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Monday, 27 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 27 Feb 2012
Festering Baloch crisis
Islamabad’s offer unlikely to help

Pakistan’s Balochistan problem continues to be a festering sore with rebel leaders from the province having got asylum in Switzerland a few years back. The harsh policies of Islamabad forced them to first go underground and then move abroad after the killing of Nawab Akbar Khan Bughti in 2006. Since then they have been effectively carrying on their crusade to end the exploitation of Balochistan by Islamabad. Among the nationalist Baloch leaders working from abroad are Nawab Bughti’s grandson Brahamdagh Bughti and Hyrbyiar Marri. However, the Balochistan Nationalist Party chief, Sardar Akhter Mengal, has been fighting for the cause of Balochistan from within Pakistan. He has rejected the Pakistan government’s latest offer that all the cases against the Baloch leaders in Europe will be withdrawn if they come back home. The offer came after some behind-the-scene meetings between the two sides.

The Baloch leadership is unimpressed by Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s announcement of amnesty because of the huge trust deficit between the government and the Baloch rebels. Islamabad’s attitude has always been discriminatory against Balochistan and hence their unwillingness to take any offer from the government seriously. The Pakistan government cannot succeed in winning over the hearts of the Baloch so long as the trust deficit remains.

There is, in fact, need for a complete reversal of the Balochistan policy of Islamabad. Pakistan must launch large-scale development projects in its most backward province which is otherwise the richest area in terms of natural resources--- oil, gas, uranium, copper, gold. Balochistan has the lowest literacy rate and the highest number of the unemployed in Pakistan. There is little industrial activity because of an acute shortage of power availability. The Baloch argue that the province will have no shortage of funds if it gets adequate royalty for its natural resources. They have been opposed to any move to dilute the population complexion of the province as this can destroy their tribal identity. This was the primary reason why they resisted the development of Gwadar seaport and the plans for army housing schemes in the past. Thus, Islamabad will have to make drastic policy changes to end the Balochistan crisis.
US pullout from Afghanistan
Serious implications for regional security
by Anita Inder Singh

The announcement by Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary, that the US could end combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013 — instead of 2014, as declared earlier — and concentrate on providing training for Afghan forces was the first time a senior Obama administration official had made such a statement. It took even America’s NATO allies by surprise, although some of them — especially France and Britain — were already thinking of cutting back on their own military operations.

Panetta claimed that the quicker handoff was possible because of improved security and performance by Afghan forces. But that is at odds with the view of senior Afghan military officials that such a hasty move could spell disaster. It also goes against a warning by the American intelligence agencies in January that the Afghan conflict is mired in stalemate partly because of Pakistan’s extremist exports across the Durand Line, partly because many difficulties could jeopardise the Obama administration’s plans to withdraw most U.S. troops and hand over responsibility for the war to the Afghan government by 2014.

Indeed, the Karzai government was already fearful that Afghan troops might not be ready to assume more responsibility for maintaining security. Panetta’s caveat that US and NATO troops that stay in Afghanistan would be "combat ready" has not eased Karzai’s concern.

The main problem with President Obama’s Afghan strategy has always been his withdrawal statements in 2009 and 2011, and his 2014 deadline for NATO troop pullout This deadline has been unconnected to the West’s aims in Afghanistan. "2013" is even more unconnected and is inspired largely by Obama’s calculation that bringing the boys back home sooner rather than later will help him win next November’s presidential election.

Even before Panetta’s surprise statement, Washington had topped up Obama’s withdrawal statements of 2009 and 2011 by stating that NATO would remove $30 billion worth of military equipment from Afghanistan; defence cuts (which will also affect Europe) and reduced aid to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, he talked of drawing down from Afghanistan and moving eastwards, strengthening America’s position in the Asia-Pacific. (That last statement of intent will not impress India or any other Asian country, especially if the US is perceived as retreating from Afghanistan; it will instead raise the question how America’s move eastwards will be financed if military expenditure is reduced).

The exit strategy for Afghanistan included building of a strong Afghan government and army, able to defend their country. But Obama’s hurry to exit in 2013 raises the prospect of Afghanistan being up for grabs in a free-for-all that could include the Afghan army, the Taliban, and warlords belonging to minorities.

Obama’s personal and domestic political considerations have come to the fore. The trouble is that they have little to do with Afghanistan’s stability. This is why American’s attempts to get reconciliation on the rails in December failed, with the Taliban declaring that they would continue fighting. That failure was all the more conspicuous because neither the Karzai government nor any Afghan group, apart from the Taliban, took part in the peace talks.

