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Monday, October 26, 2009

Why is China scared

A special ritual of life in Dharamsala is welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to his exile home. A victory banner is strung over the road as a multinational crowd pours into the lanes of Mcleodganj and down Temple Road to His Holiness’ residence, waiting for a glimpse of the great spiritual master and honorary citizen of India, waving from the window of a vehicle escorted by a crack team of Indian commandos.
The Dalai Lama never seems to rest; he just returned from North America, to commence a week of teachings on the Diamond Sutra and the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. It’s impossible to find a hotel room — Dharamsala quivers from the weight of tourists and pilgrims from five continents who have come to this refugee town in Himachal Pradesh to touch a piece of old Tibet that fell upon this hillside 50 years ago.
There is disquiet among Tibetan refugees and their supporters over escalating Chinese repression in Tibet and Beijing’s success in pressuring world leaders to back off from the Tibet issue.
Last month United States President Barack Obama declined to meet the Dalai Lama as it would upset the Chinese Communist Party bosses in Beijing. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said: “The stronger relationship that we have with China benefits the Tibetan people.” A statement so credulous, or cynical, it seems to have been crafted expressly by the Beijing bureau of propaganda.
The grim reality of life in China’s Tibet is told in every corner of this refugee town, especially at the Gu Chu Sum Society created by ex-political prisoners from Tibet. The office stairwell is lined with drawings depicting the torture Tibetan nationalists endured in Chinese custody. One man was hung by his ankles for hours and whipped with barbed wire. Another had his legs and arms broken, was tossed into a sewage pit and pelted with rocks. A Buddhist nun was repeatedly raped with an electric cattle prod.
This is how China governs Tibet, and the most dangerous outcome of Mr Obama’s refusal to meet the Dalai Lama is the message it sends to the Chinese Communist Party: that their barbarous rule in Tibet can continue without impediment, that they can proceed with the plunder of Tibet’s lands and the yoking of Tibet’s rivers.
China has made the mere mention of Tibet so toxic that delegates at last month’s climate change summit in Bangkok refused to address climate change on the Tibetan plateau and its deleterious effect on the rivers of nation states in south and southeast Asia, hardly a small matter.
Control of the Tibetan plateau and its vast riches is a priority for Hu Jintao’s government. Since March 2008, China has mobilised an estimated 50,000 troops along the Tibet-India border, while protesting against visits by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh and excising Kashmir from India in a new map and website. China is supplying Nepal with aid and weaponry, which fuels the advance of Maoist insurgencies across India. Himachal This Week just ran a two-page story on Chinese spies working in Dharamsala, with a timeline of a decade of arrests and confessions of agents with plans to attack the Dalai Lama.
Why does Beijing so fear this gentle Tibetan Buddhist master and purveyor of the Gandhian legacy of non-violence? On October 1, 2009, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated 60 years of one-party rule with a Cold War parade of massive weaponry and Maoist sloganeering. On October 2, India paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 140th birth anniversary with an inter-faith service at New Delhi’s Gandhi Smriti. Dr Singh sat upon the grass amid citizens and guests as prayers from all religions were read and sung, then scattered rose petals on the site of the Mahatma’s martyrdom with quiet dignity.
These twin ceremonies just a day apart reveal the vast gap between Mao’s and Gandhi’s visions of power. His Holiness the Dalai Lama calls Gandhi his political guru and has steadfastly pursued the path of ahimsa with the Chinese Communists who call him “an incestuous murderer with evil intentions”. But the Dalai Lama has not been broken. Witness him upon his lama’s throne, imparting the wisdom of the Buddha into the golden light of the Kangra Valley, to students from Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos, whose sanghas were laid waste by the Communists, who regard him as the Living Buddha.
“Look how much power China has, and they are so paranoid, they take such desperate measures to keep politicians away from the Dalai Lama,” says celebrated Tibetan poet Tenzing Tsundue. “The Dalai Lama has no aircraft, no money, he’s a refugee. China has weapons and banks, but they are terrified of this simple monk who wants to make peace with them. It shows their great insecurity. Our power lies in our faith in non-violence. The Tibet movement is still here after 50 years. We continue to inspire the people of the world who are looking for solutions to violence and conflict.”

* Maura Moynihan is a writer and Tibet expert who has worked with Tibetan refugees in India for many years. Now based in New York, she is researching a book on America’s
failed China policy.

