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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

From Today's Papers - 01 Dec 09

2 Lt-Gens face axe
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, November 30
Two top-ranking Army officers could face the axe or an inglorious exit from the force after a Court of Inquiry (CoI) has found the duo guilty of allegedly favouring a private body and issuing a 'no-objection certificate' for construction of an educational establishment adjacent to the Army base near Siliguri.

Military Secretary Lt-Gen Avadesh Prakash, who is responsible for all senior level postings of the Army, has been found guilty in the inquiry that was completed at Kolkata last week. Deputy Army Chief-designate Lt-Gen PK Rath is the other officer who has been found guilty, revealed sources here. A decision on their future is likely this week. Sources said they could either be court-martialled or allowed an 'honourable' exit — this means being on leave till retirement.
Given the way Defence Minister AK Antony had reacted when the CoI was ordered, it seems unlikely that he would allow an exit, added sources. He had made it clear that all those who are involved will be taken to task. The CoI was ordered after it was found that 33 Corps Headquarters near Darjeeling had allowed commercial use of Army land adjacent to the base. A certain distance has to be maintained from the outer perimeter of an Army base and any construction within that "barred zone" is allowed only if the Army issues an NoC. On this 70-acre chunk of land, a 300-crore unit of a Kolkata-based enterpise was to come up. The CoI found out that Lt Gen Prakash played a crucial role in the 'deal'. The General replaced the original decision of the 33 Corps, which had decided against permitting any commercial enterprises on a piece of land outside the corps headquarters near Siliguri. A forged document was used to replace the original papers in the Army files.
Sources said the clincher was when Lt-Gen PK Rath told the CoI that his actions were at the behest of Lt-Gen Prakash. The third General, who could face the music is Lt-Gen Ramesh Halgali. He has been blamed of "administrative lapses". He could escape with some major penalty.
Prakash is a principal staff officer (PSO), one of the seven senior Lt Generals who look after crucial functions of the Army and report directly to the Army chief.

Obama to Pak: Stop using insurgents as strategic tool
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington
US President Barack Obama has issued a stern warning to Pakistan that it "cannot continue" to use insurgent groups to pursue policy objectives in its neighbourhood.
The warning comes in a two-page letter from Obama, which National Security Adviser James L. Jones delivered to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in November. In the letter, Obama specifically names five extremist groups: Al-Qaida, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Toiba, and the Pakistani Taliban organisation known as Tehrik-e-Taliban. "Using vague diplomatic language, he said that ambiguity in Pakistan's relationship with any of them could no longer be ignored," the Washington Post reported. Obama sought closer collaboration with Pakistan against these groups. India will take heart from the naming of LeT, which it believes was responsible for the attacks in Mumbai over a year ago.
Jones, a retired Marine Corps general, was reportedly more blunt in his conversations with top Pakistani government and military leaders. If Pakistan cannot deliver, he warned, the US may be impelled to use any means at its disposal to rout insurgents based along Pakistan's western and southern borders with Afghanistan, the Post reported. "It's going to be a game of cat-and-mouse with them for a while," an official told the paper.
The paper said the letter from Obama also included an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India. Mindful of India's aversion for third-party mediation, Obama last week said it was "not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve all those conflicts." The President was speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The US is eager to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan in an effort to get the Pakistani army to focus its attention along the Afghan border. US officials believe Pakistan needs to do more. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said,"I think there's still room for further progress on that, obviously. There are still some in Pakistan who believe that India is their primary threat and not the extreme militant organisations that we spoke of."
Obama is expected to unveil his Afghan strategy tonight at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. While his remarks are expected to focus primarily on US commitments to Afghanistan, administration officials acknowledge that Pakistan holds the key to success. Even as Obama weighed a decision to send more US troops to Afghanistan, officials in Islamabad warned that an increased troop presence would push militants over the border into Pakistan.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, facing heat at home over the mounting British death toll in Afghanistan, also stepped up pressure on Pakistan over the weekend. In an interview with Sky News, Brown said, "Al-Qaida has a base in Pakistan... That base is still there-they are able to recruit from abroad. The Pakistan authorities must convince us that they are taking all the action that is necessary to deal with that threat."

