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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 22 Jun 2010

Army Chief visits Western Command, reviews operational preparedness
Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, June 21 Chief of the Army Staff General VK Singh today reviewed the operational preparedness in the Western sector during his first visit to Western Command Headquarters, Chandimandir, since he assumed the Army’s apex office.  Army Chief Gen VK Singh (right) along with Lt Gen SR Ghosh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, at Chandimandir on Monday Army Chief Gen VK Singh (right) along with Lt Gen SR Ghosh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, at Chandimandir on Monday. A Tribune photo  During his two-day visit, he will be briefed by senior officers of the Western Command on various training and administrative matters. Gen Singh will address all officers of the command and put across his views to them at a one-to-one interaction session.  He is accompanied by his wife Bharti Singh, who is the president of the Army Wives Welfare Association.  Earlier on his arrival here, they were received by Lt-Gen SR Ghosh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, and his wife Bulbul Ghosh.  The Army Chief will also make a courtesy call on the Governors and Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, while Bharti would interact with the families of officers and jawans residing at Chandimandir.  Gen Singh, who is the Colonel of the Rajput Regiment, will also hold a meeting with Army veterans, who reside in large numbers in Panchkula, Chandigarh and Mohali.  Hailing from Boapara village, near Bhiwani in Haryana, he was commissioned in June 1970 and had taken over as the Chief on March 31, 2010.  Prior to becoming the Eastern Army commander, he commanded 2 Corps at Ambala, besides having served in the Western sector earlier.

  Amending AFSPA Humane laws can’t weaken fight against militancy 
THE critics of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) must be feeling elated over the Union government’s move to amend the controversial piece of law to make it humane. The AFSPA has been described as a draconian law as it gives the armed forces some special powers which can easily result in the violation of an individual’s human rights or the security forces indulging in excesses. The law empowers Army personnel on duty in Jammu and Kashmir or in the Northeast to make arrests without any warrants, or search the premises of a person without following the established procedure. Prosecution can be launched against erring Army personnel but only after having the Central government’s sanction which is not easy to get.  The armed forces have been opposed to any change in the law on the plea that they need the protection of special laws when their men are deployed for anti-terrorist or anti-insurgency operations. In their opinion, it is not easy to achieve success in the fight against an invisible enemy in difficult terrain without the protection of special laws. The nature of this special assignment is such that the security forces can make mistakes, but that is while pursuing the larger interests of the nation. Thus, the outright rejection by the Army of any amendment to the AFSPA is understandable.  It is true that nothing should be done that weakens the cause of the fight against terrorists. Even if infiltration from across the border has come down considerably, the security forces have to remain vigilant always and ready to take on the enemy whenever and wherever he raises his head. However, those opposed to any dilution of the AFSPA must not forget that even a small mistake leading to the death of an innocent person causes incalculable harm to the task of eliminating terrorism or insurgency. Many such cases have happened in the past. Whatever the compulsions, draconian laws cannot be justified in a democracy. This was the reason why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh some time ago assured the people of a thorough review of the AFSPA. Any step that is for the good of the country must be taken.

