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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

From Today's Papers - 31 Mar 2015

Pak to join Saudi coalition to quell Houthis in Yemen
Islamabad, March 30
Pakistan will send troops to Saudi Arabia to join the coalition fighting Yemeni Houthi rebels, a senior government official said on Monday, joining several Gulf states, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco.

Largely Sunni Muslim Pakistan, a regional ally of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's main Sunni Muslim power, would join a Saudi-led military coalition conducting air strikes against Shi'ite Houthi forces.

The air strikes are targeting the rebels' southward advance on the port city of Aden, the last bastion of Saudi-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan shares a long border with Iran, considered to be the centre of Shi'ite power, and has a warm relationship with Saudi Arabia, Iran's main regional rival. An estimated 20 percent of Pakistanis are Shi'ite.

"We have already pledged full support to Saudi Arabia in its operation against rebels and will join the coalition," the Pakistani official said.

A Pakistani team, to be led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz, had been due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday but delayed the trip at the request of the Saudis, the official told Reuters.

On Monday night, Aziz and Asif met with Pakistan's military chiefs and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

"Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan," a statement from Sharif's media office said.

"Pakistan stands committed to playing a meaningful role in arresting the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

There are already about 750-800 Pakistani servicemen in Saudi Arabia but none are combat troops.

Pakistan has already had small demonstrations both for and against military intervention.

Right-wing religious groups demonstrated last week vowing to defend Saudi Arabia. But some civil society groups and opposition politicians spoke against intervention, on the view that it could further inflame sectarian tensions at home.

Sharif has long enjoyed close relations with the Saudi royal family. After his second term as prime minister was ended by a military coup in 1999, he was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia lent $1.5 billion to Pakistan last year to help Islamabad shore up foreign exchange reserves. Pakistani officials initially refused to divulge the source of the loan. Reuters

Air strike at refugee camp kills 45

An air strike at a camp for displaced people and refugees in Houthi-controlled northern Yemen on Monday killed 45 people and wounded 65, the International Organisation for Migration said.

The strike hit the vicinity of the Mazraq refugee camp in northern Yemen, spokesman Joel Millman said, citing IOM staff at the scene. He said it was not immediately clear how many of the casualties were civilians or armed personnel.

The air attacks have also targeted their southward advance on the port city of Aden, the last bastion of the Saudi-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
India, Japan hold Defence Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo
India and Japan held their Defence Ministerial Meeting in Tokyo today and agreed on several steps to step up their cooperation and exchanges in this area as part of the efforts to enhance Special Strategic and Global Partnership between the two countries.

At the talks between Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani, the two sides decided, among other things, to continue the high-level exchanges, including the Ministerial meeting on an annual basis.

An joint press release issued by the two sides after the meeting said Mr Nakatani would visit India in 2016 as part of these efforts.

The two sides agreed to hold the 4th Vice-Minister/Defence Secretary level Defence Policy Dialogue and the 3rd Vice-Minister/Secretary level “2 plus 2” dialogue in Delhi at the beginning of next month.

They also decided on visits by the by Service Chiefs of both countries on reciprocal basis.

The two sides agreed to continue to promote exchanges on UN Peacekeeping Operations between Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK) of the Indian Army and Japan Peacekeeping Training and Research Center (JPC) of Joint Staff College, Central Readiness Force (CRF) of Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF).

They agreed to continue to conduct bilateral exercises between Japan Maritime Force’s and Indian Navy on a regular basis.

The meeting also decided to conduct expert exchanges in Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief and Counter Terrorism between both Indian Army and Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) and to conduct staff talks, professional exchanges of test-pilots between Japan Air Self-Defence Force and Indian Air Force and exchanges between their air transport squadrons.

The two sides also agreed to enhance discussions on future cooperation in defence equipment and technology.

The release said the meeting was held in a "constructive, friendly and forward looking atmosphere". 

The two Ministers briefed each other on the security environment surrounding each country and their respective defence policies.  They reviewed strategic developments relating to international security situation with emphasis on the inter-connected Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

They were of the view that in the inter-connected Indo-Pacific region, the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership has a key role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Mr Nakatani briefed Mr Parrikar on Japan’s recent efforts related to Japan’s security policy.

