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Saturday, 28 August 2010

From Today's Papers - 28 Aug 2010


Won’t sever defence ties with China: Antony
Tribune News Service  Hyderabad, August 27 In an attempt to downplay an ongoing diplomatic row over China’s denial of visa to a top Army official, Defence Minister AK Antony today ruled out severing defence ties with Beijing. “It is not the question of breaking defence ties with China. We have close ties. Occasionally, there may be small problems here and there but the broader approach of defence ties will not be affected,” he told reporters after laying the foundation stone for expansion of Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd here today.  Antony was asked about reports in a section of the media suggesting that New Delhi could snap defence ties with Beijing in the wake of denial of visa to Lt Gen BS Jaswal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, on the ground that he controlled operations in “sensitive” Jammu and Kashmir. China maintains Jammu and Kashmir is a “disputed” area.  Lt Gen Jaswal was nominated by the government to visit China as part of regular high-level exchanges between defence establishments of the two countries. “Short-term problems would not affect India’s overall approach towards China,” Antony said.  Earlier, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman reacted guardedly to the issue of visa denial. “While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each others’ concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” the spokesman said.  Of late, China has been issuing visas to applicants from Jammu Kashmir on “loose sheets of paper” that are stapled to their passports. India has raised objections over the practice.  Asked if foreign direct investment cap in the defence production sector would be enhanced to 49 per cent, Antony said, “We have now allowed 26 per cent FDI in our defence production”. He noted that India’s defence production was improving but there was still scope for improvement.  “Our main target is to develop India into a strong base for defence industrial production. We are not restricting this area only to the public sector and we will be supporting the private sector as well. But we must also encourage the public sector,” the Defence Minister said.

Agni-V ready for testing
Tribune News Service  Hyderabad, August 27 India is all set to test-fire the 5,000-km range Agni-V missile, Defence Minister AK Antony said here today. He Minister, however, refused to disclose the timeframe for the test-fire.  Agni-V is an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of carrying a 1.5-tonne nuclear warhead payload. The three-stage sold fuelled missile will have a range of 5,000 to 6,000 km and will be the first road-mobile missile in the country’s arsenal.  “We have developed this missile following denial of technology to India. The denial has only given us an opportunity to develop the 5,000-km range missile,” Antony said. He was speaking after laying foundation stone for an expansion project at Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited, a defence public sector company.  India has already test-fired the 3,500 km Agni-III. Though it is capable of reaching strategic targets deep inside China, it falls short of being an ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile), which must have a range of over 5,000 km.  Antony complimented Indian scientists working in critical areas and said they had proved that India could overcome sanctions and denials.

Chopper crashes, 2 pilots injured
Tribune News Service  Bangalore, August 27 A Chetak helicopter crashed during a routine trainee sortie at the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) Rotary Wing Academy here today, leaving the pilot and a trainee injured.  Air Commodore Roj Assey (retd) of the HAL’s Rotary Wing Academy was imparting flying lessons to Captain Virender Singh of the Army when the accident took place.  The aircraft was about to take off when it impacted the ground and was substantially damaged. Both pilots suffered minor injuries, a press release issued by HAL said. The cause of the mishap, which occurred around 9 am, was being ascertained, HAL Chairman Ashok Naik said. The usual procedure followed by HAL is to go in for a post-impact analysis report following a crash.  The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry into the incident and its report is awaited, Naik added. HAL Rotary Wing Academy was established in February 2000 for helicopter flying training of civil pilot trainees.

