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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Jun 09

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ISI has link with militants: Musharraf

Press Trust of India, Monday June 8, 2009, London

Former Pakistan President General Parvez Musharraf has conceded that his country's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) maintains link with militant commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani, suspected of having masterminded the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Musharraf said that ISI had "used Haqqani's influence" to get Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped by Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, released.

Haqqani "is the man who has influence over Baitullah Mehsud, a dangerous terrorist, the fiercest commander in South Waziristan and the murderer of Benzir Bhutto, as we know today," Musharraf said in an interview to German newspaper 'Der Spiegel'.

"Mehsud kidnapped our Ambassador in Kabul and our intelligence used Haqqani's influence to get him released. Now that does not mean that Haqqani is supported by us. The intelligence service is using certain enemies against other enemies. And it is better to tackle them one by one than making them all enemies," he said.

On US media reports that ISI had systematically supported Taliban, the former Pakistan President said, "Intelligence always has access to other network -- that is what Americans did with KGB, that is what ISI also does."

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the son of renowned Mujaheedin commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is now one of the foremost commanders of Afghan Taliban. Haqqani brothers have been accused of masterminding the attack on Indian embassy in Kabul on July seven, 2008.

Musharraf in the course of his interview accused the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, of interfering in Swat valley and also of arming and financing Baluch rebels.

The former Pakistan President also said that there were "many Indian extremists who have extremists in Pakistan". So he claimed that if world was serious about combating terrorism then "don't leave India out", since there is "an Indian element" behind the current situation in his country.

Claiming that US President Barack Obama does not understand the reality in Pakistan, Musharraf said that India should not be left out of the mandate of Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"I am totally against the term AfPak," he said. Musharraf said he did not support the AfPak policy for two reasons: First, the strategy puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan.

"We are not. Afghanistan has no government and the country is completely destabilised. Pakistan is not. Second, and this is much more important, is that there is an Indian element in the whole game. We have the Kashmir struggle, without which extremist elements like Lashkar-e-Toiba would not exist," the wily commando-turned-politician said.

The former President saw a conspiracy going on to weaken army and ISI in Pakistan, saying that the talk of Balkanization of his country was wrong as long as army and the Intelligence were "intact and strong".

He refused to name who were behind this conspiracy, merely pointing to India saying it had 16 insurgencies going on and nobody was making a big thing out of it. "But the West always focuses on Pakistan as a problem."

China biggest arms spender after US: Report

Press Trust of India, Monday June 8, 2009, London

China has emerged as world's second biggest weapons purchaser after the US as the global military spending touched a new high in 2008, boosted by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and combat against terrorism.

China increased its arms spending by 10 per cent to an estimated $83.9 billion last year as Beijing commenced building of new range of highly sophisticated nuclear submarines, stealth warships, new generation of fighter planes and weaponry to fight "Informationalised warfare", according to a leading Swedish peace research group.

China's defence spending formed almost six per cent of the world's arms trade pushing it ahead of countries like France and Britain, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

World's arms expenditure totalled $1464 billion last year, a rise of almost 45 per cent from a decade ago. SIPRI said the spending across most of Asia including India, South Korea and Taiwan accounted for the bulk of the increase.

The war on terrorism, SIPRI said, had encouraged several countries to raise their defence spending by purchasing ultra-modern surveillance and detection equipment. It said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost an extra $930 billion to the US.

Pak nukes could fall into hands of Taliban if democracy fails

Press Trust of India / London June 8, 2009, 14:55 IST

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has said there is a possibility that its nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of Taliban if democracy "fails" in his country and the world doesn't help.

"If democracy in this country fails, if the world doesn't help democracy — then any eventuality is a possibility," he said in an interview to German newspaper 'Der Spiegel' when asked whether he like his late wife Benazir Bhutto feared that Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists.

"But as long as democracy is there, there is no question of that situation arising. All important installations and weaponry are always under extra security," Zardari said.

"Nuclear weapons are not Kalashnikovs — the technology is complicated, so it is not as if one little Taliban could come down and press a button," he said.

