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Thursday, 18 August 2011

From Today's Papers - 18 Aug 2011

Sting in the tail US-Pak relations hit a new low
ACUTE embarrassment in Pakistan over the fact that Osama bin Laden was living in a hideout in the cantonment town of Abbottabad was quickly replaced by indignation and anger at the United States for staging the raid that killed the most wanted terrorist in the world. It was clear that Pakistani leadership was kept out of the loop by the Americans. All that American Seals left behind were some dead bodies and the tail section of a radar-evading helicopter used in the operation, which had to be abandoned due to it malfunctioning. The tail section of the helicopter survived the attempt by the US forces to destroy it.  By now most of the world has seen pictures of the damaged craft, as well as of other effects of the raid. While there was jubilation in many parts of the world, the Pakistani establishment was on the back foot and retaliated by defending the ISI and seeking out all those who had helped the Americans. The tail too became an issue, as the US demanded, and got it back, but not before, it is now alleged, Pakistan gave its long-time military ally China a look-see, or more.  Since the 9/11 attacks, the US has given Pakistan aid worth $20 billion. However, it is no secret that Washington and Islamabad have, more often than not, competing agendas, even on Afghanistan, where the US needs Pakistan’s help the most. Given that a relationship that had seen its share of ups and down has reached a new low, the hawks are active on both sides. The Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the military establishment are not likely to loosen their stranglehold on the civilian government in Pakistan. The diplomats will, therefore, have to work with them even as they strengthen the civilian government, encourage democracy in Pakistan, and address the damage, military as well as diplomatic, that this incident has caused.

