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Saturday, 5 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 05 Jun 2010

Asian Age

  The uncivil visa war Canada has no right to debunk BSF
by Abhijit Bhattacharyya  Foreign diplomats in any host country are supposed to know that nation from the back of their hand. Indeed, as ambassadors representing their states, diplomats are supposed to be the torchbearers of peace and prosperity, trade and tranquillity. Hence, unlike other professionals, diplomats constitute a class by themselves whose hallmark are courtesy, decorum, dignity and poise.  However, the repeated actions of the Canadian diplomatic mission in India appears to have discovered something new to deal with the visa-aspiring Indian tourists to the land of the maples.  In a stunning “invention”, perhaps bordering on an internationally recognised club of historians, the Canadian High Commission in Delhi “finds” that the Indian Border Security Force is “a notoriously violent paramilitary unit”, which is “responsible for war crimes in India”.  It has further been discovered by the foreign diplomat on Indian soil that the BSF is a “unit engaged in systematic attacks on civilians” and accused it “of targetting a particular community for attacks and rapes”.  Since the “discovery” of Indian Border Security Force’s “war crimes” emanates from an advanced, developed, civilised and white western country’s diplomat, there are bound to be some Indian takers of the issues. But certain points remain unclear. Which “units” of the BSF are “engaged in systematic attacks on civilians”? When? Where? Who are the casualties? What are their names? Why is not the list of affected persons and families being made public by the Canadian mission? Which “particular community” had been “targetted for attacks and rapes” by the BSF? How many rape victims have been identified along with their medical test reports? If the rapes have been so well known, why did not the Government of India come to know of the heinous crime against humanity by the soldiers of the Indian state?  And finally, if indeed the discovery pertains to such a large-scale criminal act, how come the various vocal and volatile NGOs, human rights activists and the traditionally vigilant Indian media (print and electronic) failed to bring it to the notice of the Indians at large?  Though no actual and factual answer is likely to be made available to the points raised above in the foreseeable future, the action of the Canadian High Commission speaks for itself. Indian national, even if retired, with links with the Border Security Force, is a “persona non grata” in the land of the maples. And that “verdict” needs to be “accepted” by the Indians in toto, instead of being questioned needlessly. Now, assuming without conceding, that the Border Security Force is guilty of “war crimes” (though we do not know yet as to which war the BSF fought, against which country, when and in which theatre so as to be branded thus), perhaps it is time to peep into the contemporary record of the Canadian “war crimes” committed far beyond their borders.  Thus, Jane’s World Armies 2008 have shown “combat operations in Afghanistan have been the primary focus of the Canadian army since October 2001, but particularly since late 2005 when Joint Task Force (JTF) Kabul moved south to Kandahar province, expanded into the much more capable JTF Afghanistan and initiated offensive combat operations against resurgent Taliban forces”.  According to Military Balance 2010 too, “Afghanistan remained the Canadian government’s primary focus, with nearly 3,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Athena, the majority in the Kandahar area.  In fact, so deep is the commitment of Canada into the combat (crime?) zones of Afghanistan that it has “1 infantry brigade with (1 light infantry battalion headquarter; 3 light infantry company; 1 armoured squadron; 1 armoured reconnaissance squadron; 1 artillery battery; 1 unmanned aerial vehicle flight; 1 combat engineer squadron); 1 maritime patrol company; 20 Leopard C2 main battle tank; some light armoured vehicle 25 Coyote; 6 CH 147 Chinook helicopters etc”- all operating under the banner of NATO flag, 14,000 kilometre away from their home soil.  Canada is one of the most prosperous western countries of the world, and yet it has to operate to a remote wasteland of Afghanistan to kill and get killed, all for a possible possession of petroleum product and the ostensible goal to confront terror. Nevertheless, the western enterprise on the barren oriental front so far resulted in “slow progress, high costs and waning domestic support forced the government to maintain its pledge to end Ottawa’s combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011”.  Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to maintain at least “some Canadian presence in Afghanistan” after the withdrawal of its combat troops to “focus primarily on reconstruction and development”. The message is loud and clear. At the moment, the Canadian forces are waging “undeclared” and “illegal” war in an alien land and resorting to destruction and killings. Hence, on mission completion the non-combatant civilians will take charge of “reconstruction and development”. And, for that again, Canada will require a force which “might include helicopters, police and army trainers, a Provincial Reconstruction Team and CF-18 fighter aircraft”!  The long and short of the above scenario is transparent. The Canadian army, navy and air force personnel are on a killing mission in Afghanistan with political decision to back them up. Yet, none accuses and abuses (at least not India certainly) the Canadians of being war criminals for a combat mission far from their own territory.  The Canadians, like their western brethren, woke up to the threat of terror one fine Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 only after the American mainland faced direct assault, next to the Statue of Liberty, after a gap of 60 years when Pearl Harbour was attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Till then, the western world (Canada included) were totally indifferent to the crippling effects of terror attacks which India had been facing and dealing with since decades. Now that Canada has some idea about terrorism, it is all the more surprising that it should brand the Indian paramilitary as “war criminals”.  Unlike Canada, India has not gone out of its national border to invade into a foreign sovereign nation “to fight a war”. Far from it. India is facing relentless attacks originating from outside, a place universally known as the “epicentre of world terrorism” — Pakistan. How come this lamentable lack of general knowledge on the part of Canadian diplomats in New Delhi?  That Canada has not been serious to deal with terrorists operating from its soil against India is visible even today. Else how does one justify the substandard investigation of, and indifference to, Air India 182 Kanishka bomb blast of June 23, 1985!  In reality, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police miserably failed to be professional enough to uncover the Kanishka crash thereby resulting in the sordid miscarriage of justice. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the incompetence of the RCMP in the India-specific terror act, Canada is now preparing to stay in Afghanistan to train Kabul’s police officers.  Let it be seen as to what Jane’s World Armies have to say about the Canadian army: “Combat operations in Afghanistan have been the primary focus…and all three infantry regiments have deployed battalions to Afghanistan as the core of the Canadian battle group. Overall army performance in Kandahar has been exceptional. Canadian troops have been universally aggressive”.  The world (including India) knows what the Canadian garrison is doing in Afghanistan. Yet the Indians have never branded the Ottawa soldiers and generals as “war criminals”. Far from it, they often transit through India. India did not deny them visa and does not play foul, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding.  The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India