Delhi puzzled at China's assertiveness 
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
China's objection to the Jammu and Kashmir Government building a strategic road project in Ladakh is being seen by New Delhi as another example of Beijing showing assertiveness in bilateral ties with India.

External Affairs Ministry officials declined to say anything on record on the development, but Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju said New Delhi would inquire into the matter pertaining to the work under way on the road project under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) coming to a halt after China's objection.
"We will inquire into the matter. But you know where the whole problem arises, in the different perception on the actual border (Line of Actual Control). That is why it has possibly been stopped," he said.
However, this is not the first time that China has shown this new-found aggressiveness, apparently to do some hard bargaining in the ongoing border talks with India. A few days ago, the national remote sensing agency had released satellite images of a dam being built on the Chinese side of the Brahmaputra. Speculation is also on about the ULFA cadres receiving small arms and weapons from China.
During his recent visit to Washington, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a statement, which was quite uncharacteristic of him, had said that India had taken note of the assertiveness of China which he even did not fully understand.
Official sources here pointed out that China had even ignored New Delhi's objection to issuing visas on separate sheets to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir, in what was a clear attempt by Beijing to question the status of the state. Although India had declared visas issued on separate sheets as invalid, China continued to follow the same practice in case of J&K residents.
New Delhi is quite puzzled why China chose to oppose the construction of the road, especially when India had raised no such objection while the Chinese were building a road on their side close to the LAC.
Meanwhile, the BJP, terming China's objection to the construction of the road linkas a "serious matter", has demanded that the government should take up the issue with Beijing. It said it would raise the matter in Parliament.
"If China objects to development projects within our territory, this is a serious matter and the government should take up the issue at the highest level with the Chinese Government," BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.

General TK Sapru retires
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 30
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lt Gen TK Sapru, superannuated today after 40 year of distinguished service. Commissioned into the Gorkha Rifles in 1969, he saw action on the Bangladesh front as well as the western front during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

An alumnus of the Army war College and the National Defence College, he commanded an infantry brigade in Punjab, a division in Akhnoor and a corps in Jammu and Kashmir. He also held a prestigious appointment in Directorate of Military Operations at Army Headquarters.
He had taken over the reigns of Western Command on November 1, 2007, and brought about a sea change in operational and administrative arena of the command, besides breathing new life in civil-military relations with the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.On the administration side, he strived for improving the quality of life, modern health care facilities, sports and education facilities for officers and other ranks.

Jaisalmer, November 30
A Sukhoi air superiority fighter jet of the IAF today crashed at Jetha Ki Dhani near Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan, but the two pilots bailed out to safety.This is the second Sukhoi crash of the IAF, with the first reported on April 30 this year in which the co-pilot was killed.

"A Sukhoi fighter jet crashed southwest of Pokhran in Jaisailmer district today," IAF spokesperson Wg Cdr TK Singha said in New Delhi.
IAF sources said the Sukhoi had taken off from Jodhpur at 16.45 hours for a routine training sortie and it crashed around 17.30 hours.
The aircraft was being piloted by Wg Cdr Shrivastav and assisted by a navigator in the co-pilot's seat. Both bailed out safely just before the crash, they added. — PTI

3 Indian Generals guilty of 290-crore scam
Nitin Gokhale, Monday November 30, 2009, New Delhi

It's one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit the Indian Army; now it's clear that three top generals were involved.

The case involves 70 acres of land, owned by the Army, in Siliguri in North Bengal. An army inquiry has found that the three generals colluded to lease this land to a group of businessmen for a project worth 290 crore.

The same project had been rejected by their predecessors on security grounds, pointing out that any building on this land would overlook helipads and other sensitive army installations. So the new sanction raised an alarm.

The biggest offender is Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash, the Military Secretary, one of the eight Principal Staff Officers at Army Headquarters. Being posted at the HQ, he had no jurisdiction over Siliguri. The court of inquiry says he took undue interest in the Siliguri project, possibly because of old links with businessman Dilip Agarwal. Agarwal allegedly promised General Prakash a job after his retirement in February. Sources have told NDTV that the General did not counter witnesses during the enquiry.

