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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 16 May 2012
US & Pakistan in Afghanistan
Estranged partners and allies
by D. Suba Chandran

Referring to the relationship of the United States with Pakistan and India in his two seminal works, Dennis Kux called them Disenchanted Allies (2001) and Estranged Democracies (1994) respectively. An analysis of the recent relationship between the US and Pakistan would make one wonder whether the situation with regard to the estranged allies has, in fact, worsened. How did this happen from being a major non-NATO ally, designated only in 2004? Will it get better or deteriorate further?

The present estrangement is primarily due to the contradicting strategic interests of the two countries, their asymmetric power structure and influence, and the growing public sentiments within the respective countries.

Given the recent history and the significance of Afghanistan for both countries, the strategic interests of the US and Pakistan are bound to differ. Though both countries in principle would agree to have a stable Afghanistan, the definition of stability and who guarantees the same in Kabul is a primary point of difference. While the US would rhetorically insist on a democratic and stable Afghanistan, it would put emphasis more on “stability” rather than democracy. The US would prefer a non-Taliban regime, preferably led by a democratic coalition. However, the US is not averse to a Taliban coalition as long as it is “moderate”. Hence, the US is working towards a coalition of factions of the Taliban (mainly Mullah Omar’s), the Karzai group and the erstwhile members of the Northern Alliance.

On the other hand, Pakistan would be totally opposed to a government led by Karzai with strong inputs from the Northern Alliance. While the military and the ISI in Pakistan are not averse to the Taliban led by Mullah Omar, they would rather prefer the Haqqani network to be the main coalition partner in any future regime in Kabul. While the Haqqanis are totally under the control of the ISI and depend on Pakistan for material and political support, Mullah Omar is considered relatively independent. When it came to crucial issues, from the legitimacy of the Durand Line to giving up Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar did not yield to Pakistan’s requests after 9/11. There are no signs to prove that in a future set-up in Kabul, Mullah Omar is likely to toe Islamabad’s line. Precisely for the above reason, the Haqqanis assume a vital position in Pakistan’s future interests in Afghanistan. For the US it may be enemy number one in Afghanistan, but for Pakistan it is a strategic asset.

Besides the future stability of Afghanistan, both the US and Pakistan differ dramatically in how they see the radical groups in the Af-Pak region, starting from Al-Qaeda. The US sees the radical groups in the Af-Pak region as essentially against its own strategic interests besides affecting international peace and stability. One of the primary factors behind the US announcing a bounty on Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), is based on the realisation that the radical groups within Pakistan are not a threat only to the region but also to global peace.

On the other hand, Pakistan sees radical violence as a result of the American invasion of Afghanistan and expect it to decline once the Americans leave the region. Besides, for the ISI, many of these radical groups, especially the LeT, are a part of their larger regional strategy. Hence, Pakistan is unlikely to act against them.

More than the strategic differences, what has made the US and Pakistan estranged and today hostile to each other is the difference in power equation and the use of force to get what they want. There is a huge asymmetry in terms of power relations between the two countries. While the US has brute power — monetary and military — Pakistan has certain trump cards mainly due to its strategic location.

The US has been using brute force — from drone attacks to the killing of Osama bin Laden with little respect to Pakistan’s sovereignty. The drone attacks have been highly successful for the US in terms of neutralising the key leaders of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but these constitute a clear violation of sovereignty, especially when the state in Pakistan protests — from the President to the Chief of Army Staff. But that is what Pakistan could do — to protest. It is not that Pakistan does not have the technological sophistication or fire power to retaliate to the drones; they very well have. But what Pakistan does not have is the political will and military power to take on the US. If the killing of Osama, which involved the American Special Forces violating the Pakistani air space, was bad, Pakistan’s inability to strongly respond to the American attack on its troops in Salala last year was worse. All that Pakistan could demand is an apology for the US killing its troops, which has not come from Washington DC until today.

Clearly, there is a huge power asymmetry in favour of the US, and Washington DC is making the maximum use of it. On the other hand, Pakistan has certain trump cards; for example, the supply line to NATO troops from Karachi port to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Islamabad has decided to use that trump card in vain. Yes, it does hurt the US, but the international troops in Afghanistan are managing it. Today Pakistan neither has power to challenge nor any trump card to exploit the US and make the relationship even.

