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Sunday, 18 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 18 Sep 2011






India should begin talks with Pak military: Indo-US panel

Ashok Tuteja/TNS  New Delhi, September 17 The Indian leadership should open channels of communication with the Pakistan military while the United States should do everything possible to assist Pakistan in protecting its nuclear arsenal, a high-powered Indo-US joint study group has suggested.  The report of the study group, co-sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Institute India and titled “The United States and India: A Shared Strategic Future’’, was released here today by former Indian Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra and strategic affairs expert C Raja Mohan. It was simultaneously released by members of the panel in New York.  Apart from Chandra and Mohan, the study group included former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and Stephen J Hadley of the US Institute of Peace, among others.  The 53-page report deals extensively with Indo-US relations and how the two countries could jointly face the challenges in Pakistan and Afghanistan as also with how a partnership between them was vital for dealing with the rise of China. “Neither India nor the US wants confrontation with China or to forge a coalition to contain China. Both states have a strong interest in pursuing strategies that maximise the likelihood of congenial relations with China,’’ the report said.  However, it is the policy prescriptions of the study group with regard to Pakistan which make for interesting reading. “India’s leadership should develop channels, including military-to-military, to talk with the Pakistan military,’’ it said.  To a question in this regard, Chandra wondered what was wrong with talking to Pakistan military when India was dealing with the military in Myanmar. In China too, there was a ‘heavy dose of military’ in the Communist leadership, it was stated.  He said if India desired to achieve results in its relations with Pakistan, wisdom demanded that it opened a dialogue with the military since the civilian leadership would not be able to deliver.  Raja Mohan, who works for the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, alluded to the fact that the military held the veto in Pakistan as far as the relations with India were concerned. The report also suggested that the US, while holding the Pakistan military to a much more exacting code of conduct, should do all it could to avoid a sustained rupture of its relations with Islamabad.  India should also attempt to initiate quiet bilateral discussions with Pakistan on Afghanistan as well as trilateral discussions with Afghanistan.  On Afghanistan, the report said the US should maintain a residual military presence over the long term in the war-ravaged nation beyond 2014, if such presence was acceptable to the Afghan government. India should, meanwhile, continue expressing its endorsement of this important American role. Washington should not allow Pakistan to exercise a de facto veto over the dimensions of Indian involvement in Afghanistan. New Delhi should support US efforts to negotiate Afghan reconciliation toward a lasting end to the war in Afghanistan.  Regarding China, the report recommended to both India and the US emphasis on their constructive, stabilising and amicable purposes and endeavour jointly and individually to enlist China’s cooperation on matters of global and regional concern.  Islamabad: The trial of seven Pakistanis, charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, hit a fresh blockade on Saturday after the judge hearing the case was transferred, resulting in no proceedings for the second consecutive week. The case was being heard by Shahid Rafique of anti-terrorism court number 3, who was the fifth judge to hear the case. — PTI  ‘From confrontation to cooperation’  New Delhi: Former National Security Adviser of Pakistan Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani (retd) has suggested a need for a paradigm shift in India-Pakistan relations and a switch from ‘confrontation to cooperation’. Durrani, who was here at the invitation of leading strategic think-tank, Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) made a presentation in which he argued that the relationship between the two neighbours has to move from one of confrontation to that of cooperation. — TNS


Gilani cancels US visit after Obama refuses to meet him: Report

Islamabad, September 17 Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani called off at the eleventh hour his planned visit to the US after President Barack Obama refused to meet him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, a media report said here today.  The Prime Minister's House announced yesterday that Gilani had called off his visit as he intended to personally supervise relief operations in flood-hit areas of Sindh, but the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying that one reason for the move was the US President’s “refusal to meet” Gilani on the sidelines of the UN session in New York.  Gilani has now directed Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to represent Pakistan at the UN General Assembly session.  There were indications that the strained relations between Pakistan and the US had led to Gilani cancelling his trip to America, where he was to address the UN General Assembly session, the daily reported. The Pakistan embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in New York had “tried hard to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Barack Obama but failed,” the report said.  The visit was cancelled at the “eleventh hour” and “all arrangements related to the trip, such as issuance of tickets to members of the delegation and their hotel bookings in New York, had been finalised,” the report said.  “The supervision of flood relief efforts is an excuse, because only this week the PM had a couple of days’ trip to Iran,” a journalist, who was to accompany Gilani to New York, was quoted as saying.  Gilani had responded to the US criticism of Pakistan's efforts in the war on terror by saying that it was “now time that they (US) should do more” in the campaign against terrorists. — PTI


