India, Pak talk over hotline to calm border tempers
DGMOs agree to hold regular flag meetings to defuse tension
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 26
After days of cross-border firing, India and Pakistan today took the first step to reduce tension. The Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) on both sides spoke over the phone and agreed to conduct regular flag meetings at the local level along the 749-km Line of Control (LoC) and the 198-km-long international border in Jammu and Kashmir.
The effect of today’s conversation would percolate down to the field level on both sides by this evening and the success, if any, of the discussion could be gauged by tomorrow evening, sources said.
The DGMOs spoke around noon today and the conversation lasted 10 minutes during which the two officers, who control the operations of their respective armies, put forward their points of view. Both sides agreed that cross-border firing was not helping any side, sources said.
Indian DGMO Lt-Gen PR Kumar spoke to his counterpart Maj Gen Aamer Riaz and conveyed his displeasure at increased firing from across the border and loss to civilian lives and property. The talk was cordial during which “all relevant issues” were raised, Army officials said here. A telephonic hotline is installed between the Indian Army headquarters at South Block here and the Pakistan Army headquarters at Rawalpindi. This will be keenly watched development as the DGMOs of the two countries on December 24 last year had agreed to make these telephonic conversations more result-oriented. A joint statement issued then had said: “A consensus was developed to make hotline contact between the two DGMOs more effective and result-oriented”.
Heaviest firing by Pak since 1971 War: BSF DG
BSF Director General DK Pathak described the present 45-day-old flare-up on the international border in Jammu as the heaviest cross-border firing by Pakistan since the 1971 War
Though India wanted peace with Pakistan, it would not remain a mute spectator to any provocation on its borders, he said
“We are retaliating effectively. Our response is either equal or more, but definitely not less,” he said
The Pak Rangers didn’t respond to the BSF’s request to de-escalate the tension, he added
Pak PM meets Army Chief amid political stalemate
Both agree to expeditiously end deadlock in national interest; Backchannel consultations on for amicable settlement
Islamabad, August 26
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Army Chief today agreed on the need to “expeditiously” end political deadlock that has raised fears of instability, as the government stepped up backchannel efforts to reach out to protesters.
The meeting between Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif came in the wake of protests held by supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, demanding the PM’s resignation.
“Overall security environment was discussed in the meeting. There was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest,” a PMO statement said.
The government did not give further details about the meeting. Political stalemate has continued for the past 13 days with Khan-led PTI and Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) refusing to budge from their demand of the Prime Minister’s resignation over allegations of rigging in the last year’s general election and killing of 14 PAT supporters in Lahore on June 17.
Backchannel consultations were on to reach an amicable settlement. “There has been a deadlock with the PTI and PAT over one point — PM’s resignation. The government is ready to accept all other demands related to rigging and electoral reforms but both the protesting parties are sticking to their major demand of the premier’s resignation,” Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar said.
“I am tasked by the government to make a final attempt to convince Khan to drop his demand of the PM’s resignation for the sake of democracy and the people of this country,” the Governor said.
The protesters have not moved away from the Constitution Avenue despite the SC's orders yesterday. — PTI
Protesters refuse to budge
The meeting has come in the wake of protesters demanding the PM’s resignation
The impasse has continued for the past 13 days with the PTI and PAT continuing to allege that the last year’s elections were rigged
Apex court raps Army over illegal sale of weapons Sedhuraman
New Delhi, August 26
The Supreme Court today questioned the Army’s wisdom in not extending to all nine commands the inquiry into illegal sale of prohibited weapons and ammunition by serving and retired officers to arms dealers and private persons.
A Bench headed by Justice HL Dattu also felt the court martial conducted against officers were an “eye wash” as they had been let off with reprimands or censure and a fine of just Rs 500.
The SC also wanted to know as to why a fresh court martial should not be held for awarding appropriate punishment to them. It was hearing a PIL on the issue.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, however, sought to justify the quantum of punishment, stating that censuring them would finish their career. Further, the weapons sold were obsolete and serving and retired Army officers were entitled to purchase and sell them after obtaining permission from the Central Ordnance Depot (COD) at Jabalpur. Nevertheless, it was true that some weapons were sold without authorisation, he acknowledged. But these were subsequently retrieved.
“Army officers can use their position to retrieve the guns. In the first place, they should not be selling the weapons... Look at the people involved — Lieutenant Colonels, Brigadiers and Majors. They were importing ammunition without authorisation and selling weapons for profit and the punishment they get is mere displeasure,” the Bench remarked.
