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Sunday, 24 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 24 Aug

Death call from Valley


Bangalore, Aug. 23: The lingering ring of the phone told Beena Thomas that it was a long-distance call, probably from Kashmir where her husband Colonel Jojan Thomas was posted. The call was from Kashmir, but Jojan wasn’t on the other end of the line. It was a stranger telling Beena that her husband would never call again — he had died fighting militants in the Valley.

The voice also informed Beena today that it had taken Jojan’s colleagues more than seven hours to find his body in the dense forests of Machchil where the encounter had taken place.

Beena and her children — Meghna and Philomen — had spoken to Jojan two days ago. Today, they were preparing to receive his body at Bangalore airport.

“He was here on a month’s leave and left only on August 9. The memories are haunting me,” Meghna said as she fought to hold back tears.

The 19-year-old has just completed her basic flying training in the Philippines. Her brother studies in Class V.

For Jojan, the son of Captain P.I. Thomas, the army was always the only career option. One of his brothers is an officer in the navy.

After Jojan was promoted as colonel last year, he was sent to Kashmir where he commanded a quick-reaction team of the Rashtriya Rifles.

Col Thomas K. Jacob, who had met Jojan weeks ago, said he had a long way to go and was one of the brightest officers in the force.

“It was a Sunday when we met up with some friends,” he said. “Thomas was a very determined person and would stop at nothing. Having known him closely, I would say that he liked to accomplish any task given to him. He was full of initiatives and had the tenacity to succeed.”

At the family’s Manekshaw Enclave flat off M.G. Road, Jojan’s uncle Abraham Kurien is busy organising details of his funeral planned for Monday.

“It’s a bad time for the family. I cannot believe it as he was here and left only on August 9 to join his unit in Kashmir. It is very tragic.”

Kurien recalled that he had asked his nephew when he would be back. “Not so soon,” Jojan had replied.

Leh Oil Scam
Army mulls action against Brigadier
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 23
About three years after the Army unearthed a scam involving large-scale siphoning of oil supplies at Leh, it is now contemplating action against a Brigadier for lack of exercising adequate control and supervision, it is learnt.

Army sources reveal that consequent to this development, the Army is planning to take over the case from the local judicial authorities at Leh. The Army had handed over the case to the civil authorities for prosecution after the services of two officers involved were terminated administratively.

A chargesheet pertaining to the case was reportedly filed before a Magistrate in Leh by the local police a few weeks ago and at that time the Army took up the matter for initiating disciplinary action against him. In fact, the Army had earlier served him a show-cause notice to which he had replied.

Sources in Army Headquarters pointed out that taking back the case from the civilian authorities at this point of time would pose a legal lacuna as the case would then become time-barred for trial, since three years would have elapsed. Moreover, after administratively terminating the services of the officers, their trial by a court martial would not be legally tenable.

In summer 2005, several oil tankers were caught at Leh carrying water instead of fuel. After initial investigations that held a Lieutenant Colonel, a Captain and several Army personnel blameworthy for fraud and criminal conspiracy, the Army handed over the case to the civil authorities for disposal.

It was considered that trial of the accused personnel by general court martial would be impractical and inexpedient as a large number of civilians like tanker drivers and lashkars were also involved. The Army policy states that where civilians are co-accused in a case, a civilian law court will take up the matter.

Col Thomas to be cremated on Monday
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, August 23
The mortal remains of Col Jojan Joseph Thomas, who died in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, will be taken to Bangalore by an Indian Airlines flight.

His wife, Beena Jojan Thomas, and two children live in Bangalore while his mother stays in Hyderabad. The slain army officer’s daughter is undergoing pilot training and his son is studying in class VI.

The body will be kept in the Command Hospital, Bangalore, and will be buried at the Hasoor Road Cemetery here on Monday.

Col Thomas, a native of Kerala, was commissioned in 11 Jat Regiment in 1986 from the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai. The officer, besides holding prestigious staff appointments as GSO-1 (Ops) 3 Corps and instructor FTM, ASC Centre & College Bangalore, was also an experienced pilot.

During early hours of August 22, Col Thomas received information about movement of terrorists in the area. He immediately started a search operation. At about 7 am, Col Thomas and his quick reaction team came in contact with a group of terrorists and in the ensuing gun fight, brought down two terrorists. Col Thomas also sustained gunshot wounds during the encounter. Despite injury, Col Thomas continued the search and again found the terrorists. Two more terrorists were killed in the ambush.

