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    Winning strategy? Mudassir Ali Shah

    Winning strategy?
    STAYING POWER: US soldiers stand guard near the site of a US bombing in Nangarhar province, in eastern Afghanistan. Photos: Reuters

    Mudassir Ali Shah

    President Donald Trump, breaking with his derision for the 16-year-old conflict, has finally rolled out his long-awaited policy towards Afghanistan. The presidential decision to boost troop levels is an extension of the botched approach of his predecessors. All options that were on the table during the protracted review of America’s new strategy for South Asia were bewildering. The number of extra troops for Afghanistan and benchmarks for victory are yet to be determined. The US president has virtually left the devil lying in the detail. In his prime-time address to troops at Fort Myer, Trump embraced deeper US involvement in a military campaign he once slammed as futile. Though touted as a conditions-based regional move towards a political solution, the new plan indicates little innovation. The presidential announcement is a success of sorts for his hawkish Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who have repeatedly warned that a swift withdrawal would create a vacuum that the militant Islamic State group and Al-Qaida would fill instantly. The way forward in Afghanistan remains blurred.As expected, the US would mount pressure on Pakistan to shut down militant safe havens on its soil and take concrete action against the Afghan Taliban. At the same time, the US will woo India — Pakistan’s arch-rival — into helping Nato battle extremists in Afghanistan. His promise to pursue integration of all instruments of US might, diplomatic, economic and military, does not sound convincing. At the moment, the US neither has a full-time ambassador in Kabul nor a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many key diplomatic slots in the State Department are yet to be filled.Importantly, Trump has come to realise that the Afghan Taliban — who control over 40 per cent of Afghanistan — are a force to be reckoned with. Some elements of the insurgent movement may also be included in a future government. But US troops will be fighting against them, nonetheless. On the campaign trail, Trump scorned the Afghan war as an archetype of how the Bush and Obama administrations squandered billions of dollars in return for insignificant strategic gains. But he has reversed his position that American men and women in uniform should come home from that country. During the prolonged internal debate at the White House, his national security team bent over backward to come up with suggestions acceptable to a cynical commander-in-chief. Frenzied efforts by his advisers came to fruition last week when they coaxed the President into approving the deployment of more troops. By adding more troops to the 8,400-strong US force already stationed in Afghanistan, he has toed the line of warmongering Republican legislators and military commanders, who have been pleading for expanding the campaign against militants. However, there are no guarantees that the additional American forces would be able turn the tide, an objective that could not be realised by more than 130,000 international soldiers. The plan comes at a time when the tempo of fighting has risen steeply across Afghanistan. In the first half of 2017, civilians have died daily. The Afghan army has also been targeted in mass attacks, leaving several soldiers dead. The so-called way forward remains blurred. It remains to be seen how Trump’s team wrestles with a whole slew of complex questions — notably the cost of the new surge in treasure and blood, propping up the kleptocracy in Kabul and bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.Consequences of cutting bait altogether presumably forced the US leader to take a U-turn. He must appreciate the fact that Washington’s fuzzy approach to winding down the conflict and riding roughshod over suggestions from regional powers will continue to hamper progress in Afghanistan. From America’s perspective, the mission must ensure foolproof homeland security. However, Trump’s road map is unlikely to yield the intended results in terms of vanquishing the Taliban or blocking the return of Al-Qaida to Afghanistan. A longer and deeper commitment of US forces is unlikely to hasten an outright military victory for America — a goal that 16 years of war have failed to achieve. As his government is still polarised and faced with popular discontent, President Ashraf Ghani has been kicking the can down the road on the key issues of institutional reforms and eradicating endemic corruption. Ubiquitous insecurity continues to be a huge impediment to the implementation of important policy decisions. As long as Kabul gropes for political and economic stability, frustrated youth will continue to swell the ranks of insurgent outfits. In the absence of a corresponding effort by Afghan rulers to set their house in order, the going will be as tough for Trump as it was for his predecessors — all playing whack-a-mole.By arrangement with the Dawn


