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Saturday, 26 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 26 Mar 2011

Dialogue with Pakistan Talks and terrorism can’t go together
by T.V. Rajeswar  Addressing the University of Agricultural Science and Technology in Jammu in the first week of March, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that despite all the problems India had been faced with, it had decided to resume the dialogue process with Pakistan. India would being the talks with Pakistan with an open mind with a wish to resolve all the outstanding issues between the two countries through friendly, constructive and purposeful negotiations.  The Prime Minister emphasised that having said that, “We cannot forget what happened in Mumbai”. The Government of Pakistan should leave no stone unturned in bringing the culprits to book. The activities of the extremist groups in Pakistan remain a source of concern.  Unfortunately, Pakistan has been stonewalling all the promised trials of individuals identified as complicit in the Mumbai attacks. The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, who met at Thimphu during the recent SAARC meeting, agreed to have a meeting of the Home Secretaries of the two countries in Delhi in the last week of March. It has to be understood by Pakistan that dialogue and terrorism cannot go together.  Meanwhile, the interrogation of the captured attacker, Kasab, by the Mumbai police led to the identification of two known leaders of a Pakistan- based militant outfit, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), who guided the attack from Pakistan.  The FBI’s disclosure that US citizen David Headley had played a key role in reconnoitring the 26/11 targets numerous times during the two years before the Mumbai attack filled the important gaps in the continuing investigation, especially regarding how the militants who attacked gained detailed knowledge of their targets in Mumbai. Pakistan has so far not agreed to India’s request to let an Indian team interrogate them.  India was incensed by a string of lethal attacks on Indian nationals in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s complicity. US officials confirmed that Pakistani militants were responsible for bombing the Indian Embassy in Kabul two months before 26/11.  A detailed report had recently appeared that Pakistan was responsible for pushing fake Indian currency notes into India and these activities were being carried out routinely by the Pakistani embassies in Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and at some other places. The entire operation on the part of Pakistan is nothing short of an economic warfare and an exercise of “bleeding India with a thousand cuts” which is the avowed state policy of Pakistan. The 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) brought out by the State Department of the United States has said that criminal networks exchanged counterfeit currency for genuine notes and this has facilitated money laundering on a scale that represents a threat to the Indian economy. The report went on to state that India’s economic and demographic expansion made the country an increasingly significant target for money laundering.  Speaking at a function to mark Kashmiri Solidarity Day, which Pakistan officially observes annually, Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed advocated at Islamabad on February 6, “Kashmiri Solidarity Day has come at a time when India and Pakistan were trying to revive the peace process.” Saeed blamed India for masterminding the Mumbai attack and added that India should quit Kashmir or should get ready to face a war. Saeed said that in the jihad against India, if needed, even nuclear weapons should be used by Pakistan. Islamabad did not take any action against Saeed. It is a well-known secret that the LeT and the JuD both enjoy the patronage of the ISI of Pakistan.  The Intelligence Bureau had recently warned the Chief Secretaries and police chiefs of the states regarding the plans of Al-Qaida and the LeT to mount attacks on the World Cup Cricket matches to be held in important cities, and asked them to take all precautions to avert such possibilities. This warning cannot be taken lightly and Pakistan will be judged on the steps taken by it to check their activities.  One of the latest WikiLeaks documents quotes the US National Intelligence officer for South Asia, Dr Peter Lavoy, as having given an assessment on Pakistan which states that despite the pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons faster than any other country in the world. There were earlier reports that the nuclear stockpile of Pakistan was much more than of India. Dr Lavoy’s estimate on Pakistan producing nuclear weapons faster than “any other country in the world” is alarming indeed for nuclear powers all over the world and India in particular.  Dr Lavoy’s another important assessment on Indo-Pak relations is that “Pakistan continues to define India as its No. 1 threat” and that the ISI continues to provide intelligence and financial support to insurgent groups to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and India.  In Pakistan itself, the internal security situation seems to be worsening. Contrary to what Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari says in his article in The Washington Post that “we will not be intimidated nor will retreat against the acts of extremism and religious fanaticism”, Pakistan Army Chief Gen Kayani declined to condemn the killings of Bhatti and Taseer, fearing revolt in the Army. In the case of American national Raymond Davis, the religious and right wing forces are said to have pressured to pay up blood money for resolving the case, which meant the US might have to cough up money for ensuring the release of Davis, even though Mr Zardari had said that Pakistan was committed to peaceful adjudication of the vexed issue. Davis has since been released after blood money was paid to the relatives of the two persons who were shot dead by him. However, the US mission in Pakistan has denied having paid any blood money. Who actually paid it may not be relevant.  One of the important topics for dialogue between India and Pakistan would naturally be Kashmir. As for Pakistan, the Kashmir issue is the most important one. The four-point formula which was almost finalised jointly by General Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh lost its relevance with the deposition of General Musharraf. The Pakistan Army Chief had reportedly vetoed the formula as unacceptable.  However, during the visit of the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan last year, one got the impression that General Kayani was not against the Musharraf formula and that some quiet negotiations were going on.  It is known that some important personalities are busy on Track-2 negotiations to work out an agreeable formula on Kashmir. However, they do not seem to have hit upon any such formula as yet. Taking into account all these factors, it is rather premature for a composite dialogue between India and Pakistan.