However, Col Thomas, too, suffered fatal injuries in the fresh round of fire. He later succumbed to his injuries. So far, confirmation of the killing of six terrorists has been received by the unit.

Concern over border firings conveyed to Pakistan

Staff Reporter

KASARAGOD: Incidences of firing from across the India-Pakistan border had increased considerably in the last two months and the country had conveyed its concern over it to Pakistan, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Saturday.

“We are in touch with the highest authorities in Pakistan on the issue,” the Minister said. He added that the armed forces of the country were on the alert and ready to meet any challenge. Pakistan had upped its aggressive posture and a few of our brave soldiers, including officers, had died in Friday’s firing, he said.

However, increased firing did not mean an increase in infiltration from across the border. The armed forces had defeated all infiltration attempts, he added.

Mr. Antony was answering questions at a press conference here on Saturday after laying the foundation of the strategic electronics manufacturing unit of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. here.

Mr. Antony denied apprehension that a war-like situation existed along the border. “We have not deployed additional forces along the border,” he clarified. “I don’t expect further escalation of tension in the near future.” After October the armed forces would be put on high alert, he added.

Mr. Antony said the country’s armed forces commanded respect worldwide and had embarked on a systematic modernisation. The invitations being received by our armed forces from developed nations for a joint exercise with their armed forces were proof of the respect commanded by our forces, Mr. Antony pointed out.

The Army had conducted joint military exercises with the U.S, the Russian and the Chinese militaries and had won their acclaim, he said. The joint exercises had increased our confidence level, he said. For the first time in history, the Chinese Army would be participating in the joint exercises in the country in December, said Mr. Antony. On his coming visit to the U.S., the Minister said it was a part of continuing defence dialogue. He would hold discussions with U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who had invited him. Mr. Gates had visited India earlier. He denied reports that he would hold discussions mainly on the nuclear deal.

A determined officer’s ultimate sacrifice in the service of nation

Staff Reporter

He was one of the four Indian soldiers who were killed

He will be buried at the cemetery on Hosur Road with full State honours

— Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Grieving: Beena Jojan Thomas (sitting), wife of Colonel Thomas, at her residence in Bangalore on Saturday.

BANGALORE: The death of Colonel Jojan Thomas in an encounter with militants in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday morning has left his family and friends devastated. Nevertheless, for his family, which has several members who have served in the Defence forces, his death is the ultimate sacrifice he could have made for the nation.

Col. Thomas was killed as he led a quick reaction team from 45 Rashtriya Rifles in the dense forests of Macchal sector, near the Line of Control. His team shot down six militants and he was one of the four Indian soldiers who were killed in the battle. He is survived by his wife Beena Jojan Thomas, daughter Meghana Thomas, (18) and son Philemon Thomas (11).

The flat in Manekshaw Vihar on St. John’s Church Road, where Ms. Thomas lives with her children, witnessed a series of religious prayers on Saturday evening as the family members waited for the arrival of the body.

Many of Col. Thomas’s friends and colleagues joined the family members in the evening prayers, conducted by Kuriakose Mar Severios, the Archbishop of Malankara Syrian Knanaya Jacobite Archdiocese.

Col. Thomas worked in the Army Service Corps Centre and College here for about two years before taking up the task of heading the 45 Rashtriya Rifles in Jammu and Kashmir. Col. Thomas was an officer who led from the front. “He had a strong determined mind and believed in excelling in whatever he was doing, whether guarding the border or rescuing personnel,” said his colleague Col. T.K. Jacob who worked with Col. Thomas in the ASC Centre and College.

Col. Thomas was the eldest of four sons. His father P.A. Thomas, who served in the Indian Army as a mechanical engineer, died just a month ago. “Our family has been serving in the Defence forces for a long time. My brother worked in Indian Navy and another brother served in the Indian Army,” said Joby Thomas, Col. Thomas’s brother.

Col. Thomas was commissioned from the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai, in March 1986 in the 11 Jat Regiment. A native of Kuttoor in Kerala, Col. Thomas held several prestigious staff appointments. He was also an experienced pilot. Major Sandhu, who served with Col. Thomas and was associated with him for eight years, said Col. Thomas was “a fantastic leader and had experience of participating in various counter-insurgency operations. There is a lot that I learnt from him … He was my mentor and godfather. Men under him were ready to do anything for him,” he said.

