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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

From Today's Papers - 24 Mar 09

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Major acquitted of attempt to murder charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
A general court martial (GCM) has acquitted an Army major accused of attempting to murder his commanding officer (CO). Maj Sandeep Ahlawat had faced three charges, including attempt to murder and destruction of evidence under provisions of the IPC and giving false evidence during preliminary investigations under provisions of the Army Act.

The GCM, presided over by Brig Amrik Singh, commander of an artillery brigade, found the officer not guilty on all three counts. The trial, which began at Kanpur in November, concluded on Saturday. The verdict is subject to confirmation by the GCM’s convening authority.

Nine officers and 11 other ranks had deposed as witnesses. Many of the witnesses had turned hostile during the trial. Further, the names of three senior officers had also cropped up during depositions for allegedly threatening the accused.

The officer was accused xof assaulting his CO at Hisar military station three years ago. The CO had sustained serious injuries and was admitted to a military hospital. Consequently, the Army ordered investigations into the matter. In fact, three different courts of inquiries were held in the case.

US wants India's cooperation in Pakistan, Afghanistan

Press Trust of India

Monday, March 23, 2009, (Washington)

The US expects India, an emerging global power, to provide it help and cooperation in stabilisation of the situation in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan, a top administration official said on Monday.

In the first major foreign policy speech on India by a top Obama administration official, Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, hoped that India would work with the US to help in fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in establishing peace and democracy in the two countries.

"This week, President Obama would set out our own approach to this challenge," Steinberg said in his speech at the prestigious Brookings Institute, which had organised a day-long seminar on "The US-India Nuclear Agreement: Expectations and Consequences," Steinberg acknowledged India efforts in the development of Afghanistan in recent years.

"As (the Pak) President (Asif Ali) Zardari and the Pakistani government take courageous steps needed to confront and eliminate extremists, India and the US must work together with all our international partners to support them and facilitate democracy," Steinberg argued.

He said India has a big stake in the success of democratic government in Pakistan and is playing a very important role in South Asia. "We encourage India to continue that," he said.

"India has a big stake in the success of democratic government in Pakistan," Steinberg said, adding a strong and democratic government in Pakistan can take on the challenges, which are a threat to Pakistan, to the US and countries in the region.

He said as Pakistan takes steps to counter these challenges, India should be supportive towards its efforts and help it in creating an environment that helps the government in its endeavour, he asserted.

Pakistani Taliban asks NGOs to leave Swat

Rezaul H Laskar / PTI / Islamabad March 23, 2009, 15:44 IST

Gaining an upper hand in the restive Swat valley in northwestern Pakistan after signing of a deal with authorities, an emboldened Taliban has told all NGOs working in the area to pack their bags, saying their activities are un-Islamic.

In a recent broadcast on his illegal FM radio station, Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah said, "All NGOs should leave Swat because they are creating problems for peace."

Fazlullah has also described all Pakistanis working for NGOs as "enemies of the country".

"They come and tell us how to make latrines in mosques and homes. I'm sure we can do it ourselves. There is no need for foreigners to tell us this," Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said.

The Taliban are currently engaged in peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Muhammadi, a group of religious hardliners that signed a deal with the North West Frontier Province government to usher in peace in Swat.

Since the signing of the peace deal, the TNSM has set up Islamic courts in Swat and appointed Qazis to preside over them. The TNSM has also said lawyers and civil judges will have no role in the Islamic courts.

Muslim Khan told IRIN, a news network run by the UN, that "NGO is another name for vulgarity and obscenity. They don't want us to remain Muslims and want to take away the veil from our women."

Khan claimed NGOs hire women who work alongside men in the fields and in offices. "That is totally un-Islamic and unacceptable," he said.

NWFP Relief Commissioner Jameel Amjad said authorities are pursuing a policy of conciliation and "things have worked out well so far in Swat. With time, I'm sure, when the situation normalises, the work of the NGOs will further strengthen."

There were about 10 NGOs currently active in Swat valley. All are non-profit organisations and do not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to providing aid.

Among international NGOs, only humanitarian medical organisations -- including Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Committee of the Red Cross -- are reportedly allowed to function in the region. MSF stopped work after two of its staff were killed on February but has resumed its activities recently.

