(NSI News Source Info) March 25, 2009: The Chinese military is continuing to develop “disruptive” capabilities, including cyber and space warfare technologies, that are changing military balances in Asia, the Pentagon reported. “China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, but its armed forces continue to develop and field disruptive military technologies” such as missiles that would hinder adversaries from entering a battle zone, the Defense Department said in a summary of an annual report to Congress obtained by Bloomberg News before its release today. The term disruptive technology describes products or processes that marginalize older technologies. In the military, cyber warfare can disable computer-based weapons systems. In 2007, China destroyed one of its weather satellites in space with a kinetic weapon, leading lawmakers to question the safety of U.S. surveillance and communications satellites. The Pentagon said China’s lack of transparency in detailing its military spending and capabilities “poses risks to stability by creating uncertainty and increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation.” Rise in Spending China’s defense spending has increased by more than 16 percent a year for the past decade, according to Chinese government figures. This year three Chinese navy ships participated in anti-piracy patrols off Somalia, and earlier this month five Chinese vessels confronted a U.S. surveillance ship in the South China Sea. The report said China is continuing to pursue military capabilities aimed at deterring Taiwan from declaring formal independence from the mainland. China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. The U.S. is required by law to sell the island weapons to help defend itself. In the past year, China and Taiwan ended a six-decade ban on direct shipping, air and postal links following the election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who abandoned his predecessor’s pro-independence stance. “This modernization and the threat to Taiwan continue despite significant reduction in cross-Strait tension over the last year since Taiwan elected a new president,” the Pentagon report said. “Tensions are reduced but they have not vanished,” Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday. Talks between the countries are “richer today and more productive” than before the election of Ma, he said.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Drugs War Challenge For US And Mexico
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON – March 25, 2009: The Obama administration promised Tuesday to help Mexico fight its drug war by cutting off the cartels’ supply of guns and profits, while resisting the Texas governor’s call for a troop surge at the border to ward off spillover violence. Soldiers take part in a military operation to capture drug kingpin Hector Huerta Rios in the suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia in Monterrey, northern Mexico March 24, 2009. Soldiers on Tuesday captured Huerta Rios of the Beltran Leyva cartel who is accused of the killing of a police chief in this industrial city. Huerta Rios was seized along with five persons, weapons and money at his car dealership. The steps announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – 450 federal agents shifted to border duty, supplied with dogs trained to detect both drugs and cash, and scanners to check vehicles and railcars heading into Mexico – amount to a subtle but important shift: The blockade of contraband will now be a two-way effort. The fence begun under the Bush administration will be completed, to deter smugglers of drugs and workers. But the new emphasis will be on disrupting the southbound flow of profits and weapons that fuel the cartels. The plan is built on efforts under way for years rather than a show of force or a dramatic influx of resources. And it relies almost entirely on existing funds, even as it intensifies the focus on high-tech surveillance, inspections of trucks and railcars, and cooperation among federal, local and Mexican authorities. “There’s already a very, very heavy federal presence. We add to it, we target, we dedicate,” Napolitano said at the White House as she laid out the plan ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mexico today. Tuesday’s announcement was meant to mollify concerns in Mexico that it has borne the brunt of the bloody fight, even though the drug trade is fueled by the U.S. appetite for narcotics. But it didn’t satisfy Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, who reiterated his request Tuesday for “an immediate deployment of 1,000 additional National Guard troops to support civilian law enforcement and Border Patrol agents.” He’ll meet with Napolitano on Thursday in Texas, and she’ll ask him to make his case that violence in Mexico – especially in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso – warrants more drastic measures. More than 7,000 Mexicans have died in the last 15 months. “Why 1,000?” she said. “Where did that number come from? Where in Texas? Texas has a huge border with Mexico. And what does he anticipate the Guard doing?” For now, the U.S. plans more incremental steps: extra Treasury Department efforts to track money laundering; 100 extra customs inspectors to screen vehicles heading into Mexico – a mission never undertaken before; 16 extra Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the border. Over the next 45 days, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will shift 100 workers to the border to intercept guns heading south, and add four employees in Mexico City to help trace guns captured from drug gangs.
