DTN News: India, Russia Sign New Arms Sales Deal*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW, Russia - December 8, 2009: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Dec. 7, as the two countries signed deals on nuclear energy and arms sales.
India and Russia signed a raft of agreements, including one on cooperation in civilian atomic energy and another on the arms trade, after the two leaders held talks at the Kremlin, Russian news agencies reported.
"We welcome Russia's participation in the broadening of our nuclear energy program," Singh said at the televised signing ceremony, according to remarks translated into Russian.
"The successful end of the negotiations on the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy is a major step forward," he added.
"We are both of the opinion that our relations have very much potential," Medvedev said.
Ahead of Singh's visit to Moscow, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said India and Russia had been trying to put together an agreement that would broaden a nuclear fuel import pact.
The pact would guarantee unhindered supply of uranium for Indian reactors and the right to reprocess spent fuel, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted unnamed officials as saying.
Russia is already building two nuclear power units in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and has agreed to install four more nuclear reactors there as part of an agreement signed during Medvedev's visit to India last year.
Russia's state-owned nuclear power firm Rosatom could build up to 20 nuclear power units in India in all, including four to six in the state of West Bengal, the ITAR-TASS state news agency reported, citing the company's chief.
"These are not just billions, these are tens of billions of dollars" worth of contracts, Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said, quoted by ITAR-TASS.
Details on the Indian-Russian arms agreement were not reported, but Russian news agencies said Moscow and New Delhi had ended a spat over India's purchase of a retired Soviet aircraft carrier, citing a source close to the talks.
The 44,570-ton warship Admiral Gorshkov, has yet to be delivered amid delays and cost overruns in its refurbishment.
India's plans to acquire it have turned into a headache for New Delhi, with Moscow in 2007 demanding an additional $1.2 billion to cover repairs of the 30-year-old ship.
"In matters relating to the contract, everything is settled, the parameters have been determined and a final decision has been made," a source close to the Kremlin talks told the Interfax and RIA-Novosti news agencies.
Singh was due to meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin later Dec. 7.
DTN News: After Long Delay, Airbus A400M To Fly For 1st Time*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) PARIS, France - December 8, 2009: The Airbus A400M military plane is scheduled to take to the skies on its first test flight late next week after a long delay that has caused headaches for European defense group EADS and the loss of a client. The A400M’s most distinguishable features are its massive propellers, mounted on four TP400-D6 turboprop engines developed by the four-nation Europrop International consortium. Development and testing issues encountered with the new propulsion system have contributed to the delayed first flight of the A400M, and to an at-least six-month slippage to airframe deliveries until mid-2010 at the earliest. Export success has so far come from Malaysia and South Africa(has cancelled). , which have ordered a combined 12 aircraft. With a maximum payload of 37t, the A400M’s lift capacity places the design between the new-generation C-130J and Boeing’s larger C-17 strategic transport, both of which are rivals to its future order book.
The A400M was to replace ageing military cargo carriers in several European air forces but its development has been dogged by a series of serious technical problems.
Some governments have begun to tire of waiting for Airbus to resolve the issues, and French and German officials have given the firm until the end of the year to prove that the project remains viable.
The delays have cost millions and forced Airbus to renegotiate its contracts with several customers. South Africa has dropped its order entirely and Britain has mulled switching its business to US manufacturers.
When the 20-billion-euro ($28 billion) A400M project began it was hoped that a first test flight would be held in 2008 and that air forces would have had the airframe in service by the end of this year.
But the first test flight was delayed and NATO countries will not received their orders before the end of 2012.
Airbus, which is owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, intends to conduct the first test flight on Friday.
The plane is undergoing ground tests at the Airbus site in the southern Spanish city of Sevilla. The A400M has begun to roll at higher speeds close to optimum speed for take off, Airbus Military said.
The aircraft is scheduled to take off Dec. 11 if ground tests go smoothly and weather conditions are optimal.
"An unexpected circumstance can always delay take-off by a few hours, even a few days, at the last moment," Airbus Military director Domingo Urena said.
Two pilots from Britain and Spain and four French engineers will take part in the maiden flight.
A successful first flight will bring much-needed dose of good news for the program.
"This first flight, even if it does not solve all the problems weighing on this program, will nevertheless be a major step forward," said an analysis by CM-CIC investment group.
The plane has faced technical problems owing to its complexity and engine system. The A400M boasts the most powerful turbo propeller in the Western world, which is being developed by a European consortium that includes France's Snecma and Britain's Rolls Royce company.