Since the Taliban insurgency began in 2007, some local NGOs have pulled down their signboards. However, some are working with the implicit approval of the Taliban.

Ziauddin Yusufzai, a college principal in Swat, said: "The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan looks upon the NGOs with displeasure. They have even refused to accept relief goods from some international relief organisations, saying that help from non-Muslims is unacceptable."

Nation bids adieu to J-K braveheart Major Sharma


A TRUE HERO: Major Mohit Sharma was killed in Jammu and Kashmir battling terrorists.

New Delhi: Major Mohit Sharma of the Parachute Regiment, who was killed in the Hafrada forest battling terrorists on Saturday, is the first officer to be killed in an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir in 2009.

The encounter with terrorists in the forests near Kupwara started on March 20 and entered its third day on Monday. Even as the operation continues, the body of slain Major Sharma was brought home for his last rites in New Delhi on Monday morning.

The 31-year-old Major died fighting heavily-armed terrorists at Kupwara. Three other soldiers, too, have been killed in the encounter while seven terrorists have been gunned down so far.

"Major Mohit Sharma was already a Sena Medal gallantry winner. He was one of the finest and a very brave officer. This was a very, very difficult operation in which he participated and he made the supreme sacrifice," said Lieutenant General PC Katoch, Colonel of the Parachute Regiment.

Major Sharma's elder brother Madhur remembers Mohit as a brilliant student and a boxing champion who was never afraid of danger.

Though he got shot in his leg in a military operation in 2004, Major Sharma's will to fight for the country never faltered..

"I am unfortunate that i don't have a son. I have two daughters. I will try and coach them to make sure that they join the army. Maybe they want to join the army," said Madhur Sharma.

Major Sharma's father RP Sharma with tears in his eyes simple said, "He died for the country. I am proud of him."

Every year, about 100 army soldiers are killed while battling insurgents. Major Sharma leaves behind his wife, also an army officer and his parents.

As the funeral pyre was lit a grateful nation bid adieu to one of its bravest son.

Pakistan determined to root out Taliban, says Qureshi

PTI | March 23, 2009 | 12:45 IST

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quershi has asked the US to help Islamabad fight the Taliban, saying his government is "very determined to eliminate sanctuaries of the extremists on its soil".

Opposing the drone attacks by the US to take out Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership particularly in the areas bordering Afghanistan, Qureshi said the militants build on their goodwill on collateral damage that is there in front of them.

"They build for themselves support and sympathy through that. And we want to deprive them of that support," he told the ABC News in an interview, saying that in Pakistan's view, the problem primarily lies in Afghanistan.

"I'm not saying it's not all hunky dory over here. No. I do realise the challenges that we have. But we are very clear in our direction. And we are very determined to eliminate sanctuaries on our side," he added.

For quick action and deployment, and then pulling out, he said, Pakistan needs helicopters. For consolidating the gains that the military has made and to hold them, it needs night vision. To give additional support to the troops, it needs a well trained and well equipped law enforcement agency, which is the police and paramilitary.The Bush administration's strategy has not worked and need revision, he told the interviewer, stressing, "We need a new strategy."However, the new American administration now seems to be more focused in the direction he has advocated, he added.

Replying to a question, Qureshi conceded that the United States should be concerned about safe havens for militants but said Pakistan need to devise a strategy that is workable. "We have to go piecemeal. We have to see our resources and we have to develop our strategy according to our resources," he added.

Claiming that change is taking place, Qureshi told the interviewer that when the American troops went into Iraq, they took three to four years to adjust to the new situation despite the sophisticated equipment and technology available to them. "We are adjusting to a new situation. Let's not forget that our army, that our troops are trained for a different theatre of war. And this insurgency and this sort of fight that is taking place up in the north is somewhat different. They have adapted and they have adapted very quickly," he added. "With better training, which has started with US help -- and I am appreciative of that -- and hopefully with capacity enhancement we will become increasingly effective in the days to come," Qureshi said.

Asked why the Army chief is resisting attempts by the US to directly train army officers, the foreign minister said the Americans are training the trainers. "Once we have our trainers trained, we can do the training.We don't have to start from scratch. We have institutions, functional institutions in Pakistan. All we have to do is strengthen them further, and that's exactly what's taking place," he added.

