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Monday, 5 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 05 Jan 2015

India wants to engage in low-intensity war: Pak
Islamabad, January 4
The war of words between India and Pakistan over cross-border firing intensified as Pakistan's Defence Minister alleged that India wants to keep his country busy in a "low-intensity war".

"India wants to keep us busy in a low-intensity war or low-intensity engagement on our eastern border. They are pursuing the same tactics of keeping our forces busy on all fronts...," Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters outside the Parliament yesterday.

Asif also appeared to threaten India with retaliation over the killing of Pakistani soldiers in cross-border firing, saying the country will now "communicate in the language they understand".

"In the past six-seven months, we have tried to better our ties with India so that peace can prevail. But it seems that they do not understand this language," Asif said.

Asif's remarks came after four Pakistani rangers were killed in BSF's strong retaliation after a jawan of the force lost his life in heavy firing from the other side on a patrol on December 31 along the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir's Samba district.

The defence minister said it seemed that India did not want to see Pakistan’s success in its fight against terrorism. In fact, he added, the Indian aggression at this time proved that it was supporting terrorists.

Asif said India had started cross-border shelling to engage Pakistan’s armed forces on the eastern front at a time when it was busy in the fight against terrorists inside the country and on the western border. “It seems that India does not want to see a durable peace in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the region,” he said.

The defence minister said Islamabad had raised the issue of the killing of two personnel of Chenab Rangers and civilians with India at all appropriate forums.

"Day before yesterday's incident has been taken up at every level from the army's side. The issue was taken up at the very location of firing, then we established contact from one post to the other," Asif said.

"After that we took up the issue at the level of Rangers and the BSF, than at the DGMO level. We also explored the diplomatic channel. We have taken up the issue at every possible level," he said.

Asif made the remarks also in response to the alleged killing of a 13-year-old Pakistani girl from Sialkot in cross-border firing yesterday.
Pak complacency threatens its survival
Anita Inder Singh
With ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban around, the govt may not act decisively against militants
The killing of 148 students by the Taliban in Peshawar last week is not inspiring a change of heart for Pakistan's government and the military. Many militants will be hanged, says the military, perhaps because such a massacre is an obvious challenge to the Pakistani state. But the militants have good reason to be undeterred.
Pakistan's leaders continue with their ambiguous — rather duplicitous — response to the extremism that could derail Pakistan's democracy. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured his compatriots that his government would cease to distinguish between the “bad” Pakistani Taliban, which challenge the Pakistani state, and other “good” anti-India, anti-Afghan Taliban groups. But there is little possibility of this tough stance being transformed into a credible policy.

Just two days after the massacre, a Pakistani court granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, the militant commander accused of planning the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai in which 166 people were killed. Lakhvi is a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the supposedly “good” Taliban groups that focuses on attacking India and has been trained and sustained by Pakistan's army. Admittedly, the government can legally keep him behind bars. That only serves as a reminder of his sluggish trial, which began in 2009, and of Islamabad's failure to ensure justice to the families of those killed in the Mumbai attacks. India has protested at the granting of bail to Lakhvi.
The Lashkar, meanwhile, has been allowed to re-establish itself and to re-emerge as a political force. Its leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, lives safely in Lahore although the United States has offered a bounty of $10 million for his arrest.

True, the army has intensified its bombing of militant outfits in north-west Pakistan. But that does not signify a decision to stop training all extremists. Good and bad Taliban cooperate with one another — and Islamabad and its army surely know that. But Islamabad shows no determination to hunt down all militant groups.

The inference is that Pakistan's leaders and generals want to sustain anti-India militants while trying to get some political clout in Kabul. Even as the Pakistani military recently chased the Taliban in North Waziristan, it stopped short of mounting an offensive against the Haqqani network, a militant  group that staged several attacks in Afghanistan last summer, or the militants in Punjab and Sindh who the military still thinks of using against India.
The aims of Pakistani-sponsored extremist groups fighting India or trying to make a headway in Afghanistan are similar. The Lashkar-e-Taiba is not content with trying to dislodge India from Kashmir: it also calls for jihad against the West. Its friends, who include the Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) seek to create a political arrangement based on the sharia.

Then there is the JeM, which has links with al Qaeda and the Taliban. That group runs madrasas in south Punjab, demands the killing of non-Muslim minorities and punishment at the stake for those it regards as blasphemers.
Pakistan's politicians, including Sharif and his main political opponent, the former cricketer Imran Khan, have close ties with extremist groups. Sharif's party, the Punjab Muslim League (N), has close ties with the leaders of Punjab-based militants. Imran apparently believes that the Taliban want to liberate Pakistan from the US. Meanwhile, the Pakistan People's Party, run by the Bhutto-Zardari family, are close to militant groups in Sindh.
So, no political party is challenging either the militant groups or the army and intelligence services that sustain them. Former President Musharraf, like the extremist Saeed, even alleges that India is to blame for the Peshawar massacres. In short, there is no official Pakistani opinion in favour of strong anti-extremist action.