Last month, South Africa canceled a contract to buy eight of the aircraft, citing delays and a huge cost rise from 830 million euros ($1.2 billion) to 4.1 billion euros.
Airbus launched the A400M program in 2003 with a 20-billion-euro contract with seven countries - Germany, Spain, France, Britian, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The seven countries have ordered 180 planes between them, in most cases to replace ageing Transall and C130 Hercules transports.
These clients and EADS are now negotiating a new agreement on a delivery date, the characteristics of the aircraft and its price. The two sides last met in Berlin on December 2.
The talks are crucial for EADS, which already has already put aside 2.4 billion euros in provisions against losses on the A400M project and has not excluded new charges.
EADS and its clients had given themselves until the end of the year to find common ground, but the negotiations were slowed down by elections in Germany - the top client with 60 aircraft orders - and could drag into next year.
DTN News: Israeli Military Chief On First Visit To India*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) JERUSALEM, Israel - December 8, 2009: Israel's army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, has left on a trip to India, the first time the head of the Israeli military is visiting the country, the army said on Dec. 6.
Ashkenazi left for India late on Dec. 5 as part of a trip to Asia, it said in a statement.
"The visit to India is part of the process of strengthening the ties between Israel and India and the nations' militaries," it said, adding that the trip marked "the first official visit of an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) chief to India." (Image: IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi.)
Ashkenazi is due to meet with his Indian counterpart, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, on his visit, as well as the Indian national security advisor and the heads of the country's air force and navy.
Ashkenazi will also visit other countries in the region during his trip, an army spokesman said, but declined to say which ones.
Israel replaced France in 2007 as India's second-largest arms supplier after Russia and could grab the number one slot through a vast array of defense agreements already signed with New Delhi.
"In the past year, Israel has overtaken Russia as its main defense equipment supplier, and about 30 percent of India's defense imports come from Israel, and that number is growing," said Col. (Ret.) Behram A. Sahukar, a former fellow in India's Terrorism and Security Studies at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses.
Sahukar also served as a fellow in the United Service Institution of India in Delhi, and has extensive practical experience in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism in the Indian subcontinent.
He said Israeli weapons like the Tavor assault rifle and other equipment "are being imported for the modernization of India's Special Forces and communications equipment. Joint simulation exercises and training of complete units could also be initiated."
But the burgeoning ties have sparked some tensions within India, home to the world's second largest Muslim population.
India's Muslim population is moderate on the whole, and Indian Muslims "have remained for the most part outside the global jihad against the West," Sahukar stressed, but added that the community "forms 12 percent of India's population and is also a huge 'vote bank,' which does influence some government political decisions to some extent, as does the pressure applied by left-wing and Muslim parties in India."
Hence, a 2008 visit to the Indian provinces of Jammu and Kashmir by an IDF delegation headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky "to study and advise on counter-terrorism aspects did not go down too well with some parties in India," Sahukar noted.
Nevertheless, the "vast [parliamentary] majority" enjoyed by the current National Congress Party means that such rumbles have not, for the most part, interfered with the development of Indian-Israeli defense ties, Sahukar added.
"The present Congress-led government is in favor of increasing the India-Israel-US strategic relationship," he said.
Israeli defense officials say India can obtain solutions to the threat of terrorism from Israel that cannot be obtained from other countries.
"In the light of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 and the murder of all six Jewish/Israeli hostages at the Chabad House, India-Israeli multifaceted counter-terrorism cooperation has become even more urgently needed," Sahukar said.
At the same time, "the Indian experience in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency differs from Israel's in some ways, though the threat might be similar," he added.
Aside from the threat of terrorism, the Indian military was making "a very significant transition from Eastern to Western technology," and Israel was playing a vital role in the transformation, an Israeli defense source said.
In the past, India made enormous acquisitions of Russian and, to a lesser extent, Chinese military products, but a few years ago India began acquiring Western defense platforms.
Israel had both the experience and the know-how in integrating Western technologies into "Eastern-made tanks, planes and rocket-launchers due to the large numbers of Eastern-made arms that fell into our hands and have been converted," the source said.
In recent years, Israel has sold India military products ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to truck-mounted cannons.
Israel developed the cannons especially for the Indian military so that they can be placed on trucks at a low cost.
Israeli defense officials believe the weapons sales to India are free from the risk that the hardware may be re-sold to a third party without Israel's permission. Such fears cannot be discounted when it comes to selling arms to China, the officials believe.
