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Monday, 6 September 2010

From Today's Papers - 06 Sep 2010





BrahMos test-fired 
Balasore (Orissa), September 5 Adding a new feather to India's missile prowess, 290-km range BrahMos cruise missile was today successfully test-fired as part of trials by the Army from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off Orissa coast.  “User's trial of the BrahMos conducted by the Indian Army was successful,” ITR Director SP Dash said after the missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at around 11:35 am from the launch complex-3 of the test range near here. The trial was conducted for achieving the maximum range of 290 km of the supersonic missile, he said.  The missile can fly at 2.8 times the speed of sound carrying conventional warheads up to 300 kg for a range of 290 km. — PTI









India, Bangladesh to resolve complex border issues
Historical deal between the two countries to ‘swap’ each other’s ‘chitmahals’ (enclaves) likely Man Mohan Our Roving Editor  New Delhi, September 5 As India is finding it difficult to break the ice with Pakistan because of Islamabad’s stubborn stand on Kashmir and indifferent approach to terrorist activities from across the border, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is said to be keen to take historical decisions to strengthen ties with Bangladesh.  Highly-placed sources said New Delhi and Dhaka in principal had decided to ‘swap’ each other’s ‘chitmahals’ (enclaves) in near future. This complex border issue has been pending since India’s independence in 1947. These enclaves are spread all along the two countries’ border like ‘pawns on a chess board.’  “It is just a question of time,” Indian and Bangladeshi diplomatic sources told The Tribune here adding that “the deal may happen after the Assembly elections in West Bengal next year.” If this historical ‘deal’ finally comes through, Bangladesh will gain more than India. Bangladesh has 106 Indian enclaves. And India has 92 Bangladeshi enclaves. Most of the Bangladeshi enclaves under India’s control are in Cooch Behar district.  The whole exercise will require massive relocation of people living in these enclaves. They will be given a choice of relocating themselves to the country of their choice or accept the citizenship of the land where they are living now. In case of relocation, they will be given an alternate piece of land. India-Bangladesh joint boundary commission is likely to meet this month after Id to discuss the demarcation of 6.1 km of boundary and swapping of the enclaves.  An agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka reportedly emerged during the recent Bangladesh visit of the Union Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to attend an inter-ministerial meeting to review progress on Bangladesh’s demand for concessions on trade, border and sharing of river waters.  The settlement of enclaves issue will be a big push in India-Bangladesh relations. Sources said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was keen to ink the historical agreement as early as possible. Dhaka is hoping to have Indian PM visit Bangladesh at the time of agreement. Both sides see the swapping of enclaves as part of strong confidence building measures.  The enclaves were part of the high stake card or chess games centuries ago between two regional kings - the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Nawab of Rangpur. The little territories were the result of a confused outcome of a treaty between the Kingdom of Cooch Bihar and the Mughal empire.  After India’s partition in 1947, Cooch Bihar district was merged with India and Rangpur went to then East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. In 1974, both countries agreed to exchange the enclaves or, at least, provide easy access to the enclaves. But the issue got entangled in diplomatic negotiations and border security concerns expressed by the India’s Defence and Home ministries. Talks between the two countries resumed in 2001, but, as no time frame could be fixed, the issue dragged on.  People in these enclaves have been living in bad conditions. There are hardly any roads. There is no electricity, schools and dispensaries. As both countries take little interest in the welfare of these enclaves, crime is rampant. To go to their respective countries, people have to produce an identity card.  Meanwhile, India is also keen to build strong bilateral trade ties with Bangladesh. During his recent trip to Dhaka, Mukherjee signed a $1-billion loan agreement. India will lend the amount - the biggest it has offered to any foreign country - at a 1.75 per cent rate of interest with a repayment period of 20 years, including a grace period of five years.  India is also likely to waive import duties on another 45 to 50 items from Bangladesh. Dhaka had asked for 61 items to be added to the duty-free list of over 4,000 categories of products. India exports $3.37-billion worth of goods annually to Bangladesh and imports items worth $358 million.









