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Saturday, 24 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 Sep 2011



India, UK sign pact on defence research

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 23 Under a new agreement, Indian and British scientists will work together to develop cutting-edge technologies for defence and security.  A letter of arrangement was signed by DRDO Director General V K Saraswat and Sir Mark Welland, Chief Scientific Adviser of Britain’s Ministry of Defence, in London.  The two countries will pool their world-class science and engineering expertise to work on projects such as unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced explosives, and factors affecting human performance on the battlefield.  Welland thanked Saraswat for his efforts in “reaching this milestone in our relationship with India”.

Strategic roads can’t be restored before two months: Army

Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 23 Last Sunday’s earthquake in Sikkim has severely hampered the Army’s movement and temporarily cast a shadow on its rapid counter strike ability in the strategically crucial mountainous state. The Army’s in-house assessment is that it would take more than two months to restore the road network, vital for movement in northern Sikkim that abuts China.  The infantry units under the 112 Brigade - some 5,500 men and officers - that is responsible for northern Sikkim are well stocked on all accounts - food, equipment like 105 MM artillery guns, vehicles and fuel.  The road blockade will also not affect the movement of the infantry as the troops anyway walk over obstacles. Besides, officials said that the quake would not have any impact on preparedness.  But, with the roads blocked, the movement of stocks, equipment, ammunition and weapons will be hit. The roads are needed to move heavy things that require wheeling in.  Fields reports from the Army reaching the headquarters here have led to the assessment that it could take two months to restore two key road arteries that take off from Chungthang (some 70 km north of Gangtok). One leads west to the Lachen valley and other leads east into the Lachung valley. Both the roads are vital for maintaining supplies to northern Sikkim.  In case of an exigency, there will be no way to replenish troops and equipment once the stocks stored at the forward bases finish.  Meanwhile, the Army has physically covered 94 villages in their search-and-rescue operations.

US-Pak strained ties Fight against terrorism may take new turn

The assertion of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the “Haqqani (terror) network … acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency” shows that the love-hate relationship between the so-called “key allies” in the war against global terrorism is fast getting transformed into a hate-hate one. Admiral Mullen has bluntly told Pakistan that Haqqani operatives attacked the US Embassy and Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and assassinated former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani with ISI help. This amounts to saying that the ISI is like any terrorist outfit and should be dealt with accordingly. The top US military official, due to retire soon, made this comment after a long meeting with Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani in Spain on the sidelines of a NATO conference. Perhaps the two, though considered friends, could not come to an agreement that Pakistan must abandon its policy of using terrorist networks to achieve its geopolitical objectives.  Before Admiral Mullen’s terse comment came the remarks by US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Hunter that “there is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government”. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, blaming the ISI for the successful operations of the Haqqani network against US interests in Afghanistan, told Pakistan while addressing a gathering at the Pentagon this week, “If you are against terrorism, you have to be against all forms of terrorism”. Amidst the rising tension between the US and Pakistan the Senate Appropriations Committee, a key US Congressional body, has suggested that security and economic aid to Pakistan must be linked to its cooperation in fighting the Haqqani network and other terrorist outfits.  There are clear indications that if Pakistan does not cooperate with the US in defeating its enemies in the Af-Pak region Washington may ignore Islamabad and go ahead with its plans to safeguard its interests in the area. The US has already started using what it calls the Northern Distribution Network, avoiding the routes passing through Pakistan, for its supplies to Afghanistan. Now what course the US takes to tame Pakistan remains to be seen. It seems the US post-troop withdrawal strategy for Af-Pak is undergoing a ch

