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Sunday, 14 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 14 Aug 2011





Red tape coming in way of coastal security upgrade

Navy is in charge without being the boss Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, August 13 India’s plan to have an iron-cast coastal security system stands tied down in knots of red tape and remain blocked by typical bottlenecks that a dozen or more ministries and departments can create.  Nearly three years after the Mumbai terror attacks, the Navy, as in charge (made so in February 2009) of coastal security is virtually “blind”, the latest review by the Defence Minister AK Antony has found.  It also points out how heavily the Navy is dependent on other agencies for coordination and even basic flow of information needed to tackle coastal security threats like the recent incident when MT Pavit sailed undetected for days to land at Juhu.  The country’s much-talked about electronic surveillance, using shore-based radars, to track rogue ships approaching the Indian coast is non-existent, making the Navy “blind”. The marine police of coastal states - tasked to coordinate with the Navy and Coast Guard - operates on radio frequencies that cannot be heard by the Navy and the Coast Guard or vice-versa.  National command control communication and intelligence network is designed to gather, collate and disseminate information. It is on schedule, but will be in place only in March 2012. Till then, the Navy has hotlines to pass on information. The Home Ministry, in this three-year period, provided around 200 boats, but the coastal states do not have adequately trained staff to man these.  Antony now plans to do some plain speaking with various ministries. His target is to get equipment, as, according to him, that is the only way to keep watch on the 7,500-km Indian coastline making use of ground-based observers.  For the coastal security plan, the infrastructure and multi-ministry coordination is done by the National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCS-MCS), headed by the Cabinet Secretary.  During Antony’s review, lack of coastal radars emerged as the biggest sore point. The chain of coastal radars was cleared in February 2001 by a group of ministers. The requirements kept changing for the next few years, without the radars ever getting installed. Post-Mumbai attacks, the project was revived. The Rs 602-crore project still awaits a “financial approval” from the Union Finance Ministry while the radars were finally selected in 2009.  The DG Light Houses, under the ministry of shipping, was tasked to fit these radars. A Rs 132-crore project to have 84 automated identification system (AIS) stations for electronically tracking incoming ships and boats is still not in place. The critical issue is having uniform transponders on all boats of fishermen that are less than 20 m in length. The Home and Agriculture Ministry (fisheries wing) are yet to work out a cost-sharing formula (Rs 5,000 each boat) and inform the shipping ministry. A transponder will constantly emit a signal for the ground-based AIS receivers to pick up. At present, ships that are more than 20 m in size have transponders.  In the absence of good tracking system, the Navy and Coast Guard have to keep trawling the seas. “It is like looking for an ant on a highway,” admitted an official.

AFT orders assured career progression for Army doctors

Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, August 13 The Armed Forces Tribunal has directed the Union government to issue instructions for implementation of the Dynamic Assured Career Progression (DACP) scheme for military doctors of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) within three months.  The Tribunal has passed these directions on a petition filed by a senior AMC officer posted at Command Hospital, Chandimandir.  On the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, the government had directed the implementation of the DACP for all doctors under every Central government ministry, including those holding isolated posts. The said scheme involved four time-bound grade pay progressions till 20 years of service. While the first three grade pay progressions in the AMC were similar to other services, the non-grant of fourth progression of Rs 10,000 grade pay on 20 years of service affected AMC officers.  The scheme, which was accepted by the Cabinet, was till now not implemented for AMC because the Principal Personnel Officers Committee (PPOC) comprising military officers had not given their nod on the grounds that the Defence Ministry should first remove anomalies related to non-medical officers before implementing the scheme. The PPOC had also opined that grant of higher grade pay to AMC officers would create internal seniority problems between the AMC and non-AMC officers.  The petitioner had, however, pointed out that according to the government’s gazette notification, higher grade pay did not affect seniority between different cadres. The Defence Ministry had also observed on file that the PPOC could not have overridden what was already approved and notified by the Cabinet and the government. It was also observed by the ministry that the contention of seniority problems due to higher pay was misconceived since doctors always traditionally enjoyed an edge in pay.  The government had, however, submitted before the Tribunal that they were examining the issue holistically before implementing the scheme. It also came on record that the government, the Director-General Armed Forces Medical Services, the Navy and the Air Force had separately favoured the implementation of the DACP.