Indian Navy exercises in S-China Sea
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, March 25 A flotilla of Indian Naval ships and two of its reconnaissance aircraft are presently exercising in the South China Sea, close to the vital sea lanes of shipping at the straits of Mallacca.  A large volume of China’s sea trade and oil supplies are routed through these straits. Beijing is touchy about international navies sending their ships for exercise in the South China Sea which it considers its own backwaters.  The exercise is part of the annual Singapore Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) and is the 18th in the ongoing series.  The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is the host this time, hence the chance to practice in the South China Sea. The seven-day exercise ends tomorrow. Leading the Indian Naval flotilla is the 6,700-tonne destroyer, INS Delhi.

Hotel, factory, wedding halls & golf courses come up on defence land
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, March 25 A five star hotel, a biscuit factory, several marriage halls, clubs and 97 unauthorised golf courses are thriving on prime defence land spread across the country.  The shocking details figure in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in Parliament today. Slamming the department of Defence Estates that works directly under the Ministry of Defence, the report questions the Army for allowing golf courses on its land without permission.  The report points at the cavalier manner of managing the whopping 17.31 lakh acres of Defence land. Some 14,539 acres out of this were encroached upon. 2,500 acres — some of it valued at several crores per acre — have been leased out for “pennies”.  The Deputy CAG Rekha Gupta told reporters “The leased out 2500 acres are valued at Rs 11,033 crore”. But the earning from the leased land is only Rs 2.13 crore per annum.  A total 3780 cases of lease renewal were pending, she informed, while the department was not pursuing as many as 1,800 cases in which tenants should have been evicted.  The CAG report points out that Clark Shiraz, a luxury hotel in Agra, is paying a ‘grand’ sum of Rs 994 ( yes, nine hundred and ninety-four Rupees) per month as lease money for its 5.68 acre property that has 237 rooms.  The hotel is located within 1.5 kms of the Taj Mahal and tariffs are over Rs 5,000 per night. The Grand Hotel in Agra is paying Rs 157 per month for its 1.40 acres.  Over 122 acres of Defence land have been leased out to clubs in Pune, Secunderabad, Lucknow and Agra. The clubs are being used for marriages, parties and exhibitions. The Secunderabad club, spread across 20 acres originally meant for ‘welfare of armed forces’, today has 33 guest rooms, a restaurant and even a petrol pump.  Golf is not an authorised ‘sporting activity’ but 97 golf courses are running on 8,000 acres across cantonments on land earmarked for “Occupation of forces”. The golf courses are at cantonments in Bangalore, Secunderabad, Bathinda, Hissar, Jaipur, Mumbai, Fazilka, Suratgarh, Sriganganagar, Dehradun, Ranikhet, Roorkee, Kota and Bikaner.  Gautam Guha, DG Audit services clarified “ We are not against golf but the ministry should first include golf as one of the activities for the forces and make official provision for these courses. At present private persons and, in some cases, even foreigners are allowed to tee-off.”  The CAG has also touched upon what are called “Old Grant Bungalows” - they were given out on lease, some of them before independence. The CAG report says three such bungalows in Ferozepore are being used as wedding halls. Five in Kasauli have hotels running in them for years. Five more in Dagshai - in Himachal - have been converted into hotels. 21 such bungalows in Jallandhar, spread across 100 acres, have been sold out. Another one in Meerut is being used to run a biscuit factory.  The proverbial icing on the cake is that local military authorities are not aware of the ‘exact location’ of a whopping 999 acres of land spread across Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Shimla, Barnala and Ropar. Western Command, Chandimandir said these lands were with the ministry but had no documentary evidence to back it.

