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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

From Today's Papers - 26 May 09

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Army out to restore peace
lThree killed in day-long violence n l4 cities under curfew
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
Punjab plunged into angry protests, violence and vandalism today before recovering by evening. The violence followed reports that Sant Ramanand ( 57), shot in Vienna on Sunday, had succumbed to his injuries. Angry followers of Guru Ravidas, mostly Dalits, hit the streets, torched trains, set vehicles on fire and set up road blockades, throwing normal life completely out of gear. They defied the curfew imposed on entire districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, in Patiala and in Ludhiana, abducted a policeman and tried to lynch another.

Sant Ramanand, tipped to take over from Sant Niranjan Dass (68) the task of heading ‘Dera Sach Khand’, died in a hospital in the Austrian capital on Monday. The condition of Sant Niranjan Dass, head of the sect who was also injured in the attack, was, however, said to be stable after an emergency surgery.

Protests also spread to neighbouring Haryana, where sect followers felled trees and blocked National Highway No. 1. Security forces had to open fire to bring the situation under control. According to reports received till evening, two persons are said to have died in the day-long violence, two of them in the firing.

The state government is also learn to have informed the Election Commission its inability to conduct the Nurmahal Assembly by-election slated for Tuesday. There was confusion about examinations in the state. The Chief Secretary said in the capital that Deputy Commissioners and Vice Chancellors respectively will assess the situation and take appropriate decision on relaxing curfew, allowing educational institutions to open and holding examinations.

Road and railway movement was crippled in Jalandhar and adjoining areas as protesters blocked the National Highway between Jalandhar and Pagwara, between Ludhiana and Panipat and also between Ambala and Delhi. Railway traffic between Delhi and Jammu was also crippled as the mob set fire to a train in Jalandhar Cantt Railway Station and vandalised railway property. At Jammu railway station, Railways ran out of cash for refunding fare to passengersand a large number of them were stranded on Monday evening.

The bus between Delhi and Lahore was stopped at Ludhiana as a precautionary measure. But the Lahore-Delhi bus was escorted from Amritsar to Delhi via Moga because of a Pakistani child with a hole in his heart and travelling to Delhi for surgery.

Deployment of the Army and the police brought the situation somewhat under control and by evening the situation appeared to be improving despite reports of sporadic violence in some parts of the state. The Shiromani Akali Dal called for a state-wide bandh to condemn the act of violence in Austria and parties called for restrain.

At a number of places in Ludhiana, Phagwara, Jalandhar, Nakodar, Nawan Shahr, Amritsar, Ambala, and Yamunanagar, angry demonstrators not only torched trains, government buses and private vehicles but also resorted to widespread violence damaging both private and public property. The normal life throughout the region remained disrupted as the security forces had a tough time in preventing arsonists from wreaking havoc.

The Doab, specially Jalandhar, Nakodar, Phagwara and parts of Nawan Shahr are the strongholds of followers of Guru Ravi Das sect.

To condemn the Vienna incident and the death of Sant Rama Nand, the SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, appealed to people of Punjab for a peaceful bandh today.All business establishments remained closed.The entire state was fortified with deployment of security forces.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and other leaders, while condemning the Vienna incident, hoped that stringent punishment would be given to the perpetrators of the crime in Austria who not only disturbed a religious congregation but also used firearms and lethal weapons.

Twelve Killed as Cyclone Hits West Bengal,
Army Called

Twelve people were killed Monday and the Indian Army was asked to start rescue operations in the coastal South 24 Parganas district where extensive damage was feared as cyclone Aila crossed the coast into West Bengal.

Fifteen people were injured in the West Bengal capital. Five of the deaths occurred in Kolkata, where normal life virtually collapsed as a storm with a speed of 55 km per hour uprooted trees at around 50 places blocking major roads. The accompanying rains caused waterlogging in large parts of the city.

Six died in South 24 Parganas district.

A South 24 Parganas district official said 40,000 people have been rescued in Patharpratima, Kultali and Sagardigh blocks. Train services were severely disrupted with the railway authorities suspending operation from Howrah till the situation improved.

A South Eastern Railway spokesman said with fallen trees blocking tracks at four stations in the Kharagpur-Howrah section, several passenger trains were stranded.

Train services were also severely affected in the south Section of the Sealdah division.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee said the army columns have been asked to move in to areas like Gosaba, Patharpratima and Kultali in and around the Sundarbans delta in South Parganas district.

Banerjee, who spoke to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee several times about the situation, said the situation was "very bad" in Pakhiraganj, which was under eight feet water.

