Friday, November 20, 2009




" It isn't as easy. We have never faced such extortion in the past. But this time the officer at the checkpost was quite naive about his interpretation of the circular. If you look at it carefully, in Indrajits post, it desn't make it mandatory to collect taxes from vehicles entering the state. I pointed out the content to him. He indicated we either pay or not cross the checkpost into Orissa. He himself suggested that we find out from the Orissa Motor Vehicles dept.

Even if we file a RTI, they will come back saying it is not mandatory for vehicles entering on temporary basis. The officer will also be given a clean chit on grounds of the fact that it was a voluntary payment from us.

His motivation is that, he gets to show higher tax collection on his quota.

The very fact that the option of volunteering was a forced one, does not count.

Originally Posted by indrajits View Post
Recently while travelling from Kolkata to Puri on 23rd December, we were forced to pay Rs 1050 as Motor Vehicles tax at the Orissa border for the Scorpio LX. Is this tax legal? Will our government do something about it? On questioning the authorities we were shown these 2 notices. Can anyone clarify and react to this, and what should be the course of action to repeal this permanently.Attachment 86957

Attachment 86958

Originally Posted by senindra View Post
I did not do any questioning. There was a huge que and I was happy to pay and drive off asap.
I was not happy to pay and drive. I had almost put up a resistance, thinking other vehicle owners would join me. But they too were okay with paying and driving. While we were at the checkpost at least five other vehicles paid the tax and went ahead. In the end he just remarked politely "everybody is paying, see, know the rules first before you venture out to drive".

The big question is till what extent will we continue to be happy. Our "getaway" was more valuable than the money value, but at the cost of what?

Infact a truck driver, upon asking later that day, said "Sau rupiya deta aur nikal jaata saab"

Was he smarter than us?

I just wish that this is not just a beginning of deeper things to come."



IAF vice chief apologises for remarks


NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) vice chief, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora Thursday offered his apologies if anyone's feelings have been hurt by his remarks on induction of women fighter pilots, and stressed that the views were his own and not an official policy.In a statement, Barbora clarified that his remarks about women fighter pilots not having "offspring" and about "imposing some conditions" on their service reflected his own opinion and not of the IAF."I would like to clarify that my remarks concerning 'off-spring' and 'imposing some conditions' were my own personal opinion and not that of the IAF or the MoD (Ministry of Defence)," said Barbora Thursday."If I had hurt any groups' sentiments, I would like to state that it was not with any malicious intentions of hurting anyone's feelings or casting any aspersions on their ability," he added.Barbora said that the induction of women into actual combat roles is a tri-services issue and demands a careful orchestrated approach starting with grant of permanent commission to women."Considering many variables such as our country's societal environmental and cultural ethos of respect and status of women, a step by step approach would be the preferred option in respect of employability of women in the defence forces."I am quite confident, as I had also mentioned during the media interaction, that in not a distant future, we hope to see women pilots flying fighters in some form of combat roles. I say this as an 'air warrior' and one who abides by our constitution," said Barbora.During a curtain raiser before President Pratibha Patil's Sukhoi-30 MKI's flight, Barbora said Tuesday that inducting women pilots in the fighter stream will take a while and certain preconditions might be laid down before they are allowed to become fighter pilots."We can induct women fighter pilots for show purposes. But we spend exorbitant amount on training fighter pilots, and if we are not able to utilise them optimally, it may not be prudent to have women fighter pilots at the moment," Barbora told reporters here."Once the lady goes the family way, she will be off flying for 10 months. And when we have invested so much, it is not a fruitful development," he added."We may say (if women are allowed in the fighter stream) that till this age, you can be happily married but do not go for pregnancy till that time. After 14-15 years of service, the value (of the money invested) is recovered.... We are just looking into the area. Even for men, we do not allow them to leave the service before a certain period of time," Barbora added.The IAF currently has 784 women officers working in various fields, barring the fighter stream.