Pak fears 3 fronts, not 2

Any general’s worst fear is to have to fight on two fronts. This is one reason why Pakistan’s Army has been reluctant to move troops away from Pakistan’s border with India, as the GHQ’s perception is that Pakistan’s old foe is still Pakistan’s biggest threat. And even though 28,000 troops are now fighting the Taliban in South Waziristan, the bulk of the Army still faces east.
Against this backdrop, imagine how many sleepless nights the prospect of a “third front” must be causing. The recent attack by Jundallah in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province has raised the spectre of hot pursuit into Pakistani Balochistan. Although this is not an imminent prospect, there are Iranians who are itching to cross the border to crush this terrorist group that has been a thorn in their country’s side since it was established in 2005 by its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi.
Jundallah (not to be confused with Jandola, a Pakistani terrorist group) came into being to supposedly protect the rights of the Sunni Baloch in Iran. However, its close links with drug smugglers and the Taliban in Afghanistan make it anathema to Tehran, and its deadly campaign against the Iranian state has caused scores of casualties. But even more controversial are the allegations that it has enjoyed CIA support, at least in the recent past. In April 2007, ABC, the American network, carried a report by Brian Ross and Christopher Isham alleging that Jundallah was receiving covert American support.
The story also alleged that the group was based in Pakistan. Other reports asserted that the then US vice-president Dick Cheney discussed Jundallah with Pervez Musharraf on a visit to Islamabad.
These allegations tied in neatly with a report by Seymour Hersh, the prize-winning reporter. Published by the New Yorker in July 2008, Hersh wrote that congressional leaders had secretly approved a request for $400 million from George Bush to finance covert operations against Iran in a bid to slow down or halt its nuclear programme.
These efforts included clandestine operations, anti-Iran propaganda, and support for terrorist groups like the Mujahideen-i-Khalq. It is unclear whether the Obama administration has terminated this campaign.
Despite the ups and downs in Pakistan’s relationship with Iran, Pakistan has tried to minimise differences, even at the time of tension when Pakistan supported the Taliban, even while they persecuted Afghanistan’s Shia minority when they were in power.
Nevertheless, all too often in Pakistan, the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. Some arrested Jundallah militants in Iran have confessed they were trained at a secret camp in Pakistani Balochistan. Whether there was an element of official connivance is hard to say.
Should the evidence Iran says it has linking Jundallah to Pakistan prove to have weight, our deadly dalliance with extremist terror groups will further erode our security instead of strengthening it.
An issue no Pakistani government has yet faced relates to our open, often unmarked and poorly defended borders. With the exception of our border with India — probably the most militarised in the world — Pakistan’s Kashmir, Afghan and Iranian frontiers are either porous or disputed, or both.
In Gwadar a few years ago, I was surprised to see a large number of pick-ups full of goods driving along the long, flat beach. I was told they were the normal traffic between the city and Iran, and brought in everything from chickens to petrol. Nobody has tried to halt this flow of smuggled goods as it’s cheaper to get them from Iran than it is from Karachi. This same pattern can be seen on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Called the Durand Line, it has not been accepted by any Afghan government since the British imposed it on Kabul in 1892.
All this easy movement across borders might have been a good thing had it been limited to bars of soap and other items. But over the years, these smuggling routes have witnessed large numbers of poor people trying to find the promised land in Europe; drug smugglers moving large quantities of heroin and opium; and gunrunners transporting sophisticated arms across Pakistan.
Complicit in this illegal cross-border traffic on both sides are security forces as well as immigration and customs officials. Exploiting these laxly controlled borders, terrorist groups have operated with impunity for years, sending militants to launch attacks without hindrance.
Thus far, these militant operations have caused Pakistan to be placed on the defensive by the Afghan and Indian governments. Now Tehran has joined this list of angry neighbours. China has privately expressed its concerns about the activities of Pakistani extremist groups in its Muslim areas.
Even more than porous borders, it is the increasingly religious environment in Pakistan that is proving conducive to the most rabid and violent activism.
Of course the other factor that is driving Islamic militancy in Pakistan is the steady erosion of the writ of the state. Permitting millions of Pakistanis in the tribal areas to bear arms because it was their custom has resulted in a proliferation of weapons across the country. And all too often, militants get off scot-free after committing the most bloody deeds.
Now that the Army has finally gone into action to crush the Taliban in South Waziristan, we need to ensure that the momentum of the fight is maintained, and these killers are not granted safe haven anywhere on Pakistani soil.