What Pakistan's establishment must recognise is that extremists are using religion to capture power, or at the very least, to destabilise the Pakistani state. The Pakistani-trained extremists are not going to be content with destabilising India and exacerbating insecurity in Afghanistan. The Peshawar massacre is an embarrassment to the Pakistani state and merely executing some militants will not suffice to rein them in. Violence, after all, is the method of choice of extremists, and by refusing to throw the gauntlet down before them, Pakistan's politicians and military subvert their own country's democracy. Indeed their complacency, much like the violence of the extremists, threatens the survival of Pakistan itself.

The writer is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi
Immediate security response
Doubts on extent of force will persistThe security high alert in the run-up to US President Barack Obama’s visit for the Republic Day celebrations yielded its first ‘catch’ on January 1. As is often the case on high seas, details took long in filtering back and, even now, two days after a Pakistani vessel was blown up by the Indian Coast Guard, it is difficult to reach a firm conclusion about the boat's mission. Was it a smuggling run to India with a much more lethal cargo than the usual contraband? Or was it an attempt to attack, perhaps not a city as in 2008 but a high-value target or an event? Or did the Indian security agencies over-interpret intelligence and apply disproportionate force on a vessel with shady cargo and occupants? The haze might remain as was the case a week before the Mumbai attacks, when the Indian Navy blew up a Thai vessel in the Arabian Sea. The boat had been hijacked by Somalian pirates but a week after the world community hailed the Indian Navy for its action, doubts surfaced over the extent of force used.

In this case, the incident took place in a zone of greater security vulnerability than the Arabian Sea where the Thai boat was blown up. The resolute action validated the coordination between the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies post-Mumbai attacks to check sea-borne sub-conventional threats. The intelligence report about the boat's suspicious credentials did not disappear in the cracks. Any wrangling over the right to respond must have been settled quickly because the Coast Guard immediately sent an interception vessel.

Simultaneously, a Dornier aircraft braved bad weather to help the ship locate the Pakistani boat. Shortly after the details were released, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar “complimented” the Coast Guard for “averting a possible terror strike”.  Fault-finding about the incident is bound to continue but complete political backing for the action has been immediate. As far as the Indian Government is concerned, the matter is closed. For those raising jurisdiction issues, this incident should spur them to seek a settlement of disputed maritime boundaries.
On Rafale jet deal, India says ball in France’s court
The multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France has run into rough weather over a guarantee clause and a steep rise in price with India making it clear that the ball is in France’s court as it looks at the option of buying more Russian Sukhoi-30 MKI warplanes as a back-up plan.

India is insisting that Dassault Aviation, which manufactures Rafale, cannot renege on the Request for Proposal (RFP) clauses, which it had initially agreed to. The situation has come to such a level that France has been forced to send an empowered delegation later this month to “solve all remaining issues” to salvage the contract.

A top Defence Ministry official here had this week admitted that there were problems and said India could consider buying more Russian-made Sukhoi-30 planes if the proposed deal with France collapsed.

Recalling the last month’s meeting between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart, sources said French “were told categorically to stick to the RFP”. “The ball is in France’s court,” they said adding that if the “RFP is adhered to, the deal can be wrapped up soon”.

They claimed that while the deal was initially for about Rs 42,000 crore, French are seeking a higher price now. This, the sources said, has put the price at a “little more than double the cost”.

Dassault did not comment on queries sent by PTI to it.

The French Rafale and European Eurofighter Typhoon were the only one left standing after years of tests on technical and other aspects. “Rafale was selected in 2012 since it was the lowest bidder. The difference in cost with the second bidder was razor-thin. With cost now more than double, how can it be the lowest bidder,” the sources said, explaining why the negotiation for a final contract has been taking so much time.

Another point of contention is the guarantee clause under which Rafale has to stand guarantee for the planes that would be manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). — PTI
 India’s priority: Four-pronged plan to save depleting sub fleet

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 4

With submarine force levels dipping, India has energised its plan to build conventional diesel-electric submarines.

A four-pronged plan is now being driven at “top speed” with first ensuring that deadlines are met in the ongoing construction of the six subs, then starting the second lot of six such vessels, then designing and building additional such vessels indigenously and finally extending refit to existing ageing subs to prolong their life.

At present, India has 13 conventional vessels and a nuclear one leased from Russia. The existing submarine plan announced in 1999 had spoken of having 24 conventional submarines by 2030. Half way through, not a single vessel has sailed.