Babus block Indian Army’s plans to counter China’s PLA

Indian Army’s plans to beef up presence on the Indo-China border have met with fierce resistance from two unexpected quarters — the finance and the environment ministries.  The finance wing of the defence ministry in consultation with the ministry of finance is not agreeable to spend a whopping Rs12,000 crore to set up a Mountain Strike Corps even as a plan to create an alternate, all-weather route from Siliguri to North Sikkim to rush troops to the Indo-China border has been rejected by the ministry of environment and forests on the grounds that the alignment passes through eco-sensitive areas.  Left with almost no options, the army headquarters is now planning to move in an independent armoured brigade into North Sikkim to try and maintain some muscle on one of its most sensitive border. According to sources in South Block, which houses the ministry of defence, the army is all set to induct the tank brigade by December 31 this year.  The proposal to beef up the army’s force on the Indo-China border comes at a time when the US Pentagon has reported that China was training two divisions in high altitude warfare. The idea to raise a dedicated mountain strike corps as a bulwark against China was mooted in the aftermath of the disastrous Operation Parakram, when the Indian army mobilised after the December 13 attack on Parliament.  At that time, the then army chief, Gen NC Vij, had ordered a comprehensive review of the army’s offensive and defensive posture. Headed by the then Western Army Commander, Lt Gen JJ Singh, the study group had recommended a mountain strike corps to be created for the Indo-China border.  The study group was unambiguous that a dedicated mountain strike corps is essential to maintain deterrence against the Chinese. “We must have a mountain strike corps in the sector if we need to maintain a strong deterrent posture,” Gen Vij told DNA.  As army chief he had pushed for a major reorganisation of the military structure to prepare for all exigencies on the Pakistan and China fronts.  “Ideally, the strike corps should have the full paraphernalia to launch a strike by troops who are already there and fully acclimatised in the high altitude areas. At those heights we need infantry, artillery, logistics and armoured brigades to strike back if someone was to plan a misadventure. Our current force levels are quite inadequate and it takes years to build up a new army corps in the area,” Gen Vij told DNA.  In fact, army headquarters was at pains to explain to the government that most of the army corps that came up as a reactive measure was too little, and too late. The Sukhna-based 33 Corps (in Darjeeling) came up after the 1962 defeat at the hands of the Chinese and Leh-based 14 Corps came up after the surprise Pakistani intrusions in Kargil.  The study group looked at the combined threat from Pakistan and China in a future war and concluded that the bulk of the fighting would take place in the high mountains.  “We found that current force position was woeful. Every Corps is supposed to have at least three army divisions and we were already short of 4 divisions. So not only did we feel the need to fill the void but also have a credible deterrent against China,” a senior officer familiar with the secret study told DNA.  “Our current military strategy against China is of dissuasion. But we need to upgrade it to deterrence for which we need at least two mountain strike corps,” said Brig Gurmeet Singh (Retd), director of the prestigious think-tank, CLAWS.  But the finance wing of the defence ministry after consultations with the finance ministry shot down the proposal on the grounds that funds were not available for such a massive project. This is a double barrel blow to the army’s plans to beef up its strength vis-a-vis China because the proposal to have an alternate route from Siliguri to the border has been opposed by the environment ministry.  Documents available with DNA show that the army had proposed three alternate routes to Aritar in North Sikkim- one starting from Khunia More in north Bengal, another from Bagrakot and a third from Damdim. The environment ministry has pointed out that at least two routes “will result in irreversible loss of bio-diversity vitality and vigor thereby affecting adversely the entire eco-system.” Stuck between environment and financial constraints, the Indian army is still years away from a credible deterrence against an aggressive China.