IAF comes to aid of landslide-hit Arunachal

Shillong, August 13 IAF helicopters have been pressed into action in the landslide-hit areas of Arunachal Pradesh for assitance missions, especially to air drop food supplies. Several areas of East Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh were completely cut-off from the mainland due to disruption in road communication following landslides because of incessant rain in the region.  The Arunachal Pradesh Government requisitioned IAF helicopters to supply emergency rations from Seppa to areas where people were facing critical shortage of food supplies, an IAF communique from the Eastern Air Command here said.  Though the helicopters were in stand-by from August 6, they could not take-off due to inclement weather.  IAF helicopters from Eastern Air Command units in Tezpur, Guwahati, Kumbhigram and Mohanbari were activated and two Mi-17 helicopters were finally able to position at Seppa on August 11 and food supplies were air dropped at Chyangtajo, Bameng and Khanewa, the release said.  The relief operations are continuing in full swing and around 5 tonnes of supplies have been air lifted to the affected areas till yesterday.  Further sorties had also been planned and would continue till the crisis situation in the affected areas were overcome. More helicopters will be pressed into service, it added. — PTI

India gifted 109 vehicles to Nepal Army

India has gifted 109 vehicles to Nepal Army under a defence pact as a high level Indian army delegation visited the country to hold discussions with top Nepalese brass. The vehicles were brought to Kathmandu via Sunauli entry point on Friday, according to the Nepal Army sources.  These vehicles include 30 trucks of 7 tonne capacity, 20 trucks of 2.5 tonne capacity, 24 mine protected vehicles and 35 military jeeps. The vehicles were handed over to the Butawal-based Brigad No 22 of the Nepal Army, according to the Army Headquarters sources.  The vehicles were handed over as part of the continued assistance being provided by government of India for the last five years and the assistance was provided in line with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  Meanwhile, Indian Army's Lt General DS Thakur, AVSM, who was leading Indian Army's delegation today concluded a five-day goodwill visit to Nepal.  During the visit, the Indian Army delegation paid a courtesy call at Defence Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudyal, met with Defence Secretary Navin Kumar Ghimire and Chief of Army Staff of Nepal Army Chhatraman Singh Guring in Kathmandu.  The Indian Army team also inspected Army Staff College at Tokha, anti-insurgency training centre and forest warfare institute.  They also attended various programmes organised by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu before leaving Kathmandu on Saturday, according to a press release issued by the Nepal Army.

Indian Army chiefs ‘awarded themselves new flats built for war heroes’ – Telegraph

Indian Army chiefs awarded themselves new flats built for war heroes and their widows in one of Mumbai’s prime neighbourhoods, an Indian government watchdog has ruled.  A report by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General into how ministers, senior officials and army chiefs broke the rules to build a tower block in the heart of India’s commercial capital described the “ruse” as a “classic example of the fence eating the crops.”  Several officials, relatives of ministers, and two former army chiefs, including the recently retired General Deepak Kapoor, had been allocated flats in the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society.  The society had won permission to build the block after it was proposed as a project to benefit those soldiers who had suffered during military service and their widows and dependants.  “The episode of Adarsh Co-operative Housing reveals how a group of select officials placed in key posts could subvert rules and regulations in order to grab prime government land – a public property – for personal benefit. They resorted to falsification of records, suppression of facts, [the] ruse of welfare of servicemen and their widows and children, flouting of acts and rules,” the report concluded.  An audit found that from 1998 to 2010 all General Officers-Commanding except one became members of the society, including former Army Chiefs of Staff General Deepak Kapoor, General N.C Vij. Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Madhvendra Singh and Southern Army Commander Lt. Gen G.S Sihota were also Adarsh members.  The mother-in-law of Maharashtra’s Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was forced to resign over the scandal last year, was found to be a member of the housing society.

