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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 28 Dec 2011

Remove heavy guns from LoC: Pak to India
Washington, December 27 Heavy artillery should be removed from the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has suggested to India during the two-day talks being held in Islamabad on conventional and nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs), a media report said on Tuesday.  After a gap of four years, Pakistan and India Monday held talks on conventional CBMs, while discussions on nuclear CBMs were held Tuesday.  The talks are the first formal engagement since Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in the Maldives at the SAARC summit meeting early in November.  The Wall Street Journal reported that Pakistan made the proposal on removing heavy artillery on Monday.  Islamabad suggested that artillery of greater than 120 mm be moved 30 km from the LoC. The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.  The expert-level meeting on nuclear and conventional CBMs is being held after a gap of four years.  YK Sinha, Joint Secretary in charge of Pakistan desk in India's External Affairs Ministry, is leading the Indian side at the talks on conventional CBMs. The talks on nuclear CBMs were led by Venkatesh Verma, Joint Secretary in charge of disarmament in India's External Affairs Ministry.  Munawar Saeed Bhatti, additional secretary in Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, heads the Pakistan delegation for both expert groups.  Pakistan and India resumed in February early this year their dialogue process that was stalled after the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack perpetrated by Pakistani terrorists. — IANS
Missile tests notification  Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Tuesday decided to move forward on proposals to extend two key agreements on pre-notification of ballistic missile tests and reducing the risk from accidents related to nuclear weapons, diplomatic sources said. Following two-day talks on nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures, senior officials of the two countries agreed to recommend to their Foreign Secretaries to extend the validity of the ‘Agreement on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons’ for five years. — PTI

‘Keeping preparations under wraps was a feat
Shyam Bhatia in London  Successfully concealing preparations for the 1974 nuclear test was a significant achievement of India’s scientific establishment. So said Dr Robert Anderson, visiting Fellow at Cambridge and Professor of the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Canada.  He is the author of several works about India’s nuclear research, including ‘Building scientific institutions: Meghnad Saha and Homi Bhabha’, the more recently published ‘Nucleus and Nation’ and the soon-to-be completed ‘Negotiating Nuclear Power’.  Asked what is new and surprising about a subject that he has researched for so many years, he said, “That a significant number of physicists, technicians and engineers with respect to the bomb could over three or four years work together very quietly without producing paper, without leaking this knowledge very widely.  “So outside the Prime Minister’s office…very few persons knew there was going to be a test and when it would occur. They did create the conditions and they tested it successfully without anyone’s realisation.  “In India, this is always described as impossible. It is not me who is saying it, but an Indian self-definition that they are not a nation very good at keeping secrets.”  Based on his research at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) archives in Vienna, Anderson added, “I think we now know a great deal about the planning and the pressures on the people who eventually built the tunnels and designed the devices and the triggers and so on and who tested the weapon.  “But I’m also working…on how the so-called peaceful nuclear explosion was defined as early as 1968 - although some definitions had been around much earlier than ’68. This was a definition into which Indian voices could step into.  “Ramanna was there at the meetings around the peaceful nuclear explosion from 1970. So well before the test in ’74, Indians were present and engaged in conversations about peaceful nuclear explosions.”  The men behind it  As an anthropologist, Anderson’s unique contribution to a better understanding of India’s nuclear programme are the insights he brings to assessing the work and personalities of key scientists.  Homi Bhabha is the scientist who most often comes to mind when discussing India’s nuclear research, but Anderson points out that there were many others who were just as important.  They include giants of their time like Meghnad Saha, who predicted way back in 1939 that it would be possible one day to use a nuclear bomb to blow up a battleship, KS Krishnan and Sir Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, Secretary of the Atomic Energy Committee back in 1946 and the first head of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, who died in 1955.  Saha, Krishnan and Nazir Ahmed, later the first chair of the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission, were members of the Indian delegation of scientists that toured Western research facilities in Britain, Canada and the US in 1944-45 - part of the Manhattan Project - where preparations were under way for the world’s first nuclear test in New Mexico in 1945.  They were in many ways the intellectual precursors of men like Bhabha, who was killed in an air crash in 1966, as well as Raja Ramanna and PK Iyengar who each played a key role in preparations for the 1974 test, described at the time as a peaceful nuclear explosion or PNE.  Peaceful blast?  Addressing the issue of whether 1974 was a weapons test or a genuine bid to explore PNEs, Anderson said, “The Russians were committed to it. They did underground testing. We have a paper now on Russian underground tests of 1955. They blew up mountains, whole mountains. They were testing very large weapons, but they were always interested in seismic effects. I don’t know in the beginning to what end, but by the 60s, they had engineers who said they could create large cavities for oil, shale oil in particular.  “So these caverns or cavities were interesting to them. Then, they and the Americans started talking in the 60s about removing geological obstacles - it is called explosive engineering and that’s quite an old business.  “In 1958, the largest non-nuclear explosion in history occurred in April 1958 near my village in British Columbia. It was the destruction of the famous navigation obstacle called Ripple Rock, using 1,300 tons of Nitramex 2H to blow up 370,000 tonnes of rock underneath 300,000 tons of water, all at 100m below the surface.  “This is precisely what the blast engineering community was doing. I think there is a transfer of the blasting idea to the nuclear testing community, obsessed as it then was with seismic detection and eventually to ‘advanced warning’ of testing between Russians and Americans.”

