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Monday, 6 July 2009

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Panic strikes border villages
2 rockets fired from Pak hit Indian territory
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Dandae (Attari), July 5
Panic gripped border villages situated near zero line after two rockets, appeared to have been launched by Pakistan-based Taliban from across the border, landed in the Indian territory last evening.

Residents of this border village had a miraculous escape as one of the two rockets fell in the irrigated paddy field. The other landed at Beharwal village, also near the border. Though no causalities have been reported, except for villager Dilbag Singh who sustained minor injuries from rocket splinters, the BSF has lodged a formal protest with its Pakistani counterpart.

Meanwhile, a third rocket fell on the Pakistan side near historic Pul Kanjri. The incident occurred on Saturday at about 10 pm. Villagers, who were sleeping on rooftops, started crying when they saw a ball of fire coming from the Pakistani side with deafening sound.

This is for the first time after the Indo-Pak war of 1971 that an Indian village has been bombed from the Pakistani soil. The Army and the BSF had cordoned off the area and rocket splinters were collected for testing.

The incident has posed a grave danger to hundreds of visitors who visit the Attari check-post every evening to witness the Retreat ceremony since the BSF has no system to intercept rockets.

The bombing of Indian villages came after a few hours of the killing of a Pakistani youth by the BSF near Roranwali village (Attari) yesterday. The youth, believed to be a Pakistan-based Taliban, was coming from the Pakistani side.

“The man, who was running towards the Indian side, was asked to stop, but he did not pay heed to our warnings and our troops opened fire,” a BSF officer said. The Pakistani authorities, however, refused to admit that the killed youth was from their country.

After a Commandant-level meeting with the Pakistani authorities, BSF Inspector-General Himmat Singh said they were not ruling out the possibility of a rocket attack by the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits. Major-Gen Balbir Singh Pahma, DIG, BSF, Mohammad Akil and Commandant HS Dhillon were also present there.

Dilbagh Singh, who received minor injuries from rocket splinters, said he saw a ball of flame falling in nearby paddy field. The second rocket fell near the farm house of Tejpal Singh. He informed the Lopoke police that took possession of the rocket shell in the morning without any proper investigation. He said at one point it appeared as if Pakistan had attacked India.

Certain villagers claimed that they saw two projectiles with sparks coming from Pakistani side and landing in the fields. Had they fallen on village dwellings, many human lives would have been lost.

Morale low, warns CRPF missive to HQ
Kumar Rakesh
Tribune News Service

Srinagar , July 5
Ahead of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s visit to the national capital this week, a senior CRPF commandant is learnt to have shot off a communication to the headquarters, alerting officials of low morale among the jawans posted in the valley.

In the last three days, at least 15 CRPF personnel have been left with broken teeth, loss of eye sights and injured limbs as mobs targeting them from Sopore in north Kashmir to Anantnag in south seem to have only got emboldened after CM Omar Abdullah’s denunciation of “excessive” force used by the CRPF and his order to book CRPF jawans for ‘murder’ when a youth in Baramulla died when the central force opened fire.

The relentless “attempts to murder ” CRPF personnel, as a classified communication to its New Delhi headquarters puts it, and the condemnation by the state government have prompted the senior officers to take up the issue with MHA and question the government’s policies, which are “emboldening” law-breakers and “confusing” law-enforcers.

The CRPF communication, which sources said has been written by its IG NC Asthana, said their troops are losing heart in an “unfair fight with increasingly belligerent mobs” as they have been attacked with axes, petrol bombs and even naked live wires have been hurled on them. CRPF sources said they have withdrawn their jawans as they would have had no other option but to fire on mobs, which in turn would have invited prosecution by the government. One jawan of 53 battalion was lifted to New Delhi yesterday after he almost lost his eyesight in an attack in Anantnag.

The communication warns that it would be unfair to find fault with increasingly frustrated jawans if they snap under such circumstances. Referring to mob attacks with stones and petrol bombs, it said these attempts called for a response that is permitted under the law of the land. However, their jawans and officers have been given to understand that the state government would go “the whole hog after them” if their attempt to control the mobs results in any casualty, even “unintentionally”.

CRPF sources say the situation was particularly volatile in Sopore, a separatist bastion, where their camps have come under relentless attacks of late. CRPF has been warned of terror attacks on their camps in the apple town and official sources said the current atmosphere would only facilitate militants’ design.