What makes the asymmetry even worse is the growing public sentiments against each other. Today, the anti-American sentiments are at the highest within Pakistan. Though at times fuelled by the state of Pakistan for its own narrow interests, today there is a widespread anti-American feeling all over Pakistan, cutting across social and political shades. Besides the public pressure, Pakistan’s National Assembly (Parliament) also dug its own grave when a resolution was passed in the Assembly against the NATO supply line and for a call to renew the Pak-US relations. Though a committee has been formed, which has made recommendations, the hard reality is that the anti-American sentiments expressed by the public and routed through parliament are not going to affect the US decision-making process.

On the other hand, there is equally an anti-Pakistan sentiment, now growing in the US, besides some of the other European countries. One has been witnessing a serious dialogue within the US Congress; the debate to support an independent Balochistan to ban the Haqqani network as a terrorist organisation is a part of the legislative pressure, reflecting the public sentiments in the US. Unlike the Pakistani legislature, any Congressional decision would hurt Pakistan. Such legislation in the US Congress would have sufficient force to affect Pakistani decision-making.

Though there are public sentiments against the other, such a feeling would help the US administration while it would limit the Pakistani establishment — the political and military sides of it. More importantly, there is widespread support for the American stand at the global level vis-a-vis Pakistan, while Islamabad’s political protests and expression of public sentiments have no takers.

So, what is likely to happen? Since there is a huge difference in terms of strategic interests and the ability to pursue them so far as political and military power is concerned, the US and Pakistan are likely to be at loggerheads. Will the American exit in 2014 help Pakistan rebuild its relationship? Perhaps not. Pakistan may lose its strategic significance. Perhaps, the nuclear assets of Pakistan may become its liability as the US is increasingly worried about their safety and security. What would be interesting is how Pakistan would like to position itself vis-a-vis the US after 2014, when it has no trump cards. Would it lean more towards China and consolidate a stronger relationship? Perhaps. But what would Pakistan offer to China in return?

The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, and Visiting Professor, Pakistan Studies Programme, Jamia Millia Islamia.
'India can respond to any misadventure by Pakistan'
Pune : India is fully capable of responding to any misadventure by Pakistan despite the west-side neighbour acquiring nuclear weapons, a top Indian Army commander said here Tuesday.

"Since the 1998 nuclear tests, India and Pakistan have been through limited war (Kargil) and a major military crisis (Indian Army exercise 'Operation Parakram'), making clear that the nuclearisation of both the countries has not made conventional war between them an obsolete concept," Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Command, said.

He was delivering the Gen. B.C. Joshi Memorial lecture at the Pune University MBA (PUMBA) campus.

Speaking on "Prespective on war in 21st century", Lt. Gen. Singh said, "Acqusition of nuclear weapon by Pakistan has not altered the strategic balance in the subcontinent and it has not been able to neutralise India's conventional war fighting superiority."

"Notwithstanding the nuclear deterrence in place, there is adequate strategic space for India to respond to a Pakistani misadventure, which might arise out of its miscalculated confidence," he asserted.

Lt. Gen. Singh pointed out that nuclear capability may limit the objective, scope and intensity of war and despite views to the contrary, the nuclear threshold would not be as fragile and low as was made out by many strategists and academicians.

"The biggest concern for nation states is the acquisition of weapons of mass Destruction (WMD) by non-state actors (extremist groups). How will the dynamics of deterrence, coercion and escalatory control work against non-state actors? It is a nightmare scenario and remains a very real threat," he said.

Lt. Gen. Singh said that in order to be effective against non-state players, deterrence, coercion and escalatory control must rely on international protocols to prevent proliferation through sanctions and other tough measures.

"Most important of all, international cooperation is needed among intelligence agencies to detect moves by identified non-state actors to acquire WMD, so that timely counter-action can be initiated."

