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Friday, 15 January 2010

From Today's Papers -

Haiti: Indian peacekeepers safe
Death toll in quake over 1 lakh
India to give
$1m aid

New Delhi: India has decided to give earthquake-hit Haiti one million dollars in cash for immediate and emergency relief purposes. The government is deeply saddened at the death and destruction caused by the earthquake, an External Affairs Ministry release said. It said communications with Haiti were currently difficult. The Ministry is in contact with the Indian Embassy in Havana, which is concurrently accredited to Haiti, to ascertain the welfare of other Indian nationals. — TNS
Port-Au-Prince (Haiti)/New Delhi, January 14
The 150-odd Indian peacekeepers working under the United Nations in quake-devastated Haiti were safe, but the fate of many other Indians, including Missionaries of Charity nuns, was not known yet, an official said on Thursday.

According to a senior Ministry of External Affairs official, the 150-odd Indian peacekeepers working under the UN were safe and had already started to help in rescue efforts in the country. But the fate of 40-50 Indian families, including several nuns working with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity who live scattered around the islands, was still not known. “There is no news of them,” said the official.
Meanwhile, over 100,000 people were feared dead in Haiti after the calamitous earthquake razed homes, hotels, schools and hospitals, leaving the capital in ruins and bodies strewn in streets.
A massive aid operation swung into action, with rescue teams set to fly in from across the globe to try to pull victims from the debris, bringing desperately-needed medicines and food, as a humanitarian crisis unfolded.
Casualty figures were impossible to calculate, but Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the final death toll from the 7.0 quake could be “well over 100,000”.
President Rene Preval said: “Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed.” He said head of the UN mission to Haiti, Hedi Annabi, was killed when the UN headquarters collapsed. UN officials could not confirm that, but said at least 14 of its staffers were dead, 56 were injured and a further 150 were missing.
With thousands of people missing, dazed survivors in torn clothes wandered through the rubble as more than 30 aftershocks rocked the ramshackle capital, where more than two million people live, most in extreme poverty.
Some injured survivors wore makeshift slings and blood-soaked bandages. One woman was carried on a bit of debris used as a stretcher, past piles of smashed concrete, from which crushed bodies protruded. A second long night in the open beckoned for tens of thousands of people with nowhere to sleep, and no tools but their bare hands to try to rescue trapped compatriots.
Fanning safety fears in the crime-hit capital, the United Nations said the main prison had collapsed, allowing some inmates to flee into a city. — AFP/IANS

Darjeeling Land Scam
Army chief promises action
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14
After facing media accusations of inaction in the “Darjeeling land scam”, involving senior Army Generals, Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor today promised “due action” and made it clear that “the culture and ethos of the Army have to be retained at the highest level.”

Dispensation of justice will, however, not be swayed by external considerations like “personal biases” and “media pressure”, the Chief of the Army said while addressing a press conference on the eve of the Army Day function here this evening. He accepted that the land scam-type of the incidents “dent the image of the Army but such aberrations are corrected”.
Refusing to elaborate on the findings of the COI, General Kapoor said it was his responsibility to “dispense justice that is fair, just and based on facts of the case and also takes into account the culpability of the individuals involved”. A set of directions have been issued, the General said, adding that disciplinary proceedings were on and it would not be proper for him to comment on the case.
In reply to a question if there was a rift between the Army top brass over the recent court of inquiry in the land scam, General Kapoor said “There cannot be a rift between a senior officer and his junior. Once a senior orders, that has to be followed… that is the culture of the Army.”
In what was an obvious reference to his immediate junior, the GOC-In-Chief, Eastern Command, Lt Gen VK Singh, the Army chief said: “A rift can not be between two people who are not at the same level of hierarchy”.
The Army Chief denied reports that China had encroached upon any land in Ladakh. “Let me assure the nation there is no change in the LAC,” he said.
Commenting on Jammu and Kashmir, he said in 2009, the infiltration was higher while 57 persons infiltrated in 2008, the number rose to 110 by November 30 last. The infrastruture across the Line of Control in Pakistan was intact.
He defended his statement on the Indian Army readying itself for two front war - with Pakistan and China, saying that “it was the duty of the Army to prepare itself… any professional military man looks at all challenges that come in its way… we have a doctrine and that has to be reviewed”. We have to update it.
The Army Chief expressed concern over the force’s “night blindness” in the area of armoured corps and mechanised infantry.
“My major concern is that night blindness of the Army is removed so we are able to fight during the night as during the day,” General Kapoor said.