Israel, for its part, has been granted access to India's space launch centers, described by one Israeli defense official as "having some of the best launch capabilities in the world."
Indian space launch facilities allow Israel to launch satellites eastwards, in the direction of Earth's rotation, thereby lowering launch costs. In Israel, space launches must go westwards towards the Mediterranean Sea, to avoid population centers.
Many in the Israeli defense establishment believe India will surpass expectations in its transition to becoming a major power in the East, and that Israel can act as a bridge between India and the US.
Sahukar recalled that "a few weeks ago, the US hosted India's prime minister and honored him with the first state banquet of the Obama administration," adding, "India's strategic relations with Israel can be seen in the context of its growing strategic relations with the US as well."
DTN News: Turkey Hesitate To Send Combat Troops To Afghanistan*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) ANKARA, Turkey - December 8, 2009: Since Barack Obama declared that the U.S. government will prioritize restoring the international basis for its fight against al-Qaeda within Afghanistan, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Dec. 3 that his country does not want to send combat troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan's lawless southern and eastern regions, but that Ankara would like to contribute to the war-torn country in other ways. KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Turkish International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers say goodbye before boarding a flight back to Turkey at the APOD military base located at the Kabul International Airport February 7, 2003 in Kabul, Afghanistan. After seven and a half months the Turkish forces are pulling out of Afghanistan and will hand over the mission to the German-Netherlands Corps on the 10th of February.
"We don't want to be in a fighting position" in Afghanistan, Gul told reporters here on his return from a visit to Jordan. "Our activities [in Afghanistan] will increase, but we decide on the modalities."
His remarks came two days after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that nearly 30,000 additional U.S. combat troops would be sent to Afghanistan. U.S. officials also urged other NATO nations to act similarly.
Unwilling to join the anti-Taliban fighting, Turkey instead plans to assume a more prominent role in the training of Afghan National Army and police forces, officials say.
Turkey last month took over the rotating command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force peacekeeping mission in Kabul and doubled the number of its troops there to about 1,750. But the Turkish contingent's caveats do not allow it to take part in active combat operations.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet with Obama on Dec. 7 at the White House, and Afghanistan will be among top issues to be discussed.
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 8, 2009 ~ At Least 45 Killed As Twin Bombs Hit Lahore*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) LAHORE, Pakistan - December 8, 2009: Two powerful bomb blasts ripped through the busy Moon Market in Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Town late in the night, claiming at least 45.
Map locates Lahore, Pakistan, where a pair of bombs were detonated in a market.
The blasts, which took place within a radius of 30 metre, also caused a massive fire in a crowded shopping mall. The blasts knocked out electricity supply.
Monday’s strike was the second terrorist attack in Iqbal Town. On August 13, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the same market, killing nine people, including two children.
Shops and stalls are seen as a fire spreads following two explosions in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. Two explosions ripped through a crowded market in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, killed dozens people and left many injured, police said.
Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervaiz told reporters that the death toll could rise as fire-fighters struggled to put out the blaze to rescue the trapped people till late in the night.
Rescue teams retrieved several charred bodies from the building. A number of the injured people taken to different city hospitals were said to be in a critical condition.
A Pakistani woman is comforted by a police officers, after a series of explosions in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. Two explosions ripped through a crowded market in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, killed a number people and left many injured, police said.
According to police, the first blast took place outside a bank and the other near a police station. People ran for their lives as the two blasts took place within a few seconds at about 8.45pm.
SSP (operations) Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed told Dawn that the first blast had been carried out by a suicide bomber.
A view of the destruction caused by explosions in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. Two synchronized bombs ripped through a market popular with women in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, igniting a massive fire and killing dozens of people, authorities said.
The Iqbal Town SP said police had recovered some body parts, including the head and legs of the suspected bomber. He said police had also seized a damaged motorcycle allegedly used for planting a time device.
However, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and senior officials insisted that the blasts could have been triggered remotely.
The commissioner blamed India for the blasts. But the law minister said that militants from Waziristan were involved.
A number of shops in the market were destroyed and windowpanes of nearby buildings and houses shattered. Dozens of cars and motorcycles were damaged.
Pakistani fire brigade staff trying to extinguish fires which broke out after explosions in Lahore, Pakistan Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. Two explosions ripped through a crowded market in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday, killing a number of people and left many injured, police said.
Most people falling prey to the bloody attacks were either shopping or dining out at the time of the incident.
The blasts were heard in a radius of a few kilometres. Panic gripped the area and all major markets in the city were closed. Traders announced closure of the market on Tuesday in protest against the incident.
