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Saturday, 17 July 2010

From Today's Papers - 17 Jul 2010

  Setback to dialogue Pakistan's intransigence a big roadblock 
The manner in which the Foreign Minister-level talks between India and Pakistan virtually collapsed at Islamabad on Thursday with the two sides trading accusations at a joint Press conference should make one conscious that the path to peace between the two countries is arduous and long. Yet, the only way they can move towards durable peace and meaningful cooperation is to continue to remain engaged despite setbacks. Having said that, India has reason to be deeply aggrieved over the attitude of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi and his delegation. For instance, when Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna pointed out that there had been a 40 per cent increase in infiltration from across the border into Kashmir in 2008-09 and that this was "designed to create instability in that part of India", Mr Qureshi's curt response was that it was up to India to deal "firmly" with anyone caught doing so and that infiltration was not the policy of the government of Pakistan or any of its agencies.  When Mr Krishna remarked that the "complete unravelling of the Mumbai conspiracy" would be the "biggest confidence-building measure" and expressed the hope that Pakistan would take into account the fresh evidence presented by Home Minister Chidambaram, Mr Qureshi indicated that there was little that could be done to speed up things since the government could not dictate to the courts. There was virtually nothing on which the two leaders seemed to agree except that Mr Qureshi would visit India before the end of the year. Even minor confidence-building measures regarding the exchange of imprisoned fishermen and making the Line of Control more porous were not agreed upon. If there was any discussion on bilateral trade and on opening up more trade and transit routes there was no mention of these positives in the general atmosphere of negativity and acrimony.  There is indeed no room for India to give up its insistence on the Pakistan government stopping infiltration into Kashmir. Nor can there be any whittling down of the Indian position that Pakistan must come clean and take punitive action against the perpetrators and abettors of the Mumbai blasts. The ball is really primarily in Pakistan's court to put the dialogue back on track. Failure to do so would be to the detriment of both countries.

  India's unsafe ports Coastal security deserves regular review
 Internal security has emerged as a major concern for India owing to the unending terrorist problem, the insurgency in the Northeast and the Maoist menace in many states. Yet it seems the country is not prepared to face the challenge from these elements with as much preparedness as is required. The fact that a large number of small and disused ports along the country's large coastline have no proper security arrangement is proof of this sad state of affairs. This is so despite "high priority" given to coastal security after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strikes. One wonders what would have been the situation in the absence of the so-called "high priority" factor. Coastal security is too serious a matter to be neglected. Spending crores of rupees and holding any number of meetings for the purpose are not enough.  If this is the style of functioning of those responsible for coastal security, what is the guarantee that the gaps will be completely filled following the "security audit" that has been undertaken after the alarming signals received from intelligence agencies. We must not forget that if trained terrorists can enter Mumbai using the sea route, they can do it again; this time they may choose a less important port for causing mayhem. It is true that many state governments are to blame for the lack of security arrangements at the nearly 200 ports falling under the purview of their maritime boards, which do not exist in many coastal states. But where is the Coastal Command, set up after 26/11 for the overall coordination and supervision of maritime and coastal security?  No one should be spared for putting the country's coasts at risk, including the naval authorities, which are not forthcoming in clearing the states' coastal security plans. Indulging in a blame game will take us nowhere. The main problem that appears to be coming in the way of ensuring adequate security at all big and small ports, including the disused ones, is the civilian-uniform divide that pervades the system. There is need for a system that allows the pooling of the assets of all the agencies concerned besides a regular review of coastal security.

Aged SSC officers move AFT over denial of facilities
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, July 16 Peeved over the withdrawal of medical facilities in military hospitals, aged Short Service Commission (SSC) and Emergency Commission Officers (ECO) have moved the Armed Forces Tribunal over what they contend are the actions contrary to the government's laid down policy.  The former officers, who were released on the completion of their terms of engagement, are claiming that directives issued by the Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS), apparently in contradiction of Presidential sanction and relevant Army orders, have deprived a large number of ex-officers and their dependents of medical cover at military hospitals.  The Chandigarh Bench of the Tribunal, comprising Justice Ghanshyam Prashad and Lt Gen H.S. Panag (retd), has issued notices to the central government and others concerned for August 13. The issue had been repeatedly taken by the officers with the higher authorities . It was only about a decade ago that the government extended medical facilities to SSCs and ECOs at military hospitals. However, in 2008, DGAFMS wrote to all Army commands that they were not entitled to medical facilities as these were available only to service pensioners. Since the early 70s, the Army has been inducting about 500 SSC officers annually. In the wake of the 1962 Indo-Pak war, thousands of ECOs were also commissioned.  Earlier, medical facilities were only available to ex-service pensioners and their dependants and the families of deceased personnel drawing pension of some kind. Then in 1996, the MoD directed that the term "ex-service pensioners" be replaced by the term "ex-servicemen". Consequently, entitled categories became ex-servicemen covered under the definition of "ex-serviceman" issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), their dependants and families of deceased personnel drawing pension.  The MoD, for the purpose of medical entitlement, had simply adopted the definition of "ex-servicemen" issued by the DoPT and resultantly all ex-servicemen irrespective of "pensioner" status became entitled to medical facilities. This included all personnel released after the completion of terms of engagement such as SSCOs and ECOs. Army HQs issued medical entitlement cards to them. Those who have been released from service on the completion of their term of engagement are included in DoPT's definition of ex-servicemen.

