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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 20 Sep 2011






Pak wants China rail link through PoK

Beijing, September 19 Pakistan wants China to construct a rail link through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and a network of oil and gas pipelines, which will help cut costs for Beijing's burgeoning energy needs and ensure mutual benefit.  Pakistan has also offered to be part of a Chinese plan to build a new Silk Road to connect the oil-rich Xinjiang region with Euro-Asian countries, including Russia. Xinjiang borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.  While Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari referred to some of these proposals during his recent visit to Xinjiang province, Pakistan's Ambassador to China Masood Khan today elaborated on them in an article in the state-run daily 'Global Times'.  "Pakistan and China both aspire to enhance connectivity between them. They will achieve this objective by upgrading the Karakoram Highway, building a 411-mile-long railroad from the Pakistani town of Havelian to Khunjerab Pass, located on the Sino-Pakistani border, install a fibre optic link across the border, and plan the laying of oil and gas pipelines that can originate from the Gulf and end up in China's western region," he said.  Much of Khan's article dwelt on China's new plan to develop its western region, including Xinjiang bordering PoK, under which billion of dollars of investment is expected to pour in by creating new SEZs and industries that can benefit both Pakistan and China.  China sees Xinjiang's development as revival of the new Silk Road connecting it to Euro-Asian countries as well as Russia. — PTI   Beneficial for both  n China plans to develop its western region, including Xinjiang, which borders PoK  n Billions of dollars of investment is expected to pour in by creating new SEZs and industries to benefit both Pakistan and China  n China sees Xinjiang's development as revival of the new Silk Road connecting it to Euro-Asian countries as well as Russia. Pak wants to be part of the plan  n Trade routed via Xinjiang can save China 5,000 miles and several days of transit time


Rs 3-cr flares for IAF jets turn useless Their shelf-life expires after delay in project to upgrade MiG-21

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, September 19 Infra-red flares worth over Rs 3 crore procured for IAF fighter aircraft were rendered useless as their shelf life expired while still in storage on account of slow pace of the project to upgrade MiG-21 Bison.  The issue has also revealed contradictory reasons forwarded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Air Headquarters over the IAF’s inability to utilise the flares that were procured from overseas between 1997 and 2002.  In January this year, the IAF accepted that 19,450 flares were destroyed after expiry of their shelf life due to delays in the project. The Air HQs also suggested life-extension clearance on some of the flares still in its inventory.  The MoD stand, on the other hand was that the holding of the flares was necessary due to the prevailing security scenario. Further, the ministry maintained that flares were kept in stock and not released to combat units, as their operational requirement did not arise till 2009.  Of the 20,000 flares procured, only 390 were used during the design and development phase of the Bison and subsequent trials and testing. The remaining were rendered useless in 2009.  In March 1996, the MoD had concluded a contract for procurement of a Counter Measure Dispensing System (CMDS) that protects aircraft against radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles. The flares form a part of this system and are used to deflect heat-seeking missiles.  The requirement and procurement of the system was projected and undertaken in consonance with the upgrade of 125 Bison aircraft that was originally scheduled to begin in 1998 and conclude in 2001.  Additional requirement was projected for installing the CMDS on the MiG-23 as well as the MiG-27 aircraft.  It was initially planned to utilise the entire stock of the flares by 2002. The project, however, progressed slowly due to delay in the indigenous development of certain avionic systems and flight testing. The upgrade was finally complete in 2008.