"I want to assure the world that the nuclear capability of Pakistan is in safe hands," he said, referring to growing concerns in the West over safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Asked why Pakistan is reluctant to shift some of its troop divisions from its eastern border with India to the Western frontier with Afghanistan, Zardari said: "both borders are of equal importance. The fact that the Indians recently increased their troop presence on the border creates a little concern. We react appropriately and we understand our country better than outsiders."

Commenting on the military action in Swat Valley, he said, "it is a large-scale operation. Altogether, more than 100,000 Pakistani troops are operating in the region. Of course we also have a comprehensive strategy and a plan for reconstruction."

Asked how Taliban managed to seize some districts NWFP, he said, the Taliban have superiority of numbers and arms and are more aggressive, so they sometimes overpower the local authority."

On the possibility of a revolt by armed forces, Zardari: "I see no danger of a military coup."

"It is a trustful working relationship and I am well enough informed. My party, the Pakistan People's Party, and its allies have the majority and we will see things through," he added.

Army freezes empanelment of Fortis
Arun Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 8
In a significant development that could put hundreds of ex-servicemen patients, specially those suffering from heart ailments, in a spot, the Army authorities have put on hold the re-empanelment of Fortis Hospital while accusing it of “overcharging and harassing” Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) beneficiaries.

While Fortis Hospital stopped the treatment of fresh referral cases after the expiry of the empanelment term on May 17, the Army authorities recently displayed notices at its Referral Centre at Sector 29, stating that until the issue of overcharging and harassment of beneficiaries was not resolved, the scheme would not be extended.

The notice states: “No referral is being given for Fortis Institute and Multi Speciality Hospital as agreement has not been signed for the reasons - (a) overcharging ECHC; (b) charging extra money from ECHS beneficiaries; and (c) making veterans run around to get referrals during emergencies”.

The Army authorities and the Fortis management refused to comment, but maintained that “efforts were on to resolve the issue”.

An Army spokesman said they had received several complaints from ECHS beneficiaries about the shabby treatment meted out to them. He said several complaints regarding overcharging had also been received.

However, the director of Fortis, Dr Ashish Banerjee, denied such incidents, maintaining that they were in contract with the ECHS since 2004 and since the same wasn’t renewed, they had stopped accepting new indoor patients. Another official of the hospital, on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the settlement of the outstanding payments of crores of rupees by the Army had become a bone of contention.

Claims and counterclaims notwithstanding, the impasse is going to cause suffering to patients, but the allegations of harassment are not unfounded. Readers would recall the incident where representatives of the ex-servicemen association of Chandigarh and Mohali had staged a dharna outside Fortis Hospital in May to seek the release of the body of a warrant officer.

While the ex-servicemen association and the family members of the deceased had accused the hospital of harassing them and not releasing the body, Fortis had denied the allegations and stated that the patient was not registered as member of the ECHS at the time of admission and the authorities were not ready to reimburse the expenses on his treatment.

Ex-servicemen, martyrs’ kin getting help: DC
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, June 8
President of the District Sainik Welfare Board-cum-Deputy Commissioner Surjit Singh said under the various financial aide schemes, 88 ex-servicemen and Army widows were getting benefit of Rs 1,000 per month for the last two years.

This was stated in a press release issued here today. He said 24 gallantry awardees of the district had been given Rs 14.50 lakh aide in the last two years. Besides under monthly allowance scheme, four beneficiaries had been given Rs 1.61 lakh.

Family members of the martyrs of World War II had been distributed Rs 1.11 lakh under a scheme. Widows of defence personnel martyred in wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars had been given free travelling facility worth Rs 69,000.

He further added that under Army Central Welfare Scheme, 270 beneficiaries had been given financial help of Rs 5.29 lakh. In addition to it, the children of ex-servicemen are given education scholarship worth Rs 44,400. Students securing 75 per cent to 80 per cent are given Rs 200 per month and those securing more than 81 per cent marks are given Rs 250 per month scholarship.

District sainik welfare officer Col Sudhanshu Kumar Randev (retd) said the board was providing pre-recruitment training to children of ex-servicemen for getting an opportunity in Army, paramilitary and police forces. Around 400 such children have taken training so far.

He added that 89 girls who had given this training had already been selected for the Punjab police, BSF, Army and paramilitary forces. About 30 girls were under training. He further added that the board ran basic computer training programme and was soon to start DCA and PGDCA courses.

