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Thursday, 24 June 2010

From Today's Papers - 24 Jun 2010

Air Marshal Ganguly takes over as DGMS
Tribune News service  New Delhi, June 23 Air Marshal Dipankar Ganguly took over as the new Director-General Medical Services (DGMS). He was commissioned in the Army Medical Corps on 22 Mar, 1973. He was graduated from the AFMC in 1972, and was the recipient of six gold medals and the Kalinga trophy. Air Marshal Ganguly was also the first recipient of the President’s Gold Medal.  As part of the instructional duties, he has served as Clinical tutor in surgery and cardio thoracic surgery, Lecturer, Reader and Associate Professor in cardio thoracic surgery at AFMC and Professor of Cardio Thoracic Surgery at Army Hospitall (R&R).  The Air Marshal has pioneered and established the CTVS Centre at Army Hospital (R&R) and was responsible for starting the CABG surgery in the armed forces.  He took over as the Deputy Commandant of the prestigious hospital and served in that capacity from March 6 to February 8.

Pak support for LeT Chidambaram’s visit can’t change situation by G. Parthasarathy 
BARELY a week before the departure of the Union Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, for Islamabad to attend a conference of SAARC Home Ministers, where he is also scheduled to have a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Rehman Malik, New Delhi presented the Pakistan High Commission yet another “dossier” on the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai by the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba. Even as the “dossier” was being handed over, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed convened a well- attended public meeting in Lahore, ostensibly to express solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. The meeting was attended, among others, by senior functionaries of Islamic parties like the Jamat-e-Islami. The dignitaries on the dais were seated with their feet planted firmly on the national flags of India, the United States and Israel.  Not surprisingly, there was much raving and ranting about “Hindu-Jewish conspiracies” against Muslim nations, with Saeed proclaiming: “Mossad instructors are training Indian troops to crush the liberation movement in Kashmir”. This was entirely in keeping with Saeed’s constant homilies that “Hindus, Jews and Christians are enemies of Islam” and that it was his aim to “unfurl the green flag of Islam in New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington”.  The Punjab provincial government in Pakistan is now known to have provided Rs 82 million as financial assistance to Hafiz Saeed’s Jamat-ud-Dawa, an organisation banned by the UN Security Council, shortly after the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai. This should not cause any surprise, as the Chief Minister of Punjab is none other than Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz and his father Mian Mohammed Sharif have been long-time patrons of the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba. Nawaz Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim league (N), was founded with the patronage of Gen Zia-ul-Haq and was funded by the ISI for its election campaign in 1991.  It was during the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister that the Lashkar emerged as the most formidable terrorist organisation in Pakistan, enjoying the patronage of both the ruling party and the ISI. It is well known that provincial minister Rana Sanaullah serves as the conduit between the PML (N) and militant groups in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Benazir Bhutto once described this nexus as the “Military, mullah and madarsa complex”!  The U.N. Commission that investigated the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been scathing in its references to the ISI-militant nexus in Pakistan. The commission has noted: “Ms Bhutto faced threats from a number of sources; these included Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, local jihadi groups and potentially from elements in the Pakistan establishment (a euphemism for the Pakistan military establishment). The investigators have been hampered by intelligence agencies and other government officials.”  The report also notes: “The Sunni groups are largely based in Punjab. Members of these groups aided the Taliban in Afghanistan at the behest of the ISI and later cultivated ties with Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban groups. The Pakistani military and the ISI also supported some of these groups in the Kashmir insurgency after 1989. The bulk of the anti-Indian activity remains the work of groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba (LeT), which has close ties with the ISI”.  Given this nexus between the ISI and influential sections of the political establishment on the one hand, and the LeT on the other, it would be naive to assume that Mr Chidambaram’s visit is going to lead to any progress on ending Pakistan’s support for the Lashkar.  The LeT has not confined itself to terrorist attacks against targets in India. After the Mumbai carnage, it extended its activities to Afghanistan also. On June 15, the New York Times reported: “Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba’s expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan’s proxies to counteract India’s influence in the country.”  The report adds: “They provide yet another indicator of the extent to which Pakistani militants are working to shape the outcome of the Afghan war as the July 2011 deadline approaches, to begin withdrawing American troops.” In a recent testimony to the US Congress, the LeT is described as having ambitions “beyond India”.  Harvard scholar Nick Waldman and a team from the London School of Economics (LSE) have published a damning report on the Pakistan military establishment’s role in Afghanistan. The report states that a joint US, NATO and Afghan intelligence assessment in 2006 concluded that the ISI not only provided a vital sanctuary for the Taliban, but also paid and pressurised them to fight Americans in Pakistan. The ISI set up medical facilities for wounded Taliban cadres and even arranged for covering fire for infiltration across the Durand Line, separating Pakistan and Afghanistan. Moreover, the report outlines Pakistan’s political rationale for backing the Afghan Taliban.  Ever since Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmed Shah Abdali, who was a Durrani Pashtun, members of the Durrani clan have constituted the leadership of the country. President Hamid Karzai is a Durrani Pashtun. The LSE report notes: “The Pakistan government is said to have a long-term bias against the Durrani tribes due to their record of support for the idea of Pashtunistan”, thereby asserting their claims to traditional Afghan lands which were annexed by the British in 1893.  The LSE report thus explains why the ISI supports Mullah Omar, who is not a Durrani Pashtun, but is a Ghilzai from Kandahar. The report states that the ISI had infiltrated and controlled the ruling council of the Taliban, popularly known as the Quetta Shura. It also explains why the ISI recently arrested Mullah Omar’s Deputy, Mullah Baradar, who is a Durrani Pashtun. Mullah Baradar was reportedly negotiating a deal with President Karzai without informing the ISI.  New Delhi would be well advised to focus attention on the fact that virtually no Pashtun, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan, recognises the Durand Line as the international border between the two neighbours. Pakistan should be made to realise that playing the “Pashtun card,” as it is presently doing, can be a double-edged sword. There are some in the United States who recognise this. But there are also others like General Petraeus who rationalise the ISI’s links with the Taliban by glibly claiming: “You have to have contact with the bad guys to get intelligence on the bad guys.” Only God can help the US if its forces are fighting the Taliban on the basis of such convoluted logic of its Generals!

