Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The Il 96 form Delhi touch̩ down with barely a whisper in almost zero visibility on the main runway of Shermavtyo airport just as thefirst snow of the season have started covering the seat of Russianpower and authority , in a delicate but harsh winter blanket . Duringthe 6 hrs flight watched with care signs of loose seat and overhead bins, noisy engine, bad air conditioning and food Рcould find none.The Russian wide bodied jet is quieter than 747 and the food wasample .The seat arrangement of 3x3 made for comfortable long hauljourney was effective. A fellow Indian passenger informed me quietly "Aeroflot flights are rarely cancelled or delayed because of badweather -something to do with its military type design " .
The immigration was quick and efficient and so was the customs and was out of the terminal in about 30 minutes after some money change at thepresent rate of 24.56 to a US Dollar and into the bitter cold winds ofMoscow street .The difference with US was stark -like in Detroit allIndian visitors are treated as potential terrorist or illegalimmigrant –thankfully the Russians do not think so. And of course thesecurity procedure is same for Russians and Non Russians allthroughout –unlike in US where non US particularly Asian citizens are separated out for" special treatment ".
Moscow is a beautiful city even in winter. And very expensive too .Butthe high cost of living has a distinct pattern .Residential rent isastronomical at about 1200 US for a 600 ft apartment in the outskirts and may be as high as 3000 US in up market complexes. Food and Petrolis reasonable .Petrol retailing at 21-23 R per liter and food pricesabout 30% higher than similar items in Indian food malls .Cigarettesare cheaper by 25% and Vodka well you can guess.Co incidentally it was also the time when our PM was visiting theRussian capital and the deal on MTA and Lunar mission was signed .Thenews made headline news on TV and main news papers and I had to explain some jokingly that yours truly did not travel Air India One .
The conference on cryogenics was like any other internationalconference .Some of the interesting papers on superconductivity andair separation was presented in Russian and that made understanding them a trifle difficult.Travelling within Moscow city is expensive rather very expensive ifyou travel by taxi and the charges can be anywhere between 500-2000 Rwhere as a 100R all day ten entry pass allows you to travel unlimited by the superbly designed metro network in form of radials withcircumferential connector or rings.
The Moscova River is scenic even when it is freezing over and gives anunique character to the city along with its massive square building and old churches interspaced with more modern Shanghai type skyscrapers coming up in between .Igor travelled 1000 kms approximately to be with me and he took me allover the metro network to show the real Moscow and also an evening with a new generation Russian family which was very enjoyable .Thevisit to air-space museum was the crown point of the visit .
ThankfullyIgor was with me since all the specification boards were in Russian.The exhibits includes rare photographs of all most all Russian air and space crafts and the photos of the aviation pioneers like who isimmortalized by the series MIG/Sukhoi/Illuysin/Antonov/Kamov .Cut awaysections of aero engines and missiles were very informative too .Ended the tour with a customary visit to Kremlin and Red square .Purchased a load of Russian aviation books particularly those on Tu160 /Mig 29 AND Su 27 –Shall try to share some of the interestingdetails in International military aviation page over the next fewweeks –may be you will find them interesting. All through the visit –there was one common factor I noticed –it isthe special way Russians treat Indians ,despite language barrier anddespite skin color difference .
They do consider as good friends irrespective and this is all across the society spectrum from cab drivers to hotel receptionists to cryogenic scientists to food mallassistants .The warmth was unmistakable . Also I noticed –Russians don't treat Chinese the same was –in fact they are sometimes quite rude with them -even if they are much bigger trading partners.Russians are strong by nature -physically, mentally and emotionallyand it comes out in the way they walk, talk and behave .Sometimes that creates the impression of rudeness but once you get to understand them –you can feel the inner warmth of soul for someone special like us.And one last thing but not the least – Russian women are exceptionallybeautiful but rarely smile ,but when they do –it can surely light up your day .

The Day of The Tiger 1

Mumbai jihadists' prime target was Jewish center"When asked during interrogation why Nariman House was specifically targetted, Ajmal reportedly told the police they wanted to sent a message to Jews across the world by attacking the ultra orthodox synagogue. Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans" -- Qur'an 5:82"Nariman House, not Taj, was the prime target on 26/11," by Somendra Sharma for DNAIndia, January 5 (thanks to Pamela):Think 26/11, and images of the carnage at the Taj come to mind. But the terrorists themselves were in no doubt that Nariman House was the prime focus. For this was the place which housed a Jewish centre, and the fanatics from Pakistan were clear that they wanted to send a message to the world from there. The Mumbai crime branch, which is investigating the terror attacks, has found that the terrorists’ handlers in Pakistan were clear this operation should not fail under any circumstances. The rest of the operations — at the Taj, Oberoi and Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus — were intended to amplify the effect.A senior police official, told DNA on condition of anonymity, that the interrogation of Mohammed Amir Iman Ajmal (aka Kasab) revealed as much. Just before entering the city, the terrorists’ team leader, Ismail Khan, briefed them once again about their targets. “But Khan briefed Imran Babar, alias Abu Akasha, and Nasir, alias Abu Umer, intensely on what to do at Nariman House,” the officer said.When asked during interrogation why Nariman House was specifically targetted, Ajmal reportedly told the police they wanted to sent a message to Jews across the world by attacking the ultra orthodox synagogue.According to the statement by Ajmal, Khan told Babar and Nasir that even if the others failed in their operation, they both could not afford to.
