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Thursday, 16 September 2010

From Today's Papers - 16 Sep 2010

BJP tones down opposition to AFSPA
 Faraz Ahmad/TNS  New Delhi, September 15 Even as BJP president Nitin Gadkari put on record his party’s oft-stated opposition to the dilution or withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir at the all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here today, the party seemed to have adopted a milder tone stating it to be a “sensitive issue”.  Gadkari the lone speaker for a four-member high-powered delegation of the BJP, which included parliamentary party chairman LK Advani, leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, however, spoke uncharacteristically “Like a statesman” as a participant later commented. And reflecting this restrain in BJP’s approach to a highly volatile situation in the Kashmir valley, spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad too was “circumspect” briefing newsmen about the meeting and his party’s stand.  Stating that Gadkari put his party’s views Prasad said, “Any decision on the future of the state should take into account the sensitivities of the other two regions namely Jammu and Ladakh.”  The BJP naturally opposed any suggestions of withdrawal of the controversial AFSPA but in a much milder tone than ever before saying, “Any decision on the AFSPA should not overlook the effect such a decision may have on the armed forces and security agencies who have been doing exemplary work in fighting cross-border terrorism.”  Prasad also disclosed that his party totally opposed any demand for greater autonomy for the region. But at the same time the party joined the all-party appeal for return of peace and normalcy in the Valley.  The party also readily agreed to send its representative in the proposed all-party delegation that will be going to the state shortly under the leadership of Union Home Minister P Chidambarm.  The BJP spokesman did not accept that his party appeared to have sobered down its stand on the J&K issue. But the fact remains that for months the BJP had been stridently opposing any dilution of AFSPA, greater autonomy for the state and vociferously demanding Omar Abdullah’s resignation.

Western Command observes Raising Day
 Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, September 15 A solemn wreath-laying ceremony to honour martyrs marked the 63rd Raising Day celebrations of the Western Command at the Chandimandir Military Station here today. It was on this day in 1947 that the Western Command came into being at Delhi.  Floral tributes were paid at the Veer Smriti War Memorial by serving personnel as well as several former General Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the command, including Governor of Arunachal Pradesh Gen JJ Singh. A ceremonial guard reversed arms and buglers sounded the Last Post as a mark of respect to those who laid down their lives in the line of duty. A large number of senior officers as well as other ranks attended the ceremony.  Raised as the Delhi and East Punjab Command ---controlling all formations with an operational role in the territorial areas of the present Western, South Western and Northern Commands --- it was redesignated as the Western Command in January 1948. In 1954, the Command Headquarters moved to Shimla.  After the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Northern Command, with its headquarters at Udhampur, was carved out of it to assume operational responsibility of Jammu and Kashmir. The Western Command headquarters eventually moved to its present location at Chandimandir in 1985.  In 2005, consequent to the raising of the South Western Command, the areas of responsibility of the Command were readjusted. Today, the Western Command guards the heartland of the country, including parts of Punjab and J&K. It has participated in all wars since independence, blunting enemy offensives and carrying the battle into enemy territory.