India to talk tough with Pak
Ajay Banerjee writes from Islamabad  The Issues      * India will take up issue of Pak army involvement in Mumbai attacks     * India will provide to Islamabad the latest evidence of how three Pakistan Army officers were hand-in glove with David Headley while he was planning the Mumbai incidents     * India will reiterate its demand for the voice samples of Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi of the LeT     * The Indian delegation will also draw the attention of the Pakistani side towards intrusion in Jammu and Kashmir  India and Pakistan are set to hold intensive parleys over the next three days, aimed at finding ways and means to normalise bilateral ties, which touched a new low in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.  The accusatory and finger-pointing mode since the Mumbai carnage has toned down but there is no dilution in New Delhi’s stand that Pakistan must bring to justice the perpetrators of the attacks.  India will also provide to Islamabad the latest evidence of how three Pakistan Army officers were hand-in glove with David Coleman Headley while he was planning the Mumbai incidents in collaboration with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).  The home ministers of the two countries, P Chidambaram and Rehman Malik, will hold a one-to-one meeting, possibly on June 25, a day before the SAARC Interior Ministers’ conference.  Armed with fresh proof of uninterrupted activities of “jehadi” groups in Pakistan, the Indian side, that comprises Chidambaram, Home Secretary GK Pillai and Director of Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Mathur, among others, is gearing up to do some “plain-speaking” with the Pakistani side on anti-India terrorism and rhetoric originating from the neighbouring country.  Starting tomorrow, the home secretaries, the foreign secretaries and the intelligence chiefs of the two countries will meet each other. While foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will do the groundwork for the foreign minister-level talks between India and Pakistan slated for July 15, Pillai and his team will work on the security aspect and terrorism.  The nuclear-armed neighbours are looking to pick up the threads of the dialogue from where they left in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan is insisting on the resumption of the composite dialogue while India says the two countries must first overcome the trust deficit before doing serious business with each other.  “The upcoming meetings are exploratory in nature. The content of the discussion is important and not the nomenclature or labels. However, we are prepared to discuss every issue”, official sources said.  On the security front, Indian home ministry officials are clear that they can’t expect any gilded or iron-cast assurances on terror. However, they will flag their concerns on key issues and gauge Pakistan’s response.  “It will be imprudent to believe that Pakistan will give any assurance?. The Indian home minister during his meeting with Rehman Malik will present certain key facts on terrorism directed against India, cross-border infiltration and continuation of training camps for militants and anti-India groups,” the sources said.  The interrogation of David Headley carried out by the National Investigation Agency in the US a couple of weeks ago, had revealed how he was in regular touch with three officers of the Pakistan Army. Indian will seek action against them. India has been impressing on Pakistan to take action against Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, who New Delhi believes is the key plotter of the Mumbai attacks.  In addition, India will reiterate its demand for the voice samples of Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi of the LeT. These are needed to match them with the voices of the handlers of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai. India already has recorded voice samples that were recorded from telephonic intercepts during the attacks.  The Indian delegation will also draw the attention of the Pakistani side towards intrusion in Jammu and Kashmir as security agencies have reported a sharp rise in the infiltration attempts across the Line of Control (LoC).  The other serious issue will be the fake Indian currency notes. India will point out that a major chunk of the fake notes were being routed through Pakistan. Humanitarian issues like repatriation of fishermen caught in each others territorial waters and relaxation of visa regimes will also come up. India has a list of some 42 criminals who are wanted for crimes in India that could also come up during the talks.

