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Saturday, 9 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 08 Mar 2013
Pak PM to visit Ajmer today; shrine head to boycott him
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 8
Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s visit to India tomorrow to offer prayers at the famous Sufi shrine at Ajmer has generated yet another controversy.
First, it was the Indian Government which made it clear that it would not hold any substantive talks with the Pakistan Premier, now the Ajmer Sharif spiritual head has said that he would boycott the visit in protest against the recent killing and beheading of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army.

“If I receive and welcome the Pakistan Prime Minister, it would be an insult to Indian soldiers, especially the martyrs,” he said in a statement sent to media organisations.

Zainul Abedin Ali Khan said it would have been better if Ashraf had brought along with him the head of the Indian soldier (Lance Naik Hemraj) and personally apologised to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the families of the Indian soldiers for the ‘inhuman act’.

Traditionally, when the Head of a State or Government visits the ‘Dargah’, he is welcomed by the spiritual head - the descendent of the sufi saint Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti.

As of now, Ashraf, accompanied by members of his extended family, will arrive here around 11 am and leave for Hotel Rambagh Palace for a lunch being hosted by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in his honour. Shortly after lunch, he will leave for Ajmer to offer prayers. He will return to Jaipur in the evening and emplane for Islamabad.

However, speculation is on about what Ashraf and Khurshid will discuss over lunch, with New Delhi ruling out any substantive talks between the two leaders. India’s contention is that Islamabad has done precious little to address its concern over terrorism and to bring to book those responsible for the killing and beheading of Indian soldiers.

In any case, Ashraf is expected to resign soon to facilitate the formation of a caretaker government ahead of the elections in Pakistan.

Official sources acknowledged that the dialogue process with Pakistan had also been affected by the beheading incident in January along the Line of Control (LoC). On top of it, there is no immediate possibility of putting the dialogue process back on the track in the near future, the reason being that Pakistan will go to the polls in May and India will be in the election mode later this year.

New Delhi is also peeved that Pakistan has not fulfilled its commitment to grant the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India by the end of 2012, taking shelter under lame excuses.

It is learnt that the Pakistani Premier desired to pray at the Sufi shrine for the success of his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the elections. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the PPP, had undertaken a similar pilgrimage to India in April last year. He also made a donation of $1million to the shrine. Zardari also held a luncheon meeting with PM Manmohan Singh that helped give impetus to the dialogue process. Meanwhile, a Pakistani security team arrived in Ajmer to review the security arrangements for Ashraf’s visit. Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the high-profile visit. The shrine will be vacated minutes before the arrival of the Pakistan PM. The administration has ordered closure of the shops situated in the area.
DRDO to test cruise missile this week
Agni with multiple warheads to be test-fired in 2014
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) elusive cruise missile, Nirbhay, is finally ready. The missile is now scheduled to be test launched from
Balasore after two days.
Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and DRDO Director General Dr VK Saraswat told The Tribune here today that Nirbhay is a long-range, subsonic cruise missile. Though he declined to disclose the missile’s actual range, he said it was comparable to the US Tomahawk cruise missile, various versions of which have a reach of 1,300-2,500 km.

With the capability of being launched from land, sea and air, Nirbhay would give the armed forces the ability to carry out precision strikes on high-value targets over distances that are beyond the reach of other missiles like the BrahMos or Prahaar. Unlike a ballistic missile which travels along a straight pre-determined flight-path that cannot be altered once it is launched, a cruise missile can be guided during the entire duration of flight and can change is altitude and path.

The development of Nirbhay been under way for over six years, though not much has been revealed about its technical specifications and performance parameters. According to reports, it was slated to be test-launched in August last year, which was then postponed to December 2012, which also did not happen. Then in January, the DRDO chief had announced that the missile would be tested in February.

Dr Saraswat also said the DRDO was working on an enhanced performance version of the recently test-launched 5,000-km range Agni-V ballistic missile that would carry multiple warheads. Called multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRV), each warhead would be capable of being programmed to independently hit different targets separated by long distances after being launched from a single missile.

“We are in the technology development phase for MIRVs,” Dr Saraswat said. “We expect to conduct a demonstration flight for MIRVs by the end of 2014 and such a missile would be a huge force multiplier,” he added.

