Elite commando, 4 militants killed in Handwara encounter
Police say slain LeT men from Pakistan | AK-47 rifles, grenades seized
Tribune News Service
Srinagar, September 3
In a second firefight in less than 24 hours, four suspected Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba and an elite para commando of the Army were killed in a gunfight in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Three soldiers were injured in the overnight gunfight.
The encounter broke out on Wednesday evening in the forests of Sochalwari Vilgam in Handwara, nearly 85 km from Srinagar, when joint teams of the police and the Army launched a search operation in the area after a tip-off. The police said the four slain Pakistani militants were active in the area and it was not a fresh infiltration. The search operation was jointly launched by the Special Operation Group of the J&K Police, 6 Rashtriya Rifles battalion and 9 Para at 7 pm.
“As the searches were going on, the first contact with the militants was established around 9 pm. In the initial fierce gunfight, a militant was killed while a sepoy of 9 Para Battalion received grievous injuries,” sources said. The sepoy later died. The slain Para commando has been identified as Mohan Nath Goswami, a resident of Uttarakhand.
The fierce firefight continued between the two sides throughout the night and security forces maintained a tight cordon around the area to plug all exit routes. The three militants were later engaged by security forces near a stream inside the dense forest.
North Kashmir DIG Gareeb Das said the firefight ended at 7 am and the bodies of the four militants were recovered from the encounter site. “They are Pakistani militants and belonged to Lashkar,” Das told The Tribune.
Defence spokesperson Col NN Joshi said four AK-47 rifles, one UBGL and other warlike stores, including ammunition, grenades and radio sets, were recovered from the slain militants. “One Army soldier has attained martyrdom while three others have sustained injuries and are admitted to Army Hospital,” the spokesman said.
This was the second encounter in less than 24 hours in north Kashmir. On Wednesday an Army jawan and a local militant were killed in a gunbattle in Baramulla district.
The encounters between security forces and militants have increased in the recent past in Kashmir. Last week, four suspected Pakistani militants were killed and another was captured alive during a day-long battle in Baramulla district. On August 23, three Pakistani militants were killed in Krumhura forests in Handwara area.
OROP deadlock: Veterans say open to 2-yr revision
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 3
The government and protesting soldiers are inching closer to a final formula on the “one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme. While some ground has been covered, gaps remain and possibility of the government “unilaterally” notifying the scheme on its own terms exists.
A group of ex-servicemen today met Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and said they could agree to a biennial (once in two years) revision of pension. The tenure of revising pensions is a sticking point.
Major General Satbir Singh (retd) of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM) said: “We want annual revision but can agree to a two-yearly revision. Anything beyond a two-yearly revision will not be acceptable. Let the government notify on its own. We will continue with our protest.”
The government during talks with the ex-servicemen had proposed that the hike in pensions — to make them equal for same rank and same length of service — would be done once in five years.
The government formula was listed out by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this week when he laid down a few ground rules for implementing OROP, a pre-poll promise made by the BJP.
He ruled out any annual pension revision. Sources say the government wants to tread a path that does not open a pandora’s box with similar demands from other services such as paramilitaries or the railways.
The system of equalising the pension is crucial since the OROP entails same pension for all those who retire in the same rank with equal length of service. The protesting ex-servicemen want OROP without dilution of the recommendations made by the Bhagat Singh Koshyari committee.
Koshyari, who headed the Rajya Sabha Petitions Committee, said in December 2011: “Uniform pension be paid to armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, and any future enhancement in the rates of pension be automatically passed on to the old pensioners.” The government has told the protesters that the “unreasonable concessions” merely on emotions can prompt others to seek similar benefits.
“It will be colossal fiscal burden in case such a thing happens,” a source said. The government is likely to take last-minute decisions before the announcement of Bihar Assembly polls.
In 2000, Pak vowed not to push ‘K’ in UNSC: US cable
Washington, September 3
In May 2000, the Pervez Musharraf regime in Pakistan told the US that it would not push for UN Security Council resolution on Kashmir, acknowledging it would not be helpful in resolving the decade-old Kashmir issue with India, according to a US cable.