Col killed in Kupwara encounter
Ehsan Fazili Tribune News service  Col Neeraj SoodSrinagar, June 23 An Army Colonel was killed in an encounter with militants in a remote forest area of Lolab in Kupwara district in Kashmir yesterday.  The incident took place when the troops launched a search operation in Chalwan forest area. Col Neeraj Sood, Commanding Officer of 18 RR, received bullet injuries and was rushed to a hospital, reports said.  He died on the way. Sood was in the area to carry out counter-insurgency operations.  The unit had laid two ambushes in the area in early hours of last night and one of them made contact with militants, an Army statement said. “On getting information about the encounter, Col Sood, along with his Quick Reaction Team, being the closest, at the Company Operating Base, rushed to the site. In the ensuing firefight, the officer sustained a gun shot wound on his head and succumbed to his injuries,” it said.  The Army was continuing its operations through the day in the area, they said. Additional forces have been rushed to the spot and search operations launched. Col Sood, a resident of Delhi, was commissioned into 8 Rajputana Rifles in December 1992, and is an alumni of the National Defence Academy.  The officer had extensive experience in counter- insurgency operations and also served as an instructor at the Army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Variengte. — PTI

Indian Air Force to offer honorary post to Sachin Tendulkar
The Air Force Headquarters has already finalised the plans of making him an honorary Group Captain. There was a debate on whether who should be the sportsman to whom this post is conferredand apparently Sachin was everyone's first choice.    AFTER HIS stupendous performance on the ground, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar is set to scale new heights. Sachin is all set to become the first sports person, who will be offered an honorary post in the Indian Air Force.   The Air Force Headquarters has already finalised the plans of making him an honorary Group Captain. There was a debate on whether, who should be the sportsman to whom this post is conferred and apparently Sachin was everyone's first choice given his aura on and off the field.   The post of Wing Commander and Squadron Leader were ruled out as he has over 20 years of experience of playing top class cricket. In this regard, the Air Force has forwarded the necessary details to the Defence Ministry. However, the Prime Minister's office and the President's office will make an official statement as the President is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.   It is not very common that the Indian defence services offer honorary posts to civilians. Last year, the Territorial Army made South Indian superstar, Mohanlal an honorary colonel and so was former India captain, Kapil Dev. Industrialist Vijay Singhania was crowned Air Commodore because he holds a world record in high altitude air balloon flying.

Colonel had just celebrated wedding anniversary
2010-06-23 21:10:00  The Indian Army colonel killed by militants in Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday celebrated his 12th marriage anniversary only a month ago with his wife and 11-year-old daughter.  An avid sportsperson with immense experience in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare, 40-year-old Neeraj Sood, commanding officer of the 18 Rashtriya Rifles, joined the Indian Army Dec 19, 1992.  A Delhiite, Sood was rearing to celebrate his 41st birthday Nov 22. That was not to be.  On Tuesday, his unit laid two ambushes to dominate an area in a rural part of Kupwara district, 105 km from Srinagar.  Sood was initially not part of the operation. But he rushed to the site to lead his men on getting to know about hidden gunmen, a military official told IANS.  In the firefight, he was shot in the head and succumbed to his injuries.  Wrapped in the Indian tri-colour, his body was flown to Delhi Wednesday afternoon with military honours.  A bright student from the Kendriya Vidyalaya at Andrews Ganj, the officer was an alumni of the National Defence Academy. He passed out in 1991 from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.  He had been an instructor at the army's prestigious Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Variengte in Mizoram.  On May 12, 1998, he married Priti, a housekeeper. Their daughter Mishika studies in Class 5.  His wife and daughter have lived in Srinagar's Badambi Bagh cantonment since 2008 when Sood was transferred to fight militancy in Kashmir.