Advocating economic development of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, he said these were one of the most neglected areas of Pakistan. "If you look at the levels of poverty in FATA, if you look at the level of illiteracy in FATA, obviously the social indicators are not talking very highly of our effort in the past. So there is a realization from within and there's a realization without that a greater focus of economic assistance, developing civilian infrastructures, catering to the needs of the people is important," he added. "If we have to win this fight, we have to change the mindset. If we do not provide boys and girls of FATA with quality education through a proper public education system, obviously they'll go to the madrassas," he added. For economic stability, investments have to be made there, he added.

Asked why provincial government is signing peace deal with the militants when they have been identified as those who cannot be reconcile, Qureshi said Swat was a princely State until 1969 and it had its own judicial system which was local juries and quick dispensation of justice. "There was a growing public demand for the revival of that system. The militants tried to get onto this bandwagon and gain popularity and increase their outreach vis--vis the people by being supportive of this movement. What we have done is recognize the need and addressed this local problem through a local solution and have created a bridge between the hard-core militants and the ordinary Swatis who want to live in peace and want a normal life," he added. But he said there is a "huge difference" between the Sharia, or Islamic law, that Swatis associate with quick judicial action and the Sharia of former militant Sufi Muhammad, who is negotiating the deal. "His Sharia bans education for older girls, tries to limit access to certain medicine, who is against music and television," he added.

"I think when peace returns to Swat, when the government is able to reestablish its writ in Swat, in my view, the overwhelming number of people will subscribe to our point of view," he added. Replying to another question, Qureshi said the present leadership of the military is very "supportive of the democratic dispensation". "I think what we have in place is a thinking general who understands the challenges Pakistan faces, who understands the economic challenges we face, who understands the challenges of governance that we face, who understands how civilian institutions over the years under a dictatorship had weakened and why we need to strengthen them again," he told
ABC News.

Qureshi denied that the spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence supports militants now. "I cannot speak for people in the past because I was not interacting with them. But I can speak with confidence of the present leadership of the ISI. I have worked closely and am working closely with ISI chief General Pasha. I think he is very clear where the interests of Pakistan lie. And I can tell you he's not soft on extremists or militants," he added.

Kashmir, ten die in clashes between rebels and Indian army

The death toll counts four soldiers and six militants. An Indian army siege of rebel hideout triggers battle. Fighting is ongoing. Islamabad speaks of “unmotivated attack”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The death toll from three days of fighting between the Indian army and separatist rebels in Kashmir, which has also involved the Pakistani military, stands at ten people. A spokesperson for New Delhi’s Defence Minister says that “an army patrol was attacked” during a “reconnaissance operation on a rebel hideout in Shamsbari Forest”, along the Pakistani border.

“We have lost an officer and three soldiers” confirms lieutenant colonel J.S. Brar. “Six militants were killed in the battle, fighting is still ongoing” along the border between the two countries.

Islamabad accuses India of “having fired without motive” and says it has lodged official protests with New Delhi. An officer from the Indian army has refuted the accusations affirming that “Pakistani troops opened fire first, wounding a soldier”.

Kashmir, divided between Pakistan and Indian, is claimed by both nations and for decades has been a theatre of bloody conflict; not even an agreement signed in 2003 has been able to guarantee stability and peace in the area. New Delhi accuses Islamabad over backing rebel troops and fundamentalist guerrillas who have set up training camps in the region.

Major Mohit Sharma cremated with full military honours

Ghaziabad, Mar 23 (ANI): Army Major Mohit Sharma, who lost his life while fighting terrorists in Kupwara, was cremated here with full military honours on Monday.

Sharma was killed along with three other soldiers on Sunday in an encounter with the terrorists.

Major Sharma’s body was taken to Ghaziabad, where hundreds of his relatives, friends and other admirers paid their last tribute.

“A great soldier who has many gold medals in his credit, is not among us today. We pay our tributes to him,” said Digvijay Singh, senior Congress leader.

The martyr’s brother Madhur Sharma said that it was an irreparable loss.