The two Ministers welcomed the progress made in bilateral defence exchanges following the signing of Memorandum of Cooperation and Exchanges in the Field of Defence during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan in September 2014 and emphasized the need to further strengthen and elevate bilateral defence relations. 

They appreciated on-going maritime cooperation as exemplified by bilateral Japan-India Maritime Exercises and participation of Japan Maritime Self Defence Force in India-US Joint Naval Exercises “Malabar 14” in July 2014, which was held off the coast of Japan.

The two Defence Ministers noted the progress made in discussion in the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation (JWG-DETC).  They were of the view that India and Japan have the potential in the area of defence equipment and technology cooperation, which can emerge as a key pillar of bilateral defence relations. They exchanged views on potential projects for cooperation in this area and emphasized the need to pursue mutually beneficial future cooperation projects.
India to buy naval missile system from Europe
Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to France and Germany, the Defence Ministry has given its nod for purchasing nine Maitri short range surface to air missile (SAM) systems from the European arms major MBDA for Indian warships.

While the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Aakash SAM will fulfill the air defence requirement of the Army and Air Force, the indigenous missile has been found wanting for the naval needs. The defence acquisition council, therefore, instructed the DRDO to engage with MBDA for co-development of these missiles with a range of approximately 25 km for the Navy.

“Aakash does not meet naval staff qualitative requirement because of the sea keeping issues and instability of the platform. That’s why DRDO has been asked to restart the talks,” said a Navy official.

The green signal was given in a meeting of the defence acquisition council, headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on March 28.

Even though the Maitri programme began in 2007, the European company’s hopes were dashed last year when Air Force and Army said indigenous Aakash missile was good enough for them.

In the last two months, MBDA officials met Parrikar at least twice to find out ways to salvage the deal.

The Navy’s requirement is nine Maitri systems, each of them carrying 40 missiles for anti-missile defence of the vessels. The deal’s worth is likely to be few thousand crores though there is no official word even on the estimated price tag.

Three big European firms Airbus (37.5 per cent), BAE Systems (37.5 per cent) and Finmeccanica (25 per cent) have stakes in the MBDA. One of the them, Finmeccanica, was under scanner of the Indian government for the VVIP chopper scam.

In addition, the DAC approved midlife upgrading of 10 Ka-28 helicopters from Russia at a cost of Rs 2100 crore (297 million euro). These helicopters came in the early 1990s for the Ranvijay class ships.

Moreover, approvals were given to purchase 22 Harpoon missiles for the six HDW (Shishumar class) submarines at a cost of Rs 913 crore from the US and six anti-missile defence radar of Rs 343 crore for four Koraclass corvettes and two missile boats.
India, Japan vow to deepen defence ties as China tensions rise

Defence minister Parrikar says he would like to see a strong partnership with Japan in defence equipment and technology

New Delhi: India and Japan pledged to deepen their defence ties as the two nations seek to counter China’s growing influence in the region amid escalating territorial disputes. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar called on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Monday, his first overseas trip since being appointed in November. Parrikar also met his counterpart Gen Nakatani as part of the 29 March-1 April visit. “A strong India-Japan partnership is not only in the national interest of the two countries but is also important for peace and security in the region,” defence ministry said in a statement, citing Abe. Parrikar said he would like to see a strong partnership with Japan in defence equipment and technology, according to the statement. Converging economic and security interests are driving Asia’s second- and third-biggest military spenders closer in an attempt to thwart increasingly assertive Chinese claims over contested lands and waters. Japan is also easing its defence export rules as India, the world’s biggest arms importer, is looking to modernize its military. A close rapport between Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been cemented by a shared unease with China. Parrikar and Nakatani discussed potential areas for cooperation in defence equipment and technology and “emphasized the need to pursue mutually beneficial future cooperation projects,” the defence ministry said in a separate statement Monday. The two also “reviewed strategic developments relating to international security situation with emphasis on the inter-connected Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions,” according to the statement. Maritime security Tokyo’s ties with Beijing have been roiled by differences over Japan’s wartime actions and competing claims over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea strategically located near potential oil and gas deposits and fishing grounds. India and China have clashed sporadically along their border for the past five decades, including a standoff last year marring a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Modi warned China to drop its “territorial mindset” in February and said his country’s weakness had encouraged China’s army to enter Indian territory. In September, Japan and India pledged to upgrade their security relationship to uphold maritime security and the peaceful settlement of disputes. India also invited Japan last July to participate for the first time in annual naval exercises with the US in the Pacific Ocean. Defence spending The two countries have also been discussing the sale of Japanese US-2 amphibious planes to India, as well as a pact on civil nuclear energy. Since taking office in 2012, Abe has reinterpreted his nation’s pacifist constitution to allow Japan to come to the aid of allies, reversed a decade-long decline in defence spending and lifted a ban on arms exports. India is bulking up and modernizing its forces as it reasserts control in the Indian Ocean and along a 14,000km northern land border, parts of which it contests with China. India last month increased its defence budget by 11% to $40 billion and approved the building of six nuclear-powered submarines and seven new frigates. It plans to spend $150 billion to modernize its military by 2027