Mahindra Opens Special Military Vehicles Plant
(NSI News Source Info) MUMBAI, India - March 25, 2009: Mahindra Defence Systems, a division of the Mahindra Group, has inaugurated the Mahindra Special Military Vehicles (MSMV) facility in Faridabad near New Delhi today. Spread across six acres, the new plant has facilities for specific military manufacturing applications. Mahindra Group Managing Director Anand Mahindra, right, and Mahindra Defense Systems Chief Executive Khutub Hai pose for photographs during the inauguration of Mahindra Special Military Vehicles facility at Prithla in Faridabad, India, Tuesday, March 17, 2009. "The defence space is going at an exponential rate, creating opportunities for manufacture of world class products. With this technologically advanced manufacturing capability, MSMV will help Mahindra Defence Systems harness the potential in this space," said Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director, Mahindra Group. The MSMV will manufacture specialised vehiciles for the armed forces, paramilitary forces and police and is also designed to undertake vehicle development, armouring and conversions. The plant will have a capacity of 500 uparmoured vehicles per year and will roll out uparmoured vehicles such as bulletproof Scorpios, Boleros, Rakshak, bulletproof tourister bus, riot intervention vehicles and the Marksman light armoured vehicle. The plant also has an advanced facility for R& D, product development, design and prototyping of special vehicles to meet specific customer requirements.
Weapons: Created Nations, Destiny, Prosperity, Misery And Hunger
(NSI News Source Info) March 25, 2009: Forget future weapons systems; forget former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "lean-mean" military. The wars of the 21st century will be fought by thermonuclear weapons and armies of millions of men, maybe tens of millions of them. UNAMID force commander Gen. Martin Agwai, center is seen through two peacekeepers as he arrives at the Kas military base near the southern Darfur town of Kas, Sudan, Tuesday, March 24, 2009. Gen. Agwai conducted a one day field trip that included two of his operating UNAMID military units in the Darfur remote towns of Kas and Nertiti. The reason for this, as we have noted in previous parts of this series and our companion series, "Warming Wars," is very simple: The population of the world is still soaring. It is now more than 6.8 billion. That is more three times as many human beings as were on the earth 80 years ago. It is a larger population than any in the history of the human race. At the same time, the mineral and energy resources demanded by complex industrial societies are more depleted than ever. There is still plenty of oil, natural gas and, above all, coal in the world. But the competition to control will get ever more desperate. Worse yet, there is global climate change. It has already triggered mass migrations of tens of millions of people out of sub-Saharan Africa and West Africa. The combination of environmental crisis caused by global weather change coupled with expanding populations makes mass migrations inevitable. And that means nations and groups of nations will increasingly be forced to either strengthen their borders or go under. There is only one way to control mass immigration from desperately poor countries into prosperous ones, and that is by maintaining strong border defenses.Electrified fences and high-tech sensors alone won't do the job. Human desperation and ingenuity can cut them, neutralize them, or tunnel under them every time. As nations from Israel to India to Saudi Arabia have found, the only way to maintain strong border defenses is to man them permanently with large numbers of border guards and troops. Also, if an enemy army tries to attack you with overwhelming force, as the Iranians repeatedly tried to do to Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, it doesn't matter how elite and high-tech your army is; it has to be big enough and have enough guns and ammunition to hold defensive lines, to avoid getting outflanked and cut off and to shoot down waves and waves of attackers. The Iraqis proved that with their great and still widely ignored defensive victories during the Iran-Iraq war. American and global military planners paid almost no attention to those battles. They looked like a nightmarish rerun of the bloody trench warfare on the Western Front in World War I from 1914 to 1918, and they were. There was even poison gas used on a massive scale by the Iraqis, as the British, Germans and French did in World War I. But the Iran-Iraq war was not just about the past; it was also a foretaste of the future. It heralded a dark era when war would not become obsolete or morph only into guerrilla struggles, as was the case through much of the second half of the 20th century, but would return to its massive, primeval roots as an irrational, instinctual struggle for survival, not just between abstract political and economic systems, but between entire societies in a chaotic world red in tooth and claw. In such a world, armies will need huge quantities of basically simple weapons like variants of the famous Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic assault rifle, whose design remains virtually unchanged more than 60 years after it first appeared. For the nations that can build them and afford them, thousands of tanks, heavy artillery and combat aircraft will be desirable, but they will have to be cheap enough to be produced in huge numbers and easily replaced. Superexpensive but sensitive, fragile, thoroughbred high-tech weapons systems just won't cut it in the renewed age of mass war. Pack away your doves. In the coming age, it's Ares-Mars and his fellow gods of war who will be smiling.
Norwegian Helicopters To Stay In Afghanistan For Another Year
(NSI News Source Info) March 25, 2009: Norwegian helicopters and support personnel will stay in Afghanistan for another year, the country's defense ministry says.
Norway's three helicopters and a support group of 58 were originally scheduled to operate in Afghanistan from May 2008 until the fall of 2009, but will now stay until October 2010, The NorwayPost reported Tuesday.
Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, right, walks along with Norwegian Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen as they inspect the guard of honor at the Defense Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 24, 2009.
Nearly 300 Norwegian troops are stationed in Meymaneh in Northern Afghanistan. The helicopters have been called out 32 times over the past 10 months to pick up wounded troops, the newspaper reported.
After the United States last month announced an increase of 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and asked that its NATO allies contribute more, the Norwegian government said it would not send additional troops.
