan may try to derail the Hamid Karzai government whenever they find the right opportunity to help Islamabad realise its dream of strategic depth. The agenda of these Taliban factions — to establish their own government in post-2014 Afghanistan — is unlikely to change. Any new strategy for Afghanistan — where India has made huge investments in nation-building projects — must be finalised in consultation with all the regional powers, which, too, have a stake in stability in the Af-Pak area.









Lt-Gen Rath gets clean chit on one charge

Shillong, July 15 Lt-Gen Prashant Kumar Rath was today acquitted of the ‘intent to defraud’ in the Sukna land scam case by an Army court hearing a revision petition challenging his being absolved of the charge.  Rath broke down in court as Presiding Officer IJ Singh gave the “not guilty” verdict here. “After considering the evidence on record and the observations made by the confirming authority, the court adhered to its original findings and found the accused not guilty of intent to defraud,” prosecution counsel Raghavendra Jha said.  The Presiding Officer said there were no new issue to be deliberated and there was no need to interfere in the earlier findings. The Eastern Army Commander had earlier directed the General Court Martial to reconsider the first charge of "intent to defraud" against Rath when he had been acquitted.  Eastern Command GOC-in-C Lt-Gen Bikram Singh had contended earlier that the court, while appreciating the evidence on record, did not accord due weightage and consideration to certain aspects. "Finding of ‘not guilty’ with reference to the first charge (intent to defraud) appears to be perverse," he had said. — PTI










Four ultras, jawan killed in Kupwara

Ehsan Fazili Tribune News Service  Srinagar, July 15 At least four militants and an Army jawan were killed in a fierce encounter between armed militants and the security forces this morning after a night-long siege in the Lolab area of Kupwara district.  Two other security personnel were injured and two houses were damaged in the gunfight.  The deceased jawan was identified as Nayak Sumer Singh of the 18 Rashtriya Rifles, hailing from Nagaur district of Rajasthan, while the killed militants were yet to be identified. The jawan’s body was likely to be flown from Srinagar to his hometown tomorrow, SD Goswami, defence spokesperson, said in Jodhpur.  Acting on specific information about the presence of militants, the police assisted by the 18 RR and the 125 Bn of the CRPF cordoned off Maidanpora village in the Lolab area around 8 pm yesterday, DGP Kuldeep Khoda said. The holed-up militants opened fire at the search party early this morning, resulting in an exchange of fire.  Khoda said no civilian was held hostage by the militants, though the five-member family, in whose house they were holed up, came out safely after the security forces laid the cordon. Three children were the first to come out of the house unharmed.A man came out after some time while a woman was rescued later. Till the family remained in the house, there was no firing between the militants and the security forces, the DGP said.  In the day-long encounter that followed, a police spokesman said four Lashker militants were killed while the body of the fifth was believed to be buried under the debris.








HuJI commander Ilyas Kashmiri is alive and active: Report

Sources revealed that Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami, who was reportedly killed in a United States drone attack in South Waziristan last month, is still alive, DawnNews reported.  Sources said that security officials of United States and Pakistan failed to confirm the death of the HuJI commander. He is still active in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, sources added.  Regional and anti-terrorism experts have long described Kashmiri as one of Al Qaeda's [ Images ] main operational commanders.  Kashmiri was held responsible for a number of attacks in Pakistan, including the May 22 siege on the Navy's air base in Karachi and in October 2009 on the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.  HuJI was believed by the United States to be behind the March 2006 suicide bombing of the US consulate in Karachi which killed four people and wounded 48.  The US Department of State labelled Kashmiri a "specially designated global terrorist", adding him to a list of high-profile militants.









