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Friday, 25 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 25 Jul

US to divert Pak anti-terror aid for F-16s

Press Trust of India

Thursday, July 24, 2008 (Washington)

Ahead of the new Pakistan Prime Minister's maiden visit to the US, the Bush Administration has announced plans to divert nearly USD 230 million in counter-terror aid to Islamabad for upgrading the country's aging fleet of F-16s, drawing flak from the lawmakers.
In a notification to Congress, the State Department said that upgrading the avionics, electronics and radar systems of Pakistan's older F-16s would ''increase the survivability of the aircraft in a hostile environment'' and make the ''F-16s a more valuable counter-terrorism asset.''
Congressional approval is required for the shifting of the funding and the first impression is that this idea is unlikely to go over well in Foreign Affairs and Appropriations Committees of the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
The general consensus on Capitol Hill is that the planes are hardly the appropriate ones that are to be used in counter terrorism and it is a well-known fact that Islamabad has traditionally used them only in an Indian context.
The timing of the action also led some lawmakers to suspect that the deal was meant to curry favour with new Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who will meet with President George W Bush in Washington next week, a US media report said.
Congress was initially informed earlier this year that some USD 225 millions would be used to refurbish two of Pakistan's P-3s, new navigation aids and overhauling of the Cobra attack helicopters.
But the State Department changed its mind and notified Congress last week that these funds would be applied to the F-16s instead.

Gen Kapoor to boost military ties in Dhaka visit

Press Trust of India / New Delhi July 24, 2008, 18:36 IST

India is likely to take up the issue of North Eastern Indian insurgent groups and terror outfits' camps in Bangladesh during Army chief General Deepak Kapoor's hectic three-day visit begining July 28.

Kapoor, who would be heading a high-level army delegation, will also stress on more pro-active efforts by both the countries to deepen bilateral relationship.

Ahead of his visit, the Army chief said "my Bangladesh visit from July 28 is primarily for increasing army-to-army cooperation and other military issues."

"Of course, I will be discussing issues concerning joint operations against insurgents and terror groups operating from Bangladeshi soil," Gen Kapoor said, on the sidelines of a function here on Wednesday.

Kapoor's visit comes close on the heels of Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries here last week where the two countries agreed on the need for "resolute joint efforts" in tackling terrorism.

Bangladesh's Army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed had come to Delhi some months back and promised to "usher a new era of close cooperation" between the two countries.

Gen Kapoor's visit to Bangladesh assumes significance as the military of that country backs its caretaker government in the run up to fresh elections.

"The relationship between the two armies have so far been limited to some officers attending courses in each other's training institutions," a senior officer in Army headquarters said adding "time has come to deepen military cooperation that will initiate joint counter-terrorism exercises and possible joint patrolling along the borders".

Joint Indo-US military exercise to counter terrorism

New Delhi, Thu, 24 Jul 2008 ANI

New Delhi, July 24 (ANI): Indian and the United States army will undertake joint manoeuvres on counter-terrorism in Mizoram from next month.

Operation Vajraprahar will be the fourth round of joint exercises between the special forces of the two countries.

Earlier, Indian and American forces have held similar complex battle manoeuvres in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Alaskan mountains in the US.

A batch of 30 American special forces personnel would be arriving here on August 2 to take part in the exercise, which would be held in the specialised counter-insurgency ranges of the army's famous Vairangte-based Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School.

The land manoeuvres will coincide with frontline Indian Air Force Su-30 fighters taking part in the world's most advanced Red Flag air exercises with NATO warplanes.

"The Indo-US special forces manoeuvres are reaching a advanced stage of jointmanship on the theme of tackling terrorism," a senior army officer said.

The focus of the forthcoming exercises would be on tackling terrorism in urban landscape, with the US forces drawing upon their experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Indian forces on their expertise in Jammu and Kashmir.

Four officers and 26 men drawn from the Indian special forces would participate, army official said. (ANI)

Go-ahead for Armed Forces Tribunal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 24
Giving a go-ahead to the long-pending demand of the armed forces, the Union Cabinet today gave its approval for the creation of 31 posts for the Armed Forces Tribunal. This would be a forum for dispensing cost-effective and speedy justice to the armed forces personnel.