Antony creates history at Nyoma in Ladakh
Special Correspondent He becomes the first Defence Minister to land at the ALH there  A.K. Antony on Tuesday became the first Defence Minister to land at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) of Nyoma in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.  The ALG, activated last September for fixed-wing aircraft, is 23 km from the Line of Actual Control and close to the Sino-Indian border. Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, senior officials of the Ministry of Defence, senior officers of the Army and Air Force based in Leh accompanied the Minister.  Nyoma has been developed with an aim to connect the remote areas of Ladakh to the mainland. This will also ensure that movements in the area continue when the road traffic gets affected during harsh winters besides enabling communication network in the region, facilitating economical ferrying of supplies as well as promotion of tourism to the general area.  Mr. Antony also made an aerial survey of another ALG, Fukche, a Defence Ministry release said.  PTI reports  When Mr. Antony met jawans at the Siachen glacier they demanded reduction in telephone call rates, better socks and more snow mobiles, Defence Ministry officials said at Leh.  Mr. Antony assured them that early action would be taken on all the issues raised by them.  During the interaction at the Siachen Base Camp, Mr. Antony spoke to a number of men and officers of the Army and the Air Force and sought their frank views on the conditions they were working in.  The Minister met a group of soldiers who had just returned after posting in the high altitude areas.

'Joy' jawans: now, fewer salary hassles for them
TNN, Jun 23, 2010, 04.34am IST BANGALORE: Absurd but true. Till date, the defence accounts (DA) department has only 25% of its jawans and staff below officer ranks into the monthly salary mode. However, if all goes as planned, by end of 2010 all 1.2 million jawans will get into the monthly payment system.  On Tuesday, the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA), Bangalore, launched the monthly payment system for its remaining three out of its six pay and account offices (PAO). This includes Army Service Corps, Bangalore, Madras Engineering Group (MEG), Bangalore and Maratha Light Infantry (MLI), Belgaum. With this launch, another 1.15 lakh jawans join the 90,000 others of PCDA-Bangalore who are already into this system.  SPECIAL DAY FOR THIS JAWAN On Tuesday, Nayak Kushalappa was an elated man for he was the first among the jawans from PAO (ASC South) to download his salary statement for June. “No more delayed payments. No more dealing with cumbersome, long quarterly statements and tedious procedures. The best part, two debit cards (self and family) and access to quarterly salary statements (GSA) henceforth. “It’s going to be easy for all my fellow jawans as well,” he said. According to Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) Nanda Kishore, who was in city to launch the initiative, the DA department’s low staff strength has added to the delay. Majority of the jawans and staff below officer rank are still paid monthly advances as per their salary entitlement and accounts are maintained on individual running ledger account and closed on quarterly basis.  Bangalore has the least number opting for defence accounts jobs, said the CGDA. What are the challenges and plans ahead? Excerpts:  What’s the overall picture of this monthly payment system for jawans? How many jawans come under it? We started this set up with the PAO at Lucknow, in August 2009. Till date, 25% of the total 1.2 million jawans in India have been covered under the system. Our target: By this year-end, all jawans must get their monthly payments and both monthly and quarterly statements online.  One of the oldest departments in the country and only 25% of jawans get monthly salaries and online statements. Why such slow progress?  Changing technology is one of our greatest challenges. Further, banking system itself wasn’t well developed earlier. Low staff strength is another reason. I took over early this year and already, the department strength has reduced by half. At present, we are just a total 15-16,000 managing a huge account of Rs 2 lakh crore.  What are the reasons for low staff strength? Is attrition rate high? Yes, attrition is high. With computerization, we had frozen recruitments within department during the 80-90s. Even otherwise, there are very less people opting for defence accounts.Bangalore, especially, has very little takers in this field.  Any plans to increase staff strength? Yes. Shortly we’ll recruit at least 2,000 more people for the staff cadre. This will be done through staff selection process. I will be happy getting even 30% of this proposed number. Nearly 200 units now have e-ticketing facilities. We will now extend it to another 100 units. This apart, the 100th Pension Adalat is coming up next month.

Indian Army opposes amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 
* Cites Indian Supreme Court’s judgments upholding constitutional validity of law  By Iftikhar Gilani  NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has opposed the government’s plans to amend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), citing the Indian Supreme Court’s judgments upholding the constitutional validity of the law.  It has even criticised the political leadership for making the army a scapegoat rather than correcting its own follies.  Responding to the note circulated by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s government seeking amendments to the law, the army has even dared the political leadership to withdraw troops from troubled regions like the Indian-held Kashmir.  Warning that the proposed amendments would affect active operations and result in militants taking the initiative, army sources told reporters that troops would not be able to operate in the prevailing environment without a legal cover.  Northern Army Commander Lt Gen BS Jaswal said in a recent interview that the law was sacred to him as well as to the entire Indian Army.  “We have religious books; there are certain guidelines which are given there, but all members of a religion do not follow it, they break the rules also. Does it imply that you remove the religious book?” he asked.  Senior officers have also blamed the political leadership for letting the status quo prevail.  They believed that the lack of political capability was actually forcing the army to resist a major troop reduction, despite a drop in violence.  Rejecting the notion that the AFSPA was responsible for human rights violations, the army maintained that the forces had not only punished the erring personnel unilaterally under the Army Act, but also never blocked their prosecution by civil authorities.

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