Dr Abdullah Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik, who unsuccessfully challenged Karzai in the 2009 presidential elections and could stand for political office once again, is a major Taliban opponent. And even if Karzai tries his own hand at reconciliation with the Taliban, he will face resistance both from a parliament that is demanding an expansion of its oversight powers and a revived political opposition, the National Front for Afghanistan (NFA).

The NFA is composed of leaders from three major non-Pashtun communities — the Tajiks, the Uzbeks and the Hazaras — all of whom opposed the Taliban and Pakistan during the 1990s and remain hostile to both. At the very least, the NFA — and parliamentarians from other groups — is opposed to parleys with the Taliban, and will call for a meaningful role in the peace process. That will go against the grain of Washington’s thinking that it is enough to talk to the Taliban to usher in peace.

Even if Karzai — or the US — manage to include more Afghan parties in negotiations they will have to reconcile the Pashtun Taliban with the non-Pashtun NFA. Whether the Taliban will give up their insistence on the implementation of strict Sharia law is anyone’s guess. Women and minorities were among the most persecuted groups under the Taliban regime and will challenge any attempts to throw them back to second-class status. In such a situation the Afghan security forces could split along ethnic lines.

The mere prospect of such a catastrophe should push Washington, Kabul and Islamabad to do everything to reach a broad-based political settlement. Peace talks must include all Afghan political groups and be Afghan-led. Even if the US manages to strike a deal with the Taliban — which seems to be difficult at the moment — it will not be able to impose its wishes on the Afghans who dislike it. Only the Afghans can forge an enduring consensus about their future government and political system.

Last but not the least, America’s failure to coax or cajole Pakistan into making the Taliban more amenable to peace, despite massive amounts of aid over the last decade, stands out. Washington has brought no military pressure to bear on Pakistan to tackle the Afghan Taliban: US-Pakistan relations only nosedived after the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani turf in May 2011 — and the US remains dependent on Pakistan’s army. Pakistan could certainly get a seat at the negotiating table — but could turn out to be obstructive if it keeps banging on its anti-India drum (General Kayani wants the Indian Embassy in Kabul to close down, but neither Karzai nor the US would accept this).

India has always wanted NATO to stay the course — that is, defeat the Taliban. It must start thinking what it will do if NATO scuttles from Afghanistan and the Taliban come back to power. One option is to continue developing closer contacts with Russia, Iran and Central Asian countries, all of which have a vested interest in a stable Afghanistan; in addition, Iran is close to Afghanistan’s Shia minorities. Iran can also provide India access to Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations through the port of Chabahar.

The Obama administration’s statements about withdrawal from Afghanistan have been ill-judged and ill-timed, and have serious implications for security in South Asia.
‘No point talking to Pak till Army in control’
At a time when India has resumed backchannel talks with Pakistan, on Sunday, two political activists — originally from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan — cautioned New Delhi regarding the peace process with Islamabad, saying that it doesn’t have a future unless the Pakistan army gives up its control over the State.

Mumtaz Khan from PoK migrated to Canada more than two decades ago because of alleged persecution and Senge Sering of Gilgit currently lives in Washington, US. They were here to attend a conference on “PoK and Northern Areas: Present Status and way forward”.

Khan, who runs the International Centre for Peace and Democracy in Toronto, said, “I don’t know when India is going to learn. Pakistan is smart... it has initiated wars and terrorist attacks. But New Delhi still wants to talks with them.”

Sering, who heads the Institute of Gilgit-Baltistan Studies in Washington, said, “Pakistan is only buying time. India has the memory of a goldfish, which lasts only seven seconds. New Delhi should realise that they are dealing with a State which is not trustworthy.”

Both the activists, who have their families in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan, respectively, slammed the Pakistan government for denial of basic political freedom and lack of civic amenities in these areas.
ndian Army to hold summer exercise in Rajasthan desert
New Delhi : The Indian Army will be conducting one of its largest-ever exercises, using battle tanks and armoured personnel carriers, in the Rajasthan desert this summer to validate its integrated theatre battle concept, an officer said.

The exercise, in which all formations and units under the Jaipur-based South Western Command will participate to validate doctrines in a joint service environment, will be held from March to May 2012, army spokesperson Col. Jagdeep Dahiya said here.

Defence sources, meanwhile, said the Mathura-based 1 'Strike' Corps units too will be part of the exercise that will be carried out around the Suratgarh and Mahajan Ranges areas.

"The exercise will be based on the Integrated Theatre Battle Concept and will be one of the largest manoeuvres conducted so far," Dahiya said.

"Joint synergy will be enhanced by the active participation of the Indian Air Force (IAF), with the air assets of the army and the air force being employed in an integrated manner," he added.

Battlefield transparency and operational plans based on real-time situational awareness will be enhanced using intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) inputs from unmanned aerial vehicles, radars and satellites, Jodhpur-based defence spokesperson Col. S.D. Goswami said.