The Principal Bench of the Tribunal will be at Delhi while it will have eight regional branches. The Tribunal will have 31 posts, including one of the chairperson, one of the registrar at the principal bench and 29 posts of members. It also includes one post of principal registrar at the Principal Bench.

The Principal Bench at New Delhi will have three courts and have jurisdiction over High Courts in the State of Delhi. Similarly, the Chandigarh and Lucknow benches will have three courts each. The Chandigarh Bench will have jurisdiction over Punjab, Haryana, J&K and Himachal Pradesh. The Lucknow Bench will have jurisdiction over Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh.

The setting up of the Tribunal will fulfill a long-felt need of the country’s three Defence services. Over 9,800 cases filed by Service personnel are pending before various High Courts. The maximum number of cases numbering 2,487 will be transferred to the Chandigarh Bench, while the Lucknow Bench will adjudicate 2,407 cases. Another 2,306 cases are proposed to be transferred to the Delhi Principal Bench.

The Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, was passed by the Parliament during the Winter Session of 2007. It provides for adjudication or trial by the Tribunal of disputes and complaints with respect to commission, appointments, enrolment and conditions of service under the Services Acts that govern the forces. It will also hear appeals arising out of orders, findings or sentences of court martial held under the said Acts and for matters connected with them.

The Tribunal will have original jurisdiction in service matters and appellate jurisdiction in court martial matters. The chairman of the Tribunal will be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court. The Tribunal will consist of one Chairperson, 14 judicial and 15 administrative members.

The administrative members shall be officer of the rank of Major General or above in the Army or equivalent rank in the Navy or the Air Force with three years of service in that rank. JAG of three Services with at least one year of service as JAG shall also be eligible. The judicial member should be serving or retired judge of the High Court. All appointments to the Tribunal will be made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. The Tribunal shall have powers to punish for its contempt.

The other locations for the Benches will be one court each will be Kolkata, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Jaipur. The Kolkata Bench will have jurisdiction over West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

The Guwahati Bench will have jurisdiction over Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The Mumbai Bench will have jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat.

While Kochi Bench will have jurisdiction over Kerala and Karnataka, Chennai Bench will look after Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Jaipur Bench will have jurisdiction over Rajasthan. The states have been given one court each as the maximum work is with Chandigarh, Lucknow and Delhi benches, respectively.

Cabinet meet: Govt allows mobile towers on defence land
25 Jul 2008, 0240 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: Overcoming security inhibitions, government has now allowed telecom service providers to erect mobile towers and lay optical fibre lines in 62 cantonments and over 100 military stations around the country.
The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the issuance of policy guidelines for allotment of defence land to public sector and "independent infrastructure providers" licensed by the department of telecommunications to "build, operate and maintain unified access services, basic services, cellular mobile services" and the like.
"This decision will help in improving the quality of communication services in cantonments and military stations," information and broadcasting minister P R Dasmunsi said.
Service providers were restricted from erecting mobile towers and laying cables on defence land. "But many soldiers now have their own mobiles and want better connectivity," said an officer.
"In the absence of mobile towers and cable networks, the coverage is far from satisfactory in defence areas. While security considerations will be kept in mind, this step will help jawans connect with their families and others," he added.
Other decisions
Cabinet nod to armed forces tribunal
With over 9,800 cases filed by armed forces personnel pending before different high courts, and another 100 or so in the Supreme Court, the government has now finally got cracking on the need to establish the long-delayed Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT). The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the creation of posts for a chairman, 29 members and a registrar for AFT's principal Bench in New Delhi and eight regional branches.
With the powers of a high court once it comes up, AFT will provide speedy redressal to the grievances of officers and other ranks in promotion, service and salary matters, who are increasingly turning to civilian courts to get what they feel is their due.
The tribunal will also hear appeals against court martial orders and sentences. Since 2000, as reported by TOI earlier, the armed forces have court-martialled well over 8,000 personnel. All the cases pending in the high courts will now be transferred to AFT, with its verdicts remaining open for challenge in the apex court.
I&B Minister P R Dasmunsi declared that with this decision the government had finally adhered to a 1982 Supreme Court order and a Law Commission recommendation. The approval for the 31 posts comes in the wake of Parliament passing the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, which came into force from June 15 this year.
The AFT's principal Bench at New Delhi will have three courts and so would the regional Benches at Chandigarh and Lucknow. Regional Benches at Kolkata, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Jaipur, in turn, would have one court each.