Sunday, 29 March 2015

From Today's Papers - 29 Mar 2015

India, China keen to allow military officers in each other’s academies

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 28

India and China are keen to allow military officers on either side to attend courses at specialised military training academies in each other’s country — a move that will be keenly watched by Islamabad, Tokyo, Washington and even Moscow.

The two countries, edgy over each other’s claims and counter-claims along the 3,488-km-long frontier running all along the Himalayan ridge line, have negligible military exchange. Rather, India is suspicious of China joining hands with Pakistan and launching a simultaneous two-front war.

A high-level Indian delegation led by Air Marshal PP Reddy, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC), was in Beijing on March 20 where the Chinese side offered exchange of cadets and officers in academies of either country.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), made the offer, sources said. Admiral Sun Jianguo’s opinion was that the two militaries should maintain high-level exchanges, enhance mutual trust, manage and control differences and deepen pragmatic cooperation in fields such as education and training.

“India is not averse to it. Rather, it is open about it but the modalities need to be worked out,” top sources told The Tribune while terming the move as part of the confidence-building measures.

Allowing exchanges in military academies has been discussed for the first time at such a high level, sources said.

Defence Secretary RK Mathur will be in China on April 8 for the annual defence dialogue (ADD) where the matter is expected to come up for discussion and decision-making.

So far, New Delhi and Beijing have had — over the past 7-8 years — four rounds of the ‘hand-in-hand’ series of counter-terrorism military exercises. They have also conducted half a dozen scheduled border personnel meets at the three designated spots — Spangur Gap in eastern Ladakh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Bum la in Arunachal Pradesh.

“To have a small number of Chinese military personnel attending a course in an academy here in India will be an entirely different ball game,” said an officer, pointing out that, so far, officers of ‘friendly countries’ attend such courses.

The exchanges can be possible at all levels like the National Defence College or the Army War College, or other academies like the Indian Military Academy, IAF Academy or the Naval Academy.
The flare-up in Yemen
Chinmaya R. Gharekhan
The best option for India is to practise non-alignment
West Asia is on the boil, literally.  The events surrounding Yemen, which exploded within the past 48 hours, have been building up for much longer.  What was a local, civil war has morphed into a full-scale regional war, with major participation from extra-regional powers, thus making it an international conflict. In the meanwhile, the Syrian and Iraqi war theatre continues unabated, without any hope of an early end.

In an article published in a leading English daily almost exactly four years ago entitled ‘The New Great Game in West Asia’, this writer had anticipated the Shia-Sunni conflict as the major, perhaps defining , feature of West Asia; many analysts thought  I was over-reading the situation.  The Shia-Sunni feud is as old as Islam itself. At various periods in history, it has lain dormant or become explosive; it never disappeared and will not, ever.

The Shia-Sunni tensions became acute after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, but the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 kept them in check for a while. The tensions were rekindled with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. History alone will tell us whether this was an intended or unintended consequence of that illegal war. The years 2006-8 witnessed a bloody Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq, causing tens of thousands dead among both communities.  The feud got a big shot in the arm with the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. While the principal objective on non-regional powers in the Syrian imbroglio was to damage Iran's clout by getting rid of the Assad regime, the regional players were mainly motivated by sectarian considerations; they wanted to replace the minority Alawite-Shia regime by a Sunni dispensation. The Syrian conflict, like the one in Yemen now, is simultaneously a civil war, regional war and an international conflict.

