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Saturday, 19 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 19 Mar 2011

India abstains from UNSC vote on Libya no-fly zone
Indrani Bagchi, TNN | Mar 19, 2011, 03.57am IST NEW DELHI: India joined China, Russia, Brazil and Germany to abstain on a UN Security Council chapter 7 resolution against Libya which would enforce a no-fly zone over the country. Hours after the resolution was passed with 10 votes, Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa announced a ceasefire in operations against the rebels.  Explaining its vote in the UNSC, Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy permanent representative in the UN, said the resolution authorizes far-reaching measures with "relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya". "The proposed financial measures like asset freeze etc; on Libyan individuals and entities would impact trade and investment in the country and indirectly affect the Libyan people". He hoped the resolution would "not exacerbate an already difficult situation for the people of Libya. Clarity in the resolution on any spill-over effects of these measures would have been very important."  Later, Indian officials said Libya's ceasefire call vindicated their stand.  India remains deeply uncomfortable about sanctioning military action in a third country, said officials, particularly if it could lead to a disintegration of that country. In the discussions leading up to the Indian decision, senior officials said there was no evidence that a no-fly zone would take care of the problem in Libya.  The UNSC resolution was largely driven by the Arab League (although Egypt indicated it would rather stay out), particularly the Gulf Arab states, and Europe — led by UK and France that until recently were close buddies of Muammar Gaddafi. The US was reluctant, but Arab pressure, combined with domestic public opinion, swung Washington in the last moment. The US hesitation was articulated by outgoing defence secretary Bob Gates recently. "In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it," Gates had said.  The current resolution is sweeping in its scope and advocates "all possible measures", which is an euphemism for military action.

Security Cabinet likely to clear biggest Indo-US defence deal by month-end
 PTI / Friday, March 18, 2011 22:43 IST  The biggest Indo-US defence deal worth US$4.1 billion is expected to be cleared by the cabinet committee on security (CCS) by the end of this month.  "The CCS will take up the deal for procuring 10 C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft for discussion in its next meeting in March and is expected to clear it," defence ministry sources told Press Trust of India in New Delhi.  The defence ministry has already approved funds for procuring the aircraft in this fiscal, they added.  India is planning to procure the aircraft for augmenting its fleet of Ilyushin-76 aircraft and Antonov-32 transport aircraft from the US through the foreign military sales route.  The negotiations between India and the US for the deal were completed in February this year.  After finalising the initial deal for ten aircraft, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is also planning to place orders for additional six aircraft.  On the recent defence ministry projects cleared by the CCS, the sources said the proposal to induct at least 16 of the indigenous Akash surface-to-air missile systems into the army and Project Sanjay related to military communication for the army were cleared by the highest decision-making body for security-related matters in the government.  The Akash Missile systems are produced by the Bharat Dynamics Limited and have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).  The IAF has already placed orders for 64 of these missiles and inducted two of them.

Antony says Territorial Army important component of security apparatus
Defence Minister A K Antony today reviewed the Prime Minister's Territorial Army (TA) Day Parade here today and said the citizens' army was an important component of the national security apparatus.  "Our Citizen's Army is actively involved in several fields that help the nation to move forward and development. The TA is truly an important component of our national security apparatus. Its voluntary nature makes it all the more praiseworthy," he said.  Smartly turned out contingents marched to martial tunes in the presence of a large crowd at the parade, which commemorated 61 years of the TA.  The Defence Minister was received at the ceremony by Maj Gen H K Singh, Additional Director General, Territorial Army.  The parade was also attended by Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, three Service Chiefs and other civil and military dignitaries, including military and defence attaches from foreign countries.  The parade, commanded by Col DS Chauhan, comprised ten marching contingents, 14 pipe bands and four military brass bands. Smart drill movements and an exhilarating marchpast, by the Terriers of Citizen's Army, filled the spectators with a feeling of national pride.  This year's added attraction was a display of specialist dogs and their handlers, involved in executing operations in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North East.  This was followed by the citizen soldiers on 103 cycles, led by Capt S S Chauhan, who had undertaken a Trans India Cycle Expedition "Pradeshik Bhraman", completing 1,30,000 kms across the country.  Later, Mr Antony visited the exhibition organised by departmental Territorial Army units, including units of Railways, Oil Sector, General Hospital and Ecological Task Forces. It provided an insight into the functioning of these units as also their achievements, during hours of crisis, in peace as well as war. "Environment Protection" was an important highlight of this exhibition.  The Defence Minister complemented all Terriers for rendering yeoman service to the nation as also for putting up a splendid display of capabilities.  "The nation is proud of the high standards of professionalism shown by the Territorial Army. Today, a large number of TA units are deployed in J&K and North East, working hand-in-hand with their counterparts in our Armed Forces. They are doing duty in the most rigorous of terrains - from Himalayas to Andaman & Nicobar Islands and from Nagaland to Jaisalmer. TA units have displayed courage and showed extraordinary commitment during wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971 in Operation Vijay during Kargil conflict, Operation Parakram, counter- insurgency areas," Mr Antony said.  He noted that the Terriers had played a crucial role in maintaining communication and relief during times of natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes. In particular, he praised the contribution of the Ecological Task Forces o the TA, which have undertaken plantation drives in remote areas of the country.  Mr Antony expressed pride that prominent personalities such as former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev and Malayalam film superstar Mohan Lal had joined the TA.

