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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

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