People accused police of not taking effective precautionary measures despite threats that terrorists could target markets in the city.
‘I was passing through the market when the first blast took place outside the MCB Bank, where people were enjoying their food,’ said Mohammad Qaiser, of Sabzazar. ‘Soon after the blast I found at least 10 people lying on the ground with blood and limbs strewn all around,’ he added. Imran Hussian, a shopkeeper, said, ‘I was outside the shop when a huge blast shook the entire market. A few seconds later, another explosion was heard on the outskirts of the market.’ He said he and other people ran for their lives. ‘When we returned after some time, we saw the injured screaming and crying for pain. A big fire erupted in the market,’ he said. Meanwhile, police set up pickets across the city and rounded up several suspects for investigation.
DTN News: Pakistan TODAY December 7, 2009 ~ Suicide Bomber In Pakistan Kills 7*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan - December 7, 2009: Authorities say the bomber blew himself up Monday after security officials stopped him from entering a courthouse in Peshawar.A Pakistani police officer is seen near burning vehicles after a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. A suicide bomber struck outside a court building in the main northwest city of Peshawar, killing people in a fiery reminder of the threat militants pose to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country.
Police in northwest Pakistan say a suicide bomber has killed at least seven people and wounded several others.
Authorities say the bomber blew himself up Monday after security officials stopped him from entering a courthouse in Peshawar.
Injured people are seen at a roadside after a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. A suicide bomber struck outside a court building in the main northwest city of Peshawar, killing people in a fiery reminder of the threat militants pose to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country.
Militants in Pakistan have killed hundreds of people in bombings since military forces launched a major offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region two months ago. A Pakistani man removes a gas cylinder from a burning rickshaw after a suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Monday, Dec. 7, 2009. A suicide bomber struck outside a court building in the main northwest city of Peshawar, killing people in a fiery reminder of the threat militantspose to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country.
Many of these attacks have targeted Peshawar, including a bomb blast late last month that ripped through a police vehicle and killed three police officers.
Elsewhere, local media reports say a blast in the western city of Quetta has wounded at least five people. Details of the explosion are still coming in.
On Sunday, the Pakistani military said forces pursuing militants in the northwestern tribal belt had killed at least 14 insurgents and arrested some 45 others.
Soldiers race to secure the site of a bomb blast in Pakistan's north west city Peshawar December 7, 2009. A bomb exploded near a court building in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday killing at least five people, officials said. Witnesses said the bomb was apparently planted in a auto-rickshaw near the court.
A military statement said forces in South Waziristan apprehended six suspects in one sector and seven in another.
One militant was reported killed in clashes with troops on the outskirts of Peshawar.
Earlier this year, Pakistan's military began two significant offensives against Taliban factions in Pakistan's turbulent northwest.
The offensives in South Waziristan and Swat Valley have sparked a wave of retaliatory attacks against military and government targets in major cities that have killed hundreds of people.
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY December 7, 2009 ~ NATO Strike Destroys Taliban Bastion Says Officials*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) ASADABAD, Afghanistan - December 7, 2009: NATO warplanes pounded a Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 insurgents and destroying a bunker complex, military officials said. US President Barack Obama last week ordered 30,000 more troops to the war-torn country
Noor Akbar, a regional Taliban commander was among those killed in the raid in the province of Kunar, a mountainous region and Taliban flashpoint area near the Pakistan border, Afghan army general Mohammad Qasim Bitanai told AFP.
"More than 20 Taliban fighters, including their commander Noor Akbar, were killed in the raid," he said.
The NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it called in an air strike that demolished a Taliban stronghold in the province's Watapur district but did not give details of casualties.
"An international security force conducted an air strike today and destroyed a known Taliban stronghold consisting of bunkers and prepared defensive positions in Kunar province.
"The security force targeted the stronghold near the village of Tsangar Darah in the mountainous Watapur district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity at the location," ISAF said.
The Afghan general said the operation was coordinated between Afghan and foreign forces, which currently number around 113,000 in the country.
Several other rebels were killed in operations elsewhere in the province of Paktika, also in the east, ISAF said without giving a figure.
US President Barack Obama last week ordered 30,000 more troops to the war-torn country as NATO allies pledged at least an extra 7,000 soldiers as part of a sweeping new strategy to crush a surge in Taliban violence.
The Taliban have made a deadly come-back since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled their regime in Kabul, forcing commanders to demand reinforcements in a bid to win a war increasingly unpopular in Western capitals.