June 18, 2010

UAV INDIA Part 1: First Ever Impressions Of AURA, India's UCAV

What you're looking at here are the first ever manifestations of what India's UCAV, codenamed AURA, could look like. These are images from an official presentation (see slide) by India's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) director PS Krishnan, outlining AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft), a programme that was nameless and obscure in the public domain before it was reported on here on LiveFist and on Headlines Today. As you can see from the slide, the ADE describes the AURA as a "self defending" high speed reconnaisance UAV with a "weapon firing capability", which seems a typically laboured way of describing the obvious. With the programme still in its project definition stage, the images used in the slide above are likely just representative (the tacky flag-on-underbelly routine a-la Lockheed Nighthawk with stars and stripes), though it's a definite indication of how the programme's scientists are thinking. It's all fully in line with what former DRDO chief controller for Aeronautics said in 2007: that India's combat drone would be a stealthy flying-wing concept aircraft with internal weapons and a turbofan engine.


Usa creates a monster to destroy it later

In the twilight of the Cold War, the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.

The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system's core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books, though the radical movement scratched out human faces in keeping with its strict fundamentalist code.

As Afghan schools reopen today, the United States is back in the business of providing schoolbooks. But now it is wrestling with the unintended consequences of its successful strategy of stirring Islamic fervor to fight communism. What seemed like a good idea in the context of the Cold War is being criticized by humanitarian workers as a crude tool that steeped a generation in violence.

Last month, a U.S. foreign aid official said, workers launched a "scrubbing" operation in neighboring Pakistan to purge from the books all references to rifles and killing. Many of the 4 million texts being trucked into Afghanistan, and millions more on the way, still feature Koranic verses and teach Muslim tenets.

The White House defends the religious content, saying that Islamic principles permeate Afghan culture and that the books "are fully in compliance with U.S. law and policy." Legal experts, however, question whether the books violate a constitutional ban on using tax dollars to promote religion.

Organizations accepting funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development must certify that tax dollars will not be used to advance religion. The certification states that AID "will finance only programs that have a secular purpose. . . . AID-financed activities cannot result in religious indoctrination of the ultimate beneficiaries."

The issue of textbook content reflects growing concern among U.S. policymakers about school teachings in some Muslim countries in which Islamic militancy and anti-Americanism are on the rise. A number of government agencies are discussing what can be done to counter these trends.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have repeatedly spotlighted the Afghan textbooks in recent weeks. Last Saturday, Bush announced during his weekly radio address that the 10 million U.S.-supplied books being trucked to Afghan schools would teach "respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry."

The first lady stood alongside Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai on Jan. 29 to announce that AID would give the University of Nebraska at Omaha $6.5 million to provide textbooks and teacher training kits.

AID officials said in interviews that they left the Islamic materials intact because they feared Afghan educators would reject books lacking a strong dose of Muslim thought. The agency removed its logo and any mention of the U.S. government from the religious texts, AID spokeswoman Kathryn Stratos said.

"It's not AID's policy to support religious instruction," Stratos said. "But we went ahead with this project because the primary purpose . . . is to educate children, which is predominantly a secular activity."

Some legal experts disagreed. A 1991 federal appeals court ruling against AID's former director established that taxpayers' funds may not pay for religious instruction overseas, said Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law expert at American University, who litigated the case for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ayesha Khan, legal director of the nonprofit Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the White House has "not a legal leg to stand on" in distributing the books.

"Taxpayer dollars cannot be used to supply materials that are religious," she said.

Published in the dominant Afghan languages of Dari and Pashtu, the textbooks were developed in the early 1980s under an AID grant to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and its Center for Afghanistan Studies. The agency spent $51 million on the university's education programs in Afghanistan from 1984 to 1994.

During that time of Soviet occupation, regional military leaders in Afghanistan helped the U.S. smuggle books into the country. They demanded that the primers contain anti-Soviet passages. Children were taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines, agency officials said. They acknowledged that at the time it also suited U.S. interests to stoke hatred of foreign invaders.

"I think we were perfectly happy to see these books trashing the Soviet Union," said Chris Brown, head of book revision for AID's Central Asia Task Force.

AID dropped funding of Afghan programs in 1994. But the textbooks continued to circulate in various versions, even after the Taliban seized power in 1996.

Officials said private humanitarian groups paid for continued reprintings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops, to the chagrin of international aid workers.

"The pictures [in] the texts are horrendous to school students, but the texts are even much worse," said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, an Afghan educator who is a program coordinator for Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a Pakistan-based nonprofit.

An aid worker in the region reviewed an unrevised 100-page book and counted 43 pages containing violent images or passages.

The military content was included to "stimulate resistance against invasion," explained Yaquib Roshan of Nebraska's Afghanistan center. "Even in January, the books were absolutely the same . . . pictures of bullets and Kalashnikovs and you name it."