Norway has not received any direct request from NATO, Defense Minister Anne-Grete Stroem-Erichsen said last month, adding that it would be possible to strengthen Norway's presence in Afghanistan temporarily during the Afghan elections in August.
SLWH Pegasus Howitzers Strong Contenders For Indian Army USD 1 billion Contract
(NSI News Source Info) March 25, 2009: Singapore is the front runner to supply the Indian military's planned purchase of ultralight howitzers, the Republic's first major defence contract from South Asia's dominant power, people familiar with the developments said. "Most of the technical evaluation of the contract to buy 145 pieces of the ultra-lightweight 155mm cannons has been done," said an Indian official who has proved reliable in the past.
Should the deal come through - possibly after field trials - it will be a major breakthrough for Singapore into India's arms market and help boost its economy's sagging export order-book. The value of the contract is believed to be about US $1 billion (RM2.3 billion). ST Kinetics confirmed that it had participated in the tender for the Indian army's ultra-lightweight howitzer and towed howitzer requirements.
"As with all our commercial and defence negotiations, we are bound by customers" confidentiality requirements," a company spokesman in Singapore said. New Delhi, reliant on the Soviet Union and its successor state Russia for most of its defence needs, has embarked on a plan to diversify its arms purchases. Israel is nudging Russia to be the top supplier while US companies are eyeing major deals with the Indian Air Force and IndianNavy.
ST Kinetic's Pegasus ultralight howitzers, which weigh just above 5 tonnes, are capable of firing three rounds in 24 seconds. Heavy use of titanium and light alloy aluminium gives the machines both mobility and ruggedness. The Pegasus can be transported by helicopter as well as fixed wing aircraft.
In the case of India's military that would probably mean Mi-26 heavy lift helicopters and Ilyushin 76 aircraft. Only two companies, ST Kinetics and BAe Systems have weapons that match India's specifications for the ultralight guns. It was not clear if BAe had bid for the contract, though the Britain-based company is said to have displayed the weapon at a trade event in India last year.
Singapore also was included in the list of nations to which India sent the Request for Proposals for the heavier 52-calibre howitzers, people familiar with the issue said. That contract, for which there are several more bidders, envisages the outright purchase of 400 artillery pieces and licensed production in India of another 1,180 pieces.
The tender for the ultralight cannons does not include a clause for licensed production in India, according to people who have seen the documents.
Russian Destroyer Visits Indonesia
(NSI News Source Info) JAKARTA - March 25, 2009: Russia's Admiral Vinogradov destroyer arrived on Tuesday in Indonesia on an official visit following a three-month tour of duty in the Gulf of Aden. The destroyer, accompanied by the Boris Butoma tanker, is on its way to the home base in Vladivostok after participating in anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast. "During the mission, we escorted 12 convoys with a total of 54 ships from 17 countries and thwarted several pirate attacks on various vessels," said Capt. 1st Rank Sergei Ryazanov. "We also detained several pirates in the patrol area and handed them over to the Yemeni authorities," the officer said. The visit to Indonesia will last until Saturday, followed by a similar visit to the Chinese port of Zhanjiang on April 6-10. The Admiral Vinogradov is an Udaloy class missile destroyer, armed with anti-ship missiles, 30-mm and 100-mm guns, and Ka-27 Helix helicopters.
Russia Wants Up To 10 Submarines In Black Sea Fleet
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - March 25, 2009: Russia's Black Sea Fleet must have 8-10 submarines in active service and the Navy plans to commission new Lada class vessels to meet the requirement, a senior Navy official said on Tuesday. The Black Sea Fleet, based in Ukraine's Crimea, currently deploys one Project 877 Kilo class diesel-electric submarine, while an outdated Project 641 Foxtrot class sub is undergoing a long-term overhaul. "We are planning to deploy additional submarines with the Black Sea Fleet, including new Lada class vessels, but our plans are being hampered by Ukraine, which sees this as the deployment of new weaponry rather than an upgrade of the existing fleet," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev, deputy head of the Navy General Staff, told RIA Novosti. The admiral said that the port of Novorossiisk would be an alternative to the main base in Sevastopol for the deployment of additional submarines when Russia finishes building the necessary infrastructure there. "The infrastructure is being built under the federal program for the construction of a naval base in Novorossiisk until 2020," Burtsev said. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol beyond 2017, and urged Russia to start preparations for a withdrawal. After thoroughly analyzing the outcome of last year's military conflict with Georgia, Russia's Defense Ministry had proposed an array of measures to strengthen its troops in the country's southern region, as well as the Black Sea Fleet. The first Lada class diesel-electric submarine featuring extended noise reduction will be commissioned with the Russian Navy in 2010. It features an advanced anti-sonar coating for its hull, an extended cruising range, and advanced anti-ship and anti-submarine weaponry, including Club-S cruise missile systems.