Army Chief defends stand on corruption scam
NDTV Correspondent, Thursday January 14, 2010, New Delhi

First, it was corruption among some of the country's most senior generals that embarrassed the Army Chief, General Deepak Kapoor. Now, it's his own actions that have him on the defensive.

Kapoor has been accused of doing far too little to punish the general at the centre of a land scam. Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash was indicted by an army inquiry of being the "main facilitator" and using his office to help a businessman acquire land that the army had earlier reserved for itself in Siliguri in Assam. The army's inquiry recommended that Prakash be sacked. The Army chief is taking his own time and has asked General Prakash for an explanation so far. Prakash has two weeks to rely. The chief can either let him go or punish him after that.

In Delhi, on Thursday, despite the pressure and criticism he's facing, Kapoor did not commit to a stronger stand.

General Kapoor said it was his responsibility to "dispense justice that is firstly fair, secondly just and based on facts of the case and thirdly it takes into account the culpability of the individuals involved."

"Fourthly," he said, "justice that is not swayed by external considerations-- be it personal biases or media pressure or any other aspect. And perhaps that is the right way to dispense justice."

India, France ratify N-treaty
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14
India and France today exchanged the instruments of ratification of the agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, bringing into force the historic deal that will give French nuclear companies a head start over other nations in participating in India’s nuclear energy programme.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont exchanged the documents to give effect to the accord that was signed in Paris on September 30, 2008, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to France.
“As responsible states with advanced nuclear technologies, France and India intend to develop a multiform civil nuclear cooperation covering a wide range of activities, including nuclear power projects, R&D, nuclear safety, education and training,” the External Affairs Ministry and the French Embassy here said.
The two countries were hopeful that the entry into force of the agreement would give a new impetus to the Indo-French partnership and would contribute to further strengthening the deep ties of friendship and long-standing cooperation between the two countries.
Days after India secured a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group on September 6, 2008, after 34 years of nuclear isolation, France became the first country to ink a civil nuclear accord with India.
The French Parliament unanimously approved the accord in November last year, paving the way for participation of French companies in India’s nuclear energy sector.
France-based nuclear conglomerate Areva has been allocated the nuclear project site at Jaitapur, in Maharashtra, to construct two nuclear power plants initially. Each of the two power plants to be built in Jaitapur will have a capacity of 1,600 MW.
India has signed civil nuclear pacts with seven countries - the US, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Argentina and Mongolia.
A nuclear pact with Canada has also been finalised, which is expected to be signed later this year. Similarly, a nuclear accord with Britain is also in the pipeline.

Will Shyam Saran succeed Narayanan as NSA?
January 15, 2010 01:18 IST
In a major change in power equations in New Delhi [ Images ], National Security Advisor M K Narayanan may be stepping down to give way to Shyam Saran, who is at present Prime Minister's special envoy for Climate Change.

According to a national daily, Narayanan is tipped to take over as Governor of either West Bengal [ Images ] or Maharashtra [ Images ].

A high-level source in the government said Saran is the strongest contender to succeed Narayanan.

A former foreign secretary, Saran led the team that negotiated the Indo-US nuclear deal. His appointment will end the all-powerful Narayanan's tenure, which witnessed many important events of contemporary history.

After the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai [ Images ], Narayanan had come under attack. The evident failure of security -- internal and external -- during the audacious attack by the terrorists had weakened his position.

However, he was always considered a Gandhi family "insider". It is believed that he enjoys the complete trust of Congress President Sonia Gandhi [ Images ]. It was to Narayanan's credit that he proved his immense usefulness to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after his appointment as National Security Advisor. He succeeded J N Dixit.