India to develop missiles with speed of 6,000 kmph 
New Delhi, September 5 India will soon become the first country to have cruise missiles with hyper speed of over 6,000 km per hour, as an agreement for their joint development will be signed with Russia during the visit of President Dmitry Medvedev here in December.  The first unit of Kudankulam nuclear plant, built by Russia in Tamil Nadu, will also be commissioned during the visit slated to begin from December 21. Medvedev will be undertaking the visit for annual India-Russia Summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during which the two sides will discuss ways to further enhance their relations in various fields.  One of the highlights of the visit will be signing of a contract for joint development of hypersonic version of the BrahMos cruise missile, Defence Ministry sources said. This version of the missile will have a speed of over 6,000 km per hour, making India the only country in the world to possess such missiles of this speed. The speed of the existing variant of the BrahMos is half than that of the proposed ones. With a range of 290 km, the hypersonic missiles are expected to be ready by 2015-16, the sources said.  The much-delayed first unit of Kudankulam nuclear power plant is also expected to be made operational during the visit of Medvedev, who will be visiting the site for the purpose, they said. The commissioning of the 1,000 MW Kudankulam-I work, which began three years back, will set in motion the roadmap that the two countries are working on in the field of atomic energy cooperation. — PTI










  Say ‘no’ to Maoists  Send a firm message to murderers 
The killing of an unarmed and helpless hostage by the Maoists in Bihar, by no means the first such dastardly murder committed by the rebels, should spur the formulation of a clear policy to deal with all such situations in future. No government can afford to be blackmailed and the Bihar government would do well to resist the temptation to negotiate with the murderers. The government assessed correctly that it would be suicidal to succumb to Maoist pressure and it would set a bad precedent if the rebels’ conditions were met. While the Maoists claimed to have carried out the operation in retaliation to the alleged fake encounter in Andhra Pradesh in which one of their top-ranking leaders , Azad, was killed, under no circumstances can the cold-blooded killing of the Assistant Sub Inspector, ironically a tribal, by them be justified. Any act of capitulation by the government can only make matters worse with Maoists and terrorists getting further emboldened to repeat the act. Targeting unarmed employees and taking them hostage would be easy for these armed gangs on the prowl and that is why the response of the state must be both forceful and unambiguous.  The government needs to make it clear, once and for all, that there will be no dialogue or negotiation under duress. An unequivocal policy declaration needs to be made, and if necessary a law requires to be enacted, to deter all future governments, which find themselves in similar situations, from playing ball with criminal elements. There are of course two glaring cases when the Government of India gave in to pressure and exchanged prisoners for hostages. First, when the then Union Home Minister’s daughter was abducted in Jammu & Kashmir and again when terrorists managed to hijack an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. The two instances were cited by Swami Agnivesh, one of the mediators between Maoists and the government, to argue that the Bihar Chief Minister too should open a dialogue and secure the release of the hostages by freeing the eight prisoners as demanded by the underground group.  But the burden of those two occasions cannot, and should not, determine the course of action in all such situations. The hostage crisis has also exposed chinks in policing that the state government must plug even as it acts firmly and pursues the murderers and brings them to book.











  Closer ties with S. Korea It will help India meet Chinese challenge 
The signing of two landmark defence deals between India and South Korea in Seoul on Friday marks the fruition of New Delhi’s efforts to enhance the level of relations with South-East and North Asian countries. India needs to learn a lot from South Korea in improving the efficiency of its armed forces in view of the changing Asian scenario with China emerging fast as a major global power. The first deal relates to joint exercises by the armed forces of the two countries and exchange of visits by their defence personnel. The second deal involves joint production of high-technology items required by our defence forces. South Korea can provide cutting-edge technologies to India and that too at a price much lower than that demanded by other countries.  India intensified its efforts to upgrade its relations with South Korea, an economic power-house, by inviting its President, Mr Lee Myung-bak, as the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day celebrations. Seoul has also been showing its desire to develop a closer relationship with New Delhi for some time. South Korea, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), supported India in getting a waiver from the NSG during the process of clinching the Indo-US nuclear deal. Now South Korea wants to enter into a nuclear deal with India as it intends to supply not only nuclear reactors to India but also the latest nuclear technology of dual use. This suits both countries. While a nuclear deal with Seoul will help New Delhi in increasing nuclear energy production, it will enable South Korean companies in nuclear trade to find business in India’s emerging nuclear industry.  Besides all this, closer relations with South Korea will strengthen India’s efforts to meet the challenge posed by the rising economic and military profile of China. In view of the emerging reality in the region, India has to lay greater stress on forging meaningful ties with other countries in South-East Asia and North Asia. We need a more focused approach for upgrading our relations with Asian nations.










