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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 04 May 2016

Something ‘seriously wrong’
Parliamentary panel raps Centre, says role of Punjab Police suspect
Mukesh Ranjan

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 3
Noting that the role of Punjab Police was “questionable and suspicious”, a parliamentary panel has rapped the Centre for failing to avert the terror attack on the Pathankot air base early this year. It has observed that there is “something seriously wrong” with the country’s counter-terror architecture, as the security set-up is not “robust for even a sensitive place like the air base”.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs placed its report in Parliament today. It said it was beyond anybody’s comprehension how the terrorists managed to “breach” the high-security air base and carry out the strike in spite of a terror alert sounded well in advance.

The panel, headed by Congress Rajya Sabha member P Bhattacharya, said, it was “constrained to note that despite concrete and credible Intelligence inputs from the abducted and released SP of Pathankot and his friend and also through interception of communication between terrorists and their handlers”, the security agencies were ill-prepared to anticipate the threat and counter it decisively.

“The role of Punjab Police is very questionable and suspicious as even after abduction of the Punjab Police SP and his friend, the Punjab Police took a long time in arriving at the conclusion that their abduction was not just a criminal robbery but a serious national security threat,” the report said. Calling it strange that the terrorists had chosen to let off the SP and his friend, it suggested that this be thoroughly examined by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

It blamed the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad for the attack, pointing out that ammunition found on the slain terrorists had a “Made in Pakistan” marking.

The panel dwelled on the fact that a few armed terrorists “cannot sneak into the Indian side without the active support of Intelligence agencies and the army of the neighbouring country”, while ruing the fact  that despite fencing, floodlighting and BSF patrolling, Pakistani terrorists had managed to sneak in.
Pay in full for F-16s: US to Pak
Aziz says will buy jets from other countries if Washington holds back finances
Washington/Islamabad, May 3
The $700 million F-16 fighter jet deal seems to have hit turbulence with the US telling Pakistan it will have to finance the purchase of fighter jets itself after members of the US Congress objected to using government funds to pay for them. Pakistan, however, said it will buy jets from other countries if the US fails to provide agreed funds.

The US has asked Pakistan to “put forward” its “national funds” to buy eight F-16 fighter jets after some top American Senators put a hold on the use of taxpayers’ money to partially finance them. Pakistan has time till May-end to avail the American offer to procure F-16s.

“While the Congress has approved the sale, key members have made clear that they object to using FMF (foreign military financing) to support it. Given Congressional objections, we have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby on Monday. Kirby, however, did not say when this decision was taken and when was it communicated to Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, however, said the Congressional blockade might force it to turn to other countries. “Pakistan will buy F-16s from some other country if funding (from US) is not arranged,” Aziz said at a seminar.

On February 11, the State Department had informed the Congress about its determination for selling eight F-16s to Pakistan at an estimated cost of $700 million. The move was opposed by the Indian Government, which summoned US Ambassador to India Richard Verma to lodge its protest.

US top American lawmakers led by Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put a hold on the sale arguing that it would not let the Obama administration use taxpayers’ money for sale of the fighter jets to Pakistan given that Islamabad was not taking enough action against terrorist organisations, in particular the Haqqani network. — Agencies

Can’t use taxpayers’ money: US Congress

    Under the $700 m deal, Pakistan was to pay $270 m from its national funds to buy eight F-16s built by American firm Lockheed Martin Corp, while the US was to fund the rest from its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) fund
    The US Congress, however, refused to approve funding using taxpayers’ money, leaving the deal in limbo, as cash-starved Pakistan may not be able to make the entire payment
    Last week, top American lawmakers during a congressional hearing told the Obama administration they feared Pakistan will use the F-16s against India and not against terrorists

India’s military growth ‘worrisome’

Adviser to Pak PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Tuesday expressed concern over India’s growing military power. He said if India’s growing military power was not checked, Pakistan would be “forced to increase its strategic power” too. “The international community should avoid steps which may disturb the strategic balance in South Asia,” Aziz warned — IANS
Will the real Sharif please stand up?
Lt-Gen Bhopinder Singh
Gen. Raheel Sharif's anti-corruption drive and the resultant moral high ground puts him in a position of strength vis-a- vis Nawaz Sharif. Given the history of Pakistan’s civil-army ties, it remains to be seen which Sharif will finally emerge as the winner.
Civil-military shadowboxing is an old hat in Pakistan, with a brazen democracy-be-damned approach of the Pakistani generals who have formally ruled for 36 out of the 69 years of independence. In 1958, the first Pakistani President Iskandar Mirza dismissed the government of the day and appointed his Commander-in-Chief Ayub Khan as the Martial Law Administrator, only to see Ayub depose Iskandar Mirza within 13 days and assume Presidentship. In 1976, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto handpicked a “safe” Mohajir, Zia-ul-Haq as his Chief of Staff — only to get executed by his protégé within two years. Later in 1991, Nawaz Sharif too would pull the wrong bunny out of the hat and install the third-in-line Pervez Musharraf as his Chief of Army Staff, only to get ousted and exiled by Musharraf by end-2000.