MoD intervenes in tussle among Army top brass

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Defence has intervened in the ongoing tussle in the top Army rung after some senior officers came under scanner of a court of inquiry in an alleged land scam. The MoD has blocked the appointment of new Deputy Chief of Army Staff as he is facing an inquiry.Lieutenant General P K Rath, who was commanding 33 Corps, was appointed as Deputy Chief. He was attached to Kolkata where the court of inquiry is being held.Now a search is on for a suitable replacement for Rath and the frontrunner is Lieutenant General Rajinder Singh Sujlana, Commandant, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.Apart from Rath two other top Generals have been questioned by the court of inquiry being conducted in Kolkata whose presiding officer is 4 Corps Commander Lieutenant General K T Nair.The allegation against the Army officers is that they had given a no-objection certificate to an educational trust for procuring land at Sukhna military station in Darjeeling under the jurisdiction of 33 Corps. The Dilip Aggarwal Geetanjali Education Trust had reportedly acquired the land for opening a college.Among those who have been questioned includes Military Secretary (MS) at Army Headquarters Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash. The MS was asked to appear before the inquiry as the trust’s brochure claimed that he would join it as its director after his retirement.The names of three Lieutenant Generals have figured in the court of inquiry so far raising serious questions that might embarrass the government. The MoD wants the inquiry to be completed as early as possible.In the shadow of the court of inquiry, the Army Headquarters is also abuzz with a turf war involving Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and his senior officers. Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash is reported to have been handpicked to be the MS who is one of the eight principal staff officers of the Army Chief.The court of inquiry is taking place under the jurisdiction of Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command, headed by Lieutenant General V K Singh who is set to become the Army Chief next year.General Kapoor had overlooked him and appointed Northern Army Commander P C Bhardwaj as the Vice Chief in October.This was not the first case when Gen Kapoor ran into a tussle with his top officers. In 2008, Lt Gen H S Panag, the then Northern Army Commander, had complained to Defence Minister A K Antony against his transfer order

Maj Gen DS Hooda takes over as GOC 57 Mtn Div

Imphal, November 19 2009: Maj Gen Shakti Gurung, VSM , GOC 57 Mountain Division has handed over the baton of the GOC to Maj Gen Deependra Singh Hooda, VSM** while also welcoming Maj Gen DS Hooda, VSM** to 57 Mountain Division and promised him a very challenging but professionally satisfying command in the year ahead.

A PIB (DW) release informed that Maj Gen D S Hooda, VSM** is a very highly qualified officer of the Indian Army who has been handpicked for the coveted command of the most professional Division of the Indian Army today.

The General officer has qualified on the most prestigious courses of the Armed forces - an alumni of the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College as also the National Defence College, New Delhi he has served as the Chief logistics officer of a United Nations Mission in Asmara (Ethiopia) and other distinguished appointments in the Army headquarters.

The General officer arrived with his wife Mrs Rashmi Hooda from Army Headquarters, New Delhi on November 15 to assume command of the formation.

Maj Gen Shakti Gurung, VSM a dynamic and professional soldier needs no introduction to the people of Manipur.

A very highly qualified officer in his own right, he has served as the Defence Attache in Myanmar and for the last thirteen months was one of the most approachable generals of the Division.

His humane nature and the projects initiated under his able command for the betterment of Manipur and convenience of the people of the state needs no elaboration.

The General was assisted in ensuring the successful completion of all the projects initiated by the formation by his graceful better half, Mrs Madhu Gurung as the Convenor of the Family Welfare Organisation of the Red Shield Division.

Both the General and Mrs Gurung will leave a vacuum as they move to Army Headquarters, New Delhi, where the General will assume his next appointment in December, the statement conveyed.

As he prepares to leave, Maj Gen Shakti Gurung, VSM requests the people of Manipur to be more proactive towards the process of peace and prosperity because without their will and support this will remain an elusive commodity.

He thanks all sections of the society, Government officials and the media for the unstinted support provided to him for carrying out his tasks.