Indian Hand Seen In Attack On Lanka’s Team
(NSI News Source Info) LAHORE - March 25, 2009: The rocket-launchers and explosives used in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team are in the use of Indian forces, Dawn has learnt. According to a forensic report, four rocket-launchers and nine explosives seized from the scene are factory-made and used by Indian forces. A rocket launcher used by a gunman in an attack is seen in Lahore.—AP Forty grenades, 10 sub-machine guns (SMGs), five pistols, 577 live rounds of SMGs and 160 bullets of pistols were also found there. The terrorists had fired 312 bullets, two rockets and detonated two bombs. ‘No suicide jacket was found at the scene, suggesting that they were not on a suicide mission. The SMGs used in the attack are of Russian, German and Chinese made,’ an investigator told Dawn on Monday. Six policemen and a Pakistan Cricket Board van driver lost their lives when a group of a dozen terrorists ambushed Sri Lankan cricketers’ convoy near the Liberty roundabout in Lahore on March 3. Six of the Sri Lankan players suffered injuries. Although none of the 12 terrorists involved in the gory act has been arrested so far, investigators have come up with a claim based on ‘positive leads’ that none of the militant organisations in the country had the capacity to carry out the attack without the help of a state agency. ‘The ammunition and communication network is the base of our claim that a state agency is also involved,’ said the investigator. He said that law-enforcement agencies had taken over 100 suspects into custody, but yet to arrest any of the terrorists. ’Unfortunately all terrorists (involved in the attack) managed to flee to the tribal belt (probably Waziristan) owing to ‘belated’ response by police to go after them soon after the attack,’ he said. Investigators are now convinced that the mastermind of the attack had four objectives: (1) To sour Pakistan’s relations with Sri Lanka, (2) to stop foreign teams from coming to Pakistan, (3) to destabilise Pakistan and (4) to tell it (Pakistan) that its state agency is more capable than its (ISI) in carrying out such attacks even in the midst of huge security presence. Investigators however clarify that the attackers did not want to hijack the cricketers’ bus as they wanted to meet the above objectives ‘Hijacking often takes place when culprits want to secure the release of someone,’ they said. A four-member police team, headed by Punjab’s Additional Inspector-General of Police (Investigation) Salahuddin Khan Niazi, and another joint investigation team comprising officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), have been investigating the matter.
Pakistan: Militants Warn Government To Stop Mobile Phone Expansion
(NSI News Source Info) DERA ISMAIL KHAN - March 25, 2009: Militants Tuesday warned the Pakistan government to stop expanding the mobile telephone network in a restive tribal area, worried it could be used to spy on their activities, AFP reports. A Pakistani soldier uses a phone standing next to an improvised bell at a home abandoned by militants driven out by the advancing Pakistani army in Sabagai village in the Bajur tribal region in Pakistan. They circulated a pamphlet in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, telling authorities to stop the network expansion and ordering vendors to stop selling SIM cards, residents and officials said. ‘A Jewish, Zionist-backed company is setting up the mobile phone network in Waziristan, which would be used to spy on Taliban activities and drone attacks,’ said the pamphlet. ‘This network is equipped with GPS (global positioning system) and can give the location of a person even if his mobile phone is switched off,’ it said. ‘In Iraq and Afghanistan such a system has been used to launch attacks against mujahedeen,’ the leaflet said, referring to holy warriors. ‘The government and those selling SIMs will be treated as criminals by us,’ it warned. A local administration official confirmed that a leaflet had been circulated in Wana.
Russia Concerned About Pakistan Nuclear Security
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - March 25, 2009: Russia is 'very much concerned' about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and the country must be stabilised before peace can be achieved in Afghanistan, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview with US television. ‘The Pak-Afghan border is a safe haven for terrorists, for the Taliban,’ Russian Deputy PM Sergei Ivanov said. — Reuters 'It’s obvious to anybody that the Pak-Afghan border is a safe haven for terrorists, for the Taliban,' Ivanov said. 'They hit and run back to Pakistan. So you have to deal with both. Both are very unstable.' He emphasised Russian resolve to toughen ineffective nuclear controls in cooperation with the US. 'We obviously see that the present system of missile nonproliferation doesn’t work,' he said. 'More and more countries are laying their hands on very dangerous missile technologies.'
Japan Commissions Largest Helicopter Carrier
(NSI News Source Info) TOKYO/YOKOHAMA - March 25, 2009: Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) Wednesday commissioned its largest helicopter carrier amid international concerns. 13,950-ton JDS Hyuga (16DDH) is handed over to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force from its builder IHI Marine United Inc. in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. The newly-built helicopter-carrying destroyer, similar in design to a small aircraft carrier, is the the largest Japanese warship since World War II, deploying three helicopters on the flight deck while carrying up to 11 others on the hangar deck inside, Kyodo News said. The 197-meter long, 13,950-tonne Hyuga, which can carry 11 helicopters on its flat deck, will be stationed in Yokosuka port, near Tokyo, and is expected to be sent on overseas missions such as disaster relief, according to the defence ministry.