“He (Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar) noted that Pakistan would deliberately low-key the United Nations resolutions of the 1940s, as emphasising them would not be helpful,” said a secret cable issued by the US Embassy in Pakistan after the then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering had a one-to-one meeting with Sattar in Islamabad on May 27, 2000.
Running into several pages, the cable — which has been put on the State Department website under Freedom of Information Act — refers to the efforts made by the then Vajpayee Government in resolving the Kashmir issue.
In the cable, Pickering is seen telling Sattar during the two-hour meeting that the onus for reducing the violence in Kashmir is on Pakistan, to which the Foreign Minister agreed. Sattar reacted positively to the idea of involving Kashmiris, the cable said.
“He (Sattar) was puzzled about including Buddhists and Hindus in Ladakh and Jammu. He said he had personally convinced the government to go along with Hurriyat (APCH) leaders talking to the Indians without a Pakistani presence,” the cable said.
“Sattar said that consulting Kashmirs does not eliminate Pakistan’s interest in the settlement and reacted with interest to the idea that a settlement needed to be developed in a way to bring Pakistan and India closer together through more open trade and economic relations,” the cable said. —PTI
IAF Chief honours ’65 war pilots
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 3
Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha today honoured retired veterans of the forces who have been alumni of the Lucknow’s La Martiniere College.
Among those honoured included Air Marshal Denzil Keelor (retd) and Flight Lieutenant Alfred Tyrone Cooke (retd) who took part in the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
Patricia Keelor, wife of Wing Cdr Trevor Keelor — the first IAF pilot to have shot down an enemy plane mid-air in 1965 — unveiled the memorial tablet in honour of her late husband.
The Keelor brothers were based at Pathankot during the 1965 war. The IAF Chief also honoured Air Vice Marshal Harbans Parminder Singh (retd), the hero of the 1971 war.
The greatest achievement of the IAF during the 1965 war was to thwart Pakistan Army’s aromour thrust in Chhamb - Jaurian Sector which resulted in failure of operation Grand Slam aimed at cutting off J&K from India, the IAF chief said.
Military Parade in China Gives Xi Jinping a Platform to Show Grip on Power
Hong Kong: Thousands of troops stood arrayed at perfect, hushed attention around Tiananmen Square. Hundreds of Communist Party elders, foreign dignitaries and diplomats watched on. It was then, on live television, that President Xi Jinping stepped forward to announce that the Chinese military, on proud display to mark 70 years since the end of World War II, would lose more than a tenth of its personnel.
"War is the sword of Damocles that still hangs over mankind," Xi said from the viewing deck overlooking the square in a speech at the start of a vast military parade in central Beijing.
Xi indicated that he wanted to show other countries - many of them wary of China's growing military strength - that they had nothing to fear from the procession of tanks and missiles that rumbled down Chang'an Avenue while fighter jets roared overhead.
But the highly public manner of Xi's announcement that 300,000 military personnel would be demobilized, China's largest troop reduction in nearly two decades, carried another implicit message. He was demonstrating his grip on the military and on the party, amid economic squalls and a grinding anti-corruption campaign that have left some wondering whether he and his agenda of change - including in the People's Liberation Army - were faltering, several experts said.
"It's Xi in command," Andrew Scobell, a political scientist at RAND Corp. who studies the Chinese military, and who was in Beijing during the parade, said of the announcement of the cuts.
But he said Xi faced challenges in forcing through his broader program of change in the military, which would reshape the command structure and knock away the longstanding power of regional military commands across China.
"If it does happen, then this is confirmation that Xi Jinping is the most powerful commander in chief China has seen since Deng Xiaoping," he said. "This is about showing Xi as the strongman."
Xi on Thursday did not give any details of the troop reductions. But the cut appeared sizable and was aimed at making the People's Liberation Army more efficient and ready for combat, foreign experts said. And a retired Chinese major general, Xu Guangyu, said the announcement showed Xi's plans to upgrade the military remained on track.
