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Monday, 17 August 2009

From Today's Papers - 17 Aug 09

Asian Age

Asian Age

Asian Age

Indian Express

The Daily Pioneer

Indian Express

Asian Age

The Daily Pioneer

The Daily Pioneer

Asian Age


The Daily Pioneer

Army was caught off guard over Kargil: Tipnis

PM to chair meet of CMs on internal security today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 16
The chief ministers’ conference on internal security, scheduled for tomorrow, will assess the level of preparedness to counter terrorism and other security threats and is expected to be a stormy affair. The meet, which will be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will also review the steps taken to bolster the capability of security forces to meet internal security challenges as also the preparedness for rebuffing any terrorist attacks.

The conference will focus on operational preparedness of the ‘quick response’ teams, strengthening the states’ special branches and intelligence wings, steps to tackle the counterfeit currency menace, draw up guidelines for security at places with large footfalls, police reforms and better police-community interaction besides issues concerning border management. Coastal security including operationalisation of new interceptor boats will also be taken up.

At a separate session issues related to left-wing extremism will be discussed by CMs of seven Naxal-affected states - Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal, who will interact with the home minister. The contours of the new force that is to be set up for areas hit by the Naxal insurgency are likely to emerge.

The daylong meet will also take stock of implementation of the decisions taken at the last chief ministers’ conference held on January 6.

N Korea threatens retaliation over US, UN sanctions

Seoul, August 16
North Korea today threatened “merciless retaliation” against the US and South Korea over sanctions imposed on the communist regime, as a US envoy prepared to visit Asia to push for their implementation.

The warning came in response to an annual computer-simulated war game Seoul and Washington will kick off Monday, which North Korea sees as preparations for an invasion. The US and South Korea say the maneuvers are purely defensive.

“Should the US imperialists and the Lee Myung-bak group threaten the (North) with nukes, it will retaliate against them with nukes,” said a North Korean military statement reported today by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency, referring to South Korea’s president by name.

Despite the North’s recent conciliatory gestures of freeing two detained US journalists and a South Korean worker, tensions continue on the divided Korean peninsula mainly over the North’s nuclear programme.

The US is moving to enforce UN as well as its own sanctions against North Korea to punish its second nuclear test in May and a series of missile tests.

The UN sanctions strengthened an arms embargo and authorized ship searches on the high seas to try and rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The sanctions also ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals allegedly involved. — AP

Heavy exchange of fire on Indo-Pak border

The Border Security Forces troops on Sunday foiled a pre-dawn infiltration bid by suspected militants in Ramgarh in Samba district on the Indo-Pak border in Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] after a heavy exchange of fire with the ultras, prompting India to lodge a protest with the neighbouring nation over the incident.

The militants were spotted around 0105 hrs. Heavy exchange of fire continued till 0145 hours. The militants escaped back from the spot towards Pak side, Deputy Inspector General of BSF, J B Sagwan told PTI on phone from the incident spot.

"There was no casualty on the BSF side," he said adding, "There is no confirmation of the dead of injured on militants' side."

A group of militants entered into the Indian side via the international border and BSF troops picked up their movement one km away from the border fencing at Balrah Border Out Post in Ramgarh sub-sector of Samba district, Sagwan explained.

On being challenged by the troops, the militants fired on the post, he said adding, the BSF troops also retaliated.

BSF has lodged a protest over the incident with their counterparts -- Pakistan rangers. "We have lodged a verbal protest with the Pakistani counterparts. Pak rangers told us they had not fired on the spot at all...It may be militants", the DIG said.

A formal commanders' level flag meeting would take place at the border out-post to seek explanation from the Pak rangers after presenting them details of the firing.

Ruling out any infiltration of the armed militants in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of the attempt, Sagwan said, "There is hardly any possibility of infiltration. There is fencing and the Bansatar river is swollen with the flood waters, which is difficult to cross."

However, vigilance has been increased along the IB, Listening and Observation posts have been alerted and night patrols intensified to foil the militant's plan.

Soon after the incident, BSF, army and police launched cordon and search operations in the entire border belt of Ramgarh sub-sector.

There is nearly 210 Kms of International border which runs from Malu in Akhnoor (Jammu district) to Pahpur in Punjab [ Images ] via Samba and Kathua districts.