"The exercise will start with the mobilisation and build-up of units in the months of February and March. This will be followed by training at unit and formation level and finally culminate in large-scale manoeuvres," he added.

A wide array of tanks, infantry combat vehicles, artillery guns, helicopters, fighter jets, UAVs, air defence weapons and radars will be fielded in the exercise.

The exercise will enable the army to validate its war fighting concepts while working towards a capability-based approach relying on a series of transformational initiatives, concepts, organisational structures and absorption of new age technology.
IAF rescues 11 civilians from Kashmir avalanche
The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Sunday rescued 11 civilians from Sonamarg area of Ganderbal district in Kashmir as authorities issued a fresh avalanche warning in the area.
On the instructions of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Asgar Samoon, IAF airlifted 11 civilians from Sonamarg to
Gund town of Ganderbal as there was a possibility of fresh avalanche striking the area, an official spokesman said.

All the civilians have been evacuated out of Sonamarg and adjoining snow-bound areas, he said.

Sonamarg has been the site of one of the two massive avalanches that hit army camps in Kashmir on Wednesday.

Three soldiers were killed when a massive avalanche hit an army camp at Sonamarg and another massive avalanche hit the headquarters of 109 Infantry Brigade at Dawar area of Gurez sector, near LoC, in Bandipora district on Wednesday night resulting in the death of 14 soldiers while two others are still missing.

Meanwhile, the search operation for the two missing jawans in Gurez continued for the fourth day on Sunday, defence sources said.

Sources said inclement weather was hampering the search for the two jawans, who remain buried under 18 feet of snow.
Army staff chief visits Mhow College
INDORE: Chief of Army staff Gen VK Singh recently visited Army War College, Mhow and addressed the officers of Higher Command Course, including the officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who were attending the Joint Training Capsule there.

He deliberated on the present geopolitical challenges in the region, with specific reference to the Indian subcontinent. Articulating his views on the subject, Chief emphasized upon the operational necessity to focus on joint response in future conflict scenarios in the subcontinent.
New Delhi: The tradition of a salute has huge importance in the army. But do you know how the tradition begun – or what a salute means? When a soldier salutes his superiors, his right hand goes up on his forehead with his palm showing. What this means is that he has no weapon hidden up anywhere and that his intentions are good.

The practice started with the soldiers of the defeated forces, who would greet soldiers of the victorious army in this manner. To begin with, the forces of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force would keep their palms open while doing the salute, the soldiers of the Indian Navy would turn their palms slightly inwards.

The reason for this was that the palms of the naval soldiers were usually soiled by oil or dirt on the ship deck and they did not want to show their dirty palms to their superiors. Now the IAF soldiers have also started turning their palms slightly inwards – akin to the manner in which the US Air Force personnel do the salute.

Not for an individual, the salute is for the uniform

A salute is a form of respect not to an individual, but to the uniform and the designation of the officer concerned. Elaborate rules have been laid down to define the manner in which an official would do the salute – and about the protocol of rank for officers who will accept the salute.

If a junior officer salutes his seniors, only the senior-most of the officers will acknowledge and return the gesture. If officials of all the three forces are present, the senior-most of them will return the salute. The Indian Army is considered the senior-most, followed by the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.

What a Guns Salute means

In the olden times, a guns salute was given to a very important person; or by the defeated ship to the victorious one. The meaning of a guns salute was that the defeated ship had fired off and exhausted all its fire-power. A guns salute is usually of odd numbers, as even numbers were considered inauspicious.

Until a few years after Independence, there was the tradition of giving a 31-guns salute to the President. Later, the numbers were reduced to 21. On important occasions, the national flag is also given a 21-guns salute.

The military honors of giving a guns salute at the last rites of a deceased officer started with the belief that the evil spirits emanating out of the dead body would be pushed off into a distance.

Women and the Ship

The Navy has a tradition of getting commercial ships inaugurated at the hands of a recognized woman. You may remember that when India’s first indigenously developed submarine was launched off at the Vishakhapatnam port in July, 2009; the honors had been done by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur.

A ship is considered to be a female form. This is the reason that in the English language, a ship is referred to ‘she’ and ‘her’.

In the Western countries, ships are launched by opening champagne bottles, but in India the honors are done in a traditional way by breaking coconuts and offering flowers to the gods.

Another interesting aspect is that the front part of ships has two eyes designed on them. Ships that do not have the eye design are considered inauspicious.

Ships are not launched off on Thursdays in the Western countries, as that day is considered inauspicious. Varun is considered the God of Water. The Indian Navy’s slogan is this: May Varuna – the lord of the sea – bless us.

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