The Hyuga has 340 crew, including 17 women officers and sailors on board. Japan renounced using force in international disputes after it adopted the post-war pacifist constitution.
However, the Japanese Self-Defence Forces (SDF), established in 1954, is one of the best funded armed forces in the world.
The carrier raises concern in the region. But the government insisted the destroyer will not carry fighter plane and is different from an aircraft carrier, and that the constitution grants the SDF the right to possess a minimum level of armed force for self-defence.
Israel's next Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu 'Will Be Peace Partner' With The Palestinians
(NSI News Source Info) March 25, 2009: Israel's next Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said his government will be a "partner for peace" with the Palestinians. The Likud leader pledged to work for peace, security and "rapid development of the Palestinian economy". Correspondents say the right-winger is trying to temper his image as an opponent of the peace process. He is under international pressure to commit to a peace formula based on the creation of a Palestinian state.
India, Iran And Russia Mull Co-op Against Taliban
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - March 25, 2009: India, Iran and Russia are considering cooperative actions to contain the rising influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, reported the local daily The Times of India on Tuesday. The three countries will discuss this issue during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) ministerial meeting on Afghanistan to be held in Moscow on March 27, said the newspaper quoting unnamed sources here. The newspaper also said the three countries are concerned that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan is giving Taliban and other militant groups "a growing space" in Afghanistan. They are also worried about the perspective of the United States and Pakistan arranging the coming to power of some "moderate" Taliban forces in Afghanistan, so that the U.S-led NATO can work out an "exit strategy" to pull out of the country, said the report. Both Iran and India will attend the SCO meeting as observers in Russia, the current rotating chair of the six-member organization.
Saudi Arabia Retool To Root Out Terrorist Risk / Fighting Terrorism In Saudi Arabia
(NSI News Source Info) RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — March 25, 2009: Near the guard tower outside this country’s main counterterrorism training center, some of the concrete barriers are still scarred with shrapnel. They are kept as a reminder: in December 2004, a suicide bomber detonated his car there, in one of a series of deadly attacks by Islamist insurgents that shook this kingdom. “It was a wake-up call,” said the commander of the training center, a tall, wiry officer in fatigues and a black beret who cannot publicly give his name for security reasons. “The situation was bad.” A plaque just inside the commander’s office bears the names of 57 Saudi officers who died fighting terrorists from 2003 to 2005. Members of the counterterrorism unit marched in formation. "We have killed or captured all the fighters, and the rest have fled to Afghanistan or Yemen," said the unit's commander. "All that remains here is some ideological apparatus." Those deaths forced a decisive shift here. Many Saudis had refused to recognize the country’s growing reputation as an incubator of terrorism, even after the international outcry that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, much has changed. When Saudi Arabia released its latest list of wanted terrorism suspects in January, all 85 of them were said to be outside the kingdom. That fact was a measure of the ambitious counterterrorism program created here in the past few years. The government has cracked down ruthlessly on terrorist cells and financing, rooting out officers with extremist sympathies and building a much larger and more effective network of SWAT teams. Even regular police officers now get a full month of counterterrorism training every year. “We have killed or captured all the fighters, and the rest have fled to Afghanistan or Yemen,” said the commander, in an assessment largely echoed by Western security officials. “All that remains here is some ideological apparatus.” The extent of that ideological apparatus remains uncertain. The list of 85 suspects that was released in January included 11 men who had been freed from the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had passed through Saudi Arabia’s widely praised rehabilitation program for jihadists, and then had fled the country. Two of them broadcast their aim of overthrowing the Saudi royal family in a video released on the Internet by the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda, in an embarrassing moment for the authorities here. But the Saudi government, which once seemed unwilling to acknowledge this country’s critical role in fostering jihadist violence around the world, has become far more open about the challenges it faces. “We are still at the beginning, we have a lot to learn,” said Turki al-Otayan, the director of the rehabilitation program’s psychological committee. Like others involved in the program, he conceded that the return of some of its graduates to terrorism was a blow, but he said he believed that the success rate (14 failures out of 218 graduates) was still impressive. Mr. Otayan and his colleagues won a partial vindication last month when one of the two graduates who had fled to Yemen later returned to Saudi Arabia and gave himself up. But Mr. Otayan shrugged that off. “We can’t guarantee that he won’t go back to Yemen again,” he added. “You’re dealing with people, not cars.” Saudi officials are also frank about the fact that Al Qaeda still has some popular sympathy here, though far less than before the bloody attacks from 2003 to 2005. “Changing mind-sets is not easy, and it takes a long time,” said Abdul Rahman al-Hadlag, the Interior Ministry’s