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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

From Today's Papers - 19 Oct 2011





Upgrading NSG Special forces deserve better attention

Special Forces around the world are elite organisations held in high esteem. These play a vital role in crisis situations such as in anti-terrorist or stealth operation of the kind seen during the taking out of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan’s Abbottabad. In India, however, recognition of and importance to Special Forces has been slow to come by. Seemingly, now, the government appears to be waking up to the necessity of according serious attention to the National Security Guard (NSG), the country’s federal-level special response unit raised to counter terrorists, which had played a vital role in neutralising Pakistani terrorists during the 26/11 attack in Mumbai.  On the 27th raising day of this elite force this weekend, the NSG’s Director General announced plans of strengthening the force with two more units of 1,600 commandos and upgrading the force with more sophisticated weapon systems and other aids. Some of the gadgets are to be provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). While the plan is laudable and in keeping with the security situation in the country, the government needs to bear in mind the record of the DRDO which has been high on promises but low on delivery. The government must ensure that it sticks to its plan to augment and upgrade the force. The government has not made much headway in its F-INSAS programme (Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System) aimed at upgrading Infantry soldiers with similar equipment announced with much fanfare over half-a-decade ago.  The NSG is a vital Special Force for the country. In fact, it is the country’s only Special Force equipped and trained to handle a wide range of anti-terrorist operations at close quarters – be it evoking the surrender of terrorists from inside the Golden Temple during Operation Black Thunder-II in May 1988, neutralising a hijacker of an Indian Airlines aircraft at Amritsar airport in 1994, conducting hostage rescue operations in Jammu and Kashmir and from inside a temple in Gujarat, counter-insurgency operations in the mountainous terrain of Doda or, more recently, neutralising Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai. The government must accord the highest priority to this Special Force considering that challenges posed by terrorists have become far more complex and complicated.

