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Thursday, 2 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 02 Jun 2016

India is shying away from talks: Pak Prez
Islamabad, June 1
President Mamnoon Hussain today accused India of “running away” from talks despite Pakistan’s offer of joint-probe in the Pathankot terror attack, even as he raked up the Kashmir issue, calling it an “unfinished agenda of partition” and the main cause of regional tension.

Addressing the joint session of the parliament, Hussain said: “Despite Pakistan’s efforts for resumption of talks (with India) and its offer of joint probe in the Pathankot attack, the Foreign Secretary-level talks are still suspended. Pakistan is concerned about it.”

“We believe the main cause of tension in the region is the Kashmir issue. It is part of unfinished agenda of partition of the sub-continent. Unless Kashmir issue is settled according to the wishes of people of Kashmir and UN resolutions, the problems of this region cannot be resolved,” he said.

He said Pakistan was a peaceful country and wants its foreign policy to be based on friendship and brotherhood with all nations.

“We do not wish to be aggressive towards any nation and intend to participate with honesty in national and global affairs,” he said.

The President said Pakistan wanted peaceful ties with all neighbours by addressing disputes through talks and accused India of “running away from talks with Pakistan”.

He said democracy had been strengthened in the country and it can now resist and absorb different kinds of crises. — PTI
Pakistan takes a hit
G Parthasarathy
After the F-16 debacle, the US drone attack has it in a fix
THE past fortnight has been traumatic for Pakistan’s ruling elite. They could only look on as American drones crossed the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and eliminated Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, anointed leader of the Afghan Taliban by the ISI, barely a year earlier, in a public function at Kuchalak on the outskirts Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. It was  near the site of his appointment that the drones struck and killed Mansour. The drone strike occurred at a virtual stone’s throw away from  the Pakistan army’s Command Staff College, its XII Corps Headquarters, its military recruitment centre and the ISI regional office. The strike signalled that  Taliban leaders based in Quetta for over 15 years under ISI protection could no longer take their safety for granted.

To add to their woes, the ISI and Pakistan’s ubiquitous army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, were made to again look silly. General Sharif personally summoned the American Ambassador to warn the US of dire consequences for its action, described by him and other Pakistani notables, like Interior Minister Chaudhry Nissar, as a “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”. To add insult to injury, the Americans responded: “We will carry out strikes to remove terrorists who are actively pursuing, planning and directing attacks against US forces. The strike sends a clear message that those who target Americans and Afghan people are not to be given a safe haven. If you are going to lead attacks against our forces and Afghanistan’s forces, you are going to be targeted and you are not going to have safe havens.” It remains to be seen if the Americans seriously carry out these threats. They will, doubtless, be tested.

From Pakistan’s point of view, the past fortnight has been a diplomatic nightmare. Just preceding the drone strike in Baluchistan, the US Congress  made it clear that the new F-16s will not be provided free of cost, as in the past. Moreover, Pakistan had to witness Prime Minister Modi not only being feted and received by Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, but also a trilateral Iran-Afghanistan-India Summit. Agreement  was reached at the summit to develop the Chabahar Port and an India-Iran-Afghanistan transport corridor, bypassing Pakistan. Moreover, India and Iran agreed to transform their trade relationship into a comprehensive economic partnership and to consult closely in combating threats of terrorism, radicalism, drug trafficking and cyber crime.

The past week also saw the anointment of  Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada as the Taliban’s new leader. He is to be assisted by two deputies — Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of America’s most-wanted terrorists, and Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoob. It is now clear that Pakistan would like to see the continuance of a Taliban leadership  drawn from the Kandahar-based Ghilzai Pashtuns, bypassing  the traditional leadership of Durrani Pashtuns, like President Hamid Karzai. Like Mullah Omar and Mullah Mansour, Mullah Akhunzada is a Kandahar-based Ghilzai Pashtun. He is not from the dominant Durrani tribe, from which Afghan rulers, since Ahmed Shah Abdali in the 18th century, have been traditionally drawn.   The  Pakistanis enacted  a stunt to give Mullah Omar’s appointment a veneer of legitimacy and respectability by getting him to appear for the first time in public in 1996, at the main shrine in Kandahar, covered in a cloak, believed to have been worn by the Prophet Muhammad. Ahmed Shah Abdali had brought the cloak to Kandahar from Bukhara. One wonders what stunts the ISI will now resort to in order to similarly give Mullah Akhunzada a veneer of respectability and legitimacy.

