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Friday, 19 June 2009

From Today's Papers - 19 Jun 09

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US' relationship with India is good news: Hillary

Sarah Jacob, Thursday June 18, 2009, Washington

America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has given the first glimpse of where India stands in the Obama administration's worldview.

In her first policy speech on India after assuming office, the US Secretary of State said President Obama is deeply committed to building stronger ties with India -- one of the few nations the Obama administration sees as a global partner.

"In a world of depressing headlines, the US relationship with India is good news and I think it is going to get even better. We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century -- the forces of positive change versus those of destruction," said Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State.

Experts say the US was waiting to see who would form the new government in New Delhi before outlining its foreign policy plans for India.

The victory of Prime Minister Singh, an advocate of free markets and closer US ties, has emboldened the Obama Administration's efforts to partner with India.

"I hope that an expanded partnership between the US and India will be one of the signature accomplishments of both new governments in both countries, and I do plan to make that a personal priority," said Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State.

Steering clear of mentioning Kashmir... Clinton listed climate change, Afghanistan and science as the key areas for new US-India cooperation.

The Secretary of State also clarified that the Obama administration is fully committed to implement the civil nuclear pact signed by the previous Bush administration.

In the past few months, there has been speculation that the Obama administration --preoccupied with high-profile diplomacy with China

and stabilizing Pakistan.... has been ignoring India.

Secretary Clinton's effusive reaffirmation of the Obama Administration's commitment in strengthening Indo-US ties on Thursday, shows that the US realises that despite Pakistan's importance in the war on terror, it is the relationship with India that needs to be the long-term strategic priority.

Armed Forces Tribunal to start functioning next month
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 18
After a series of delays, the much-awaited Armed Forces Tribunal is finally expected to start functioning next month. The AFT will adjudicate on matters pertaining to military justice and service matters, which at present are being dealt by the high courts and the SC.

Sources said the appointment of 15 administrative members, selected from among senior retired service officers, is over, though the appointment of judicial members, to be selected from retired high court judges, is underway. About 12,000 cases related to courts martial proceedings, and matters such as promotions, postings, pay and allowances, etc., which are pending before various courts, will be transferred to the AFT. Since the AFT will be dealing with military matters alone, it will ensure speedier disposal of cases.

For the Chandigarh Bench, the administrative members are Lt Gen HS Panag, former GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen AS Bahia, former Quarter Master General and Lt Gen NS Brar, former GOC 10 Corps. This Bench will have jurisdiction over the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Among other members are Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, Lt Gen ML Naidu, both former Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Thomas Mathew, former Adjutant General, Lt Gen RK Chhabra, former Chief of Staff, Southern Command and Rear Admiral R Contractor. The Parliament had passed the Armed Forces Tribunal Bill on December 7, 2007, following which presidential assent was received on December 27. Former Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Mathur, is heading the tribunal.

The AFT’s principal Bench would be based at New Delhi and premises for it have been earmarked in RK Puram. In addition will be eight regional Benches, Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai. Each Bench will have judicial and well as administrative members. All administrative members will have the status of a judge of the high court with corresponding salary and service conditions.

Coastal Security
Cabinet Secy to head review panel
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
Backed by the Indian Navy’s assessment that it will take up to two years to make the 7,600-km- long Indian coast line “totally safe”, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Home, in separate developments, today got down to ensure that the matter is speeded up and all plans are kept on track.

The Union Cabinet Secretary was today appointed to head a high-level committee that will, at regular intervals, review the measures taken for the coastal security. Other members of the committee will include the Chief of Naval Staff, Secretaries of Ministries like Defence, Home, Petroleum and Chief Secretaries of all coastal states.

The decision to set-up the committee was taken by Defence Minister AK Antony here today. The National Security Adviser, MK Narayanan and the Defence secretary Vijay Singh were a part of the decision making process. This comes within weeks of the Navy having conveyed that procurement of additional boats, setting up coastal radars, sensors and tracking equipment, besides having other systems in place, will take time.