Prakash then pressured the then-Commander of the 33 Corps, Lieutenant General PK Rath to clear the 70-acre deal.

Sources say that Rath has confessed to having taken the decision at Gen. Prakash's behest. It is alleged that Prakash, who was in-charge of promotions at the HQ, promised Rath  a plum posting there.

And then there's Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali. At the time of the scam, he was a Major General, and deputy to Rath. He's been found guilty on administrative grounds - not giving his boss the correct advice.

But none of them faces any punishment yet as this was only a court of inquiry. The Army Headquarters and Ministry of Defence will have to take a final call whether one or more of them could face a court martial once the report reaches Delhi from the Eastern Command.

Indian army chief's comments on war irresponsible: Gilani
Press Trust of India / Islamabad November 30, 2009, 14:30 IST

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today described the Indian Army chief's comments about the possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang as "irresponsible" and said "conflicts" between Pakistan and India could only be resolved through dialogue.

Gilani made the remarks while interacting with the media before embarking on a four-day official visit to Germany and Britain.

He was responding to a question about Indian Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor's recent comment that "a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still very much a reality in the Indian subcontinent".

"Conflicts between Pakistan and India can only be resolved through dialogue and even India is aware of this," he said.

In response to another question, he said Pakistan had rendered more sacrifices than other countries in the war on terror.

Gilani described Germany as a key economic partner of Pakistan and said his visit will help boost ties between the two countries.

The premier will exchange views on bilateral ties and global and regional matters with the top leadership of Germany and Britain.

IAF Sukhoi crashes in Rajasthan, pilots safe
SUKHOI CRASH: This is the second crash of the Sukhoi combat jet since its induction 12 years ago.

New Delhi: In the second accident involving the frontline Sukhoi-30MKI of the Indian Air Force (IAF) this year, one of the Russian-origin combat jets crashed on Monday near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, but both the pilots ejected in time, an official said.

The aircraft, which took off from Bareilly airbase, was participating in a fire power demonstration.

"The aircraft crashed during an ongoing exercise. Both the pilot and the co-pilot are safe," an IAF official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The official refused to divulge more information.

This was the second crash of the Sukhoi combat jet since its induction 12 years ago. In April, a Sukhoi had crashed in Rajasthan due to the failure of its sophisticated fly-by-wire system. The pilot, Wing Commander S V Munje, and the co-pilot, Wing Commander P S Narah, had managed to bail out in time but the latter was killed after being apparently hit by the falling debris of the aircraft.

The Su-30 was inducted in 1996 and the IAF fleet currently has 98 such aircraft. This will rise to 230 by 2015.

Of the Su-30s in the IAF fleet, some were bought in flyaway condition from its Russian manufacturer while state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) manufactured the others under licence. It was not clear which category the crashed jet belonged to.

The Su-30 has won universal acclaim from the air forces of the US, Britain and France whenever it has been fielded against them in war games. Eight Su-30s had participated in the prestigious Red Flag exercise with the US Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, last year and had more than held their own against their counterparts' F/A-18 and F-16 combat jets.

Now, PLA decides on road construction in Ladakh
1 Dec 2009, 0214 hrs IST, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: In a shocking development, the Chinese Army managed to stop construction of a road at Demchok in south-east Leh in Ladakh.

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah confirmed that the 8-km stretch, which was being constructed under the NREGS, had been stopped after the Chinese army objected to the road construction in Demchok, which is on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control.

The work was stopped in the last week of October but the Centre has not even launched an inquiry into the issue till now. The only reaction from the government on Monday evening was that it would inquire into the matter. ``We will inquire into the matter. But, you know where the whole problem arises, in the different perception on the actual border. That is why it is possibly been stopped. We will look into the matter,'' minister of state for defence Pallam Raju said. Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had remarked about being confounded by the assertiveness shown by China.