Nato to head command & control of Libya operation
Press Trust of India / Washington March 25, 2011, 10:05 IST  Overcoming deep differences among its 28-member nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has agreed to take the lead role in enforcing the 'no-fly' zone over Libya as per the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution.  "Nato has now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. We are taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect the civilians against the attacks by the Gaddafi regime. We will cooperate closely with our partners in the  region and we welcome their contributions," said Nato Secretary General, Andres Fogh Rasmussen.  He said all Nato allies are committed to fulfill their commitments under the UN Resolution, and that's why "we have decided to assume responsibility for the no-fly zone".  However, no decision has been made whether Nato should take on that broader responsibility, he quickly pointed out in an interview to CNN soon after an announcement in this regard was made at the Nato headquarters in Brussels.  "What we have decided today is to take responsibility for the no-fly zone with the aim to protect civilians by closing the air space for all flights, except aid flights, all with the aim to protect civilians. Of course, we can act in self defence. We have not decided yet whether we will take on the broader responsibility," he said.  This means that right at this moment you will have two operations. We have taken on responsibility for the no-fly zone, while the coalition still continues its activities. We are considering whether we should take on that broader responsibility. However, that decision has not been made yet, he added.    

CAG clubs Services for golf 'habit'
NEW DELHI: Senior officers and golf often go together. But so do defence and land scams these days. From 97 "unauthorized" golf courses to "dismal" administration of leases, from shoddy record-keeping to large-scale encroachments, CAG has slammed the defence establishment for gross mismanagement of the vast land under its possession.  Recent land scams like Sukna, Adarsh and Kandivali-Malad represent just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Holding that the malaise runs much deeper, the audit watchdog has called for an independent Defence Land Management Authority (DLMA) since there is "complete lack of accountability" and "multiplicity of agencies" at present.  The defence ministry (MoD), after all, is the country's largest landowner, with as much as 17.31 lakh acres under its control. "DLMA should function on the lines of an autonomous body and preferably be headed by the defence minister," said the CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Friday.  Virtually rejecting piecemeal corrective steps initiated by MoD in wake of recent scams, CAG said, "DGDE (directorate general of defence estates) should function under DLMA's control. All powers of local military authorities and defence estate offices to dispose of land, including issuing of no-objection certificates in any form or manner, should be withdrawn and vested in DLMA."  The CAG report lists many irregularities dogging defence land but let's return to golf courses, which has been a major bone of contention between CAG and military for several years now, as reported by The Times Of India earlier.  The report has, once again, pulled up the Army for running 97 golf courses, spread over at least 8,076 acres of prime defence land, despite golf "not being an authorized military activity in A-1 defence land" as per rules.  In 2004, the then Army chief Gen N C Vij had tried to get around this by declaring golf as "a sports activity" and not just "a recreational activity". The Army also renamed golf courses as "Army environmental parks and training areas".  But CAG remains thoroughly unconvinced. For one, Army's argument that the golf courses are "actually environmental parks meant for maintaining ecological balance" is completely specious.  For another, members of these golf courses, operated by a private registered society Army Zone Golf, include ex-servicemen, civilians and even diplomats, who are charged subscriptions and "green fee".  "Huge revenues are earned without any rent being paid for use of government assets. Revenue generated is not credited to government accounts and is presumably credited to regimental funds," said deputy CAG Rekha Gupta.