Narayanan handled important boundary talks with China, supervised the complicated Indo-US nuclear deal and also, in a swift operation, won over Amar Singh [ Images ] and Mulayam Singh Yadav's [ Images ] support to the nuclear deal. The support had bewildered the Left parties.

But, NSA Narayanan came in confrontation with Home Minister P Chidambaram [ Images ] on serious issues of internal security after 26/11.

A senior intelligence officer once told that during conferences, the tension between two was visible and that they were never on same page while handling policy issues. But nobody doubted Narayanan's skill for survival. He carried on after 26/11 and regained his turf even as Chidambaram marched ahead in his new job as Home Minister.

Recently, when Narayanan's trusted man and Chhattisgarh Governor ESL Narsimhan was made temporary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh as well to douse the Telangana [ Images ] fire, one believed that the NSA had won the round against Chidambaram.

But it seems that Dr Singh is taking a call to give Chidambaram complete freedom to revamp the internal security. It will not be a surprise if the prime minister gets an exclusive advisor on internal security on the Home Minister's advice.

Chidambaram and Dr Singh are working in tandem. Both have been teaming up to tilt the balance against the pulls and pressure within the Congress. The Telangana issue is one such example. On December 9, both agreed to the text of announcement, which stated that the Centre 'will initiate the process of forming the Telangana state'.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Narayanan may be leaving the powerful post of NSA as part of a larger game plan of the Prime Minister's Office and the Home Ministry to revamp the internal security establishment.

Former Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon [ Images ] and former Ambassador to United States Ronen Sen's names are also in circulation for Narayanan's post.

A senior retired diplomat felt that 'Ronen Sen's clout and credibility in the current government is such that the NSA's post could be his any day."

However, it is believed that Ronen is unwilling to take up the job for health reasons.

Saran's appointment will bring in a professional diplomat, who does not have any experience of handling internal security (which was Narayanan's strength) and issue of terrorism. But on other side, Saran has the backing of more than three decades of experience in international affairs and has recently gained thorough understanding of issues related to climate change.

Whoever comes after Narayanan, one thing is for certain -- Prime Minister's Office will never be the same again.

'80 pc army tanks are night blind. It's a concern'
January 15, 2010 00:18 IST
Admitting that about 80 per cent of India's [ Images ] battle tanks were 'night blind', Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has said that the process to provide night vision capabilities to the tanks for warfare after dark was in progress.

"Yes, you are right. One of the major area of my concerns is to remove the night blindness of the tanks so that we are able to effectively fight in the night as we are able to do in the day," Kapoor told media persons in New Delhi [ Images ] on Thursday.

"There are projects already in the pipeline for ensuring the kind of night vision capability that some of our adversaries have. It takes at least three to four years and some of the projects are likely to fructify in the next year or so," he added.

Pakistan reportedly has a fleet of tanks of which 80 per cent have night vision devices and China's whole tank fleet has the capability.

On the delays in the artillery modernisation, Kapoor said it was also a matter of concern, as the army wanted better guns.

"Keeping that in mind, the trials for the towed guns are scheduled in February," he said.

Referring to the ban on a Singapore-based company owing to its name figuring in a CBI probe against former Ordnance Factory Board Chief Sudipto Ghosh, Kapoor said the Defence Ministry had recently decided to allow the trails, pending a decision on awarding of the contract till the case in the court was over.

Kapoor said the army was looking at procuring additional guns from other countries through the foreign military sales route.

"It does not matter under what route the guns come by, but it is important for a professional army to ensure that it has the requisite equipment to meet the requirements of the nation," he added.

Kapoor also said there was a need for modernising the army's air defence arm and that it needed tremendous amount of push, which had been done.
"Both air defence guns and missiles are in the pipeline and some of them will fructify soon," he added.

Land around IAF base not spared by mafia
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 14
With real estate prices in Mullanpur soaring after the master plan for the village was released, vacant areas have caught the fancy of ruthless land grabbers. Even the area around the Air Force Station is not being left untouched by the land mafia, posing a serious threat to the defence installation.