And now, track-II with the generals
 Finally, New Delhi realises the importance of engaging with the real power in Pakistan: its army, reports IFTIKHAR GILANI  LAMENTING INDIA’S handicapped Pakistan policy, a top official in the security establishment once linked it with the lack of diplomatic access to Pakistan’s nerve centre — the Pakistan Army. He joked that only Kashmiri separatists and Americans have penetration and communication with GHQ in Rawalpindi, the decision-making centre.  Real boss The US administration has always enjoyed a good rapport with Pakistan Army chief Gen Kayani  PHOTO: AFP  The public got a glimpse of this gap in diplomacy after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, when Pakistan’s political leadership backed out from sending its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to New Delhi and later nearly created a war-like hysteria over a mysterious telephone call to President Asif Ali Zardari’s office when foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was still at the Taj Hotel in Delhi. Fearing an attack, a special Pakistan Air Force plane landed at Delhi early in the morning to evacuate the minister.  It now seems India has hit on the right formula. Officially, India may still vow to have struck a chord with the democratically elected government in Pakistan. But for the sake of sustaining the formal diplomatic engagement beginning on 28 March with the meeting of home secretaries, the government is believed to have succeeded in building a direct channel with the Pakistan Army.  Holding up the dialogue process in the aftermath of 26/11 was no doubt an expression of anger, but even more, it was an attempt to seek a credible guarantee from the Pakistan Army to put an end to terrorist activities against India as committed by General Pervez Musharraf in a joint statement he signed with Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 6 January 2004 in Islamabad.  Reports from Islamabad suggest that Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal had met Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani ahead of foreign secretaries of both countries agreeing on the resumption of talks in Thimpu last month. Reports say these engagements have continued in recent times as well, as home secretaries are slated to discuss India’s request to interrogate Lashkar-e- Toiba main accused in the 26/11 attacks.  Powerful ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha has also met representatives of the Indian armed forces posted in the High Commission in Islamabad and is believed to have conveyed to them that India needs to talk directly with the Pakistan Army. Earlier, Pasha had attended an iftar party thrown by the Indian High Commissioner for the first time. The ISI had also hosted farewell parties for some Indian defence advisers who were returning after completing their tenures in Islamabad.  Over the past few months, Indian defence advisers were also invited to attend the passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul.  ‘The offer to open channels with the Pakistan Army had come from them,’ says Sawhney  On its part, the Indian establishment has reciprocated by inviting the head of the National Defence University in Islamabad. India also invited the Pakistan High Commissioner to address its military officers at the National Defence Academy.  SUSHANT SAREEN, a key Pakistan expert at India’s premier strategic think-tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), believes only a credible engagement with Pakistan’s military will bring peace in the region. He even ridicules dependence on the civil society of Pakistan for raising a constituency of peace. According to Sareen, what goes as civil society in Pakistan is really a fringe group of around 1,000 people, which, if one is very charitable, can be raised to 5,000.  “The manner in which the progress made on the people-to-people front between 2004 and 2008 was practically overnight reduced to nothing after the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai should be proof enough that when it comes to India-Pakistan relations, people tend to follow the line set by their establishments. In other words, people-to-people relations flower when the establishment allows them, and they wither away when the establishment shuts the door on them,” says Sareen.  At the government level, even the National Security Advisory Board is believed to have advised opening direct links with Pakistan’s Army. “A dialogue with Pakistan military will help India, both in understanding the military’s viewpoint and getting its own across directly,” said the conclusions of a report that discussed dealing with an unstable Pakistan.  Cordiality Indian envoy S Sabharwal with Pakistan interior minister Malik  PHOTO: AP  Even as director generals of military operations (DGMOS) of both countries do talk almost every Tuesday, PK Upadhyay, a consultant at IDSA, suggests that it could be extended to the military intelligence directorates and the army headquarters of both countries. However, he is sceptical of overburdening the Indian military with such engagements, fearing it would lead to an undue interference of the military into political and diplomatic matters. “If the nation is there, security and defence are needed, but if the nation is reduced to a jail under some grotesque concepts and concerns for security and defence, let Pakistan have that concept of nationhood for as long as it can sustain it,” he says.  Noted defence expert Pravin Sawhney says vibes to open channels with the Pakistan Army had originally come from them. ISI chief Pasha, a former DGMO, had actually reportedly suggested this approach in 2009 to the Indian military adviser in Islamabad. He also reminded that back-channel talks that benefited meaningful progress on Kashmir between 2004-07 were conducted under President Musharraf, who was also a military chief.  “Not talking with the Pakistan Army is tantamount to ignoring ground realities; the urgent need for both is to pick up the threads from earlier talks and start arms control negotiations under the MOU signed with the Lahore Declaration of 21 February 1999,” says Sawhney.  Dispelling the impression that such an approach will increase the role of the Indian Army in political affairs, Sawhney is confident that such demand will not come from the military leadership, which is disciplined and rooted in the idea of democracy. “Perhaps, they are not even capable of matching the Pakistan Army leadership’s strategic insights,” he adds.  Of course, there is a consensus in India that foreign policy is led by the executive and the army does not interfere in decision- making. So engaging with the generals across the border can merely be one more arrow in the strategic quiver.