The General and his wife said God Bless and God Speed as they wished the people of Manipur an abundance of GOD's blessings for peace in the days ahead coupled with prosperity and happiness, it added.

Yak, army’s new beast of burden


The yak may take the place of the mule in  carrying food, arms and ammunition for the Indian army on the uppermost reaches of mountains.

The army's 190 Mountain Brigade is in collaboration with the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) here for an experiment to replace mules with yaks for forward posts at high altitudes. 

The results of the experiment, headed by NRCY Senior Scientist K.P. Ramesha and Lieutenant Colenel Nirbhay Kumar, were published in the Indian  Veterinary Journal (IVJ) and the Indian Journal of Animal Sciences.

“A study was conducted at (an) altitude (of) 14,400 feet in a forward army post area to determine the suitability of using yaks as pack animals during snowfall. There was no effect of snowfall on (the) speed of (the animals) as well as on (their) physiological status. Trials indicated that yaks could be used as pack animals even during heavy snowfall at high altitudes,” the summary report in the IVJ said.

A similar exercise by China apparently prompted the trial.

It snows for four months at 7,500 feet or higher along the northern frontier - from Arunachal Pradesh to Kashmir. 

Posts at those heights remain virtually cut-off during this period, exposing them to possible raids from across the borders.

The yak is a hairy, bovine creature that cannot live below 7,500 feet. Its double-coat protects it from icy winds, and its high red blood cell count helps it to breathe normally up to 15,000 feet.
It can be easily trained as a pack animal.

Eastern Air Command celebrating 50 years of service


Akash Ganga team with members of 11 TAC.

Dimapur, November 18 (MExN): Eastern Air Command (EAC), one of the five operational commands of the Indian Air Force, is celebrating its golden jubilee on its completion of 50 years of service to the nation. The IAF aerobatic team, para-jumping by the Akash Ganga team, motorcycle expedition and power hang gliding expeditions were on display as part of its yearlong celebration.

The power hang gliding expedition, which was flagged off from Air Force station in Bagdogra, Silliguri, on November 6, will cover a distance of 2000kms enroute to Hasimara, Guwahati, Tezpur, Jorhat, Chhabua, Dinjan Mohanbari, Dimapur and Kumbhigram in Silchar. The team has been providing free air experience to schoolchildren in each base enroute and will be finally flagged in at Shillong on November 19. The expedition team is being led by Squadron Leader Ramakant, a veteran of many such expeditions in the past, who is supported by co-pilot, Sergeant M L Yadav.

Enroute to Kumbhigram at Silchar on its final lap, the team was welcomed at the Rangapahar Military Station by the Commander and personnel of 11 TAC, Air Force, on November 16 and flagged off on November 17. Informing this in a Defence release, it was also stated that through this expedition, the Air Force hopes to spread the spirit of goodwill and awareness to the youths of the North Eastern about career prospects in the Indian Air Force and to motivate young boys and girls to join the defence forces.

Armed IAF copters for Maoist terrain


New Delhi, Nov. 17: The Union home ministry has recommended arming helicopters of the Indian Air Force that are being used in the counter-Maoist operations.

The IAF is using armoured Mi-17 helicopters to transport state and central police forces in Maoist zones. Arming would involve weaponising the Mi-17s with light or medium machine guns.

The guns will be manned by the Garud special force, whose main task is to protect the assets of the IAF.

The Union home ministry’s recommendation comes after the Indian Air Force sought the permission of the government to open fire in self-defence.

Air chief marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik disclosed on October 1 that he had sought the permission of the ministry of defence but that “it was really up to the home ministry” because the IAF’s helicopters were being deployed as aid to civil administration.

A senior air headquarters source said here this evening that the IAF was still to get the “rules of engagement” that would govern its role as the Centre and states step up the offensive against Naxalites.

“The CCS (cabinet committee on security) has to clear it. Nobody wants collateral damage,” the source said. The government and the IAF are equally aware that use of lethal air power, even in self-defence, can harm non-combatants.