BDL signs deal with army to supply Akash missiles
HYDERABAD: Defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) has signed a Rs 14,000-crore contract with the Indian Army for the supply of Akash surface-to-air missiles.  In a media release, BDL has stated that this is the highest value contract placed by the army to date. This is the second big order the company has signed in recent times, having bagged a Rs 1,000 crore order from Air Force for similar missiles.  The Akash surface-to-air missiles have been developed by DRDO as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGDMP) and has a range of 25 km, a reaction time of 15 seconds and can shoot down aircrafts, helicopters and UAVs travelling at a speed of 700 m/sec. The release stated that the weapon system is capable of engaging targets in all weather conditions and that the armed forces are looking at these missiles to defend its installations from aerial attacks.  With several projects on hand, the BDL is well on its way to becoming a Navratna Defence PSU with a turnover projected at Rs 5,000 crore by 2015, the press release added.

‘Review plea for premature retirement’
 Major Yogesh Chandra Madhav Sayankar, whose wedding with a US citizen has been on hold since last December, received a reprieve from the high court on Friday.  The Bombay high court directed the Indian Army to reconsider his plea for premature retirement and gave the authorities a month’s time to take a fresh decision.  Major Sayankar had found himself in an awkward situation because the army authorities rejected his plea seeking permission to marry Shruti Kulkarni, a US national, as she refused to denounce her foreign citizenship and become an Indian citizen after marriage.  The officer had moved the high court after the army authorities neither granted him permission to get married nor considered his application for premature retirement.  The high court has now held that the army authorities could not reject application for premature retirement even if the officer’s continuation in service is necessary, and alternate arrangement could not be made. They could, at the most, hold the application in abeyance for some time.  Before the high court, Indian Army took a stand that the plea for premature retirement could not be allowed because there was already a dearth of officers in commissioned service, and the country required the services of young officers such as Major Sayankar.  Their counsel contended that Major Sayankar’s proposed marriage could be a ploy to get a “back-door exit” from defence services.  The division bench comprising chief justice Mohit Shah and justice SJ Vazifdar discarded the apprehension saying it could be taken care of by accepting the plea for premature retirement when on the date of Sayankar’s proposed marriage on May 28, 2011, subject to furnishing of evidence to that effect.

Nat Geo’s Mission Army inspires their career choice
 Pranav Kulkarni Posted online: Fri Mar 25 2011, 01:00 hrs Pune : They had made it to Mission Army —Desh Ke Rakshak, a programme on National Geographic that seeks to unveil facets of the Indian Army — from as many as 30,000 entries from across the nation. The three city-based youngsters, Priyanka Oswal, Ela Vohra and Rohan Takalkar, are among the five contestants.  “My father Colonel A K Vohra has always been a source of inspiration. As a college student, I have always been associated with sports and adventure; that was one reason I thought of applying for Mission Army. Everyone thinks we know the Army, but in reality none has an idea about various wings of the Army. Through my experience with the programme, I can say that being in the Armed Forces is much more than a career. It is about passion and dreams; and that is what we have tried to portray in the programme,” says Ela, 23, a software engineer with IBM.  The high point for her came during the shooting schedule, when she received a call from the Service Selection Board to join the Indian Army. She will join the Officer’s Training Academy, Chennai on April 7. Mission Army was conceptualised in June last year and followed by a series of presentations and clearances from the Ministry of Defence as well as the Army Chief. The entries were called for in October. For the selections, the aspirants were made to go through gruelling, ‘Army-like’ procedures testing fitness, mental and intellectual capabilities.  The selected were taken to various schools of the Army during the shooting schedule from December 5 to January 8. “From Commando Training School in Belgaum to Armoured Corps in Ahmednagar or the Corps Battle School in Khrew, where they got an insight into counter insurgency operations, a widespread canvas of the Army life was made open to them. They sat in a Chetak helicopter at the Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS), Nashik and flew the Cheetah in a simulator,” said Ramon Chibb, VP Content, National Geographic.  Oswal, 19, second-year BSc student of Garware College and the youngest of the five contestants, just can’t forget her experience at the Armoured Corps School. “I fired a T 90 tank, which was an experience I will cherish all my life. Besides, the para regiment where we did solo jumps from the plane; the experience changed my perspective towards the Army. Earlier, it was only Air Force I aspired to belong to, but now I have an option; Army career seems equally interesting for women too.”  Takalkar 24, BCom graduate from BMCC, adds, “I had applied for the SSB entrance earlier, but after seeing the adventurous life of an officer though Mission Army, I am convinced beyond doubt that joining the Army is my only goal.”  The winner will get a chance to be part of an Indian Army training mission abroad.

