Archive for the ‘ Indian Army ’ Category

Pakistan Extends Gen. Kayani’s Term

By Zahid Hussain for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan’s civilian government late Thursday extended the term of army chief General Ashfaq Kayani for three more years to ensure continuity in the military leadership at a crucial stage in the country’s battle against Islamic militants.  The announcement was made by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a televised speech.

“The decision is taken to maintain continuity in the military’s command as the country is passing through very critical times,” Mr. Gilani said. Gen. Kayani, 58 years old, was appointed army chief in December 2007 and was to retire at the end of the year under normal tenure limitations.

The general has won praise for leading two successful military operations against Islamic militants last year in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and South Waziristan tribal region. But militants have regrouped in many areas and continue to unleash suicide strikes across the country.

More than 50,000 Pakistani troops are still engaged in fighting al Qaeda backed Islamic militants in the Pakistan’s troubled northwestern region, which borders Afghanistan. They are aided by unmanned U.S. drone strikes.

The war is seen as a crucial piece of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan as many Taliban fighters use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.

A senior government official said Gen. Kayani’s good rapport with Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, and other American military leaders was a major factor in the decision to extend his term.

“He has worked closely with the current American military leadership and it is important for both Pakistan and the U.S. at this point for Gen. Kayani to stay at the helm,” said the official.

Other analysts agreed continuity was important at the current juncture of the war. “His leadership is crucial at the time when Pakistani army is fighting a decisive battle against the militants,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent defense analyst.

Still, the extension of his tenure is likely to raise concerns among some pro-democracy activists about the pre-eminent role of the military in Pakistan.

The country has a democratically elected civilian government under President Asif Ali Zardari. But the country has been ruled more by military leaders in its 63-year history, most recently between 1999 and 2008.

Mr. Zardari’s government faces growing opposition and some analysts fear the army may step in again if they deem it necessary. Gen. Kayani, though, has focused on fighting militants. “We have to defeat them decisively,” he said during a recent discussion with a group of journalists.

Gen. Kayani received his commission in the Pakistani army in 1971. He served as the chief of Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, before his elevation to army chief.

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Krishna Arrives in Pakistan, Calls Visit ‘a New Beginning’

By Omer Farooq Khan for The Times of India

Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, said that he is on a mission to restore trust and increase confidence between the two countries.

“We hope to discuss all issues of mutual interest and concern that can contribute to restoring trust and building confidence in our bilateral relationship,” Krishna told journalists as he arrived here.

During his three-day visit, Krishna will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday and will also meet President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yusuf Raza Gillani. S M Krishna looks forward seeking progress on the issue of terrorism being raised by the Indian home minister P Chidambaram with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik last month in Islamabad.

“I also look forward to receiving feedback on the issues raised by our home minister (P Chidambaram) during his visit to Pakistan last month on our core concern of terrorism, particularly in the light of the discussions our home minister had in Pakistan in the context of interrogation of David Headley regarding the Mumbai terrorist attack,” he said.

Krishna described his visit as important as it marks a new beginning of journey to build a prosperous, friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries.

India is committed to resolving all issues with Pakistan through peaceful dialogue based on mutual trust and confidence, Krishna said.

“I brought a message of peace and friendship from the people of India and we hope to undertake this voyage of peace, however long and arduous, jointly with the government and people of Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that he will raise with Krishna the issue of alleged human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We are approaching the meeting with a positive mindset,” Qureshi said.

The Krishna-Qureshi talks on Thursday will be the third major contact between the two countries in within a month.

Home minister Chidambaram conveyed India’s concerns and expectations on terrorism to Pakistani leadership last month when he visited Islamabad.

The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in April on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bhutan, which set in motion the process to revive suspended contacts at different levels of government.

Two Die in Gunfire at India-Pakistan Border

By Augustine Anthony for Reuters

An exchange of fire at the Indian-Pakistan border near Pakistan’s Punjab province has killed two Indian troops and wounded a Pakistani soldier and several villagers, officials said Wednesday.