According to defence ministry guidelines, no building can come up on any land that is within a 100-metre radius of the crest of the outer parapet of the Air Force Station, which has been declared as a ‘no-development zone’.
Brushing the regulations under the carpet, certain unscrupulous elements are erecting structures close to the station’s boundary wall. Air force officials have detected at least two such constructions in the last few days. Questions about the role of certain revenue officials in allowing illegal structures to come up are also being raised.
Alerted, IAF officials asked the police to get the construction activity halted immediately. The officials also approached Mohali deputy commissioner Prabhjot Singh Mand, urging him to reinforce the provisions as per the central government gazette. Mand told them “suitable action according to the provisions would be taken”.
Mullanpur SHO Vijay Kumar said a DDR was filed and construction activity at the site had been stopped after a complaint was lodged by the station commander of the Air Force Station.
To initiate further action, air force officials are pursuing the matter with their seniors in Chandigarh.
Sources said the that air force station had been established in the early 1960s to protect the Ambala, Chandigarh and Kasauli region, besides the Bhakra Dam, during an enemy attack. Construction of structures around the station could prove dangerous as the base has ammunition stocks.
Land grabbers have erected a tent around a particular site in the area to camouflage the construction activity. At another site the level of a plot was being raised to set up a nursery. Officials admit about 25 such structures have come up around the boundary of the station along the Chandgarh-Mullanpur-Siswan road. Some structures have even come up on other side of the road.