While 201 Kms have been fenced with three-tier border fencing, as many as 198 Kms have been flood lit.

India-Pakistan relations
A change of mindset required
by Paramjit S. Sahai

If anything Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proved in the Lok Sabha debate on July 29 was that he stood committed to what had been stated in the Indo-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh on July 16.

He invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee, both in letter and spirit, in his defence. Was it an attempt to bring about a consensus on the foreign policy debate, which was now lacking or simply a tactical approach to tell the adversaries that they were not ‘walking their talk’.

The Prime Minister got a golden opportunity to spell out his vision on India-Pakistan relations in three words: ‘trust but verify’, while recognising the inevitability of the dialogue process to usher in peace, security and development for not only India and Pakistan but also South Asia as a whole.

In the process, he widened his appeal and message to people in South Asia as people on both sides would like to reap the peace dividend in terms of economic development and prosperity.

The debate in Parliament did not question the gospel truth that cooperative development, peace and security between India and Pakistan have to follow the dialogue process. War was not a solution and even if it were a solution, it does not produce lasting peace.

The whole debate, however, focussed on the tactics to be adopted. Was it a wise decision to delink the dialogue process from the Pakistani delivery on terrorism? Why was a paragraph on Balochistan allowed to be inserted, giving Pakistan a countervailing weight vis-à-vis Kashmir, while we gloated on the omission of Kashmir? Added to this was the issue of India bartering away its sovereignty on the end user agreement with the United States.

While the Prime Minister made a staunch defence of the India-Pakistan joint statement, he also made a tactical retreat, in reiterating that no meaningful dialogue could take place unless Pakistan delivered on terrorism.

It is likely that partial delivery from Pakistan in the form of their first official admission of their involvement in the planning and execution of the Mumbai terrorist attack of 26/11 by Pakistanis carried the day in the drafting of the statement. Despite the Prime Minister’s strong defence, he failed to carry the Opposition with him as they continued seeing the situation from their own prism.

The moot question is: Are we fighting a tactical battle and forgetting our strategic goals? In approaching Pakistan, do we have to score brownie points on the fine print in the Sharm el-Sheikh statement, as to whether we are getting ‘a mile for an inch’? We have to be steadfast in our determination to win Pakistan, ensure its stability and wean it from terrorism. This is equally in our self-interest.

India’s approach, therefore, has to be in line with our grand vision towards Pakistan, allowing us to make tactical changes, while we continue pursuing our strategic goals. We can do so if Pakistan sees India as a friend and is equally prepared to go more than half the way, like India is willing to do so, as reiterated by the Indian Prime Minister.

We cannot do so, unless we build a consensual approach domestically. The problem becomes acute if the Congress party also joins hands with the Opposition. It needed Sonia Gandhi’s directive before the Congress party’s hand started endorsing the Prime Minister’s approach.

Are we any wiser, consequent to the parliamentary debate, in approaching Pakistan? The debate spawned a number of important issues, which need to be carefully considered. We do not have to make the water muddier at home and ensure that we do not lose sight of long-term goals for short-term debating victories.

The Congress has to avoid a direct, open and confrontationist role vis-à-vis the government. There are other ways to rein in the Prime Minister. Perhaps, equally important for India is not to jettison the summitry process, by taking shelter under the legalistic jargon to run away from the commitments made by devaluating the importance of the joint statement.

Similarly, Parliament, which has a rightful role to play on foreign policy issues should not behave like the US Congress so long we have a parliamentary system of democracy.

What is the way ahead? We have to get out of the box and not continue placing ourselves in a tight-jacket tactical approach as happened immediately after the 26/11. We have to evolve a dynamic foreign policy, which is responsive to the changing times and situations.

We cannot afford to speak with multiple voices, even though we are a multicultural society, if we want India’s voice to be heard in international portals as India starts playing a major role.

The need of the hour is to develop a national consensus on foreign policy under the critical eye of the Opposition with Parliament playing the role of a watchdog. The initiative has to rest with the government, which has to enter into dialogue domestically, as it approaches Pakistan.

Dr Manmohan Singh has to show the courage to sell his vision on India-Pakistan as he did it in the case of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement. He should continue remaining out of the box, after having come out of it.