Mufti demands withdrawal of security forces from J&K

June 08, 2009 21:12 IST

The People's Democratic Party leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Monday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] to take urgent steps for revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and withdrawing security forces from internal security duty in the Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

"Your return as PM with a stronger mandate would prove a good omen for Kashmir only if this time your vision on the state and subcontinent, is executed constructively in all its dimensions," Sayeed said in a letter to the prime minister, a copy of which was released to the media in Srinagar [Images] on Monday.

The "beginning, however, will have to be made by taking the first crucial step of relieving the security forces of internal security duty and scrapping of AFSPA," he said, and warned that efforts that had gone into creating a new atmosphere of peace, reconciliation and resolution in J&K seem to be at a real risk of going waste.

Referring to alleged human rights violations, Sayeed said, "It seems we are again losing our way in Kashmir and ironically this is happening at a time when the world around us is apparently changing for better."

Expressing concern over the current situation, Sayeed said, "Apprehensions of a slide back, in absence of a pro-active follow up, have unfortunately come true in a form that is disturbing and equally unfortunate."

The people of the state had in unequivocal terms rejected violence as an option to resolve political issues and opted democratic means by participating overwhelmingly in successive elections since 2002, the former chief minister observed.

"The troop reduction that you (Singh) had indicated way back in 2004 should be implemented and the state police made fully in-charge of the internal security matters. I have also been stressing on the revocation of AFSPA which arms the security forces with impunity against any actions that they take," Sayeed said and referred to the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian town that had sparked massive protests in the Valley.

"Peace and resolution is an idea that has arrived for Kashmir. We all have to give it a helping hand and you will have to lead it from the front as you did in 2004," Sayeed added.

We must get military hardware in time'

June 08, 2009 16:23 IST

Whether the Indian army [Images] gets military hardware from defence PSUs or from foreign companies is not a matter of much concern, but it must be received in time, Minister of State for Defence Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju tells Saubhadro Chatterji.

The first United Progressive Alliance [Images] government created a separate department for the welfare of ex-servicemen. What are your plans on this front?

Rehabilitation and resettlement of ex-servicemen are priority areas for this government. We have already created a post of director general (resettlement). Every year, 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers retire. Most of these belong to the 'people below officer rank' (PBOR) segment. We believe that these ex-servicemen, who have received army training for so many years, are an asset to the nation. They pick up a number of skills during their stint with the armed forces. Age is also on their side when they leave the forces. They are in their late 30s or early 40s. The government can't do everything on its own. So, we have tied up with the private sector for their training, resettlement and placements.

What sort of a tie-up you are aiming at?

We have already entered into agreements with business bodies like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry and Assocham for training and placements. We look forward to more such agreements in the coming days.

Which are the sectors where ex-servicemen are finding maximum employment?

Well, as you know, there is a huge demand for these trained personnel in private security services. Our ex-servicemen are doing a good job there. But we now find that there is demand from various industries for their mechanical skills. In the construction sector, the demand for skilled ex-servicemen is steadily rising.

As the retail trade starts to boom, it is becoming a major employer of ex-servicemen. Reliance [Get Quote] Retail, for example, has employed a large number of ex-servicemen. We declared 2007 the year of the ex-servicemen to boost our resettlement plans for them. We find the private sector showing increasing interest in employing ex-servicemen.

Apart from Reliance Retail, Infosys [Get Quote] is another big company that is employing a large number of ex-servicemen.

Jairam Ramesh [Images], the minister in charge of environment, recently told us that he wanted to take the help of ex-servicemen for a large afforestation programme.

Yes, ex-servicemen can also contribute to the environment protection programme. Earlier, there was an eco-battalion in the Territorial Army. We can raise a similar group of ex-servicemen for environment. I think my senior colleague, Defence Minister A K Antony, held a meeting with Jairam Ramesh in this regard. Task forces will be raised for afforestation in places where we are building roads.

From the infrastructure point of view, the Border Roads Organisation plays an important role. What is your road map for it?

We have 13 project groups, or set-ups, in the BRO to handle the tasks in different regions. Not only do we have our own projects, that is, the roads that are required by the Defence Ministry, we also get regular requests from state governments to take up their road projects.