Circa 2016 is no different — serendipitous namesakes representing the two conflicting sides of the Pakistani establishment, with Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister in Islamabad to General Raheel Sharif ensconced in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, hardly 20 km down the Muree Road. Tell-tale signs of mutual and institutional discomfort between the two revolve around the appropriation as the principal voice on the two vectors that dominate Pakistani narrative, internal administration (read, security and corruption) and external affairs (ummah and Kashmir) — on both accounts, the politico/civil classes are on the backfoot against the steely frame of the ramrod straight, medal-chested and martially mustachioed Raheel Sharif leading the battle of perceptions, by miles. In feudal Pakistan, Punjabi lineage with a war-decorated family to boot (Raheel Sharif's elder brother Major Rana Shabbir Sharif, was the recipient of Pakistan's highest gallantry award, Nishan-e-Haider), rolls more generously in the desperate eyes of the Pakistani masses than Nawaz Sharif's stock that features, amongst other infamies, in the recent Panama expose. 

Pakistan's official warrant of precedence puts the Chief of Army Staff, Raheel Sharif at Article 6 or below 26 other constitutional appointments, (including some like Deputy Speaker to the National Assembly or Chairman Consultative Committee on economic policy and even below advisors and special assistants to the Prime Minister)  — however, constitutional propriety does not count for much in Pakistan and with Raheel Sharif making a dash to Washington, Riyadh, Beijing or Kabul at his free will to iron-fence the contours of Pakistani foreign policy, everyone knows who the real McCoy in Pakistan is.

The first port of calling in Pakistan for the newly elected President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani in 2014, was the “Army House” and not the Prime Minister or the President. For a nation reeling under simultaneous tumults of economic, sectarian and terror related severities — it is critical to be seen as decisive, assertive and authoritative. His unmistakable fingerprints in devising the Zarb-e-Azb operations in 2014 to take on the might of the Taliban, devising the National Action Plan (NAP), bringing the rogue elements in Karachi under control and making his omnipresence felt from Baluchistan to the Swat valley has given him a cult-like status as the ultimate vanguard to all ills afflicting Pakistan.

Raheel Sharif has now upped the ante with a move that promises moral high ground vis-à-vis the politicos on the sticky ground of corruption — his recent dismissal from service of six army officers, including a Lt-Gen, a Maj-Gen, three brigadiers and a Lt-Col is unprecedented in the scale and seniority of the Stalinistic purge. Such an action is in sharp contrast to the dilly-dallying of the civilian authorities who tom-tom the dithering sub-continental line of "political conspiracy", whilst the hapless masses struggle to comprehend the legitimate brilliance of a Nawaz Sharif whose officially declared assets go up from Rs 166 million in 2011 to around Rs 2 billion in a span of four years (obviously, not including the Panama count). Such negative perceptions of civil/politico capabilities have allowed the open encroachment of the military uniforms in the judicial domain with the codification and institutionalisation of the supremacy through “general-heavy” apex committees, and no one complains. Credible conspiracy theorists attribute this undeclared coup of sorts to the backroom mechanisations that do not shy away from using the services of an alternative political platforms like Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf or Tahir Ul Qadri's followers to arm-twist Nawaz Sharif with a popular and pliant political alternative.

The recent surge in Raheel Sharif's popularity has emboldened him to position his trusted confidantes in key positions like the ISI head, Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar or more crucially with the appointment of his fellow clansmen, Lt- Gen Naseer Khan Janjua as the NSA — the civilian corridors of powers are increasingly seeing burly soldiers who have shed their military fatigues and adorn the civilian-appropriate attires. The image overdrive for Raheel Sharif is carefully crafted, communicated and choreographed by the Army's public relations wings — Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) — timely snippets of the Army Chief and his swagger across the nation are regularly bombarded via a twitter handle that has the subscription equivalent to the combined numbers of the top three English newspapers!

Perhaps the only high-profile visitor to give General Raheel Sharif a miss in Pakistan was the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the subsequent confusion and frustration emanating from the perennial "one-step-forward-and-two-steps-behind" reality can be attributed to the limited mandate of the other Sharif, Nawaz Sharif to deliver on his word and intent — a reality check of the actual space for the civil/politicos to take independent decisions on domestic and foreign policy matters.

Unlike the 1980s, when General Zia-ul-Haq appropriated religion as an means of relevance and assertion — it is a space that is now occupied by mullahs who are inimical to both the civil/politico classes, as indeed to the military and its generals —hence, the "moral high-ground" is the definitive space that subsumes the laundry list of woes besetting Pakistan's masses today (e.g. controlling bloody violence, corruption and secessionist tendencies). Fear of international opprobrium may restrain Raheel Sharif from doing a Pervez Musharraf immediately, but with the retirement deadline of Raheel Sharif in September 2016 looming large, the real Sharif may actually stand up soon, and formally so.

The writer is a former Lt-Governor of Andaman and Nic
Ex-IAF chief quizzed again
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 3
Former IAF chief SP Tyagi was grilled by the CBI for the second day today in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal.