    Sainik School celebrates Raising Day

    Jammu, August 23

    Sainik School, Nagrota, celebrated its 48th Raising Day by holding various events on the school premises.The celebrations began with a colourful ceremonial parade, led by the school Captain Cadet Kamal Choudhary, at the Major Somnath Sharma Stadium. Around 450 cadets of the school participated in it.School principal Capt A Muthuraman reviewed the parade. In his address, he paid rich tributes to the founder-principal of the school, Cdr NN Seth, and recounted the challenges faced by the school over 47 years of its history.The second session began with an exhibition cricket match between staff and the cadets’ team which was followed by an inter-house tug-of-war competition. — TNS


    AWWA celebrates 51st anniversary

    AWWA celebrates 51st anniversary
    The Army Wives Welfare Association celebrated its 51st anniversary in Udhampur. Tribune Photo

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, August 23

    The Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) celebrated its 51st anniversary at Udhampur today. Raised in 1966, AWWA has evolved as one of the largest registered NGO of the country.Giving details, the PRO, Northern Command, said the AWWA Northern Command celebrated the occasion by organising a central function at the Chinar complex of the Udhampur Military Station.The celebrations were also concurrently held at other military stations in the Command Zone and the theme of the celebration was “Water Conservation”, wherein emphasis was laid on educating the families on the importance of water and various means for its conservation, he said.A documentary on water conservation was shown to provide knowledge on the management of natural resources and their care for the needs of the future generations and environment.Veer naris were felicitated during the celebrations. Regional president awards were conferred on some women for their outstanding contribution to the organisation during the year.In her message to members, Gowri Anbu, regional president, AWWA, re-iterated the overall AWWA theme of “Asha, vishwas and astha” and exhorted the fraternity to contribute to nation-building and undertake activities that not only enable the organisation to achieve its goal but also impact positively on society and the nation at large.


    ICU inaugurated at Leh Army hospital

    ICU inaugurated at Leh Army hospital
    The Leh Army Hospital ICU being inaugurated. Tribune photo

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, August 23

    The Army today inaugurated the accident and emergency department and the ICU with modern equipment at the Army General Hospital in Leh.The PRO, Defence, Srinagar, said Army’s General Hospital in Leh had been providing quality medical and combat care to soldiers who safeguard frontiers in challenging environs since 1960.He said the hospital had treated operational casualties, mass casualty or civil disasters like the Leh cloud burst, offering the best medical care to the troops, families and civil populace, living up to its reputation of the “highest multispecialty hospital of the world”.A need was felt to augment the critical care services, hence the plan to modernise the intensive care unit (ICU) and accident and emergency department was conceptualised and conceived by the Fire & Fury Corps Commander Lt Gen PJS Pannu, he added.


    Flag meet held to defuse LoC tension at Chakan da Bagh

    Flag meet held to defuse LoC tension at Chakan da Bagh
    The flag meeting at Chakan da Bagh on Wednesday. Tribune Photo

    Amir Karim Tantray

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, August 23

    The Indian and Pakistani armies today held a battalion commander-level flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch to defuse tension at the Line of Control (LoC).The meeting was held in the backdrop of ceasefire violations and casualties to civilians in the past several months.The truce violations on the LoC have affected the cross-LoC bus service and trade. The firing even forced the Poonch administration to suspend the LoC bus service. The stranded tourists from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir were sent home via Muzaffarabad in Uri recently. The PoK residents were stranded here for three months.The Public Relations Officer of the 16 Corps said the battalion commander-level flag meeting at Chakan Da Bagh in the Poonch sector started at 11 am today and lasted for 50 minutes.“The meeting was held in the backdrop of numerous ceasefire violations and casualties to the civilian population in the past several months,” the PRO said.“The Indian delegation highlighted abetment and support of the Pakistan army to cross-border terrorism, sniping actions on the LoC and deliberate targeting of civilians during ceasefire violations. The resumption of trade and transit through Chakan Da Bagh was also discussed,” he said.“The meeting lasted for 50 minutes in a cordial atmosphere. Both sides mutually agreed to exercise restraint on the LoC and keep the channels of communication between the local commanders open. Both sides also agreed to institute mechanisms to ensure durable peace and tranquillity along the LoC,” the PRO said.The meeting is expected to pave the way for resumption of the cross-LoC trade and bus service through the Poonch-Rawlakote route.