Darbar Move: Security reviewed

In view of the forthcoming Darbar Move to Jammu, a core group meeting chaired by security adviser to the state government, General Officer Commanding, 16 Corps, Lt-Gen Rameshwar Roy, was held here yesterday to review the security in the Jammu region.
The meeting was attended by the DGP, senior civil, police and paramilitary force personnel and army officers.
The Security Adviser complimented the security forces, intelligence agencies and the civil administration for achieving a high degree of synergy, coordination and efficient handling of internal security during the recent festival season.
He stated that there was need to be extra vigilant in view of the recent increase in infiltration attempts and large recovery of arms and ammunition in the region.
He stated that the turbulent situation across the border required the security forces to be more proactive in order to ensure no infiltration attempts succeeded and to ensure that normalcy was maintained and peace ensured at all costs.
On reviewing the situation, the security adviser reiterated that the downward slide in terrorism was attributed to the high degree of dedication and cohesiveness amongst all the security agencies in the state and this needed to continue to ensure peace prevails.
He added that zero tolerance for human right violations by security forces must continue and added that all precautions must be taken by everyone.

Even info commissions hostile to RTI Act

It may sound strange but it seems that the information commissions across the country are themselves reluctant to give information under the same Right to Information Act under which they work to safeguard citizens’ right to know. A countrywide survey on the RTI Commissioners has revealed that maintaining proper records seems to be an impossible task for them.
Activists of the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) claim that as they undertook the most elaborate survey on the RTI till date, they came to know about several state commissions which had no idea whatsoever about huge numbers of missing reports while many others tried their best to hide every bit of information
“Most commissions were reluctant to give out data even after repeated phone calls, letters, emails and personal visits. Interestingly, even we had to resort to RTIs to seek information, out of which again, many were not answered within the 30-day span.” Said Arvind Kejriwal, one of the trustees of the PCRF.
According to activists, after repeated attempts to contact the UP Information Commission and an unanswered RTI, they were called for a hearing.
“We were informed that the UP Commission had passed 22,658 orders in 2008. We were told that if we wanted copies of orders, we should provide details for each order including order number, name of appellant, respondent and the Information Commissioner, hearing dates, and description of the order. If we had these details, why would we be asking them?” said Swati Maliwal.
“As if this wasn’t enough, they asked us to attach Rs 10 as court fee for each order. That would have cost us Rs 2.2 lakh! The commission asked us money for providing copies of their own orders,” she added.
The tall claims of most commissions came to dirt as figures on paper reflected to the contrary. The West Bengal Commission claimed having passed 966 orders against 102 records that were furnished.
In Uttrakhand, 600 applications were remanded back without any hearing. Details of the orders passed were again not confirmed.
Despite several letters, several phone calls and one visit to Bhopal, just about copies of 1633 orders could be obtained against a total of 2161 orders claimed to have been passed by them.
The Chhattisgarh Commission furnished 1,741 orders against the initial claims of nearly 2,300 orders. The Central Information Commission had details of only 7,343 orders against their claims to have passed 10,285 orders.
In response to an RTI application, The Tamil Nadu Commission claimed that it had passed 40,402 orders during the calendar year 2008, which are on Commission’s website. The site had just 900 orders.
However, there were some state commissions that furnished copies of all the orders, including Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and a couple of others. After two RTIs and several letters and phone calls, the Kerela Commission gave copies of almost all orders. 

Army may take 20 yrs to bridge gap

New Delhi, October 25
Bogged down by shortage of 11,500 officers due to low intake at military academies and a high rate of premature retirements, the Army has indicated to its leadership that it will take 20 years of best efforts to fill up the vacancies.