Friendlier B’desh to address security issues in N-E
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, December 27 With bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh improving, there has also been a marked change in the attitude of Bangladesh military officers, who are becoming increasingly amicable towards their Indian counterparts.  The improvement in relations also has ramifications on the regional security environment as well as Indian efforts in combating insurgency in the North-East.  A significant change in Bangladesh is that the role of the Indian armed forces in its liberation is being now openly acknowledged. This was witnessed during the annual Victory Day celebrations on December 16 to mark the birth of the country.  This is the impression of a delegation of Indian war veterans who took part in the 1971 operations. They recently returned from Dhaka after participating in the Victory Day functions on an invitation from Bangladesh.  “Earlier, prominence was given only to the Bangadeshi Mukti Bahini guerilla fighters during such functions. But now, the Bangladeshi establishment openly gives due credit to the Indian armed forces,” said Lt Gen HS Panag (retd), one of the senior-most officer in the delegation. During the 1971 war, he was a company commander with 4 Sikh that was awarded the Battle Honour Siromony and Theatre Honour Jessore for its contribution.  Photo exhibitions organised in Dhaka and elsewhere on the occasion also displayed the famous picture of the then military ruler of East Pakistan, Lt Gen AAK Niazi, signing the instrument of surrender in the presence of the then GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, Lt Gen JS Aurora and other Indian commanders. Several other pictures of Indian commanders and troops had also been put up.  The delegation included 19 war veterans, including one each from the Air Force and the Navy. Among them was Air Vice Marshal BK Bishnoi who had led a devastating air raid on the presidential palace, then known as the Governor’s Residence, in Dhaka.  At the same place - 40 years later - he, along with his companions, was a guest at a reception hosted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.  Serving as the commanding officer of the “First Supersonics”, a MiG-21 squadron based in the east, Air Vice Marshal Bishnoi was decorated with the Vir Chakra. He was also able to give his companions a realistic briefing on the layout of the compound, the angle and direction of approach and the assessed damage. The Naval officer, Rear Admiral SK Gupta, had, as a lieutenant commander in 1971, commanded the air wing on INS Vikrant and was decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra for carrying out over a dozen strike missions on high-profile targets.  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina too acknowledged the role of the Indian armed forces in 1971. The Bangladeshi President and Prime Minister has specifically called for the delegation and spent time with it.  Apart from visiting several places of historic importance, the delegation also called upon the Bangladeshi service chiefs, the Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division and attended the Victory Day parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial.  General Panag said that unlike in India, all war memorials in Bangladesh were very well maintained and “there is a lesson in it for India to learn”.  Security experts point out that improved Indo-Bangladesh relations would be advantageous to India in combating insurgency in the North-East.