  Chinese assertiveness Time for measured, calculated responses 
by G. Parthasarathy  Barely a few months ago, India’s relations with China looked upbeat, with both sides talking of a new beginning embodying the “Copenhagen Spirit’ of cooperation on Climate Change. It was in keeping with this spirit that President Pratibha Patil visited China. But, shortly thereafter, Chinese actions in Jammu and Kashmir have sent the relationship into a tailspin.  Many analysts believe that the current Chinese “assertiveness” may well be the result of the People’s Liberation Army becoming increasingly aggressive at a time when the country is preparing for a change of leadership in 2012. Moreover, it would not be surprising if China has concluded that the political leadership in India has been unable to build a national consensus and confront serious challenges, ranging from Maoist violence to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.  Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra has for long had a deep commitment to a friendly and normalised relationship with China. This is not surprising, with his having been the recipient of the famous “Mao Smile” and Mao’s “Let us be friends again” comment, on May 1, 1970. The normally reticent Mr Mishra, however, made some scathing comments to a gathering of distinguished American academics in New Delhi on July 20. Outlining India’s major national security challenges, the veteran diplomat stated: “What has created more problems for us today is the unmitigated hostility of Pakistan and China towards India”.  He was strongly critical of the flip-flops on India’s policy towards Pakistan, which he asserted, only encouraged Pakistan to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. More significantly, he added: “Now, we are facing a situation in which terrorism is going to increase because for the first time China has now come out openly for Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, the issuance of visas on separate pieces of paper, the projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and, of course, the military and nuclear assistance which is being given”.  When Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited India in 2005, he agreed to a boundary settlement along “easily identifiable natural geographical features”; adding that in reaching a boundary settlement, “the two sides shall safeguard the interests of their settled populations in border areas”. Our overenthusiastic Sinologists promptly read this as a Chinese commitment to soften their claims on populated centres like Tawang.  They were soon in for a reality check, when China upped its border claims, asserting that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is a part of “South Tibet”. This was accompanied by increasing border intrusions. Pakistan remains a convenient stalking horse for a China bent on “containment” of Indian influence. China joined Pakistan in promoting opposition in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to the ending of nuclear sanctions against India.  Along with these developments came the introduction of “stapled visas” for Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir. While China’s reference to Gilgit and Baltistan as “Northern Pakistan,” may have been inadvertent, the refusal of a visa to India’s Northern Army Commander is clearly unacceptable. All this is very different from the advice tendered to Pakistan by former President Jiang Zemin, who told his Pakistani hosts in 1996 that they should settle the Kashmir issue through bilateral negotiations with India.  New Delhi failed to seriously take note of China support Pakistan’s efforts to block American sponsored moves in the Security Council since 2007, to declare Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s Jamat ud Dawa as an international terrorist organisation. Following the 26/11 terrorist outrage, Chinese “scholars” proclaimed that the Mumbai attack reflected “the failure of Indian Intelligence.” They claimed that India was blaming Pakistan to “enhance its control over the disputed Kashmir” and warned that:  “China can support Pakistan in the event of a war,” while asserting that in such circumstances China may have the option of resorting to a “strategic military action in Southern Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) to thoroughly liberate the people there”.  China has since agreed to co-produce 240 JF 17 fighters and supply 30 J 10 fighters, apart from four Frigates, tanks and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) capabilities to Pakistan. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and missile capabilities are being upgraded by China. India has to carefully analyse if China is assisting Pakistan to shift its nuclear weapons from the growingly unstable Baluchistan Province, to tunnels in the remote parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.  As its maritime power grows, China is becoming increasingly “assertive” on its maritime boundaries, claiming that like Taiwan and Tibet, the entire South China Sea is an area of “core interest”. The Yellow Sea and the East China Sea are claimed to be parts of China’s “sphere of influence”. The simmering differences over maritime boundaries between China and its ASEAN neighbours, particularly Vietnam, came to the fore at the recent Hanoi meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum.  The Chinese “assertiveness,” including statements by senior Chinese military officials suggesting that the United States should accept the Eastern Pacific and Indian Oceans as a Chinese “sphere of influence,” has raised eyebrows in Washington. Is China prematurely manifesting hubris, in the belief that the US power is declining relatively and can be challenged? After displaying incredible naiveté in its initial months in office, the Obama Administration officials now acknowledge the China’s global economic policies are “mercantilist” and its export-led growth responsible for exacerbating global economic imbalances. Will China’s rise be peaceful and non-threatening is a question being asked not just in New Delhi but across the world. While it would be counterproductive for India to respond in kind to aggressive Chinese rhetoric, diplomatic inaction is not an answer. Measured and calculated responses are the best answers to Chinese “assertiveness”. India’s “Look East” policies are paying dividends in our engagement with ASEAN. Moreover, our growing defence and strategic ties with Japan, South Korea and Vietnam have not escaped notice in China.  However, would it not be worthwhile to equip Vietnam with cruise and ballistic missiles, together with the supply of safeguarded nuclear power and research reactors and reprocessing facilities? Can we not, like the ASEAN countries, commence Ministerial-level economic exchanges with Taiwan? Should we not suggest that since China and the Dalai Lama signed a 17-Point Agreement in 1951, we hope both sides agree to abide by and implement this agreement in letter and spirit? The Chinese could well be mistaking robust democratic debate for weakness.  India does have advantages to exploit. Apart from Pakistan, there is virtually no other country that accuses us of territorial ambitions or of greed in seeking access to their natural resources. Most importantly, major centres of power — the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Union — seek to engage China, but deeply distrust Chinese long-term ambitions. This gives us access to defence, space and industrial technology, not available to China.