War widow denied pension
Vijay Mohan/Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, July 16 In a strange turn of events, an additional district judge (ADJ) in Punjab had denied family pension to the widow of an Indian soldier killed during World War-II by holding that the deceased had died in Waziristan, which was in Burma, and hence, he was a member of the Burmese Army.  Waziristan happens to be in Pakistan and not in Burma and the deceased, Sepoy Sital Singh, was posted with the 5th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment of the then British Indian Army. He was killed in Waziristan in 1940.  Setting aside this the civil court's order, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has held that he was very much part of the Indian Army and has directed the authorities concerned to release family pension to his 90-year old widow, Surjit Kaur, a resident of Hoshiarpur.  The ADJ had granted her ex-gratia allowance. Former Burmese employees of Indian origin and their families are entitled to a pension paid by the Burmese (now Myanmar) government which is stepped up to the minimum level of pension applicable in India and the difference is paid by the Indian government. This payment is known as ex-gratia allowance is much lesser than what is granted to widows in India.  After her husband's death, Surjit Kaur was granted normal family pension by the Controller of Military Accounts (Lahore) of the British Indian Army, instead of the liberalised family pension admissible to widows of soldiers killed in action. When she sought her actual entitlement from the authorities, they very strangely stated that her husband was a member of the Burmese Army and not of the British Indian Army, and hence, she was not even eligible for normal family pension.  During arguments, it was contended that her pension documents also clearly state that the pension was determined under the Regulations for the Royal British Indian Army. Further, Burma attained independence from the Britain in 1948 and since Sital Singh had died in 1940, he could never have been an employee of the Burmese government because till then the country did not exist.  The Punjab Regimental Records and the Rajput Regimental Records have also maintained that the deceased's battalion was a part of the Punjab regiment. What may probably have created confusion is that the battalion was informally referred to the "5th Battalion (Burma)" because in 1922 remnants of the 93rd Burma Infantry were merged into it.

ISI pushed Pak on back foot It paid Rs 25 lakh to LeT to buy boat for 26/11 attack: Headley
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, July 16 Irrefutable evidence on involvement of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) in planning and executing the Mumbai attack led to the breakdown of talks between India and Pakistan.  Lodged in a Chicago jail, terror suspect David Coleman Headley recently told Indian investigators that the ISI gave him Rs 25 lakh to procure a boat in which the 10 terrorists sailed from Karachi to Mumbai in November 2008. Headley, in the presence of US officials, also revealed that it was ISI that briefed him on various aspects of the plan.  The 'clinching' evidence that was presented to the Pakistan side sent it into a tizzy, said sources in the Home Ministry today. The ISI, headed by Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, has a large section of Pakistani Army regulars working for it. When India asked Pakistan to investigate the links between the ISI and Headley, the latter found itself on a sticky wicket.  Indian investigators have information that the ISI chief had met one of the handlers of the Mumbai attack, Sajjid Mir, currently lodged in a Pakistani jail. This probably rattled Pakistan the most, besides the interrogation report of David Coleman Headley.  According to sources, "key elements" in Pakistan were looking to derail the Home Minister-level talks that took place in last week of June. Pakistan's strategy was to avoid taking action against terrorist groups like the Pakistani Taliban. It even denied that infiltration was taking place in Jammu and Kashmir during the talks. The Pakistan said that it can't pick and choose which terrorist organisations it will target and which it will not. It was also reluctant to act against Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of 26/11 and head of Jamaat-ud-Dawaa that is whipping up anti-India hysteria.  All this would impact the talks between the two foreign ministers slated for December, said sources, adding that India will keenly look for "outcomes", especially on the terror front.  Sources said Pakistan was not even keen on smoothening the trade between the two parts of J&K. At present a barter system is working while India wants trade through banks and suggested opening of a branch of an Indian Bank in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) while allowing a Pakistan bank to open a branch in India.