The Indian fleet is grossly inadequate to match China. The annual report to the Congress in the US, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014”, says: “PLA Navy (PLAN) has more than 60 submarines (and) places a high priority on modernisation of its submarine force.”

These under-sea war-going vessels remain the most potent threat at sea and to warships and despite newer technologies, it’s nearly impossible to detect a sub sailing some 30 metre deep.

Sources said the focus was now four-pronged. The six under-construction “Scorpene-class” submarines are being made by French company DCNS at Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), a Defence Ministry-owned shipyard in Mumbai. The first one is slated to be delivered in September 2016 with the next five followed by an interval of nine months each. The fifth and sixth vessels will have the air independent propulsion (AIP) and a decision has been taken that all “Scorpenes” will be retrofitted with the “AIP plug”, which will add to submergence capabilities allowing the sub to dive for 12-15 days without re-emerging to “breathe”.

Another six submarines are to be made under “project 75-India”, which will be made in India. A committee has been formed and given 10 weeks, starting in March, to indentify which shipyard in India will be asked to make the vessels with a foreign collaborator. There are three players — ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany, which owns the submarine arm HDW, the Russians and the French DCNS. The US does not make conventional subs anymore. These will have AIP, greater stealth and land-attack capability.
Did 'terror boat' crew contact the Pakistan army? Defence Min to review all intercepts
As the controversy continues over the whether the Coast Guard intercepted and destroyed an alleged 'terrorist boat', the Ministry of Defence has reportedly called for a full review of all intercepted communications which led to the boat being apprehended.

On 2 January, the Ministry of Defence had in a statement said that the Indian Coast Guard had intercepted on 31 December,  a suspect fishing boa full of explosives on the Arabia Sea, based on intelligence reports. It claimed that the Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of crew and cargo. Fur persons were seen on the boat and they did not cooperate with the Coast Guard and instead hid themselves. They are then alleged to have set the boat on fire which resulted in their deaths and its destruction.

However the ministry's claims were questioned in an earlier report by the Indian Express' Praveen Swami who wrote on 2 January that there were doubts that the boat posed any terror threat and that "those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers." The earlier IE report also stated that based on government sources, "the intelligence had no link to terrorism, and made no reference to any threat to India."

However, other reports state that a second, and so far untraced, vessel that was accompanying the intercepted boat may have been in touch with a handler who was relaying information to the Pakistan Army. It also now suspected that the target of the mysterious boat may have either been a naval base that the Prime Minister was to visit or the Vibrant Gujarat Summit that is to begin soon.

A Times of India report quoted an unnamed source as saying that one of the wireless intercepts indicated that those on the boat were in frequent touch with someone who was in turn relaying information to the Pakistan Army and the country's maritime security agency. The person in Pakistan was also talking to another unidentified individual in Pakistan frequently as well, the report says.
The source was quoted as also saying that an intercepted message from the second boat stating that its crew was heading back after finishing their task, which is suspected to be a mid-sea transfer of arms and ammunition.

The potential target of the boat that was intercepted may have been the inauguration of a naval base by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the annual Vibrant Gujarat summit that is to be held this week, reported the Hindustan Times.

While the opening of the naval base in Porbandar has been put off indefinitely, the report also quoted unnamed sources as saying that spectroscopic analysis had confirmed the presence of explosives on board the ship that was intercepted by the Coast Guard.

In the midst of contradictory media reports, the Defense Ministry has called for an independent review. According to today's Express, the Ministry "has also asked the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) for logs and audiotape of intercepted Thuraya satellite-phone communications, on the basis of which it asked the Coast Guard and Navy to intercept the fishing boat".

Interestingly the report also points out that the Coast Guard has refused to provide even Intelligence Bureau officials access to the ship.

The IE reports goes on to note that forensic experts who saw photos of the burning boat were unconvinced that the flames were caused by explosives noting that there were no "white plumes characteristically associated with fires involving explosives." The report notes that the message from the fishing boat to its crew, which was picked up the NTRO on 31 December was not shared with RAW or IB.

Earlier a report in DNA  had pointed out that "even senior intelligence agencies are wondering why the Coast Guard chased the boat when it was on the fringe of India's exclusive economic zone (EEZ)."
The report pointed out that "according to UN convention, a nation can chase or intercept suspicious vessels if they prohibit the host nation's passage or if they (suspicious vessels) loiter above or under the surface of the sea. That was not the case here." In addition to this report noted that Indian fishermen claimed that they never saw a fire.

Meanwhile the Coast Guard is sticking to its version of events. Coast Guard Commander (North-West Region) Kuldip Singh Sheoran told reporters that the men on the boat "nowhere looking like fishermen, they had wore t-shirts and half pants, and this raised suspicion on our side."

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