During the Taliban era, censors purged human images from the books. One page from the texts of that period shows a resistance fighter with a bandolier and a Kalashnikov slung from his shoulder. The soldier's head is missing.

Above the soldier is a verse from the Koran. Below is a Pashtu tribute to the mujaheddin, who are described as obedient to Allah. Such men will sacrifice their wealth and life itself to impose Islamic law on the government, the text says.

"We were quite shocked," said Doug Pritchard, who reviewed the primers in December while visiting Pakistan on behalf of a Canada-based Christian nonprofit group. "The constant image of Afghans being natural warriors is wrong. Warriors are created. If you want a different kind of society, you have to create it."

After the United States launched a military campaign last year, the United Nations' education agency, UNICEF, began preparing to reopen Afghanistan's schools, using new books developed with 70 Afghan educators and 24 private aid groups. In early January, UNICEF began printing new texts for many subjects but arranged to supply copies of the old, unrevised U.S. books for other subjects, including Islamic instruction.

Within days, the Afghan interim government announced that it would use the old AID-produced texts for its core school curriculum. UNICEF's new texts could be used only as supplements.

Earlier this year, the United States tapped into its $296 million aid package for rebuilding Afghanistan to reprint the old books, but decided to purge the violent references.

About 18 of the 200 titles the United States is republishing are primarily Islamic instructional books, which agency officials refer to as "civics" courses. Some books teach how to live according to the Koran, Brown said, and "how to be a good Muslim."

UNICEF is left with 500,000 copies of the old "militarized" books, a $200,000 investment that it has decided to destroy, according to U.N. officials.

On Feb. 4, Brown arrived in Peshawar, the Pakistani border town in which the textbooks were to be printed, to oversee hasty revisions to the printing plates. Ten Afghan educators labored night and day, scrambling to replace rough drawings of weapons with sketches of pomegranates and oranges, Brown said.

"We turned it from a wartime curriculum to a peacetime curriculum," he said.


UK bans controversial Muslim Indian scholar

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May has banned controversial Islamic scholar Zakir Naik from entering the United Kingdom.

May banned the entry of the Indian scholar on the grounds of his 'unacceptable behaviour'. The renowned Islamic scholar was scheduled to address lectures at Wembley Arena and Sheffield.

Dr Naik is the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation and he owns a TV channel which operates from Mumbai, his hometown.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the home secretary has the authority to exclude or deport an individual if he/she is responsible for writing material that justifies or glorifies terrorist violence or seeks to encourage terror acts.

According to a list published by The Indian Express in 2009, Dr Naik was ranked 82nd among the top 100 most powerful men in India. He was also found to be the third most powerful spiritual leader in India, beaten only by Baba Ramdev and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar.

The Islamic scholar, who holds a MBBS degree, has repeatedly come under criticism for his preachings. The powerful Darul Uloom Deoband seminary has also issued a fatwa against him, urging Muslims against believing his speeches.

Dr Naik has made several alleged inflammatory comments, including suggesting that then US President George W Bush orchestrated the 9/11 terror strike to get an excuse to attack oil-rich nations.

Dr Naik has reportedly cited the Koran and branded Jews as the 'staunchest enemy' of Muslims.

He has also been accused of criticising other religions while upholding the values of Islam.

The popular scholar allegedly supported Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, saying, "If he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him."

Reiterating his stance on every Muslim becoming a terrorist, he allegedly said, "If he is terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, every Muslim should be a terrorist."

The paper reports that Dr Naik allegedly compared 'western women' to prostitutes who are 'mere tools in the hands of pleasure seekers and sex marketeers'.

He reportedly claimed that the revealing clothes worn by western women make them more susceptible to rape.


June 15, 2010

No invites :India is all alone as it seeks to become a great power

For all the nice words, India is all alone as it seeks to become a great power, says N.V.Subramanian.

Before gullible officials and the press go over the top on the India-relevant portions of the latest US National Security Strategy (NSS) document and the Indian foreign office turns immoderately self-congratulatory in respect of so-called Chinese concessions during President Pratibha Patil's visit, let us throw some cautionary dampeners all around and calmly appraise the situations on the fronts of two of the greatest powers today.

While it is to the good that the Barack Obama administration reaffirms in the NSS document to "(build) a strategic partnership" with India, the proof of the pudding remains in the eating. Nothing so far has suggested that the (aberrant) good relations in the limited field of civil nuclear relations that obtained during the George W.Bush administration have passed undiluted to the current dispensation in Washington, leave aside generic Indo-US bilateral ties, which have plateaued out and lost their drive.

As regards China, the foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, has been gushing that during the meeting between Patil and Chinese president Hu Jintao, Beijing has shown understanding of and been cooperative about India's ambition to be a permanent veto power in the UN Security Council. The Chinese are quiet about this aspect in their communique. A section of the press has reported that the Chinese statement post the Patil-Hu meeting "ambiguously called on two sides to work together "to increase the representation of developing countries in international affairs", avoiding any mention of UN reforms or the UNSC".