In an internal study, the Army has said the projection was conditional and the vacancies could be filled up in two decades only if training capacities in the academies were increased and the exit rate of officers wanting to retire prematurely was kept low.
On the basis of the study, the Army Headquarters has suggested to the commanders that the intake of recruits at the Dehradun-based Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai be increased by improving training capacities of the two institutes, an officer said here.
The Commanders had been discussing the issue of officer shortage for quite sometime and it was again debated at the recently concluded conference of senior offices, he said. The 1.2-million strong army has a sanctioned strength of over 46,000 officers.The data, compiled through a study, showed that the Army faced the prospect of an average of 1,500 premature retirements (PMRs) of officers every year.
The current annual average number of officers commissioned in the Army from its academies stood at 1,700, around 300 less than the required average number of nearly 2,000 recruits.
At present, the IMA has a capacity to train 950 permanent commission officers per year and the OTA about 500 short service commission officers. The facilities at the two academies could be stretched to allow IMA accommodate 1,100 cadets and OTA 600 cadets a year.
“The Army Commanders have been told that the IMA and the OTA need to improve capacities such as classrooms, accommodation, number of trainers, training facilities and firing range, and increase intake,” the officer said.
Accordingly, if capacities were increased at the two academies to allow higher intake of 1,450 cadets in the IMA and 650 in the OTA, additional number of officers commissioned every year would increase by another 400.
“Even so, the number of prospective PMRs will have to remain below existing 1,500 officers,” he said.
For increasing capacities, the academies need a three-year lead time. “Hence, the 20-year crystal gazing,” he added.
In the past one year, the government has acted on some of the issues such as low salary packages and few career progression avenues for officers.
The government implemented the Sixth Pay Commission recommendation substantially increasing their pay package and gave a go-ahead for Ajai Vikram Singh Committee recommendation to increase the number of Colonels, Brigadiers, Major- Generals and Lieutenant-Generals.The proposal to set up a second OTA at Gaya in Bihar too was approved so as to increase the number of Short Service Commission officer recruits. — PTI

Ex- Eastern Bridge: IAF pilots fly unhindered over Oman sky

Thumrait (Oman) Oct 25 - ANI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots who are participating in the joint air force exercise Eastern Bridge with Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) here completed their local familiarization sorties on Sunday ahead of the tactical part of the air exercise.

The 16 IAF pilots of Flaming Arrows and Cobras the two Jaguar Squadrons, based in Gorkhpur Air Force Base are far removed from Poor visibility, birds, obstructions and other restrictions usually making fkying pretty easy.

But for Jaguar pilots, low- flying remains raison dtre of their lethality.

According to IAF, the local flying area around RAFO Thumrait airbase is a flatbed desert with hardened surface with unlimited visibility. Birds, if sighted, would normally be a welcome sight here unlike elsewhere, but are rarely encountered by thepilots. 

Most of the pilots participating in the exercise describe the low flying experience as -exhilarating. Flying 500 feet above ground level seemed like flying almost mid-level felt somepilots, having done unhindered low -flying. 

The IAF pilots usually have their desert-flying experience around Jaisalmer and other airbases in Rajasthan. In many ways, the flying environment at Oman is not too different, but visibility is certainly markedly superior here felt the IAFpilots. 

However, at Oman the landscape changes rapidly from small mountains in the north, to flat terrain around Thumrait that changes over to coastal landscape in the south near Salalah, about 65 Kilometers south of Thumrait.

The sprawling flying infrastructure at the RAFO Thumrait also impressed the IAF contingent. 

According to a senior RAFO officer just three weeks ago the runway at Thumrait has been resurfaced, which reinforces RAFOs commitment to the first-ever joint airexercise with IAF. 

Both the IAF and the RAFO said the flight safety would remain as a paramount for them. - ANI

Army will lend a hand during Commonwealth Games

New Delhi: With less than a year to go for the big-ticket Commonwealth Games, the Delhi police will get some much-needed help. The Indian Army has been asked by the organisers to pitch in with personnel and help in strategic planning. 
Since Delhi police would be stretched to their limits, handling the games and the city, the armed forces would give them a hand, special commissioner of police YS Dadhwal said.
"We've been contacted by the Commonwealth Federation who asked us to assist the police with strategic planning as well as human resources for the games," said an army source.

"The Commonwealth Federation has asked us for 1,600 officials. These will include 200 officers to handle the planning in tandem with the police, 1,000 men to deploy near the main venues and 400 JCOs to supervise the men," the source said.

The Army has had a record of helping out with sport events. They were present during the 1982 Asian Games and 1999 Afro Asian Games in the country. "We have not been approached for the Commonwealth games security till now. If the police want that, they'll approach us a few months before the games," the source said. "Any major event has a big security threat hovering over it. The army has the expertise to handle such situations, which is why we are called in."

During the games, army officials will be present in the main control room of the police headquarters. "Senior army officials will be present in the main command centre and will work in accordance with the police and share their expertise, "said a senior police officer.