  The unrest in Kashmir Suggestions to restore peace
by Justice Rajindar Sachar (retd)  The reaction to the Prime Minister’s recent statement on the question of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir has been on the expected lines — cynics say it is not enough but do not conveniently spell out the details. Concerned with human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, teams of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, including this writer, have been visiting J & K since 1990 and giving reports critical of the government. I again went in 1993. It was a sad experience, and on my return I said publicly, “I do not know how and in what manner the Kashmir question will be solved with its nuances of ‘azadi’, plebiscite and greater autonomy. But one thing is certain — India will remain a loser unless the face that it presents to the people of the Kashmir valley is humane, compassionate and understanding. At present, that face is ugly and insensitive”.  One never thought it could ever become worse. But unfortunately it has. Even in common idiom, “if you hit me with stones, I will return it with bricks”. But the security forces have turned this on head by returning with bullets. There are limits which no civilised government can cross; unfortunately, the J and K and Central governments let the security forces do that. The killing of three security guards at Sopore shows a dangerous situation.  It is a sad reflection on the working of the political parties in J & K that they refuse to sit together to find an acceptable solution, notwithstanding that all of them have been part of the government of J & K at some point of time.  But equally the strategy of the Central government is fudgy. Home Minister P. Chidambaram comes out with what he thought was a brilliant coup by agreeing to hold talks, and especially mentions hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the pivotal point. Those who advised him seem to be totally impervious to the openly reiterated position of Mr Geelani (that he is asking for plebiscite in the hope that J & K will opt for Pakistan).  It has to be recognised that youths throwing stones are expressing their sickness with all the parties in the valley and demand a permanent answer to the future of Kashmir. The Prime Minister’s statement on autonomy has given an opening. But it must be appreciated that this step would necessarily involve all political parties of India and including those of J & K. This requires immediate release of Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah, and no restrictions on Maulvi Omar Farooque and even Mr Geelani (under house arrest). All these leaders must be asked to come out clean with their concrete solutions instead of taking cover of asking India to sort out the Kashmir question with Pakistan. No doubt, the Indian and Pakistan governments will have to continue talks to arrive at a mutual agreement, but prior to that if the government and parties in India arrive at an agreed solution, it is only then that a permanent solution can be worked out.  The puerile argument of the Mirwaiz and Mr Geelani that a solution must be found for the “whole of J & K, which existed before 1947 as one unit, with the option to join Pakistan” is a non-starter. In that context it is well to repeat the opinion of Jurist Alstair Lamb (obtained by Pakistan) that “it can fairly be said that in deciding to accede to India, the Maharaja of Kashmir was well within his rights according to the 1947 Act which had nothing to say about communal issues in this respect”. Will these gentlemen now ask Pakistan to vacate the portion of J & K under its occupation?  And when they talk of the whole of Kashmir, will they also spell out what their plans are to retrieve thousands of square miles in Aksai Chin (J & K) having been permanently ceded to China by Pakistan. And while at this they may also explain to their constituents as to how to undo the Baltistan-Gilgit package (area of J & K in Pakistan), which has now, by legislation, been incorporated in its territory. So, who is befooling whom with the so-called nostalgic mention of J & K being continued as a practical solution.  One cannot believe that Pakistan or leaders like Mr Geelani are so ill advised as not to recognise that the part of J & K on the Indian side is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Nor can one believe that all the parties in India can be so dense as not to accept the ground reality that considering the price that J&K has paid in terms of human misery during these two decades of militancy and alienation, now it would be illogical for the Indian leadership to hope that talks can take place within the parameters of the normal Centre-State relations.  In order to give such reassurance, the Central goverment should concede that apart from the subjects acceded to in 1947 — namely defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency to the Central government — the rest of the subjects will vest in the J&K government. To further reassure the people of J&K, the Central government should agree unilaterally to withdraw all Central laws which have been extended to J&K. It will then be up to the J&K legislature to pass new laws or apply those laws with suitable modifications as it feels necessary. Some well-meaning people react adversely to this suggestion on the ground that this would be creating a special category unlike the other parts of the states. But why should it surprise anyone because J&K is a special case and is so recognised in our Constitution by Article 370. This suggestion of mine is only putting life into the original content of Article 370.  But that does not mean watertight separation of the two parts of J & K. In fact, all efforts have to be made to continue the underlying oneness of the state. Thus, so far as the borders between the two parts of J&K are concerned, they can be made as porous and as free as between the US and Canada or even like that at present existing in the European Union. People belonging to each side should have no problem not only in travelling, but even in having trade with each other freely.  Of course, ordering a judicial enquiry into all the killings is needed immediately. As an immediate gesture, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act must be withdrawn straightway. An appropriate force can be used if necessary — of course, subject to judicial scrutiny. So, why should we keep this legislation alive when it is admittedly an impediment in peace returning to the valley?  I feel a high-powered all-party delegation of members of Parliament should immediately go to Srinagar and express their regret to the members of the families of those who died or were injured in the recent incidents. They should also meet members of the youth community. This will give assurance to the public that the rest of India cares for its compatriots in Jammu and Kashmir.n