The states of north eastern India and Jammu & Kashmir want us to execute many of their projects. But I felt the BRO was taking up too much responsibility. Now, we need to be more focused. We have to utilise our manpower and resources better.

Earlier, the BRO used to miss its targets, but now we are regularly meeting the targets. We want to improve this record.

What are the constraints you face in the BRO's functioning?

Let me make it very clear, the budget is not at all a problem for the BRO. The allocation is made on the basis of our needs. But as I was telling you, in the North-East, our men and materials were spread over a large area. We need to change this and work in specific areas. Currently, we are executing the prime minister's package for the North East, apart from GS (general study) roads and China Study Group roads. We have turned down a few projects from the states. We have to focus on modernisation of the BRO and get more equipment.

For the last two years, we have started quarterly meetings of the BRO board. Earlier, these meetings were not held for years.

But the biggest bottleneck is getting environmental clearances. It takes so long to get the clearances that we miss one or two seasons to work. You know, both in Jammu & Kashmir as well as in the North-East, there's a limited period in a year during which we can work. The delay also results in high escalation of costs for our projects. Now, we have roped in the environment secretary as a member of the BRO board. We have changed our planning process too. Now, the planning is made much in advance.

Defence production is another area where we see a lot of delays.

Yes. But now our target is to get our capabilities in time for the armed forces. You see, if procurement is delayed, our armed forces suffer the most. The cost escalates and they are deprived of the hardware when they need it. Whether we get it from defence PSUs or from foreign companies is not a matter of much concern. We must get military hardware in time. At the same time, we are committed to increasing the private sector participation in defence production.

US offers its Coast Guard choppers to India

June 08, 2009 14:39 IST

The US has offered to lease out 12 of its Coast Guard's twin-engine helicopters to India which is looking to strengthen its coastal security following the Mumbai terror attacks [Images]. "As the acquisition process will take time, we (India) want to have 12 twin-engine helicopters on lease for the Coast Guard. The US has offered to lease out its Coast Guard helicopters to us," a senior Defence Ministry official said in New Delhi [Images] on Monday. However, India has also got some offers from within the country. But it has to be seen if these civilian helicopters would meet the Coast Guard's military needs, the official said.

Under the fast-track acquisition process, the Coast Guard was asked by the government to purchase 12 Dornier transport aircraft for medium-range surveillance activities and the proposal has been approved already. "The purchase of 12 Dorniers for the Coast Guard has been approved and government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will supply five Dorniers by this year end," the official said, when asked about the fast-track acquisition process in the wake of the 26/11 attacks.

The 12 twin-engine helicopters to be leased were meant to augment the Dornier fleet for surveillance and reconnaissance activities.In all, India is looking to purchase about a dozen items, mostly ships and aircraft, for its Coast Guard and Navy, which has been designated this February as the overall in-charge for matters concerning the security of the 7,500-km-long coast.

"About 12 Request for Proposal (RFP) are to be issued under fast track acquisition process. Six or seven are ready and after they are issued, the acquisition will begin in six or seven months," he said. The Navy, which would get its own 1000-man Sagar Prahari Bal to protect its own installations along the coast, was in need of 80 boats for the new force. "Global tenders will be issued and in four or five months the process would be completed," the official said. India will be issuing RFPS in a month for coastal radars, which would be fitted on lighthouses and at Coast Guard installations all along the coastline, the official said, adding Aerostat radars were not under consideration of theNavy as yet.

Army Major, jawan killed in Kupwara encounter

Majid Jahangir Posted online: Tuesday , Jun 09, 2009 at 0141 hrs

Srinagar : At least two soldiers including a Major were killed in an ongoing gun battle near the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir's Kupwara district. Three militants also died in the exchange of fire.

Late in the evening on June 5, an Army patrol noticed a group of militants moving in Gulabbowl forests in Kupwara, about 3 km inside the LoC and engaged them in a gun battle. “The encounter is still on. Three terrorists have been killed so far,” Defence Spokesman, Col Uma Maheshwari told The Indian Express. "We lost two of our men including a Major." The two soldiers have been identified as Major R V Ramani and Sepoy Jagtar Singh of 23 Punjab regiment. Major Ramani's body was flown to his hometown Ahmedabad on Monday. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, he was posted to J-K two years ago.