It was not just the number of weapons that mattered. It was the conduct of the officers of the disciplined force. Weapons were sold in the market like toys and this increased crime in places such as Delhi, the SC said.
“All this shocks our conscience. It is possible that ammunition was sold to gangsters and terrorists who kill innocent people. You are a disciplined force and the guilty officers are not just cadets, they are high ranking officers. Maybe, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” the Bench added.
At this, the AG said there were bad people everywhere and the Army was no different. The Bench said that was why the rules had been framed to check such tendencies. “These weapons are meant to defend the country and the Army officers are trained on tax payers’ money.”
The SC asked the AG to find out from the Army as to why the punishment could not be enhanced and the probe not extended to all nine commands, instead of restricting it to the Northwestern command. The next hearing is slated for September 16.
Heaviest cross-border firing by Pak since ’71 war: BSF DG
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service
RS Pura, August 26
Describing the present 45-day-old flare-up on the international border in Jammu as the heaviest cross-border firing by Pakistan since the 1971 War, BSF Director General DK Pathak today said that though India wanted peace with Pakistan, it would not remain a mute spectator to any provocation on its borders.
We would retaliate “very effectively and appropriately” to every provocation by our adversary, he asserted.
On a visit to forward areas in RS Pura sector today, Pathak, in an impromptu media interaction here, said, “We will not initiate first fire, but would retaliate strongly, if they (Pakistan Rangers) fire at us.”
Pathak also said that the Rangers didn’t respond to BSF’s request to de-escalate the tension.
“Ever since they started shelling our posts and civilians areas, the BSF made 16 attempts. After every truce violation, we have been lodging a protest with them. On three to four occasions, we also tried to hold flag meets, but they didn’t turn up. They are not responding positively,” said the DG.
Pakistan has been firing heavily at us for the past 45 days. To be more precise, since the first incident of sniping by them in the Arnia area on July 16 when we lost a boy. Thereafter, there was a lull for quite some time and then, they again resorted to heavy fire, he said.
The BSF chief said that Pakistan has now started targeting civilian areas, shelling innocent people with long-range weapons.
“Though we are not targeting their civilian areas, let me be very candid in saying that we are giving very effective and appropriate retaliation to whatever fire is coming at us. Our response is either equal or more, but definitely not less,” he said.
Italian firm barred from bidding; ongoing projects to continue
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 26
The Defence Ministry today allowed Italian defence equipment producer Finmeccanica to work on ongoing projects in India and also as a sub-vendor in contracts of others companies, but for the time being, it has banned the company from bidding in any future projects.
The company's subsidiary, AgustaWestland, is accused of paying bribe to secure the Rs 3,650 crore contract to supply 12 helicopters to the Indian Air Force. The deal was cancelled and the CBI registered a case against 13 persons, including former IAF Chief SP Tyagi in 2013.
The ministry has taken a step as any blanket suspension of existing contracts would have impacted India. Stopping the company from being a sub-vendor to other equipment producers would have stalled upgrading of some equipment and even future work.
The company is worth 16 billion Euro (approx Rs 1,28,000 crore) and deals with ship-building design in India, avionics, aviation and guns besides being a supplier to major European firms already functioning in India. The Italian Government holds a 30% stake in the company, which is involved in defence projects worth Rs 30,000 in India.
The ministry has come out with detailed orders on dealing with the Italian company. It said: In case contracts are under execution, these will be proceeded with and the company can do its work as usual. In case the contract has already been executed, but spares, upgrades are still required on a regular basis, the contracts would be honoured.
In case of a tender had been opened and Finmeccanica has been declared as the lowest bidder, all such procurement/acquisition cases shall be put on hold until further orders, the ministry's instructions said.
In cases when the tender process is on-going but no company has been declared the lowest eligible bidder, Finmeccanica Group may not be considered in the tender, says the ministry.
Lastly it has clarified, in case a company owned by Finmeccanica Group is a sub-contractor or supplier to a bigger equipment maker, it will have no impact on the supplies.
The ministry's decision has stalled future work with the Italian major, but has no issues with the existing contracts, upgrades and spares. This partial lifting of ban would not apply to AgustaWestland's contract to supply 12 VVIP choppers.