  Self-employed
by  Harwant Singh  I was at the College of Combat, Mhow, when the India-China war of 1962 started. The course was terminated and all were instructed to forthwith rejoin their units. Army Headquarters required me to stay put at Mhow and await my posting order. Two days later my posting order to J and K was received which required of me to immediately join duty.  I had taken my car to Mhow and had to drive back to Punjab, leave the car there and proceed to J and K. Since I did not have much time I decided to drive non-stop from Mhow to Delhi. This involved driving through the Chambal ravines: better known for its dacoits. In early sixties, taking this journey alone was not without great risk.  Disregarding the perils of this journey, I drove on non-stop. It was around midnight that on approaching a defile I found the road blocked by a felled tree. I realised that I had run into an ambush.  As I stopped near the felled tree, a number of men with guns and bandoliers strung across their chests appeared. I was told to come out of the car, which I dutifully did. They searched me for cash and removed my watch and wallet. Then they got down to searching my baggage and the car.  While they were busy rifling through my baggage, someone announced that Sardar had come. Every one pulled back a little and there appeared a sturdy young man. As he drew near, he suddenly sprung to attention and gave me a smart salute and said: “Sahib Ji, tussee ethay ki kar rahey ho?”(Sir, what are you doing here?)  I recognised him. He was my tank gunner and had been discharged after his seven-year tenure of engagement. Those days soldiers were discharged after seven years and given no pension.  I responded to his query and asked him: “Nahar Singh, toon aye ki kam pharya hai?” (Nahar Singh what is this work you have taken on?). He said, “Sahib Ji, admi nu kush na kush taan karna chahida hai, vehle baith kay vi ki kara hai?” (Sir, one must do some or the other work. There is no point sitting idle!).  Then he addressed his gang and said. “Dekheya sadhi regiment de officer kiney dalair hun, ekelay he rat nu is sarak tay chal rahey hun.”(do you see how brave are the officers of our regiment. They move alone at night on this road). This bit was perhaps to establish his own pedigree before his gang!  He told his men not to just stand watching but make tea for the sahib. All my stuff was put back in the car, my watch and wallet returned. After a cup of tea and much bonhomie and hand shaking I took leave of Nahar Singh and his gang.