    53 defunct bomb shells recovered

    53 defunct bomb shells recovered
    Bomb shells recovered from a religious place at Dhunda village in Tarn Taran on Wednesday. Tribune Photo

    Our Correspondent

    Tarn Taran, August 23

    As many as 53 decades-old bomb shells have been recovered from Tomb Baba Anait Shah (religious place of a Muslim saint) in Dhunda village, 25 km from here, today. The place is situated on the banks of Beas.Goindwal Sahib DSP Satpal Singh said the bomb shells were seen by the sewadars of the tomb when they were digging the land for construction. The tomb head informed the police.The DSP said the police reached the spot and cordoned off the area to prevent any untoward incident. The DSP said the explosive could be related to the 1965 Indo-Pak war when the Indian Army had stationed here. He added that such type of 28 bomb shells were recovered from the same spot about six months ago. The DSP said experts had been called to defuse the bombs.Three bombs spotted near rail trackAbohar: Three bombs were spotted near the railway track in the border district of Jaisalmer on Wednesday. SP Gaurav Yadav said some villagers noticed the bombs lying near the railway track in Dagania village and informed the authorities. The area has been cordoned off. The anti-bomb squad and dog squad have been dispatched to the site and Army officers were also informed. Preliminary investigations indicate that the bombs appeared to be defused. OC


    CoI ordered into death of 2 IMA cadets

    Dehradun, August 23

    A court of inquiry has been ordered into the recent death of two cadets of the prestigious Indian Military Academy here after they fell sick during a 10-km-run as part of their routine training, sources said today.Dipak Sharma (22) from Bathinda in Punjab and Navin Chetri (23) from Darjeeling in West Bengal were among seven cadets who took ill after they participated in a 10-km run called “Pahla Kadam” at the Badshahibagh training area on the outskirts of Dehradun on August 18, they said. The duo died at a hospital later. Prima facie, the cadets died due to exhaustion and dehydration, sources said. — PTI


    Lt Col Purohit out of jail after 9 years

    Lt Col Purohit out of jail after 9 years
    Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit being taken to the Army base at Colaba from Taloja Central Jail on Wednesday. PTI

    Tribune News Service

    Mumbai, August 23

    Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, was today released from Taloja jail in Mumbai after his release order was issued by the Special National Investigation Agency court.The Supreme Court had on Monday granted bail to Purohit. However, his release, which was due on Tuesday, was delayed due to procedural hassles.Purohit walked out of jail shortly after 10.35 am and left for the military barracks at Colaba in South Mumbai in a convoy of 15 military vehicles.The former Military Intelligence officer, along with Sadhvi Pragya and others, was accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. Seven persons died in the blast. Shortly after the SC order, Purohit told reporters on Tuesday that he was looking forward to rejoining the Army. He said he was thankful to the Army for standing by him.

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    The way around China

    The way around China
    In Knots: China has, no doubt, landed itself in a military and diplomatic pickle.