The bodies of the slain militants, however, are yet to be retrieved. "Our men have seen the bodies of the militants. The operation is still on we are not in a position to tell whether they infiltrated recently or were already present in the area," Col Maheshwari said.

Army cordoned off many areas in Batpora Kumkadi sector to prevent the militants from escaping and launched a massive search operation. However, the inclement weather in the upper reaches of Kupwara, sources said, is hampering the operation.

Army has killed over two dozens infiltrators and lost many of its own men in encounters in Kupwara district this year. In March, a six day encounter in the Shamasbari forests left 17 LeT militants and eight commandoes including Major Rohit Sharma dead.

India pushes for security revamp

By Neeta Lal

NEW DELHI - The Indian government - criticized for its lackadaisical approach to handling terror and internal security - finally seems to be getting its act together to overhaul the crumbling and creaking security system.

President Pratibha Patil, in her inaugural address to the joint session of parliament on June 4, emphasized that internal security would be one of the "top priorities" for the new government and an urgent plan to address national-security challenges would be executed in a phased manner.

"A policy of zero-tolerance towards terrorism, from whichever source it originates, will be pursued," asserted Patil in a subtle hint to Pakistan, adding that a National Investigation Agency would now be empowered to tackle terror-related offences.

The presidential address - which underscores the freshly-minted Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's much-vaunted resolve to tackle terror - comes in the wake of a slew of already proposed reforms that may well transform the visage of India's security and intelligence apparatus.

The proposed measures - currently being scrutinized by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) - include the creation of a national database, beefing up intelligence-gathering networks, ramping up staff at intelligence agencies, absorbing meritorious and retired intelligence officials in the system and tightening border and maritime security, among others.

Based on the CCS's recommendations - with the input of an intelligence task force set up in 2007 to revamp the security system - the UPA government will flesh out a comprehensive blueprint for an overhaul.

The task force's recommendations include a road map to revamp the intelligence-sharing network, establishment of three new niche intelligence-gathering agencies, concrete steps to improve technical intelligence and the establishment of a training institute for intelligence personnel, among others.

To fortify the intelligence network, the task force has recommended the government strengthen organizations like the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing, while increasing the strength of informers currently recruited by intelligence networks along with an improvement in their pay scales.

While skeptics say the freshly proposed reforms may yet again become mired in the infamously labyrinthine bureaucracy, many experts are hopeful that they will likely see the light of day.

"Considering the Mumbai terror attacks nearly cost the UPA this election, it is keen to prove that it means business on the security front this time," said security analyst Dipak Bhanocha. "So in the first flush of its current electoral win, it is trying hard to push the proposed reforms with vigor."

Indeed, there's no denying that a new and tighter security apparatus is in India's interest, given the heightened environment of terror on all its borders. With unrest in the immediate neighborhood - including Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal - a better security infrastructure will enable India to handle the tectonic shift in South Asia's geopolitical dynamics.

There's no denying that India's vulnerability to terror has increased manifold because of external factors. The rise in jihadi terrorism in its immediate neighborhood presents India with a complex challenge, which has become all the more disquieting as the hub of religious fundamentalism - indeed global terrorism - is now located right next door (between Pakistan and Afghanistan).

Then there's India's unique geographical orientation. With a landmass of sub-continental proportions, India occupies a vital strategic position in South Asia with a gargantuan 7,683 kilometer-long coastline and an exclusive economic zone that is over two million square kilometers in size. The country also shares its 15,000-kilometer border with seven countries.

Such sensitive geographical contouring endows India with daunting security challenges. This was demonstrated amply last year during the November Mumbai terror attacks when just a handful of terrorists were able to penetrate the borders with impunity to hold the financial capital ransom for over 60 hours.

The Mumbai incident held the deficient security apparatus up to world scrutiny. Intelligence networks failed to follow up on leads to prevent the attack, ill-equipped police were rudderless to take on the well-armed terrorists and anti-terrorist squads failed miserably to respond to the city's cry for help.

The justified outpouring of anger across the country in the wake of the attacks led to several heads rolling in the government, including that of Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Though Patil's dismissal may well be a token, the government was forced to do a rethink on security measures across the country.