The DRDO chief said two more test launches of Agni-V are scheduled to be held before the missile is operationalised. The missile was first test-fired in April 2012 and is rail and road mobile.
Indian pivot towards Asia-Pacific
From Look East to Indo-Pacific
by D. Suba Chandran

India has been looking towards the east since the 1990s. Now, there is a renewed emphasis on this in India owing to recent developments in Southeast Asia along with growing international interest in the Asia Pacific. In the changing context, how far should India look east? Should it look only towards Southeast Asia, or extend up to East Asia and Australia as well? Does the renewed international interest in this region demand an Indian pivot towards Southeast Asia and East Asia? Should India redefine this region as Indo-Pacific and pursue its interests accordingly?

The US has already taken the lead on the two above crucial aspects—in terms of its return to the Asia-Pacific along with its new strategies—the pivot and rebalancing. More importantly, Washington’s emphasis is on redefining the region starting from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific as Indo-Pacific. From an Indian perspective, it will be imperative to expand the focus from “looking east” to “Indo-Pacific” for the following reasons. First, in terms of international interests, this region is likely to become strategic, especially as the US and the International Security Assitance Force are winding up their operations in Afghanistan. The Indo-Pacific is becoming the next international theatre and is likely to witness a substantial attention, investment and development. Recent happenings already hint this shift, with tensions building in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. North Korea’s nuclear tests and Japan’s likely political direction in the next few years will substantially shape global interests in this region.

Second, in economic terms, given the presence of organisations and structures such as ASEAN, the ARF and the EAS, this region will become the global economic power-house. With the economic crises in the US and the EU, the strength of these organizations and the trade potential will make this region as the driver of the global economic architecture.

Third, the maritime expanse of this region along with the oceanic trading routes cutting across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific has already made the Indo-Pacific perhaps even more important than the European Union. In the next decade, the sheer volume of trade and movement of goods across these two oceans will also increase the vulnerability of this region. The imperative to protect the sea-lanes across the two oceans and the need to secure maritime traffic will make not only the Malacca Straits but also the entire Indo-Pacific the most important area.

Fourth, the rise of China — peaceful or otherwise — will be felt more acutely in this region, starting from East Asia to South Asia. In fact, the pangs of China’s rise are being already felt both in East Asia and Southeast Asia in two maritime disputes involving Japan (East China Sea), Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan (in the South China Sea). The recent developments within ASEAN, especially its failure to arrive at a code of conduct, and Cambodia’s role in playing spoilsport highlight the growing Chinese influence and Beijing’s ability to manipulate the regional consensus. As the region gets integrated with China more, the ability of Beijing to influence the political outcomes in Southeast Asia will become substantial; Currently, China is building a north-south rail network and a road network linking its Sichuan and Yunnan provinces to Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Singapore. Once these two projects are finalised, along with Mekong which China shares with Southeast Asia, the economies of ASEAN and China will be even more integrated, giving more political space to Beijing to manoeuvre.

While this economic integration between China and Southeast Asia is inevitable, given the geographical proximity, how will Beijing use this influence vis-a-vis the rest, especially India? And what will that mean for India’s Lookeast policy? If Beijing’s reservations and objections to India’s presence in Vietnam have to be measured as a yardstick, the rise of China is unlikely to be peaceful and beneficial to the interests of everyone. And given its recent responses in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and using Cambodia to scuttle the political consensus within ASEAN, there is not much scope to believe that a rising China will play by international norms and rules.

The above four aspects will have to considered while looking east in the third decade. Like the US, India also needs a new strategy in the Asia Pacific. And like the US, India also needs to have its own pivot in the region. Re-visioning the Asia Pacific as the Indo-Pacific and pursuing a strategy to increase India’s economic and political presence in the region will provide more space to New Delhi to manoeuvre.

But the crucial question is: is there a space for India in the Indo-Pacific? There could be two answers. First, irrespective of its availability, New Delhi should reorient its strategies to find political and economic space. Second, and more importantly, New Delhi should make use of the space that already exists for India to play a greater role. While many Indian analysts are highly critical of the American pivot and rebalancing, what is not sufficiently explored is the window that is opened for India as a result of American pivoting and rebalancing. For example, in Myanmar, the increased American attention towards Naypidaw provides a substantial space. As a part of its rebalancing, the US is likely to work with partners such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and ASEAN. Whether India would want to be a part of this partnership with the US is a different issue; however, this provides an opportunity for New Delhi to work with other countries.