AFSPA dilution divides all-party meet
l PDP, NC support revocation as BJP, Sena oppose it l All-party delegation to visit Valley to assess situation  Anita Katyal & Aditi Tandon Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 15 As violence in Jammu and Kashmir showed no signs of abating, political leaders of all hues today set aside differences and endorsed the UPA Government’s move to send an all-party delegation to the troubled state. The delegation would take stock of the ground situation before a final political and economic solution could be worked out.  The decision was announced by Home Minister P Chidambaram at the end of a marathon four hour all-party meeting on Kashmir crisis convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence. Describing this development as a positive move, a UPA minister said it was a good beginning in working together and that it defined the government’s next move on this festering problem.  The rare show of unity culminated in a joint statement, which said that all leaders agreed that the Indian Constitution provided ample scope to “accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations”. Accordingly, it was decided that the delegation would be sent to the state but dates were not announced. The delegation will meet a cross-section of society and provide vital inputs to the Centre when it decides on measures to reach out to the people of the state.  According to insiders, today’s meeting was unusually cordial — a UPA minister described it as “serious and conciliatory” — as all leaders expressed concern about the situation in the valley. It was unanimously felt that it was imperative to engage with the people and understand the reasons for recent upsurge in violent protests, which were not the handiwork of terrorists. Giving an account of the situation in the state, Chidambaram termed it “not normal”.  Although there were differences over the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), these did not come in the way of leaders evolving a common response to the Kashmir situation.  Spared of heated exchanges, no one — not even usual suspects BJP and PDP — sought Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s resignation, though there was a veiled attack on the ruling dispensation. The only speaker who openly said that Omar was not up to the task was MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. Sharad Yadav of the JDU advocated Governor’s Rule.  There was overwhelming agreement that the process of political dialogue must resume. Most parties, with PDP’s exception — Mehbooba Mufti sought unconditional talks — favoured a dialogue with all sections of Kashmir society within the framework of the constitution. Mehbooba, who stole the show, made an impassioned plea for winning the “hearts and minds of the people” through dialogue.  Objecting to Shiv Sena Manohar Joshi’s remark that Kashmir had remained a part of India only because of the Army, she remarked, “It is said Kashmir is an inalienable part of India... this may be of the land, but how do you propose to end the alienation among the people there?” Hitting out indirectly at the Omar Abdullah, she said, the trouble in Kashmir did not start this June but had been building up ever since the current government came to power.  Mohammad Shafi of the National Conference, who was fielded by his party, defended the state government and instead put the blame on the Centre, which he said had not fulfilled its promised political commitments. He also made out a strong case for the partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces Act, which, he said, would send out a positive signal to the people.  CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said, “The only positive thing that emerged today was a consensus that talks must resume and the all-party delegation should set the mood for it. On rest of the issues, like revocation of AFSPA, and Army withdrawal, everyone had their own views. We sought Army withdrawal from places where peace has returned. That would automatically lead to the redundancy of AFSPA in those areas.”

