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Thursday, 22 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 22 Sep 2011






India, Pak must stop using RAW, ISI against each other: Imran

Shyam Bhatia in London  Imran Khan says India and Pakistan should stop using their intelligence agencies for settling scores against each other and base their future relations on civilised dialogue around a table.  The former Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, who was speaking at the London School of Economics, criticised what he described as the “back-stabbing” role of the agencies, like India’s RAW and Pakistan’s ISI.  He called for a “stable relationship where all our problems are discussed politically, based around a dialogue around a table and with an end to the role of intelligence agencies. “Any issue about Kashmir should be dealt with on the table and not using militants. It hasn’t worked.”  Imran, visiting the UK to promote his autobiography, ‘A Personal History’, is currently ranked as one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians. His political party, Tehreeq-e-Insaaf, is also expected to attract massive new support when the country goes to the polls in 2012.  He attracted repeated applause from a packed audience at the LSE where he talked about bilateral relations with India, the abysmal state of Pakistani politics, terrorism and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.  Asked about India-Pakistan relations, he responded, “As I’ve always maintained, you can’t change your neighbours. You have to live with them in a civilised manner.”  He added that Pakistan blames India for its troubles in Baluchistan and India blames Pakistan for the unrest in Kashmir. But asking his audience to look ahead, he went on: “The future is bright for South Asians.”  As far as Pakistan was concerned, Imran projected what he described as a “soft revolution” through the ballot box when elections are held next year. He claims that his own party, Tehreeq-e-Insaaf, is number one in the tribal areas and in the last four weeks alone has attracted 3,50,000 new members.  He anticipated “light at the end of the tunnel” because of increased political awareness than ever before, the existence of an independent Supreme Court and a vibrant, independent media.  Asked which Pakistani leader was his role model, he replied, “Jinnah. The reason is that Jinnah never compromised on his goals. He was selfless. He was dying of TB, but never gave up.”  If his party wins the next elections, Imran said one of his priorities would be to reduce the level of violence in the country. He painted a bleak picture of Pakistan where the economy has lost some $ 70 billion, terrorism is rampant on city streets and recent attacks on military bases, including army and navy headquarters, suggest deep internal divisions. He also explained that this has been the bloodiest year for Pakistan since independence with revenge attacks for every Pakistani army move against militants in the tribal areas.  In Imran’s words, Pakistan has become a polarised society with 30 Taliban groups active in the country.


America’s ultimatum to Pak over Haqqani link

Threatens to act against group leaders unilaterally  Washington, September 21 Accusing Pakistan’s military-run ISI of using the Haqqani network to carry out a “proxy war”, US has warned Islamabad to cut ties with the terror group and help eliminate its leaders or it will act unilaterally.  In what amounts to an ultimatum, the US administration have indicated that the US will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply, The Washington Post daily reported.  Quoting officials, the paper said the message was delivered at high-level meetings and public statements over the past several days reflecting Washington’s view that the yearlong strategy of using persuasion and military assistance to influence Pakistan’s behaviour has been ineffective.  According to the Post, White House officials and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta are said to be adamant in their determination to change the approach.  The report comes as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a meeting here last night that in his discussions with Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, he had pressed Islamabad to end its links with the terror group.  “We covered a full range of issues focusing on the danger of the Haqqani network, the need for the Haqqani Network to disengage...the need for the Haqqani network to disengage, specifically the need for the ISI to disconnect from Haqqani and from this proxy war that they’re fighting,” he said during his address at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here.  He added, “The ISI has been doing this - working for - supporting proxies for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future.” — PTI


Mini UAVs to assist troops in J&K

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, September 21 Troops on ground in Jammu and Kashmir will soon have their own “eyes in the sky”. The Army is procuring 20 miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be deployed in the operationally sensitive Northern Command.  These UAVs, sources said, would be used for general surveillance along the Line of Control as well as in certain volatile areas in the hinterland. These would also be used during anti-terrorist operations for providing real-time intelligence and for detecting intrusions as well as for limited search and rescue.  Many armed forces the world over use mini UAVs for tactical purposes. These are man-portable systems that can be transported and operated by a crew of two and three. Though much smaller than the UAVs used for long range and high endurance reconnaissance, these nonetheless have emerged as indispensable force multipliers in combat situations where visual contact with the opponent is difficult, specially in rough terrain. Such systems are also being use extensively by the Allied forces in Afghanistan.  Several counties have designed and developed a range of mini UAVs. The Defence Research and Development Organisation also recently demonstrated its capability to produce a mini UAV, which has been christened Netra. Besides the Armed Forces, it has also been offered to the state police forces for security management and handling law and order situations.  The system being sought by the Army would be equipped with cameras and sensors having low light as well as night photography capability besides having the ability for simultaneous recording and transmitting imagery in real time. Also, it has the ability to operate in rough field conditions and combat environment, as the sound of its propulsion gear is not heard beyond about 50 metres and a runway is not required for its launch and recovery.  The Army’s requirement is that the system should have a minimum flying endurance of one hour and a service ceiling above 1000 metres with a radio-control range in excess of five kilometres.