What to do about Pakistan

Minister of external affairs S M Krishna mistook Washington’s suspension of the $800 million military aid to Pakistan as its termination and endorsed the US move. It is not just bad advice he acted on that’s at fault. There’s something gravely amiss in India’s Pakistan policy. Does the Indian government think that India or the United States is better placed to decide how much security is enough for Pakistan than the Pakistanis themselves? Given India’s policy of pell-mell defence acquisitions, it was natural for Pakistan to obtain as much military hardware as possible from any source it can. Islamabad, after all, has been upfront about its perception that India poses the greatest danger. Given the balance of forces within Pakistan and the army writing its own cheques, ‘military gaps’ are quickly filled up.  The Pakistan army runs a ‘secret account’ enabling the prosecution of ‘black operations’ by the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, including possibly assassinating inconvenient political leaders at home (Benazir Bhutto?), orchestrating militant campaigns in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, and sustaining the Mullah Omar-led Taliban resistance against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s asymmetric warfare capabilities are in fighting trim. It is not a tool Pakistan is likely to give up considering how easy it is to disrupt life in India, for instance, with the ISI-sheltered Dawood Ibrahim criminal gang facilitating bombings (July 13) at will using malcontents within the Indian Muslim community (Indian Mujahideen) as proxies in a context where the Mumbai/Maharashtra politicians and police are in hock to the underworld.  With China unloading masses of conventional military hardware at ‘friendship prices’, everything from the JF-17 combat aircraft, main battle tanks, to frigates and missile destroyers, and France firming up the submarine arm with Agostas featuring air-independent propulsion, Pakistan’s conventional order-of-battle, likewise, is in good order. As regards the nuclear deterrent, the ramping up of plutonium production from the Chinese-installed Khushab reactors will make for a bigger arsenal. Moreover, with the unveiling of the 60-km range Hatf-9 tactical ballistic missile, Pakistan military planners are convinced they now have the means to hit, without much collateral damage, mobile tanks in the desert (really?), lower the nuclear weapon use-threshold, and to dissuade the Indian army from launching its ‘Cold Start’ mission of sharp, shallow, near instantaneous penetration of Pakistani territory on the word go. With its three-pronged capability GHQ, Rawalpindi, feels it has blunted all conceivable conventional military and nuclear threats from India.  The centrality of the army and its interests to Pakistan is insufficiently appreciated by Indian policy-makers. The result is that India’s Pakistan policy is knee-jerk, non-innovative, stultified and, because it has been persisted with for so long, has become a habit of mind. Steve Cohen, of the Brookings Institution, is of the opinion that Pakistan “is too nuclear to fail, but not smart enough to avoid trouble”, which about sums up the problems as well as the opportunities for India. Delhi can continue with its cussed, pettifogging, policy and court an embittered neighbour with little to lose, throwing a monkey wrench into the works at every turn. Or, it can work on eroding mistrust. For a start, India can stop piling on Pakistan with everyone else over terrorism — but payback quietly with targeted intelligence operations, and stop hurrahing Washington’s punitive actions and raising hell every time Pakistan augments its military wherewithal.  Pakistan with a GDP quarter the size of the market capitalisation of the Bombay Stock Exchange never was, is not now, and can never be a credible threat. So, security-wise, begin from the ground up: Pakistan is not a ‘failed’ state but is experiencing violent socio-religious churning at home. Pakistan is a nuisance, not a threat. Understand the difference. Indeed, that India has at all taken the ‘Pakistan threat’ seriously these many years reflects high-calibre success for Islamabad’s policy that has reduced India strategically to Pakistan’s size!  And, above all, ignore the Pakistani bluster; recognise the reality that India-Pakistan conflict cannot go beyond being, what the late Major General D K Palit called, a “communal riot with tanks”. This because shared culture, religion, social norms, continuing kith and kinship ties, and the power of politically mobilised Muslims wielding the ‘swing vote’ in nearly half the Lok Sabha constituencies, who may countenance the occasional bloodying of Pakistan but will not tolerate its annihilation, amount to real political constraints on Delhi against waging total war.  Confidence and security building measures (CSBMs), which I had proposed recommending the fostering of social links between the Indian and Pakistan armies some 16 years ago, included revival of inter-regimental sports tournaments and cultural meets, regular exchange of visits by commanding officers of ‘partitioned’ regiments, defence attaches being allowed to witness war exercises, and so on. It is good to see that the officially sponsored Track-II dialogue and the latest foreign secretary-level talks finally considered some of these measures. To buttress peace, I had also suggested certain symbolic actions by India, such as unilaterally removing Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) from the western border (which action bears zero risk as all Pakistani targets can be reached by Agni missiles). Apparently, this idea got mis-translated into Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir negotiating an SRBM drawdown. It was stupid of India to ‘negotiate’ SRBM withdrawals because it has ended up conceding strategic parity to Pakistan and will hurt India’s buildup vis-a-vis China. S M Krishna can, perhaps, correct this aberration in his meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on July 26.  He should also rollout an Indian policy geared for maximum impact. This will require combining prudent, unilateral, military ‘concessions’ and economic large-heartedness India can afford, such as a free trade regime intended to improve Pakistan’s economic prospects, which is in India’s interest. It will show good faith, and incentivise the Pakistan army into reforming its adversarial attitude. It will also obviate the possibility of the US and China playing one country off against the other to advance their interests.  Bharat Karnad is a research professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. E-mail:









Restraint in bid to shield Pak talks

SUJAN DUTTA AND ARCHIS MOHAN  New Delhi, July 15: Mumbai’s triple blast has come in a season of détente and New Delhi is trying to keep sensitive talks with the US and Pakistan from feeling its aftershocks.  With US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who comes on Monday evening for three days, New Delhi has an agenda for a full-spectrum dialogue that covers almost every subject with only the agenda for defence-related issues a little diluted.  With Pakistan junior foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on July 26-27, the challenge since Wednesday has been to keep the dialogue going in itself, seven months after being brought back to the table despite the shadow of 26/11.  Government sources said today that any request to the US for co-operation in investigation into the July 13 blasts “will be part of the ongoing co-operation on counter-terrorism that began a decade back and intensified after 26/11”.  In trying to keep up the effort for détente, India has decided it will keep the investigation into the blasts at the level of a criminal probe for now, a marked shift from the time when the first response to terror attacks was to find a usual suspect in Pakistan.  The restraint is underpinned by a belief that when India and Pakistan talk, there will be elements that will act to push the clock back to a more tension-filled time.  More than 48 hours after the blasts, there is no outspoken statement from any public official in the external affairs, home or defence ministries blaming Pakistan.  From Pakistan, too, there are reports that there is relief at the lack of finger-pointing.  When a correspondent of The Telegraph visited Islamabad and Lahore last month, he recorded multiple voices on the street that were more strident in their opposition to US presence than in animosity towards India.  New Delhi’s reasons to sustain the season are strong.  First, the tragedy of the Wednesday blasts has heaped misery on Mumbai for the fifth time but the scale and the sophistication are not matched by the special operation that created the mayhem on 26/11.  There is also no immediate lead or clue or suspect (very different from catching Ajmal Kasab) that leads to Islamabad.  Second, in 2008 the US presence in Afghanistan through Pakistan was indeterminate and New Delhi was trying to get the US to police Pakistan for it more effectively.  This time, the US has announced a schedule for a pullout of troops from Afghanistan and an effective draw-down in Pakistan.  From 2002, India has re-invested in Afghanistan and wants so much now to reap the goodwill it believes it has earned that it has even given a cursory nod to conditional talks with the “good Taliban”. After insisting for years that there is nothing good about the Taliban, India is now supportive of talks if they give up violence and cut off links with terrorism (read al Qaida), and if the government in Kabul believes the talks are constitutional.  External affairs minister S.M. Krishna expressed these views to visiting Afghan High Peace Council chairman and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in talks on Thursday.  A US withdrawal from Afghanistan without India being able to consolidate its goodwill, experts in the security establishment believe, will be akin to gifting strategic space to Pakistan, like in the years between the Soviet pullout in 1989 and the 2001 US invasion.  Third, the establishment run by Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has already expressed disappointment with the US over the Abbottabad operation that killed Osama bin Laden and last week’s decision by the Pentagon to suspend $800 million worth of military aid.  While the US is insisting that Pakistan’s military intensify operations against the Haqqani outfit in Waziristan and in the western border regions with Afghanistan, voices from Kayani’s establishment are threatening to pull out troops from the Afghan border.  A shrill and unsubstantiated Indian allegation right now that Pakistan engineered the blasts in Mumbai would give the Pakistani military just the excuse it needs to redeploy its forces from the Durand Line — the undefined border with Afghanistan — to the Line of Control in Kashmir. That, in turn, can give the US more of a reason to expedite its draw-down.









Free training to aspiring military men

DHARWAD: The Association of Retired Defence Officers has mooted a plan to launch free army training for those willing to serve the Indian Army.  Association president Col (retd) Mohan Math said the quota for each state is fixed depending on the population of the respective state. However, candidates from Karnataka are not joining the army in the required quantum. He said the lack of awareness among the youth in the state about defence services and recruitment process are the reasons for poor representation from Karnataka in the armed forces.  In a bid to motivate the youth to join the armed forces, the Association will provide them necessary information and training. In the initial stage, training without food and accommodation will be given and depending on the need of the candidate, other basic facilities will be provided in the later stages, he added.  The training camp will be held on the premises of Mallasajjan Vyayama Shala at Maratha Colony here for a batch of 30 candidates. Training is to prepare the candidates for written test and physical fitness test. Special classes will be held to teach Science, Mathematics, Hindi and English.  Those interested to join the camp can enroll their names at Hiregoudar Medicals, LEA Complex (opposite SBM), Maratha Colony, Dharwad. Call 0836-2446736. Association secretary Col (retd) A B Natur and treasurer Maj (retd) S C Choukimath were present.









Accounts system of Indian Defence more advanced

Nagpur, Jul 15 (PTI) The accounting system adopted by the Indian Defence services is well advanced and the personnel can easily access information about their accounts online, Controller General of Defence Accounts Nand Kishore said here today. "Our data-based system is more advanced than the USA where they are printing thousands of cheques for their military personnel," Nand Kishore said. He said our men wherever posted can easily draw their salary and even their families have access to the ATM with another card. Earlier, he inaugurated a new office complex of the Pay and Accounts Office of the Brigade of Guards at Kamptee. The complex built at a cost of Rs 2 crore is equipped with a local area network (LAN) and an EDP Centre which would ensure the implementation of project 'Dolphin', the online real time payment system developed in-houe by the DA Department for the Army. The office complex will cater to the payment of more than 20,000 jawans of Brigade of Guards, Kamptee.



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