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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

From Today's Papers - 15 Sep 2010

On all-party meet eve, no consensus on AFSPA
J&K CRISIS: BJP, Army oppose Act's withdrawal n IAF chief also voices opposition n JDU, Left parties favour withdrawal Ashok Tuteja & Faraz Ahmad Tribune News service  Security forces patrol the highway to Jammu, in Srinagar on Tuesday. Security forces patrol the highway to Jammu, in Srinagar on Tuesday. A Tribune photograph  New Delhi, September 14 On the eve of an all-party meeting to evolve a political consensus on the situation in trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre has been weighing various options to tackle the situation in the valley.  Both the BJP and security establishment remained firmly opposed to withdrawal or dilution of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state.  Though the Left parties supported the withdrawal of AFSPA, they refrained from pushing the Centre to take an immediate decision, sensing the violent mood in the valley.  Beyond AFSPA  Government sources said that revocation or dilution of AFSPA was not the only issue on the Centre's agenda for dealing with the crisis in the valley. The all-party meeting would discuss other problems that have alienated the people of the valley, including trust deficit and governance deficit, sources said. The meeting would also aim to evolve a political consensus and if need be, the Centre could send a delegation to meet all sections of society in the Valley.  Amid open differences within the CCS over the question of applicability of the Armed Forces Act, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik also voiced his opposition to the withdrawal of AFSPA since the forces were dealing with a very difficult situation.  "Soldiers while involved in performing their duty need legal protection if you want them to be efficient," he said. The government cannot take the IAF chief's views lightly since he is also the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh has already aired his opposition to the withdrawal of AFSPA.  The AFSPA gives Army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against any officer acting under the Act. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be "disturbed" subject to judicial review.  Indications are that the Cabinet Committee on Kashmir (CCS) would again meet tomorrow after the all-party meeting to finalise the government's response to developments in the valley, which have given a major setback to all efforts to restore peace there.  The Parliamentary Affairs Ministry has invited all parties represented in Parliament for the crucial meeting and various leaders and chiefs are expected to attend. A special invitation has been extended to the People's Democratic Party (PDP), which had boycotted last month's meeting of political parties in the state convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Defence Minister AK Antony sought to dispel the impression that the Centre was delaying steps to deal with the situation in the state. He said the Centre had convened tomorrow's session to seek views of all parties and it would not delay its response after the meeting.  Meanwhile, the CPI Central Secretariat today issued a statement demanding "a meaningful political dialogue" to restore normalcy in the state and "withdrawal of AFSPA". Earlier, the CPM had demanded the removal of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir, calling the situation there "very grim".  JDU president Sharad Yadav, while refusing to divulge his party's stand, recalled how his party had all along opposed AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act both in Jammu and Kashmir and in Manipur.

Anomalies in pension of majors removed
Those who retired before 2006 to benefit Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 14 Holding that the pension shall not be less than 50 per cent of the minimum pay within the pay-band, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) today allowed a petition filed by majors and equivalents that would now entitle them to enhanced pension.  With the removal of existing anomalies that had resulted in majors, who retired prior to 2006, getting pension lower than even junior commissioned officers, they would now be paid an additional basic pension of about Rs 5,000 per month, besides consequential benefits. The order affects a substantial number of officers of the three services who had retired in the rank of major prior to 2006.  After the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission (SPC), the pension of majors was fixed at Rs 14,100 per month. This was less than what JCOs, four ranks below their grade, have been getting (Rs 16,145).  The anomaly in pension fixation arose because the minimum of the entire pay-band (PB-3) was taken into account while fixing the pension instead of considering the minimum of the pay-band applicable to majors. PB-3 (Rs 15,600-39,100) includes officers of the ranks of lieutenant to major and equivalents in other services. The minimum scale of major post-SPC is Rs 23,810.  The petitioners had contended that the existing basic pay, inclusive of grade pay and military service pay, worked out to be Rs 36,410, hence their pension at the stipulated 50 per cent of basic worked out to be Rs 18,205 per month, to which they were entitled.  In December, 2004, all majors with 13-year experience and having requisite qualifications were promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel (time scale) and the policy has continued since then. Following the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission, all 35 categories of services were merged into four pay bands in which lieutenant colonels were initially placed in pay band-3, but later moved to pay band-4.  The pension of lieutenant colonel is fixed at Rs 25,700 whereas that of majors who retired before 2006 is Rs 14,100, creating a huge difference of Rs 11,600, the petitioners claimed. Prior to the Sixth Pay Commission, the difference was just Rs 950.  In fact, the Department of Pensions (DoP) had raised the issue of incorrect interpretation of pension fixation rules of pre-2006 majors with the Department of Expenditure (DoE) and that it needed to be corrected. Despite the fact that the ministers of finance as well as personnel were in favour of the correction, the bureaucracy in the Ministry of Finance put a spanner in the work. The case was taken up time and again by the DoP, but was always rejected by the DoE.