"Future wars will be hybrid and conventional forces the world over will have to constantly adapt and evolve to face new challenges," the commander said.
President's post-retirement residence in Pune a headache for Army
Hrishikesh Joshi / Pune May 16, 2012, 01:06 IST

President Pratibha Patil’s proposed retirement home in Pune continues to invite controversy despite the five-acre land having been returned. The reason: The Military Engineering Services (MES) has already spent an estimated Rs 1 crore, or one-fifth of the Rs 5-crore budget, on the half-constructed bungalow. And, construction continues in some parts of the area.

Retired defence personnel are demanding the site be used to rehabilitate widows and families of war soldiers. Some voluntary organisations are demanding the military be allowed to use it.
Senior officials of the Southern Command gave an assurance last week that the land will remain with the Ministry of Defence and be utilised as a defence asset.

Last week, Major General S K Yadav (admin) of Southern Command said at a press meet, “No decision has yet been taken. The land belongs to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The alternative use of the land is yet to be decided. The structure will be used as a defence establishment. It will be used for the best interest of the Army.”

However, some like Suresh Patil, retired colonel and founder of an NGO, Green Thumb, and another body ‘Justice for Jawan’, wants the work at the site to stop immediately. “I am going to meet defence minister A K Antony demanding an immediate halt to the construction activity. The MoD should built 102 flats on this land for widows of Army jawans,” he said.

Patil, who is the front-runner in raising objections to the construction, said that the proposed retirement residence of the President was on 2,42,000 sq ft land, which was much more than the 4,498 sq ft that she was entitled to. He also said the land allocated was in excess of norms and it was in the “A1” category that could only be used for military purposes. He and Commander (retd) Ravindra Pathak have taken up pension-related issues of retired soldiers on behalf of the Delhi-headquartered Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement.

“There were several reports regarding the defence land. The Army wants to be transparent. The bungalow was sanctioned by the MoD, and the decision would be taken by the ministry. It was the Ministry of Defence’s decision to allot land for the president’s post-retirement bungalow,” Major General S K Yadav said.

The contract to build the Rs 5-crore bungalow was given to the Military Engineering Services, which comes under the Commander Works Engineers, Khadki, Southern Command.
Annandale row: Army, HP govt agree to find mutually acceptable solution
The army and Himachal government today agreed to find a mutually acceptable solution to the controversy over Annandale ground in the state capital.
"I called on the chief minister, and he has been very supportive of the defence forces. I must compliment him. That (Annandale issue) was
discussed and I am sure we will find a mutually acceptable solution," Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh said on Tuesday after meeting Himachal chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal at the secretariat here.

This was Gen Singh's first meeting with Dhumal after the army locked horns with the state government over the possession of Annandale ground.

The army had raised objections to a campaign launched by local association for regaining the ground for the construction of what it called a multi-facility sports centre.

Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) has been vying for the ground to construct an international sports stadium.

Dhumal, during his previous tenure, had urged the ministry of defence to hand over the ground to the state government.


General Singh and Dhumal also discussed escalated activities in the tribal Lahaul and Spiti and tribal Kinnaur districts along the Indo-China border.

"General Singh expressed concern over the activities along the Himachal border," Dhumal told Hindustan Times even as he refused to share more details of the meeting, described as a "courtesy call".

The chief minister apprised General Singh about the air space intrusion in Kaurik sector by Chinese helicopters. "Air space along the Chinese border has been violated twice," Dhumal said, adding that the matter related to security had been discussed.

Dhumal has been repeatedly asking the central government to strengthen infrastructure on the "porous" border in Himachal.

Also, Dhumal has been stressing expansion of the Bhanupalli-Bilaspur-Beri railway line via Mandi-Manali to Leh. Once the railway track is laid, the distance between Bhanupalli and Leh would be reduced to only 455 km.

It would also enable faster movement of troops to the border areas.
In reply to a question over the offer made by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare to join him,

Gen Singh said that he was still undecided on post- retirement plans. "I have not yet decided anything about retirement plans," said the chief of Indian army. During the day, Gen Singh also attended an important meeting at Army Training Command in Shimla.
Bajwa leads delegation to meet Antony on One Rank One Pension
A delegation of retired army officers led by Gurdaspur member of parliament Partap Singh Bajwa met union defence minister AK Antony to stress on the long-pending demand of One Rank One Pension.
The delegation also submitted a memorandum to the minister highlighting the problems
being faced by the military officers and jawans.