India’s ‘Look East’ policy It can help counter Chinese assertiveness

by Harsh V. Pant  India’s relations with China have entered a new phase as New Delhi asserts its rights in the international waters of the South China Sea and deepens its engagement with Hanoi. The Indian External Affairs Minister was in Vietnam last week when India snubbed China and made it clear that ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) will continue to pursue oil and natural gas exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea. Asking countries “outside the region” to stay away from the South China Sea, China had issued a demarche to India underlining that Beijing’s permission should be sought for exploration in Blocks 127 and 128 and that without it, OVL’s activities would be considered illegal. Vietnam, meanwhile, had underlined the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks being explored. India decided to go by the Vietnam’s claims and ignore China’s objections.  The official Chinese reaction to the Indian decision was an assertion that China had undisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and its islands and that Beijing remained opposed to any country involving itself in oil and gas exploration there. But the official media has come out all guns blazing. The Global Times, an influential Communist Party-run newspaper, called India’s dealings with Vietnam a “serious political provocation” that would “push China to the limit.” It went on to argue that “China should try every means possible to stop this cooperation from happening.” Expressing its concern over the involvement of extra-regional powers in the South China Sea, the paper claimed, “China and relevant countries should digest the conflicts within the South China Sea, but when other countries step in, China should oppose them with all involved having to share the blame and resulting losses.” Though the paper often expresses the more hard-line nationalist sentiment in the party, main editorials are published with the approval of the Communist Party.  India’s bold move is aimed at asserting India’s legal claims in the international waters of the South China Sea as well as strengthening its relationship with Vietnam. Both moves unsettle China which views India’s growing engagement in East Asia with suspicion. With China expanding its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, India is staking its own claims in East Asia. Most significant in this regard is India’s growing engagement with Vietnam. Bilateral ties between India and Vietnam have got strengthened in recent years with the focus on regional security issues and trade. Traditionally, India has had a favourable presence in Vietnam with its support for Vietnamese independence from France and eventual unification of the country as well as its opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. With the rise of China in recent years, their ties have become strategic in orientation. The two states promulgated a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation in 2003 in which they envisaged creating an “Arc of Advantage and Prosperity” in Southeast Asia and have initiated a strategic dialogue since 2009. During his visit to Hanoi last week, the Indian External Affairs Minister, along with his Vietnamese counterpart, co-chaired the 14th India-Vietnam Joint Commission Meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and agreed to add greater content to bilateral relations in the fields of defence and security, trade and investment, education and culture.”  Bilateral trade has grown since the liberalisation of Indian and Vietnamese economies with the trade volume now exceeding $2 billion. The signing of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and India’s recognition of Vietnam’s market economy status will further boost economic ties. Vietnam has backed a more prominent role for India in ASEAN as well as India’s bid for the permanent membership in the UN Security Council.  Given that Vietnam and India use the same Russian and erstwhile Soviet platforms, there is a significant convergence between the two in the defence sector. Vietnam has sought Indian help in the modernisation of its military hardware. India’s exploration interests near the Vietnamese coasts have been threatened by China’s diplomatic offensive. Delhi and Hanoi have significant stakes in ensuring sealanes security and preventing sea piracy while they also share concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Indian strategic interests demand that Vietnam emerge as a major regional player and India is well placed to help Hanoi achieve that objective. It has been argued in Indian strategic circles that just as China has used states in India’s periphery to contain India, Delhi should build states like Vietnam as strategic pressure points against China to counter it.  India has decided to work with Vietnam to establish a regular Indian presence in the region as part of a larger Delhi-Hanoi security partnership with Vietnam giving India the right to use its port of Nha Trang. Delhi and Hanoi have significant stakes in ensuring sealanes security and preventing sea piracy while they also share concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Indian strategic interests demand that Vietnam emerge as a major regional player and India is well placed to help Hanoi achieve that objective.  India has been helping Vietnam for beefing up its naval and air capabilities. If the South China Sea is a disputed area for China and India should refrain from entering the fray so as to respect Chinese sensitivities, then India can rightfully ask China to do the same in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an area recognised by all major powers as a disputed territory. Yet China has had no compunction in enlarging its military and economic presence in the region.  A common approach on the emerging balance of power is evolving with India and Vietnam both keen on reorienting their ties with the US as their concerns about China rise. And a similar commonality of views is emerging among major powers on the South China Sea disputes which will hopefully force China to moderate its maximalist position on this issue. India’s entry into the scene was overdue. Now it should focus on building strategic partnerships with regional powers. Vietnam is a good place to begin this process.  The writer teaches at King’s College, London.