Lessons from Lalgarh
Centre, state must fight Maoists jointly

The belated offensive against Maoists launched by a dithering Left Front government will hopefully reassure people that the state in West Bengal has not, after all, withered away. Not doing anything at Lalgarh would have reflected adversely on the Left Front government. It also took a firm message from the Union Home Minister, who maintained that it was up to the Left Front government to restore law and order, to prod the state government into action. Adivasis and Maoists in Salboni and other areas adjoining Lalgarh had driven away the police five months ago and without much resistance. But the state government did nothing all these months to stamp its authority. Even during the last general election, electoral officers were left pleading with the people in the area to allow polling personnel and para-military forces to camp at polling booths. Even when the Maoists decided to storm Lalgarh a week ago and expand the “liberated zone”, the state machinery looked helpless. Maoists are said to have killed a dozen CPM leaders and workers without any intervention by the police. Villagers have been forced to fall in line at gun-point, although a majority of them would have, one suspects, gladly helped in summary action against local CPM leaders who are said to have built their own little empires in the area and ruled as ruthlessly.

The delicate situation in Lalgarh, however, requires careful handling and coordination of a high order between New Delhi and the state government. Armed Maoists have in the past routinely managed to escape after hit and run raids, leaving villagers to face the music. Official agencies too have instead been rounding up relatively innocent villagers. Denied their rights over land, forests, rivers, food, health and education, it would be tragic if vengeance is now wreaked on the poor Adivasis. At the same time, the wider issue of tackling the Maoist threat cannot be allowed to degenerate into a ping-pong game for political parties to score brownie points. Howsoever tempting it may be for the Congress and Ms Mamata Banerjee to gloat over the Left Front government’s discomfiture, the stakes for the country are far too high for them to adopt partisan stands over fighting the Maoists.

The Maoists have exploited public discontent against the CPM , used television channels to get their message across and managed to strike terror with chilling effect. They also appear to have deliberately encouraged the adventurism in resisting the advance of the police and para-military forces. The Maoists may retreat from Lalgarh in the face of superior force and firepower of the police and para-military forces. But they could well strike again. Hence the action against them has to be well coordinated and very decisive to be effective.

Army chief takes stock of war game
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 18
Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Deepak Kapoor, today reviewed the end results of a high-level war game being held by the Western Command. He arrived at Command Headquarters, Chandimandir, today for an overnight visit in this regard today.

Earlier this month, some formations under the Western Command had carried certain field exercises to validate operational concepts and test their equipment.

A war game is a closed-door conceptual exercise conducted by top commanders with the help of sand models and large-scale maps, which do not involve troops on the ground. For quite some time now, the Army’s emphasis has been on war games rather than field exercises due to constraints of space and expenses involved.

War games are held at all levels every year to review existing operational plans vis-à-vis on ground developments and expose new commanders to offensive and defensive strategies pertaining to a particular theatre.

Terming the ongoing war game to be a routine annual affair, sources in Western Command said besides top commanders from the command and its field formations, senior representatives from Army Headquarters and the Army Training Command were also present for the brainstorming exercise.

Over the past few years, the Army has been focusing on fighting a high-intensity, short-duration war in a built-up urban and semi-urban environment. Fundamental to this doctrine is a networked environment enabling real time flow of intelligence, data and information as well as rapid deployment of devastating firepower across the entire spectrum of conflict.

US drones kill 43 militants in Pakistan

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad

June 18, 2009 16:31 IST

Last Updated: June 18, 2009 19:18 IST

US Predator drones today struck Taliban [Images] stronghold of Waziristan in Pakistan's troubled northwest killing nine militants, including five foreigners. The toll is 43 now.

American drones fired four missiles hitting a Taliban training centre run by top commander Malang Wazir, close to the villages of Gharmalai and Nandaran, near the main city of Wana killing nine terrorists, TV channels quoted top local officials as saying.

The American drone attack -- the second in last three days--came as Pakistani Army continued to mass troops and armour for an offensive targeted against Tehrik-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, expected to be unleashed any time.

Among those killed were four Taliban fighters and five foreigners, two Arabs and three from Turkmenistan. But it was not immediately known whether Malang who is a key Taliban commander was among the victims, TV channels quoted top local officials as saying.

A top US official was quoted last week in Washington as saying that any operation by Pakistan in Waziristan would work best with "pressure mounted from both sides," which would leave little space for top Taliban and al Qaeda commanders to escape.

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