Maoists kill four CISF jawans

Raipur, Oct. 25: Maoists killed four Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawans by blowing up a patrol vehicle near Bacheli in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh this evening.
Sources said six CISF jawans left for the Rajabungalow area, about 10km from Bacheli, where the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) has iron ore mines.
As the six jawans were returning to Bacheli, about 450km south of Raipur, after discharging their duties, the rebels detonated a powerful landmine that blew up the vehicle passing through a hilly terrain around 5pm.
“The explosion was very powerful. It tossed the jeep several feet high in the air before it landed and broke into pieces, killing four CISF jawans on the spot,” Amresh Kumar Mishra, the Dantewada superintendent of police, said.
The rebels opened fire indiscriminately soon after the blast, Mishra said. They later fled into the forests, but did not loot arms and ammunition of the jawans.
Two other jawans injured in the blast were rushed to the NMDC hospital in Bacheli where the condition of one was critical.
Sources said the attack on the CISF team could be in retaliation to the gunning down of a hardcore Maoist, Raju, by security forces in the same area last month. Three Maoist rebels were arrested too.

5 Maoists, 4 securitymen killed in Chhattisgarh

Four securitymen and five Maoists were killed in separate attacks in three districts of the Bastar region in southern Chhattisgarh on Sunday.
At least 445 people have been killed in Maoist violence in seven states in the first six months of this year alone.
Four Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) men were killed and two critically  injured in a landmine blast triggered by Maoist rebels in a hilly terrain in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on Sunday.
In two separate encounters  in the forested terrain of Bijapur district, about 400 km south of Raipur, the police gunned down at least four Maoists.
In another encounter in  Kanker district about 300 km south of Raipur, a woman Maoist was gunned down by the police on Sunday.
Dantewada police officials said the CISF men were traveling in a jeep when the rebels  detonated a blast killing a sub-inspector, two head constables and a constable on the spot. Two seriously men injured were rushed to a hospital in a critical condition.
The CISF personnel were  deployed in Dantewada, about 450 km south of Raipur, to  guard a public sector unit and premier mining company, the National Mineral Development Corporation from rebel attacks. Reinforcements were sent to the blast site to carry out a search operation.
Bijapur SP Avinash Mohanty told HT that a fierce gun-battle continued till the evening and the casualties suffered by the rebels would be high.
“We have recovered four bodies of Maoists so far. Two bullet-riddled bodies were dragged out from Basaguda and two from the Usoor area. There is no report of any casualty or injury inflicted on the  cops,”  Mohanty said. 
The police also recovered some firearms and explosives.
Separate police parties were on combing operations to track down Maoists in their  strongholds in the area when they were attacked by the rebels.
“It was due to the timely retaliation by the cops that we succeeded in killing the rebels,” Mohanty said.
Bijapur is among the hardest-hit by the Maoist extremists in Chhattisgarh and remains a hotbed for the Leftwing extremists.

PM tells off Wen, says Dalai free to travel in India

NEW DELHI: During a dinner conversation with Wen Jiabao, PM Manmohan Singh did what US President Barack Obama hesitates to do: he told the Chinese premier that Dalai Lama was "an honoured guest in India and a respected religious leader" and was free to travel anywhere in the country. 

Briefing journalists after the East Asia summit in Hua Hin, Thailand, Singh said, "I explained to Premier Wen that Dalai Lama is our honoured guest and he is a religious leader... (But) we do not allow Tibetan refugees to indulge in political activities and proof of that is that we took resolute action against some Tibetans during Olympics (torch relay) last year following reports that some refugees might create problems." 

The Singh-Wen meeting is important in view of the recent heated temperatures between India and China on everything from the boundary to visas and rivers. India sent a couple of important messages to China. First, that India's hosting of Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees did not amount to supporting any separatist movement against China; second, that India would continue to exercise control over its internal affairs, and third, that the responsibility for maintaining peace and tranquility in Sino-Indian relations rested in both Beijing and New Delhi. China has already demarched India on the Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh. 

The PM said he had a frank discussion with Wen on all issues, though the MEA tried to filter the conversation for journalists, by saying that the Dalai Lama issue had not figured in the talks. 

"I had a frank and constructive exchange of views with Premier Wen," the PM said. "We discussed all these issues and agreed that the existing mechanism of bilateral cooperation should be used to resolve all issues in the spirit of strategic and cooperative partnership," he added. 

Describing the boundary dispute as a "complex" issue, which "cannot be wished away", Singh said, "Pending the resolution of the boundary question, both countries have an obligation to maintain peace and tranquility along the border." 

Singh has a particular interest in the rivers issue with China, and sources said he never wasted an opportunity to tell the Chinese that unilateral decision on diversion of Brahmaputra waters would not be helpful. 

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi will meet S M Krishna in Bangalore on Tuesday for the Russia-India-China trilateral meeting and its expected that a number of these issues will be raised again. The PM said the meeting would have an opportunity to "discuss all issues which have a bearing on our relationship".