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Saturday, 12 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 12 Jun 2010

  Army against Maoists Weigh the pros and cons carefully 
It came as no surprise when the Cabinet Committee on Security this week failed to reach a consensus on deploying the Army against Maoists. The government has been under pressure for some time to get tough with the outlaws, who have got away time and again after challenging the authority of the state. The impunity with which they attacked and virtually decimated an entire company of the CRPF in Chhattisgarh and the unfortunate sabotage of the railway track in West Bengal resulting in the death of hundreds of passengers also strengthened the demand for dealing with the Maoists with an iron-fist. With para-military forces like the CRPF having failed to rein them in, there is overwhelming public pressure for unleashing the full might of the state against the rebels. But the cabinet committee is clearly divided on the wisdom of pressing the Army against the Maoists and the decision has wisely been deferred. A decision of this magnitude after all would require at least a broad consensus both within and outside the government and also across the political spectrum.  The decision cannot be taken lightly because there are weighty arguments both for and against such a move. While on the one hand it is imperative for the state to re-assert its authority and restore confidence in its ability to strike back at the rebels, on the other hand there is the very real risk of innocent civilians paying a heavy price for absolutely no fault of theirs and of alienating the tribals. Past experience in both Kashmir and the Northeast bears this out. Exposing a conventional Army, which is not quite equipped to fight a protracted guerrilla war, to a war of nerves may also take its own toll. It should, however, be clear at the same time that the Maoists, who make no bones about taking over power at gun-point, would at some point be planning to take on the Indian Army. Thus, any pre-emptive strike by the Army would be entirely justified.  The Army is already being used to impart training to para-military forces. Army helicopters are being used for transport and evacuation of personnel. And there is a strong case for placing Armymen on deputation in Maoist-hit states so that security agencies on the ground can learn from their experience and expertise. But the government will have to consider several other factors, including the possibility of human rights violations and the international reaction, before it sets up a unified command and commits the Army against the Maoists.

No Army in Naxal zones: Govt
Fresh strategy to focus on revamping of police, paramilitary Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 11 Fearing political fallout, the Union Government has decided that the Army cannot be directly deployed to tackle the Naxal menace in the country.  “As of now the induction of the Army (into the Naxal belt) has been ruled out,” highly placed sources in the government said.  The Army is already overstretched due to counter-insurgency operations across Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East, they reasoned. Also, the political cost of such a move would be huge, sources added.  The “Red corridor” will not be declared a disturbed area, said a senior official. The focus is on strengthening the state police departments. The Cabinet Committee on Security that met yesterday will again discuss the matter in the next few days on fine-tuning a programme with least assistance from the Army.  The chief ministers of the affected states will also be asked to list out their needs and give their opinions.  The Army will continue to provide training to the police and paramilitary personnel in jungle warfare. The state police departments will be augmented with better weapons and ammunition besides support of aerial imagery from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).  “Some 1,100 retired Army “sappers”, who are experts in removing landmines will be hired on contract and attached with paramilitary battalions,’ said an official.  The Home Ministry has plans to recruit more retired Army men from infantry regiments. The recruitment will not be like the one envisaged under the sixth pay commission that wanted lateral entry for all Army jawans into the paramilitary.  Separately, the Centre has decided to procure MI-17 choppers for Naxal operations on lease basis. “We cannot be waiting for the IAF to spare choppers. They are already reeling under crunch. Enough MI-17 copters are available in the open market,” said a top official.