The neighbours have in the past exchanged almost daily fire across what is known as the Line of Control separating the two armies in Kashmir, but the latest incident occurred in the Sialkot sector of Pakistan which rarely experiences trouble.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Rangers said Indian border security forces fired automatic weapons and mortars at a village along the Sialkot working boundary, north of the Pakistani city of Lahore.

“First they fired yesterday morning and then again in the evening and the firing continued sporadically throughout the night until Wednesday morning,” said Nadeem Raza.

“One of our soldiers and several villagers have been wounded in the Indian firing.” A senior Indian border official confirmed the incident but said Indian forces retaliated for “unprovoked firing” from the Pakistani side.

“We were facing unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side for the last two days, resulting in the death of two of our men. We were forced to retaliate,” said K. Srinivasan. “The firing was precise, but at this stage we cannot say for sure who fired at us.”

The flare-up comes ahead of Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s trip to Pakistan next week to meet with his counterpart in a renewed bid to normalise ties.

Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars since 1947, were frozen when Pakistan-based militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.

A late 2003 cease-fire between the two sides across the cease-fire line in Kashmir has largely held although there have been several exchanges of fire over the past year. Raza said Pakistani forces returned fire after Indian forces “did not respond to the call for a flag-meeting” and continued firing.

The Director General of Pakistan Rangers in Punjab, Major General Yaqub Khan, said a protest had been lodged with Indian forces. “In future, a strong reply will be given by Rangers and loss of civilian lives and property will not be tolerated at any cost,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued after visiting the area.

This was the third violation of a cease-fire in that area in the last two weeks, according to the statement. India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants fighting Indian security forces in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Pakistan supports what it calls a freedom struggle by the people of Kashmir against what it sees as the brutal and illegitimate Indian occupation of the region. But it denies arming the guerrillas, who have been fighting Indian forces since 1989.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh Renews Kashmir Talks Offer

As reported by BBC

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has renewed an offer of talks with Kashmiri separatists who shun violence. He made the comments during a visit to a university in Indian-administered Kashmir. He is on a two-day trip to the state to review development schemes. Separatists have called a shutdown. The PM has disappointed those who expected him to announce a political package, the BBC’s Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says.

“We felt that the people of the state are not only interested in financial assistance and development projects, but also desire a political process that meets their aspirations,” Mr Singh told gathering at the agricultural university in Srinagar.

“We want to take the dialogue process forward. We are ready to talk to representatives of all sections who are opposed to terrorism and violence,” he said. ‘Strict instruction’  The prime minister repeated his government’s policy of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations.

“The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been strictly instructed to respect the rights of the civilians. We’ll act to remove any deficiency in the implementation of these instructions,” he said. The PM’s visit was greeted by protests against human rights violations  The prime minister’s visit came a day after the Indian army suspended a senior officer accused of killing three civilians in a staged gun battle.

The incident happened at Machhil near the Line of Control, the de facto border which separates Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, in April. The Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley staged a total shutdown to protest against the prime minister’s visit. The strike was called by a hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Mr Singh’s visit has also disappointed the moderate faction of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, our correspondent says. Mr Farooq had urged the prime minister to announce a political package during his visit.

He had demanded withdrawal of troops from cities and towns and release of political prisoners to facilitate talks between the separatist leadership and the government, our correspondent adds. Violence has declined in Kashmir in recent years, but analysts say militants opposed to Indian rule are now trying to regroup. There has been a spate of clashes in recent months along the LoC. Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are based in Kashmir, where there has been a two decade-old insurgey against Indian rule.

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

Pakistan and China increase military spending and cooperation as India shows concern

Beijing, China- A senior Chinese defense official has justified Chinese sales of warships and submarines to Pakistan on the grounds that Russia and the United States were selling similar systems to India.