India’s belated activism Hard power must back diplomacy on China
by Air Marshal R.S. Bedi  After a long hiatus, India has taken some bold geo-strategic initiatives. This may be a manifestation of India’s new found confidence, but it could also result in provocation and confrontation, as is already obvious from China’s and Pakistan’s reactions to India’s involvement in South China Sea and Afghanistan. China has also resented India taking long overdue security measures along the northern borders. Is India in a position to meet these additional security challenges at a time when it needs to direct all its energies and resources towards building the nation as a rising power?  The government’s decision to come to grips with the Chinese growing belligerence and unreasonable demands coupled with mounting security challenges is a significant event. All this while, India followed an accommodative approach towards China and even held back from augmenting and upgrading security infrastructure for fear of antagonising it. But China’s demands became more and more unreasonable and even ‘outrageous’. It has gone as far as to demand the cancellation of the Dalai Lama’s address at the Buddhist Conference on November 30 in Delhi, failing which 15th round of border talks scheduled for November 28-29 would be cancelled. India stood firm and cancelled the boundary talks.  Despite watching the Chinese building comprehensive infrastructure in Tibet, India did not respond in a similar manner, noises made by the armed forces and the state administrations notwithstanding. The Chinese have built a number of airfields for fighter bomber operations, metalled roads and railways for expeditious induction of troops and wherewithal opposite Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and storage facilities for surface-to-surface missiles, leaving India further behind by a decade with dirt roads, ill-prepared landing grounds and without any worthwhile infrastructure. After overlooking the Chinese threat for years and following a policy bordering on appeasement, the government seems to have at last become vigilant. The MOD plans to induct nearly one lakh additional soldiers in the next few years that include raising of four new divisions for the Sino-Indian border, two of which would constitute Mountain Strike Corp dedicated for offensive operations. Besides, two independent brigades for deployment opposite Ladakh and Uttarakhand are also on the anvil. The government has decided to incur an expenditure of Rs 64,000 crore ( $13 billion) in trying to match belatedly the Chinese offensive posture and aggressiveness.  Years of strategic indifference has put the armed forces at considerable disadvantage. To bridge this ever-increasing gap is not very easy. The Chinese are way ahead of India in almost all respects of military wherewithal and infrastructure to facilitate quick movement. Besides, they have indigenous capability to manufacture all their hardware which we lack totally and depend entirely on foreign vendors.  Both the government and the armed forces have now commenced work to contain the progressively aggressive Chinese. The air force has started refurbishing its long ignored landing grounds in the western as well as eastern sectors and relocating advance aircraft like the SU-30 MKI and other assets. The army too has been relocating its assets, including missiles, to make them operationally more viable. No way can India match the Chinese might in the near perspective. Whilst India builds itself, it must strive to contain any Sino-Indian clash within diplomatic bounds.  India took another bold step in signing a strategic partnership agreement with anarchic war-ravaged Afghanistan during President Karzai’s visit to India in October this year. India has thus entered into another potential conflict area with China as well as Pakistan. Pakistan is waiting in the wings for the US and the NATO forces to withdraw by 2014 so that it could establish its hegemony with the help of its proxies like the Haqqanis and ensure long cherished strategic depth against India. India’s strategic alliance with Afghanistan is, therefore, seen by Pakistan as an impediment in achieving this objective.  India has invested $2 billion in development and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. Obviously, India, like others, has its own interests. It will perhaps try for hydro-carbons. China too in search of energy and minerals has a long-term interest in Afghanistan. In fact, China has already signed contracts for extracting metals like copper. This may lead to negation of each other’s influence and a consequent clash of economic interests.  How India creates space for itself in this quagmire of clashing politico-economic interests and helps Afghanistan to stabilise as the powers that be now expect it to do without getting embroiled too much in it is a moot point. However desirable it may be to increase the foot print in Afghanistan, success is likely to elude India. India does not have the requisite will power and capacity to bring about any meaningful changes in Afghanistan in the face of severe opposition from Pakistan and other players in the field.  India’s foray in South China Sea is another bold initiative, not quite bereft of serious ramifications. The Petro Vietnam and the ONGC Videsh of India signed a deal for oil exploration in South China Sea during Vietnam President Truong Tang Sang’s recent visit to India, overlooking Beijing’s objections. India asserted its right to do so despite Chinese vehement objections and stern warnings. A communist party affiliated paper went on to say that India was risking its own energy security by “challenging the core interest of a large rising country for unknown oil at the bottom of sea”. The Chinese government also issued a demarche which India rejected outright and asserted its right to explore oil in block 127 and 128 of South China Sea, legally claimed by the government of Vietnam on the basis of international norms.  It seems that the government is not only trying to match Chinese activism in South and South East Asia but also trying to puncture holes in Beijing’s policy of containment of India. Playing host to the Presidents of Vietnam and Myanmar, two immediate South-East neighbours of China and members of ASEAN, was a well orchestrated geo-strategic move on the part of India. China sees India’s resolve to enhance its clout in South East Asia as inimical to its interest.  China claims full sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, ignoring the claims of other countries. It has warned all countries, including India, to refrain from undertaking any oil exploration in blocks offered by Vietnam. However, unfazed by Chinese threats, Vietnam asserts its right to engage friendly countries to explore hydro-carbon in areas falling within its jurisdiction. These oil and gas fields lie on the continental shelf within the exclusive economic zone under the sovereign rights of Vietnam and in total conformity with the 1982 UN Convention on laws of the Sea.  India cannot back out without losing face. Besides, India’s rising population and growing economy requiring higher standards of living will create pressures for meeting the ever-rising need for energy. The Chinese too have similar compulsions. If both sides stick to their stated positions, a Sino-Indian conflict could be inevitable.  As a rising power desirous of being active geo-strategically, India should be able to take care of its interest beyond its national frontiers. Whilst both the Indian navy and the air force have some trans-nation and trans-ocean capabilities, these need to be built further substantially. It is doubtful whether the navy and the air force are currently in a position to concentrate their combat powers away from home. That is the measure of their real capabilities. We are woefully short in this. A resurgent economy by itself is not sufficient. Diplomacy too needs to be backed by hard power.