  Army’s image on the decline Still it is the most dependable institution
 by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)  Hardly a week goes by when the Army does not find a mention in newspaper columns about alleged violations of human rights, corruption and other misdemeanours. A headline in this newspaper last month read: "Lt-Col gets three years in milk scam". The trend can no longer be passed off as a mere aberration. Fortunately, the Army Chief, Gen VK Singh, has admitted to the defects in the internal health of the Army. While no stone is left unturned in improving professional excellence, not enough is done to restore the high standards of ethics, leadership and man-management. Still the Army will be voted the best in the indices of loyalty, integrity and sacrifice among the civilian services and other professional bodies.  A newspaper survey of 500 persons in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore last Independence Day found that Indians still saw the security forces as the institutions that safeguarded their freedom the most. As the vertebrae of these institutions, the Army remains staunchly apolitical and firmly under civilian control which itself is rapidly declining in matters of probity and governance. For that reason, the Army retains its title as the last bastion of democracy. During the Independence Day speech last month, for the first time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh surprisingly omitted the traditional words of praise for the security forces.  Starting with Tehelka and Coffingate, the inventory of corruption cases now includes scams in rations, clothing, medicines, canteen stores, fuel, oil and lubricants, land, military farms, recruitment and so on. An aggressive media has launched sting operations to trap on camera officers taking bribes. The contagion has spread to defence accounts where false claims have been made good. For the first time, three Lieutenant-Generals and one Major-General were implicated in a shadowy land deal, and now the first serving Lieutenant-General is to be court-martialled.  Former Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor admitted that such cases dented the image of the Army but maintained that these were aberrations that needed to be corrected. The wheels of justice move fast within the Army compared to outside the military where it takes decades. The first tinkering by the Army in internal reforms took place after Tehelka in 2001. At least 20 officers of Brigadier rank and above were indicted in various corruption-related cases while others were being investigated. During the last three years 10 officers of General rank have been involved in cases “unbecoming of the conduct of officers”.  Disciplining the Army within its internal legal system is an ongoing process with the Summary Court Martial (SCM), most widely used for this purpose. Between 1999 and 2004 an average of 995 SCMs were held every year. According to The Hindu newspaper, 1215 soldiers were court-martialled in 2000, 1034 in 2001, 1031 in 2002, 945 in 2003 and 87 in 2004. Last year, around 30 officers were convicted through court-martials.  According to CBI sources, three senior officers were charged in a CBI court with purchasing substandard coffins (Coffingate) for carrying bodies of Army personnel killed in the Kargil war. In 2003, the CBI filed an FIR for the first time against Defence Minister George Fernandes and former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar in the Barak missile deal, which was one of the 15 defence contracts that figured in the Tehelka tapes which was entrusted by the government in 2001 to the Justice K Venkataswamy Commission for enquiry. Arms purchase has become the means with which to attack the previous government, said the Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Pradeep Borbora.  Besides corruption, sullying the image of the Army are two other issues: fake encounters and allegations of human rights violations. After the famous rigged Siachen encounter and the ketch-up Colonel case, the most recent development and one of the triggers for the present unrest in J&K is the Machchal episode where an Infantry battalion on the LoC staged an encounter involving three local persons. Gen V.K. Singh has promised to take exemplary action against the culprits. This must be made public.  Over the years, the performance of units has been judged by body and weapons count during its tenure in a counter-insurgency area. This yardstick is followed the world over with local modifications. A unit is awarded the COAS citation for the best battalion based on this criterion as also its record in human rights and winning hearts and minds. This measurement of performance requires greater oversight to prevent its misuse. The health and vitality of the Army must be judged by the transparency and probity of its performance in internal security operations.  By all accounts, the Indian Army's human rights record is about the best among the armed forces the world over. The Army's figures relating to alleged human rights cases are revealing. Of the nearly 3000 cases registered since 2000, only 4 per cent were proven true and offenders cashiered, jailed or “disciplined” within months compared to decades taken in civil courts.  What are the causes for the declining image of the Army. One of the key reasons is the massive expansion from 300,000 in 1947 to a million plus now. The old days' image of the Army, when soldiers could do no wrong — an officer's cheque dishonoured by the bank was sufficient reason for him to put in his papers — is gone. Soldiers were role models for values in society. The motto of service before self and the pledge that the safety, security and welfare of “your country” came first, always and every time, followed by the well-being of men under command. "Your own" comfort and safety came last always and every time.  These high principles are not easy to emulate today when the Services do not draw the best material in the market, resulting in a shortage of 12,000 officers. The Sixth Pay Commission and the AV Singh Committee reports I and II, enhancing the pay and rank structure to ensure a younger Army, have helped, but restoring the standards of the past is near impossible. Today's Army is professionally much richer, and the officer corps more worldly-wise than two decades ago. The platoon, company and battalion commanders are the backbone of the Army as they lead the firefights along the LoC on a daily basis.  The Indian Army is a highly committed institution and has not received the right attention from the media, which has excelled in highlighting merely the negatives. The problem in the Army is the erosion in higher leadership and intellectual dishonesty that has crept in even in the promotion system. Promotion of mediocrity through seniority must be stamped out. Scouting for talent and boldness must be the new mantra to produce the generalship the country deserves. Army chiefs have come and gone. Many high-level studies have led to doctrinal improvements like "cold start". It is high time we started correcting the deviations in leadership norms without treating them as aberrations. Let the Army not be in denial mode over the loss in the standards but initiate measures top down to restore its image in the eyes of the people and its own soldiers. The government and society must chip in. Still, the Army will have to do much more.