Pak, India have to return to sustained engagement
Press Trust of India / Islamabad June 04, 2010, 17:24 IST  Pakistan and India have to return to a sustained and result-oriented engagement as they have "no option" but to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said today.  Addressing the North Atlantic Council, the principal decision-making body of NATO, in Brussels, Gilani said Pakistan desires "good neighbourly and cooperative relations" with India.  He said Pakistan has suggested to India that the Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism be reactivated.  "Our two countries have no option but to resolve peacefully all outstanding disputes including Kashmir, Siachen and water," he said.     "Dialogue, I believe, offers the only way forward. We need to get back to a serious, sustained and result-oriented engagement," he remarked.     The two countries "must also work closely" on eliminating terrorism and forging closer economic and trade relations, he said.     Gilani noted that he had a "good meeting" with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a SAARC summit in Bhutan in April and that they had "agreed to resume our dialogue process".     However, Gilani also said that his country continues to have concerns about "Pakistan-specific Indian military doctrines such as the Cold Start envisaging a limited conventional war under the nuclear over-hang" and a "huge increase in the Indian military budget and massive weapon acquisitions".     "These together with discriminatory policies, especially in the nuclear and technological arena, have accentuated the regional imbalance in South Asia," he said.     Pakistan believes that "all these and other issues between Pakistan and India must be resolved peacefully through dialogue", he added.     Gilani noted that Pakistan-India relations have a "significant bearing" on South Asian security and said: "Unfortunately, long-outstanding disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek continue to fester and require a just and peaceful resolution."     He also pointed out that the region is "water stressed" and that water issues "have started to impact on Pakistan's agriculture and the well being of our people" as the country is a lower riparian state.     Such issues of peace, security and strategic stability need to be addressed in a "forthright manner", he said.  The India-Pakistan peace process launched in 1997 "yielded some dividends in terms of confidence building during the period 2004 to 2008" and both sides had agreed that the process would be "irreversible and uninterruptable", he said.     "Regrettably, since the past two years, the composite dialogue process was stalled. The ostensible reason given by India was the Mumbai terror attack. Pakistan acted swiftly to get the suspects arrested. We have done our utmost to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.     "We have indicated to India that only serious, sustained and pragmatic cooperation is the sure way of addressing each other's concerns on terrorism. We have suggested that the Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism be reactivated," Gilani added.     Members of NATO "must take active interest in South Asian security perspectives" as the region is nuclearised and "issues of peace, strategic stability and security pose formidable challenges to Pakistan and impinge on global peace and security", he contended.     Gilani touched on other issues during his address, including Pakistan's relations with NATO and the situation in Afghanistan, which he said continues to a concern for Pakistan.     Pakistan has a legitimate interest in early restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan as it is being impacted by the turmoil in that country, he said.     "Regrettably, the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. Despite years of NATO/ISAF involvement, insurgency remains deep and far-spread," he said.     The London Conference decided to back a political process for reintegration and reconciliation because there is an "increasing realisation that a military solution will not alone work", he pointed out.     Pakistan wants a "peaceful, stable and secure" Afghanistan and Afghan society "must be enabled to re-establish its societal equilibrium through an indigenous Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process", he said.     Pakistan will be happy to "facilitate the process of reconciliation, given the large presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan", he added.     Gilani made it clear that "re-Talibanisation of Afghanistan would not be acceptable" and that the international community, "in particular immediate neighbours of Afghanistan, must respect the sovereignty, independence, national unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan".     Pakistan's policy for Afghanistan also included "respect for the principles of non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs", he said.     Gilani described Pakistan's relations with the Afghan government as "cordial and very cooperative" and said he wished "President Hamid Karzai well in his endeavours to promote peace and bring about national unity".     "The international community ought to do much more in rescuing Afghanistan from the state of narco-war economy. A sustained, long-term engagement is very necessary,"