The communication said that the response of the state government is not sending out a clear message to law-breakers and it is only complicating the matter for the central forces. The communication goes on to say that if “political expedience” start getting precedence, the men in uniform will lose heart”.

It said that their men would not feel bad if some of them are killed in fights with terrorists as it is still a fair fight, but the one-sided attack on them by mobs spurred on by separatists is frustrating because they have been left in no position to retaliate.

Renewed offensive
US must widen its focus on terrorism

After the withdrawal of the US troops from most parts of Iraq, the Obama administration has launched a renewed and major offensive in Aghanistan with the induction of 4000 Marines last Thursday. This biggest operation against the Taliban after the overthrow of its regime in 2001 is primarily aimed at ensuring that the writ of the Afghanistan government runs in the villages too, which is not a reality so far. The Taliban’s hold on the rural areas in many provinces in Afghanistan remains intact despite the US-led multinational military campaign. The US Marines are initially concentrating on Helmand province, considered a stronghold of the Taliban in the southern part of the country. The idea is not only to neutralise the Taliban in the villages, but also to win over the locals by avoiding collateral casualties. This is not an easy task as villagers all over Afghanistan still view foreigners with suspicion.

If the US succeeds in achieving its immediate objective, this will pave the way for what the Obama administration ultimately wants — to pull back the American troops from Afghanistan. The Obama strategy, perhaps, has it that the new government that will be formed after the August elections in Afghanistan must be able to manage the affairs on its own. This is not possible unless the Taliban is weakened and made ineffective and the villagers develop faith in the ability of the government to take care of their security and other interests.

What the US wants to achieve in Afghanistan may not be possible unless the war against the militants in Pakistan is successful. As is well known, the Taliban in Afghanistan get their weapon and other supplies mostly from Pakistan. The Taliban and Al-Qaida have their committed supporters in Pakistan-based terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which continue to operate with their focus on India despite the ban imposed on them. The US, however, has not been as much bothered about the activities of these outfits as those of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas. This major flaw in the US strategy must be removed for eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations from both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

IT cos vie for Rs 2,000-cr defence deal

6 Jul 2009, 0345 hrs IST, Peerzada Abrar & Pankaj Mishra, ET Bureau

BANGALORE: India's biggest tech firms TCS, Wipro and Infosys, apart from business software vendors SAP and IFS Defence, are currently pursuing

contracts worth Rs 2,000 crore from the country’s defence forces, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army, who are seeking to modernise their processes and become more efficient organisations.

At least three people familiar with these contracts said both IAF and Indian Army have issued several request for proposals (RFP) inviting tech companies to bid for these projects. When contacted by ET earlier this week, officials at Indian Army and IAF confirmed that their organisations are seeking suppliers, but declined to elaborate any further.

“The main purpose is to bring efficiency and reduce cost, time and paper work. There are hundreds of IT projects going on, including one for automating human resources. We give certain projects to private companies, but there are also some projects, which are confidential and can’t be outsourced to anyone,” said an Indian Army spokesman.

An IAF spokesman, who confirmed that tech companies are bidding for these projects, said e-maintenance of assets and material management are among top projects being considered. “The significance of such projects is that it plays a key role in logistics maintenance and is vital for sustaining operational capabilities and material management. For example, if you need to change and supply critical spares for the aircraft, such IT-integrated systems can give constant update, and help us react quickly and reduce time and costs,” he said.

Two of the biggest IT projects currently underway at Indian Army and IAF are computerised inventory control project (CICP) and integrated materials management online system (IMMOS), respectively. Business software makers SAP and IFS Defence are currently exploring an integrated ERP opportunity at these organisations.

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) software will help IAF and army track and maintain the inventory, and help them become more efficient by responding to the changing needs of modern warfare. Experts, such as Ratan Shrivastava, director aerospace & defence practice at Frost & Sullivan, say both IAF and Army are now looking to prepare for changing dynamics of future warfare. Indian defence organisations have been evaluating an integrated ERP software for some time now. Bangalore-based state-owned aviation company Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is currently using IFS’ ERP software. “Apart from a packaged software from an SAP or IFS, the project would involve some system integration work, which could be done by TCS, Wipro, Infosys or HCL.”

As India’s defence forces prepare to buy equipment and gears worth almost $100 billion over the next five years, they will need a more sophisticated technology system for managing various processes. “Asset tracking is one of the important areas for the defence forces, and more importantly that needs to be integrated with a bigger enterprise system-similar to an ERP software,” said a government official familiar with defence modernisation programme. He requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

“Optimum utilisation and enhanced availability of inventory will be crucial for mobile warfare and this can be achieved by deploying a sophisticated ERP system,” he said. “You cannot have an F-18 fighter and have an archaic system for managing the inventory,” said Mr Shrivastava.