After construction of around 3.8 km of the road, the Chinese Army sought a flag meeting with the Indian Army and raised strong objections to the construction of the road, which was to connect two villages in the last inhabited areas on the Line of Actual Control. Reports from the spot further said construction stopped after the Chinese Army came to the Indian side and stopped the work.

``About a month ago, the village head of Domchu informed me that they were constructing a road upstream of Domchu-nalla, well within our boundary and then the Chinese Army came from the other side and stopped the work,'' Cherring Dorjee, Chief Executive Councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Council was quoted as saying.

He further said that local residents were upset with the Chinese Army coming into Indian territory. Incidentally, this is the same area where Chinese Army soldiers had entered the Indian territory and painted rocks in Chinese. "It is the same area and the Chinese Army were actually coming to our side in the recent past. They have built a road on their side and we had no objection but this road is well within our boundary," Mr Dorjee said.

Mr Abdullah revealed that the Centre will take up the issue with the Chinese authorities.

The local population has asked the district administration for resuming work on the road.

The government's inaction on the matter is confounding especially as India has been quick to take up other issues with China. On the heels of reports of Chinese incursions, India had taken up the matter of China issuing separate visas for Kashmiris. This was followed by India objecting to China helping Pakistan in projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Probe finds proof against 4 generals in Sukna land scam
TNN 1 December 2009, 02:40am IST
NEW DELHI: After liquor, fuel and ration scandals, land scams are now exploding in the Army's face. The fate of four generals and several other officers hangs in the balance after a court of inquiry (CoI) found that a prima facie case does exist in the alleged land scam at the Sukna military station earlier this year.

Though an embarrassed Army HQ on Monday flatly refused to say anything about the CoI findings, sources say there is ``more than enough'' evidence to ``try some senior officers'' for ``gross improprieties and irregularities'' through a court-martial.

Incidentally, one of the generals questioned by the CoI, Lt-Gen Avadhesh Prakash, is among the eight principal staff officers to Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor as the military secretary at the Army HQ here.
Moreover, the appointment of another general, Lt-Gen P K Rath, as the new Army deputy chief (information systems and training) from November 1 has already been cancelled by the defence ministry, as reported by TOI earlier.

Lt-Gen Rath was `attached' to the CoI at the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command in October because he was the commander of the crucial 33 Corps based in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, under which the Sukna military station comes, when the alleged land scam took place.

Lt-Gen Rath's then deputy, Lt-Gen Ramesh Halgali, who is commanding the 11 Corps at Jalandhar at present, and some other officers in the `chain in command' have also apparently been indicted by the CoI.
Incidentally, another CoI is being conducted into alleged financial irregularities in the construction of a war memorial and museum renovation at the Ranikhet-based Kumaon Regimental Centre.

While the centre commandant Brigadier Bhupinder Singh is being questioned in this CoI, Lt-Gen Prakash â€" interestingly enough â€" also happens to be the `Colonel of the Kumaon Regiment'.

Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, has asked the Army to fix responsibility in the land scam, which revolves around the grant of a no-objection certificate (NoC) on February 6 to a business group and private education trust, which posed as an affiliate of the Ajmer-based Mayo College, to acquire a 70-acre tea estate adjacent to the Sukna military station.

Incidentally, Army authorities had initially rejected the NoC to the Kolkata-based business group on the grounds of security but the decision was later overturned when Lt-Gen Rath was the 33 Corps commander. Even documents were apparently forged to help the business group to start a Rs 300-crore venture on the land in question.

Antony, in fact, has warned the Army that such cases ``not only damage the Indian Army's image'' but also ``adversely affect the ability of senior officers to measure up to the expectations of the men they lead''.

The minister expressed the worry that the involvement of senior officers in such cases would ``weaken the ability of the armed forces to ably handle ever-increasing security challenges''. The Army should, therefore, ensure that a loud and clear message is sent that corruption will be ``dealt with absolute sternness and promptness''.

The declining standards of probity and discipline in armed forces have been underlined by a series of meat, cereal, liquor and fuel scandals. So much so that a major-general has faced the music for even sexual harassment in recent times.

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