Air Chief Marshal Naik has said that the IAF will not go “into Rambo-style operations”.
But the IAF’s plea is that its helicopters have been shot at — Sergeant Mustafa Ali was killed — by Maoists firing automatic weapons from the ground.

The IAF has already created a task force headed by a Group Captain to co-ordinate with a multi-agency authority of the Union home ministry that will oversee the counter-Maoist operations across states.

The air headquarters source said IAF helicopters were being deployed because the central paramilitary forces did not have the wherewithal to reach the difficult zones by air. 

Of the central troops that are directly involved in the operations, only the Border Security Force has helicopters. But it does not have them in adequate number.

Politics hurting military modernisation

Two days after he sparked a controversy with his remarks about women flying fighter aircraft, Air Force’s Vice Chief Air Marshal Pranab Kumar Barbora (59) on Thursday again raised eyebrows by saying political squabbling was hurting the military’s modernisation.

At a CII seminar, Barbora blamed successive Opposition parties for blocking critical military acquisitions for narrow political goals.

He said defence proposals cleared by one government were contested by the Opposition, while the same parties would change their position after coming to power.

“This impinges very badly on our defence requirements,” said the second-in-command of the world’s fourth largest air force, which has been hamstrung with shortage of fighter jets. It is managing with 33 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned 39 and a half.

Top officers rarely make public comments on the political establishment, but this 38 year Air Force veteran from Assam, who has flown every single fighter aircraft the Indian Air Force possesses has always been a little different. “Please pardon me for saying things which must be said,” Barbora said.

He blasted the culture of referring everything (defence deals) to the Central Vigilance Commission. “Rumours of kickbacks affect purchase process as everyone looks at each other with suspicion.”

He said India was satisfied assembling tools and kits, while China had streaked ahead in the defence sector. “Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is pleased to produce doors and undercarriage for Airbus whereas China is producing the whole damn thing.”

He said India should be bold enough to allow more foreign direct investment in the defence sector. At present, foreign firms are allowed to invest only 26 per cent in Indian companies.

Barbora asked private firms to emulate reverse engineering of technologies from China. “Forget about ethics. Has anyone ever had the courage to ask China why are you doing it? If you can’t do it yourself, you should know how to reverse engineer.” On Tuesday, Barbora had said that considering the large investment the government made on fighter pilots, women wishing to pursue the vocation should devote themselves entirely to it for a certain number of years and avoid having children during that period to prevent any disruptions. 

India eyes unbuilt British carrier

NEW DELHI, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- As India's only aircraft carrier reaches the age of 50, there are reports the country is considering buying a yet-to-be-built British carrier.

The unconfirmed reports of a British purchase come as the military is losing patience waiting for its second aircraft carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov, to arrive from Russia now in 2012.

The Indian navy's sole carrier INS Viraat with its crew of 1,500 completed 50 years in service this week, according to a report by the Indo-Asian News Service.

Navy chief Adm. Nirmal Verma was in Mumbai port, formerly Bombay, visiting the 28,000-ton vessel that has just undergone an extensive refit at the Cochin Shipyard, according to a navy official. The refit increased the aircraft carrier's life until 2015.

Upgrades were done to fire control equipment, navigation radars, improved nuclear, biological and chemical protection and deck landing aids.

The INS Viraat operates up to 18 Sea Harrier combat jets and supports amphibious operations and anti-submarine warfare. It gives the Indian navy an edge over the Chinese navy, which does not have a carrier, the official is quoted as saying.

The Centaur-class carrier was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on Nov. 18, 1959. The Indian navy acquired it in 1987 and is now again turning to the Royal Navy, according to a report in the London-based Sunday newspaper The Observer.

One of two $3.36 billion aircraft carriers, still on the drawing board, could be sold off under cost-cutting plans being considered by the U.K. Ministry of Defense and likely to be laid out in a major defense review early next year.

The British carrier program has already been delayed by two years. BAE Systems began work in July on HMS Queen Elizabeth, due to come into service in 2016, and preparatory work on the Prince of Wales, due for launch in 2018, has also started.