While most of the Indian tech vendors are exploring these contracts now, the country’ biggest software company TCS has been working on several IT projects with defence forces for over a decade. “TCS has been working on Army’s CICP project for over 10 years,” Mr Shrivastava added.

Officials at TCS, Infosys and Wipro did not offer comments because they are under a silent period before announcing their financial results in July.

However, given the scale and scope of these projects, any vendor aiming for defence IT contracts will have to deal with complexity. “These programmes are gigantic — the Army for instance will need to integrate thousands of its units from Agartala to Coimbatore,” said Mr Shrivastava.

Army rejoices recapture of Tiger Hill 10 years ago

10th anniversary of the battle at Drass to be celebrated on July 26

DRASS: The recapture of the Tiger Hill was a turning point in the Kargil conflict, and thereafter the Indian Army did not look back.

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the recapture of the formidable 5,062-metre-high mountain top from Pakistani Army regulars in “Operation Vijay.”

“Today is the 10th anniversary of our winning back the Tiger Hill from the Pakistani Army regulars. The Tiger Hill and Tololing range victories can be said to be the turning point of the war, since then on, there was nothing to stop the Indian Army till the war ended on July 26,” a senior officer of 56 Brigade told PTI here.

Celebrations were on at the present locations of the units that clinched the victories.

“We will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the battle at Drass on July 26, the day when the battle ended in favour of India and we wrested all our positions from the Pakistanis,” he said.

The Kargil-based 8 Mountain Division of the Indian Army is planning to honour the units, the kin of the martyrs and the gallantry award winners.

“We have invited more than 450 people, including the representatives of the units, who took part in the action, the families of the martyrs and the senior commanders of the region at that time,” 8 Mountain Division Commander Major General Suresh Khajuria said.

The Army Chief and all senior commanders would take part in the event.

Units from the regiments of 18 Grenadiers, 2 Naga and 8 Sikh were involved in the action to recapture the feature dominating the National Highway A1 (NHA1). From there, the Pakistani troops shelled Indian convoys bound for Kargil and Leh so as to disrupt the Indian supply lines towards Siachen and the whole of Ladakh region.

Two battalions launched the attack on the night of July 4-5, 1999, and by next morning, they evicted the Pakistani troops belonging to 12 Northern Light Infantry, Special Forces, Engineers and Artillery from the feature. Yogendra Yadav of 18 Grenadiers was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for gallantry in the intense battle for the peak.

Meanwhile, the Army is building strong defences to protect the troops in the Kargil-Drass sector from being hit by enemy artillery shells and heavy weapon fire at the Line of Control (LoC).

“To strengthen our defences on the ground and protect our soldiers from enemy fire, we have built strong defences, which can keep away enemy fire,” a senior Army officer at one of the forward bases on the LoC told PTI in Kargil.

“The newly-built defences are fully covered from both sides with two parallel stonewalls, a thick over-head protection which can withstand any kind of fire from the enemy,” he said.

The Army went in for these new types of defences, as stonewalls at posts facing the enemy at a close distance were not effective in sheltering the troops from the shells fired in the air-burst mode, with the splinters having caused the soldiers damage, he said. “Now even artillery shells fired in the air-burst mode would prove ineffective, as our soldiers would be fully covered in all sides,” the officer said.

At some posts in the Kargil-Dras region, Indian and Pakistani soldiers are deployed at distances as close as 50 metres.

The new defences, the officer said, had enough space for the soldiers to move along the post. “The length runs over 200 metres, covering almost the whole post, and the soldiers can move all along it with their weapons and can fire at enemy post.”

He said the new defences had various openings from where troops could retaliate in the event of shelling and firing without exposing themselves.

“We have openings from where our troops can fire at different angles and from all types of weapons in our inventory, and this will give us an edge over the enemy.”

The defences were built in two months by the battalions deployed in the post. “Various other units are also coming to have a look at the defence, and hopefully, there would be many other such defences built in the area,” he said.

As for the strengthening of the defences along the LoC, 8 Mountain Division Commander Major General S. Khajuria said: “Strengthening of posts and bunkers is a continuous process, and it is done by both the sides to improve their position.”

Every summer, both sides upgrade their bunkers to provide protection from enemy fire. — PTI

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