Army resists withdrawal of Special Powers Act
15 September, 2010  By correspondent,  On the morning of the all-party meeting on the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Kashmir came the view of the Chief of the Army Staff, General V K Singh and Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik. And as expected the Indian Army is reluctant to accept it. Defence minister A K Anthony also put up the Army perspective before the all-party meet in New Delhi on Wednesday. A day before on Tuesday he had termed the matter ‘very sensitive’.  “We have made our position very clear. We have operated in some places without the Act. It is very, very difficult. Without that (the Act), we could be dragged into court for no rhyme or reason. But it is a matter on which the political leadership will have to decide,” General Singh was quoted by the Kolkata-based daily The Telegraph in its Wednesday edition..  While the BJP is opposed to it, the Prime Minister’s Office and the home ministry want the repeal of the AFSPA in about six districts of Kashmir to signal a political giveaway to buy peace.  Political observers are of the view that the army chief was just echoing what his predecessors and even the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik had said.  The latter said that “when the military is on duty, it deserves all the protection it can get. I am sure the government is aware of this and will decide accordingly.”

J&K violence: Omar on Centre notice
New Delhi September 14, 2010  Time is running out for Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Union government has put him on notice. The Centre feels that despite all its support Omar has been incapable of dealing with the current situation in the valley.   The central government has consulted almost all stakeholders in the state and the general view has been that Omar has proved ineffective in dealing with the situation in the valley. It feels his inaction allowed things to go from bad to worse in the valley.   The government's immediate priority now is to douse the flames in the burning Kashmir Valley and put an end to the spate of violence that has ravaged it.   Govt may take some important decisions: Antony Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday hinted that the Centre may take some important decisions to bring the situation under control after Wednesday's all-party meeting.   "Important decisions have to be taken after carefully assessing all aspects. Cabinet Committee on Security had a long meeting yesterday. Ultimately we thought before we take a final decision, we will take into confidence all the major parties so that everybody is involved," Antony said admitting the situation was "very serious" and it needed to be "handled carefully".   Sources told Headlines Today that the Centre might even convene another CCS after the Wednesday's all-party meet. The Centre is stuck on the proposal to dilute the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). No consensus could be found on this during the last CCS meeting.   IAF chief backs general The defence forces have been against the dilution of AFSPA. After the Indian Army chief openly raising voice against the withdrawal of the Act or its dilution, now even Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik has also opposed it.   When asked about his opinion on the controversial Act, the Indian Air Force chief said it was a must if the armed forces were to be involved in counter insurgency operations.   "I am sure the government is sensitised to this problem. Whatever decision they will take, I am sure it will be the correct one," Naik said.

Assertive China, rather than Pakistan, seen as long-term threat to India
  (, Sep15, 2010) China was becoming increasingly assertive and India’s political leadership should factor Beijing’s ever-expanding transborder, cyber and space-warfare military capabilities into its national security matrix, reported the Times of India Online Sep 14, citing India’s annual combined commanders' conference Sep 13.  The report said that the normally ultra-cautious defence minister AK Antony admitted China was becoming increasingly assertive. And India’s top military leaders were reported to have warned that China posed "serious challenges'' and that the political establishment should chalk out clear-cut national security objectives to enable the fashioning of a joint military strategy to meet any external threat.  Others who attended the meeting were reported to include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, among others.  China's massive build-up of military infrastructure in occupied Tibet along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, its strategic moves in Indian Ocean Region and the rapid modernisation of the People's Liberation Army were reported to have been red-flagged as worrisome during the conference. This was in addition to recent reports about strong Chinese presence in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, both in terms of projects and personnel.  Prime Minister Singh was reported to have said India needed to develop border infrastructure, for both land and sea, with "a sense of urgency'' because it was "an integral part'' of the country's defence preparedness. Antony was reported to have said India was taking all necessary steps to upgrade its capabilities. And the Prime Minister was quoted as saying, “When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve.”  All the three Service chiefs – Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, Admiral Nirmal Verma and General V K Singh – too were reported to have expressed concern on the China-front, saying it was Beijing, rather than Islamabad, which represented "a long-term threat'' to India.  In August, India and Japan were reported to have exchanged notes on the lack of transparency in Beijing’s spending on its military upgrade also shared their concerns about Chinese military build-up in border areas. The Indian Express online Sep 14 cited sources as saying the two sides had expressed “similar language” in describing Chinese actions. The issue reportedly figured in delegation-level discussions Agu 20 between India’s External Affairs Minister Mr SM Krishna and his Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada during the latter’s visit to New Delhi.  Japan’s Defence Ministry’s annual report — released in the second week of August — highlighted China’s increased military spending.  India was also reported to have expresses its views on the subject with the US when defence officials from Washington came to New Delhi and spoke about their concerns over Beijing.