The two carriers will replace Britain's three aging Invincible-class carriers, and are three times their size. Of the three Invincible-class vessels, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal are in operation. HMS Invincible has been decommissioned but is in reserve until next year.

Last summer British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked briefly about the possibility of sharing maintenance and refit contracts for their aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, India has lodged a firm expression of interest for one of the 65,000-ton ships, the Observer said it has learned.

The Observer report comes as a 40-member Russian delegation arrives in India this week to thrash out a likely price hike for refurbishment of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

Both sides have "dug in their heels" on what they are willing to settle for, according to Indian media reports.

The Russians want $2.9 billion for the work on the 45,000-ton Kiev-class Gorshkov, set to be commissioned in the Indian navy as INS Vikramditya, originally in 2008.

India is willing to pay $2.1 billion for the work.

"What will matter now is who blinks first," a senior Indian navy official told the Indo-Asian News Service.

Delivery for the aircraft carrier is now set for 2012, and India has released about $650 million so far for the refit that is under way at the Sevmash shipyard on Russia's arctic coast. An agreement between the two countries in 2004 said the vessel was "gifted as free," but India had to pay $974 million for upgrades. That figure shot up in 2007 when the Russians said they miscalculated what it would take for the work. Another $700 million was recently added to cover extended sea trials that are now expected to be needed.

Women combatants inducted in Navy for 1st time

Kochi, Nov 18 (PTI) Another male bastion would soon fall in the Indian Armed Forces when, for the first time in Naval history, two women officers would don flying overalls at a function here on November 20.

The Indian Navy has taken a huge step forward in giving women equal opportunities in the Armed Forces by allowing entry for females as Short Service Officers in the Observer Cadre, Naval sources told PTI.

The Naval Aviation, for the first time since its inception 56 years ago, has inducted women combatant officers as Observers on board its fleet of maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), they said.

Sub Lieutenants Seema Rani Sharma and Ambica Hooda would be the Navy's first women observers (airborne tacticians). Selected for Short Service Commission, they were initially trained at the Indian Naval Academy for an Orientation Course followed by training at the Observer School located at INS Garuda here.

Naik flays Navy for its 'non-cooperation'

PANAJI: Goa Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik has condemned the non-cooperative role of the Indian Navy, which has resulted in the cancellation of   the expansion of Dabolim airport.

In a press release, Naik said that the Navy's attitude amounts to defiance of the project initiated at the instance of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had sanctioned substantial funds for the expansion of Dabolim after meeting a delegation of Goan Congress leaders, he added.

Naik hinted at a conspiracy to stall the expansion and upgradation of Dabolim by some lobbyist who thinks that unless Dabolim is expanded the Goa government will not go ahead with Mopa, and if Mopa is stalled, the neighbouring proposed project in Maharashtra will stand to gain.

Stating that the negative and untenable attitude of the Indian Navy, which has been seen from day one, should be questioned by the defence ministry, Naik said that the ministry has to take steps to curb the "big boss" attitude of the Navy.

One cannot imagine that an area of 1840 acres of land, belonging to the government of Goa, should have just been occupied by the Navy without any title in their favour.

Although the airport authority occupies roughly 34 acres, the Navy has not executed any legal document, like a lease deed, in favour of the Airport Authority of India (AAI).

Stating that this is perhaps because the Navy does not want to legally part with the land, Naik said that even if they do, they cannot part with it, as they themselves do not have a legal title to the 1840 acres of land.

He said that the Mopa committee report has recommended that all the mutation cases of the Navy with regard to the Dabolim land should be reviewed by concerned authorities.

He also suggested that the government of Goa open all mutation cases in which the government's land has been illegally recorded in Form I and XIV in the name of the Indian Navy.

Naik said even after the inauguration of the Dabolim expansion project by the Union minister of state for civil aviation, the Indian Navy did not stop creating hurdles which have now resulted in the cancellation of the tender. 