“The Nariman House operation has to be a success,” the officer said, quoting from Ajmal’s statement.“Khan also said that as far as Nariman House was concerned, there should not be even a minimal glitch in finding it and capturing it,” the officer quoted Ajmal as saying.After the dinghy carrying the 10 terrorists reached Mumbai at the Macchimar colony opposite Badhwar Park in Cuffe Parade, it was decided that no bombs would be planted in the taxi to be used to reach Nariman House.“The idea,” according to the police officer, “was that if Babar and Nasir got delayed in locating and entering Nariman House, the bomb in the taxi may explode even before they entered their target.”...“Ansari told us that he did not divulge this information earlier because it would have jeopardised the most important operation of the LeT. He had also been warned by the LeT that Nariman House was their most secret operation and must not be compromised at any cost,” the officer said.

Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander Zarar Shah captured in the crackdown on militants earlier this month in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, has confessed the group's involvement in the terror attacks in Mumbai, a media report saidon Wednesday.Shah has also implicated other LeT members, and had broadly confirmed the confession made by the sole capturedmilitant Ajmal Kasab to Indian investigators--that the 10 assailants trained in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and then went by boat from Karachi to Mumbai ], the Wall Street Journal reported quoting a senior Pakistani security official.The paper said Pakistan's own investigationof terror attacks in Mumbai had begun to show substantive links between the LeT and 10 gunmen who took part in the Mumbai mission.Pakistani security officials were quoted as saying that a top Lashkar commander, Zarar Shah, has admitted a rolein the Mumbai attack during interrogation. The paper quoted a person familiar with investigation as saying that Shah also admitted that the attackers spent at least a few weeks in Karachi, training in urban combat to hone skills they would use in their assault.The disclosure, it said, could add new international pressure on Pakistan to accept that the attacks, which left 183 dead in India, originated within its borders and to prosecute or extradite the suspects.That raises difficult and potentially destabilising issues for the country's new civilian government, its militaryand the spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence--which is conducting interrogations of militants it once cultivated aspartners, the Journal said."He is singing," the security official said of Shah.
The admission, the official told the paper, is backed up by US intercepts of a phone call between Shah and one ofthe attackers at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, the site of a 60-hour confrontation with Indian security forces.A second person familiar with the investigation was quoted by the Journal as saying that Shah told Pakistaniinterrogators that he was one of the key planners of the operation, and that he spoke with the attackers during therampage to give them advice and keep them focused.Shah, the paper said, was picked up along with fellow Lashkar commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi during the military camp raids in PoK.The probe, the Journal said, also is stress-testing an uncomfortable shift under way at Pakistan's spy agency -- andthe government -- since the election of civilian leadership replacing the military-led regime earlier this year. Military and intelligence officials, it says, acknowledge they have long seen India as their primary enemy and Islamist extremists such as Lashkar as allies.But now the ISI is in the midst of being revamped, and its ranks purged of those seen as too soft on Islamic militants.That revamp and the Mumbai attacks are in turn putting pressure on the civilian leadership, which risks a backlashamong the population -- and among elements of ISI and the military -- if it is too accommodating to India." "Don't fight the ISI. It can make or break any regime in Pakistan," retired General Mirza Aslam Beg, a former army chief, was quoted as saying.The delicate politics of the Mumbai investigation, the Journal said, have given the spy agency renewed sway just when the government was trying to limit its influence. A Western diplomat told the paper that the question now is what Pakistan will do with the evidence it is developing.The big fear in the West and India is a repeat of what happened after a 2001 attack on India's parliament, which ledto the ban on Lashkar. Top militant leaders were arrested only to be released months later, the Journal noted. Lashkar and other groupscontinued to operate openly, even though formal ISI links were scaled back or closed, the diplomat was quoted as saying."They've got the guys. They have the confessions. What do they do now?" the diplomat said. "We need to see that this is more than a show. We want to see the entire infrastructure of terror dismantled. There needs to be real prosecutions this time."