director of ideological security. “We have to monitor mosques and the Internet, because the extremists use these places to recruit people. Sometimes they even use afterschool activities. Sleeper cells exist.” Some of the softer approaches to fighting terrorism, including the rehabilitation program, have been labeled coddling by Western critics. But the Saudi state must provide many former jihadists with jobs and financial assistance, Mr. Hadlag said, because if it does not, others will. “Sometimes the extremists leave money in envelopes under the door, with ‘From your mujahedeen brothers’ written on it,” Mr. Hadlag said. “We can’t let them be the good guys.” The postprison rehabilitation program, which is now being expanded, is only one part of a broader effort to address the issue of violent extremism across Saudi Arabia. It includes dialogues with — or even suppression of — the more extremist clerics. There are also a variety of outreach programs in areas known to harbor extremists, with the Interior Ministry sending its preferred clerics or sheiks to speak in schools and community centers for two or three weeks at a time. At the same time, the kingdom has completely retooled its prison system, which had been criticized as having inhumane conditions. Five new prisons were built in a matter of months last year — as it happens, by the bin Laden family company — that hold 1,200 to 1,500 prisoners each. Unlike the old prisons, the new ones allow a maximum of four inmates to a cell, and Islamists are kept separate from common criminals for the first time, minimizing the spread of jihadist ideas, or so the theory goes. Some internal critics say that the “soft” counterterrorism strategies remain weak, and that the only way to address the roots of jihadist violence is by thoroughly reforming the Saudi educational system, a task that will take decades. “One major problem is that the sheiks they bring for these programs aren’t authoritative,” said Mshari al-Zaydi, a Saudi journalist and political analyst who is himself a former hard-liner, referring to the rehabilitation efforts. “They don’t have credibility because they are seen as people who take money from the government.” In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s main terrorist threat appears to come from Yemen, where a number of Saudi extremists have regrouped in that country’s mountainous, tribal hinterland. They have struck there repeatedly in the past year and have declared a goal of using Yemen as a base for attacks against Saudi Arabia. The border with Yemen is long and porous, and militants appear to have no trouble crossing it at will. For all their success on the military front, Saudi officials seem cautious about declaring a victory against jihadists, especially when unexpected crises like the recent war between Israel and Hamas can create a sudden upwelling of popular anger that fuels extremist sentiment. “We are victims of terrorism,” said the commander of the Riyadh training center, where 400 commandos sit ready to respond to attacks 24 hours a day. “It’s not what the world thinks.”
India Axes $1 Billion Helicopter Tender, Fresh Bids Later
* Government says bidders did not meet requirement * Defence ministry to issue fresh tender in due course * Order for 22 helicopters seen worth $1 billion (Rewrites with India government comment, Finmeccanica, Boeing) By Devidutta Tripathy
*Irrespective of the aforementioned points, processing of a government tender in India, the procedure is snail speed with a hurdle of red tape due to corruption, politican's interest, commission factor, misinformation and above all debating on the subject/tender would cover years. For example to process and acquire jet trainer HAWK for Indian Air Force took over 25 years at the cost of hundreds of Indian Air Force pilot life. (DTN Defense-Technology News)
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - March 25, 2009: India has cancelled a tender for 22 attack helicopters, bidders EADS and Finmeccanica said, while the government said the companies did not meet its requirement and a fresh tender would be issued in due course. Yves Guillaume, chief executive of EADS's Indian subsidiary, told reporters on Tuesday the company had been "informed" of the decision to axe the tender last week but was not given any reason. Franco-German-controlled EADS owns Eurocopter, the world's largest civil helicopter maker and a major supplier of military ones such as the Tiger, with which it had hoped to clinch an order analysts reckon to be worth $1 billion. An official with Italian defence group Finmeccanica, whose unit AgustaWestland was one of participants, later told Reuters they were informed about the cancellation earlier this month. "The companies did not meet the service qualitative requirement, so the tender was cancelled," an Indian defence ministry spokesman said, adding three companies had bid for supplying India 22 attack helicopters. A fresh request for proposals will be issued in due course, he added, while the Finmeccanica official said they were ready to bid if a new tender was invited. U.S.-based Defense News reported in February that the contest had narrowed to an all-European field of three -- Eurocopter, AgustaWestland, and Moscow's state arms agency Rosoboronexport bidding on behalf of Russian manufacturer Mil. U.S. companies Boeing and Bell, a unit of Textron, had quit the field, the magazine reported. Boeing, the maker of AH-64D Apache helicopter, said on Tuesday it would review its stand and wait for a fresh tender. "We look forward to an opportunity to review any new request for proposals and follow up based on that," Vivek Lall, Boeing's India head, said in a statement. India plans to overhaul and replace its fleet of military helicopters amid growing security risks in the region. It relies on an ageing fleet of Russian MI-25 and MI-35 helicopter gunships designed by Russia's Mil. Last year, India sought bids for the attack helicopters, designed to assault targets on the ground, from seven international firms.
