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Thursday, 22 October 2009

From Today's Papers - 22 Oct 09

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Kashmir Times


Times of India

China’s Ladakh rail plans raise concern
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 21
China’s plans to build a rail network in the Aksai Chin area have raised security concerns here. According to sources in the intelligence, a new railway line across Ladakh is being constructed, which would help support Chinese forces deployed opposite Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh.

Sources said there were reports of a 15-odd kilometre stretch between Kashgar and Hotan being completed. Kashgar is the western-most railhead in China and was linked to the mainstream network only in 2000. Hotan is an adjacent prefecture (sub-district) to its south.

The new tracks would enhance the logistics capability of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and, given its location of lying close to the communally sensitive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Ladakh and Central Asia, would increase the strategic significance of the area.

Kashgar is important because Chinese units deployed in the Ali Military subdistrict across Himachal Pradesh are known to be sustained though this junction. Moreover, sources also indicate the construction of a broad-gauge across the strategically significant Kunjerab and Minloka passes that connect the Gilgit-Baltristan areas with Xinjiang.

This could be the extension of the South Xinjiang branch of Lanxing railway, which at present terminates at Kashgar, marking a rail link into Pakistan and thereafter connecting up to the Karachi coastline.

Complementing the rail network, authorities in the Xinjiang Uijgur Autonomous Region are investing about $800 million to construct a new highway to speed up the development of infrastructure.

It is believed by intelligence analysts that the recent emphasis on improving communications could be due to unrest in Xinjiang to enable faster deployment of troops.

The railway is the primary mode of transporting troops across the Chinese mainland and some recent rail projects across Tibet and those reaching up to Nepal have already raised serious concerns.

China validated its rail logistics capability during the recent two-month long Exercise Kuayue - 2009, when it moved about 50,000 troops across five provinces in 13 days.

Noticeably, it was not the infantry but mechanised formations along with much of their heavy equipment that were transported. From Shangyang, Jinnan, Guangzhou and Lanzhou military regions.

China is also believed to have introduced a laser beam combat simulator besides testing its capability to disrupt electronic communication networks with active support from its air force.

Our relations with India are good: Chinese envoy
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 21
Notwithstanding the recent verbal exchanges between them over Arunachal Pradesh and other issues, India and China were today busy creating a positive atmosphere for a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao on the margins of the ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

Briefing reporters on Manmohan Singh’s visit to the South East Asian nation from October 23 to 25, N Ravi, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, clearly indicated that there would be a meeting between the two Prime Ministers at which all bilateral issues would come up. The meeting with the Chinese leader was planned, but the date had not yet been fixed.

In Beijing, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said the two leaders would meet in Thailand and discuss “bilateral relations, and regional and international issues”. On its part, China also sought to play down the recent unsavoury developments in ties with India, saying the leaders of the two countries were committed to advance ties in a “cooperative and mutually beneficial” manner.

According to Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan, there was no need to be worried or concerned about the recent trading of charges between the two countries on Arunachal Pradesh or China’s participation in projects being undertaken by Islamabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). “Our relationship is on a very good term and our leaders and officers-in-charge, including the Chinese Embassy, are committed to advance our relationship in a cooperative and mutually beneficial way,” the Chinese envoy said.

Meanwhile, apart from meeting his Chinese counterpart, the PM will also hold bilateral talks with leaders of other nations attending the ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit being held at Hua Hin.

PM’s call to forces
No room for complacency in tackling terror

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s call to defence services commanders to be ready to face any form of terrorism in the wake of regular intelligence reports of possible terror strikes is pertinent in view of the uncertain security scenario in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan. That there is no room for complacency is beyond question and it is apt that Dr Manmohan Singh has emphasised it strongly at the senior commanders’ conference. It is not enough that there has been no major terror incident after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Lowering our guard because of this would be most ill-advised because the dangers are still lurking. Significantly, Dr Manmohan Singh made it clear in his address that both state and non-state actors were involved in the business of terrorism, an obvious allusion to the dubious role that Pakistan’s army and the ISI have been playing in fanning terror.

The Prime Minister’s emphasis on evolving proper procedures for defence acquisitions and procurement reflect his concern over lack of public accountability in defence purchases. Considering that the progressive increase in revenue expenditure, which is largely accounted for by salaries and pensions, leaves just over one-third of the defence outlay for modernisation, it is important that this amount be judiciously spent. The Indian armed forces have suffered greatly due to lack of spending on modernisation over the last couple of decades and it is indeed vital that new weapons systems be acquired speedily so that the country keeps pace with substantial military acquisitions in the neighbourhood. Coupled with this is the need for the armed forces to attract talent on a larger scale. It is no secret that the brightest youth are turning away from the forces and there is a shortage of officers that cannot be ignored. The Prime Minister’s advice to senior commanders to ensure that these men and women constantly upgrade their skills and remain ahead of the technology curve deserves to be followed in entirety.

Clearly, there was an undertone of urgency in the Prime Minister’s interaction with senior commanders. His call for better synergy among services to combat the serious challenge posed by all forms of terror including ‘aggravated militancy’ should galvanize the entire security apparatus of the country to meaningful action.

Border dispute with China will be resolved amicably: Pranab

Press Trust of India / New Delhi October 21, 2009, 15:53 IST

Downplaying the recent war of words with China, India today expressed confidence that the boundary dispute with it will be resolved amicably through dialogue.

These recriminations over the border are "not sudden", Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told PTI while pointing out that such issues have been cropping up earlier also as China has not accepted the McMohan Line since 1914.

Mukherjee, who held the External Affairs Ministry portfolio in the previous UPA government, disagreed when it was suggested that China had been "strident" recently while India's response was being perceived as soft.