BrahMos test fired in Pokhran

JAISALMER: An advanced version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test fired by the Army at the Chandan area of Pokhran field firing range in Jaisalmer at 1035 hours on Friday.  It was the 25th flight test of the advanced version of BrahMos the missile system. The missile was fired "at a supersonic speed in a steep-dive mode" from Chandan area of Pokhran field firing range and the target was put up at Ajasar, located 28km away.  "The missile hit the target bull's eye. The flawless performance with high success rate established BrahMos as a unique missile, breaking the records set by any other missile system in the world," an army source said.  Friday's test fire of the missile, which came ahead of the country's 65th Independence Day celebrations, was witnessed by top Army and Air Force officials.  Defence minister A K Antony congratulated the Army for the successful test fire of the missile system, the sources said.  Jointly developed by India and Russia, BrahMos can be launched from multiple platforms, including submarines, ships, aircraft and land-based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL). The "fire-and-forget" missiles are stored, transported and launched from special mobile launchers and can be launched in both vertical and horizontal modes. The submarine and air launch versions of the missile are currently under development.  The ramjet propelled supersonic cruise missile flies at a top speed of Mach 2.8. It can carry conventional warheads up to 300 kg for a range of 290 km. It can effectively engage ground targets from an altitude as low as 10 metres.  One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos-I variant, which consists of 67 missiles, five MALs on 12x12 Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment, is already operational in the Army, which is also in the process of inducting two more regiments of BrahMos Block-II land attack cruise missiles (LACM). The LACM has been designed as "precision strike weapons" capable of hitting small targets in cluttered urban environments.  The BRAHMOS missile is a two-stage vehicle that has a solid propellant booster and a liquid propellant ram-jet system.  Sources said the cruise missiles fly at low altitudes and have the ability to evade enemy radars and air defence systems. They are also easier and cheaper to operate.  The test fire at Pokhran has been conducted "to fulfil the needs of the Army", the sources said adding that the land attack version block 2 is fitted with "advance seeker software and has the capacity of discriminating the target. The missile will provide an enhanced capability to the Army for selection of particular land target among a group of targets".  The first flight test of the BrahMos missile was conducted on June 12, 2001 at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur off the Orissa coast.