The defense official also indicated that China was aware of the fact that India may not be happy with its deal with Pakistan. “The initiative may invite concerns from its neighboring countries. But the doubts are unnecessary,” Zhai Dequan, deputy director of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association , was quoted as saying by the official media.

Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, Norman Bashir, also made a push to persuade China to sell higher capacity ships compared to the F22P frigates that China began delivering in June.  Chinese official Zhai said that Pakistan’s   desire for higher capacity ships is normal for an independent nation seeking to bolster its security. “India has also entered into deals for military hardware from the Unites States and Russia. India’s aircraft carrier has already cost it billions of dollars”, said Zhai.

Bashir also met with the Chinese defense minister, Liang Guanglie, and discussed with him Pakistan’s needs in terms of modernizing their armed forces to try and keep up with the torrid pace of rival India’s defense spending. “The Chinese armed forces would like to improve friendly and cooperative relations with the Pakistani armed forces,” defense minister Liang Guangile said, according to China’s state-run Xinhua press agency.” China attached great importance to its traditional friendship with Pakistan, Liang said, adding that the two countries had conducted comprehensive and multi-level military exchanges and cooperation in various areas.”

“The Pakistani armed forces and people cherished their friendship with the Chinese armed forces and people”, Noman Bashir said, noting that “Pakistan would like to work with China to promote the comprehensive and cooperative partnership.” Bashir also stated that Pakistan was keen on buying bigger ships and more JF-17 fighter planes from China in addition to submarines and that Pakistan will be buying more weapons from China, including missiles. 

“These growing military ties between China and Pakistan are a serious concern to India,” stated Defense Minister A K Antony. India worries about China’s rising influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, a neighborhood traditionally considered as its sphere of influence.

India’s relations with Pakistan, never easy after three wars since 1947, went downhill fast after last November’s Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistani originated militants. Meanwhile, Chinese and Pakistani cooperation on military and economic projects has increased in the last few years. “The increasing nexus between China and Pakistan in military sphere remains an area of serious concern,” Antony said in a speech. “We have to carry out continuous appraisals of Chinese military capabilities and shape our responses accordingly. At the same time, we need to be vigilant at all times.” Tensions between India and China, who fought a brief war in 1962, flared again in recent months, especially with the re-emergence of a long-standing border dispute made worse by a visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, to Indian territory claimed by Beijing.

India increased defense spending by 24% for this year’s budget to $28.4 billion a year dwarfing Pakistan’s budget of $4.2 billion for the same period. Meanwhile, China and India are together set to make Asia the highest regional spender on defense in the next seven years replacing North America as their economies continue to fund their weapons appetite.

Pakistan cannot compete with the likes of India and China militarily. Just as Taiwan could not compete with China militarily, but went on to become an economic powerhouse and used its influence economically,  so too must Pakistan focus on growing its economy rather than growing militarily. Even though Pakistan possesses the nuclear bomb, and that very well may end up being a strong deterrent against India in the likelihood of a war, it still is loathe to use it, for the consequences from India would be similar and far worse due to their increased warheads and military might.

Also, although Pakistan’s military and previous leadership have articulated the right to a preemptive nuclear strike or a nuclear first use option in the event of hostilities with India, this choice is often seen as a losing option by the military due to the aftermath of a nuclear exchange between the two countries. India’s budget and its technological advancements make it impossible for Pakistan to ever win a conventional war with India. And a nuclear exchange between these two neighbors will leave neither side feeling as the winner.  

Pakistan’s most beneficial strategy must consist of directing its full armed forces against the Taliban and militant groups within its territory and re-engaging India back to the peace table in hopes of resolving the long disputed Kashmir region because war with India will certainly not leave Pakistan the victor. However a peace treaty can open the long border between India and Pakistan for trade, goods, ideas, money and people to move freely across the border and allowing much needed investments and flow of technology to Pakistan that will go a long ways in helping the country and its people catch up with the rest of the world.

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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