"Whenever they make any comment, our response is measured and as it should be. Chinese comments on the Prime Minister's visit to Arunachal is not for the first time. And even after that comment was made, I visited Arunachal. After coming from there, I said that Arunachal is an integral part of India," he said.

On the prospect of resolving the boundary question with China, he said "I am quite confident that all border disputes will be resolved through discussions, amicably".

On Chinese objections to the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh recently to address an election rally, the senior Congress leader said "Prime Minister is the leader of the ruling party, therefore it is quite appropriate that he will go and canvass for his party candidates (during elections)."

"Even earlier when the Prime Minister went (to Arunachal), they (China) made that comment. When I first visited Tawang, some of the Chinese newspapers brought out the story that India's Foreign Minister is visiting Southern Tibet," Mukherjee said, while noting that "Time to time, they have raised this issue (of Arunachal)".

Asked about the reason for sudden "acrimony" between India and China recently over Arunachal Pradesh, he said, "I would say that it is not sudden because 1914 onwards China has never accepted McMohan Line... They have protested then and they protested later."

Making it clear that China has no claim over Arunachal, the Finance Minister said it was a historical fact the state has been a part of India since colonial times.

After India became a Republic, Arunachal has been sending its elected representatives to Parliament regularly.

"...Now, everybody has the liberty to make comment. But as far as the international law of standard and practices (goes), we respond the way we should respond and we have responded," he said.

"That is the practice in India. That is the practice in every parliamentary form in any part of the world," the Finance Minister added.

US would maintain its nuclear arsenal: Clinton

October 22, 2009 01:24 IST

Even as the Obama [ Images ] administration has started pushing for the ambitious goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons, United States' Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [ Images ] on Wednesday said the US would maintain its nuclear deterrence.

In her major foreign policy speech on nuclear non-proliferation, Clinton said the administration believes that the US must maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defence of its allies and partners, while it pursues such a vision of elimination of nuclear weapons.

"As the president has acknowledged, we might not achieve the ambition of a world without nuclear weapons, in our lifetime or successive life times. But we believe that pursuing this vision will enhance our national security and international stability," Clinton said in her speech at the US Institute of Peace.

All countries, she said, have an obligation, to help address the challenges posed by nuclear weapons, beginning with the nuclear weapons states. "As the permanent members of the security council and the only nuclear weapons states recognised by the Non Proliferation Treaty, we all have a responsibility to stop the erosion of the non- proliferation regime and to address the current crisis of compliance in which some countries apparently feel they can violate their obligations and defy the United Nations Security Council with impunity," Clinton said.

Clinton said the non-nuclear-weapons states also have a responsibility to work to prevent further proliferation. "That responsibility does not end with their decision to forgo their own weapons ambitions and accept safeguards to demonstrate the sincerity of that decision," she said.

It must continue with active participation and resolute efforts to impede additional countries from crossing the nuclear threshold, because their own security and well-being are profoundly affected by the outcome of such efforts. All states with nuclear materials or technology have a responsibility to protect them against theft or illicit transfer, she said.

"If all countries step up to these responsibilities as we are doing, we can revitalise the non-proliferation regime for decades to come," Clinton said.

"The cornerstone of that regime, the NPT, remains sound and need not be altered. But, as we have done for 40 years, we must build on that essential foundation by supplementing the treaty and updating the overall regime with measures designed to confront emerging challenges," she said.

Clinton said the administration's blueprint for its efforts is based on the hard day-to-day work of active diplomacy; confronting proliferates; strengthening the capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency and ensuring that all nations abide by the rights and obligations of the nonproliferation regime.

Negotiating a new treaty with Russia [ Images ] to reduce our nuclear arsenal, seeking ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty and prompt negotiation of a fissile-material cutoff treaty are other priorities.

Undertaking a review of the role of nuclear weapons in the United States's defense strategy, and supporting budgetary priorities that guarantee the safety and effectiveness of its deterrent are also the administration's priorities.

Well aware of the difficult road ahead to uphold the NPT, restore the international non-proliferation consensus and reinvigorate the global non-proliferation regime, Clinton said progress will not be easy.

"At times, our achievements may seem incomplete and unsatisfying. But we are committed to seeing this through. And we believe the world is depending on our success," she said.

"The reality is that the nuclear threat cannot be checked by US acting alone. Whether we seek to prevent the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials, establish a new international framework for civil nuclear energy cooperation, increase the IAEA's budget or persuade governments with nuclear weapons' ambitions to abandon their quest, we can only achieve our goals through cooperation with others," she said.

Ex-officer denied facilities at Army hospitals
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 21
A 65-year-old former Army Captain was denied medical treatment at various military hospitals, forcing him to turn to private institutions in Delhi and elsewhere.

Speaking to The Tribune over the phone from Dehradun, where he was recently moved out of the ICU in a private hospital, Capt Harbans Bhatia, a Short Service Commission (SSC) officer said he was not entertained at the military hospitals on the grounds that he was not drawing any pension.

Orders issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Army Headquarters state that the SSC and Emergency Commission (EC) officers are entitled for treatment at military hospitals, where as the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) claim otherwise. Letters issued by the Command Headquarters to military hospitals have directed them to extend facilities to the SSC and EC officers till the matter is resolved by the MoD.

Capt Bhatia, who had taken part in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, said he had arguments with the hospital authorities and had shown copies of the relevant orders. He was thereafter allowed treatment on a few occasions, but again was turned out when the officers concerned moved out on posting.

Brigadier Gakhal said the DGAFMS’s claim that ex-servicemen should be drawing a pension of some kind in order to avail treatment is misinterpreted, as the condition is only applicable to families of deceased personnel. Non-pensioners can avail facilities during their lifetime whereas their families would be eligible only if they received some pension after their death.

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