In the case of Yemen, two of the players, Saudi Arabia and Iran have extremely vital interests. Saudi Arabia in particular feels, with justification, directly threatened. The forced ouster of its chosen leader, Mr. Hadi, who has now taken shelter in Saudi Arabia, by the Shia Houthis, with undoubted encouragement and strongly suspected direct help from Iran, is regarded as a direct threat to the kingdom. If Yemen comes to be controlled by the Houthis, and hence by proxy by Iran, the Saudi state will feel threatened, particularly in its eastern region which is predominantly Shia and where much of the kingdom's oil wealth is concentrated. Add to this the fact that the Saudi regime for the most part of its history has grossly discriminated against its Shias, and the concern of the Saudis  is understandable.

Saudi Arabia has cobbled together a Sunni coalition of nine countries for airstrikes against Yemen: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan. A significant omission in this list is Oman which tends to follow a line independent of the Saudis for its own reasons. It is reported that Pakistan is actively considering joining this alliance. The US, always an indispensable power in West Asia, is furnishing logistic and intelligence support, indicating that it has been closely involved in this operation. The Saudis have declared that they will take any and all steps necessary to restore Hadi to his throne in Sanna. In the UN Security Council lingo, this would be 'take all necessary measures'. The Sunni coalition has categorically stated that ground intervention is not ruled out. Pakistan has been approached in this regard.

If the US is involved, can Russia and China remain far behind? The Iranians have condemned the Saudi ‘aggression’; they have called for a political solution to the Yemen conflict, but one can be confident that they too will be contemplating 'all necessary steps' to protect their protégés. It will be interesting to watch the stance of the government in Iraq which is Shia dominated and very close to Tehran but which is heavily dependent on America and other Sunni Gulf states for the struggle against the Islamic State. One will not have to wait long for Baghdad's policy in this rapidly evolving situation. Can Iraq afford to alienate either of its vital supporters in what is a crucial conflict for both?

The matter will come up before the Security Council before long. Battle lines will be drawn along the Shia-Sunni divide as well as between the protagonists in the renewed, though not yet all out, East-West cold war. China will condemn or deplore ‘interference in the internal affairs’ and along with Russia oppose any action aimed at authorising member states willing to do so to use ‘all  necessary measures’. The Horseshoe Table will witness harangues on all sides. In the meanwhile, innocent civilians will continue to be killed.

The Yemen crisis, unlike the Islamic State crisis, might have impact on the US-Iran talks on the nuclear issue and has already led to an increase in the price of crude; thus it has  global implications.

According to some diplomats from the region based in Delhi, Mr Obama has approached PM Modi to join the alliance against the Islamic State in some form. The same diplomats also believe that the recent visit of the Emir of Qatar also had the same objective. The events in Yemen will surely increase the pressure on India ‘to do something’ to join ‘this common threat’. India had displayed  wisdom in 2003 under Vajpayee's leadership and decided against joining the  coalition against Iraq, even though the Americans had pressed us hard and there was a great deal of support for the idea within our establishment. No doubt, the present NDA dispensation will display the same wisdom.  As one West Asian diplomat from an important country told this writer, it would be best for India not to get dragged into the ‘Middle East mess’. There are some among the strategic community who advocate India walking the talk about India being a major power regionally and globally. India is not such a power nor ought we nourish such ambitions for quite some time. The best option for India, as was mentioned by this writer four years ago, is to remain agile and practise non-alignment in the present context, and confine ourselves to pledging support for a political solution.
Diplomats, UN staff flee Yemen as Houthi fighters target Aden
Gulf Arabs offer Yemeni President support at Egypt summit
Aden, March 28
Saudi Arabia’s navy evacuated dozens of diplomats from Yemen and the United Nations pulled out international staff on Saturday after a third night of Saudi-led air strikes trying to stem advances by Iranian-allied Houthi fighters.
Residents reported heavy clashes between the Houthis and mainly Sunni tribal fighters in the south of the country, while the Saudi-led air campaign sought to stall a fresh offensive by the Shi’ite Muslim group on Aden from the east.
Riyadh’s intervention, a surprise move from a conservative monarchy better known for flexing its muscle in oil markets than through military might, is planned to last a month but could extend for five or six, a Gulf diplomatic source said.
Dozens of diplomats were shipped out of Aden to the Red Sea port of Jeddah, Saudi television said, escaping the city where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had taken refuge until Thursday, when he left for Egypt to shore up Arab support for his crumbling authority.
The director general of Yemen’s Health Ministry, al-Khadher Laswar, said more than 62 people had been killed and 452 wounded in the city since Wednesday. Explosions at the city’s largest ammunition depot on Saturday left at least nine badly wounded, he said.
In the capital Sanaa, which has been under Houthi control since September, more than 100 UN staff were evacuated, a United Nations source said. Airport staff said dozens of other foreigners working for international oil companies and NGOs also flew out to Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Houthi fighters seeking to overthrow the Western- and Saudi-backed Hadi have continued to make gains since the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes against them on Thursday.
On Friday, the Houthis and allied army units gained their first foothold on Yemen’s Arabian Sea coast by seizing Shaqra, 100 km east of Aden, allowing them to open a new front to march on the south’s main city.
Residents said a Houthi convoy of armoured vehicles, tanks and military trucks heading along the coastal road to Aden from Shaqra was attacked by warplanes before dawn on Saturday, and a number of vehicles were hit.
There was no immediate comment from the Houthis, and no details on any casualties were available.
At the Arab summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Hadi urged Yemen’s army to protect state institutions and obey the orders of Yemen’s “legitimate leadership”.
He also underlined the regional dimensions of the conflict, calling the Houthis “Iran’s puppet”.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told the summit the operation would continue until Yemen achieved peace and security, while Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said the Houthi advances “pose a threat to our security”. — Reuters
Ban list: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar to review Vectra case