India, US vow to remain 'sensitive' to each other's interests
Press Trust of India / Washington June 04, 2010, 16:02 IST  Ending their first Cabinet-level Strategic Dialogue, India and the US today vowed to consult each other closely on issues like Afghanistan and terrorism, remaining "sensitive" to each other's interests as President Barack Obama announced that he will visit India in November.  "Minister Krishna and Secretary Clinton reiterated their shared goal of advancing security and stability across Asia, in particular, through the emergence of an open, balanced and inclusive architecture of cooperation in the region," said a joint statement issued at the end of their Strategic Dialogue.  Obama, who ignored protocol to attend a reception for External Affairs Minister S M Krishna by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, said US' relations with India were at the highest of priorities for his administration and for "me personally" as President.  He announced that he will visit India in November, saying the country is a rising and responsible global power indispensable to a future American strategy.      "So I look forward to advancing our partnership, to experiencing all that India and its people and its incredible ancient culture have to offer," Obama said.      As of now his travel dates to India have been tentatively scheduled from November 7 to November 10, a senior administration official told PTI.      At the start of the dialogue, Clinton called India a "rising global power" and that her country was "definitely committed" to considering it for a permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council and pitched for its greater role in meeting challenges in the region like securing Afghanistan.      The joint statement pledged that as strategic partners, India and US would "continue to consult each other closely on regional and global developments and remain sensitive to each other's interests."      The US welcomed India's "leadership" role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia as the two sides promised to expand regular high-level exchanges on regional issues of mutual concern.  On the issue of Afghanistan, Clinton and Krishna reiterated their shared interest and commitment to a stable, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan.      They emphasised the importance of a sustained international commitment to Afghanistan that builds local capacities through Afghan-led initiatives.      The two leaders expressed grave concern over the recent incidents in the US and India which they said reminded that terrorism and violent extremism knew no boundaries and continued to threaten global, regional and domestic security.      Recognising the importance of continued cooperation in efforts to defeat terrorism, they reaffirmed the critical principle that no cause or grievance justified terrorism in any form.      "They called for swift and credible steps to eliminate terrorist safe havens and vowed to strengthen global consensus and legal regimes against terrorism, including by working together at the UN toward adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that strengthens our efforts in combating terrorism," the statement said.      The two leaders also committed to continue working together to achieve an early start of negotiations on a multilateral, non-discriminatory and internationally and effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament.      "In addition to advancing global security and stability, both recognised that the two countries had enormous opportunities to deepen their cooperation in trade and investment, science and technology, infrastructure investment, environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, energy security, education, agriculture, food security, healthcare and empowerment of people," the statement said.      The two sides plan to hold the next Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi in the first half of 2011.