Speculations about Pakistan’s impending collapse are both exaggerated and misleading. There are certainly grounds for worrying about an unstable nuclear state where radical militants, loosely referred to as Taliban, linked with al Qaida’s global terrorist network, have been attacking army headquarters, striking at key military installations, targeting senior military personnel, bombing revered Sufi shrines and killing hundreds of innocent civilians. The discovery of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad following a covert American operation has heightened international misgivings about Pakistan as a ‘failing’ or ‘failed state’. Domestically, the fallout has resulted in a shattering loss of face for the all-powerful army and its notorious spymaster agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, albeit without any corresponding improvement in the credibility of a brittle and ineffective elected civilian government. For all its litany of woes, Pakistan is unlikely to disappear from the map of the world in a hurry. Indications are that it will be business as usual with a military dominated Pakistan alternating between being a victim and a springboard of the terror networks that have spanned the interregnum between the war against the Soviets and the current America-led military operations in Afghanistan.  The human and financial costs of the war against militancy have been colossal. Between 2003 and 2010 there were more than 30,000 terror-related casualties, while expenditure on security was nearly three times the amount of assistance Pakistan receives from Washington. The sharp rise in security costs has meant drastic cutbacks in public spending on Pakistan’s inadequate and increasingly threadbare social services. Times are tough for average Pakistanis, facing the combined effects of the devastating floods in 2010, a crushing economic crunch induced by the global downturn and an unpopular war ascribed to American pressure. Severe energy shortages have hit industry and residential consumers hard. Pakistanis are angry, confused and insecure. Their country’s negative persona on the global stage at a time of shrinking employment opportunities at home has been a huge setback for a rising educated middle class looking for pickings abroad. Everyday struggles for survival and an ingrained anti-imperialism among large segments of the populace have fuelled bitter narratives of hate and distrust for America, which is accused of hatching conspiracies with Pakistan’s premier enemy, India, and also Israel, to dismember the country and seize its prized nuclear arsenal. The rage for conspiracy theories in Pakistan is usually traced to the ISI and its embedded journalists and propagandists in the media. But even the liberal and educated strata blame America for forcing a war on hapless Afghanistan whose spillover into Pakistan has been disastrous for the fragile livelihoods of a majority of their compatriots.  The common belief that Pakistan is fighting America’s war for money explains the lack of mass support for the campaign against the militants. A full-scale military operation has been under way in the federally administered tribal areas of the Northwest where Pakistani army personnel are pitted against battle-hardened militants from Central Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. Millions have been displaced from their homes with military personnel suffering heavy casualties. International suspicions have remained, however, about the Pakistani army’s commitment to bringing the campaign to its logical conclusion and helping ease American and Nato’s difficulties in negotiating the Afghanistan quagmire. A virtual blackout on independent news reports on the military campaign in Swat and South Waziristan makes it difficult to assess the army’s actual success in rooting out the militants. The intensification of drone attacks in FATA has taken out key militants, but has also caused extensive collateral damage, inciting anti-Americanism and making it far more difficult for the army to fight against the insurgents without alienating its own rank and file. If the death and mayhem wreaked by suicide bombers in Pakistani cities as vengeance for the military operations in their territory is anything to go by, the militants have not lost the ability to hit back hard. The failed bombing attempt in New York’s Time Square in the summer of 2010 by a Pakistani-born American with links to the Taliban has accentuated fears that the next attack on the United States of America might be launched from Pakistan’s semi-autonomous northwestern tribal areas. Some analysts contend that Washington has a larger stake in preventing State failure in Pakistan than in stabilizing either Afghanistan or Iraq.  New Delhi and its backers in Washington do not share the opinion. Accusing Pakistan of nuclear blackmail and worse, they argue that cosseting it will only embolden an ambitious military high command into conducting covert operations against India on either the Kargil or, even more controversially, the Mumbai 2008 model. Without a resolution of the long-standing Kashmir dispute, the gap between Pakistan’s perceptions of its long-term security requirements vis-à-vis both India and Afghanistan, and American strategic interests in the region has been difficult to negotiate, far less bridge. As the Americans contemplate their withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is more imperative than ever to get the right end of the stick on Pakistan, a complex and multi-faceted country that defies reductive analysis, both of the overly pessimistic or the excessively optimistic varieties.  Amidst the media-driven hype on the war against al Qaida, most recent studies on contemporary Pakistan have harped on its inherent instability and the threat this poses to global peace. In a refreshing departure from these works, Anatol Lieven refutes the view of Pakistan as a ‘failed state’. Calling it a “hard country”, he argues that the weaknesses of the State are in marked contrast to the strength of a regionally heterogeneous but dynamic kinship-based society. Earlier studies had stressed the ‘overdeveloped’ nature of the State in relation to a fragmented and weak society. The scholarly consensus on Pakistan has centred on the dominance of the military, the army in the main, and the adverse effects of the repeated suspension of political processes on the development of a stable polity based on diverse regional class and clan configurations. Without overturning any of the scholarly conventions, Lieven dares to be different. By foregrounding what he considers the everyday workings of State and society, he aims at highlighting the “tragic tension” in Pakistan between the requirements of “modern progress” and the conservative structures and retrograde thinking that are imperative to preserve a semblance of social and political stability.  