Come on youngsters, join the Army: Abhinav Bindra

Ace shooter Abhinav Bindra is all set to become Lt Col Bindra now, with President Pratibha Patil granting the honorary rank to him and MS Dhoni in the Territorial Army. Abhinav, who is in a happy space ever since this news reached him, chats exclusively with NT about the pleasure and prestige of being a fauji...  Now that you are gearing up to become a Lt Col., do you feel it will add extra responsibility to your life?  I don't look at it as a burden. Honestly speaking, I feel deeply humbled and really blessed that I was chosen for such a prestigious honour. And I will ensure that my dedication towards my nation or my game doesn't waver ever.  As a youth icon, who's adored by millions, what would you like to say to the youngsters, especially when Indian Army is facing a major officers' crunch today?  Indian Army is one of the best Armies in the world, and all of us must take pride in this fact. Youngsters must join the Army or the Defence forces and revel in the prestige of the uniform. They owe it to themselves and their nation!  You topped the selection trials for the Asian Airgun championship, the day announcement was made about your becoming a Lt Col. Do you think it's a lucky omen?  I have always tried to give my very best to the game, but there are some, who may perceive it as a lucky coincidence. No harm in that! But, I would like to add that I have struggled a lot and worked hard on my game and not relied on destiny.  People have always seen you as a very serious person, but Army guys are known to be very gregarious. Will Col Bindra start smiling a bit more?  (Laughs) Basically, I am a very private person, who is not comfortable giving interviews or smiling just for the heck of it! I just can't give fake smiles. So, even as a fauji, I will remain the person that I am, and public smiles will be as rare as ever.  You and MSD will be getting your ranks together. So, who is going to look more dapper in the uniform according to you?  Now that's very difficult to answer! After all, we haven't yet been given our ranks! So, who knows!  Since you are endorsing some products, will we also see you endorsing some fashion clothes or walking the ramp?  I don't think I will walk the ramp. At least, not for a long while. Right now, all my energies are focussed on my game - with London Olympics barely a few months away. So, I'm just breathing and living my game for now.


Eyesores for foreign powers

Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is under criticism for not taking action against the most corrupt and inefficient political government bent upon destroying the country. His critics have gone to the extent of saying that lollypop of 3-year extension has silenced him. It must not be forgotten that whenever the Army general stepped in, the overall situation was always chaotic and people were fed up of politicians. Opposition parties kept nudging GHQ to save the country from ruination. Each time a man on horseback took over the reins of power; he was hailed as a savior. Happy tidings of the military rule, however, never lasted for more than 2-3 years after which the tide got rough and once again people clamored for return of democracy. This see-saw is still going on but the Army seems to have learnt its lesson this time.  It is an established fact that as long as the military ruled the country singly it produced excellent results. Seized by a desire to gain legitimacy and to become democratic, the moment it brought in discarded and disgruntled politicians and made them run the facade of democracy, things went haywire. The deadly military-civilian combine always ended up in tarnishing the reputation of Army. All military rulers irrespective of their good performance left the scene as discredited rulers. Fate of democratic leaders was no less pathetic. This cycle has gone on since 1958 and so far military has ruled the country four times totaling about 33 years. Making a dispassionate comparison, even the worst critics of Army would grudgingly agree that Army rulers had at least kept things in order. They were surely superior in governance and management and had taken GDP to 7% as against 2-3% GDP and rampant chaos during civilian rules.It was wishfully hoped that after the fall of Gen Musharraf and takeover by the coalition government of PPP-PML-N tied to charter of democracy, the established practice of seeking a change for the sake of change would end. However, after seeing the true face of Zardari-Gilani led democratic regime, people are once again vying for a change and are looking towards the Army since it is not within the capacity of another political party to bring a healthy a change. People who had celebrated the ouster of reviled Gen Musharraf are now often heard saying that his rule was much better than the current democratic rule which is an insult to democracy. Notwithstanding their wish, Gen Kayani and his team of Generals also know that their infatuation towards the Army would be temporary. Within six months the dice would get loaded against he Army and all the ills placed at its doorsteps. This apprehension is keeping Gen Kayani restrained.  Apart from few disgruntled superceded officers, all ranks have full faith in leadership of Gen Kayani who has done a lot for the welfare of lower ranks and is devoting lot of attention towards development works in FATA and Balochistan to win their hearts and minds. He monitors the ongoing war on terror from the front and the credit for turning the tide in favor of Army goes to him. Not only he has kept the Army away from civil affairs, he has shown respect to the elected government and has shunned all surreptitious moves made by self-seeking groups to derail democracy since he wants the people and political forces to decide what is good for them and the country.  Besides self-centered groups inside Pakistan desiring the Army to show door to the PPP government, outside powers are equally interested. Indo-US-Israeli nexus is trying to create conditions for military takeover since with reins of power in the hands of Army it becomes that much easier for them to foment agitation and force the military to use force against protestors and thus prepare grounds to exploit human rights violations and subsequently justify war to dismember Pakistan . None will come to the rescue of Pakistan under military rule or shed tears on its dismemberment. Ongoing media war portraying the democratic government in poor light and egging on the military to step in is governed by this hidden motive.  Given the deteriorating state of affairs of the country when everything is in shambles, takeover by Army will certainly be welcomed but the euphoria will subside all too soon and Gen Kayani will be scoffed at. It will give justification to the ousted regime to project itself as a victim. Same old music will be played that the Army never allows democracy to flourish and axes it when it starts maturing. All the sins of politicians will be forgotten and the entire blame put on the Army in accordance with past practice. Kayani is neither ambitious nor he has shown any inclination to overstep his authority vested in him. Even when he is showing deference to the civil government and is carrying out instructions of the president and chief executive dutifully, he is still criticized for being domineering. This perception has been built by cynics in the backdrop of Kayani taking up a principled stand on certain matters of national importance.  He had prevailed upon PM Gilani to rescind his order of placing ISI under Ministry of Interior in August 2008 which if implemented would have been catastrophic. He had advised top leadership not to send DGISI to New Delhi in the aftermath of 26/11 when India was in a highly belligerent mood. He had explained the gravity of the situation in the backdrop of cavalcade of long march in March 2009 which had reached Gujranwala and had advised the President that it will be in fitness of things if judges were restored and governor rule in Punjab terminated. His sane advice was heeded to and crisis averted. He did express his deep reservations over certain clauses of Kerry Lugar Bill (KLB) which impinged upon security of Pakistan . The bill was based on the presumption that Pakistan was guilty of terrorism, nuclear proliferation and that continuation of aid money would be dependent upon its performance. Pakistan was directed to stop nuclear proliferation and procurement of fissile material; cease support to terrorists and stop cross border terrorism and to allow drone attacks in Quetta . KLB sought direct access to all Pak nationals associated with nuclear proliferation or acquisition of nuclear materials for our nuclear program. Civil government was asked to exercise tight control over military budgets as well as on chain of command including promotions and appointments of senior officers. Expansion of US Embassy in Islamabad and facilitation of large number of CIA agents disguised as diplomats, coordinators and project managers to enter Pakistan were dovetailed in KLB package.  Gen Kayani has been advising the government not to cede to the pressure of USA to launch a major operation in North Waziristan since timings for opening another front was not in Army’s favor. It was owing to his stand since early 2010 that this operation has so far not been launched. In the aftermath of Raymond Davis and Abbottabad incidents, Army and ISI have been tirelessly working to emasculate CIA network in Pakistan . Stoppage of $800 million close support fund was meant to break the resistance of Army. The Army showed its mettle by declaring that it will continue fighting war on terror without the US aid. Army leadership has also expressed its deep concern over bloodletting in Karachi in which foreign agencies are also involved and expressed hope that Rangers and Police would be able to restore peace.  The Army and ISI have become eyesores for India , Israel and USA since the two institutions have resolved to safeguard national interests at all cost. Series of cockeyed allegations made against Army and ISI is the direct outcome of their unprecedented resistance to US interference.


