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Thursday, 31 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 31 Mar 2011

The winding India-Pak peace path
Ashok Tuteja/TNS  Mohali, March 30 When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited Pakistani leaders to witness the cricket World Cup semifinal, the nation was taken by surprise. But this is not the first time that the PM has embarked on the path of peace with Pakistan, much against the opinion of his own Cabinet colleagues.  Manmohan Singh had his first encounter with the Pakistani leadership after the Mumbai terror attacks at Yekaterinburg (Russia) on the margins of the SCO Summit in June 2009. Fresh from his electoral triumph, he firmly told President Asif Ali Zardari in front of the international media that his mandate was to ask Pakistan to stop terrorism emanating from its soil against India. A dumbfounded Zardari has ever since avoided another meeting with the Indian Prime Minister.  However, Manmohan Singh earned the ire of his own party as well as the Opposition for the joint statement he agreed upon with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Egyptian sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on the margins of the NAM Summit in July 2009. The controversial statement gave an impression that India had decided to delink talks with Pakistan from the issue of terrorism. It also found a mention about Balochistan for the first time in an India-Pakistan joint document. Sensing the mood of the nation, the UPA Government gave a decent burial to that statement.  But the Prime Minister remained unruffled in his vision for peace with Pakistan. He met Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Bhutan in last April. This turned out to be a highly productive meeting. The two premiers produced a joint statement, deciding to take steps to put the peace process back on track.  However, history shows that the peace process between the two South Asian neighbours is very fragile, given their respective positions on the Kashmir issue.  After the 1971 military humiliation that saw the creation of Bangladesh, then Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to Shimla for peace talks with Indira Gandhi. That, perhaps, was the best opportunity for India to exploit the situation to its advantage on the Kashmir issue. Bhutto pleaded with Gandhi not to include Kashmir in the final document on the ground that he was leading a weak government.  It was after the 1987 rigged elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which sparked unrest in the Valley, that Pakistan started sending militants into the Valley. Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s cricket diplomacy bore no fruits as Pakistan continued with its policy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’.  The peace process launched in 1996-97 was short-lived due to instability at the Centre in India where the Deve Gowda and Gujral governments bowed out of office in quick succession. The Vajpayee government embarked upon a fresh initiative for peace with Pakistan after the two countries conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in May 1998.  Atal Bihari Vajpayee undertook a historic bus journey to Lahore in February 1999 but Pakistan stabbed India in the back just three months later in Kargil. Then came the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar in December 1999. Another attempt was made when Gen Pervez Musharraf came to Agra for a summit with Vajpayee. The Kashmir issue became a sticking point between the two sides and the meeting failed to produce any result.  However, the audacious attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001 by Pakistan-trained terrorists was seen by India as a clear attempt to challenge the sovereignty of the country.

30 Naxals gunned down in Chhattisgarh
Police on Monday claimed to have gunned down 30 Naxals in a fierce encounter in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district after an ambush by the extremists left three policemen dead and nine others injured.  Additional Director General (Naxal operations) Ram Niwas said that a police team of 145 troopers was on a search operation in the Chintalnaar area, when the Naxals struck.  "In the ambush by the Naxals, three of our men were killed and nine were injured," said Niwas.  He said that the police believe "to have killed 30 Naxals" in retaliatory action.  "Firing has stopped. We are now looking for bodies," Niwas said.  Reinforcements were being sent to the area and the injured are being air-lifted, police.