Northeast insists on ‘repeal’ of AFSPA
Bijay Sankar Bora Tribune News Service  Guwahati, June 21 Even as the Centre is taking initiatives to amend the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act-1958, popularly known as AFSPA, applicable only in insurgency-hit northeast and J&K, organisations and experts in the northeast have insisted on the repeal of the Act, not the amendment.  Noted expert on conflict studies Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta said, “The AFSPA is more known (notorious) for misuse than proper use. It should be repealed as the police and the Army have sufficient power under the law of the land to defend themselves, while fighting insurgents. Terrorism has to be fought with mind and logic. We have to fight fire with water, not with fire. But with the AFSPA in force it is like fighting fire with fire.”  Human rights’ activist Babloo Loitongbam of Manipur said, “There are two aspects of the Act, functional and symbolic, for the people of the northeast. While the government is moving to amend the functional aspect of the Act, its symbolic aspect is still left out. The symbolic aspect is that the Act is viewed by people here as a symbol of discrimination and oppression. So the need of the hour is to repeal the AFSPA.”  Supporters of iron lady of Manipur Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast demanding repeal of the AFSPA since November 5, 2000, said they would insist on repeal of the draconian Act. “Even after the proposed amendment if the Act remains in force only in northeast and J&K, it will remain discriminatory. Any ornamental amendment to the Act will make no difference to us, unless it is repealed,” said Singhajit Singh, brother of Sharmila.  Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights Suhas Chakma said, “It remains to be seen whether the proposed amendments of the AFSPA can assuage the sentiments of the people. The opposition of the army is untenable. The so-called immunity clause provided under Section 6 of the AFSPA was useful to the Army until 1997. However, in 1997 the government of India amended Section 197 of the CrPC to provide similar immunity to all law enforcement personnel.”  “The CrPC was amended to provide immunity to the Punjab police personnel responsible for gross human rights violations, but the Army too is covered under the CrPC. The amendment of the Section 6 of the AFSPA actually does not change the actual situation as long as the government of India remains committed to protect the criminals in uniform,” added Chakma.

BSF team pinned down by Pak Rangers in J&K
 NDTV Correspondent, Updated: June 21, 2010 23:30 IST, Jammu Ahead of Home Minister P Chidambarm's visit to Pakistan another ceasefire violation. This time on the International Border in the R S Pura sector. This is a very vulnerable position. There are Pakistani bunkers on three sides of Border Security Force (BSF) post, which came under firing from Pakistan today.  For more than 12 hours, 30 men of a BSF ambush party were pinned down by firing from Pakistani Rangers in Jammu's R S Pura sector. The firing, targeted at the realigned border fence, started at 4 in the morning and went on intermittently for more than eight hours. The Pakistanis were at an advantageous position with bunkers overlooking Indian posts from three sides.  This Casper vehicle, with supplies and ammunition for the ambush party, was also fired upon. The matter was finally resolved after two rounds of flag meetings between the Rangers and the BSF.  According to BSF sources, Pakistan Rangers have said that they did not start the firing and this is something they usually deny.  This is the second major ceasefire violation in two days. On Sunday, Pakistani troops opened fire in the Machil sector, killing two porters and injuring two jawans.   "This year, you are right, the ceasefire violations by Pakistan have been far more, they have been somehow restricted to certain areas. We have taken requisite steps. We have to ensure that we respond accordingly," said Lt. General B S Jaiswal, Northern Army Commander.  Ahead of the Amaranth Yatra, there are inputs that militants will try and push infiltrators into India. And with Pakistani Rangers giving cover fire, this could perhaps figure on the Home Minister's agenda when he meets his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad later this week.