A spokesman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari , Farhatullah Babar, was quoted as saying on Tuesday that hewasn't aware of the Pakistani investigation yet producing any links between Lashkar militants and the Mumbai attacks."The Interior Ministry has already stated that the government of Pakistan has not been furnished with any evidence," he said.The Pakistani security official, it said, cautioned that the investigation is still in early stages and a "more full picture" could emerge once India decides to share more information.Pakistani authorities didn't have evidence that LeT was involved in the attacks before the militants' arrest inPoK, the security official claimed. They were captured based only on initial guidance from US and British authorities.http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/dec/...ai-attacks.htm
TOP ARTICLE The Clock Is Ticking 14 Jan 2009, 0010 hrs IST, K Subrahmanyam The ‘New York Times' carried an article on Sunday titled 'Obama's Worst Pakistan Nightmare'. The timing of the article by David Sanger,nine days before the Obama inauguration, is highly significant. The national security adviser of the outgoing administration, Stephen Hadley, in an earlier interview said that Pakistan was the biggest foreign policy challenge to the incoming Barack Obama administration. At the end of George Bush's term, his aides are reported to have handed over to Obama's transition team a lengthy review of policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, concluding that the US has far more at stake in preventing Pakistan's collapse than it does in stabilising Afghanistan or Iraq.
According to Sanger, the author of the transition report has recorded that "only one of those countries has a hundred nuclear weapons. For al-Qaeda and other Islamists this is the home game... For anyone trying to keep a nuclear weapon going off in the United States, it is our home game too". Sanger has written about Pakistan's command and control over its nuclear weapons after a detailed session with General (Retd) Khalid Kidwai, head of the Strategic Plans Division. Kidwai has been doing this job since 2002, interacting extensively with the American media, think tanks, the Pentagon and State Department to persuade them that Pakistani nuclear weapons were quite safe and there were no risks of them falling into the hands of jehadis. But the Americans are not convinced. Sanger narrates how Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told President Bush during a meeting in Washington about the crackdown on a major madrassa even as American intelligence had the transcripts of the Pakistani army giving advance warning to the madrassa about impending raids.
In these circumstances, American officials have doubts about two kinds of vulnerabilities of Pakistani nuclear weapons. The first, according to one of the most senior officials in the Bush administration, is what happens when the Pakistanis move their weapons. The US fears that some groups could try to provoke a confrontation between Pakistan and India in the hope that the Pakistani military would transport nuclear weapons closer to the frontlines where they would be more vulnerable to seizure. When the 26/11 attacks occurred in Mumbai, officials told Sanger that one of the attackers' motives might have been to trigger exactly that series of events. The second, according to the officials, are the steadfast efforts of different extremist groups to infiltrate the nuclear labs and put sleepers in there. This American fear can be traced back to A Q Khan's proliferation record and the uncovering of links between Bashiruddin Mahmood, a pioneering Pakistani nuclear scientist, and al-Qaeda.
The article discloses that US spent $100 million in aiding Pakistan to improve the safety and security of its weapons. But the Pakistanis are extremely suspicious of the Americans and have refused to accept direct technological help because of the fear that any electronic locking mechanisms from the US could have devices to disable their weapons. The Pakistanis are also unwilling to allow US special forces to operate against jehadis in their territory because of suspicion that Americans may develop capability to use special forces to seize their weapons. The American worries are mostly about the jehadis. In the last year of the Bush administration, the directors of National Intelligence and CIA undertook several trips to Pakistan to convince Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Kayani that the militants in the tribal areas were now aiming to bring down the government in Islamabad. Sanger says, "The message was simple and direct. The Pakistani leadership needed to forget about India and focus on the threat from within". President-elect Obama echoed similar sentiments in interviews. The NYT report clearly conveys the concerns of Washington about Pakistan as the Obama administration is about to assume office. There will be sceptics in India who will insist that in this situation the US is likely to succumb to Pakistani blackmail and sacrifice India's security interests at the altar of trying to maintain Pakistan's stability, as they have been doing in the last eight years. On the other hand, there can be views that Americans are no longer likely to accept the degree of risk vis-a-vis Pakistan conveyed in this article and continue to be taken for a ride. It is obvious that Obama is taking this challenge seriously. Vice-president-elect Joe Biden visited Pakistan just days before the inauguration.
Following the Mumbai attack, diplomatic interaction between India and the US has intensified. What is needed today is a strategic understanding at the highest leadership levels between India and US on the international threat arising out of Pakistan. The US Congressional Bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in its report last month concluded, "Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan." The US is concerned about Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and becoming a threat to them. Pakistanis assert that their nukes are India-specific. Therefore, there is a mutuality of strategic interest between the two countries on the developments in Pakistan.