Friday, July 04, 2008

Military 'agreed' nuclear export

Military 'agreed' nuclear export July 04, 2008: It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment AQ Khan Disgraced scientist AQ Khan has said that Pakistan transported nuclear material to North Korea with the full knowledge of the country's army. In media interviews, he said that the army supervised a flight of centrifuges to Pyongyang in 2000. At the time President Pervez Musharraf was head of the army. Dr Khan said that uranium enrichment equipment was sent in a North Korean plane loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials. 'Complete knowledge' The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Islamabad, says that Dr Khan's latest claims contradict a public confession he made in 2004 that he was solely responsible for exporting nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Our correspondent says that the comments are the most controversial accusation made by Dr Khan since he recently began defending himself in statements to the media. His comments are also at variance with the oft-stated line of the Pakistani government that neither it nor the army had any knowledge of the exports. AQ Khan has been at the forefront of developing Pakistan's nuclear capacity "It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment," Dr Khan said. Pakistan's newly elected government has relaxed restrictions on Mr Khan, who was put under house arrest in 2004 by the then military leader, President Musharraf. He is still detained but has begun speaking to the media by telephone. He said the army must have been aware of the centrifuges exports since it supervised all defence consignments and special flights. 'Extremely embarrassing' Our correspondent says that this is the closest he has come to accusing the army of involvement, although he stopped short of implicating the president, saying he did not know who specifically was responsible. The allegations are highly controversial, correspondents say, and could prove extremely embarrassing for the army. President Musharraf argues that only AQ Khan knew of the nuclear transfers So far there has been no response from the government or the army in relation to the allegations. The retired scientist has spoken increasingly to the media since a new government was elected in Pakistan earlier this year. When asked why he had taken sole responsibility for the nuclear scandal in 2004, Dr Khan said he had been persuaded that it was in the national interest. In return, he said, he had been promised complete freedom, but "those promises were not honoured". Dr Khan also said that he travelled to North Korea in 1999 with a Pakistani general to purchase shoulder-launched missiles. His wife this week went to the Islamabad High Court in a bid to end restrictions on her husband's movements. Dr Khan was pardoned by President Musharraf after admitting illegally transferring nuclear secrets to other countries including Libya, Iran and North Korea. But in recent weeks he has retracted his confession.

China to increase grain output

China to increase grain output July 04, 2008 Beijing: Meeting demand in China will be difficult if demand continues to grow China's cabinet has approved a plan to ensure grain production keeps pace with strong domestic demand and overcomes challenges such as climate change. China aims to reach and maintain annual grain output of 500 million tonnes by 2010, and to increase output to more than 540 million tonnes a year by 2020. Harsh weather and the development of arable land are hurting grain output. Despite this, the government said China would be self-sufficient in the future and could meet rising consumer demands. In order to achieve its goals, China has set out a "red line" defining 120 million hectares (296 million acres) of land as a necessary minimum to ensure at least 95% self-sufficiency in grain supply. Future challenges China has the world's largest population, with more than 1.3 billion people. As its economy grows, so do the demands and desires of its population, boosting demand for food, commodities and consumers goods. While the country's supply and demand are more or less equal at the moment, the Chinese government has forecast that meeting demand will be tight in future. Rapidly increasing urbanisation, a growing population and industrialisation across the country all pose major challenges to future grain production. Water shortages and extreme weather conditions such as the recent floods are also hampering food production. In a bid to further combat the problems, the government has also decided to increase farmer subsidies and ramp up China's grain reserve system. Food prices have almost doubled within the past three years and have led many countries to curtail exports in order to ensure enough stocks remain for domestic consumption. Higher prices have also led to widespread unrest across Asia and Northern Africa.