Retired Lt-Gen to face trial for divulging arms secrets
NEW DELHI: A retired lieutenant-general is all set to face trial for allegedly divulging sensitive information about the country's arms and ammunition systems to an international arms firm, impinging upon national security.  Following the framing of charges against the accused, additional sessions judge Kaveri Baweja put retired Lieutenant-General Nirmal Puri on trial along with M/s Concord International Pvt Ltd's official Vinod Khanna, whom the top Army officer had allegedly supplied sensitive information in 1984-87.  The duo will be tried under various provisions of the Official Secrets Act and the Indian Penal Code.  "During the period 1984-87, both of you entered into criminal conspiracy in order to obtain, collect, communicate secret/classified/ official information/documents pertaining to the defence of the country with the purpose that the same may be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the state," the court stated.  Puri is alleged to have prepared two handwritten notes containing classified information regarding equipment like light tanks, radio sets for AFV, training simulators and others.

Former army chiefs of Indian army found guilty  
March 25, 2011         Print    Send to Friend  NEW DELHI: An Indian Army court of inquiry has blamed two former chiefs for their alleged role in a housing scandal that cost a state chief minister his job.  The probe found that former army chiefs General Deepak Kapoor and General NC Vij were involved in the scandal surrounding the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, which was floated to provide homes for veterans of the1999 Kargil war between India and Pakistan and widows of soldiers who died in the war.  Among other beneficiaries of the scheme, it emerged, were Kapoor, Vij, former Navy chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh , Vice-Chief Gen Shantanu Choudhary and relatives of then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan who lost his job as the scandal snowballed.  The army probe has also named eight other officials as guilty.  They are Lt Gen GS Sihota, Lt Gen PK Rampal, Lt Gen Shantanu Choudhry , Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, Maj Gen Ram Kanwar Hooda, Maj Gen AR Kumar, Major Gen VS Yadav and Maj Gen Tej Kishen Kaul. The court of inquiry suggested to the Defence Ministry to entrust the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with a wider probe.  The 104-apartment society had also got embroiled in a controversy after the navy had raised concerns over security as the building over-looked important military installations.  In December last year, Defence Minister AK Antony had ordered a CBI probe to fix responsibility of the armed forces and defence estates officers in the scam.

Army probe faults 10 top officers in Adarsh building scam
Josy Joseph, TNN, Mar 24, 2011, 12.51am IST  NEW DELHI: An Army court of inquiry (CoI) has found two former Army chiefs, Gen Deepak Kapoor and Gen N C Vij, and several other senior Army officers responsible for the Adarsh housing society scam.  The CoI probing the scam, which was exposed by The Times of India, has said the conduct of several top Army officers—among them the two ex-Army chiefs, four lieutenant generals and three major generals—was "blame-worthy". This is the first time that so many top Army officers have been indicted by an Army court.

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