DRDO policy gaffes attract international flak
June 22, 2010 01:54 IST Tags: Defence Research and Development Organisation, MSTP, ASAT, Matthew Hooey, India Share this Ask Users Write a Comment  New Delhi's [ Images ] moral and ethical protestations that India's [ Images ] space programme is entirely peaceful are facing embarrassing questioning after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — apparently oblivious of the policy implications of its statements — publicly announced a roadmap for its ambitious military space programme.  Last month, the DRDO published its "Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap", or TPCR, which declared that the "development of ASAT (anti-satellite weaponry) for electronic or physical destruction of satellites in both LEO (low earth orbit) and geo-synchronous orbit" can be expected to be completed by 2015.  Now, in a web article demanding that the US should rein in India's "defiant military space programme", Matthew Hooey of the Military Space Transparency Project (MSTP) — a US-based NGO that tracks the weaponisation of space — has pointed out that the DRDO's statement "blatantly contradicts statements by Indian political leaders that deny any intent by their nation to pursue space weapons".  The MSTP report asks why India is being allowed to adopt double standards. In January 2007, after China had launched a kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) to smash into its own aging Fengyun (FY-1C) satellite, then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee [ Images ] had protested, "the security and safety of assets in outer space is of crucial importance for global economic and social development. We call upon all States to redouble efforts to strengthen the international legal regime for the peaceful use of outer space."  India's prime minister had criticised China's test as forthrightly. The MSTP report points out that, at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin [ Images ] on January 27, 2007, Manmohan Singh [ Images ] had declared: "Our position is similar in that we are not in favour of the weaponisation of outer space."  Matthew Hooey scathingly describes this contradiction: "While top Indian military officials (i.e. DRDO) set ambitious milestones for destructive military space systems, Indian political leaders make contradictory claims about the nation's peaceful intentions for outer space".  This is not the first time that the DRDO has openly repudiated New Delhi's official line. Hooey points to a report entitled "Military Dimensions in the Future of the Indian Presence in Space", published in 2000 by V Siddhartha, an officer on the personal staff of the DRDO chief, which indicated that India could deploy a directed energy weapon in space by 2010, and also a system called the KALI [ Images ] (kinetic attack loitering interceptor).  Like so many DRDO programmes, the KALI's development time frame has turned out to be wildly optimistic. But the MSTP report alleges that the Siddhartha's report "is testament to, at the very least, a clear intention within the Indian military of deploying not only a space-based laser but also an ASAT system."  Equating the DRDO's defiance of international norms with that of North Korea and Iran, Hooey's article declares that the setting of "target dates for the development of anti-satellite systems by any nation should be considered shocking particularly given the scrutiny that was paid to nations such as China and the US when they each demonstrated a direct-ascent ability to strike satellites in space."  The Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force on October 10, 1967 and has been ratified by about 100 countries, including India, bans the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space.  The Space Preservation Treaty, which seeks to extend this ban to all weapons, has found no support from any major country. Only the city of Berkeley, California, has signed this treaty, and a tiny portion of the University of California has been declared a "space-based weapons-free zone".  An ASAT treaty — which would ban the development of ground-based weapons that could shoot down satellites in space — is even more improbable. Technologically capable countries, including India, pay lip service to the peaceful use of outer space, while going ahead with developing ASAT weapons. But such activities are masked, not flaunted, as the DRDO has done. In 2002, the provocatively named US Space Command was quietly merged with the US Strategic Command.