Army apolitical, studying officer's 'praise for Modi
2011-03-18 New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Maintaining that the army was an 'apolitical' organisation, Indian Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh Friday the encomiums showered on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by a division commander in Ahmedabad recently will be examined.  'The army is absolutely apolitical. I don't know what statement has been made (by the division commander). We are studying it as to what he has said. I can only say one thing...that there is no politicisation in the army,' he told reporters here on the sidelines of a tea hosted by him for army officers conferred with gallantry awards and service medals.  Golden Katar division commander Major General I.S. Singha had purpotedly praised Narendra Modi at a 'know-year-army' event on Monday, describing his qualities as an administrator to be akin to that of army commanders.  This had led the army headquarters to seek a clarification on the statement.  Asked if the major general's remarks on Narendra Modi were appropriate, Singh said he was not aware of the context of the speech and assured that there would be no politicisation of the army.  Speaking at another event, Defence minister A.K. Antony described the armed forces as 'apolitical' and said he was yet to see a report on the major general's statement praising Narendra Modi.  'I am yet to get a report about what happened there. So cannot comment on the basis of media reports. One good tradition of the armed forces -- compared to many other (institutions) -- is that they are apolitical,' he said.  'That tradition, I am sure, of our armed forces will continue. They are apolitical and their task is to protect the national security. They have to be vigilant round-the-clock and that they are doing,' he added.