    G Parthasarathy

    DENG Xiao Ping, who survived Maoist repression and became China’s supreme ruler from 1978 to 1997, set the stage for dumping Maoist communist dogma and releasing the creative energy of Chinese entrepreneurship. He rationalised discarding orthodox Communist ideology, proclaiming: “It does not matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it can kill mice.” Deng was the “helmsman” of China’s breath-taking economic growth, which transformed his country into the world’s economic powerhouse, within three decades.Deng urged caution in the conduct of security policies. Shortly after the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Deng advised his countrymen: “Observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capabilities and bide our time”. Deng had practical reasons for rendering this advice to his countrymen. China was badly mauled during the Ussuri river clashes with the Soviet Union in 1969. Worse still, was the humiliation China suffered following Deng’s visit to Washington in 1978, where he was feted, wined and dined by President Carter and the barons of American business. Shortly thereafter, he proclaimed: “Vietnam is a hooligan. We must teach it a lesson.”  It was, however, China which was taught a lesson by Vietnam, when it invaded its neighbour in 1979.Deng faced a similar setback in 1986, when China’s PLA occupied vacated Indian posts in Sumdorong Chu/Wangdung in Arunachal Pradesh. India responded by airlifting forces to the McMahon Line, along the Sino-India border. Deng warned India in 1986 that it would be taught a “lesson” if it did not withdraw its forces, with US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger acting as an intermediary. New Delhi, however, stood firm and a military stalemate followed. External affairs minister ND Tiwari visited Beijing in May 1987 and clarified that India was not interested in escalating tensions, while holding out the possibility of a visit to China by PM Rajiv Gandhi. The visit took place in November 1988, with Deng personally welcoming the “young” Indian PM and setting the stage for seeking a new relationship with India. Chinese troops, however, pulled back fully from Sumdorong Chu only in 1993. China’s misadventure in Sumdorong Chu led to Arunachal Pradesh soon becoming a state of the Indian Union in 1987.Much has changed in the last three decades in China. It is now an economic powerhouse with a GDP five times that of India and defence spending six times that of India. China has impressive defence production facilities and armed forces with huge firepower. But, China’s economic rise has also led to the country discarding Deng’s prescription of “hide our capabilities and bide our time”. China is now flexing its economic and military muscle across Asia, while also using its maritime power across the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean Regions. The use of maritime power has been accompanied by China defining its maritime borders arbitrarily, drawing a “nine dotted line”, to occupy and build military bases on several islands, hundreds of miles from its shores, which are legally claimed by its neighbours. Its maritime boundary claims, many coercively enforced, have included unilaterally defining its maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. Beijing has, however, been circumspect, in not biting off more than it can chew, on in its maritime boundaries with Japan!China has coerced a number of ASEAN countries, compelling them not to join partners like Vietnam and Indonesia, which have demanded that Beijing should adhere to rulings of the UN Arbitration Tribunal on its maritime boundaries. This fear of Chinese power has torn ASEAN solidarity apart, with many ASEAN members refusing to accept any critical references to China in the recent ministerial conference in the Philippines. Not content with establishing its hegemony in Southeast Asia, China has also moved to contain and erode India’s influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The ambivalence of the Trump administration on containing Chinese power and its revocation of the Trans-Pacific (economic) partnership has raised serious doubts about American reliability as an economic and military partner in East and Southeast Asia. China has benefited immensely from this.Pakistan is predictably the primary instrument for China’s policy of “containment” of India. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, stretching from the PoK to the port of Gwadar,  has been accompanied by a decision to enhance Pakistan’s maritime power, with a decision to supply eight frigates and eight submarines to Pakistan. Across India’s eastern shores, China has outmanoeuvred the US, Japan and India by strengthening its political and economic influence in the economic and political policies of Aung San Suu Kyi. It is set to build the strategic port of Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal, while shaping its maritime silk road by taking over Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka. Riding on hubris, China, however, gravely miscalculated what the response of India and Bhutan would be to its intrusion in Doklam.By its intrusion in Doklam, Beijing violated written agreements with Bhutan signed in 1988 and 1998, which pledged to “maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959”, and “refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo on the boundary”. It also violated the December 2012 “common understanding” reached by Special Representatives of India and China, agreeing to maintain the status quo, pending a tripartite agreement on the location of the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction. China has now landed itself in a military and diplomatic quagmire. The Sikkim-Bhutan border is the worst location for China for a confrontation with India. India has huge advantages in terrain, logistics, firepower and numbers in this area. Any military misadventure could destroy the image of invincibility the Chinese have assiduously built, while bullying weaker maritime neighbours.China can possibly undertake intrusions in sections of its borders with India, where it enjoys logistical advantages. India has to be prepared for this. In the meantime, imaginative diplomacy is required to ensure China is given a face-saving way out from its present predicament. A visit by Mr Modi to China for the forthcoming BRICS Summit would largely depend on his reading of Chinese intentions and flexibility. Much will, however, depend on how President Xi Jinping decides to deal with domestic challenges he is likely to face during the forthcoming Communist Party Congress, scheduled for later this year.