She said with uprooted trees blocking roads, the army columns have been stuck at Diamond Harbour and appealed to the people to help in removing trees so that they can proceed to the affected areas.

The weathermn said the cyclonic storm Aila was now centred 80 km from Kolkata. And was likely to intensify into a severe cyclone and hit Kolkata and its adjoining districts with a speed of 90-100 km per hour.

All districts of South Bengal would be lashed by storm and rains till Tuesday morning, the met office said.

The cyclone will have a force of 100-110 km in the sea, and fishermen have been asked not to venture into the seas. The Kolkata Port authorities have been asked to hoist danger signal number 10. In Kolkata, tram services were stopped and people asked not to venture into the streets till the evening.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee held a high level meeting at the state secretariat to monitor the situation and take all possible measures.

Deputy Commissioner (Detective Department) Javed Shamim told IANS: "boats have been kept ready for emergency evacuation" of people from low lying areas of the city.

An alert has also been sounded in East Midnapore and West Midnapore districts.

An India Meteorological Department (IMD) statement in Delhi said: "Sea condition will be very high along and off West Bengal and north Orissa coasts (till Tuesday evening).

"Storm surge of about 2-3 meters above astronomical tide is likely to inundate the coastal areas of South 24 Pargana and Midnapore districts of West Bengal at the time of landfall."

LTTE militants might enter India through sea: PC

Press Trust of India / New Delhi May 25, 2009, 20:22 IST

There is a possibility of LTTE terrorists entering India through the sea and Tamil Nadu government has been sensitised about it, Home Minister P Chidambaram said today.

"Enough precautions have been taken. The state government has been sensitised to the possible entry of LTTE militants through the coastline of Tamil Nadu," he told reporters here after he took over as the new Home Minister.

He said, "I think the state government is fully aware of the situation."

Asked as to when LTTE chief V Prabhakarn died, the minister said, "I don't think we should speak or speculate on a person who is dead. Even the dead needs to be treated with dignity."

He said the Sri Lankan government had announced that Prabhakaran was killed on the morning of May 17th and "I think we should accept that statement".

Defiant N Korea conducts second nuclear test

Press Trust of India / Pyongyang May 25, 2009, 11:59 IST

Unmindful of international pressure, a defiant North Korea today conducted a second "successful" and "more powerful" nuclear test, a move that could invite fresh sanctions and punitive action against it.

The Korean Central News Agency said that the North "successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way".

South Korea, Japan and Russia immediately condemned the test, calling it a development of "concern". The official news agency described the test as "more powerful" than the first one conducted on October 9, 2006, Kyodo reported from the North Korean capital.

The underground nuclear test follows a rocket launch last month, that prompted condemnation from the UN.

North Korea warned on April 29 that it would conduct a second test protesting the UN Security Council's rebuke for its April 5 rocket launch. The UN Security Council had imposed sanctions on North Korea and banned the country from all activities related to its nuclear weapons programme following its first test.

The KCNA report did not reveal the site of the test, but South Korea's Meteorological Administration detected an artificial earthquake of 4.5 magnitude this morning.Reports said the tremor was detected near Korean Central News Agency, the site where the first test was conducted.

The North said the second test was conducted "on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control." The results of the test "helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems... Further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology," KCNA said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called an emergency meeting of security ministers to study the test and discuss countermeasures, Yonhap news agency said.

Meanwhile, Japan which announced the formation of a government crisis team, said it may try to get the UN Security Council to meet over the nuclear test.

"Japan will never tolerate North Korea's reported nuclear test and will take decisive measures," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Russia reacted to the news, saying it was a matter of "concern" while EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the test is "very, very worrying". US State Department spokesman, however, said Washington was unable to confirm a nuclear test "at this time".

The test threatens to jeopardise long-running disarmament talks involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US, to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme in return for energy aid and other benefits.

The six-party negotiations had led to a deal in 2007 under which the North had agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities

‘Security scenario challenging’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 25
Strengthening of the national security apparatus along with strong infrastructure development in the north-east and the border areas will be a top priority, said AK Antony, minutes after he had taken over as the Defence Minister here today.

Referring to India’s troubled neighbourhood in Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, he said the security scenario around India was becoming more and more challenging.

Developments around us are a cause of serious concern, he said. Spelling out his priorities, he said infrastructure development coupled with modernisation of the armed forces and welfare of the troops was of utmost importance. He said his ministry had taken note of the rapid infrastructure development by China on its side of the border. The other focus will be on procuring equipment in the coastal areas.

On challenges for India, he said the nation needed to push modernisation of armed forces and this did not mean procuring equipment only.