BrahMos cruise missile successfully test-fired
Press Trust of India / Balasore (orissa) September 05, 2010, 16:48 IST  Adding a new feather to India's missile prowess, 290-km range BrahMos cruise missile was today successfully test-fired as part of trials by the Army from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off Orissa coast.  "User's trial of BrahMos conducted by the Indian Army was successful," ITR Director S P Dash said after the missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at around 11:35 AM from the launch complex-3 of the test range near here.  The trial was conducted for achieving the maximum range of 290 km of the supersonic missile, he said.  The missile can fly at 2.8 times the speed of sound carrying conventional warheads up to 300 kg for a range of 290 km and can effectively engage ground targets from an altitude as low as 10 metres.  Developed in a joint venture with Russia, the sophisticated BrahMos cruise missile is capable of being launched from submarines, ships, aircraft and land based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL), a Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) official said.  One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos-I variant, consisting of 67 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12x12 Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment, is already operational in the Army.  Similarly, the Navy has started inducting the first version of BrahMos missile system in all its frontline war ships from 2005, defence sources said.  Army, on its part, is set to induct two more regiments of the BrahMos Block-II land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), designed as "precision strike weapons" capable of hitting small targets in cluttered urban environments, they said.  BrahMos-II can potentially be used for "surgical strikes", including at terrorist training camps, without causing collateral damage.  BrahMos Block-II variant has been developed to take out a specific small target, with a low radar cross-section, in a multi-target environment.  The BrahMos missile is a two-stage vehicle that has a solid propellant booster and a liquid propellant ram-jet system.  The first flight test of the BrahMos was conducted on June 12, 2001 at the ITR at Chandipur in Orissa coast and the last trial of the naval version of BrahMos was carried out in a vertical mode successfully on March 21, 2010 from Indian navy ship INS Ranvir off Orissa coast.










BrahMos cruise missile test-fired
Press Trust of India Posted online: Mon Sep 06 2010, 04:17 hrs Balasore (Orissa) : Adding a new feather to India’s missile prowess, 290-km range BrahMos cruise missile was on Sunday successfully test-fired as part of trials by the Army from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off the Orissa coast.  “User’s trial of BrahMos conducted by the Indian Army was successful,” ITR director S P Dash said after the missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at around 11:35 am from the launch complex-3 of the test range near here.  The trial was conducted for achieving the maximum range of 290 km of the supersonic missile, he said.  The missile can fly at 2.8 times the speed of sound carrying conventional warheads up to 300 kg for a range of 290 km and can effectively engage ground targets from an altitude as low as 10 metres.  Developed in a joint venture with Russia, the sophisticated BrahMos cruise missile is capable of being launched from submarines, ships, aircraft and land-based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL), a Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) official said.  One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos-I variant, consisting of 67 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12x12 Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment, is already operational in the Army.  Similarly, the Navy has started inducting the first version of BrahMos missile system in all its frontline warships from 2005, defence sources said.  The Army, on its part, is set to induct two more regiments of the BrahMos Block-II land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), designed as “precision strike weapons” capable of hitting small targets in cluttered urban environments, they said.  BrahMos-II can potentially be used for “surgical strikes”, including at terrorist training camps, without causing collateral damage.  BrahMos Block-II variant has been developed to take out a specific small target, with a low radar cross-section, in a multi-target environment.  The BrahMos missile is a two-stage vehicle that has a solid propellant booster and a liquid propellant ram-jet system.  The first flight test of the BrahMos was conducted on June 12, 2001 at the ITR at Chandipur in Orissa coast and the last trial of the naval version of BrahMos was carried out in a vertical mode successfully on March 21, 2010 from Indian navy ship INS Ranvir off the Orissa coast.









Indian Army chief reaches Sri Lanka 
COLOMBO: Indian Army Chief Gen VK Singh arrived here in Sri Lanka on a five-day visit, which is expected to provide an impetus to defence cooperation between New Delhi and Colombo and lay the ground for a bilateral defence dialogue, the Times of India newspaper reported on Sunday. Accompanied by his wife, General Singh was received by his Sri Lankan counterpart Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya at the airport. During his stay in Sri Lanka, the Indian general is scheduled to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister DM Jayaratne, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister GL Peires. The paper reported that the visit of the Indian general was considered preparatory to the Indo-Lanka defence dialogue that was scheduled to start next year. The Indian Army chief will be given a ceremonial guard of honour today (Monday) before he starts discussions with Gen Jayasuriya and other top military officials. daily times monitor