Maoist effect on UN mission - IAF seeks nod to recall choppers, army mulls deputing colonels to states
SUJAN DUTTA  New Delhi, June 21: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has sought permission to pull out its helicopters with UN missions in Africa, and the Indian Army has proposed deputing colonels to state governments in response to repeated calls from the home ministry for military help in tackling Naxalites, defence ministry sources have confirmed to The Telegraph.  In effect, the Naxalite upsurge across the central and eastern parts of the country is now beginning to take a toll on India’s international commitments. The IAF had deployed its helicopters for UN missions because most other countries refused to do so.  The defence ministry has written to the external affairs ministry that the IAF’s assets in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan — 17 Mi-17 multi-utility helicopters and eight Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack helicopter gunships — must be de-inducted and brought back for internal security duties, a senior defence ministry source said.  The defence ministry has requested the external affairs ministry — which liases with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) — that India should not renew the letter of assist” (LoA) that it has given for the UN missions in Congo and Sudan.  Simultaneously, in a separate move, army headquarters has also informed the defence ministry that officers of the rank of colonel — all of whom have had experience as commanding officers of battalions in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast — can be deputed to Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh for operational advice in battlefield tactics as central and state security forces seek to hunt down Maoists.  The army’s proposal follows not only requests from the home ministry but also its refusal to deploy troops to neutralise improvised explosive devices — a task, the army says, can only be carried out with deployments for area domination that can involve tens of thousands of troops.  Colonels with battlefield experience will bring their operational expertise to the state-wise planning of the counter-Naxalite operations and should be expected to fill a crucial gap in tactics.  Too few Indian Police Service officers have an exposure to battlefield tactics and senior police officers are also not as used to leading troops from the front in grinding routine as unlike army officers are, a senior army officer said, explaining the rationale.  The army, which has trained more than 50,000 state and central police forces for counter-Naxalite duties so far, is also insisting that IPS officers in Maoist areas be trained in jungle warfare before being inducted into specific tasks.  One senior army officer pointed to the example of a Rajput regiment officer, Colonel Rajnish Sharma, being chosen to head a Special Task Force (STF) by the Chhattisgarh government two years back. The STF in Chhattisgarh, he said, has fared much better than the other central and state police outfits, almost on a par with the Andhra Greyhounds.  The deputation of colonels to the state governments was also unlikely to create controversies in the hierarchies of the respective administrations. The warrant of precedence that lays down the ranks of military officers and their civilian equivalents, is valid only up to general officer ranks. A lieutenant general is equivalent to an additional secretary/director-general of police and a major general to a joint secretary/commissioner of police.  Placing an officer of the rank of colonel, therefore, it is reasoned, should not disrupt the rank structure in the field areas for internal security.  The military adviser in the home ministry, a post created by P. Chidambaram, is a brigadier, a notch above a colonel. The post is currently held by Brigadier D.S. Dadwal.  The drawdown of IAF assets from Africa will take between one and three months, an air headquarters source told The Telegraph.  The IAF has six Mi-17s (“Equatorial Eagles”) and four Mi-35 (“Firebirds”) in Goma and five Mi-17s and four Mi-25s (“Vipers”) in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The IAF was inducted in to enforce the peace in the civil war-riven African country in 2003. IAF special forces (Garud) and about 450 “air warriors” are also with the UN mission in Congo.  In Kadugali in South Central Sudan, the IAF has deployed six M-17s and 196 “air warriors” since January this year. India also has strategic interests in impoverished and war-torn Sudan, where Chinese commercial ventures have a large presence.

Army probing Major Dey's access to documents
Updated on Monday, June 21, 2010, 23:38 IST Tags: Army, Major Dey, Classified documents Buzz up! Share New Delhi: The Army is investigating the manner in which Major Shantanu Dey, who is being probed in a suspected espionage case, got access to over 200 classified documents that were found in his computer hard disc.  "The inquiry in the case is still on and we are trying to find out that how did Major Dey get access to classified files and who gave it to him," Army sources said here Monday.  While checking the hard disc of Major Dey's computer after the FBI gave a tip-off about mails being sent from it to a computer in Pakistan, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad found out that the Major was in possession of over 200 files and presentations of classified nature.  In joint investigations by the Military Intelligence (MI) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the case, it was found that the Army official's computer was not hacked and only his e-mail address and password were hacked by Pakistani operatives, they added.  The Army maintained that there was no espionage angle to it but said whatever be the outcome of the case, the officer was guilty of violating the Standard Operating Procedures of the military on cyber security.  The matter came to light when the FBI, while probing the David Headley case, found a picture sent by Major Dey to his former Commander, presently taking part in a course in the United States, in a Pakistani Army officer's computer and tipped off India about it.  After the FBI informed about the picture sent through a particular IP address, the NIA and the MI carried out a joint probe that led them to Dey's computer in Andaman from where the mail was sent.  Army is also trying to find out if the officer had e-mailed any classified documents also from his computer to any other person.  Maj Dey is at present serving in his unit deployed in the Andaman islands.  Sources said the Major told the investigators that he collected the 200-odd documents found in his hard disc for preparing for the Defence Services Staff College exams, which are scheduled to be held in September this year.