Relying on personal impressions accumulated during travels in the late 1980s and research trips between 2007 and 2009 lasting six months, Lieven describes Pakistan as a “negotiated state” that operates on the basis of patronage and mutual reciprocity in which ordinary people, and not just elites, attack the system like hordes of mice. Pakistan works because of “ancient kinship” ties that have survived all manner of socio-economic changes. Any powerful clan can capture the State and plunder its resources to confer personal patronage and favours. The only institution that is even mildly “modern” is the army. Lieven sets about proving his thesis with refreshing directness and energy. Interviews with hundreds of Pakistanis, “these voiceless masses” as he puts it, “form the heart of the book”. He relies on scholarly and colonial sources to provide historical perspective. But the focus is on the present. The past is called upon to inform the present, not examined to illuminate its myriad possibilities or assess the key shifts in the country’s history following its turbulent arrival on the global stage in 1947.  A presentist approach embellished with journalistic anthropology results in occasional overstatements and erasures. Lieven is susceptible to the colonial view of India as a society caught in the sterility of changeless tradition. He sees Pakistan as an “inert and somnolent mass of different societies” faced with the options of Westernization, which he wrongly equates with modernity, and a different ‘modernity’ rooted in Islamic traditions manipulated by the militants for their purposes. In a typically Pakistani Catch 22, the powerful conservative patriarchal kinship structures that act as foil to Western modernity and impose severe constraints on women are also the best antidotes to the young lower-class Pathan clerics who form the backbone of the Taliban militants in the Northwest frontier. The Taliban have successfully dislodged the maliks (tribal notables) on whom the colonial and the post-colonial State depended to keep the tribesmen at bay. Drawing a useful distinction between terrorism and successful rebellion, Lieven dismisses the possibility of the Taliban seizing power in Pakistan. The surge in Shia-Sunni sectarian killings is accurately seen as an outflow of political and strategic calculations of the Pakistani State and the militant groups rather than doctrinally determined social animosities. He is also more rational than alarmist on the nuclear issue. The real threat to Pakistan is not ‘ethnic’, a slippery term he uses to refer to the different regional groups, but an ecological catastrophe sparked off by the expansion of the Afghanistan war in Pakistan. The ongoing war in Afghanistan and the northwestern border regions has already wreaked incalculable environmental damage. Any American military operation with Indian help on Pakistani soil could fracture the all-powerful army. Other than this unacceptable scenario in a nuclear State, Pakistan will struggle but is too consequential not to survive.  These are sensible conclusions. If there is cause to quibble, it is Lieven’s tendency, despite an affection and concern for Pakistan, to allow colonial assumptions to sway his analysis. Sounding like a would-be modern day W.W. Hunter, he asserts without matching proof that the lower-middle-class supporters of the Jamaat-i-Islami are the true paragons of piety and morality in Pakistan. The frequent use of terms like “ancient” and “medieval” and statements like “nothing changes the basic structure of politics in Pakistan” are all too reminiscent of the colonial discourse that has been dying a slow death at the hands of sophisticated South Asian scholarship. Kinship is a case in point. As he puts it, “...if water chemically speaking is H2O then Pakistani politics are P2K.” Political factions seek patronage and kinship provides them with the basis. The only exception to kinship-based politics, he claims, is the Muhajir Qaumi Movement with its base of support among Urdu-speakers in urban Sindh and, somewhat surprisingly, FATA, which is mainly tribal in character. Personalized networks constitute the core of the Pakistani political system. Most draw upon kinship networks, but not exclusively. Change may be imperceptible to Lieven, but kinship ties have not been immune to the effects of commercialization, urbanization and globalization. At key moments in Pakistan’s history, like the landmark 1970 elections, factors related to urbanization and the commercialization of the agrarian sector played a critical role. Class, too, is an important factor and cannot be lost sight of in the maze of loose social networks magically captured by the category of ‘kinship’.  The validity of Lieven’s argument about Pakistan being a weak State and a strong society is premised on the power of local kinship loyalties. He accepts that kinship ties are fissiparous, but insists that loyalties based on them have survived the demographic dislocations of partition in 1947 as well as rural-urban and international migrations. These are impressionistic claims at best and, as he admits, require more detailed study before being taken at face value. A quarter of Punjabis are migrants from the eastern districts of undivided Punjab now in India. Kinship based loyalties have been undergoing changes and co-exist with other affiliations, as the chapter on politics bears out. Loyalties to kinship are also inherently divisive, as Lieven’s own findings reveal when he turns to reporting his travels across Pakistan’s different provinces. He is correct in saying that clans able to capture the State at the local, provincial or central levels can wield unbridled power over their rivals. But kinship ties are open to manipulation by those in control of State power. Even as kinship structures lend a measure of strength and stability to Pakistan, their internal divisiveness and personalized character provide room for the otherwise decaying institutional capacities of the post-colonial state. In labouring the weaknesses of the contemporary Pakistani State, Lieven underestimates the powers of coercion that are still available to it in the face of a fragmentary social structure.  Kinship in Pakistan matters like caste networks in India. While noting that kinship is even more important in India because of caste, Lieven does not elucidate why two countries emerging from the same colonial State assumed such different political paths. The oversight is conspicuous since he attributes the weaknesses of the Pakistani State to kinship networks, those conservative and ‘archaic’ social structures that are also the source of stability and the relative absence of social inequalities. Lieven needed to demonstrate the workings of kinship networks more convincingly, something that he might have fruitfully done by juxtaposing them with caste hierarchies and affiliations in democratic India. Other than stating in parenthesis that an argument or statement of fact about one also applies to the other or, more specifically, that the dominance of Punjab sets Pakistan apart from India, a comparative analysis of the two neighbours is farthest from his mind. Analysing the workings of caste networks in relation to party politics and the State in India might have allowed him to better prove his interesting point about kinship ties being the cause of State weakness and relative social stability in Pakistan.