Court martial begins in Sukna scam
  Shillong, September 14 Marking the first such trial of a three-star General for involvement in a corruption, the court-martial of Lt Gen PK Rath began here today in connection with the Sukna land scam. On the first day of the trial, Rath sought an adjournment and his plea was accepted by presiding officer of the General Court Martial Lt Gen IJ Singh, army sources said.  Earlier, the court-martial was slated to begin on August 30 but was postponed for two weeks on Rath's request.  Rath was indicted along with two other Lt Generals and a Major General by an Army Court of Inquiry for issuing no objection certificates to private realtors for building educational institutions on a 70-acre plot of land adjacent to the Sukna military station in West Bengal.  After the Court of Inquiry submitted its report last year, disciplinary action was recommended against Rath and the then Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash and administrative action was initiated against Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali and Maj Gen PK Sen. — PTI

Western Command Anniversary Commanders discuss troops' welfare
Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 14 As part of the Western Command's 63rd Raising Day celebrations, an Army commanders' conclave was organised at Chandimandir, which was attended by 12 former heads of the command.  Issues relevant to the Western Command and the welfare of troops were among the subjects discussed by the commanders at the conclave. The Western Command, which was raised on September 15, 1947, has had 33 commanders so far.  This was followed by a sapling plantation drive under which all former Army commanders planted fox-tail and fish-tail palms on the command headquarters complex.  General JJ Singh, Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Gen SF Rodrigues, also former Governor of Punjab and UT Administrator, Lt Gen SK Sinha, former Governor of J&K, Lt Gen H Kaul, Lt Gen PN Hoon, Lt Gen RK Gulati, Lt Gen HB Kala, Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, Lt Gen Surjit Singh, Lt Gen SS Mehta, Lt Gen Daljeet Singh and Lt Gen TK Sapru were among the former Western Army Commanders who were present on the occasion along with the present incumbent, Lt Gen SR Ghosh. The retired generals also interacted with jawans during a tea session.