Helos For Jakarta Sets Future Tone For Arms Deals

Helos For Jakarta Sets Future Tone For Arms Deals
July 04, 2008 The delivery of six Russian Hind Mi-35 helicopters to Indonesia this month is neither a large arms deal nor an unprecedented one -- but it is still a highly significant event. For the deal is just a small part of a huge $1 billion plus arms deal that then-Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin nailed down last year. Within that overall package, Russia is also buying three Sukhoi Su-27SKM and three Sukhoi Su-30MK2 aircraft. This too is not entirely unprecedented. The Indonesian armed forces are already operating two Sukhoi Su-27 SKs and two Sukhoi Su-30 MKs. The key reason for the deal is that Russia is virtually giving the arms away free. Indonesia does not even have to start paying for them for another 15 years, and it has been given exceptionally easy credit terms. With its soaring revenues from oil and gas exports, the Kremlin can certainly afford to be generous when it is buying major strategic influence and supplanting the United States in an arms market that has been an almost exclusively American preserve for more than four decades. However, the nature of Indonesia's unique security problems makes the nature of the Russian weapons offered to it exceptionally attractive. Indonesia is an enormous archipelago of 17,500 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited. It therefore faces enormous challenges of cost effectively maintaining security over a sprawling area. Air and sea superiority over hostile navies and air forces is not the primary Indonesian concern. With its huge size and population of more than 212 million, even major nations like Japan and China treat it with respect. Therefore, Indonesia has no need for large fleets of expensive state-of-the-art combat aircraft with sophisticated electronics or costly high-tech surface warships. This means that buying relatively low tech but very cheap Sukhoi aircraft and Hind helicopters makes sense for Jakarta. It will not be as difficult to train up its armed forces engineers and mechanics to maintain these simpler aircraft and warships. Buying a Kilo-class submarine for Russia also makes sense to defense planners in Jakarta. The United States does not even make any diesel subs anyway. Germany, Sweden and France all do. And they are very good ones. But those major European nations have a tradition of getting angry about major human-rights violations, and with the security problems Indonesia faces, the armed forces and successive Indonesian governments have little taste for making the security of their strategic arms supplies dependent on the goodwill or moral disapproval of European democracies if they can avoid it. Therefore, buying four Project 636 class Kilo diesel-electric subs and two Lada-class ones from Russia was obviously an attractive option even if the terms of the deal weren't so remarkably good. Even as it is, the Kilos are formidable weapons systems, while being small and cheap to operate. They could carry anti-ship cruise missiles -- and Russia makes the world's best sea-to-land missiles with a range of more than 150 miles. Even these modest weapons systems, therefore, will give Indonesia an air and sea capability that only nations as far away as Japan, China, Australia and India could match or exceed. But if the deal is an ideal one for Indonesia, it offers far greater opportunities for Russia. The prospect of displacing U.S. influence after 40 years in the largest Muslim nation in the world, and one astride the sea transport routes from the Middle East oil producers to the great industrial nations of Northeast Asia, is obviously a huge prize for the Kremlin. But in addition, the success of the arms deal with Indonesia offers Moscow a model for buying friends and extending its global influence throughout the developing world. For most developing nations cannot afford the superb but highly expensive and high-tech aircraft and warships that the main U.S. defense contractors now produce. Nations such as Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Australia and the major European states will still have to come to America for many, if not most of their strategic arms systems, especially in the fields of aircraft and ballistic missile defense. But the Russian model of offering cheap, far easier to maintain and much smaller aircraft and ships, especially diesel subs, with no strings attached for human-rights violations or international bad behavior, is bound to prove attractive to a lot of countries around the world including some, like Indonesia, that have long been U.S. allies.

India to get Russian nuclear submarine after 17 yr wait

India to get Russian nuclear submarine after 17 yr wait Moscow, July 4: India will get its first Akula class Russian nuclear submarine in 2009, equipping its navy with the quietest and lethal underwater war machine after a gap of 17 years to enhance its blue water capabilities. Factory trials of the multi-role nuclear submarine, christened INS Chakra which India-will get on a 10-year-lease, commenced on June 11 at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur shipyard and will be followed by sea trials, Russian defence sources said, adding it will be delivered by September 2009. According to experts, Chakra would help India fill the void caused by the delays in the indigenous Advanced Technology Vessel project to build a nuclear powered, guided missile attack submarine. Three Indian naval crews for the nuclear submarine have already been trained at the specially set up training centre in Sosnovy Bor near St. Petersburg. This facility would also be used for training crews for the Indian nuclear submarines of ATV project currently in the advanced stages of development, sources said. Though they said that India has financed the completion of construction of submarine of project 971 "Shchuka B"(NATO codename Akula) under the USD 650 million deal signed in 2004 as part of the larger Gorshkov package, they did not reveal the cost of the lease of Chakra. Akula (Shark) is the quietest Russian attack submarine and Chakra has been christened after its predecessor leased by the Indian Navy in 1988 from the erstwhile USSR. In January 1988, ex-USSR had leased K-43 nuclear submarine of project 670 (NATO codename Charlie) which was with the Indian Navy as INS Chakra till March 1991, when under the intense US pressure beleaguered Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had refused to extend the lease.