A similar scenario unfolded following the Kargil war in 1999, when Pakistani terrorists exploited the lacunae in the country's Intelligence to their advantage. Even at that time, the N N Vohra Committee report on internal security had painted a disturbing picture of the intelligence apparatus and called for a radical revamp. It also called for restoring the primacy of the Home secretary and IB, a review mechanism within the IB and an end to political interference. But not much was achieved on any of these fronts.

Unfortunately, despite the experience of several border conflicts and wars, even today India's borders continue to be guarded by military, paramilitary and police forces which fail to function cohesively. Each force reports to a different ministry in New Delhi, as a result of which there's an utter lack of co-ordination in managing the borders.

Post Kargil, the government identified the poor coastal security infrastructure as part of the overlap between internal security and border management and the utility of a unified maritime agency was mooted. But like many other specific policy recommendations, this idea fell through due to political and bureaucratic indifference.

"The rot in the Indian intelligence system runs so deep that cosmetic changes will simply not work. It needs a complete overhaul," said a retired Indian intelligence officer. The official added that intelligence officers were deficient in training, even as inter-agency feuds have resulted in far too much politics.

"Plus, there's a dearth of intelligence operatives and intelligence agencies are woefully understaffed," he said.

To be take more seriously in the international arena, India could leverage technology, for one thing. Britain's effective embrace of video surveillance in the 1990s, in response to Irish Republican Army attacks, proved just how successful this can be. Today, London has over 10,000 cameras, and Britain over four million (one for every 14 people), the highest in the world.

India's defense budget - that old bugbear - also needs to be reconsidered. New Delhi's annual budget on policing a country of over a billion people is US$3 billion. Compared to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which alone has an annual budget of $7.1 billion for 300 million people, it is a pittance.

The US is the largest military spender in the world and puts 4.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) towards defense, while India spends less than 2% of its GDP on defense. Even China spends an estimated 4.3% of GDP on defense and Pakistan 3.5%.

Neeta Lal is a widely published writer/commentator who contributes to many reputed national and international print and Internet publications.

Pak Army rules out cut in India-specific defence budget

Rezaul H Laskar
Islamabad, Jun 8 (PTI) Pakistan Army has ruled out the possibility of a cut in procurement of conventional and India- specific weapons purchase despite a sharp increase in expenses due to operations against Taliban in the country's northwest.

"If you are suggesting that we should take something out of here and put it in another box that would not be a wise strategy. War on terror does require resources, but it should not be at the cost of something else," chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas has said.

Abbas noted that a recent increase in the Indian defence budget was Pakistan-specific.

"Take the example of offensive aircraft, take the example of AWACS (airborne warning and control system aircraft), take the example of air-to-air refuelling system. Then tank division and mechanised forces and their latest offensive doctrine of cold start strategy. All these things are Pakistan-specific," he told Dawn News channel.

In February, the Indian government increased defence spending by over 34 per cent to USD 32.7 billion in its interim budget.

The Pakistan government, which is expected to unveil its annual budget on June 13, usually makes its defence allocations with the objective of maintaining conventional parity with India. PTI

‘If we get our youth back, will join the Indian Army again’

Varun Chadha Posted online: Monday , Jun 08, 2009 at 0449 hrs

Chandigarh : Fifty years ago, 252 young men stepped out of the Nizam Pavillion of the Military College (now the Indian Military Academy), Dehradun, as officers. On Saturday, the 23 Course officers met again, to share memories and remember those who died during the long journey.

These batchmates bid farewell to the olive green uniform several years ago, but their spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie lives on.

“If we get our youth back, we will rejoin the Army and serve the nation,” said one of them, as they celebrated their 50 years after IMA.

Laughing, cracking jokes and discussing their training days brought back the good old memories for these retired personnel living in the tricity.

Sharing an anecdote, former Army chief General V P Malik, who led the celebrations, said: “Once my wife and I had gone to a beach to have snacks. I found a hawker giving 25 per cent discount to defence personnel. The chatwala impressed us with his patriotism. My wife asked me to invite him to the parade scheduled for two days later.”

The instructors of their batch — Maj Gen Rajindra Nath (Retd), Col Baldev Inder Singh Cheema (Retd), Col Amalok Singh Grewal (Retd) and Col Ranjit Singh (Retd) — were honoured by Gen V P Malik.