Major,2 jawans injured as operation vs ultras enters 4th day Press Trust of India / Jammu July 16, 2010, 9:11 IST  An Army major and two jawans were injured in a gunbattle with militants in Poonch district as the operation against ultras in the region entered the fourth day today.  Troops of 37 Rashtriya Rifles were conducting the operation around 0430 hrs when militants perched on mountain tops fired on them resulting in exchanges, Defence Spokesman Lt Col Biplav Nath said.  In the encounter, a major and two jawans were injured, he said, adding the gunbattle is going on when reports last came in from the area.  The injured Armymen have been airlifted by a chopper to the military hospital in Udhampur. They have been identified as Major G S Shekhawat, naik Narendra Kumar and Sepoy Bhanu Pratap.  The anti-terrorist operation was launched by Army's 37 Rashtriya Rifle (RR) troops after inputs about infiltration of a group of 10 to 12 militants in Mankote forest belt on July 13.  During the operation, an Army major was killed and six other securitymen, including a colonel, injured in an encounter with suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists on July 13.  Major Amit Phunge was killed in the encounter with the militants while Colonel Ajay Katoch of 47 Rashtriya Rifles was injured.  Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed yesterday in an encounter with security forces in Beri-Rakh forest in the district.  The operation is going on in the area to track down the rest of the militants in this dense forest belt close to the Line of Control in Mankote-Mendhar belt, an Army official said.

Indo-Pak talks should not only centre on terror
By Online  July 17, 2010  Meeting between president, prime minister and COAS vows to ensure Pakistan's strategic interests  ISLAMABAD: In a significantly-timed high-level meeting on Friday, the country's top leadership – the president, prime minister and chief of army staff – resolved that dialogue with India should not only centre on terrorism.  In the meeting held at the presidency, participated by President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, it was agreed to ensure Pakistan's basic national strategic interests in talks with India, and stressed that Islamabad will keep on playing a positive role for sovereignty and integrity to maintain peace in the entire South Asian region. The meeting is learnt to have discussed a host of issues, including the security situation, the Krishna visit, Indian foreign minister's meeting and issues of national security.  At the outset, sources said, it was made clear that, from now onwards, all decisions on issues like defence and security will be made jointly.   Expressing satisfaction over the meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India in which issues like Pak-India dialogue and Siachen were discussed, the president and the prime minister reiterated that Pakistan had paid a steep price in the war  against terrorism, adding that it had sustained losses, instead of gaining advantages, but the entire nation and the government had shown an unwavering resolve to defeat extremism.  Reiterating the country's desire to expand relations with India on equal footings, the participants said that all talks should be held in an amicable manner as the dialogue process with India should not only be limited to terrorism only, they stressed, according to sources.  The Chief of the Army Staff is said to have briefed the president and the prime minister on some of key decisions taken at the Corps' Commander conference.

Don't join Unified Command, Maoists appeal to Army men
Staff Reporter  The Communist Party of India (Maoist) criticised on Friday the Centre's decision to appoint a retired Major-General of the Army as a member of the Unified Command for anti-Maoist operations in four States and issued a veiled threat to any person of that rank against taking charge of the post at the Centre's insistence.  In a voice-recorded press statement, Maoist Polit Bureau member Kishanji stated: "Whether retired or still in service with the Army, an Army officer will always be an Army officer, and this proves that Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is engaging the defence forces to destroy the mass movement and kill people randomly. The decision to use increasing number of Air Force helicopters is also indicative of this fact."  Following a meeting with the Chief Ministers and representatives of seven Maoist-affected States, Mr. Chidambaram had asked four States — Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal — to set up a Unified Command with a retired Major-General of the Army as a member.  "Appealing" to the retired Major-Generals of the Army not to get engaged in "a war against their own people", Kishanji warned that "whoever [of the retired Major-General rank] will accept the offer of joining the Unified Command will be put on the same pedestal as Mr. Chidambaram, by the common people as well as the Maoists." Claiming that neither the common man nor even a section of the UPA favoured the use of the defence forces to fight the Maoists, he accused Mr. Chidambaram of taking the decision "at the behest of the corporate world, the World Bank and the U.S." Decision on SPOs flayed  Kishanji also criticised the Centre's decision to increase the number of special police officers (SPO) in the States.  Alleging that not even one per cent of the funds allocated for the development of the tribal-dominated areas have been used for the wellbeing of the tribals, he slammed the Centre's announcement of a Special Development Plan with emphasis on road connectivity, primary education, healthcare and drinking water.