CBI files closure report in Tatra scam
New Delhi, August 26
The CBI today closed its probe into alleged irregularities in Tatra all-terrain vehicle supply to the army, saying there was insufficient evidence to file a charge sheet in the case. The agency filed its closure report before Special CBI court here.
CBI sources said the allegation that the all-terrain trucks were supplied by Tatra Sipox UK promoted by Ravinder Rishi did not stand during the probe as the Czech-based company gave in writing that Rishi’s company was authorised distributor of its products. The allegation that initial payment mode was in dollars but later converted to Euro thus increasing the cost also failed to stand legal scrutiny after Bank of Czechoslovakia claimed that it was the bank which had insisted on the change in currency, they said.
The CBI also concluded that lack of indigenisation of trucks supplied by Tatra was not a lapse. — PTI
Indian Army And Operational Preparedness: Agenda For New Chief – Analysis
On taking over as the COAS from General Bikram Singh, General Dalbir Singh Suhag said his priorities would be to “enhance operational preparedness and the effectiveness of the Indian Army.” He also said that force modernisation, infrastructure development, optimisation of human resources and the welfare of personnel are issues that are close to his heart.
In March 2012, General VK Singh, the then COAS, had written to the Prime Minister about “critical hollowness” in the army’s operational preparedness. He had pointed out large-scale deficiencies in weapons systems, ammunition and equipment in service in the army and the fact that many of the weapons and equipment were obsolete or bordering on obsolescence. In particular, he had brought out that the artillery and air defence arms needed the infusion of modern guns, missiles and radars and the aviation corps required new helicopters to replace the ageing fleet.
Two consecutive reports of the CAG of December 2011 and November 2012 brought out that the state of defence preparedness was a cause for serious anxiety. The Standing Committee on Defence (SCD) in Parliament has also noted these developments with concern several times. In an unprecedented move, the SCD insisted on meeting the three Chiefs to take stock of operational preparedness. The SCD has repeatedly urged the government to increase the defence budget to enable the armed forces to undertake meaningful modernisation.
Military modernisation has two major facets: the replacement of obsolete and obsolescent weapons and equipment with modern ones, which results in increasing combat effectiveness; and the qualitative upgradation of combat capabilities through the acquisition and induction of force multipliers. General Suhag, like his predecessors, faces a major dilemma: given small budgets, how can the army improve operational preparedness while simultaneously making concerted efforts to modernise? Logically, operational preparedness takes precedence over modernisation. The art of military leadership lies in finding an optimum balance so that all efforts that are made to enhance operational preparedness also contribute substantively to modernisation.
The most critical operational deficiency is the inadequacy of artillery firepower due to the obsolescence of guns and mortars. No modernisation has taken place since the Bofors 155mm howitzer was purchased from Sweden in the mid-1980s. The ‘night blindness’ of the army’s mechanised forces needs to be rectified immediately. The F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) programme for the modernisation of infantry battalions must be implemented on an urgent basis.
Air defence guns and missiles and their radar systems are reported to be 97 per cent obsolescent. The Aviation Corps urgently needs 197 light helicopters. The old and inefficient intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition systems available today adversely impact command and control and ‘targeting’ during war. Hence, the C4I2SR system needs a complete overhaul. The logistics support system also needs to be revamped, with the concept of ‘just in time logistics’ being implemented.
The new COAS will preside over the modernisation process during the remaining three years of the 12th Defence Plan, including the raising of 17 Corps for employment on the border with China. This Corps, being raised as a ‘strike corps’ for the mountains, is expected to cost INR 64,000 crore to raise and equip over a period of five to seven years. Approximately 90,000 new personnel will be added to the army’s manpower strength, including those in ancillary support and logistics units. New weapons and equipment will have to be procured for the divisions, brigades and battalions of this Corps. It will be a retrograde step to milk these from existing battalions to equip new raisings.
Recruiting additional manpower of the requisite qualifications has so far not posed any problems for the world’s third largest volunteer army. However, finding officers for 17 Corps will be a major challenge as there is an ongoing deficiency of approximately 10,000 officers in the army.
General Suhag wishes to ensure that relatively softer issues like human resources development and the welfare of serving personnel and veterans are not neglected. Morale is adversely affected if these issues are not appropriately handled. This has been a rather contentious issue in the past and will require sage handling. Finally, civil-military relations have not been good in the recent past and need to be improved.