"This decision was to be expected," Xu said by telephone from Beijing. "As the level of military modernization steadily rises, we can reduce personnel. The modernization of weapons and equipment is encouraging a reduction in personnel numbers."
The cut announced by Xi would shrink China's military personnel to 2 million, the biggest reduction since 500,000 were demobilized in 1997, said the China News Service, a state-run agency. Those forces would remain the world's largest, compared with the United States' active-duty force of 1.4 million. China's Ministry of Defense said the cuts would be completed by the end of 2017.
"It does seem incongruous that Xi would make the announcement at the parade," said Dennis J. Blasko, a former U.S. Army attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. "But it has been widely acknowledged that cuts of hundreds of thousands would improve combat effectiveness."
The shrinkage would mostly come from ground forces, with more resources going to the navy, the air force and the Second Artillery Corps, which holds China's conventional and nuclear missiles, said David Finkelstein, the vice president of CNA, an organization in Arlington, Virginia, that specializes in military analysis.
Xi's program to reorganize and reinvigorate the military was part of an array of changes announced in 2013, including an economic overhaul. Since then, the Chinese government has instituted changes, but many observers have said that the moves have often been hesitant and opaque, failing to match Xi's bold promises.
Additionally, the Chinese military has been distracted by anti-corruption inquiries that have toppled former and active high-ranking officers, including Gen. Guo Boxiong, the most senior serving officer for a decade until 2012, who was officially placed under investigation in late July.
The troop cuts were likely to be part of a broader agenda of change, which may include new joint command arrangements to better coordinate land, sea, air and other forces, M. Taylor Fravel, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the Chinese military, said in an email.
"Xi would not announce the size of the reduction publicly if a plan for how to achieve the reduction had not already been formulated, so the announcement indicates that reforms are definitely underway," Fravel said. "Ground forces will likely face the brunt of the reduction, but in the past, reductions have been used to streamline layers of command and bureaucracy within the PLA."
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the People's Liberation Army emerged from the Communist revolution as both a bulwark against external threats and a domestic guardian of the party's power. Its numbers have always been heavily weighted toward the land armies stationed across China to maintain domestic control.
But over recent decades, China's leaders have tried to shift more resources to air and naval forces intended to project influence abroad and assert the country's claims to disputed islands and waters. And Xi has indicated that he wants to accelerate that shift.
The Chinese government does not issue regular statistics on its military forces. But experts estimate that the army has about 1.6 million personnel, the navy 240,000 and the air force 400,000. Many of its recruits are youths from the countryside, or just out of high school, lacking the skills that are needed to work well in a modern military decked out with computers.
"The Chinese have come farther than any other military in the last decade," said Bonnie S. Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "But nobody recognizes the deficiencies of the PLA more than China."
Since becoming Communist Party leader in November 2012, Xi has often visited military units to rub shoulders with soldiers and publicize calls for the People's Liberation Army to embrace change while remaining a stronghold of party power. In tensions with Japan, Vietnam and other neighbors over rival maritime claims, Xi has also signaled that his government will back its demands with force.
"They know that if they have to win any war, it must be a high-tech war," said Che-Po Chan, an assistant professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. "It must be an advanced strategy now; it can't be a so-called people's war."
The government's efforts to attract more university graduates to the military through higher pay and better conditions have helped lift the educational levels of recruits in recent years, Chan said. But Xi faces the challenge of paying for further improvements while the economy slows, he said.
"To support their high-tech strategy, they need to have continuous economic development," he said. "The recent economic challenges might be a problem. But we need more time to judge."
Besides holding the presidency and the leadership of the Communist Party, Xi is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, which controls the People's Liberation Army. Xu said the decision to cut troop numbers had been approved by the commission.
"This announcement wasn't made suddenly," he said. "There's been a long period of preparation and deliberation."
Whether Xi can build on the new troop cuts to shape up the way the Chinese military operates will test his political mettle.
Even before his elevation to the top echelon of the party, Xi had some experience in the military, unlike his recent predecessors as president, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, who stood beside him during the parade. Xi started his rise through the party as an aide to the minister of defense for several years starting in 1979, when China was smarting from a brief but disastrous war with Vietnam.