Justice for Kargil heroes
Next month India will commemorate its victory in the Kargil war and the extraordinary sacrifices of the soldiers. They fought in some of the most brutal terrain in the world to achieve the objective of throwing the Pakistani intruders out. In his speech of July 26, Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, a politician known for his commitment to probity, must set to rest the ghosts that haunt the battlefield. It has long been known that many who played a key role in ensuring victory were disgraced so that superiors who ought to have been penalised for their wartime failures could receive medals and honours. Last week, the Armed Force Tribunal held that the officer with direct supervisory responsibility for the conduct of the war, former XV Corps commander Lieutenant-General Kishan Pal, falsified battle records to deny a key subordinate credit for his stellar conduct of operations. This action, which seems to have been driven by a desire to cover up command failures, cost 70 Brigade commander Devinder Singh a medal and a promotion. That it took 11 years to deliver justice to Brigadier Singh is shocking: the Tribunal's judgment has only affirmed what the Army has known all along. Several accounts of the war, including Lieutenant-General Y.M. Bammi's magisterial, Kargil: The Impregnable Conquered, former army chief General V.P. Malik's memoirs, and Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal's official history of the war, made it clear that Brigadier Singh had been instrumental in India's victory in the Batalik sector. The Tribunal received testimony from Brigadier Singh's subordinates and superiors lauding his bravery and acumen — testimony that was available to Army headquarters years ago. Yet successive Chiefs of Army Staff and Defence Ministers did nothing to undo the mischief.  In the build-up to Kargil Day, Mr. Antony will do the Army, his Ministry, and the country proud if he summons the courage to offer Brigadier Singh an apology and restore to him the honours to which he is entitled. But he needs to do more. There are other cases pending before the Tribunal seeking redress; they revolve around decisions made by XV Corps — notably those of 121 Brigade commander Surinder Singh and Major Manish Bhatnagar. Some officers with reason to consider themselves aggrieved, like Colonel Pushpinder Oberoi, chose not to move the court for justice. The Defence Ministry must set up a body to conduct a transparent audit of these cases and set wrongs right. It must also conduct a thoroughgoing examination of the official Kargil Review Committee, which relied heavily on a tainted account of events. Armies in which promotions depend on personal prejudices, rather than dispassionate assessments of professional capability, will see poor quality leadership rise to the top. In the end, their war-fighting capacities will be eroded. Telling the truth will, doubtless, be a painful process — but the Army as well as India will emerge the stronger for it.

The Young Everester Meets the Army Chief  
15:29 IST Army Chief General VK Singh felicitated yesterday the Arjun Vajpai, a young boy from Noida who scaled Mt Everest recently.  Arjun who has an army background, is an alumni of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. On meeting the Army Chief, he expressed a deep desire to join the Indian Army, where fortitude and courage is a norm. His next mission is to join the elite National Defence Academy, .

Army women: Govt to oppose permanent commission 
For those pushing for gender parity in the forces, there is a mixed bag of news.  Women Indian Air Force (IAF) officers can now serve their full term, made possible by a Delhi High Court order in March that directed the armed forces to give permanent commission (PC) to women in the army and IAF, which they were not doing until then.  Permanent commission enables officers to serve a longer period and assume greater responsibilities, apart from ensuring retirement benefits.  But women in the army are unlikely to enjoy the same benefit.  South Block sources told Hindustan Times the defence ministry would appeal against the court order, but only challenging the part that granted PC to women army officers.  "The terms and conditions of service for women in the air force at the time of recruitment are different from those governing those in the army," the source said.  "There's scope to grant permanent tenure to IAF women, but not to those in the army."  As per the pre-2006 policy, quashed by the court, SSC women officers had to compulsorily retire after 14 years.

Military Action: Rashtriya Riffles to deploy against Maoists
New Delhi: As per a report published in India Today, nearly 8,000 specialized troops against Naxals in India has been  identified by the Indian Military force The northern army headquarters has been asked to identify 8 battalions of Rashtriya Riffles.  A senior Army Official informed Sandeep Unnithan (Journalist, India Today), “These will be deployed on Maoists if the cabinet committee of security gives the signal.”  Rashtriya Riffles, Ministry of Defence Paramilitary force deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, aims at defending the borders and states territory unhindered by action from Pakistani-backed terrorists.  Surging Naxals problem forced the Indian Army to involve Rashtriya Riffles to deal with the issue. More than 350 civilians and 170 security personnel have been killed brutally by Naxalites.

Indian Army chief to visit Bhutan
June 4th, 2010  New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Indian Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh will arrive in Bhutan next week on a five-day visit, official sources said Friday.  This will be Singh’s first official foreign visit after he took over as the head of 1.3 million-strong Indian Army March 31.  During his June 7-11 visiti, the army chief is expected to meet Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the sources said.  He will also have a meeting with his Bhutanese counterpart Maj. Gen. Batoo Tshering.  India is Bhutan’s largest trade partner and has contributed generously to its infrastructural development.  India also provides military training to the Bhutanese forces and maintains a permanent military training presence in the Himalayan Kingdom.  In fact, Singh was an instructor in the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) headquarters in Bhutan.

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