The Gilani-Manmohan Singh meeting had already begun the dialogue process, although it was not a ‘composite dialogue’. India-Pakistan relations cannot be built on legally binding documents, but on trust, for which we need a change of mindset.

The larger interest of the people in South Asia demands that India and Pakistan live in peace and friendship. Dialogue is, therefore, in our national interest.

Hopefully, the leaders would not only hear but heed this call. This can happen if there is greater connectivity as through communication alone we can produce better understanding. Let the fresh breeze blow through open windows, as was stated by Mahatma Gandhi.

The writer is a former Ambassador

Military pact provokes stir

16 August 2009

Reports in the Indian media about a military pact to provide the Maldives with surveillance and security have caused a stir, with the opposition expressing concern over threats to national security and territorial integrity.

Two Indian papers, The Indian Express and The Hindu, reported last week that the Indian Defence Minister A K Antony would be finalising an agreement to connect the Maldives with India’s security grid during a trip this week.

At a news conference today, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed stressed that there was a longstanding military cooperation between the two countries.

“The difference is that the dangers to the Maldives have increased. Somalian pirates have attacked boats in the Seychelles area. So should we wait until they attack a boat in the Male’ harbour before we call India? That is not sensible,” he said.

According to the two Indian articles, the range of “exclusive” security measures to be provided include two permanently based helicopters, the establishment of 26 radars to provide surveillance coverage, which will be fed into an Indian command centre as well as joint naval and army exercises.

But, speaking to Minivan News today, Muiz Adnan, state minister of defence, said he did not have any details about the agreement.

“As far as the defence ministry knows there is no agreement, which is to be employed in the near future...but there’s definitely a lot of cooperation,” he said.

He added details had been provided earlier this month. Speaking at a press conference, Major Mohamed Ibrahim, coast guard director, said ten islands had been surveyed for radar systems and the Indian government pledged two helicopters.

"Not new"

Shaheed spoke of an incident in April 2008, when a Maldivian fishing vessel was shot at and Indian intelligence and military assistance was sought.

“It was believed to be a vessel carrying arms for the Tamil tigers,” he said. “So these things...that we need for our defence forces and expert cooperation from India, it is not new.”

He further noted the Indian government came to the Maldives’ rescue following the 1988 coup attempt.

Ibrahim “Mavota” Shareef, special envoy for the main opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), said members of his party were still discussing what action to take as the agreement was yet to be made public.

“We would say if it’s military assistance as Dr Shaheed claims, then it’s no problem, but as the Indian papers is a defence pact,” he said. “There are military alliances between other friendly’s quite a normal process in international relations.”

But, he continued, the alleged “exclusivity” of the arrangement was unconstitutional and a threat to the country’s sovereignty. “A nation’s sovereignty involves its ability to enter into agreements with any other sovereign nation as it wishes,” he said.

Mavota added the matter had not yet received parliamentary approval. Article 93 of the constitution stipulates all treaties entered into by the executive with foreign states must be endorsed by parliament.

At today’s press conference, Shaheed denied the exclusivity of the agreement.

“We are not talking about any secret deals here,” said Shaheed. “I don’t understand what this fuss is about. I think people should see what’s being discussed before they respond to an article in a newspaper.”

He further dismissed the two news articles as pandering to an Indian audience to boost national confidence in India’s rivalry with China.

Shaheed emphasised the process was initiated by the Maldivian government several years ago as India was viewed as a “potential patron” for security.

Indo-Sino rivalry

Shaheed added the agreement would not impair relations with other countries such as China.

“We must look at the world through the SAARC lens and that tells you India is the preponderant power...Beijing will always be that much more distant than New Delhi,” he said.

Andrew Small, a transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an American public policy institution, said he believed the agreement was an extension of India’s “listening capacity” further down the Indian Ocean.

He said China’s position in Sri Lanka would have prompted India to move quickly to consolidate its security relationship with the Maldives. Further, such a security alliance was not abnormal.

As part of its geopolitical manoeuvring, China is building a US$1 billion port in Hambantota in Sri Lanka and is now acknowledged to have supplied the Sri Lankan government with arms during the civil war.

“The questions that need to be asked are what are the terms of the agreement for sharing information? Who controls the information and is it uni-directional?” said Small.