To regain some lost perspective, India is a status quo, non-expansionistic power like the US and unlike China, but at the same time, it does not seek any primacy in world affairs as the US does, and which it has continuously ensured for itself since it entered World War II and powered the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and Japan. India truly seeks a "peaceful rise" and this is not restricted to the Manmohan Singh regime either. It was this non-expansionistic, status quo impulse that convinced Indira Gandhi not to annex Bangladesh and make it another Indian province and a similar intent bound the A.B.Vajpayee government to fight the Kargil War entirely on the Indian side of the LoC and not to open one or two fronts against Pakistan as the military leadership was keen to.

The consequence of this at least on the Pakistani side has been determinedly to inflict a "thousand cuts" on India through terrorist acts, and it is continuing with the stalled prosecution of the LeT terrorist leader and 26/11 mastermind and chief inspirer, Hafez Sayeed. No amount of angry exhortations would provoke the Indian government to launch retaliatory attacks for terrorism, despite the phenomenal preparation of the military to make such attacks successful, and this is reflected in action -- or limited action -- in another sphere, the Indian Ocean. For all its vaunted claim that the Indian Ocean is India's Ocean, India has both stymied the growth of the navy and choked naval ambitions. It is fair to say that on the present trajectory, India would be loath to project power anywhere, be it apropos Pakistan (despite all the war exercises), or in the Indian Ocean. The blundered Sri Lanka intervention has turned the political class cold to power projection in principle, and pushed it to consider other means to accrete national power, of which the 1998 nuclear test is one example, and possibly Manmohan Singh's tilt towards the United States is another.

This writer is most concerned about a tilt towards a foreign power to meet national ambitions, because, almost as a given of international relations, those ambitions won't be met, while concessions have to be made, which cannot be repented in leisure.Consider, for example, the Barack Obama NSS document insofar as it concerns India. It completely glosses over deep and abiding Indo-US differences on Afghanistan and Pakistani terrorism. Obama does not cultivate any special ill-will against India. India simply does not fit the US's scheme of things, regardless of what the NSS document says.

Certainly, Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said much more than the Obama document personally to Manmohan Singh on a visit in 2005, pledging to make India a great power. Where's that pledge, for what it is worth? A simple test of the pledge was if the US would push for India to become a UNSC veto power, and the then president Bush flatly refused. For all Manmohan Singh's kowtowing to America since, it has not taken Indo-US relations in a "strategic" direction, in the real sense of the term. If anything, it has sharpened Indian vulnerabilities in respect of Kashmir and against Pakistani terrorism.

Turning to China, the narrative of relationship is worse, commencing with the 1962 Chinese aggression, and building up with China's nuke and ballistic missile exports to Pakistan against India. As much as India's growth story and its near-miraculous escape from confinement in South Asia in the seventies has surprised China (and this writer), it is not by any means reconciled to either, and its strategic competitive reflex is to keep India down by any and all means. Funnily, Jairam Ramesh mentioned the Indian favour to China during the Copenhagen summit, and strangely sought for more Indian concessions, rather than ask the Chinese to reciprocate. (For the record, this writer is fully supportive of Ramesh's work as environment minister, particularly his decision to scrap BT Brinjal.) It would be nice to think that the Chinese have done an about turn during the Pratibha Patil visit, somehow favouring India as a permanent UNSC member. According to this writer's analysis, that is the last thing the Chinese will agree to, because it would be the beginning of the end of their growing Asian hegemony. It would pour cold water on all their brazen efforts to contain India for over half-a-century.

A calm and rational assessment of the two developments on the US and China fronts that the piece deals with would call upon India not to abandon its caution, and to embrace the hard and gritty way to international preeminence, because that is the only avenue available. India is as unique as the US or China, and those two powers and Russia have found their own unique ways to win world power status. For better or worse, India has chosen to be content with being a status quo, non-expansionist power. This means neither will it provoke hostilities, near or far, nor will it project power, nor will it ever ally with war-mongering powers, which unfortunately includes the United States.

But there will be a price to pay for striving for this Mahatma status among nations, on the assumption that India survives this. India has to be internally strong to repulse external aggression. Because India will be of no use to external interests in their world-domination ambitions, it will consequently get little meaningful assistance in becoming a great stable power. So India will have to fend for itself.

That is its fate. All is not lost, however. India's time will come, in about forty years. But it must grow in that time, and it must grow strong. To give just one example, if we won't carry Pakistan's terrorist war to its territory, then we must build foolproof systems against Pakistani terrorist infiltration. Those systems cannot be imported. It is such ideas, hardened by and emerging from experience, that will secure and power India forward. So while we should not be wanting in our welcome of the appreciative sentiments contained in the Obama NSS document, let us not be carried away. And commonsense tells not to trust the Chinese. It is best to be business-like with them, as this writer has frequently implored. India will have to make its own destiny. Nobody will make it for it.