Growing Sino-Pak nexus India needs to pro-actively counter it

Pakistan, it seems, is working overtime to ensure that China continues to remain its “all-weather” friend despite the brief uneasiness between the two following the recent incidents of terrorist violence in China’s Xinjiang province. China’s expression of displeasure over the ISI’s reported involvement in what happened in Xinjiang has made Pakistani leaders use all the tricks they know to convince their Chinese counterparts that Islamabad will do all it can to prevent the growth of terrorism in the Chinese province bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan President Asif Zardari not only visited China soon after the Xinjiang developments but also celebrated Eid in Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim-majority province of China. He revealed a number of projects that will be undertaken by Pakistan to strengthen his country’s relations with China.  Mr Zardari wanted to convince the Chinese leadership, particularly in Xinjiang, that it should not suspect Pakistan’s hand in the Xinjiang bomb blasts, though reports had it that the ISI was fomenting trouble there. What the Pakistan President stated during his China visit has been highlighted by the Pakistani ambassador in Beijing through an article in Global Times, an official Chinese publication. But what is disturbing for India is that Pakistan has offered China to invest in laying railway lines that will pass through PoK, an Indian territory forcibly occupied by Pakistan. There is a plan for a network of oil and gas pipelines also in PoK with Chinese involvement. India cannot afford to let these become a reality.  Earlier, China built Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which has boosted Islamabad’s trade with West Asian and other countries. Pakistan and China both need each other in view of the changing global scenario. But there is an India factor in the calculations of both countries. Pakistan wants to strengthen its position vis-à-vis India by maintaining a very close relationship with China at a time when the US has started cold-shouldering Islamabad. And China has been increasing its presence in Pakistan with a view to using it to contain India. The time has come for India to tell both China and Pakistan that any activity involving the two nations in PoK is illegal. There is need to approach the international community to end the Sino-Pakistani nexus in PoK.


Plateau worry for army

New Delhi, Sept. 21: One of the most strategic points on the India-China frontier, a plateau at 16,500 feet with a serene lake within it on the northern tip of Sikkim, is the biggest concern for the army since Sunday’s earthquake because China claims it.  Called simply “Plateau” by the soldiers, the high tableland circled by mountains is 16km at its widest and 23km at its longest. This is the only place on the frontier where the Indian Army has a toehold on the Tibetan Plateau.  Since Sunday, there has been almost no contact with the camps of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the army in Plateau.  From Plateau, India also has possession of a narrow strip some 4km long between two high ranges. This is called “Finger” because that is what it resembles on the map — a curving bit that juts into Chinese territory.  The border is unmarked except by cairns — little heaps of stones. At the southern end of this barren landscape is Gurudongmar Lake, brilliant turquoise in summer and mostly frozen in winter.  The ITBP and the army man two camps in Plateau and from mountain-top posts that rim Plateau, they have a clear view into Tibet allowing them to observe with sophisticated viewing devices any movement from a distance of more than 20km.  The high altitude means that an Mi 17 helicopter can land or take off from Plateau with only one passenger (it can seat 14). The area is the responsibility of the 112 Brigade headquartered in Mangan.  In 2008 and 2009 there were reports that Chinese vehicles and troops had crossed into Finger and were attempting to build a road across it. But the army says that there has been no alteration of the border here in 40 years.  The Indian and Chinese armies follow a set of rules when their patrols come across one another. The soldiers are not even supposed to make eye contact and Indian soldiers have reported locking arms and turning their backs on Chinese troops.  Plateau and Finger are north of Lachen, at least four hours in a four-wheel-drive in fair weather. In the last two years the Indian army has inducted at least a squadron of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the region — a rare place on the frontier that affords deployment of wheeled and tracked vehicles.  Maintaining the military presence in Plateau and Finger involves acclimatising the troops and keeping reserves of fuel, food and other supplies. The army assesses that the reserves will keep its men going for about a week.  But the temblor has come at a bad time for the military. In end-September and early-October each year, the army concludes its monsoon deployment and goes into an “Operational Alert” before winter sets in. This is the time when the “winter stocking” of forward posts — such as those in Plateau and Finger is carried out.  With the roads blocked by landslides and many villagers who are hired by the army as porters shelterless, winter stocking is on hold. One officer feared that the earthquake in Sikkim may have set the military infrastructure that was built up over three decades behind by about 20 years. Troops may now have to march to their posts, which were supplied by motor vehicles, on foot. This increases the military response time in the event of hostilities.