"Prior to the Third Central Pay Commission, the pension of Armed Forces personnel was regulated exclusively keeping in view the peculiarity and gravity of the service conditions which a soldier is subjected to in times of peace, and the danger to which he is exposed to during war," said Bajwa adding that, "the then government, appreciating their contribution to our motherland, decided to keep their status and living standards quite high without comparison with civilian employees but the Third Central Pay Commission reversed this trend leaving the defence personnel at a loss and the subsequent pay commissions have only made matters worse."

"We have apprised the minister of the demand of the ex-servicemen that there should be One Rank One Pension (OROP) and we have also apprised him of the decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Chandigarh in the cases of Babu Ram Dhiman versus Union of India and Sohan Singh versus Union of India, where in its judgment, it said that the grant of unequal pay in the same rank was a violation of the principles of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

The Tribunal further added that the state could not lay down different criteria for grant of pension for same rank of officers on the basis of cut-off date of retirement," he added.

He further said, "Considering the disparity between duties of defence personnel and their civilian counterparts, due recognition and respect is not being given to them, the demand of one rank one pension is justified and long overdue. Even the standing committee on defence has recommended the inclusion of OROP."

Members of the delegation included Brig (Retd) KS Kahlon, Brig (Retd) MPS Bajwa, Col (Retd) Dharam Singh and Col (Retd) Ajay Opal, all of whom have been fighting for issues relating to welfare of defence personnel including voicing the demand for One Rank One Pension

The other issues which were raised in the memorandum include increasing the quota for youth in armed forces from border districts particularly in Punjab, early resolving the anomalies in the sixth pay commission, establishing a National Commission for Military Veteran Affairs on the lines of the minority commission, ensuring equitable representation of ex-servicemen in all central boards, corporations and PSU's, using the skills of ex-servicemen in training and raising battalions of National Disaster Relief and Environment Protection Forces nomination of military veterans to the Rajya Sabha.
Defence offsets set to zoom past $4bn mark
NEW DELHI: The country has already attracted over $4.27 billion through defence "offsets'' through arms contracts inked since October, 2007. The defence procurement policy specifies that a foreign armament company, which bags an arms deal over Rs 300 crore, must plough back at least 30% of the contract value back into India as offsets.

The offsets figure will zoom further north with India poised to ink several more mega defence deals in the coming years. The around $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project to acquire 126 fighters for IAF, for instance, specifies a 50% offset obligation on the foreign vendor.

Defence minister A K Antony, in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Monday, said, ``Seventeen offset contracts have been signed so far with a value of about $ 4.279 billion. The offset contracts are at various stages of execution.''

While the offset contracts worth around $3.435 billion were signed while procuring aircraft, radars, drones and other systems for IAF, the naval contracts notched up $843 million, thanks to the acquisition of fleet tankers, maritime reconnaissance aircraft, radars and UAVs.

The Army does not figure in this list probably because of its slow modernization projects, which the defence ministry is only now trying to fast track after Gen V K Singh complained of ``critical hollowness'' in his force's operational capabilities.

Antony said, ``The offset policy was introduced in 2005. It is a relatively new policy and is in the process of evolution. The first offset contract was signed in 2007...The positive impact of the offsets on development of the indigenous defence industrial base (DIB) will be visible in the coming years.''

Replying to a question on the amount spent on capital acquisitions from foreign sources, Antony said Rs 15,443 crore was spent in 2010-11, while the figure for 2009-10 stood at Rs 13,411 crore.

After several complaints last year that India's DIB was incapable of absorbing the huge offsets in pipeline, the defence ministry was forced to liberalize its offsets policy to include investments in the country's civil aerospace, homeland security and training sectors as well. Till then, the offsets had been restricted to only the defence industrial sector.

India still imports almost 70% of its defence requirements because neither have the DRDO and defence PSUs got their act together, nor has the private sector stepped into the defence arena in a major way.

The offsets, it is hoped, will help boost the country's DIB, with the defence ministry also encouraging joint ventures or `co-production arrangements' between Indian firms and foreign armament majors.

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