The new force of anti-armour attack helicopters would be capable of operating at high altitudes. In 2007, India scrapped advanced talks with Eurocopter to supply 197 lightweight Fennec military helicopters worth $600 million after complaints about the bidding process. Eurocopter is a sister company to Airbus, the world's largest civil jet maker, also owned by EADS. (Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar, Tim Hepher) (Editing by Ranjit Gangadharan, Sharon Lindores)
U.S. Weighs Nawaz Sharif As Possible Partner
(NSI News Source Info) LAHORE, Pakistan — March 25, 2009: The opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, sealed his place as the most popular politician in Pakistan this month when he defied his house detention and led a triumphant protest that forced the government to restore the country’s chief justice. Nawaz Sharif, the former Pakistani prime minister, outside his home in Raiwind on Sunday. Now, as the Obama administration completes its review of strategy toward the region this week, his sudden ascent has raised an urgent question: Can Mr. Sharif, 59, a populist politician close to Islamic parties, be a reliable partner? Or will he use his popular support to blunt the military’s already fitful campaign against the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda? More nationalistic and religiously oriented, Mr. Sharif and his party, the Pakistani Muslim League-N, have traditionally found common cause with the religious parties, some of which have run madrasas that have funneled fighters to the Taliban. A former two-time prime minister, Mr. Sharif once pressed for Islamic law for Pakistan, tested a nuclear bomb and was accused by his opponents of undemocratic behavior during his tenure in the late 1990s. That political past has inspired distrust here and in Washington and left some concerned that Mr. Sharif is too close to the conservative Islamists sympathetic to the Taliban to lead a fight against the insurgents. His supporters and other analysts say that Mr. Sharif is now a more mature politician, wiser after eight years of exile in Saudi Arabia and London, and that he is eager to prove he can work with Washington and to put his imprint on a workable approach toward stabilizing Pakistan. In any case, opponents and supporters alike note, Mr. Sharif has made himself a political leader Washington can no longer ignore. Just weeks ago, Mr. Sharif appeared to be sidelined, when a Supreme Court ruling barred him from office, citing an earlier criminal conviction. After forcing the government to reinstate the chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who seems likely to reverse that decision, Mr. Sharif is now front and center in Pakistani politics. His protest tapped a deep well of dissatisfaction with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who seems increasingly unable to rally Pakistanis behind the fight against the insurgents. The new breadth of Mr. Sharif’s support will make him either a drag or a spur to greater Pakistani cooperation, and it positions Mr. Sharif as a potential prime minister, if the already shaky public support for the Zardari government completely erodes. “If Washington is going to carry Pakistan, it is important they do it with popular support,” said Senator Enver Baig, a disaffected member of the governing Pakistan Peoples Party, who resigned from a party post last month. “There’s the realization in Washington that he is the next guy we should talk to.” That would be a change. After Mr. Sharif’s return from exile in late 2007, the Bush administration kept him at a distance, choosing instead to broker a power-sharing deal between Pervez Musharraf, the president at the time, and another former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. More secular in outlook, Ms. Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party were considered more amenable allies for Washington. After Ms. Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, her husband, Mr. Zardari, took up the party mantle. Both Mr. Musharraf and Mr. Zardari forged their own alliances with Pakistan’s religious parties. But Mr. Sharif’s ties have raised deeper suspicion. More nationalistic and religiously oriented, he and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, have traditionally found common cause with the religious parties, some of which have run madrasas that have funneled fighters to the Taliban. Those who worry that the insurgency will engulf the country are perplexed by what they see as Mr. Sharif’s failure so far to mobilize a Pakistani public inured to its dangers. “Nawaz Sharif is a reflection of Pakistani society,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist and a critic of current government policies. “He is silent on what matters most: the insurgency. What we need is a leader.” Some diplomats and analysts argue, however, that Mr. Sharif’s affinity with the Islamic parties could now be an asset as Washington tries to win Pakistani support to fight the militants. “We, and all sensible Pakistanis, need the support of Saudi Arabia and the more moderate Islamist parties, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami, if we are ever going to tame the jihadis,” said a former American ambassador to Pakistan, Robert B. Oakley. “Nawaz’s good standing with them is very, very important." Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said Washington’s suspicions of Mr. Sharif might actually be helpful. “He is sufficiently distanced from the United States to be a credible partner in the eyes of Pakistanis,” she said. For his part, Mr. Sharif says the impression in Washington that he is too close to the Islamists is propaganda promoted by his political rivals. Mr. Sharif and his aides point to his close relationship with former President Bill Clinton and recite a litany of decisions Mr. Sharif made as prime minister that were favorable to Washington, like his politically risky decision to support the United States in the Persian Gulf war in 1991. Mr. Sharif, in a recent interview, emphasized the similarities between the approach he would take toward militancy and that currently being discussed in Washington, including separating the Taliban, whose members can be talked to, from Al Qaeda, whose adherents cannot. Some experts are skeptical that Mr. Sharif can distinguish between the militants and the conservative Islamic parties. “There’s no evidence that he understands the difference between these groups,” said Stephen P. Cohen, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Mr. Sharif served twice as prime minister, from 1990 to 1993, and then from 1997 to 1999. His second term was marked by a series of misadventures that rankled Washington, including his decision in 1998 to test Pakistan’s nuclear weapons after India tested its arsenal. In 1999, he introduced a parliamentary bill to enforce Islamic law, or Shariah, legislation that eventually failed in the Senate. Some of his supporters stormed the Supreme Court building in 1997. But Mr. Sharif made some remarkable initiatives as well. Previously unheard of for a Pakistani leader, he met with the Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in early 1999. In July 1999, he dashed to Washington in a gamble to avert war with India after the Pakistani Army, led by General Musharraf, made incursions into Indian-held territory in Kashmir. Mr. Sharif agreed to Mr. Clinton’s demands to force the army to withdraw to its original positions. Two months later, General Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in a coup and forced him into exile. How much Mr. Sharif has changed is a question many in Pakistan’s elite are asking. Pakistan’s lawyers had agitated on behalf of the chief justice, Mr. Chaudhry, for two years. But it was not until Mr. Sharif backed the protests, bringing Jamaat-e-Islami with him, that the government was forced to cave in. Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers’ movement, said it would not be difficult for the United States to work with Mr. Sharif. On March 15, the Sunday of the protest, Mr. Ahsan accompanied Mr. Sharif in a two-and-a-half-ton, bulletproof Land Cruiser, as the men were swamped by crowds. Their time together, Mr. Ahsan said, revealed an important characteristic about Mr. Sharif that Washington should know. “He’s about personal relationships,” he said. “If you befriend him, you can get him to move mountains.”
U.S. Senator Seeks Missile Cooperation With Russia
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 25, 2009: The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has said the country must seek close missile defense cooperation with Russia as the best means of protection against Iran. Missile defense has so far been a major obstacle in Russia-U.S. relations, due to U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, purportedly to defend against Iranian long-range missiles. Sen. Carl Levin told a missile defense conference on Monday that the United States and Russia should work jointly to weaken the Iranian missile threat. "U.S.-Russian cooperation on missile defense against Iranian missiles - even if we were simply to begin serious discussions on the subject - would send a powerful signal to Iran," he said. "Iran would face in a dramatic way a growing unity against her pursuit of dangerous nuclear technology." Russia has consistently rejected the U.S. justification for the anti-missile radar and interceptors planned for the Czech Republic and Poland, and views them as a major national security threat. However, Levin said that with cooperation the divisive issue could actually improve the atmosphere between Washington and Moscow. "Missile defense could become a tool for positive change, rather than an impediment to better relations," he said. At the same conference, Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a likely candidate for a top nonproliferation post in the administration of President Barack Obama, questioned the need for the missile shield. "The argument that the U.S. would be naked against an Iranian threat unless we deploy the GMD [Ground-Based Midcourse Defense] system in Europe is simply not right," she said. Last week Russia welcomed the Czech Republic's decision to put off a parliamentary vote on the ratification of a deal to host a U.S. anti-missile radar.:
Chinese Central Bank Backs Russian Idea For New Reserve Currency
(NSI News Source Info) BEIJING - March 25, 2009: The chairman of the People's Bank of China has spoken out in support of Russia's proposal to create a new global reserve currency as an alternative to the U.S. dollar, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday. Zhou Xiaochuan wrote in an essay posted on the bank's website that the goal of the international monetary system is to "create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies." Russia earlier submitted a proposal to the G20 summit that could see the IMF examining possibilities for creating a supra-national reserve currency, as well as forcing national banks and international financial institutions to diversify their foreign currency reserves. "We believe it is necessary to consider the IMF's role in this process and also define the possibility and the need to adopt measures allowing for Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to become an internationally recognized super-reserve currency," Russia's proposal read. Hu Xiaolian, a vice governor of the People's Bank of China, said on Monday that China was ready to discuss Russia's proposal of a new global reserve currency at the G20 summit. During the event, Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama. The G20 summit, involving developed and emerging economies and international financial institutions, will be held in London on April 2 with the aim of finding ways to overcome the ongoing global financial crisis.