Now, Delhi plays Chinese checkers Denies visas to 3 Chinese Army officers, puts defence exchanges on hold
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, August 27 In fresh signs of tension in Indo-China ties, New Delhi has denied visas to three Chinese Army officers and put all defence exhanges with Beijing on hold in retaliation to the latter’s refusal to allow Lt Gen BS Jaswal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Area Command, to visit China.  Highly placed sources here said two Chinese Army captains and a colonel have been denied visas. The captains were scheduled to come to Pachmarhi for an English course while the Colonel was to deliver a lecture at the National Defence College (NDC) this month.  New Delhi has taken a serious view of Lt Gen Jaswal being denied visa as he had Jammu and Kashmir under his area of control. This is clearly being seen as another attempt by Beijing to question the status of the state. For the past two years, China has been issuing visas to Indian nationals from J&K on separate sheets, annoying New Delhi no ends.  India has taken up the matter with Chinese authorities from time to time but in vain.  However, the latest action to deny visa to a senior Army officer, many believe, has been taken by China to please its “all-weather friend” Pakistan.  Narrating the sequence of events, sources said the Chinese side had been informed of Lt Gen Jamwal’s proposed visit as part of high-level defence exchanges sometime in July.  New Delhi was working on the dates and other logistics when Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar was told by China that there was some ‘difficulty’ in arranging Jamwal’s visit because of the nature of his portfolio, they added.  The Chinese side was firmly told that its action was unaccaeptable to India. In fact, Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan was called to the foreign office this afternoon and conveyed India’s displeasure over Beijing’s move.  Asked for how long the defence exchanges have been put on hold, the sources quipped: “They (China) have tied the knot...they have to untie it.”  Although the defence exchanges between the two countries have not been significant given the nature of their relationship, they have been exchanging visits by senior generals and port calls by ships from the two countries. They have twice conducted joint exercises to counter terrorism. Sources said that every relationship was based on respect for mutual concerns. “This is not something we can accept...what if we start questioning the status of Tibet. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and shall remain so,” they added.  China had recently strongly objected to a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Beijing was politely told by New Delhi that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest of India who was not allow to indulge in any political activity on the Indian soil.  Meanwhile, when asked to comment on the Chinese action, Ministry of external Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash merely said Lt Gen Jamwal’s visit to China had not taken place due to certain reasons. “While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to issues related to each other. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” said the spokesman.  Cutting across party lines, leaders of different parties voiced their strong objection to the Chinese action and asked the government to immediately take up the issue with Beijing.