NEW DELHI: Manohar Parrikar has made his opinion against random blacklisting of defence companies that complicate modernisation of the forces, but he will now have to walk the talk on a specific case involving a group against which restrictions had been put in place but has since been cleared of charges by investigative agencies.

The minister, who has repeatedly spoken against the 'blacklisting culture' of the last government, is set to take a call on whether a banned company against w ..

Sources say that Parrikar, who has also promised to put in place a new policy that would legalise and regulate middlemen or consultants in the defence business, has to shortly take a decision on an Army contract that involves the Ravi Rishi owned Vectra group. The minister is likely to take the opinion on the matter of his key advisors at an apex level meeting on modernisation on Saturday.

While the contract itself is small - valued at around Rs ..

Read more at:
India's Army Chief calls for better UN consultations
United Nations: Representing the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Operations, India's Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag has called for better consultations with troop-contributing countries in deciding mandates for the operations.

Addressing the first UN Chiefs of Defence Conference here on Friday, Suhag reiterated India's concerns over the inadequacy of consultations with countries deploying their forces in UN operations.

In the past, India has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the Security Council in practise ignores the UN Charter requirement for nations contributing troops "to participate in the decisions" of the Council on their deployment. Reiterating the nation's commitment to the world body's peace efforts, Suhag referred to India having contributed over 180,000 troops to UN operations.

He said India would continue to abide by the cardinal principles of UN peacekeeping, which are impartiality, consent of the parties to the conflict and use of force in self-defence or defence of the mandate.

India has 8,145 personnel serving in 12 of the current 16 UN operations. Historically, Indian troops have participated in 43 of the 69 UN peacekeeping missions and 156 have died while serving under the UN's blue flag.

Defence chiefs from 108 countries participated in the conference, the largest gathering of the world's top military leaders.

While summing up the conference proceedings, Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the defence chiefs felt "better clarity on mandates was required."

At the start of the conference, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in "our largest deployment in history" more than 130,000 military, police and civilian staff from serve in the UN's 16 peacekeeping operations.

"It must be matched by a stronger international partnership for peacekeeping," he said. "Peacekeeping is a shared global responsibility that advances the world's common interests."

"Over the past two decades, the Security Council has given peacekeepers increasingly challenging mandates," Ban said. "Effective performance demands broad consensus on why, where and how peacekeepers carry out their mandates."

Atul Khare, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, described the recent efforts to improve the missions' ability to respond to respond to challenging environment by adopting a comprehensive approach.

An issue that came up at the conference was the growing problem of asymmetric threats that peacekeepers face from adversaries using non-conventional tactics.

According to Ladsous, to meet these threats the defence chiefs emphasised developing better relations with the local people where the troops operate and the deploying agile and mobile units.

"Rapid deployment was recognised as an absolute necessity," Ladsous said.


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