DRDO hands over 16 Arjun tanks to Army

Chennai, May 25
The third set of 16 Arjun Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) equipped with advanced technology, including enhanced firing range, was handed over to the Indian Army today, marking the distribution of the first Arjun Regiment.

Built by DRDO's Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), which will manufacture a total of 124 Arjun MBTs at a cost of Rs 1,760 crore, the Regiment was flagged off by DRDO's Chief Controller, R&D, A Sivathanu Pillai at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) near here.

Of the total 124, CVRDE had already delivered 29 MBTs in two instalments till March this year. Rest of the Arjun tanks would be delivered by March 2010, Pillai said. Director, CVRDE, S Sundaresh said Arjun MBT was a “complex weapons project and an excellent battleworthy product”.

Arjun tanks can fire at a range of 3-4 km and have great mobility and are equipped with high protection facility. — PTI

An eye in the sky
AWACS will add to India’s strategic capability

THE Indian Air Force has this week made a significant addition to its strategic capability by inducting its first-ever Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). This is the first of the three AWACS, priced at $1.5 billion, which India has contracted to purchase. Even as the induction of the remaining two AWACS is expected next year, India is already engaged in negotiations for the purchase of three more “eyes in the sky”.

A fleet of at least six AWACS is considered necessary in view of India’s size, threat to its security and strategic interests that extend much beyond its shores. This airborne radar system comprises an Israeli Phalcon radar mounted on a Russian IL-76 transport aircraft and will considerably enhance India’s surveillance capability with its all-pervasive electromagnetic vision.

Except for a limited “view” of China, the IAF will now have the strategic reach of monitoring aircraft, missile and ground troop movements across the length and breath of all its neighbours, including much of Pakistan’s and Myanmar’s territory. Equally significant, the AWACS will also be able to direct the IAF’s fighter aircraft to their targets with precision. This force-multiplier will also form part of the IAF’s efforts at developing a countrywide integrated command, control and surveillance system comprising a mix of military satellites, unmanned aerial aircraft, aerostats and conventional radars.

But India is not the only country to have this sophisticated technology in the region. China already possesses such systems and has decided to acquire IL-76 aircraft from Russia to convert into AWACS to add to its existing fleet. Pakistan has contracted the purchase of six such systems from Sweden and signed agreements for an unspecified number from China.

Hence the induction of this sophisticated technology had become necessary for India. Future wars in the subcontinent, if any, are bound to be more challenging and complicated. Wars these days are fought in different ways and call for effective deterrence, projection and capability. The induction of AWACS in the IAF is, therefore, both a welcome and necessary step. Continuous vigilance, after all, is the best defence.

NSG trains in new modules to combat terror

May 25, 2009 17:24 IST

Six months after their successful commando operation in Mumbai [Images], the National Security Guard is training its personnel on new modules to hone their urban warfare and specialised operational skills to thwart terror attacks in future.

The need for inclusion of new training modules was felt during the analysis and post-operation studies of "Operation Black Tornado", undertaken by the elite force to flush out the terrorists holed up in the Taj, Oberoi hotels and Nariman House during the 26/11 attack.

The NSG's 51 and 52 Special Action Group, tasked to carry out anti-hijack and anti-terror operations respectively, are undergoing training in new modules at its garrison in Manesar near Gurgaon.

Both the units are synchornising their operations and "learning from their individual experiences of work," which will help its commandos to accomplish success in "coordinated and well planned attacks" especially in an urban setup like Mumbai, a senior NSG officer said. While the NSG will very soon have its new hubs operational in various parts of the country and have new men on deputation from the Army, the existing commando units of the force are already testing with new weapons and tactics.

"After the Mumbai attacks a number of our men, who participated in the 'Operation Black Tornado,' went back to their native places. They are now back and are raring to go again," the officer said. The NSG is also looking ahead for its commando training with international anti-terror forces like Germany's [Images] GSG9 and others.

The force is in the process of equipping with new specialised lightweight and small weapons for enhanced firepower and precision marking. These arms would to be used in commando units during slithering down operation like the one executed at the Nariman House. The force is also in the process of enhancing its armoury with the induction of 128 SIG (SWAT) assault rifles and night vision devices which will help its commandos execute operations in the dark.The SIG SWAT rifle, used by NATO forces, is a gas-operated weapon which is equipped with a highly tested and accurate sighting system.

The commandos have also gone through the video footages of the Mumbai attack that the NSG has sourced from the national broadcaster Doordarshan and private television news channels and placed at the force museum in Manesar. In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, the NSG has got land near the international airport in Delhi [Images] so that a small squad of the force can be immediately airlifted for operations, cutting short the travel time from Manesar.