Tyagi arrived at the CBI headquarters at 11 am. After Tyagi admitted that he met an official of VVIP chopper manufacturing company Finmeccanica in India, the CBI called Gautam Khetan, former legal adviser to a Chandigarh-based IT firm, for questioning.

Tyagi has accepted that he met officials of the Finmeccanica, including its chief operating officer George Zapa, in India in 2005. He also admitted to running four companies (Vanshi, Anuras, Shavan and Meghanshu) in Noida. The companies are registered in the name of Tyagi and his wife, sources say.
US Navy tests largest unmanned ship
San Diego, May 3
It’s not only drones and driverless cars that may become the norm someday, but ocean-faring ships might also run without captains or crews.

The Pentagon yesterday showed off the world's largest unmanned surface vessel, a self-driving 132-foot ship able to travel up to 10,000 nautical miles on its own to hunt for stealthy submarines and underwater mines.

The military's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in conjunction with the Navy will be testing the ship off the San Diego coast over the next two years to observe how it interacts with other vessels and avoids collisions. Unlike smaller, remote-controlled craft launched from ships, the “Sea Hunter” is built to operate on its own.

"It's not a joystick ship," said DARPA spokesman Jared B Adams, standing in front of the sleek, futuristic-looking steel-gray vessel docked at a maritime terminal in the heart of San Diego's shipbuilding district, where TV crews filmed the robotic craft.

“Sea Hunter relies on radar, sonar, cameras and a global positioning system. Unmanned ships will supplement missions to help keep service members out of harm's way,” Adams said.

Besides military leaders, the commercial shipping industry will be watching the ship's performance during the trial period. Maritime companies from Europe to Asia have been looking into developing fleets of unmanned ships to cut down on operating costs and get through areas plagued by pirates. — AP
Defense spending ‘nose-dived’, ‘woefully insufficient’: Parl panel
Defence secretary G Mohan Kumar has admitted before a parliamentary panel that India’s military spending for 2016-17 “is not as per the requirements of the services”, contradicting defence minister Manohar Parrikar who has publicly said that the budget allocation is adequate.

In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the standing committee on defence said the meagre increase in this year’s defence spending was insufficient to fulfill the military’s basic needs, let alone modernisation. In February, India announced it would spend Rs 2.58 lakh crore on defence in 2016-17, a marginal hike of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates.

“The committee expresses agreement with the ministry that this growth in the budgetary allocation is not sufficient and woefully inadequate for modernisation,” the panel, headed by BJP MP Major General BC Khanduri (retd), said.

The report said India’s defence spending as percentage of government expenditure had “nose-dived” from 15.24% in 2000-2001 to 12.59% in budget estimates (BE) for 2016-17. “This is highly alarming and needs to be rectified,” the report said, noting that the BE for the year stood at Rs 2.7 lakh crore (gross). The committee said if the government cannot provide additional budget, it should ensure efficiency of spending.

This year’s defence spending, excluding pensions, accounts for 1.7% of the country’s gross domestic product. Experts believe the figure should be around 3% of the GDP to counter China’s rapidly growing military might.

The panel expressed disappointment with the government over its failure to clinch the Rafale fighter deal and bolster the air force’s offensive potential.

The panel was “unhappy to note that although a considerable time has elapsed, negotiations with France on Rafale could not be taken to a logical end”.

The panel also asked the government to create the post of chief of defence staff (CDS) – a single-point military adviser to the government – at the earliest. Ten out of 24 political parties have given their views on the matter.
Army facing shortage of over 8,600 officers: Govt
NEW DELHI: The Army is facing a shortage of 8,671 officers, excluding the medical and dental corps and the military nursing service, Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

In a written reply, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said as against the authorised strength of 49,833 officers, the held strength is 41,162.
He said some of the major reasons for shortage of officers include increase in authorised strength due to accretions in force level from time to time, stringent selection criteria coupled with perceived high degree of risk.

The shortage of officers in the Indian Army (approximately 17%) is expected to get reduced gradually depending on a number of variable factors like future accretions, number of exits, actual intake among others, Parrikar said.
4 apps ISI is using to snoop on Indian armed forces
NEW DELHI: Pakistan's security agency ISI is spying on Indian security forces using malwares through mobile gaming and music applications such as Top Gun and talking frog the government said today.

Responding to a question in Lok Sabha, minister of state for home affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary also said Pakistan's spy agency was making efforts to trap ex-servicemen in the garb of providing job opportunities and financial aid for spying.

"There are reports that Pakistan intelligence agencies are spying on Indian security forces by sending malwares in mobile apps such as Top Gun (game app), mpjunkie (music app), vdjunkey (video app), talking frog (entertainment app)," the minister said.

He said during the period 2013-16, seven ex-servicemen were arrested/detected for espionage activities for the ISI.

"The Indian security forces have been sensitized about Pakistan ISI using dubious applications on smartphones," he said.

"Besides, the government has circulated Computer Security Policy and Guidelines to all the ministries/departments on taking steps to prevent, detect and mitigate cyberattacks which includes sanitization of staff and officers, installations of CCTV and biometric for electronic surveillance with well defined crisis management plan for countering cyber attacks and cyber terrorism for implementation," Chaudhary said.

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