General VK Singh's age controversy: Army contradicts ministry  

New Delhi:  The controversy over Army chief General VK Singh's age has deepened with the Defense Ministry and the Indian Army holding on to their positions.  General Singh has consistently maintained that he was born in 1951 as against 1950 as maintained by the Ministry of Defense. Army records however reflect both dates. General Singh has also filed a formal complaint with the ministry saying that while the government can decide his tenure as chief of Army, his year of birth cannot be changed.     The biggest implication of this is the year in which the Army chief will retire - 2012, according to the government's decision. If it had accepted General Singh's date of birth, his tenure would have extended to 2013.  Earlier this month, Defence Minister A K Antony had told the Rajya Sabha, "The date of birth of General VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as 10th May 1950 at the time of his selection as Corps Commander (Lieutenant General) in 2006 as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010"  But the Military Secretary's branch in the Army Headquarters, that handles promotions and transfers, has contradicted the ministry. Military Secretary Lieutenant General GM Nair has informed the ministry that General VK Singh's promotion from the rank of a Brigadier in 1996 to that of a Lieutenant General in 2005 had May 10, 1951 as the date of birth.


370 officers commissioned into Army

Chennai, Sep 17 (PTI): Over 370 men and women were today commissioned into the Indian Army as officers after a passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy. Lt Gen V K Ahluwalia, GOC-in C, Central Command, reviewed the passing out parade at OTA. Eighteen cadets from Afghanistan also graduated as officers. Cadet Under Officer Abhinav Shulka was adjudged the best performer in the course. The academy's Officiating Commandant Maj Gen U M Rajavelu was also present during the function. The 650-acre Officers Training Academy here trains cadets as officers, acquainting them with physical training, drill endurance training, weapon training, academics, radio communication supplemented by military history, communication skills and military etiquette.



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