“All brave soldiers who laid their life in the line of duty whether in Kashmir or during the Mumbai terror attacks last year, I think they are an irreparable loss. Mohit was the only member of the family who was in the army. There are a lot of young people in the army who looked up to him as a role model and wanted to emulate him,” opined Madhur Sharma, Major Mohit Sharma’s brother.

The martyred Major was given a befitting funeral by the soldiers of Indian Army.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the counter insurgency operation by the personnel of the Indian security forces is still on in Kupwara region.

Earlier, the army personnel had gunned down 5 militants and were searching for others including a couple of armed men who are on the run in nearby areas.

Encounter has been going on since Friday in Kupwara.

On March 22, three Army personnel, a Major and four militants were killed in an encounter at Hafrada forest in the Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

Indian Army Begins Environmental Expedition In Lakshadweep

Last Updated : 23-03-2009 15:51:02 IST

The Indian Army on Sunday (22nd March) flagged off the "Bison Blue Waters Expedition" in Lakshadweep aimed at educating the citizens of the island about the importance of conservation of coral reefs and other ecological concerns threatening these islands, a statement issued by the army said. The event was flagged off by Major General Rajesh Singh, general officer commanding, Bison Division.

Local population turned out in large numbers to witness the flagging off ceremony. The event started with a beach marathon. It saw the participation of school children, who ran along with soldiers on the beach. Vinod, an expert from World Wide Fund-India chapter, was all praise for the initiative taken by the Indian Army. He said that, coral reef is a very sensitive eco-system and it needs to be preserved to mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change.

According to the expedition team leader Col Vivek Jaswal, the team has been trained at premier training institutes of the Indian Army. Over the next six weeks, the team would bring to the fore vital ecological concerns threatening these islands and the coral reef. The adventure team consists of six officers and 54 other ranks of the Bison Division.

Indian Army Tanks and DRDO Missiles Reach Pilani Rajasthan

When tension builds up, one is left with no option but to recollect Swami Vivekananda quote “We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves."

PRLog (Press Release) – Mar 22, 2009 – This is not the time to settle the scores between India and its enemies but time for APOGEE 2009 the TechFest of BITS Pilani which is one among the top ranking universities in India today. Birla Institute of Technology and Science popularly known as BITS has campuses in Pilani Rajasthan, Dubai, Goa and Hyderabad. Recently the National Assessment and Accreditation Council NAAC reaccredited BITS with 3.71 CGPA out of 4 and awarded “A” grade “Very Good” status to BITS.

APOGEE stands for “A Professions Oriented Gathering over Educational Experience”. This TechFest of BITS Pilani like its cultural counterpart OASIS has been jewel in the crown among TechFests of various T Schools. For that matter BITS with its MBA is B School, with its CS IS Software degrees is a IT School, with Mechanical, Chemical, EEE, Civil degrees is T school, MScs in Maths Physics Chemistry, Biological Sciences and Economics degrees is a S School and with Pharmacy added is a P School also.

APOGEE which saw its silver jubilee two years back is in its 27th year and is scheduled from 23 March to 27 March 2009. This year over hundred institutions which include overseas ones also are participating and close to thousand participants have invaded the campus in Pilani Rajasthan.

Title sponsor for APOGEE is Vedanta – Hindustan Zinc while Air India and Steel Major SAIL are the Gold Sponsors. The Silver Sponsors include ONGC, Infosys, IBM, BSNL, Google, NTPC and many more. The Prize sponsors are IDA and Sun Microsystems. This year APOGEE has Technophilia as Robotics partner, National Geographic Channel as Green Partner, UNDP as Knowledge partner, Pearson as Academic partner, GupShup as SMS Partner, MockInt as Interview partner, ICC as Commerce partner. In addition APOGEE has a whole lot of partners for both Media and Online media as well as Food & Beverages.

If you wonder why and from where the tanks and missiles landed up in Pilani, then it is high time to tell you that for APOGEE 2009, Indian Army and DRDO Defence Research & Development Organization Hyderabad are the exhibition partners.

Every one knows that the latitude and longitude of Pilani is 28.3 degrees N and 75.6 degrees E but with an array of workshops, events, invited lectures, online events, paper & poster sessions, Kernel, Projects, exhibitions, Robo Soccer, OHTs etc in APOGEE 2009, its worth watching the altitude of Pilani.

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