No India-China 'pas de deux' 
Nilova Roy Chaudhury  2010-09-14 11:37 PM  Print This News  NEW DELHI: It’s official. The idyllic cloak of the “Hindi-Chini bhai bhai” fraternal relationship appears to have been completely discarded, with China now accepted as the major external threat to India. Not only the Prime Minister, who said China sought to keep India pegged at a “low-level equilibrium” within the region, but also his Defence Minister and most of his senior officials accept and admit that China’s aggressive posturing is India’s most potent threat.  At Monday’s (armed forces) combined commanders’ conference, speakers ranging from the Prime Minister to the Defence Minister and other top government functionaries spoke of the need to recognise the reality of China’s aggressive postures.  With rising growth and corresponding ambitions, both countries will increasingly tread on each other’s turf, making confrontation inevitable. The effort, explained a source, was to ensure that the confrontation does not become a physical war-like situation but remains postural and hence, peaceful and containable.  In bilateral terms however, not much has changed and the over 4,000 kms long Line of Actual Control (LAC) which makes up the disputed boundary between the two countries, is peaceful. But, according to the sources, China tries to “test its strength” with issues like denying visas to senior army officials, giving stapled visas to people of J&K and bolstering infrastructure building in the northern areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Depending on the scale of the reaction, they either continue the “niggling” or back off. In the case of the visa denied to Lt.General BS Jaswal, the Chinese were taken aback at the Indian reaction and have urged India to resume defence exchanges with them. The Chinese spokesperson’s remarks referring to the “northern parts of Pakistan” have also been removed from the official Chinese foreign ministry website.  Pakistan has almost fallen off the radar as a real threat, given how perilously close to a failed state the country has become, and the ‘jihadi’ terrorist menace is its only export that worries Indian decision-makers. That, and the Pakistani potential to fan separatist fires in Jammu and Kashmir, keeping it on the boil. According to analysts, as the Pakistani state continues to wither away, the resultant rise in extremism and militancy in that country is also a cause of serious concern for China, which is handling and trying to contain separatist militancy in Xinjiang.  There has, however, been a definite “shift in the Chinese attitude,” a source in the government said, not only towards India, but “across the board” in the South China Sea and elsewhere, manifesting itself from around 2008, the time when the economic recession hit the world. Overcoming Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, China is now vying for the top spot and, given the strength of its economic recovery, feels it can take on the United States and the west. India has been particularly concerned at Beijing’s attempts to monopolise sea lanes and maritime routes and resources.  From 2006 onwards, India has also moved to bolster its border infrastructure, building roads right up to the LAC, reactivating airfields along its border with China, and deploying troops and squadrons of Sukhois in the area. New Delhi has also been moving to enhance its presence in the neighbourhood and region, with wider road and rail links, major infrastructure projects in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and parts of south east Asia in an effort to leave “a larger footprint,” and closer strategic ties with countries like Japan and South Korea. Both countries are also competing for sources of energy and natural resources as they try to hasten their pace of development, inevitably leading to some clash of interests which are “not necessarily antagonistic” but “manageable,” a senior official said. In fact, officials pointed out, China has also begun a dialogue with India on the future of Afghanistan, an indication of the high levels of mutual engagement. Both countries have developed many layers of institutionalised mechanisms to keep each other engaged.  “So far, China has been building up only infrastructure in the neighbourhood, not a permanent presence,” a source said, when asked about the Chinese “string of pearls” policy of building ports and developing bases along the Indian Ocean in an effort to “contain” India. It could be argued, an official said, that Beijing saw the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement and US efforts to ensure a country-specific waiver for India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group as a measure to contain China.  With both India and China developing and being “anti-status quoist” countries, a measure of friction was inevitable. Having settled its boundary disputes with all countries except India, China finds the perceived Indian intransigence galling, as it does the continued presence of the Dalai Lama as “an honoured guest” of India with easy access to its top leadership.

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