Why Phalcon AWACS matter to India

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru

May 25, 2009

India took a major step towards establishing strategic dominance in the South Asian region on May 25 when the first of the three Israeli Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems aircraft touched down in Jamnagar, Gujarat.

The AWACS, mounted on a Russian Ilyushin-76 airframe, will look deep into our neighbouring countries and detect incoming missiles and aircraft from hundreds of kilometres away in all-weather conditions. It will also help detect troop build-up in territories around us.

To find out more about how the Phalcon AWACS, spoke to two retired Air Marshals.

Air Marshal (Retd) K C Kariappa: Forearmed is forewarned. The Phalcon AWACS will help India monitor the movement of aircraft and troop build-up both during war and hostile situations. The AWACS will be able to look at least 200 miles into enemy territory and give advance warning on potential enemy threat. The air defence of our country will be made much more responsive.

The AWACS is a force multiplier, which can help pick up movement of aircraft that are on the ground and also air-borne. This will mean that India would have immediate information on any kind of aircraft movement across the border, which would in turn give both the air force and the army more response time.

The extremely sophisticated AWACS will make a huge difference to our armed forces and there will not be any time wasted in monitoring the situation across the borders. I personally feel that India could have had this technology at least 15 to 20 years back.

The AWACS has been around for at least 15 to 20 years and it has always been on our wishlist or shopping list. Hence I feel that we could have got them much earlier.

We face a terror threat from Pakistan and I will have to say that the AWACS will not be able to monitor this threat too effectively. The reason: Terrorists use the mountain route more often to infiltrate or build up their forces. Due to the cover provided by mountains, the AWACS will not have the capability to penetrate and track the movement of terrorists if they are using the mountain route. However, if there is a troop build-up on the plains then the system will come in handy.

Air Marshal (Retd) B K Pandey: The Phalcon AWACS will definitely boost the capabilities of our armed forces. The AWACS is an air-borne radar with a command control system through which we can control the air defence sector. We already have an elaborate ground radar system but these radars will find it difficult to penetrate through regions which have a lot of trees. The AWACS will basically close these gaps.

The AWACS will help us keep a watch on our neighbours, especially Pakistan. It will keep an eye on all air fields across the border and also keep a watch on air-borne aircraft. Once an aircraft is spotted, it would give it an ID and help track its movement.

The same thing, when done through radar, takes a lot of time.

However, I would like to add here that just three aircraft are not sufficient for round-the-clock cover. Although I will say it is a great start, offhand I think that we need at least 18 to 20 more such aircraft in order to keep round-the-clock cover.

To tackle issues like terrorism, especially from a country like Pakistan, we would need a multi-pronged solution. There needs to be infinite endurance and we need to combine new technology with round-the-clock surveillance.

There is a lot of input that has to come from human means, which in turn has to be combined with the latest technology in order to tackle terrorism.

Ex-servicemen help family get body
Our Correspondent

Mohali, May 25
Members of various bodies of ex-servicemen gathered at Fortis Hospital here today to get the body of a defence personnel released who had died at the hospital. According to reports, warrant officer Baldev Raj (64) died at the hospital, but the management was allegedly not handing over the body to members of his family because the pending payments were not cleared.

Col SS Sohi (retd), president of the Ex-Servicemen Grievance Cell, said he had gathered members of other bodies to press upon the Fortis management to release the body as members of the family of the deceased were already under agony.

He said he had received a phone call from the daughter of the deceased who told him that the hospital was not releasing the body of his father as bills amounting to about Rs 2.57 lakh had not been cleared. However, after ex-servicemen argued with the authorities concerned the body was released without clearing the dues.

A press release of the hospital stated that Baldev Raj came to Fortis Hospital on May 14 in a critical condition. After an angiography he was diagnosed with critical cardiac disease, for which he was immediately wheeled in for a lifesaving cardiac surgery despite the attendants having no money to deposit. This was done in order to save his life. At this juncture, the family did not inform Fortis that Baldev Raj was an ex-serviceman.

The attendants had promised money within four hours of the surgery, but were unable to do so. However, they did deposit part of the payment in small fractions over the next three days.

The release further said after three days of the surgery, they presented a newly made ECHS benefit card and requested the case be converted to ECHS from cash paying.

Fortis asked them to get permission for the conversion. The family tried to get approvals for the conversion from the Command Hospital, but the approvals were denied as it was not permissible post admission. To help the patient’s family even the hospital authorities tried to get the approvals, but did not succeed.