Indo-Afghan strategic pact New high in Indian diplomacy

by T.V. Rajeswar  India and Afghanistan signed a historic strategic pact in New Delhi on October 4. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put their signatures to the pact, thereby taking the diplomatic initiative of both countries to a new high in international relations.  For Afghanistan, it was the first time that it entered into any such strategic pact with any country. It is 10 years since the Americans returned to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaida on the World Trade Centre in New York. While Osama bin Laden was eliminated by the US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the Taliban menace within Afghanistan has continued. The Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network, are Islamist militias with a long history of fighting foreign occupations of Afghanistan. These elements were the primary instrument which the Americans made full use of while fighting the Russians who had invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s.  The Taliban factions are not only against the American and other NATO forces in Afghanistan, but also against the Karzai administration. In mid-September the Haqqani network launched an attack on the American Embassy and other targets in Kabul. A few days later, the Taliban sent a suicide bomber and assassinated Burhanuddin Rabbani, former President of Afghanistan and designated by President Hamid Karzai as the leader to negotiate peace with the Taliban.  All these brought Pakistan directly into the range of being as guilty as the Taliban led by Haqqani. Gen. Mike Mullen, Chairman of America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that the Haqqani network was a veritable arm of Pakistan’s ISI. His comments raised a storm of protest in Islamabad. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar declared that America stood the danger of losing its ally in the fight against terrorism.  Pakistan’s agenda in Afghanistan is obviously aimed at bringing the Taliban to power thereby ensuring strategic depth which Pakistan, particularly its politicised army, has always looked for.  President Hamid Karzai delivered an address in New Delhi under the auspices of a leading think-tank, the Observer Research Foundation, on October 5, where he spoke in highly appreciative terms about India’s strategic partnership and its continuous help to Afghanistan. He said India had been continuously helping Afghanistan in respect of its requirements in various fields like infrastructure, education and defence.  He asked for strategic roads to be constructed, bridging India and Afghanistan as well as other neighbours. He wanted a large number of scholarships for his students and got as many as 2400 from the Government of India. A large number of Afghan students would now be trained to become engineers, doctors, teachers, etc. Dr Karzai characterised this as the real strategic partnership and not merely an agreement to train and equip the security forces.  Most importantly, India extended economic help to the tune of $ 2 billion to Afghanistan, which will be spent on various infrastructure facilities.  The strategic pact between India and Afghanistan, not unexpectedly, raised hackles in Pakistan.  A Pakistani spokesman said that it was Islamabad’s expectation that everyone, especially those in the position of authority in Afghanistan, would demonstrate requisite maturity and responsibility and that this was not the time for scoring points, playing politics or grand-standing.  A Pakistan Army officer commented that the Indians were throwing money at their favourites in Afghanistan; the Russians and the Iranians were also doing the same. He went on to say that Pakistan also must necessarily play the game. Since Pakistan had no money, it could only use the ‘crazies’, meaning the Taliban. Pakistan believed that it had no choice except to make common cause with the Taliban against the Afghanistan Army, which was equipped by the Americans and would now be helped by the Indians, leading to a dangerous possibility of a two-front war against Pakistan, sandwiched between India and Afghanistan.  October 7 marked the 10th anniversary of America’s war in Afghanistan, the longest in the US history. The total cost for the Americans in terms of casualties is 1777. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Talibans fighters were killed by July 2011. There were also Afghanistan civilian deaths which were estimated between 12,500 and 14,700. The Americans expect that they would have spent about $ 557 billion by the end of 2012.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed on October 9 a strong constructive relationship among India, China and the US to handle the pressing issues of the 21st century. Hillary added that India’s leadership would help shape positive developments in the future not only in South and Central Asia, but also in the Asia-Pacific. She urged New Delhi not just to look east, but also to engage the east. She went on to explain that the US was committed to a strong constructive relationship among India, the US and China.  Appreciating India’s engagement with other countries, Hillary said it could serve as a model for the entire region. She specifically referred to India providing $ 2 billion as part of the strategic pact with Afghanistan whose security forces India would now train and equip. She also pointed out that the US and India were now making progress on a broad range of issues, including regional security, development and renewable energy. She referred to the forthcoming talks between India and the US on a range of exchange programmes and that all these would strengthen their shared campaign against terrorism.  Viewed in the context of Hillary Clinton’s observations, the historic strategic partnership pact between India and Afghanistan marks a quantum jump for Indian diplomacy.  President Obama said a few days back that Pakistan’s military and intelligence services’ links with extremists were troubling and that Pakistan should learn to live in peace with India and not to treat that country as its enemy. A peaceful approach towards India would be in everybody’s interest, he added.  Viewing dispassionately, all these exhortations and hopes expressed by President Obama, closely followed by Hillary Clinton, are not likely to please Pakistan at all. A country like Pakistan cannot be expected to change overnight in its hostility towards India. If nothing else, the recent developments may provoke Pakistan to take a swipe at India through its notorious proxies like the Lashkar-e-Toiba. This may happen in J&K and elsewhere and India should be prepared for all such eventualities.  The writer, a former Governor of UP and West Bengal, is a retired chief of Intelligence Bureau.