Maj Gen Rajindra Nath said it was a matter of pride to “see your cadets reach great heights”.

“I was a Captain when we trained them. I can’t forget this batch because after their training, I went to Canada for my course in nuclear warfare. I feel proud they went on to become the most efficient officers.”

“The course has produced one Chief of the Army Staff, two General Officers Commanding-In-Chiefs and many three-star and two-star officers,” said Brig J S Phoolka (Retd).

“Besides, there are many winners of gallantry and distinguished services awards, including one Mahavir Chakra.”

Before the celebrations started, the retired soldiers observed a two-minute silence in the memory of those who lost their lives in wars or other reasons.

“On June 6, 1959, we were 252 gentlemen cadets,” Col Surinder Mohan (retd) said. “We have lost around 100 coursemates in the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971. A few died due to old age. But more than 100 are still alive.”

And these 100 will continue to celebrate their achievements with pride. Next month, they will meet at the IMA, Dehradun. This time, they will celebrate the golden jubilee with their batchmates from across the country.

“We remember the day when we became commissioned officers at the Nizam Pavillion—when a ‘star’ of the Second Lieutenant adorned our shoulders,” Col Sidhu (retd) said.

India to double troops in Arunachal

By Saurabh Joshi on 08.Jun

In a significantly attentive move towards the security of Northeast India, the Indian Army will be inducting 50-60,000 troops in Arunachal Pradesh to counter Chinese military presence and infrastructure across the International Border. This move will also result in the build up of infrastructure on the Indian side of the border.

According to a Reuters report, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and former Army Chief General JJ Singh said, “Two army divisions comprising 25,000 to 30,000 soldiers each will be deployed along the border in Arunachal.”

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had declared the stationing of Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft in the Northeast in Tezpur in Assam around two weeks back. The IAF later plans to station the aircraft at Chabua in Assam, which is located quite close to Arunachal Pradesh, besides Jodhpur in Rajasthan and Halwara in Punjab. The IAF had also said it would be building airstrips and Advanced Landing Grounds (AGLs) in the Northeast, to enable greater deployment and force projection. The Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft are to arrive in Tezpur next Monday.

Informed sources told StratPost, “Two mountain divisions are likely to be raised for stationing in Arunachal Pradesh. This is going to double our present strength in the state. The idea is to tell the Chinese that we know they’re there and that we’re there as well.” At present two divisions are stationed in Arunachal Pradesh, elements of which are also deployed in Assam. The addition of two more divisions will take the number of Indian Army troops to around 120,000 in Arunachal Pradesh. StratPost has been informed that this could ultimately result in the raising of another corps in Arunachal Pradesh.

There have been continuing border disputes between India and China, especially after the 1962 war. China has since occupied the Aksai Chin area in Jammu and Kashmir, and has subsequently constructed major infrastructure there. China’s National Highway 219 is strategically important as it connects Tibet and Xinjiang through the Aksai Chin. China also lays claim to the Tawang region in western Arunachal Pradesh and has been encroaching upon Indian territory in Sikkim, in the process also being diplomatically ambiguous over its recognition of Sikkim as a part of India.

In recent times, reports have indicated ‘creeping incursions’ by China upon the difficult-to-patrol border areas in Arunachal Pradesh. This has often been blamed on the lack of infrastructure on the Indian side, which makes it difficult for Indian border troops to patrol the frontier effectively. Indian troops currently patrol most of the difficult terrain on foot, often being unable to monitor vast areas of the border.

China on the other hand has constructed significant infrastructure including railways and highways across the border and are in a significantly stronger position in terms of ability to rapidly deploy military forces. China has plans to extend the Lhasa railway to Chumbi valley on the border with Sikkim and thence to Nyingchi on the border with Arunachal Pradesh. This will enable the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) to deploy troops rapidly throughout the region. The Indian Railways’ network is yet to enter Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim.

StratPost was also informed this step is also a measure at giving a robust push towards infrastructure in the state. “Naturally, we can’t just send 60,000 troops there and then expect them to get on without infrastructure. That infrastructure in terms of roads and bases for communication, transport and maintaining a presence will be built up too.”

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