The patient’s critical condition was explained to the family on daily basis. On May 24, the doctor called the daughter of the patient and told her that the patient was very serious. He passed away at 2.30 pm and the daughter was informed immediately. She requested that the hospital to keep the body in the mortuary for the night and said she would take it away in the morning after clearing the bills.

Equipment beef-up for Forces on day Antony takes over

New Delhi:

On a day when AK Antony took over as the Defence Minister for the second consecutive time and promised ‘speedy procurements’ without compromising on transparency, the Indian Armed forces got two major platforms that will form crucial parts of the fighting arms of the Army and Air Force.

The first of the three AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) for the Indian Air Force landed in India from Israel and, the Army was equipped with the first Armoured Regiment of indigenously built Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) after the handing over of 16 tanks by DRDO.

While Antony said that there is a need to push for speedy modernisation of the armed forces, he will have his task cut out as both platforms that were brought in on Monday are examples of the lengthy delays that India faces when it comes to defence modernisations. The Arjun Tank, the development of which started off in the early 1970’s, have been plagued by a series of delays, cost overruns and quality problems. The latest being the failure of the tank to clear Accelerated Usage Cum Reliability Trials (AUCRT) that took place last year.

Russian army chief to visit India

Moscow, May 25 (PTI) Top Russian Military Commander who will be on a week-long visit to India, plans to fly to icy Siachen Glacier, to transfer Indian army's mountain fighting techniques to his forces.

During his visit, General Vladimir Boldyrev, the Commander-in-Chief of Russian Land Forces, will discuss joint cooperation in mountain-warfare training with Indian officials and tour military facilities in Siachen, Igor Konashenkov, the Commander's aide was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

General Boldyrev will hold talks with Defence Minister A K Antony and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor on military cooperation between India and Russia and problems and prospects for development of the two countries' land forces.

The Russian delegation is scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir tomorrow, where 14th army corps of India's northern military is deployed. It would also visit Siachin glacier, where Indian servicemen are deployed on combat duty at the altitude of 7,000 metres in the harsh climate.

Moreover, Russian Army chief would also visit a training centre in Goa and Airborne troops in Agra during his India visit. PTI

Indigenous battle tank heads for comparative trials with Russian T-90

May 25th, 2009 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS Tell a Friend -

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) With one regiment of the indigenously built Arjun main battle tank (MBT) delivered to the Indian Army, the combat vehicle is now headed for comparative trials with its Russian T-90 equivalent.

This could deliver the final verdict on a platform that has been 36 years in the making and which has cost the exchequer Rs.3.5 billion ($71.7 million).

The Indian Army had insisted on the delivery of a full regiment (45 tanks) of the Arjun before the comparative trials could be conducted.

“DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) has handed over 16 more tanks to the Indian Army, completing one regiment of 45 tanks. This regiment will now be subjected to conversion training and field practice for a three months. After that, the army is planning to conduct a comparative trial with T-90 tanks in October or November to assess the operational deployment role of the Arjun,” a defence ministry official told IANS.

The DRDO demand for the comparative trials of the two tanks is being seen as a last ditch bid to save the Arjun as some 500 tanks would need to be manufactured to make the project feasible.

The army has made it clear that it will buy no more than the 124 Arjuns it has contracted for because it is unhappy with the tank on various counts. This apart, the army says the Arjun can at best remain in service for five to 10 years while it is looking 20 years ahead and needs a futuristic MBT.

The army’s stand has been contrary to a third party assessment by an internationally reputed tank manufacturer.

The official said: “As suggested by the army, Arjun tanks were subjected to rigorous trials and assessment in a third party audit. After the extensive evaluation, the auditor confirmed that Arjun is an excellent tank with very good mobility and firepower characteristics suitable for Indian deserts.”

“They (the auditor) also gave inputs on production procedures for further enhancing the performance of Arjun tanks. DRDO will be incorporating all these inputs before the next lot of 62 tanks is handed over to army by March 2010,” the official added.

The Indian Army laid down its qualitative requirement for the Arjun in 1972. In 1982, it was announced that the prototype was ready for field trials. However, the tank was publicly unveiled for the first time only in 1995.

Arjun was originally meant to be a 40-tonne tank with a 105 mm gun. It has now grown to a 50-tonne tank with a 120 mm gun. The tank was meant to supplement and eventually replace the Soviet-era T-72 MBT that was first inducted in the early 1980s.

However, delays in the Arjun project and Pakistan’s decision to purchase the T-80 from Ukraine, prompted India to order 310 T-90s, an upgraded version of the T-72, in 2001.

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