Kashmir a complex problem, says Chidambaram
  * Indian home minister says no solution for all g Sonia opens pipeline with former IHK CM Mufti  By Iftikhar Gilani  NEW DELHI: The issue of Kashmir is a longstanding complex problem, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram said ahead of an all-party meeting convened by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Wednesday to firm up national response to the Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) crisis.  Interacting with a group of journalists, Chidambaram said there could not be any one-dimensional solution, or one that could satisfy the "entire constituency".  India Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was trying to find a solution, adding, "We will definitely find a solution to the issue of Kashmir so that we can resolve the conflict."  Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi was understood to have opened a pipeline with former IHK chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as part of the political strategy decided by the party's core group on last Friday. She telephoned both Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who is the president of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), on Saturday to extend Eid greetings to them and elicit their views on the current spate of violence that has gripped the valley.  Neither side was willing to speak on what had transpired, but Mufti's arrival in the Indian capital on Tuesday accompanied by Mehbooba had fuelled speculation that the Congress was looking for a realignment with the PDP to explore formation of a government instead of hanging on to the discredited IHK Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.  The coalition government of the PDP and the Congress had ruled IHK for six years until December 2008, when the Congress aligned with the National Conference (NC) after assembly elections to form the current government under Abdullah's leadership.  According to sources from the Congress, Singh was opposed to the new arrangement, but he did not protest since it had Sonia's blessings. He was believed to have urged Sonia in the Congress core group meeting on Friday to speak to the Muftis, after Chidambaram gave his opinion that Abdullah would have to go as otherwise his rushing any number of forces will not quell violence in the valley.  Sonia's call on Saturday might or might not materialise in change of the coalition government in the state, but it had certainly persuaded Mehbooba to attend the all-party meeting convened by the Indian prime minister as earlier the PDP had boycotted the peace meetings convened by Abdullah in Srinagar, and by Singh in Delhi. Sensing trouble from the Congress warming up to the Muftis, Abdullah called an emergency meeting of his party's core group in Srinagar. His father and union minister Farooq Abdullah, who arrived from South Africa, flew to Srinagar by a state plane to attend the crucial meeting even while telling reporters that he would be back in New Delhi to attend the all-party meeting.  Knowing well that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's firm "no" to any dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides immunity to the army from any action in dealing with militancy, the government would seek other solutions from Wednesday's all-party meeting to douse the fire of renewed violence burning the valley since Eid.  BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain on Tuesday made it clear that his party would not compromise on AFSPA or even on its phased withdrawal as sought by Abdullah, particularly when its necessity intensifies from violence that the police and security police were not able to handle.  Indian government sources dropped hints that Singh in the upcoming meeting would put on the table the confidence-building measures (CBMs) his government wished to initiate to make the angry Kashmiri youth and separatists to persuade them for a dialogue.  However, the BJP might oppose them as Hussain was firm that there should be no appeasement and talks with separatists before peace is restored in IHK.  The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which decided on Monday to call the all-party meeting was believed to have already firmed up the CBMs and it might meet again today (Wednesday) after the all-party meeting to take a final decision on them on basis of what emerges from the national consultation.  "Important decisions have to be taken after carefully assessing all aspects... before we take a final decision, we will take into confidence all the major parties so that everybody is involved," Indian Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters while denying any kind of differences in the CCS on the steps the government plans to take.  In a related development, Indian Air Force Chief PV Naik, who is also chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, told reporters that he was with the army on the AFSPA because a soldier "deserves all the legal protection" that he can get.  Meanwhile, Indian Home Ministry sources ruled out any pullout of the army or Central Security Forces from any part of IHK, particularly after separatist Sayyed Ali Geelani's Hurriyat Conference on Tuesday gave a call for a march to the camps of the armed forces stationed in Kashmir, on September 21.

'Decision on AFSPA after all-party meet' 
As unrest in J&K continues, A K Antony says govt will take a final call on withdrawing the controversial law from parts of the state today  Agencies  Posted On Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 03:30:15 AM    Protesters burn effigies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in Srinagar on Tuesday New Delhi: Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday said the government would take a final decision on a Kashmir package, including withdrawal of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), at an all-party meeting to be held on Wednesday.  "Before we take a final decision, it is better to involve everyone," Antony told reporters a day after Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met to review the situation in violence-hit Kashmir, including lifting of the AFSPA from parts of the state.  Asked why the CCS was not able to take a decision on a Kashmir package despite a three-hour-long meeting, he said: "Important decisions have to be taken after carefully assessing all aspects. Yesterday (Monday), we had a very long meeting. Ultimately, we thought before we take a final decision, we will take into confidence all the major parties so that everybody is involved."  Th defence minister made these comments after dedicating to the nation the AFNET (Air Force Network), the Indian Air Force's (IAF) high-speed digital connectivity network. Monday's CCS meeting was held in the wake of widespread violence in the Kashmir Valley that saw the deaths of 88 civilians, the highest in a day since anti-India protests broke out in the region on June 11.  Paramilitary soldiers run to take positions in Srinagar The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become a political hot potato with ruling National Conference, opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the separatists demanding its lifting in Kashmir valley, but the armed forces opposing the move.  The AFSPA gives army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against any officer acting under the act. Nor is the government's judgement on why an area is found to be 'disturbed' subject to judicial review.  Curfew extended to all major towns Curfew was on Tuesday extended to all major towns of the Kashmir Valley as a precautionary measure after violent clashes left 17 people dead and more than 70 injured on Monday. However,  defying curfew, stone pelters targeted the house of a former legislator and clashed with security forces at different places in Kashmir, leaving at least six persons injured.   I am not going to quit: Omar J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday ended speculation that he was going to step down. "I am not going to plunge the state into a bigger crisis by leaving it headless at this stage," he told a news channel. Earlier, reports had said that Omar, upset with the Centre's inability to take a decision on withdrawal of AFSPA from parts of J&K, had made up his mind to quit.  Forces need legal protection: IAF chief As the Centre grapples with the issue of deciding on withdrawal of AFSPA, security forces on Tuesday made it clear that they would like legal cover in dealing with the situation there. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said a soldier, to perform his duty efficiently, deserved legal protection. "I am sure the government is sensitised to this problem...," Naik said in Delhi.  'Protest during day, work at night' Hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has issued an  11-day protest schedule asking people of Kashmir to carry out normal activities of life from dusk to dawn on strike days.  The striking point in the protest schedule is that the hardliners have asked the people of the Valley to carry out day-to-day activities from 7 pm to 7 am on strike days.