The India-Vietnam Axis

India is the latest country to get drawn into the South China Sea dispute. Earlier this month, Beijing told New Delhi that its permission was needed for India's state-owned oil and gas firm to explore for energy in two Vietnamese blocks in those waters. This follows reports of a Chinese vessel confronting an Indian Navy frigate off Vietnam in late July.  Vietnam quickly cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks in question. Hanoi has been sparring with Beijing over the South China Sea in the past year, so such a response was expected.  What's new is New Delhi not taking Chinese aggression in that region sitting down. It immediately decided to support Hanoi's claims. Last week, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna visited Vietnam and made it clear that its state-owned firm would continue to explore in the South China Sea. The display of backbone helped India strengthen its relationship with Vietnam. If China wants to expand its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, New Delhi's thinking goes, India can do the same thing in East Asia.  The linchpin of this eastward move would be Vietnam. Hanoi fought a brief war with Beijing in 1979 and has grown wary of the Middle Kingdom's increasing economic and military weight. That's why in some quarters of New Delhi, Vietnam is already seen as a counterweight in the same way Pakistan has been for China.

That's not to say good India-Vietnam relations wouldn't exist otherwise. Vietnamese have traditionally held Indians in high regard because of the latter's support for Vietnamese independence from France and their opposition to U.S. involvement in the country. And New Delhi formulated a "Look East" policy as early as 1991, to capitalize on East Asia's economic growth. But the rise of China has given this relationship a powerful strategic—not to mention urgent—dimension.  Enlarge Image pant pant AFP/Getty Images  S.M. Krishna (left) with Vietnam's Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan in 2009.  Both sides realize that a stronger bilateral relationship starts with economic ties. The two countries signed an agreement in 2003 in which they envisioned creating an "Arc of Advantage and Prosperity" in Southeast Asia. So they've been boosting trade, especially after New Delhi signed a free-trade agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2009. The volume of bilateral trade now exceeds $2 billion.

Both sides could still do more to enhance economic cooperation. Bilateral trade is much below the potential, given that India and Vietnam are major emerging economies. The two countries also need to think creatively about expanding investment opportunities, especially in the energy, steel, and pharmaceutical sectors. This can be done by establishing stronger institutional mechanisms that review the economic relationship on a regular basis and take steps to enhance it.  New Delhi's abiding interest in Vietnam, though, is in the defense realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi beef up its naval and air capabilities.  Given that Vietnam and India use similar Russian and erstwhile Soviet defense platforms, New Delhi could easily offer defense technologies to Hanoi. Talks are ongoing for India to sell the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture. Such arms could allow Vietnam to project regional power and improve deterrence against China.  The two nations also have stakes in ensuring sea-lane security, as well as shared concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Hence, India is helping Vietnam to build capacity for repair and maintenance of its defense platforms. At the same time, the armed forces of the two states have started cooperation in areas like IT and English-language training of Vietnamese Army personnel. The two are also sharing their experiences in mountainous and jungle warfare.  Naval cooperation, however, remains the focus. Here, Vietnam has given India the right to use its port of Nha Trang in the south; the Indian Navy has already made a port call. It is not entirely clear what the final arrangement would look like, but the symbolism of this is not lost on China.  The two countries potentially share a common friend—the U.S. New Delhi has steadily built relations with Washington in the past decade, while Vietnam has been courting America as the South China Sea becomes a flashpoint. As these three countries ponder how to manage China's rise, they will be drawn closer together.  By lashing out against India for its dealings with Vietnam, China has shown it will try to deter strategic competitors from collaborating against it. But if both India and Vietnam stand firm, they could force Beijing to moderate its expansionist claims on the South China Sea and adopt a more conciliatory stance on other regional matters.


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