Reality show makes women in Indian Army a reality
 DNA / Ipsita Basu Dasgupta / Friday, March 18, 2011 11:44 IST  As gender demarcations blur by the day, the age-old doubt on if women can fight alongside men in the army is witnessing a refreshing new change.  Two women participants of the five-member team, who’re participating in the documentary reality show, Mission Army Desh Ke Rakshak, on National Geographic, are surpassing the glass ceiling, with their mental toughness and physical stamina.  Nineteen-year-old Priyanka Oswal, a student, and 23-year-old Ela Vohra,a software engineer, will be trained under various regiments and divisions of the Indian Army.  The final winner willbe part of the Indian Army’s peacekeeping mission at a location overseas. Says Priyanka, who comes from a civilian family, “I’m thrilled that I got a chance to be a part of Mission Army. It’s an achievement considering I was a part of the Commando School, Belgaum, which does not induct women cadres.” She says that this experience has given her an insight into the profession and hopes it will help when she takes it up as a full-time career.  Ela, who coincidentally also has been inducted into the army formally, hopes that the show will be a platform for things to come. “My father is from the armed forces. I have always been inspired to pursue a defence-related career. This came at the right time, when I cleared my armed forces exams.”  The two women surpassed 30,000 tough competitors across the country. Priyanka says, “Though we went through a host of process, the progressive group task is what I recall. We were given plywood and ropes and asked to clear obstacles with our logic and not physical strength, which was a task I thoroughly enjoyed.” Ela, on the other hand recounts her experience of a two-kilometre run, right when the auditions for the show began. “I didn’t have a clue of what to expect, when I enrolled in Mission Army and the unexpected exercise took me by surprise. But once there, I enjoyed each of our qualifying rounds,” she adds.  In this age where corporate jobs win over careers in defence services, will these women still choose a career with the armed forces? Says Priyanka, “I love travelling and adventure. A career with the army will give me ample scope for these.” Agrees Ela, “I have done my corporate bit and now waiting to serve the country.”  Mission Army airs on National Geographic every Monday at 10pm.

No army operations against Maoists: General VK Singh
Rahul Chandawarkar / Friday, March 18, 2011 11:58 IST  General VK Singh, chief of army staff, on Thursday categorically stated that the Indian Army was not involved in any ground operations against Maoists in the country.  In a reply to a question posed by DNA on the sidelines of a lecture delivered by him in the University of Pune, Singh said, “There are no army operations against the Maoists. We are only involved in training and guiding the paramilitary forces fighting them.”  When asked if the army had increased its presence along the North-East border with China, the general said, “We are at peace with China and there are no problems on the North-East.”  The general put the spotlight firmly on China during his lecture on the topic, ‘India’s role in South Asia: Strategic challenges and opportunities in 21st century’ at the Yashwantrao Chavan National Centre of International Security and Defence Studies.  He said, “China is clearly following a path of regional hegemony. It is quickly developing economic bonds with all our neighbours. It is also pitting one neighbour against the other.”  In a bid to counter China, Singh stressed that India needs to forge active business ties with its neighbours. “South Asia is easily the most economically disconnected region in the world despite the presence of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). India needs to review all its trade barriers with its neighbours quickly, as China is already doing so,” he added.  Singh recommended that India pursue a free trade policy in the region. “We need to give more than we take from our neighbours. There is an urgent need to be proactive in our business transactions with our neighbours.”  Shifting his attention to terrorism, Singh identified Afghanistan and Pakistan as the trouble spots. According to him, a multi-faceted approach is needed to tackle the problems in Afghanistan.

Cong MLA writes to Antony over general’s praise for Modi
Express News Service Posted online: Fri Mar 18 2011, 03:55 hrs Rajkot : Citing the recent incident of General Officer Commanding of Golden Katar Division, Major General I S Singha reportedly likening CM Narendra Modi to an “Army commander”, Congress MLA from Rapar, Babu Shah, has written to Defence Minister A K Antony, urging him to take steps to prevent politicians “earning legitimacy” by inviting praise from serving Army officers.  He called Gen Singha’s remarks “most unfortunate and a reflection of deteriorating standards of Indian Army”.  Shah wrote in his letter to Antony, dated March 15: “This is not to complain against Major General Singha. It is, however, to request you to prevent politicians form earning legitimacy by inviting encomiums from serving officers of the Indian Army. I hope you will take appropriate steps in this regard.”  Shah, a former finance minister of Gujarat, expressed surprise that “Major General fell for the propaganda to project Modi as a visionary”. “I can understand if such propaganda has impressed the layman or uninformed public. But it is amazing that a Major General fell for it.”

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