    Army on standby, more para forces arrive

    Army on standby, more para forces arrive
    Sirsa Deputy Commissioner Prabhjot Singh (extreme right) and SSP Ashwin Shenvi review security arrangements at a police naka on Wednesday. Photo: Manoj Dhaka

    Geetanjali Gayatri

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, August 23

    The state has been put on “high alert” with prohibitory orders being clamped in 10 districts, including Panchkula, Sirsa and those bordering neighbouring Punjab, ahead of the verdict in a rape case against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.The state government, which is on tenterhooks with regard to the law and order situation, has intimated the Army to be prepared to step in, if and when needed. The possibility of curfew is not ruled out.As many as 2,500 more police personnel have been mobilised by way of rationalisation to keep vigil till the verdict in the case is out.Even as 18 more companies of paramilitary forces arrived in the state taking the total number of companies available to 53, the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government deputed 10 senior IPS officers and 10 HCS officers to monitor the law and order situation in Panchkula.The government has also notified temporary prisons in various districts and two drones have been pressed into service in Panchkula to keep an eye on the dera followers camping in the city.Haryana Roadways buses would ply normally on their regular routes in the state over the next two days but will not enter Ambala and Panchkula as a precautionary measure.While social media is being closely monitored in all 10 “sensitive” districts, sources in the government said it was not averse to the idea of suspending internet services, if needed. “All content on social media is being closely scrutinised at the district level and internet services could be suspended if the situation turns volatile,” sources claimed.Declaring a three-day holiday in educational institutions, including government, private, government-aided and BEd colleges and universities of the state from August 23 to 25, as per a notification of the Higher Education Department, the government cancelled leave of field officers and police personnel while ordering all medical and paramedical staff to remain on duty till August 30. Closure of schools, however, has been left to the respective Deputy Commissioners.Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ram Niwas, said the situation in the state was dynamic and the government would employ all measures to maintain law and order in view of the changing situation.


    Govt weighs options

    • With followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief streaming into Panchkula and at the dera headquarters in Sirsa as a build-up to the August 25 verdict of the CBI court in the rape case against him, the government is learnt to be weighing various options to deal with the fluid ground situation in the state even as uncertainty surrounds the appearance of the dera chief in the court.
    • Though the government is hopeful that the Dera chief will show up in the court, the top brass spent the day reviewing security arrangements and weighing its options during various rounds of meetings.
    • Sources said there was a possibility that the judgment in the case could be delivered via video-conferencing with the dera chief in Sirsa if there seemed a possibility of the situation turning volatile. Further, the government could move an application in the CBI court seeking deferral of the verdict if there is a threat to the law and order situation.

    Dera followers told to hide identity Hisar: Dera Sacha Sauda followers are being guided on ways to hoodwink security forces and reach Panchkula. At Naam Charcha Ghars, ‘premis’ are gathering and being told to reach Panchkula by all means and keep their identities hidden. At the Naam Charcha Ghar in Gangwa village in this district, it was announced through a mike to take Haryana Roadways buses or any private vehicle to reach Panchkula. ‘Premis’ have been told not to take the pendant with a photo of the dera head along. “Instructions are being issued to the followers via Whatsapp groups,” a source said, adding that they were advised not to proceed in groups.—TNS