Life after US pullout Pakistan’s designs for new Afghanistan
by G. Parthasarathy  WITH the Americans having announced that they intend to end active combat operations in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, Pakistanis have commenced pondering over what life will be like after that. Optimists, particularly from the military and jihadi groups believe that the American withdrawal will lead to the fulfilment of Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s dream of a Pakistan blessed with “strategic depth”’ extending beyond the Amu Darya and into Central Asia. Others fear that with Taliban extremism already having spread from across the Durand Line into Punjab and even into Karachi, the country is headed for what author Ahmed Rashid once described as a “Descent into Chaos”.  Interestingly, a CIA report, entitled “Global Trends 2015”, noted in December 2001: “Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of economic mismanagement, divisive politics and ethnic feuds. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the Central Government’s control will probably be reduced to the Punjab heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.”  Rarely has a country’s future been tied as inextricably to the actions in its neighbourhood of a distant power as Pakistan’s future presently is to American policies in Afghanistan. Any hope that a democratic dispensation will soon triumph over military hegemony in Pakistan, as Turkey has now experienced, is a pipedream. Pakistan’s military still believes that the Americans will meet the same fate as the Soviets did when confronted with the forces of “militant Islam” from across the Durand Line.  There is nothing to indicate that Rawalpindi has any intention of ending its support for either the Taliban or the Haqqani network. Both Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani remain implacably opposed to American proposals on political “reconciliation” in Afghanistan. Neither of them has shown any sign of ending links with the Al-Zawahiri-led Al-Qaeda and its Chechen and Central Asian affiliates. Moreover, the Haqqani network unabashedly supports the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, infuriating Pakistan’s “all-weather friend,” China.  Pakistan’s military has believed in recent years that with the American economy in tatters and domestic opinion becoming increasingly hostile to growing casualties overseas the Obama Administration will quit Afghanistan, paving the way for a Taliban takeover in the not too distant future. Pakistan’s military also believed that given their dependence on its logistical support for supplies to their military in Afghanistan, the Americans were in no position to take coercive measures against their country.  These calculations have gone awry. Firstly, it was the combined costs of war in Iraq, estimated at $ 806 billion, together with the relatively less expensive war in Afghanistan that has cost the US taxpayer a total of $ 444 billion over a decade, which was proving unaffordable. Secondly, while Americans have lost 1760 soldiers in Afghanistan over a decade, their high casualties in Iraq, which included 4474 killed in action, made the war highly unpopular domestically.  Finally, showing determination to thwart Pakistani blackmail and threats of blocking supply routes, the Americans now move less than 35 per cent of their supplies through Pakistan, with the rest coming across their Northern Distribution Network, assisted by Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Two years ago over 70 per cent of American supplies were routed through Pakistan.  Whether it is on the question of the secret approval it gave for American drone attacks on Pakistani territory, even as it raised a public hue and cry on the issue, or in its policy of providing shelter to Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, while claiming to be a loyal ally on America’s “War on Terror”, the duplicity of Pakistan’s military stands exposed before its own people and before the world. But fear of the military and its jihadi protégés constantly stifles liberal voices in Pakistan. The elimination of people like Salman Taseer and Syed Saleem Shahzad is a clear signal that there is little difference between General Kayani and General Shuja Pasha, together with their favourite jihadis on the one hand, and Syria’s President Basher-al-Assad, on the other, when it comes to eliminating manifestations of dissent.  The Pakistan Army is finding it difficult to defeat its erstwhile Pashtun protégés in the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. There is, therefore, little prospect of it meeting American demands to act decisively against the followers of Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani. Pakistan’s Generals are bent on retaining their jihadi assets in Afghanistan. The United States is determined to ensure that the AfPak badlands straddling the Durand Line are not infested with pathologically anti-American jihadis. The two “Major non-NATO allies” thus appear set on a collision course despite pretensions of seeking mutual understanding.  With China upset at Pakistan-based militants challenging its writ in Xinjiang, there is little prospect of Beijing pandering to Pakistan’s jihadi inclinations in Afghanistan, despite its aversion for a continuing American military presence, close to its borders. China’s assistance to its “all-weather friend” will, however, continue primarily to “contain” India. The Russians have made it clear that their air space and territory are available for American operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban as long as they can jointly crackdown on production and smuggling of opium. Unless there is a total meltdown in their economy, the Americans will retain a relatively small, but significant military/air presence in Afghanistan, primarily for counter-terrorism, against groups operating across the Durand Line. There are hints that their military presence in Afghanistan will also be geared to deal with any possible takeover of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons by jihadi extremists, including by extremists within Pakistan’s much vaunted military.  The Afghan National Army will, in all likelihood, not be able to retain the control of the areas bordering Pakistan for any length of time after December 2014. India and the international community will have to be prepared for this situation and for the inevitable change in the dynamics of internal politics within Afghanistan, given the deep-rooted non-Pashtun aversion to Taliban domination. We should have no illusions that we can change the jihadi mindset of Pakistan’s armed forces and should learn the right lessons from the heavy price the Americans have paid for their naiveté on the military mindset in Pakistan. We will also have to contribute actively in regional and international forums focusing on AfPak developments. Most importantly, our economic assistance has won us goodwill across Afghanistan. This has to continue. The end-game in Afghanistan has only just begun. Hopefully, our approach to developments in Afghanistan will show greater realism and imagination than our “composite dialogue at all costs” diplomacy. Such realism appeared absent when Pakistan-backed jihadis killed Indian soldiers in Kashmir just after the much-touted visit of Mrs Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister.

Khar: Pak military’s intentions towards India overrated
Islamabad, August 17 Claiming that army does not run Pakistan’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said the military’s intentions towards India have been “overrated” and there is a need to break away from this perception.  “We sometimes overrate the role of the military and overrate their intentions especially when it comes to India... Let’s not be burdened by our history. Let’s move forward. I think Pakistan has learnt its lessons,” said 34-year-old Khar, Foreign Minister of the country.  Khar made the remarks during an interview with Newsweek magazine’s Pakistan edition when she was asked about the role of the Pakistan army and the ISI’s historical ties with militant groups, especially those fighting in Jammu and Kashmir. She contended that Pakistan's foreign policy was not directed by the army, which was one of the institutions "taken on board" while making decisions on key issues.  "The army does not run our foreign policy," she said. "They (the army) are important stakeholders and not an outside force, so we should stop viewing them as such. After all the institutions are taken on board, a view emerges, and that is the government's view, which is Pakistan's view," she said.  Referring to her visit to New Delhi last month for talks with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna, Khar said: “The dialogue process with India should be uninterrupted, and the environment we found there was exceptionally healthy. That to me was the biggest confidence-building measure." Khar was not pleased with the media's focus on her fashionable clothes and accessories during her visit. However, she contended she had achieved the objectives of her visit.  This included a commitment toward facilitating greater trade and travel between the two parts of Kashmir and keeping the talks going. — PTI