Why discriminate when training is same, women officers ask


New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Twenty women officers of the Indian Army Thursday sought to know from the Delhi High Court why they were discriminated in service vis-a-vis the men when both got similar training.

Rekha Palli, counsel for the woman officers, submitted before a division bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.C. Garg: “It has been 60 years of our independence but still our mindset has not changed a bit and discrimination against women is still rampant.

“When men and women get the same training with same educational standards, then why women officers serving in short service commission cannot be granted permanent commission,” Palli asked.

Challenging a July 2006 policy of the army, Palli said that there was one set of rules for women officers inducted into the army.

She said when the time came for extensions, they were promised they would stay on in the army but this never happened.

The court asked the government to submit by Dec 14 a performance chart of men and women while on duty.

The court was hearing the plea of the women officers who have filed a public interest petition challenging the government’s proposal of Sep 29, 2008 to bypass them for future grant of permanent commission.

Currently, women are inducted into the army as officers under the Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years. Their male colleagues are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.

Rising Indian influence in Afghanistan worries US and Pakistan

The top US military commander in Afghanistan has warned that India’s growing influence in the country could “exacerbate regional tensions” and encourage “countermeasures” by Pakistan, India’s historic rival in south Asia.

In a confidential report submitted to US President Barack Obama on August 30, General Stanley McChrystal wrote, “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

McChrystal’s comments point to a strategic dilemma facing Washington. The US is anxious to court India as a counterweight to a rising China, has welcomed India’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan, and calculates that Indian and American interests coincide in seeking to develop pipelines that would draw central Asia’s oil reserves toward south Asia and the Indian Ocean.

It is also very eager to develop joint operations with the Indian military. When asked whether the US was ready to seek Indian military assistance in counter-terror operations and counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Benjamin R. Mixon, head of the US Army’s Pacific Command, said, “The Indian Army is a professional force and the US Army will be comfortable with it anywhere.”

But at the same time, the US is dependent on Pakistan’s logistical and military support to salvage its war to subjugate Afghanistan and is well aware that its ever-escalating demands are undermining the Pakistani government’s popular support and legitimacy and exacerbating the tensions within the shaky Pakistani federation.

India and Pakistan have been trading accusations about each other’s involvement in Afghanistan for years. New Delhi claims that Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment continues to patronize the Taliban, whose rise to power in the mid-1990s took place under Pakistan’s sponsorship. Islamabad counters that India is taking a disproportionate place in Afghanistan, with a view to squeezing Pakistan strategically, and that it has used its growing influence in Afghanistan to support the Balochi nationalist insurgency in Pakistan’s western province.

After a bomb exploded outside the Indian embassy in Kabul on October 9, killing 17 people but none of the embassy personnel, Indian think-tanks and much of the press charged that the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, had carried it out at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. India’s government, for its part, did not directly accuse Islamabad of responsibility, probably in deference to Washington’s wishes. The Obama administration would not appreciate a further crisis in Indian-Pakistani relations when it is in the midst of a heated debate over its strategy in the so-called Af-Pak war. In any event, the Indo-Pakistani peace process has been frozen by New Delhi for all intents and purposes since the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack.

India did publicly blame the ISI for a similar attack on its Kabul embassy in July 2008, which killed 41 people, including a senior diplomat and the defence attaché.

Commenting on the most recent bombing targeting the Indian embassy in Kabul, Siddharth Varadarajan, the Hindu’s strategic affairs editor wrote, “The attackers want to underline the McChrystal report and make the point that any attempt to rely on India or involve India (in any new US policy) will complicate matters.”

Speaking shortly after last month’s attack, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said New Delhi will take “whatever measures” are necessary to safeguard the security of “our personnel and our interests in Afghanistan.”

Harsh V. Pant, currently a visiting professor at IIM-Bangalore, said that if India wants to be recognised as a global power its first step must be “to respond to the latest attack in Kabul with greater military engagement to support its developmental and political presence in Afghanistan.”