There is also an increased interest among the other countries to work with India; the visit of Australian Prime Minister in 2012 and the agreements signed clearly show that Canberra is reworking its strategy and opening up to India. Multiple statements made by the former Australian High Commissioner to India will also underline this. In fact, there is more discussion in Australia about the Indo-Pacific than in India. South Korea and Japan should become the second pillar of India’s approach towards finding more space in the region. New Delhi should forge a strong economic and strategic partnership with these two countries, and take the existing relationship to the next level. Within Southeast Asia, despite New Delhi’s slow progress in the last two decades, there is a positive image about India, as a benign and democratic country, with a potential to play a larger role.

Japan, South Korea, Australia and countries of ASEAN are also looking forward to building a new Asian architecture; this provides ample space to New Delhi to have its own pivot and make the Indo-Pacific as a logical extension of its Lookeast policy.

To realise the Indian pivot and operationalise the Indo-Pacific idea, New Delhi should forge long-term partnerships with the countries concenred. Within that larger pivot to the Indo-Pacific, New Delhi should also consider a special pivot to Myanmar, and convert into a land bridge to Southeast Asia. This will provide geographic proximity and a land bridge to Southeast Asia. Though New Delhi has been working on this, such a strategy towards making Myanmar as a land bridge should include Bangladesh and India’s Northeast; only by conceiving these three as an integrated region, India will be able to achieve its long-term goals in the Indo-Pacific. One of the primary problems in India’s Lookeast policy has been our failure to integrate this region, and get Bangladesh and India’s Northeaster on board. Instead, India’s Lookeast policy positioned itself in New Delhi, jump-starting from Bangkok and Singapore while operationalising. A special pivot to Myanmar along with India’s Northeast and Bangladesh will rebalance and provide the land bridge that India has been looking for.

Finally, to make the Indo-Pacific a reality, India should perceive the Indian Ocean as India’s Ocean, and pursue a strategy that will increase its political clout. A strong Indian Navy is imperative along with an extended maritime doctrine up to the Pacific Ocean. During this decade and the next, the region starting from Indian Ocean to the Pacific is likely to become the primary international focus, and the shift from the EU and the Middle East has already started taking place. India should ensure that its interests are addressed.

An Indian pivot to the region and the Indo-Pacific as a strategy may provide the space to achieve our interests.n
The Indian Army Open to Socialize Online
Bangalore: Since social networking has started, it has spread faster than wild fire, globally. However there are defined entities which have withstood the test of time and kept their distance from being blazed. But with the understanding of the advantage that the social media provides even the toughest are warming up to it. It has been extensively used by political parties and government organizations, now the Indian army has joined the club, as reported by Hindustan Times.

Recently the Indian Army launched its official Twitter account. It was opened under army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI). The Twitter handle is @adgpi. The account has already acquired a followership of over three thousand. After creating a Twitter account, the Indian Army is making plans to create Facebook and YouTube accounts too.

It’s being seen as an interesting and positive move by the Indian Army since last year when the force had said ‘no’ to social media. Last year, the force has issued orders commanding all personnel both officers and other ranks, who had opened accounts on social networking sites like Facebook or Orkut, to quit them immediately. The order also directed those who didn’t have an account, not to join these sites.
Beretta PX4 and ARX-160 on offer to Indian Army
The legendary Beretta of Italy is expanding its presence in the Indian market in a big way, and demonstrated this with a sizeable presence at the recent Aero India show in Bangalore. While the company has several different weapons on offer to the Indian armed forces, police services and paramilitary forces, two weapons stand out at the moment as they are in contention for specific requirements in the Indian Army. The Beretta ARX-160 is currently in contention to address the Indian Army’s requirement of a new assault rifle, while the PX4 is in contention for an order to meet requirements from the Indian Army’s infantry and special forces units.

According to Beretta, ”The Px4 Storm Sub-Compact pistol is the most advanced sub-compact sidearm of its kind. Built around Beretta’s latest Px4 modular technology, the PX4 Storm Sub-Compact delivers concealed carry handling with large frame firepower.” The ARX-160 on the other hand was introduced a few years ago to meet an Italian requirement as part of the Soldato Futuro programme. The assault rifle’s salient features, being highlighted to the Indian Army include ambidextrous safety features, magazine catches, control over which side spent casings are ejected, a “quick-change barrel which can be removed and replaced in seconds without tools, Picatinny rails and a foldable telescopic stock,” according to documentation.

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