If one may take the liberty of using a few well-known American buzzwords and catch-phrases, the ‘revolution in military affairs’ had whooshed by the Indian army in the 1990s. The ‘transformation’ process that followed must be gradually implemented even though it is a decade late – primarily due to budgetary constraints. The COAS will be responsible for the transformation of the army to a ‘network-centric’ force capable of executing ‘effects-based operations’ over the full spectrum of conflict. General Suhag must forge a light, lethal and wired army that can fight and win India’s wars on the battlefields of the 21st century – jointly with the navy and the air force.
India’s solar push drafts Army, PSUs for WTO compliance
New Delhi: India has raised the stakes in an ongoing trade battle with the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by rolling out an ambitious campaign to promote solar energy through the Indian Army and central public sector units (CPSUs)—providing them with grants on the condition that they source equipment from domestic manufacturers. Even Indian Railways may be enlisted in the campaign at a future date. According to the plan, reviewed by Mint, the government will provide financial support of up to Rs.1 crore per megawatt (MW) to the implementing agency for setting up large solar capacities by placing orders with domestic manufacturers. While the government has termed the scheme “WTO-compliant”, it comes in the backdrop of the Geneva-based global body setting up a dispute settlement panel to hear a complaint by the US against India’s domestic content requirements under the country’s solar power programme. Piyush Goyal, India’s minister in charge of power, coal, and new and renewable energy, told Parliament on 6 August that to promote domestic solar manufacturers, the defence sector and government companies would set up solar projects totalling 1,000MW each, with the tender conditions stating that only Indian firms could participate in the tender. Goyal, who spoke amid a controversy over India’s stand on food security at WTO, went on to add that the solar scheme was “WTO-compliant”. To start with, the government plans to provide viability gap funding (VGF) of Rs.1,000 crore for setting up grid-connected solar projects of 1,000MW capacity by the Indian Army, which would provide electricity to one of the largest consumers in the country at a tariff of Rs.5.50 per unit. Also, the government plans to give VGF—financial grants offered to projects that are important but may not be immediately viable financially—to CPSUs such as NTPC Ltd and NHPC Ltd for setting up another 1,000MW capacity. The cabinet will shortly take up the proposals for consideration. This is in addition to state-owned NTPC’s tender for setting up a 1,000MW capacity by using solar cells and modules made in India. “Meetings have already been held for VGF to CPSUs for setting up solar projects,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity. According to government documents reviewed by Mint, “It is proposed to provide a viability gap funding through Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) at a fixed rate of Rs.1 crore per MW for projects where domestically produced cells, modules and inverters have been used, and Rs.50 lakh per MW would be provided in cases where domestically produced modules and inverters have been used.” It requires an investment of around Rs.8 crore per MW for setting up solar photovoltaic power projects. Of India’s installed power generation capacity of 250,257MW, only around 13%, or 31,692.14MW, is fuelled by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. “There is a clause in WTO that domestic equipment can be used for security requirements as the defence establishment would not like foreign equipment. We are using this provision. Also, in WTO, there is a provision which states that government can do domestic procurement for its own requirement, so we came up with the idea of procurement by CPSUs. Both of these sourcing are WTO-compliant. This is the strategy behind this. We are also planning to bring the Indian Railways onboard,” said a second government official, who too did not wish to be identified. He admitted that there might be issues later but as far as India is concerned, these schemes are WTO-compliant. “There are essentially three alternatives that have been considered for setting up large solar capacities in the country. They are bundling, VGF and generation-based incentives,” added the first government official quoted above. India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010, which plans to add 20,000MW of grid-connected solar power to the country’s energy mix by 2022 in three phases. In the first phase (up to 2012-13), 1,684MW of grid-connected solar power was added and sold through bundling with thermal power through NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd to reduce the average per unit cost of solar power. In the second phase (2013-17), the plan is to add capacity through the VGF route. However, the US complained about India’s domestic content requirements under its solar energy programme for solar cells and solar modules, and approached WTO against India’s policy. India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change recommends that the country generate 10% of its power production from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources by 2015, and 15% by 2020. “With sound policy and implementation, solar and wind energy could reduce our import bills, and bring new economic activity at a scale that is not even thinkable. Job creation in this sector is much needed. Renewable energy has the capacity to boost economic activities in rural India, thus creating many more jobs than just job creation specific to the renewables sector,” said Suresh Prabhu, former Union power minister. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the new government, made energy security a part of its poll plank. India, which is dependent on imports to meet its energy needs, has an energy import bill of around $150 billion. This is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030, requiring a $3.6 trillion payout by 2030. The government’s energy security plans include harnessing renewable sources such as solar energy, biomass and wind power along with coal, gas, hydropower and nuclear power to usher in an “energy revolution” in the country. This year’s Union budget unveiled a detailed roadmap for harnessing India’s renewable energy resources and provided excise duty exemptions for raw materials for solar and wind power projects.