The likely intents from two fronts war
Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
The statement of Indian Army Chief for fighting a ‘two front war’ against Pakistan and China in chorus has been under discussion since the end of December 2009. It is envisaged that Indo-US connection has propelled India to flex its military muscles and subsequently use the threatening tone for its nuclear-armed neighbours. Indeed, Indian strategic partnership with US and attainment of nuclear technology and latest weaponry has shored up its defence capability during the ongoing decade of 21st century. As per Stephen Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, since there already exists a trust deficit between India and Pakistan after Mumbai attacks, therefore, such provocative statements could have been avoided at this critical juncture in the South Asia. These hind-sighted statements would give way to terrorists and non-state actors to exploit and ignite the situation for a military confrontation in the region. Indeed, Indian Army Chief has taken a lead from the ‘Quadrennial Defence Review’ (QDR), which Pentagon carries out after every four years to assess and select future areas of interest for its influence, keeping in view its power potential, being the sole super power. Having the status of US strategic partner, India might have thought on similar lines in South Asia. Otherwise, it had to justify the enhanced US military aid and nuclear assistance it received through Indo-US Nuclear Deal and other defence pacts. The pronounced strategy of ‘two fronts war’, apparently aims at containment of China. This containment could be visualized in the backdrop of Indian appeasement of US, as justification of the huge sum of US military consignments. Nevertheless, US should not forget that India is not loyal with it and is in the process of acquisition from all sides’ on economical as well as military fronts. While maintaining allegiance with its cold war ally, India is still a partner of Russia and has many economic stakes with China too. If today China stops bilateral trade with India, Indian economy would suffer badly. There are a number of theories about the real motives of the statement of Indian Army Chief. One hypothesis is that; the statement is for the public consumption. As over the years, Indian masses have started questioning the heavy defence spending by Indian military. The statement would satisfy the people that India indeed is in a state of war against two enemies simultaneously, therefore, the ever-increasing defence budget stand justified. In the same context, India is planning to increase the strength of its Army from the current 1.13 million to 2 million in next few years. Another reason could be that there is a ubiquitous inter-services rivalry between Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force. The very basis of the jealousy is that over last few years, India is spending major portion of its defence budget for the modernisation and up gradation of its naval power under the concept of blue water navy. Apart from a number of ships and submarines commissioned in Indian Navy in last two decades, it has added a nuclear submarine to its naval fleet in the mid of 2009. Besides, a parallel modernization of Indian Air Force is also going on through the procurement and adding of latest version aircraft from United States as well as Russian Federation. Indian Air Force has aircraft like; MiG-29, Mirage-2000H and Sukhoi-30 MKI. India is in the process of getting F-16 and F-18 aircraft from United States and Israel. In fact, the procurement of naval ships and aircraft costs huge sums of finances. In the process, the 1.13 million strong Indian Army felt diminished. Through this new concept of the two fronts war, Indian Army Chief wanted to have the Government’s as well as people’s attention for the added share out of defence budget. Indeed the Sino-India border consists of hilly terrain, where the pre-dominant role would be of Indian Army for which it has already placed a mountain division for undertaking a likely offensive. A forward air base has also been prepared in Arunachal Pradesh, eastern Indian state, bordering China on war footings to support the army operation against China. However, Indian Navy would have no direct role to play against China. Through this revised and offensive doctrine, Indian Army would be able to justify the demand of a lion’s share out of defence budget. Another aspect linked with the new military strategy is a diversionary manoeuvre by Indian Army Chief. A military court of inquiry has found some top military brass involved in the Sukna Land Scam of West Bengal. The main character of the swindle is Lt Gen. Avadhesh Prakash, the Military Secretary, and Principal Staff Officer (PSO) of Indian Army Chief. Since the inquiry demanded stern disciplinary action against Lt General Prakash, therefore, Commander of Eastern Command, Lt General V.K. Singh, who indeed ordered the inquiry, recommended to General Kapoor to sack his Military Secretary. General Kapoor, however, decided to rescue his Military Secretary contrary to the recommendations of Lt General V.K. Singh. It is worth mentioning that Lt Gen Singh, being the senior most is a strong candidate for the post of next Indian Army Chief upon retirement of General Kapoor on March 31, 2010. In this connection, General Kapoor had an in-depth meeting with Indian Defence Minister, A.K. Antony on December 24, 2009. He tried to convince the minister that Lt. General Singh is taking unnecessary interest in the scam against Lt General Prakash. The Indian COAS indeed desires that General V.K Singh should not replace him as the new head of Indian Army. Trumpeting of the ‘two fronts war’ is being considered as a strategy to divert the attention from this biggest scam of military land in the history of Indian Army. Through this bogus idea, Indian Army Chief perhaps desired to attain two objectives: one; to cover up the corruption cases of senior Army officers closely associated with him. And two; to be remembered as an idiosyncratic Indian Army Chief, through introduction of a new military strategy, unlikely to achieve its objectives like ‘two fronts war’. Another hidden aspect is that Indian Army may be sweating for a political influence. This is evident from the fact that in 2006/7, the political leadership of India and Pakistan had almost reached to political solution on Siachin Glacier, but Indian Military prevailed and the issue is still un-resolved. Linked with it, Indian nuclear programme is totally under civilian control, whereas armed forces have no say and therefore, less know-how of its use. This move might be a bid from the Indian military hierarchy to have an excess of the strategic assets. The time bracket as spelt out in the new strategy for achieving the target in initial 96 hours on two fronts is only possible once India make a decision for the first use of nuclear weapons or at least by incapacitating the combat soldiers of the adversaries in an NBC environment. Politically, the change in the military strategy might be aiming to gain the status of major power by India. Together with NATO, and US India is whistling to be recognised as such. Already, it is playing the role of a major partner in Afghanistan and having a lot of influence on Iran. Through flexing the military muscles, India is indeed enhancing its strategic reach out of the region. It is planning to combine the littoral states of the region under it for any future action. Defence analysts consider that the new strategy of confronting Pakistan and China simultaneously and achieving the target in 96 hours is indeed a manifestation of an extremely unrealistic assessment by General Kapoor. Being the strategic partner of US, India might have thought to justify the enhanced US military aid and nuclear assistance it received in the last two decades, especially after 9/11. Indeed, India has neither the capability nor the will to fight a war with China mainly owing to two vital aspects; the lack of a compatible militarily power and a strong economy essentially required for the sustenance of war. However, threat to Pakistan has to be visualized in the true perspectives, either directly or indirectly. In all eventualities, it is important that for the peace and stability in South Asia, US should stop its unremitting military cooperation with India. Acumen in US feels that India is an opportunist country and US is increasing its trust deficit with the Government and people of Pakistan by rendering extra concessions to India. This group of US think tanks feel that America should be “aware of the very strong Indian lobby in our Congress but our National security should be our prime concern and not the money that the Indian lobby spend on our congress”.

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