Col. Thomas’s body was brought by an Indian Airlines flight from New Delhi on Saturday. On Monday, Col. Thomas’s body will be taken to St. John’s Church in Domlur. He will be buried at the cemetery on Hosur Road with full State honours.

IAF software experts make Su30MKIs more versatile

New Delhi

Sat, 23 Aug 2008:

New Delhi, Aug 23 (ANI): During exercise Red Flag at Air Force base, Nevada, USA the Indian Air Force (IAF) technicians ensured a very high availability of aircraft for all exercise related requirements, despite scorching heat and tarmac temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius during flying hours.

During treme heat conditions there is a tendency for the flying machines to develop snags such as leaks in hydraulic systems, engine oil gearbox and other parts .

The performance of avionics system also becomes erratic as integrated circuits develop problems in extreme heat conditions.

However, due to proper planning and hard work of IAF technicians, aircraft serviceability was kept high at all times.

While appreciating the IAF technicians Colonel Corey, Maintenance Commander of United States Air Force (USAF) base Nellis said "IAF has maintained amazing serviceability rate in a sustained manner during the entire exercise."

Wing Commodore J.D. Kapoor, Senior Engineering Officer of 20 Squadron said that IAF technical practices and systems are comprehensive and well defined and meticulous adherence to these have ensured high tarmac availability that allowed aircrews to perform their missions.

He further added "Intelligence and out of the box thinking of the technicians of the unit has earned us praise from all quarters".

The IAF software experts from Bangalore based Software Development Institute (SDI, AF) indigenously developed software patches to make Su30MKI avionics compatible with NATO operational philosophy.

This wholly indigenous effort has saved valuable foreign exchange to the Indian exchequer.

Wing Commodore J.S. Gavankar, Software Engineer from SDI presently with the contingent at AF base Nellis explained, "The SDI software has made the Su30MKI platform more versatile and compatible with other Air Forces."

The exercise concluded today. (ANI)

Pak army claims 30 militants killed



Sat, 23 Aug 2008:

Islamabad, Aug 23 (ANI): Over 30 militants in the disturbed Swat valley in the northwest of Pakistan have been killed on Saturday according to the Pakistani army.According to the News Network International (NNI), Major Nasir Ali, who is in charge of the army's media center in Swat, confirmed that the security forcesad indeed launched a major operation in Kanju and Kabbal area of Swat on Saturday morning.

"Over 30 Taliban were killed during the operation and two soldiers also lost their lives," said Ali.

However, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan, while contradicting the army claims of casualties claimed that it is the Taliban that killed 20 soldiers.

Earlier, there were reports of at least 20 people being killed and several others injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a police station in Pakistan's northwestern Swat valley this morning.

Moreover, the spokesman of Tahreek Taliban, Muslim Khan had claimed responsibility for the attack. (ANI)


For peace with Pak, India has to be strong


The oddest fallacy within Delhi’s current establishment is the conviction that Pakistan’s India policy is leadercentric rather than a projection of national interest, which those in power might tinker with here, or twist there, but cannot shift from a fundamental axis: the belief that the Kashmir valley should be a part of Pakistan. Definitions of national interest take much longer
to change than leaders.
The public lament of national security adviser M K Narayanan at the impending departure of Pervez Musharraf may have been well-intentioned but was illadvised. It certainly did not help Musharraf, and may even have hurt him with his core constituency, the army and the ISI. If it is the prevailing view in the Manmohan Singh government
that Islamabad’s promotion of violence in Kashmir, either through directly sponsored terrorism, or encouragement of mass displays of disaffection, varies with the inclinations of individuals, then it is time to outsource Pakistan policy to less naive professionals.
Islamabad’s policy towards Kashmir is calibrated on a sensitive thermometer that measures the fever between circumstance and opportunity. This was true of October 1947, when Jinnah launched a war for the Valley after the peaceful resolution of Kashmir through negotiations with Nehru and the Maharaja, with
Britain as the fourth party at the table, became inevitable. All three, India, Pakistan and Britain, were agreed that independence was not on offer. Jinnah was convinced that Nehru’s inexperienced government, unable to control a raging Hindu-Muslim civil war, would be incapable of fighting back a “tribal incursion” and he would be able to join the congregation on the first Friday prayers at the grand mosque in Srinagar within days of the Pak-sponsored “uprising”.
In 1965, Ayub Khan saw an opportunity in three critical facts: the humiliation of the Indian Army on the China border three years before; a Congress bereft of Nehru, who died in 1964; and a Kashmir still in the tremors of an unprecedented upsurge over the mysterious disappearance (and even more mysterious reappearance) of the mo-e-muqaddas, a strand of hair from the beard of the Holy Prophet of Islam.