Indian Army Jawans involved in armed robbery – Assam Police
In an incident that should put the Defense and security forces to utter shame, a group of Indian Army personnel has been accused of armed robbery.  As per sources of Assam Police, it was a heavily armed army group, including a lady officer of Captain Rank who carried out a robbery at the house of Poona Gogoi of in Jorhat town a week ago. During the robbery, the armed group of about 10 people tied up Gogoi’s wife, two teenaged sons and daughter with a rope, locked them up inside a room and robbed them off lakhs of cash and other valuables.  As per reports, the group had come in a Maruti gypsy and a Tata Indica respectively and was actually seen near the site of the incident by a police patrol at night before the crime was committed. When questioned, the gang had told the police team that they were Assam Rifles personnel on official duty.  Jorhat superintendent of police, Sanjukta Parasor has stated to the media that the police have clear evidence of the involvement of some army personnel in the robbery and that the members of the entire group, including a lady officer, were from the intelligence and surveillance unit of the army’s 3 Corps headquarters. The 3 Corps is based at Rangapahar near Dimapur in Nagaland, about a three hour drive from Jorhat.  It is to mentioned that Police was able to get a clue about this incident by tracking the calls made from a mobile phone stolen from the robbed house. An army Jawan, Sandeep Thapa, was found making regular calls from the mobile phone. Later, the police also showed a photograph of the lady officer, who was involved in the crime to the Gogoi family who identified her as one of the robbers.  The SP has confirmed that Jorhat police has contacted the 3 Corps authorities but there was no response so far. The State Government has also been informed.  People of Northeast have witnessed the brutalities of the Armed forces in the name of controlling militancy for decade in the form of reported rapes and fake encounters and a robbery is not a big surprise that way. It just calls to remind the authorities that the Indian Army personnel are not above law and any Army personnel found involved should be strictly punished. However the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) often provides immunity to such culprits and this law needs to be really amended or withdrawn.

Is Pakistan's army conspiring to take over the government?
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Massive political rallies coupled with persistent mudslinging by the political opposition broadcast live on local television gives the appearance here that an election season is in full swing. But, at least for now, Pakistan's parliamentary elections are more than a year away.  One scandal after another, some reaching the the country's Supreme Court, have plagued President Asif Ali Zardari and his the ruling party, the Pakistan's People's Party (PPP) in recent weeks, and have given rise to calls for the resignation of the country’s leadership and hopes for an early election.  And all this is taking place amid a widespread conspiracy theory that the army is lending a hidden hand to make it happen. Despite the opposition’s slander, however, the government and many of the opposing political parties agree on one thing: They are not interested in a military take-over.  More from GlobalPost: Is Pakistan's president about to resign?  “This is a great departure in our history. It looks like this consensus is no longer going to offer the military establishment the opportunity or option to use one section of politicians against another,” said Rashid Rehman, editor of the Daily Times, an English-language newspaper in Pakistan.  Rehman referred to the 1990s when the PPP and its main opponent at the time, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, with the help of the military, took turns dismissing each other’s governments to ascend to the throne themselves.  But analysts say this current consensus is “weak and tentative” and doesn’t mean the PPP can breath a sigh of relief or even that civil-military relations are about to become more favorable toward the government.  It only means that an army coup, overt or covert, would need to be orchestrated more carefully than ever before. Some Pakistanis believe such a plan is already underway. The story goes, according to the country's chattering class, that the military will rely on the Supreme Court, which can recommend the dismissal of the president.  The theory may have legs. The Supreme Court is already investigating accusations that the government sought Washington's help in preventing a military take-over of the Zaradari administration. In return it offers to eliminate a wing of the military's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, that is believed to maintain relations with militants, and other changes to Pakistan's security infrastructure.

Government making big investments in defence undertakings: Pallam Raju
Hyderabad, Dec 27 (ANI): Minister of State for Defence, Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju has said that the Central Government is making big investments in modernising different sectors of the Indian Army.    Speaking on the sidelines of an event here, Raju said the government is also taking the issue of self-reliance seriously in the context of manufacturing artillery.
"We are investing a lot of money in modernising these facilities, thus the country has built up very carefully over a period of time with great tenacity- we have put a lot of effort and money into this. You can feel proud of the quality of men and facilities that we have all over India. Now it is time to modernise, upgrade what we have and that is what we are doing with all the defence PSUs (Public Sector Units) and the Ordinance Factory Boards," he added.    He further said his ministry is working towards parallel encouragement of the private sector in order to attain the goal.    "Unfortunately as far as the Army is concerned we have been suffering because of cancellation of tenders due to black listing of companies, there is a quest to modernise our artillery so in those efforts we hope that in the next couple of years we will make significant progress," he added.    Pallam Raju further said that the level of purchase is going up and it could be over 50,000 billion rupees as per security needs over next five years. (ANI)

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