Pakistan violates ceasefire again
  Ishfaq-ul-Hassan  / DNA Saturday, July 17, 2010 0:52    The Pakistani army again violated ceasefire on Thursday even as foreign ministers of India and Pakistan were trying to iron out differences in Islamabad.  The Pakistani army opened indiscriminate fire on Indian forward posts on the line of control (LoC) in Krishna Ghati sector in Jammu's Poonch district around 9 pm. Firing went on for nearly two hours, Lieutenant Colonel Biplab Nath, the defence spokesman at Jammu, said.   The Pakistani army targetted forward posts in Nangi Tekri area. "The firing was unprovoked. They used small arms and also fired some rockets. We responded appropriately. There was no loss on our side," Lt Col Nath said.  The Indian army has lodged a protest with the Pakistani army for the ceasefire violation.  "Hopefully, a flag meeting will take place today [Friday] at Chakan-da-Bagh where we will lodge our protest," he said. This is the fourth ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir this month. Pakistani Rangers had violated ceasefire and killed a BSF jawan in Chek Pargwal, Akhnoor sector, on the international border in Jammu on July 5.  While Indian soldiers were braving the Pakistani army firing along LoC, another column was busy fighting Lashkar-e-Taiba militants hiding in Beri Rakh forests in Mendhar area of Poonch. Two terrorists and an army Major have already died in the encounter, which entered the fourth day on Friday. Ten armymen, including a Colonel, have been injured. "The operation is on. It is hard to say how many militants are there," Lt Col Nath said.

Be prepared for anti-Naxal fight, Army chief tells officers
PTI, Jul 16, 2010, 09.36pm IST PUNE: The Army chief on Friday asked his officers to be mentally prepared to step into the fight against Naxals if the situation did not improve.  "It might be in six months or in one year or two years but if we have to maintain our relevance as a tool of the state we will have to undertake things that the nation wants us to," a defence release quoted General V K Singh as saying.  He was addressing army officers during his visit to the Southern Command headquarters here.  On the current security environment, he said there was no let up in the proxy war situation with the western neighbours and their activities, including operation of sleeper cells in Jammu and Kashmir.  On China, Singh said though talks are on with that country, it continues its heavy spend on modernising armed forces.  "With our unsettled border, transgressions taking place in disputed border areas cannot be ruled out," he said.  Commenting on a variety of institutional and behavioural issues in the Army, he said the officer shortages are here to stay as less people are joining in the direct entry and short service schemes. "Everyone has to learn to live with the shortages for the time being."

British royalty to honour India's WW-I soldiers
July 16, 2010 – 8:07 am Sponsored Links  Chandigarh, July 16 (IANS) Over 95 years after they sacrificed their lives for the British Indian Army in World War I, over 4,700 Indian soldiers will be honoured by the British royalty in France July 19.  Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, will visit the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial in Nord Pas De Calais county to honour the Indian and other South Asian soldiers who fought against German forces in France.  The memorial commemorates over 4,700 Indian soldiers who fell in the battle of Neuve-Chapelle in March-April 1915.  'Their Royal Highnesses will visit Neuve-Chapelle Memorial, in memory of soldiers from South Asia who gave their lives fighting for the British Indian Army in World War I,' said Eva Omaghomi, assistant press secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at The Royal Household.  'Their Royal Highnesses will meet students from the United Kingdom and France who have been studying issues of diversity and national cohesion.'  Over 22 percent of the 161,000-strong British Indian Army were Sikhs from the Punjab province and several others were from areas of northern India.  Among those who made the supreme sacrifice in the battle is the winner of Victoria Cross, the highest British battle honour, Gobar Singh Negi, a rifleman from Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army.  Hailing from Manjaur village in the Tehri Garwal area in present-day Uttarakhand, Negi was awarded the Victoria Cross for his ultimate act of bravery in the fiercest and most significant engagement of the Indian troops during the war.  Negi's citation read: 'For most conspicuous bravery on 10th March, 1915, at Neuve-Chapelle. During our attack on the German position he was one of a bayonet party with bombs who entered their main trench, and was the first man to go round each traverse, driving back the enemy until they were eventually forced to surrender. He was killed during this engagement.'  Losses of Indian troops in the battle of Neuve-Chapelle were heavy.  Official figures of casualties in WW-I said that 64,449 Indian soldiers were killed fighting for the Allied Forces in the war.  The Neuve-Chapelle Indian memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker and unveiled in October 1927, has inscriptions in English, French, Arabic, Hindi and Gurmukhi (Punjabi) saying, 'God is One, His is the Victory'.  The Indian soldiers who fell during the war have no known grave.  One of the memorials in their honour in India is the India Gate in central Delhi. The sandstone structure carries names of the Indian soldiers who died in WW-I fighting in lands thousands of kilometres from their home country for battles that were not their own.

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