There is still some dispute as to who launched Kargil, but the evidence points to a still-unknown general, Pervez Musharraf. He saw a fragile coalition in Delhi led by BJP, and became convinced that he could creep up and take up impregnable positions astride vital communication lines while his prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, twiddled his hamburgers in Islamabad. The Pak army did not envisage a larger conflict because it had realized, as early as the early 1980s, that a conventional war with India was no longer winnable.
The despot who ruled the country then, General Zia-ul Haq, therefore stabilized relations on the surface and undermined them below eye-level through blatant support for secessionism in Punjab and Kashmir. The background and char
acter of each man, whether democrat or dictator, had less to do with what he did than circumstance and opportunity. If India provides the opening, a Pakistani leader will seize the chance to change the status of the Kashmir valley. The latest Pakistani threat to take Kashmir back to the top of the agenda at the United Nations has come not from a dictator but a democrat.
War and peace are not open-ended options; both are framed by specifics. The good news for peaceniks (among whom I count myself) is that the bomb has ended the possibility of formal war. The bad news is that no one knows what peace means.
Can there be peace until Pakistan renounces its deeply held objective that the Kashmir valley cannot remain an integral part of India? Can any government in Delhi purchase peace by any compromise on the legal and territorial status quo?

We have elided Kargil from Musharraf ’s CV and replaced it with Agra and his periodic hints about an “out-of-the-box settlement” on Kashmir. To be fair, Musharraf always made it clear that the status quo was not acceptable as the solution. What precisely did Musharraf mean?
Musharraf’s peace-drive was running at least partly on an American gear. With the Manmohan Singh government itching for its own American embrace, it made sense for Washington to have both South Asian nations on its side. The best American formula for Kashmir is obviously one that would guarantee trilateral benefits, the third interest being the American.
A model often proposed at Washington-encouraged conferences has been a Kashmir delinked from Jammu and Ladakh, over which
India might enjoy at best a face-saving, limited sovereignty. Trifurcation is the first step towards an “autonomous” or “quasi-independent” Kashmir, while Jammu and Ladakh, unleashed from Article 370, integrate fully with India.
To create the psychological conditions for such an option, we need the same mindset that persuaded enough Indian Hindus to agree to partition in 1947. On one margin today is the
radical-soft, human rights view that Kashmiris should be given their “azadi” because they want it. (It would be equivalent to the CPI position before 1947.) This argument is indifferent to two potential consequences. Indian Muslims, who have already paid a heavy price for the “guilt” of 1947, would be condemned to generations of discrimination for a second betrayal of the motherland by some of their co-religionists; and there would be a collateral rise in other “independence” movements in Punjab, Gorkhaland, the North-East and the South. Welcome to Balkan India. Kosovo could seem a large country compared with Gorkhaland.
On the obverse, this scenario needs a grow
ing “enough-is-enough, to-hell-with-Kashmiris” attitude among Hindus, aggravated by anger against ingratitude — after all secular India provided Kashmiris not only the chance to join a rising economy, but also a modern education and the freedom of a multicultural society, and they rejected it. The two points of view would coalesce from different directions. Impossible? This is precisely what happened in 1947, leaving Gandhi and Maulana Azad distraught but utterly helpless. Sixty one years later, some opinion-builders in English newspapers have begun to articulate the “enough-is-enough” argument.
Dr Manmohan Singh spoke a few days ago of finding a permanent settlement to Kashmir. Implicit in the use of “permanent” is the belief that the status quo is unsatisfactory and needs alteration. The official position of India lies in a Parliament resolution, binding on all governments, that Kashmir’s status cannot be diluted.
The pragmatic position, which would find acceptance if ever put to the test, is that the ceasefire line should be converted into the international border. Even peace-loving Musharraf, who did not have to worry about a popular vote, was not in a position to accept the ceasefire line as the final destiny. His successors will not sign on either, when they get time from their increasingly vicious internecine battles for political supremacy. So what “permanent” solution does Dr Singh have in mind?
Peace with Pakistan is possible, but it can only come when India looks strong, not when it seems vulnerable. The health of India is what Delhi should worry about, not the health of Pervez Musharraf.

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