India supported the US invasion of Afghanistan, provided intelligence, and helped facilitate the US’s link-up with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. New Delhi saw the Afghan war as a golden opportunity to reverse Pakistan’s increased influence in Afghanistan and to advance its own geopolitical interests in oil-rich central Asia.

During the administration of George W. Bush there were repeated tensions between Washington and New Delhi over the US’s mercenary relationship with the Pakistani government and military. But overall, Indo-US ties greatly expanded, with the US declaring its eagerness to assist India in becoming a “world power” and toward that end, negotiating a unique status for India—a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, within the world nuclear regulatory regime.

Since Obama took office, Indo-US relations have become more fractious. New Delhi is apprehensive that its interests will get short-shrift due to Washington’s focus on its relations with Pakistan and China.

India angrily rebuffed the suggestion made by Obama and his aides during the 2008 presidential campaign that in return for Pakistan doing Washington’s bidding in the Af-Pak war, the US might assist Pakistan in resolving its six-decades’ old dispute with India over Kashmir. New Delhi has also been troubled by Obama’s support for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on all nations to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). India rejects the NPT's norms as discriminatory and has refused to sign the CTBT on the grounds that it could imperil the development of India’s “strategic deterrent,” i.e. its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Yesterday India took angry exception to a paragraph in the joint statement that Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued at the conclusion of their summit meeting. The paragraph committed the two countries to working to “promote peace, stability and development” in south Asia. “The Government of India,” declared its Foreign Ministry, “is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a peaceful bilateral dialogue in accordance with the Simla Agreement. A third country role cannot be envisaged.”

The Indian government is also anxious about reports that the US and the puppet government of Hamid Karzai are intent on persuading sections of the Taliban to enter into peace negotiations and ultimately incorporation into Afghanistan’s government. Indian officials and media commentators have repeatedly declared that there is no such thing as “good Taliban.” Behind the rhetoric is the fear that Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan will grow significantly in the event of a rapprochement with elements hitherto associated with the Taliban.

When the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996 with the support of Pakistan and the US, India lost all influence in Kabul. New Delhi never recognized the Taliban government.

“In a broad sense,” declared a recent Hindustan Times editorial, “the presidential elections reflect the failure of the non-Taliban and non-Islamicist Afghan leadership to find a power-sharing formula among them. This makes Karzai and the present configuration in Kabul all the more dependent on the US government for support. If the US wavers, Mr. Karzai is almost certain to continue his policy of trying to find an accommodation with some elements of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios is good news for India or other nations that have suffered the terrorist-friendly policies of the first Taliban regime.”

Anxious to consolidate its position in post-2001 Afghanistan, the Indian government has invested more than $1.2 billion in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, including power plants, and in training Afghan civil servants and police. India is Afghanistan’s sixth largest bilateral donor.

Last January, India completed construction of the 218 kilometre Zaranj-Delaram highway in southwest Afghanistan, which makes it possible to transport goods from Iran to Kabul and across Afghanistan. With the building of this highway, India has developed a land-route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan. For decades Islamabad had effectively scuttled Indo-Afghan trade by refusing to allow Indo-Afghan truck traffic to traverse its territory.

This Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki travelled to India, for a two-day visit. The first high level contact between the two countries since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected last June, the Indo-Iranian talks reportedly focussed on energy cooperation, transit routes to central Asia, the sharing of information on anti-government insurgent activity in Pakistan-Afghanistan, and the possibility of reviving the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) natural gas pipeline project.

According to the Hindu, Mottaki and various Indian officials “also discussed prospects of trilateral dialogue between India, Iran and Afghanistan on transit routes to central Asia, with the Iranian port of Chabar to be the staging point for goods. ‘Our interest in having a trilateral agreement was underlined,’ said informed sources about the transit route beginning from the Chabar port. It was planned to construct a railway line from Chabar to Bam. From there, goods would be taken from the Afghan border town of Zaranj to Delaram on an Indian-built road to the Afghan garland highways, which provide access to several central Asian republics.”