Terrorism, floods pose 'existential threat' to Pakistan
PTI / Monday, September 6, 2010 0:30 IST  Terrorism and the worst floods in recent history pose a "grave danger" and an "existential threat" to Pakistan, the country's top civil and military leadership said in messages on the occasion of 'Defence Day'.  President Asif Ali Zardari, who is the supreme commander of Pakistan's armed forces, said the country "is confronted with an existential threat from fanatics, zealots and extremists on the one hand and from the material devastation caused by history's worst floods on the other."  "In some ways, the threats to the country on September 6 this year outweigh the threats on this day anytime ever in the past," Zardari said in a special message.  While the terrorists and extremists are testing Pakistan's "will to survive and live in accordance with our values and ideology," the floods are testing the country's "ability, resourcefulness and resilience to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of a natural disaster," he said.  In a separate message, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said Pakistan is confronted with a "number of security challenges."  "Internally, we are faced with the menace of terrorism and extremism, which poses grave danger to our national security as well as the existence of Pakistan," Kayani said in his message.  Kayani's message made no mention of external threats and contained no reference to India. Pakistan observes Defence Day on September 6 every year to commemorate the defence of Lahore from the Indian Army during the 1965 war between the two countries.  Even as Pakistani authorities struggled to provide relief to the 20 million affected by unprecedented floods, over 100 people were killed as the Taliban carried out a string of suicide attacks on the minority Shia community in Lahore and Quetta.  The military has diverted a large number of troops to relief operations across the country and security experts have expressed concerns that militants will take advantage of this to regroup in the northwest and the restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.  Kayani referred to the role played by the military in relief operations to help the millions of victims of the worst floods in Pakistan's history.  He described as "exemplary" the military's role in rescuing hundreds of thousands of stranded and trapped people and in providing them relief, food and shelter.  "Once again you have proved that the Pakistan army stands beside the nation in every moment of trial," he said.  Expressing pride at the sacrifices made by soldiers and officers of the military for the country's security and sovereignty, Kayani said the armed forces "have demonstrated such an unprecedented display of unity and strength that it has demoralised the enemies of Pakistan."  Zardari said "national unity and singularity of purpose" is imperative to tackle the challenges confronting the country.  "It is reassuring that once again the people and the armed forces have risen to the challenge. Our armed forces backed by the power of the people and the parliament are chasing the militants in a fight to the finish and the people and state institutions have joined hands to meet the challenge of devastating floods," he said.  Zardari reiterated that the government "will eliminate the militants and, at the same time, with the help of the people and international community rehabilitate and reconstruct the devastated infrastructure." URL of the article:









A modest proposal on AFSPA
Siddharth Varadarajan Students of various organisations hold placards during a protest demonstration, demanding withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from northeast and Kashmir, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on August 21, 2010. File Photo: S. Subramanium The Hindu Students of various organisations hold placards during a protest demonstration, demanding withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from northeast and Kashmir, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on August 21, 2010. File Photo: S. Subramanium  Change the blanket ban on trials without official sanction to one where the government has the power to bar prosecution in individual cases provided it satisfies the courts that its reasons for doing so are valid.  The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has come in for widespread criticism in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and other parts of the northeast because of the human rights abuses that have come to be associated with its operation. So strong is the sentiment against AFSPA in Kashmir that in recent months Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have all spoken of the need to re-examine the law. The Army, on the other hand, says this is unnecessary.  The Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, has gone so far as to say that the demand for the dilution of AFSPA is being made for “narrow political gains.” On his part, Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, GOC-in-C, Northern Command, has compared the Act to scripture. “I would like to say that the provisions of AFSPA are very pious to me and I think to the entire Indian Army. We have religious books, there are certain guidelines which are given there, but all the members of the religion do not follow it, they break it also … does it imply that you remove the religious book …?”  On paper, AFSPA is a deceptively simple law. First passed in 1958, it comes into play when the government declares a particular part of the northeast (or Jammu and Kashmir under a parallel 1990 law) a “disturbed area.” Within that area, an officer of the armed forces has the power to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances.”  Even though activists have made this the focus of their criticism, giving soldiers the “right to kill” is not, in my opinion, AFSPA's principal flaw. After all, if a ‘law and order' situation has arisen which compels the government to deploy the Army, soldiers have to be allowed to use deadly force. Even a private citizen has the right to kill someone in self-defence, though the final word on the legality of her or his action belongs to the courts. Similarly, a civilised society expects that the use of deadly force by the Army must at all times be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Here, the Act suffers from two infirmities: the requirement of prior sanction for prosecution contained in Section 6 often comes in the way when questions arise about the lawfulness of particular actions. Second, AFSPA does not distinguish between a peaceful gathering of five or more persons (even if held in contravention of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code) and a violent mob. Firing upon the latter may sometimes be justified by necessity; shooting into a peaceful assembly would surely fail any test of reasonableness.  Leaving this issue aside, however, it is important to recognise that AFSPA does not give an officer the unqualified right to fire upon and cause the death of any person in a Disturbed Area. At a minimum, that person should have been carrying weapons or explosives. The shooting of an unarmed individual, and the killing of a person in custody, are not acts that are permissible under AFSPA. Force is allowed in order to arrest a suspect but the fact that the Act authorises the use of “necessary” rather than “deadly” force in such a circumstance means the tests of necessity and proportionality must be met.  Over the years that AFSPA has been in operation, the Army has opened fire countless times and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Whenever those killed have been armed insurgents or terrorists, there has been little or no public clamour against the Act. It is only when the armed forces violate the provisions of the law and indulge in the unlawful killing of persons — especially unarmed civilians — that voices get raised against AFSPA. The protests in Manipur in 2004 reached a crescendo because of the death in custody of Th. Manorama and scores of others like her. In Kashmir, sentiments against the Armed Forces Act got inflamed because of fake encounter incidents like Pathribal and Macchhil.  If today people are questioning General Jaswal's “religious book,” it is not so much because of its provisions as because of the failure of its custodians to act when the law is flouted. The Lord's Word threatens sinners with fire and brimstone, eternal damnation or the endless cycle of births and deaths. But AFSPA holds out no such horrors for the soldiers who violate its provisions. Section 6 says “no prosecution … shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.” This requirement confers de facto impunity on all transgressors. Thus the CBI may have indicted army officers for the murder of innocent civilians at Pathribal in 2000 but their trial cannot take place because the Central government refuses to give sanction. What is worse, the Minister concerned does not even have to give any reasons.  The ostensible logic behind this Section, a variant of which can be found in Section 197 of the CrPC and in many Indian laws, is to protect public servants from frivolous or vexatious law suits. But though it has not ruled on the ambit of AFSPA's Section 6, the Supreme Court has often declared that the object of Section 197-type protection is not to set an official above the common law. “If he commits an offence not connected with his official duty he has no privilege.”  In the Pathribal case, the CBI took the view that abducting and killing unarmed civilians in cold blood could not be considered part of “official duty.” Not only did the MoD reject this logic, it moved the Supreme Court for quashing of the case on the ground that it has not granted sanction to prosecute. At no time has it been asked to furnish reasons for denying sanction.  A government which has faith in the actions of its officers and the robustness of its judicial system ought never to shy away from allowing the courts to step in when doubts arise. And yet, in case after case, legal proceedings get stymied by the denial of official sanction.  In a democracy, this requirement of previous sanction should have no place. But given the balance of political and institutional forces in India today, it is utopian to believe it can simply be done away with. What I am proposing, therefore, is a modest remedy. Let us not tamper with the government's ability to protect officers from criminal proceedings. But instead of the default setting being ‘no prosecution without official sanction,' let the blocking of a prosecution require official action.  Section 6 could thus be amended to read: “No prosecution … shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act where the Central government provides reasons in writing and the competent court upholds the legal validity of these reasons.”  Such a provision would prevent good officers from being prosecuted for killings which result from acts of good faith while allowing the bad apples to be prosecuted for their crimes. The government would still have the right to intervene on behalf of a soldier who has committed an illegal act. But this would require a Minister to take personal responsibility for a decision that would, after all, be tantamount to denying justice to the victim's family. In the Pathribal case, for example, Defence Minister A.K. Antony would be compelled to inform the trial court of his reasons for opposing the prosecution of soldiers indicted by the CBI for murder. And the court would get to rule on whether Mr. Antony's reasons were valid or not.  There is no reason why this inversion of the “previous sanction” provision cannot be replicated across the board in all Indian laws to cover situations where human rights abuses are alleged. Such a provision would not disturb the basic provisions of AFSPA. But it would bring that “religious book” in closer conformity with an even holier tome, the Constitution of India.




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