Infiltration attempts increasing in J&K: Army

Asserting that troops are vigilant to deal infiltration along the Indo-Pak border, army on Monday said that infiltration attempts have increased in the past few months. "For the past month or month-and-half, infiltration attempts have been increasing. But we are alert and vigilant," General Officer Commanding (GOC), 16 Corps, Lt Gen J P Nehra told reporters on Sunday.  "Our LoC and border management is strong. Jawans and leaders are all motivated and ready to face any situation... Infiltration attempts have been on increase and we have been able to thwart them successfully," he said at a national seminar on 'Mapping Contemporary Pakistan'.  He said violation of ceasefire by Pakistan showed desperation since militant attempts to infiltrate have been foiled several times.  "It is a sense of desperation as they have not been successful. So far, it is out of desperation only or perhaps it is some other strategy which we are not aware of," he said.  Regarding number of terror camps, militants in Pakistan and PoK, he said that inputs keep varying and there are 42 terror camps opposite and across (south and north Kashmir).  "They (terror camps) vary from 250-500 opposite to the operational area of White Night Corps," he said.  Expressing concern over militants threating locals of Rajouri district to leave the area, he said people are also opposing them.  "Our administration, police and army have very good coordination. We will not allow their design to succeed. People are now opposing them and this is a good sign. They need peace and development which militants cannot give them," he said.  The senior army officer ruled out any attack by Pakistan troops on Indian forward post to capture it along LoC in Pallanwala and said "there was only an incident of firing not any attack. It is a rumour".


Indian soldiers to get a rare tribute in Israel

The Indian army commemorates September 23 every year as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the two brave Indian Cavalry Regiments that helped liberate the city in 1918 following a dashing cavalry action by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.Residents of the Israeli city also celebrate Haifa Day the same day with a series of cultural programmes during the week.In the autumn of 1918, the Indian Brigade was a part of the Allied Forces sweeping northwards through Palestine in what is seen as the last great cavalry campaign in history."No more remarkable cavalry action of its scale was fought in the whole course of the campaign. Machine gun bullets over and over again failed to stop the galloping horses even though many of them succumbed afterwards to their injuries", is how the Official History of the War (Military operation Egypt and Palestine: volume 2) describes the Indian troops bravery.Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and Captain Anop Singh and 2nd Lt Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) as recognition for their bravery in this battle.Major Dalpat Singh (MC) is known in the annals of history as the 'Hero of Haifa' for his critical role in the Liberation of the city.He was awarded a military cross for his bravery.The municipality of Haifa also announced to organise a ceremony every year to commemorate the role of the Indian army in liberating the city from Turks after almost 402 years.Defence Attaches of several countries also laid wreath in honour of the fallen Indian soldiers.


Army fans out for relief operations

A day after a powerful earthquake of 6.8 magnitude ravaged the Sikkim-Nepal border, killing many in India, the army on Monday was busy carrying out rescue and relief operations. According to sources, about 50 army columns in small teams were deployed across Sikkim, Siliguri, Binaguri and

units around Gangtok for rescue operations on a war footing.  The columns comprised medical teams with first aid, engineer detachments and relief and rescue units.  About 10 army combat engineer columns were rushed with equipment for opening major roadblocks on Siliguri-Gangtok.  Apart from the army, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has also been mobilised for restoring normal traffic on NH-31A which connects Sikkim with the rest of the country.  "Sikkim has been cut off from the rest of the country with the national highway 31-A blocked in at least eight places following heavy mudslides," said G Anandan, district magistrate, Sikkim East.  The high-intensity quake was followed by two aftershocks and had its epicentre on the Sikkim-Nepal border. The impact of the temblor was so powerful that several army buildings had developed cracks.  "As many as 25 concrete bridges were damaged between Siliguri and Gangtok on the 120 km long national highway 31-A. The Sikkim secretariat also developed cracks," Anandan said.  Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has rushed five cargo planes to the northeast with relief material and personnel. Even as army deployed in the region works for the relief and rescue, incessant rains are hampering the operations.  The tremors were also felt in Assam, parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.


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