No use of Army against Maoists: Sources
NDTV Correspondent, Updated: June 11, 2010 21:51 IST, New Delhi Sources have told NDTV that the Army will not be directly used for anti-Maoists operations and that their involvement will be limited to training central paramilitary forces.  More special police officers will be recruited for operations against the Maoists and the induction to central forces will be increased several fold, the sources added.  They also said that the Ministry of Home Affairs will focus on strengthening the state police now.  On Thursday evening, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met to decide on the role of the Army in the battle against Maoists, had ended in a stalemate.  The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, debated the issue of deployment of Army in Left-wing extremists-affected areas and use of more IAF helicopters for logistics support to the paramilitary engaged in the operations against Maoists.  Several differences had cropped up between Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram on the way the Army can be utilised.  There were differences on the issue of aerial support, sources say. While the Defence Ministry has offered no comment on the demand for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), it has turned down the request for Air Force helicopters to ferry troops and other help. The Defence Ministry says this would amount to the Air Force getting directly involved. A key concern is what if the Maoists fired at the aircraft? The Air Force would be forced to fire back, which is not acceptable.

Stalemate over Army role in Naxalite fight
Mail Today Bureau New Delhi, June 11, 2010 The government couldn't thrash out a comprehensive strategy to tackle Maoist guerrillas at the much-vaunted Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting here on Thursday night.  Apparently, Union home minister P. Chidambaram and defence minister A. K. Antony failed to agree on a common anti-Maoist strategy.  The CCS members closeted for nearly two hours from 6 pm, but the meeting ended in a stalemate because of the difference of opinion over the proposed role of the armed forces in the fight against the Left-wing extremists. "What would be the exact role, if any, of the army? The question remained unanswered," a source said.  The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, debated on the home ministry's proposals on the possible use of the armed forces and two dozen more IAF helicopters for logistics support to the paramilitary engaged in the operations against the Maoists.  Chidambaram is learnt to have placed his ministry's suggestions on widening the scope of the anti-Naxalite operations in the rebel-hit states.  The proposals said to have been placed before the CCS include using the army's engineers in de-mining operations, assistance of special forces in planning and undertaking precision strikes, and use of more IAF choppers in ferrying troops, medical evacuation and transporting equipment.  By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi Defence minister Antony reportedly vetoed the proposals because he believed the IAF and the army would get sucked into the anti-Maoist operations if these twin demands were ratified.  Sources said "greater presence" of the armed forces and the IAF in the Maoist-hit areas, even for logistics support and de-mining activities, could attract attacks on them, which in turn would lead to retaliation by the forces.  Antony, who attended the meeting along with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, has often expressed the opinion that the armed forces should be used as a last resort, as the fight would necessarily be against Indian citizens.  The CCS is likely to meet again later this month to discuss the niggling issues.  The army, too, has conveyed that it could be used in operations only after the affected districts were declared "disturbed areas" and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was brought into force in those pockets.  However, the defence ministry was inclined to provide paramilitary, central and state police forces training in the anti-Naxalite operations.  Already, the army has trained 47,000 personnel from the CRPF and the state police since 2006 and has also loaned a brigadier-rank officer as the pointsman to provide advice and direction to the anti-Maoist operations already in progress in the states.  The IAF, on its part, has sent four of its Mi-17 choppers to assist the paramilitary forces in logistics, apart from two BSF choppers deployed for the purpose.  The army moved ahead to create a Chhattisgarh and Orissa Sub-Area with about 15,000 troops under it. But how these troops would be used in the two states was not yet known, though a Sub-Area is usually a peace station.