The entire so-called “peace process” for reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government now lies in a shambles. This  was an initiative doomed to fail, as the Taliban have no belief in democracy and were determined to  use force to acquire power.  The Americans were led up the garden path by both Pakistan and China, to support this process, little realising that while the they wanted a representative government in Kabul, China had an interest in seeing an ISI-sponsored regime in Kabul. Such a regime would do Pakistan’s bidding and  spare China’s Xinjiang Province, where Muslims are persecuted, from terrorist violence. China had, after all, been one of the very few countries that had diplomatic contacts and even economic cooperation with the Taliban regime led by Mullah Omar in the 1990s.

These developments have set the stage for more intensive Taliban attacks across Afghanistan in the coming months. The ISI’s favourite Taliban leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is  the deputy leader, along with Mullah Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar. It remains to be seen how the Americans will react to these developments. The State Department has threatened reprisals even on Pakistani soil if attacks in Afghanistan by Taliban  insurgents based there continue. But the Obama Administration is now a ‘lame duck’.

General Sharif, meanwhile, appears to be realising that he has perhaps bitten off more than he can chew by committing his soldiers to fight the Tehriq-e-Taliban in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. He has obviously learnt no lessons from history.

India needs to stay the course in its existing policies on Afghanistan. Its image as a benevolent power will be further enhanced when the Salma Dam built by Indian engineers is commissioned in Afghanistan’s Herat province, bordering Iran, later this year. The presence of the leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and India for inking the agreement making the Chabahar Port a major gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia has sent a powerful message across the entire region. The reported request of President Ashraf Ghani for more MI-25 attack helicopters needs to be considered after assessing the security situation in Afghanistan. When I last visited Kabul three years ago, I learnt that Pakistani visitors to the Kabul market often declared they were Indians to avoid public wrath against Pakistanis, which runs deep across Afghanistan. One hopes good sense will prevail and Pakistan will learn to behave with greater circumspection and consideration in dealing with its northern neighbour.
DRDO claims breakthrough in using solar energy for heating at night
 0 0 0 0
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has claimed to have made a breakthrough in developing technology for utilising solar heat harnessed during the day for heating rooms during the night at extreme altitude.

The Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), a DRDO laboratory based at Leh, has developed a shelter for troops that uses non-conventional energy for heating, instead of fossil fuel. The shelter, costing about Rs 60 lakh, was tested through the winter at Chang La, located at 17,600 feet in Ladakh, with temperature as low as minus 40°C. The DRDO established the world’s highest research station there last year.

Scientists at DIHAR said while solar energy could be harnessed and stored in batteries for later use, the same is not applicable for solar heat and conventionally solar heat can be used only while the sun is shining. Claimed to be the only kind of shelter, it utilises phase change materials (converting solid to liquid and liquid to solid on change of temperature, thereby releasing heat) to store thermal energy collected from evacuated tube solar collectors. It has a greenhouse based thermal trap area over the roof and utilises greenhouse concept for creating a tunnelling effect to trap solar heat in the shelter.

“The shelter maintained a temperature of 7-10°C when the ambient temperature stood around minus 30°C. Other shelters in similar conditions have temperature of minus 10-15°C,” a DIHAR scientist said. “However, there is a need to operate a diesel generator for six hours during the peak winter months (January and February) when the temperature falls below minus 30°C,” he said.

At present, the Army uses “bhukaris” and generator-run electrical appliance to heat spaces like barracks and bunkers in Ladakh as well as the North-East, consuming lakhs of litres of kerosene and diesel every year. The non-conventional energy shelter would be environmentally beneficial in ecologically sensitive areas, besides generating carbon credits.

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