Pakistan's failure would cost U.S. more than money

KARACHI, Pakistan  Osama bin Laden is dead. So say the U.S. government, bin Laden's al-Qaida associates and three of his wives, who were with him May 2 when American commandos raided his compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.  Jamshed Ayaz Khan is not convinced.  "I'd say 99 percent of our people don't believe he was there because if you come to my house, everybody will notice,'' says Khan, a retired Pakistani major general. "Many people live in Abbottabad and not a single man has said, 'I saw Osama bin Laden.' This story seems very topsy turvy.''  Ten years and billions of dollars into the war on terror, this is what the United States faces in its partnership with Pakistan: A belief by millions of Pakistanis that bin Laden wasn't killed by Navy SEALs in Abbottabad. A fear that Pakistan is infested with U.S. spies trying to destabilize the country. A suspicion that America's real interest in Pakistan is to seize the region's gas and mineral wealth.  Perhaps the only thing that exceeds Pakistanis' dislike of U.S. policies is contempt for their own crooked, unresponsive government. Many Pakistanis blame that on the United States, too, saying America has supported corrupt politicians and dictators when its billions would have been better spent on hospitals and highways.  The implications of this mounting distrust are great: The United States risks losing cooperation of a country key to bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. Or worse, that Pakistan becomes the first failed state with a nuclear arsenal.  Already, "this country is collapsing,'' says Shahid-ur-Rehman, author of Who Owns Pakistan?. "Everyone would like to take care of their own interests.''  While the rich escape to homes in London or New York, most of Pakistan's 187 million people go hours a day without power. Passenger trains stop dead on their tracks because there is not enough diesel for the engines. Teachers are so poorly paid some never show up for class. And 800,000 Pakistanis are still living living in tents because the government has done little to help them since last year's ruinous floods.  Yet Pakistan is a country with rich potential. It has gold, copper and natural gas. It produces some of the world's best cotton, made into towels and sheets for Macy's, Target and JCPenney.  "It's not like everything bad comes out of Pakistan. We are good people, entrepreneurial,'' says Muhammad Atif Dada, chairman of the Karachi Cotton Association.  Dada heads a cotton trading company started by his family 60 years ago. He is determined to stay in Pakistan even though Karachi, its biggest city, has been wracked by every conceivable type of violence — political, ethnic, religious, drug and mafia. In July alone, 200 people were killed.  "The government claims to have been taking measures,'' Dada says, "but the ground reality is, we don't see the situation improving.''  Like flood and drought  How did Pakistan reach such a point? The answer partly lies in its up-and-down relations with the United States.  The two countries were close during the Cold War, united in distrust of Pakistan's huge neighbor India and its pro-Soviet leanings. But relations cooled when America refused military aid to Pakistan in its 1965 war with India and cut off economic aid in the '70s when Pakistan began developing a nuclear bomb.  General Muhammad Zia ul Haq, then the country's dictator, said that "being allies with America is like living on the banks of a river,'' recalls Jamsheed Marker, Pakistan's former ambassador to Washington. "Sometimes you're flooded, other times you're left high and dry.''  In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and the United States and Pakistan again drew close. The CIA funneled millions of dollars to Pakistan's intelligence services to arm Islamic fighters against the "godless'' communists.  Money also poured in from Saudi Arabia. "Religious schools mushroomed all over the place that prepared jihadis,'' says Hafeez Randhawa, an expert on Pakistani politics. "Then the Russians left and so did the Americans, leaving us with thousands of jihadis willing to die for Islam.''  In 1996, the Taliban seized control in Afghanistan and sheltered bin Laden's al-Qaida fighters. Anxious to have some stability next door, Pakistan was one of the few countries to support the Taliban government. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks and President George W. Bush's warning to Pakistan that "you're either with us or against us.''  In the past decade, the United States has budgeted some $20 billion to help Pakistan battle Islamic extremism. (Pakistan says the actual amount received is considerably less). Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have fought, and died, along the Afghan border. Pakistani authorities have arrested several top al-Qaida leaders.  But the big prize remained elusive until the May raid on bin Laden's compound.  "I'm quite certain there were elements in our intelligence agency who knew he was there,'' Randhawa says. "The problem is, a lot of infiltration of jihadis has taken place in the armed forces.''  Admired and mocked  Whether top Pakistani officials knew bin Laden's whereabouts — and there still is no firm evidence they did — the military took heavy flak from the Pakistani press and public for apparently being asleep at the switch.  Yet 80 percent of Pakistanis still consider the army their country's finest institution. They resent outside criticism.  "Whenever there is an occasion, the United States says Pakistan is not doing more or criticizes the army,'' says Abdul Qayyum, a retired lieutenant general. "When you criticize them after they laid down 5,000 lives, then people become doubtful and think America is not sincere toward Pakistan.''  Competition to join the military is strong, with successful applicants knowing they will enjoy a far better life than the average Pakistani. Large areas of Rawalpindi, the army's home city, are dedicated to upscale officer housing as well as schools, hospitals, cricket fields, squash courts and other amenities off limits to the public.  The military is also Pakistan's most powerful institution. It has tentacles in many industries, including banking, airlines and steel. Its Defense Housing Authority is one of the biggest players in the country's real estate market.  During Gen. Pervez Musharraf's years in power, from 1999 to 2007, "they acquired land at very low prices, put in roads and sold it at fairly high prices,'' says Rehman, author of Who Owns Pakistan?. "The money was going into individual pockets.''  Despite the army's constant drum-beat about the threat from India, Rehman notes that one huge Defense Housing Authority project was built "right up to the Indian border.''  As generals are rotated among different cities, the army gives them homes and other property they can sell for personal profit. For a four-star general posted to Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, the package is worth an estimated 60 million rupees, or nearly $700,000 — a fortune in a country where the average annual income is $1,250.  "It has changed the attitude of officers,'' Randhawa says. "The officers of the old days were more dedicated, they weren't so money-minded.''  'Mother of problems'  Avarice is not confined to the army in Pakistan, which Transparency International ranks among the world's most corrupt countries.  "Corruption is the mother of all the problems,'' Rehman says. "In Asia, you don't see any other country as corrupt as Pakistan. It's because of our leaders. To them politics is business.''  Rehman says corruption starts at the top with President Asif Zardari, husband of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. As the DAWN newspaper reported, he is a superstitious man who sacrifices a black goat every day to ensure his well-being. And he reportedly has become the second-richest man in Pakistan, with vast real estate holdings at home and abroad.  Zardari's chief political rival is another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. "He is absolutely corrupt to the core,'' Rehman says. Once a small-time businessman in Lahore, Sharif now heads an industrial empire that includes sugar, foundries, textiles and real estate.  Corruption seeps through all layers of government.  Shakeel Bukhari owns a factory in Islamabad that makes huge fiberglass dinosaurs, tigers and other figures for playgrounds. He also makes guard shacks — "In this day, this is good business.''  But Bukhari no longer sells directly to government agencies because he is disgusted by the crooked bureaucrats.  "They don't care about quality, they're only looking out for their own interests. If we offer something for 10 rupees, they say, 'Give it to us for 20 rupees and we'll take 10 in kickbacks.' '' Bukhari now sells to middle-men and "they can do whatever they want.''  He and others lament the government's lack of planning, whether to compete economically with other countries or to simply provide for a population growing by 2 million a year. To drive around Karachi or other big cities is to be struck by the absence of any road, sewer or other infrastructure work. There is little, if any, new housing for the poor.  Tahira Badshah lives with her three children in a one-room walk-up in Rawalpindi. The walls are bare but for three color photos of Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in 2007.  "Had BB been alive today, we would not have been in such a bad situation,'' Badshah says. "She was the only one taking care of the poor.''  Asked about Bhutto's husband, Pakistan's current leader, Badshah turns red with anger.  "Mr. President Asif Zardari'' — she almost spits the name — "is not fulfilling the promises BB made. They are selling the name of Benazir Bhutto and enjoying the president's house.''  Greedy for minerals?  It irritates people here that the United States has helped prop up a succession of corrupt Pakistani governments, including the present one.  "We have not been able to develop because of weak leadership,'' says Qayyum, the retired general who also served as Bhutto's military secretary. "Unfortunately, the government is either in the hands of weak political leaders or military dictators fully supported by the United States of America.''  In return for that support, Qayyum and others say, leaders have been too eager to please the Americans, tolerating drone attacks that kill civilians and allowing CIA agents to roam the country.  But that is changing. Even before the "Osama drama,'' as Pakistanis call the May 2 bin Laden raid, relations had worsened over an incident in which a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, shot to death two Pakistanis he claimed were trying to rob him. Davis was jailed for weeks until the U.S. government paid $2.4 million in "blood money'' in March to the men's relatives.  Since the Abbottabad raid, which Pakistan considered a brazen violation of its sovereignty, the government has greatly restricted the movement of all American diplomats, even the ambassador. He was stopped at the Islamabad airport in late July as he prepared to fly to Karachi to visit a girls school.  This is a country rife with conspiracy theories, and Pakistanis suspect that many Western diplomats are actually spies working with India to destabilize the world's only nuclear-armed Muslim nation.  "America wants to project Pakistan as a broken country with a broken army and therefore it has no right to keep nuclear weapons,'' Qayyum says. "People feel there is a big game and people are worried that the big powers have something up their sleeve.''  In the den of his Islamabad home, Qayuum has a wall-sized map of Central Asia. It shows Afghanistan with its estimated $1 trillion in minerals, Iran with its oil, and the Caspian Basin with its natural gas. Sitting strategically among them is Pakistan, with its own wealth of natural resources.  "I keep looking at this map and seeing how important Pakistan is,'' Qayyum says. "With all honesty, people say this war on terrorism is a facade and behind it is a war for energy.''  How does the United States counter so much suspicion and hostility?  Another retired general, Khan, says America's standing would soar if President Barack Obama followed through on his 2009 remarks that China and the United States help settle the dispute over Kashmir. Often called the world's most dangerous flash point, the Himalayan province has already sparked three wars between India and Pakistan.  "If there is a solution, India and Pakistan will become very close,'' says Ayaz, now a defense analyst. "That will be the best day for Pakistan.''  Others think it would help, too, if the United States did more projects that directly benefit the public, like the hospital Japan built in Islamabad and the highway China constructed in northern Pakistan.  "You (Americans) have invested in corrupt politicians, corrupt generals and corrupt businessmen,'' Rehman says. "Try investing in the Pakistani people.''  Though Pakistan can be a dangerous place for Americans — a U.S. consultant was kidnapped Saturday in Lahore — two American journalists were stuck by the friendliness and helpfulness of most Pakistanis they encountered. Many have children, sisters, uncles in the United States. Though they distrust U.S. policies they admire American education and have embraced American fast food and pop culture. At a Rawalpini shopping center, crowds were constant at McDonald's and a cineplex showing Cars II and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  Zunaira Azar, a journalist for Pakistan's PTV network, says anti-Americanism is fanned by some television anchors who think bashing the United States will help drive up ratings.  "But when there's a lunch at the embassy, these people go and indulge themselves. And if they're given a green card to go to America, they take it.''


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