The Kashmir dilemma
By Kuldip Nayar Friday, 11 Jun, 2010 Very few movements in the world have been so determined and so sustained. –Gen Ayub Khan, when at the helm of the Pakistan government, is believed to have told Soviet Union’s Prime Minister Kosygin that if India were to come to a settlement with Sheikh Abdullah, heading the Jammu and Kashmir government at that time, Pakistan might accept the agreement.  Soon after, Sheikh Abdullah was detained for more than 11 years in India. He had reportedly asked New Delhi to make the terms of the Instrument of Accession good. The state had given to the centre only three subjects: defence, foreign affairs and communications.  Since then the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has jumped into the arena. Its agenda goes far beyond Sheikh Abdullah’s or, for that matter, that of the ruling National Conference. Unfortunately, the Hurriyat has split into hardliners and moderates.  Whatever its verdict on the government headed by Omar Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson, the latter has made the security forces accountable. The suspension by the army of a major and removal of a colonel from service for their ‘role’ in dubious encounters is not a small achievement. In fact, he has ordered an inquiry into fake encounters of the past, and strict orders have been given to the security forces not to violate human rights.  Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said: “We expected the prime minister to start a bold political initiative on Kashmir but nothing of that sort has come through.” Obviously, the Hurriyat has not taken into account Dr Manmohan Singh’s message that the government was committed to pushing forward the process of negotiation.  The Indian prime minister wanted the Hurriyat to come on board before India held a series of ministerial-level meetings with Pakistan. It is naïve on the part of Mirwaiz to demand a public announcement on what the government has in view. A dialogue is the only way to hammer out differences. In the case of Kashmir, Pakistan is also a party.  True, Srinagar was shut and hundreds were on the street when the prime minister arrived there. But this is the exercise over which the Hurriyat has gone many a time before. People are tired. They see very little on the horizon. They have sacrificed nearly all that they had.  I think the failure of the Hurriyat is in having preferred the bullet to the ballot. They revolted when they, young and idealistic, witnessed elections in Kashmir in 1987. Indeed, the polls were rigged. But going across the border, getting training and returning with weapons was the reaction of angry, helpless people. Violence, as some Hurriyat leaders have realised, was not an option which could have yielded results. Coming into conflict with the state which is many times stronger was foolhardy.  Believe me I am not underestimating the sacrifices of the people. Very few movements in the world have been so determined and so sustained.  The Hurriyat should have returned to the ballot box after the violent agitation it had launched was having diminishing returns. In violence, the people in India witnessed a forceful cessation of Kashmir, considered part of the country. The Hurriyat movement was seen as a challenge to the country’s integrity.  The Hurriyat should have tried to capture the Jammu and Kashmir assembly. Instead, they propagated the boycott of elections. Their argument was that the polls under the aegis of the Indian Election Commission were not acceptable to them. They proposed supervision by UN observers. No sovereign country could have accepted this.  Had the Hurriyat leaders demanded that Indian human rights activists should be the observers, they might have had the consent of New Delhi. But would the Hurriyat have won? This uncertainty might have been the main reason for it not participating in elections which have their own dynamics. Popular agitators are not normally put in charge.  The Hurriyat’s tilt towards Pakistan, probably necessitated by the situation in which they were, has distanced it from India. That the solution of Kashmir is not possible without Islamabad is understandable. But the Hurriyat did not have to play the Muslim card. It only created further doubts in the mind of the majority in India. After the exodus of most Hindu Pandits from Kashmir, the valley has nearly 96 per cent Muslims.  But this is the Hurriyat’s weakness, not strength. Not having the support of the Hindu-majority Jammu and the Buddhist-majority Ladakh, the Hurriyat has forfeited the right to speak for the entire state. It should have at least wooed the Kashmiri Pandits, many still in camps, to return their homes. Some Hurriyat leaders have realised this a bit late. But the party as such still cannot pursue the matter wholeheartedly because a few among them do not want Hindus back till the Kashmir solution is finally settled.  Even in their demand, the Hurriyat has been equivocal. They have oscillated between autonomy and independence. Realising that Pakistan is equally opposed to independence, as India is, the Hurriyat wants a solution which is acceptable to the people of Kashmir. But that has not been spelled out. The fact that Jammu and Ladakh are nowhere in the picture means that the Hurriyat’s demand is only for the Valley. This brings the Hurriyat in conflict with what Manmohan Singh has said many a time that he has no mandate to change the borders.  After the 9/11 attack in New York, the scenario in the region from Afghanistan to India has changed beyond proportions. America and Pakistan one hand and India and Pakistan on the other are trying to come to terms with new developments. Kashmir too figures but in the larger context.  The Hurriyat might do better if it were to confine talks between Srinagar and Delhi till India and Pakistan reach a settlement on Kashmir. The Hurriyat should ask New Delhi first to restore the ante-1952 situation where Srinagar gave it three subjects: foreign affairs, defence and communications.

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