Air Force Network frees frequencies for telecom
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi September 15, 2010, 0:57 IST  Antony to Raja: Build army and navy networks for more frequency.  "I have bin Laden", gasped the French sniper, squinting into the telescopic sight of his long-range rifle in Afghanistan. If a documentary film by two well-known journalists is credible, this was the first of two occasions, six months apart in 2003 and 2004, when just a trigger squeeze would have eliminated the world's most famous terrorist. But on both occasions, according to the documentary, poor communication links meant that US commanders took two hours to authorise the killing. By then, bin Laden had gone.  While the incident is denied by the French military, everyone agrees that real-time communications are crucial for seizing fleeting opportunities in today's fast-paced battlefield. "Network-centric" warfare, which major militaries aspire to, links sensors, decision-makers and shooters onto a single grid, to reduce delays that might allow targets to escape. In New Delhi today, the Indian Air Force took a giant step towards "network-centric" warfare by inaugurating AFNet (or Air Force Network), a secure, gigabyte-capacity, digital radio network that links IAF command posts, fighter bases, radars, missile batteries and airborne fighters into a seamless whole.  At the laser-enlivened inauguration ceremony, Defence Minister A K Antony and Minister for Communications & IT A Raja watched an IAF command post, set up next to them, direct the interception, by a pair of Indian MiG-29 fighters, of two simulated enemy fighters that had intruded into Indian airspace. After the MiG-29s, which were actually airborne 8,000 metres above Punjab, had shot down the intruders, Antony chatted with the pilot over radio, congratulating him and ordering him back to base.  "A dream has come true for the IAF," declared Air Chief Marshall PV Naik. "All IAF bases are now inter-connected. And, best of all, AFNet has been completed quicker than any other defence project."  Begun just four years ago, the Rs 1,077-crore AFNet has been developed as a public-private project by BSNL, HCL Infosystems, and Cisco Systems. The system has already been installed in IAF stations across the country, including in the south. One of the two Integrated Air Command Centres (IACC), the hub-centres that watch over and protect Indian airspace, is already activated.  A key feature of AFNet's successful development has been close liaison between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Ministry of Communications and IT (MoCIT). Providing impetus to this cooperation is the "Network for Spectrum" principle, which binds the MoD to release frequency spectrum to the MoCIT as optic fibre-based networks like AFNet reduce the military's reliance on radio communications. The MoCIT plans to use the released spectrum for extending 2G and 3G mobile telephony services to the public.  Communications minister, A Raja, welcomed AFNet as vital for increasing India's teledensity from the current 50 per cent towards the 100 per cent mark. "It is a pleasure to know that the IAF has successfully implemented its 'Network for Spectrum' component, the AFNet", declared Raja. "This will now enable the defence services to permanently release spectrum for the growth of commercial mobile services."  But the defence minister indicated that more needed to be done before the MoD released a sizeable chunk of spectrum. Speaking immediately after Raja, Antony responded, "I would like to remind my colleague in the Ministry of Communications and IT… (that) even though I am very happy, I am not fully happy. I will be fully happy when… the army and navy will (also) be provided with network-centric capabilities. I am waiting for that day to celebrate jointly again like this."  HCL Infosystems Chairman & CEO Ajai Chowdhry told Business Standard that the IAF used more frequency than the army and the navy, and the implementation of AFNet would free about 35 megahertz of frequency for civilian usage. But military sources pointed out that this frequency would be released in tranches, not simultaneously.  For the IAF, which has relied since the late-1950s on vintage troposcatter-based communications, AFNet is a vital step forward. Says Air Vice Marshall Kapil Kak of the Centre for Air Power Studies, an IAF think-tank, "AFNet is upgradable and will soon link Airborne Warning and Control Systems and space-based systems with the current network. And, within five years, I see AFNet being extended to the army and navy as well."