Mohamed Zuhair, press secretary at the president’s office, said any engagement with India would be mutual.

While it was in India’s interests to monitor the region to protect itself against piracy and a repeat of the Mumbai attacks which took place in November last year, information gathered would be shared, he said.

“We can never be complacent when it comes to security matters and have to be prepared for any eventuality,” he said.

The youth and the Uniform

Indian army along with the rest of the nation paid homage to the brave martyrs of the Kargil War. Army known for bravery and a high level of patriotism but is still disappearing from the list of viable career options for the Indian youth

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 11:27:53 IST

A FEW weeks back, the Indian army along with the rest of the nation paid homage to the brave martyrs of the Kargil War. The occasion was the tenth anniversary of Indian victory over Pakistani military insurgence. A report by one of the television channels had relatives of a few martyrs who pledged to send their children to the army and protect the motherland. While these words sound exceedingly appropriate with the bagpipe notes in the background and successfully touch the chords of the average armchair patriot, the reality seems to be a little different.

Defense services, say the army has always carried the connotations of bravery, greatness, glory and a high level of patriotism. The Indian film industry has left no stone unturned to establish the same. Be it JP Dutta’s Border, or Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya, (both very different in treatment and approach) made heroes out of army men. However, in spite of all the hero worship and the words of glory, the youth doesn’t quite look at the Army (the fourth largest in the world) as a viable career option.

In the year 2008, the Indian army faced a dire shortage of officers. While the Indian Military Academy enlisted only 86 trainee officers, there was room for 250 in total. So, where is the appeal gone missing? Where is the fanfare and patriotism? Does that imply that the youth is not patriotic, or that it doesn’t take the army as the only (or may be any) option to express its patriotic feelings? Like every other government run sector, the army too has had to lose possible recruits to private firms.

But are money and material possessions the only incentives for young India to turn away from Defense? Another bit of statistics would reveal that 62 out of 148 graduates who passed a separate military entrance test opted out preferring jobs in the private sector. What is still more worrying is that nearly 3,000 mid-level commanders sought early retirement. Thus, the exit process has been two way. However, according to the army Chief, the quality of the ones freshly applying is below expectation. While the army is not ready to compromise on quality, one might ask where the true soldier has vanished?

Let us look at it from the point of view of an everyday college graduate. In the times of MBAs and MNCs, where within four semesters the pay package offered is unbelievable and the perks attached only make life more comfortable, a solitary army life, difficult training period and comparatively insignificant salary in most cases do not stand a chance in a personal choice. While one has to wait for at least ten years to be promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, private sector promises quicker hikes, which are performance based. In fact, most of the officers who opt out of the army enlist in one of the business schools. The facts are indeed alarming.

What is poignant here is that pay packages just form a part of the whole problem. In the recent years, army has attracted a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. Corruption, lack of transparency, stringent hierarchy, imbalance in lifestyle compared to a civilian life, suicide, harassment (both sexual and otherwise) show the darker side of an otherwise impeccable trade. Living alone, away from friends and family in some of the most hostile of Indian terrains has a mental strain. Top it up with a high handed senior and you got a fratricide or a suicide. In 2006, the then Chief of Army staff General JJ Singh stated that on an average the army reports a hundred suicide a year.

The year 2009 has seen a total of 41 suicides/fratricides in the army till date. In spite of many stress relieving measures taken by the government, the death toll in on the rise. Recently, Defense Minister AK Anthony owned up to eleven case of sexual harassment in the army in the last five years. These figures are the ones reported and are just a scratch on the surface. Woman officers are a relatively new inclusion in the Indian army. The year 2006 saw two woman officers taking their lives. Lt Sushmita Chakraborty and Maj Sobha Rani shot themselves for reasons unknown.

In the times when globalisation is on a final rung of evolution and varied professions claim majority of the young population, such incidents not only question the credibility of a defense life but also take away the glamour. However, there are many a brave hearts that still look up to the institution with respect and join it to be a part of the legacy. For them the salary and the perks do not stand up to the thrill and the pride of being a soldier does. It is for that handful that the poet wrote:

“Theirs not to reason why

Theirs but to do and die”

(The Charge of the Light Brigade, Alfred Tennyson)

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