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Pakistan and India armies to meet on Kashmir
The armies of Pakistan and India have agreed to meet face-to-face to "reduce" tension on the borders of disputed Kashmir, officials have said.
The decision came on Tuesday after lieutenant general PR Kumar of India and major general Amir Riaz of Pakistan spoke by telephone, pledging to "defuse the situation" at the de facto Line of Control border and the south-west "working boundary", where the armies have targeted each other for weeks.
The borders cut the Himalayan region into Pakistan- and India-administered Kashmir.
Both sides mutually agreed to reduce tension along the Line of Control and working boundary," Pakistan said on Tuesday.
Telephone talks between the two military leaderships take place every Tuesday during which issues between both armies are discussed but the face-to-face meetings, known as "flag meetings", are a further measure.
India's director general of paramilitary border security forces, DK Pathak said Pakistan had so far declined to hold flag meetings.
"We have made all possible efforts to stop it (ceasefire violations and firing). We tried four to five times to hold flag meetings. But they did not respond ... they never turned up," the local news agency PTI quoted Pathak as saying.
Both sides have accused each other of targeting villages in Ranbir Singh Pura of India-administered Kashmir and Sialkot in Pakistan.
The Pakistani army said Indian forces committed 23 ceasefire violations in July and August, by "resorting to unprovoked firing on working boundary" in Chawah, Harpal and Chaprar Sectors near Sialkot.
Meanwhile, an unidentified rebel was killed by the Indian troops in a gun battle in the Kalaroos jungles in Kupwara district on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported.
Last week, a group of rebels had crossed the LoC in northern Kalaroos. The area, in which they were suspected to be in, was cordoned off by the Indian army resulting in a gun battle in which four rebels and an Indian soldier were killed. Later, another Indian soldier was killed in a separate gunfight in the contested area.
The two Asian neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, and came close to a fourth in 2001.
Regular clashes often occur since 1989 between Indian soldiers and rebels belonging to a dozen groups seeking independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan.
Dip in infiltration, turmoil in Pak behind ceasefire violations: Army
Amidst ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the International Border (IB) and infiltration attempts along the LoC, the Army on Monday said the exchange of fire could be a bid to revive the infiltration that had significantly dropped over the year.
Arguing that the aggression by Pakistan is also a culmination of the ongoing political turmoil within the country, a senior Army official said, “In 2013 and 2012, there were 270 infiltration attempts per year, out of which 90 and 120 succeeded respectively. This year, there has been reduced ex-filtration which in turn has resulted in reduced infiltration attempts – 90 so far. From these, only 24 terrorists have been able to cross the LoC so far.” Also, this year, the Army has so far killed 12 terrorists across the LoC and 47 in the hinterland.
While the ongoing ceasefire violation incidents have taken place along the IB which is guarded by the BSF, the Army has stepped up its build-up as per its summer plans. “Few Rashtriya Rifles battalions from the hinterland have been moved closer to the LoC to create a second line of defence to check infiltration,” the official said. While no call has yet been taken to respond to the DGMO-level talks sought by Pakistan, Army officials said the telephonic conversation that takes place between the DGMOs every Tuesday has been continuing uninterrupted “so far”. “Concerns regarding ceasefire violations will be raised during the telephonic conversation between the DGMOs on Tuesday,” said an Army official.
Meanwhile, the BSF destroyed two bunkers along Pakistan border that were resorting to maximum fire at the Indian posts. “There were two bunkers in the vicinity of Jamshed BOP on Pakistan’s side that were targeting the BSF posts the maximum. Two days ago we destroyed them using special ammunition and since then no firing has been reported from that sector to our corresponding BOP’s in Pittal and Mukesh in RS Pura sector of Jammu,” said BSF DG DK Pathak.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said BSF raised several demands for flag meetings but Pakistan Rangers was not responding. “It has come to notice that 12 Mujahideen brigade of the Pakistan Army is also firing at the BSF posts along the International Border,” the Home minister said.