Govt revises Union War Book to meet current situation
Rajat Pandit, TNN, Sep 15, 2010, 01.18am IST NEW DELHI: The government has quietly gone in for a major revision of the Union War Book, a classified voluminous document which lays down the exact role each government ministry, department and wing will play in times of war, to better reflect the current security scenario and ground situation.  The revision in the Union War Book even came up for mention during the annual combined commanders' conference, attended by PM Manmohan Singh and other senior ministers, which ended here on Tuesday.  "The entire government machinery, from the armed forces to the railways, civil aviation, shipping, surface transport, health and the like, has to be mobilised in the event of a war,'' said a top official.  "Times, tactics and doctrines have changed since the Union War Book, which has been in existence since the days of the British Raj, was last revised years ago. Primarily carried out by the defence and home ministries as well as the Cabinet Secretariat, the update caters for all this,'' he added.  The new Union War Book, which is with the Cabinet Committee of Security for the final nod, lays down action plans in minute details to meet any contingency during war.  It spells out, for instance, how air, train and other services will be commandeered in times of national emergency. It also provides the basis for forward deployment of military assets like the movement of a Mirage-2000 fighter squadron from Gwalior to say Ambala or Leh.  "It's the Bible for us. All commanding officers get extracts, marked secret/top-secret, which flow from the Union War Book about where his unit will be stationed and what role it will play during war,'' said an Army officer.  The Union War Book was last taken up for implementation during Operation Parakram, the 10-month-long forward troop mobilisation launched in the aftermath of the December 2001 terrorist attack, when India almost went to war with Pakistan.  Since then, with the armed forces themselves revising their doctrines, the need was felt to also revise the Union War Book. The Army, for instance, learnt the harsh lesson that slow mobilisation of its strike formations -- it took almost a month for them to mobilise at the `border launch pads' -- would no longer do. Instead, the strategy should be to mobilise fast and strike hard.  And now, as was first reported by TOI, the Army war doctrine is undergoing yet another revision to effectively meet the challenges of a possible `two-front war' with China and Pakistan in a worst-case scenario, deal with asymmetric and fourth-generation warfare, enhance strategic reach and joint operations with IAF and Navy. The revision in the Union War Book is in keeping with the times.   

227 cadets to be inducted into Army
September 14, 2010  United News of India Chennai, Sept 14: In all 227 cadets, who underwent rigorous training at India's premier Defence Training Insitutiton--Officer's Training Academy (OTA)--would be inducted into the Army on September 19. Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh would review the Passing Out Parade (POP) at the OTA on that day by 157 Gentleman Cadets and 70 Lady Cadets before their formal induction in the Army. A bi-annual fixture, the parade marks the commissioning of gentleman and lady cadets into the officer cadre of the Indian Army to join operational regiments across the length and breadth of the country.  A unique feature of the POP was that 15 Gentleman cadets, due to be commissioned into the Afghan National Army, and two Lady cadets from Lesotho, also underwent training at the OTA along with their Indian counterparts, an OTA release said today. The arduous and gruelling preparation was only one salient feature of the military training imparted at the OTA.  The training curriculum covered a dozen diverse subjects like physical training, military tactics, weapon training, radio communication and academics.  The OTA, spread over 650 acres in the heart of the city and adjacent to the Chennai Airport, is dotted with firing ranges, simulators for modern warfare techniques, stables, PT grounds, playgrounds and several other indoor and outdoor facilities.

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