China wrecks Indian wall near Tawang
NEW DELHI: Chinese soldiers damaged a wall erected by India in the disputed area near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in an incident being termed as the most important one along the Sino-Indian border this summer.  A senior official said Indian soldiers promptly repaired the wall, and lodged a protest with the local Chinese military commander.  A senior official said the development, which took place a month ago, is the most serious incident along the Sino-Indian border this summer. During summer months, the two sides resort to various tactics to assert the disputed nature of the border. These include long patrols or drives through areas that each assert as disputed. However, it is not routine for each to damage other's property in the disputed areas.  A senior government official said the Chinese soldiers came across to the particular part of Yangtze where India has a wind-breaker wall, stretching for almost 200 metres, and damaged it. The wall, which is a few feet tall and from behind which Indian soldiers carry out occasional monitoring, is an old structure, he said.  The official said about a month ago the Indian side discovered that the Chinese soldiers had damaged the wall, by removing stones from it. He didn't say how extensive was the damage. He said the Indian side lodged a formal protest at a meeting of the local commanders. Indian soldiers also promptly rebuilt the wall, he said.  While the India-China border remains relatively peaceful, such nagging issues continue to highlight the disputed nature of the 4,057-kilometre Line of Actual Control between the two Asian giants.  The official said there have also been at least a couple of instances this summer when the Chinese soldiers tried to drive through the disputed area manned by Indian troops in the Finger Area in northern Sikkim. "Our soldiers stood their ground, and didn't let them go through," he said.  Officials said they do not see any "qualitative" change in the border situation this summer, compared to recent summers. But they added that they are worried about the slow pace of infrastructure development and military modernization. An Army proposal to set up a Mountain Strike Corps for the border is pending with the ministry of defence, while infrastructural developments such as road and rail links are far behind schedule.

26 IAF fighter aircraft crashed in last 3 years, says defence minister AK Antony
NEW DELHI: Twenty six Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter aircraft have crashed in last three years resulting in the death of 12 persons, including six service personnel and injuring 25 civilians, government said.  In his written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister A K Antony said, "During last three years (Financial Year 2008-09 to 2010-11) and current financial year, 26 fighter aircraft of IAF have crashed."  A maximum of 10 fighter aircraft crashed in 2009-10, while the number of crashes for 2008-09 and 2010-11 were eight and six respectively. This year, up to August, two incidents of air crashes took place in the force.  On number of people killed in these crashes, the Minister said, "Six service personnel and six civilians were killed. 25 civilians were also injured in these accidents."  Apart from the loss of aircraft, compensation is paid by government to the next kin of deceased service personnel and civilians, to injured civilians and towards civil property damage, as per extant government instruction, Antony said.  On percentage of crashes because of human error, he said, "Accidents caused by human error have accounted for approximately 23 per cent of accidents of fighter aircraft in the IAF during the last three years."  On steps taken by government to reduce such incidents, Antony said, "Some of these steps include increased use of simulators to practice procedures and emergency action, focused and realistic training with additional emphasis on critical aspect of mission."  Crew Resource Management and Operational Risk Management have also been introduced to enable safe mission launches.

Pak troops violate ceasefire for Day 2
SRINAGAR: In second ceasefire violation in two days, Pakistani troops reportedly fired on Indian posts along the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir's Rajouri sector injuring an Army jawan.  A senior Army officer said that on noticing some movement along the LoC in Keri, a patrol was sent out. "Around 5.20pm, the patrol was fired at from across the LoC," a defence spokesperson said.

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