Govt keen to soften Armed Forces Special Powers Act
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, June 20 The Central Government is keen to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which will mean reduction in powers for the Army when it operates in anti-militancy operations.  According to official sources, the Home Ministry wants certain modifications to speed up the process of sanctioning prosecution for any “guilty” Army officials and also make it more “humane”. Since 1990, no sanction has been accorded in a total of 38 cases against Armymen in Jammu and Kashmir.  The proposed amendment to the Act has become a contentious issue of sorts between the Union Home Ministry and the Defence Ministry.  The matter has been sent to the Union Cabinet for a decision and comments from the Law and Defence ministries have been sought, sources confirmed. The armed forces have put their foot down and rejected any plan to dilute the Act, saying an upper hand over militants in Jammu and Kashmir or the North East has come about with great effort.  Meanwhile, PTI said that one of the proposed amendments was to include handing over of Army personnel, who allegedly indulge in fake killings, to the local police for prosecution. The agency report claimed that notwithstanding opposition from the Army and the Defence Ministry, the government is “planning to go ahead with certain amendments” in the Act.  The AFSPA became law in 1958 and was extended to Kashmir in 1990 and to Jammu in 2001. There have been persistent pleas to withdraw the Act, seen by many as “draconian”. Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, too, has been seeking amendments in the Act. The Union Home Ministry is also in favour of making the Act more “humane”.  While it is known that a draft note has been in circulation and comments have been sought following the Prime Minister’s assurance in carrying out a thorough review of the Act.  In any case the amendments will have to go through the Cabinet Committee on Security first before the Union Cabinet takes a call.  Curiously, both proponents and opponents of the Act have been citing the encounter in the Machil sector in Kashmir in their favour. Activists and the opposition in Kashmir have been vocal in condemning the allegedly fake encounter on April 30 this year in which three civilians were killed by the Army which described them initially as infiltrators. With state authorities coming up with sufficient evidence to cast doubts on the Army’s version, they have been demanding repeal or withdrawal of the Act.  Defence Ministry sources, however, have been citing the Army’s own internal inquiry and the decision to suspend an Army Major and remove a Colonel from his command as proof of sufficient checks and balances already available under the Act.  The GOC-in-C of the Northern Command Lt Gen B S Jaswal’s comment made to a TV channel that although not everybody follows guidelines given by religious scriptures, while some break them, the defiance or deviation do not call for a condemnation of the religious book, is cited approvingly by officials who oppose any dilution in the Act.

Military gears up to help in anti-Maoist operations  
Suman Sharma       / DNA Monday, June 21, 2010 2:33    The army is getting ready to play its part in anti-Maoist operations. As a first step, directorate general military operations (DGMO) has started numbering maps obtained from Survey of India (SoI) with focus on Maoist-affected states.  DGMO has obtained catalogues of the geographical information system (GIS) maps that detail terrains and begun corroborating information with satellite imagery. It is taking printouts and giving each map a unique number. Thousands of such maps have been already numbered.  A source said the entire country but Jammu and Kashmir was mapped by SoI, while the Valley and external territories are mapped by Military Survey.  “Considering the fact that the army can be called to maintain internal security anytime anywhere, this huge exercise has been undertaken. There are small places, villages, etc, which are of interest to the army. Since these maps can be obtained only from SoI by quoting unique numbers, it is collating them.”  The marathon, top-secret exercise has been under way for some time, but gained momentum after last week’s cabinet meeting stand-off between the ministries of home and defence over direct involvement of the armed forces in anti-Maoist operations.  The states to be covered first are Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

Army major nabbed accepting bribe
June 19th, 2010  Mumbai, June 19 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Saturday nabbed an Indian Army medical officer while accepting a bribe from a recruit for certifying him medically fit.  “We have arrested Major Dipendra Bhushan and his driver red handed. He was accepting a bribe of Rs.50,000 from a recruit,” CBI Deputy Inspector General Pravin Salunkhe said.  “Being a medical officer, Bhushan had a list of around 40 candidates he had to check on and give a certificate of medical fitness. He asked for a bribe of Rs.50,000 from every candidate. The complainant had agreed to pay him the amount. He then lodged a complaint after which we arrested Bhushan,” he added.

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