China stops issuing stapled visas to J&K residents

New Delhi, October 18 China appears to have quietly discontinued the practice of issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir, thus removing a major irritant in the complex Sino-Indian relationship.  “The issue perhaps is behind us now,” sources in the government said when asked about the row between India and China that erupted more than two years back after Beijing started giving visas on separate sheets to Indian residents of J&K, thereby questioning the status of the state.  The sources said that since last October New Delhi has not come across any instance in which the Chinese Embassy has given a stapled visa to a J&K national.  The immigration authorities at airports in India were under strict instructions during the past two years not to allow any Indian having been issued stapled visa by the Chinese Embassy to board an aircraft.  New Delhi had taken up the issue with Beijing as and when an opportunity came and asked it to rectify the situation in the interest of the bilateral relationship. In fact, there was also an immense pressure on Indian authorities to start issuing stapled visas to Chinese residents of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in a tit-for-tat exercise.  In December last when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India, he had assured Indian leaders that Beijing would amicably settle the issue to India’s satisfaction.  “We have not come across any instance of a J&K resident being given a stapled visa in the past one year, we believe the matter is closed,” sources added.  Asked if China had also stopped issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Arunachal Pradesh, the sources said the northeastern state fell in an entirely different category. They were alluding to the fact that China lays claim to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.  Meanwhile, amid the simmering tension between them over New Delhi inking an accord with Vietnam for oil exploration in the South China Sea, India and China are finalising the dates for the 15th round of talks between their Special Representatives (SRs) over the boundary issue.  Sources said the meeting was likely to be held by the end of the month or early November in New Delhi. National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon is the SR on the Indian side while State Councillor Dai Bingguo leads China at these talks.  Though 14 rounds of talks have been held so far between the SRs, the two countries have made little progress in resolving the dispute over their more than 3,500-4,000-km long border. However, both sides have pledged to resolve the border dispute peacefully through talks.

Border meeting soon  n India and China are finalising the dates for the 15th round of talks between their Special Representatives to resolve the long-pending boundary dispute n Sources said the meeting was likely to be held by the end of this month or early November in New Delhi n Though 14 rounds of talks have been held so far between the SRs, the two countries have made little progress till date  We have not come across any instance of a J&K resident being given a stapled visa in the past one year, we believe the matter is closed.