The new road certainly threatens Pakistan’s commercial position in Afghanistan. At present 37 percent of Afghan’s foreign trade is with Pakistan, 15.9 percent with the European Union and 12.5 percent the US.

There are more than 4,000 Indian workers and security personnel working on different aid and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Following the kidnap and murder of an Indian engineer by the Taliban in 2006, New Delhi sent personnel from the country’s mountain-trained paramilitary force to protect Indian workers. Nearly 500 Indian police are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

The Indian Army has long planned for the deployment of its personnel in Afghanistan to train Afghan National Army (ANA) troops, but to date the Indian military’s presence in the war-torn country has been limited to providing some English-language training and participating in a couple of humanitarian projects.

In an article published in early July in conjunction with a visit to India by Afghan army chief General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Indian commentator C. Raja Mohan argued that if India has thus far resisted appeals for greater military involvement from Kabul it is because of US opposition: “[W]ith Pakistan making a big deal out of Delhi’s rather limited security cooperation with Kabul, Washington has over the last few years cautioned India against raising its profile in Afghanistan beyond economic reconstruction. Even the Bush Administration, which was so friendly to India, was not enthusiastic about seeing the extension of Indo-Pak rivalry into Afghanistan.”

But sections of the military are unhappy with New Delhi’s caution. Retired General Shankar Roychowdhury, a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament, has described the Afghan war as a “war of necessity” for India. He argues that building up the ANA is “the obvious area on which India should focus in its own long-term interests.”

In addition to it embassy in Kabul, India has opened four consulates in Afghanistan, in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Pakistan claims that these consulates are being used by the Indian foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW), to create unrest across the border in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The Pakistan government has repeatedly accused India of involvement in the separatist conflict in Balochistan and has claimed that RAW is training secessionists.

On a recent trip to the US, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Los Angeles Times that India’s “level of engagement [in Kabul] has to be commensurate with [the fact that] they do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do ... If there is no massive reconstruction [in Afghanistan], if there are not long queues in Delhi waiting for visas to travel to Kabul, why do you have such a large [Indian] presence in Afghanistan? At times, it concerns us.”

Indian think-tanks are leaning heavily on the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance government to intervene more actively in Afghanistan. M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service, has noted, “Influential sections of Indian opinion are stridently calling for an outright Indian intervention in Afghanistan without awaiting the niceties of an American invitation letter.”

Sections of the Indian ruling class see positive aspects to a substantial Indian military presence in Afghanistan. Sushant K. Singh, editor of the strategic affairs journal Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review, wrote recently, “An Indian military involvement in Afghanistan will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland. Targeting the jihadi base will be a huge boost for India’s anti-terrorist operations, especially in Kashmir, both militarily and psychologically.”

He insists that the Indian military should operate independently in Afghanistan like “the 13,000 US soldiers under the Operation Enduring Freedom operating independently alongside the NATO-ISAF [International Security Assistance Force].” He called for an independent command structure for the Indian military presence, which could be deployed in western Afghanistan, “allowing US and ISAF forces to concentrate on the provinces adjoining Pakistan.”

Think-tanks and press pundits are insisting that India cannot remain a “soft power.” Dr. Subhash Kapila, a former military officer and diplomat, has written that India has so far been reluctant to resort to “hard power.” However, he writes, “As India grows more powerful and her strategic worth figures in the global strategic calculus … [it] may not continue to be reluctant and restrained.” He called for a reorientation of US policy in south Asia from “Pakistan-Centric” to an “India-Centric” fixation.

The Indian government is looking to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US this month to take Indo-US relations to a new level. The Indian ambassador to the US recently boasted, “the India-US relationship has evolved into a truly comprehensive partnership of mutual trust and confidence … that is increasingly global in reach, and [based on] deepening strategic understanding.” But despite the warming of relations over the past two decades, any Indo-US partnership remains fraught with tensions and ambivalences as the ruling elite of each country ruthlessly pursues its own interests.