You risk losing an ally, Pak warns USA

Islamabad\Washington, September 23 Pakistan warned the United States it risks losing an ally if it continued to accuse Islamabad of playing a double game in the war against militancy, escalating the crisis in relations between the two countries.  Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was responding to comments by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who said Pakistan's top spy agency was closely tied to the Haqqani network, the most violent and effective faction among Islamic Taliban militants in Afghanistan.  It is the most serious allegation levelled by the USA against nuclear-armed and Muslim-majority Pakistan since they began an alliance in the war on terror a decade ago. "You will lose an ally," Khar told Geo TV in New York in remarks broadcast on Friday.  "You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States') own cost."  Mullen, speaking in Senate testimony, alleged Haqqani operatives launched an attack last week on the U.S. embassy in Kabul with the support of Pakistan's military intelligence. The tensions could have repercussions across Asia, from India, Pakistan's economically booming arch-rival, to China, which has edged closer to Pakistan in recent years.  A complete break between the USA and Pakistan - sometimes friends, often adversaries - seems unlikely, if only because Washington depends on Pakistan as a route to supply U.S. troops fighting militants in Afghanistan, and as a base for unmanned U.S. drones. Pakistan relies on Washington for military and economic aid and for acting as a backer on the world stage. But support in the U.S. Congress for curbing assistance or making conditions on aid more stringent is rising rapidly. The unilateral U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May took already fragile relations between Pakistan and the United States to a low. Relations were just starting to recover before the Kabul attack. Both sides are now engaged in an unusually blunt public war of words.  The dangers could be enormous if Washington fails to arrest the deterioration in relations with Pakistan, a largely dysfunctional state run by a feckless, military-cowed government and teeming with Islamist militants. At stake are the fight against terrorism, the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and - as Islamabad plays off its friendship with China against the United States - regional stability. "Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner, publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it, is not acceptable," said Khar. The USA has long pressed Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network, which it believes operates from sanctuaries in North Waziristan on the Afghan border. Pakistan says its army is too stretched fighting its own Taliban insurgency. But analysts say the Islamabad government regards the Haqqanis as a strategic counterweight to the growing influence of old rival India in Afghanistan. The Haqqani network, Mullen said, is a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).  The charges come amid mounting exasperation in Washington as the Obama administration struggles to curb militancy in Pakistan and end the long war in Afghanistan. Mullen, CIA director David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all have met with their Pakistani counterparts in recent days to demand Islamabad take action against the Haqqani network. Any Pakistani offensive against the Haqqanis would be risky. The group has an estimated 10,000-15,000 seasoned fighters at its disposal and analysts say the Pakistani army would likely suffer heavy casualties. — Reuters

Army to have another BrahMos missile regiment

New Delhi: As part of efforts to upgrade military capabilities in the north-east, the induction of an advanced variant of the 290-km range supersonic cruise missile in the army for mountain warfare has been approved by the government.  The approval by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) -- Ministry's apex decision making body-- will pave the way for induction of the fourth missile regiment in the army, Defence Ministry sources told agency here.  The sanction for inducting a regiment of the Block III steep-dive variant of the BrahMos, granted recently in a DAC meeting chaired by the Defence Minister, is expected to enhance the lethality of army's firepower in the north-east region.  The steep-dive attack cruise missile can hit enemy targets hidden in the shadows of mountains, they said.  The army has inducted a total of three regiments already including two of the Block II variant, which can precisely hit the intended enemy building or assets even in a cluster of buildings.  In the backdrop of massive military infrastructure buildup by China in its areas along the frontiers, India has taken several measures to improve its preparedness in the north-east.  These steps include deployment of two squadrons of the Su-30 MKI fighter jet aircraft in Tezpur and Chhabua in Assam and raising of two mountain divisions for deployment in Arunachal Pradesh and adjoining areas.  The government also revised its old military doctrine of not developing roads along the border and is working on developing over 70 strategic roads on the Sino-Indian border.  BrahMos is a stealth supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land and has been inducted in all the three services.

Change of baton at IGAR (S)

Imphal, September 23 2011: Maj Gen UK Gurung,YSM has taken over as the Inspector General Assam Rifles (South) from Major General CA Krishnan, AVSM today.  Maj Gen UK Gurung arrived from New Delhi on September 20, said a press release issued by PRO Hqs IGAR (S) .  He is an alumni of National Defence College and graduate of DSSC Wellington.  He has commanded an operational Headquarters in J&K and has held many distinguished command and staff appointment of the Indian Army.  The press release added, he is a highly qualified officer who has been handpicked for the important assignment.  Maj Gen CA Krishnan relinquished his command as IGAR (S) after a very eventful and 'fruitful tenure which saw Hqs IGAR(S) attain new pinnacles of glory, it added.  Maj Gen CA Krishnan and Mrs Krishnan were given a warm farewell during a simple ceremony held at Mantripukhri today.    CA Krishnan hands over charge to Gurung CA Krishnan hands over charge to Gurung   During his farewell ceremony, he appealed to the people of Manipur to participate in the peace process, hand in hand with Assam Rifles and Army.  He expressed his gratitude to all sections of people including civil administration, Government of Manipur and members of the media of Manipur for their unstinted support, constructive criticism and affection.  He also congratulated the new IGAR(S) on taking over the baton and wished him good luck for his tenure in Manipur.


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