Understanding India’s ‘cold start’ doctrine

Jawaharlal Nehru laid a strong democratic foundation for India. The Indian armed forces have since been kept on a tight leash by civilian governments in New Delhi. With policy dictating and controlling the levers of strategy, it could be concluded that many wars which the Indian military may have otherwise wanted against Pakistan were forestalled.  Of late, the Indian army’s controversial cold start doctrine (CSD) has been the focus of intense debate in Pakistani military circles over the past few years. Analysis and comments have appeared from time to time and last year the Pakistani army, fully backed by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted a major exercise to beef up response options. A closer look at the CSD, however, reveals that there was, and still is, deep discord between the Indian political and military leadership on the worth of executing the punitive, Pakistan-specific CSD.  The government of Manmohan Singh has clearly distanced itself from the CSD with several senior government officials saying that they ‘never endorsed, supported, or advocated this doctrine’. In an interview last year, even the incumbent Indian army chief General VK Singh simply denied the existence of the CSD. “There is nothing called ‘Cold Start’ and as part of our overall strategy, we have a number of contingencies and options, depending on what the aggressor does. In recent years, we’ve been improving our systems with respect to mobilisation, but our basic military posture is defensive,” he said. The Indian army is currently conducting exercises in Rajasthan, on the border with Pakistan, and it remains to be seen whether they are linked to the CSD in any way. But what can be safely assumed is that the Indian army is quite far from achieving the goal of remodelling; more specifically raising the eight independent battle groups (IBGs) required for CSD to be put into effect.  For the benefit of readers, India’s ‘cold start doctrine’ relates to the execution of a ‘limited war’ in nuclear overhang in response to a conventional attack. It involves moving forces quickly into unpredictable locations and making decisions faster than one’s opponent. The doctrine permits attacking first and mobilising later, thus increasing the possibility of a sudden spiral of escalation in hostilities. The problem is that the application of military power in a nuclear environment greatly reduces the space for errors with the burden of minimising mistakes clearly resting upon the initiator. Determining or exploiting that strategic space, beneath the nuclear threshold for a ‘punitive strike’, is easier said than done. Had this not been true, the ideal time for the execution of CSD by the Indians was following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.  On account of the lack of territorial depth and concentration of population centres close to borders, Pakistan is at a distinct disadvantage. It would have little flexibility in the event an IBG lodges in some strategically important area. This is bound to generate a full potential response from the Pakistani military including employment of its latest weaponry, i.e. the Nasr-Hatf 9 (supposedly a tactical nuclear weapon) test-fired in April this year. With a single nuclear detonation by Pakistan, irrespective of whose territory it occurs on, India too could swiftly reverse its declared no-first-use policy.  It could be argued that the Indian army has nonetheless conducted several exercises in the past to validate the CSD. While the results of these exercises remain unclear, the makeover of a defensive corps into independent battle groups requires a sustained process and investment. It requires a fully integrated command and control architecture; improved fire-power potential; attending to various operational shortfalls including the replacement of obsolete equipment as well as considerably improving operational readiness of existing hardware.  The bulk of the equipment needed for operationalising the CSD by the Indian army, is already near the end of its service life. The T-90 main battle tank tanks, the main component in the IBGs, are reportedly running into serious problems, specifically issues with its thermal imaging system and difficulties in operating them in hot weather.  The under-production Arjun MKII main battle tank that performed well in comparative trials against the T-90s, is believed to be the world’s most expensive tank. It costs over eight million dollars apiece — which is almost four times the cost of the T-90s which Russia supplies. Hence, the 250 or Arjun MKIIs that have been ordered, are going to take a significant chunk of India’s defence budget. It is believed that the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy were initially reluctant partners in adopting the CSD.  In a limited war, the type of ‘dominance’ desired by the initiator is of central significance. The ‘end state’ must be one that meets the criteria of being perceived at least, if not more, as a ‘victory’. Also, what would be the extent of ‘punitive action’ in the CSD? Since the level of destruction has to be carefully controlled, it could invariably lead to only partial accomplishment of the aim. The political and psychological dimensions, nonetheless, demand that a bigger country, in a war with a smaller one, must be unmistakably seen as having overpowered the latter. So, even a stalemate would be perceived as a triumph of the smaller nation. The war in 1965 with the US in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan against rag-tag militias are cases in point. There are serious doubts whether such an end state can be achieved by the Indians against the Pakistan army via the CSD, without India being put at undue risk.  Being inherently flawed and risky, there are not many buyers of the CSD even within the Indian military’s own ranks. It is unlikely that the concept will ever be integrated into the overall operational plans of the Indian army. The political leadership, too, is less likely to be ever on the same page with the military brass. In short, while the CSD may not be an empty threat, it definitely stands frozen — at least for now. And while threats cannot and must not be left to conjectures, overstating or assigning unnecessarily higher precedence to challenges that are not ‘clear and present danger’ means playing into the hands of the enemy and diverting precious resources which could otherwise come in handy for more important operations.

Relying on imports for critical defence needs a concern'

By IANS,  New Delhi : With imports accounting for 70 percent of the hardware in the inventory of the armed forces, the government said Tuesday this was a matter of concern and the situation should be upended in favour of domestic suppliers.  "Despite a vast industrial infrastructure, we are still a long way from establishing ourselves as a major defence equipment manufacturing nation, with heavy reliance on imports. The government views import of critical capabilities with concern and is committed to correct this imbalance," Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said, while inaugurating a two-day seminar on 'Command, Control, Computers, Communication, Intelligence and Information (C4I2)' here.  He said the imbalance between domestic supplies and imports of defence equipment "can only be corrected by expansion of the indigenous defence industrial base, increasing investment in research and development, identification of core technologies, where India is already a lead country, and by promoting private-public partnership."  The perception that the private and the public sector are potential rivals is misplaced, Raju said, noting that there was great scope for developing "a synchronised approach" in strengthening and widening the defence industrial base.  "I am optimistic that competition will give way to cooperation, enabling both to grow as prospective partners in the defence industry," he said.  Referring to the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), Raju said it looked at the industry as "a capable partner" in providing the means for the transformation that the government sought.  "The offset policy in DPP is sure to provide a fair playing ground to both the public and private sectors leading to an enhanced domestic capability," he said.  Raju also called for a greater participation by the industry in the field of information technology to harness this for national security.  "For this, there is an urgent need for the Indian industry to give greater attention to research and development for ensuring that cutting edge technology is available to the Indian armed forces. It will be my endeavour to create a level playing field and ensure that greater opportunities are given to Indian entrepreneurs."  Raju said major revolutions in information and communication technology were transforming the very basis of accepted notions of warfare and global security.  "The modern battlefield scenario is becoming more and more complex due to increase in ranges and complexity of military equipment, advances in information technology and sophistication of C4I2 structures and net-centric warfare.  "Adoption of the latest technology in developing new warfare systems would propel us towards our goal of achieving a technological edge over the adversary in prevailing decisively across the entire spectrum of conflict with reduced force levels and minimal casualties," Raju added.  Noting that cyber security and security of defence networks was "a big challenge", he expressed confidence in the Indian armed forces addressing emerging challenges while developing their C4I2 networks.  Raju said future military operations would be carried out joinly by the army, navy and air force, where the desired level of synergy with flow of correlated and intelligent information between the three services was very high.  "To translate any joint doctrine into action, interoperability between the army, navy and air force is crucial," he said.  "While each service is developing its network centricity, much work is underway in formulating policies and standards that will facilitate this integration," Raju added.