Visa row: India reads out riot act to Chinese envoy
TNN, Aug 28, 2010, 02.41am IST NEW DELHI: India summoned the Chinese ambassador on Friday and has refused to allow visits of two Chinese military officials to protest against Beijing's refusal of a visa to a general in the Indian Army.  The discussion came after India, as reported by TOI on Friday, cancelled defence exchanges to protest against China refusing to allow the visit of an Indian Army general on the ground that his jurisdiction included "disputed" J&K. In a tit-for-tat response, India refused to allow the visits of two captain-level Chinese officers to Pachmarhi, and one colonel-level officer to National Defence College.  India was also cold to China's fence-mending bid by offering to send a colonel-level official to New Delhi for talks with joint secretary (international cooperation) in the defence ministry. With passions running high, there was no certainty that the government would allow the visit scheduled for September 7.  Chinese ambassador Zhang Yan met joint secretary (east Asia) Gautam Bambawale in the foreign office to discuss the issue against the backdrop of outrage in India over the the provocation and Beijing's anxiety to de-escalate tensions. The message India gave was that China was solely responsible for the current fracas and that the onus of untying the knot rested with it, said sources.  With the Congress and the BJP joining hands to lambast China over the refusal of visa to Lt General B S Jaswal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Area Command, government made it clear that it was not going to let go of Beijing's latest effort to meddle in J&K. "The defence minister has taken a strong view. Talks on the issue will go on," minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur said.  Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari reacted to the report in TOI by saying that the Chinse envoy should be summoned by the government and be told of the resentment its action has generated.  CPM, known for its sympathetic views on China, refused to react, arguing that there was no official word on the issue yet.  The BJP, however, came out strongly against China. Party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said, "We must strongly condemn the Chinese on the issue. It is the worst kind of insult inflicted upon India by denying visa to Jaswal. It should be made clear to China that Kashmir is an integral part of India and not a disputed territory."  Party leader and former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said, " Government of India should retaliate in kind. A very strong message should go to China that India will not take such pinpricks lying down."  The anger was in accord with the mood in the government which seems to be determined to engage in some bluntspeak with China. Until then, military exchanges will be on hold, sources said.  In a statement on Friday, the MEA spokesperson said, "While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each other's concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing." This is diplomatese for India's determination to refuse to negotiate on this issue.  However, the government was clear that this issue would not spill over to other sectors. For instance, border personnel meetings would not be cancelled or put on hold.  India has a modest defence relationship with China but with an intention to improve it so as to gain a greater understanding of each other's defence systems. However, on Kashmir, the PLA takes a stand that is designed to infuriate India and placate Pakistan's equally powerful military.  The Chinese approach to the Indian part of J&K is markedly different from its activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where it is engaged in construction work. This has already been protested by India, with little effect on Chinese behaviour.

India to suspend defence exchanges with China 
Sandeep Dikshit  After Beijing refuses to host Lt. Gen. Jaswal  NEW DELHI: India has decided to suspend defence exchanges with China following Beijing's refusal to allow the Army's Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal to join a military delegation for a high-level visit.  In retaliation, India has refused to allow two Chinese Army captains to attend a defence course and a colonel to speak at a higher defence course. While border meetings between Army personnel will continue as before, a cloud hangs over future military exchanges and even a joint exercise till China “unties the knot it has tied,” said senior officials.  Comparing India's sensitivities on Kashmir as similar to China's on Tibet, the sources said China's questioning of the State's status by resorting to this move was unacceptable. “There is little point in taking forward other exchanges in the defence area,” added the officials.  A senior official found it strange that while China had hosted the Army's Eastern Command chief (now the Chief of the Army Staff) even though it has claims on large parts under his military jurisdiction, it objected to the visit of the Northern Command chief even though the main discord over territory is between India and Pakistan. “It appears that Pakistan's interests are more important than their own. They seem to be more sensitive to Pakistan's concerns.”  “While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each others' concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Vishnu Prakash.  Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan met Foreign Office officials but sources denied the refusal of visa to Gen. Jaswal was discussed.  Last year, India protested against the Chinese practice of issuing visas to Kashmiris on separate pieces of paper, unlike the standard visas it offered to other Indians.  Asked if India would also retaliate in other areas, the sources said it was not a question of tit-for-tat. “We have a complex relationship with China. We have taken stock of the situation and stated our position as clearly as we did in the case of stapled visas.”  Expressing themselves in favour of continuing with the dialogue in a wide range of areas, the sources noted that despite ups and downs in the relationship, both sides have acted with maturity and been able to keep the discussions going.  Hoping the controversy would have a “short life,” the sources said till the boundary question was resolved, such exchanges help build confidence among the defence establishments. “There is a degree of comfort in communicating after defence officials meet each other. It helps in improving the general atmosphere,” added officials.

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