Since he became head of the Communist Party, Xi has closely associated himself with the People's Liberation Army, while also pursuing a campaign against corruption that has reached into its topmost ranks.
At the start of the parade, he said that China's military was "loyally committed to its sacred duty of defending the security of the motherland and the peaceful life of the people, and loyally committed to the sacred duty of safeguarding world peace."
In March, the Chinese government announced that the defense budget for 2015 would be 10 percent higher than the previous year's outlay, consolidating China's position as the world's second-largest military spender, though still far behind the United States.
But at a time when China's economic growth has slowed, dismissing hundreds of thousands of soldiers could add pressure on the government. In the past, decommissioned officers and former soldiers unhappy with their job prospects and welfare have become a persistent source of protests outside government offices.
Instead of sending decommissioned officers and soldiers into the civil workforce, Xi could draw them into domestic security forces, especially the People's Armed Police, which was founded in the early 1980s from former units of the People's Liberation Army.
"What might happen is just a reshuffle," said Scobell, the expert at RAND. "The bulk of that may be transferred to another paramilitary force, whether as border guards or elements of the People's Armed Police."
Ask Army to vacate land for Navy Headquarters: Urban Ministry
Even a year after laying the foundation stone, and three years after allotting the land, the proposed Navy Headquarters building is yet to see the light of the day. With over 50 offices of the Army occupying the allotted plot — 30 Tyagraj Marg, the Urban Development Ministry has now written to the Defence Ministry asking the latter to direct the Army to vacate the place. The Nausena Bhawan, as the building is called, has been in making for years and will be the headquarters of the Indian Navy, which presently does not have a building of its own unlike its sister services.
“We have recently written to the Defence Ministry asking them to get the Army to vacate. The ministry is in a better place to get the Army and the Navy to sit together to work out a solution. As soon as they move out, we will hand over the land to the Navy,” an official in the Urban Development Ministry said.
According to sources in the Ministry of Urban Development, presently the only structures on the land are those occupied by the Army.
Ministry officials expressed reservations about serving eviction notices to the all important Army establishment. A ministry spokesperson pointed out that the allotment letter initially issued to the Navy was subject to the condition that the Army vacated the land. According to the DRDO, the agency tasked with the construction of the Nausena Bhawan, the building would be spread over 5.41 acre and will occupy 30,000 square metre plinth area.
According to Navy sources, the estimated cost of the project is about Rs 300 crore. While the plot — opposite Sena Bhawan and adjacent to the DRDO HQ — was allotted to the Navy in October 2012 by the then UPA government, the foundation stone of the building was laid by the BJP-led government on August 20, 2014.
In response to queries sent by this paper, Navy said, “Presently, the case for government sanction is at an advanced stage of processing… At present, the land is occupied by various agencies under the MoD and efforts are being made by the MoD to get the area vacated. Completion of the project will depend upon the accord of government sanction. The construction activities are likely to take 3-4 years from the date of sanction.”
Pakistan ready for short or long war with India: Defence Minister
Islamabad: Pakistan is ready for a short or long conflict and will inflict heavy losses on India in case "war hysteria" overcomes Indian leadership, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said.
His remarks came in reaction to the statement by Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh that India is prepared for "swift and short" wars in the future.
Participating in a Radio Pakistan programme, Asif said Pakistan believes in peace but knows how to respond to any aggression.
"We want peace but will inflict heavy losses on India if war hysteria overcame its leadership," he said.
Commenting on Indian Army Chief's remarks, he said, "Pakistan is fully prepared to give a befitting response if India imposed short or prolonged war."
Talking about previous wars, he said Pakistan armed forces "foiled designs" of Indian forces in 1965.
"Our forces crushed the Indian dreams of occupying Lahore back in 1965 and will do the same in future," he said.
The Defence Minister also said Pakistan Army was now more experienced and professional than 50 years ago.
"Our forces are engaged in the war against terror for several years and they know how to respond to any challenge," he said.
Asif, however, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes in peace.
The remarks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions and cross-border firing between Indian and Pakistani troops along the LoC recently.