Of myths and tall claims

Underlining his government’s achievements while addressing the journalists in an oath-taking ceremony of the Lahore Press Club’s executive body members on Sunday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made a number of claims. He said that his government made the army answerable to parliament for the first time in the history of the country and that his government had no issues with the army chief or the chief justice of Pakistan, as was the case with previous governments. He even went on to say that his government sets the foreign policy and not the General Headquarters (GHQ). He said that his government resisted the US pressure and demanded good relations with it on the basis of equality. PM Gilani snubbed those who are talking about a change of government before the General Elections due in 2013.  Unfortunately, PM Gilani claims occurrences that have never taken place in our country. These are still mere ideals and the government requires more political maturity and commitment to turn them into reality. Denying the strong role of Pakistan’s military establishment in the country’s politics and the formation of foreign policy does not make the situation any less of a farce. Everyone knows how the ISI chief gave the parliamentarians a briefing in an in-camera session of the National Assembly on May 13 after the Osama Bin Laden incident, which brought both domestic and international condemnation on the heads of the government and the armed forces. Despite expectations that those responsible for the debacle in the armed forces would be held responsible and accountable for the criminally grave intelligence and security lapse, nothing happened. Challenging the country’s sovereignty, the US invaded our territory, launched an operation and fled with their target without facing any resistance from Pakistan’s defence forces. Again in the All Parties Conference (APC) that was convened to mull over the tense Pak-US relations on the issue of ISI’s unrelenting support to the Haqqani network, an acknowledged terrorist group, except PML-N’s president Nawaz Sharif and the chairman of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Mehmood Achakzai, nobody dared to question the ISI’s engagement with terrorist groups and its ambitions in volatile Afghanistan. The APC concluded in traditional style, bowing before the army’s dictate as has been done by all other former civilian governments. Pakistan joined the US war on terror during a general’s regime. Now it has ostensibly distanced itself from it, again when the US denied $ 800 million military assistance to the army in the post-OBL scenario. It is Pakistan’s military establishment that decides the country’s foreign policy, particularly vis-à-vis the US and in the region. The improving relations of Pakistan with India are also a part of the army’s strategy as at present it is busy in operations against militant groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. The army does not want to open an old standing yet recently largely irrelevant front with India. It seems that in recent days all stakeholders have either supported or accepted the need for better relations with our neighbour. The judiciary is an important yet reluctant and critical ally of the executive. Just because the people are not out on the streets protesting against the current set up should not be taken to mean that present setup is of even mediocre satisfaction to anybody. To borrow a phrase from Imran Khan, ‘in the twilight of its career’, the present government should deliver something substantive to help those unfortunate many who toiled and planned for the return of democracy to the land, in congruence with its tall claims. *


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