U.S. set to bag contract for Navy surveillance planes

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: The U.S. is set to bag a multi-billion dollar Indian Navy contract for maritime surveillance planes, with both sides deciding to put the contentious issue of signing an end user agreement on the backburner.

A Boeing-led consortium had concluded all technical and price negotiations for the $ 2.2 billon contract and the proposal would now be taken to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval, said Ministry of Defence sources.

This would be the second major military aviation contract signed with the U.S. this year. Both were in areas, once the preserve of the Russians. The first contract was for six all-weather all-terrain C-130 J military transport planes with Lockheed Martin. All military transport planes in the Indian armed forces’ inventory were of Russian origin. Similar all long-range surveillance planes were from Russia and the Boeing P-8i maritime reconnaissance planes would be breaching that suzerainty.

The sources said if the Navy was satisfied with the planes, repeat orders could be placed in future.

A sticking point in the deal was the end user agreement which made inspection of the sold platform mandatory to ensure that the technology was not passed on to the wrong hands. India objected to this. Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta, said: “The U.S. may have this kind of [end user] agreements with everyone. I don’t believe in that. We pay for something and we get some technology. What I do with it is my thing.”

Instead of stretching the negotiations because of differing views on the agreement, the two sides decided to revisit it later. This was because the first plane would arrive four years after the contract was signed, leaving enough time to discuss and conclude the end user’s agreement. It could not be confirmed whether India would sign a package deal on end user agreements on all high-tech contracts. The end user agreement was in the eye of the storm earlier this year when the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) panned the Indo-U.S. deal for a huge second hand troop landing ship. “[The] restrictive clauses raise doubts about the real advantages from this deal. For example, there are restrictions on the offensive deployment of the ship and permission would be given to a foreign government to conduct an inspection and inventory of all articles transferred under the end-use monitoring clause of the Letter of Agreement,” the CAG report on INS Jalashwa (formerly USS Trenton) said.

However, U.S. Navy Secretary Donald Winter had denied the sale was accompanied by a ban on its use for offensive operations, adding that the U.S. did not limit the use of warships sold to other countries in support of their national defence objectives.

The U.S. wanted India to sign the End Use Monitoring Agreement besides the Mutual Logistic Support Agreement, the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS MoA). It argued that these pacts would lead to better operational and business ties at the military level between both countries.

Indian Army`s `Dare Devil` team enters Guiness again

New Delhi, July 24: For the fifth time, army's 'Dare Devil' motorcycle display team has found a place in the prestigious Guiness Book of World Records.

Known for its stunning feats, the team from the Army's Signal Corps made it to the record book on June 11 this year when it successfully displayed its skill to carry 251 men on 11 motorcycles for a record-breaking distance of 240 metres.

Army chief General Deepak Kapoor felicitated the achievers at a function in South Block here yesterday.

'Dare Devil' captain assured Gen Kapoor that the team would soon be attempting an improvement on its own world record.

The 'Dare Devils' already have four world records to their credit since 1991 and all have been endorsed by the Guiness Book of World Records authorities.

The first World Record was made at Gwalior in 1991 when 40 team members rode seven motorcycles to cover a distance of 400 metres.

Next came its world record in Pune in 1993, when the 81-team members on nine motorcycles rode for 200 metres. On the third occasion, again at Pune in 1996, the team's 140 men were on 11 motorcycles and they covered 100 metres.

Their fourth world record was made at Jabalpur in 2001 with 201 men on 10 motorcycles covering a distance of 100 metres.

The first 'Dare Devils' display was organized in Shimla on March 10, 1935, during the Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V and Queen Mary's accession to the British throne.

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