Corps of Signals 100th Anniversary 1911 - 2011
After a year of planning and last minute route changes, 10 members of the Indian Army Signal Corps Motorcycle Expedition 2010 finally completed their month long 3000 mile journey to Blandford Camp on Friday 17 Sep 10,2010. The team led by Lt Col Vks Tomar which included 2 female officers, Captains Ravinder Kaur and Tashi Thapilyal arrived at RHQ Royal Signals to be greeted by the fanfare trumpeters of the Corps Band and a reception party headed jointly by the SOinC(A), Brig Tim Watts OBE ADC and the Military Attache, Brig Anil Mehta from the Indian High Commission in London. After the team was introduced to the SOinC a special introduction was made to Maj (Retd) Tom Bewsey OBE (93 years of age) the last Chairman of the Indian Army Signal Corps Association. With only 3 members still living it was a particular privilege for the visiting riders that one of the surviving veterans who served in the Indian Army Signal Corps before partition in 1947 could also make the journey to Blandford. The motorcycle expedition was devised as a suitable way in which the Indian Army Signal Corps could reconnect with their heritage and visit the Home of the Royal Corps of Signals to make a small presentation in their Centenary celebration year. The Indian Army Signal Corps will officially reach its 100th birthday on 15 Feb 2011 when the major commemorative events including a reunion will take place at the Signal Training Centre at Jubbulpore. Following their epic journey and the formal arrival and presentation ceremony the riders were entertained to an evening of well deserved relaxation and reminiscing before once again mounting their 250cc Royal Enfield motorcycles in order to watch the White Helmets undertake their last performances for this display season at the Royal Berkshire Show. The expedition members have been on the road for almost a month and after completing a number of wreath laying and other ceremonies in Brighton, London and Camberley will return to India by air on 29 Sep 10, 2010. THE INDIAN ARMY SIGNAL CORPS MOTORCYCLE EXPEDITION 2010 Related Blog Report Siver Stride Motorcycle Expedition  Oldest British Officer from Indian Signal Corps Maj (Retd) Tom Bewsey OBE of Indian Signal Corps, talking on "Operation Overlord". Tom is known to a very large section of the local community where he he has been involved in many activities notably being a founder member of the Sidcup Symphony Orchestra, being a Governor of Harenc School, and three times President of this Society. War time experience in the Royal Corps of Signals led him to a peacetime career in maritime radar and marine engineering. The talk on " Operation Overlord" was a lucid and interesting account of Tom's involvement with the planning of the Royal Signals part in the D Day landing. He showed how extreme secrecy was maintained before the actual invasion. His Signals unit was stationed on the Isle of Wight where they were aware of the possibility of a German Paratroop landing which however did not occur. Occupying high ground on the Isle of Wight gave him a ring side view of "the greatest amphibious operation in history". Although the story of the Normandy landings is well known much of Tom Bewsey's talk was of the part played by Royal Signals in carrying out a meticulously planned deception campaign. This resulted in the retention by the Germans of 12 divisions in the Calais area and a further 12 divisions in Norway. Fictitious military units were set up in Scotland and in the South East of England with dummy tanks and trucks. This deception was planned by Jasper Maskelyne, the grandson of the famous Edwardian Illusionist. Not all the Signals activities involved 20th Century science. Carrier pigeons were used to convey messages from France and one particular bird received the Dickin Medal for Animal Bravery on account of several successful flights.

Rethinking Pakistan
“Cricket diplomacy” and the meeting of the Indian and Pakistan home secretaries are important because these were approved through the back channel maintained by Delhi with the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — the hub of power in Pakistan. Whatever one may think of the Pakistan Army, it is a professional force driven by cold calculation. If it thinks it can get away with some outrĂ© action or the other against India, it does not hesitate to prosecute it (think Kargil). Equally, it will do an about-turn and sue for “honourable peace” if some adventurist action misfires (recall Pervez Musharraf’s prodding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek US intervention in the Kargil conflict, and his virtual mea culpa of January 12, 2002, after the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament the previous year, in order to pre-empt a punitive Indian response and potentially uncontrollable escalation).  Apparently, Gen. Kayani and his uniformed cohort believe that the policy of orchestrated terrorist outrages has run its course, at least for now, as the Pakistan Army, in the grip of excesses at home by the Tehreek-e-Taliban outfits, unremitting drone attacks by its ally US and of the pressure of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in Afghanistan on the Pashtuns of North Waziristan that’s skewing the delicate tribal balance the Pakistani state has obtained over the years in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, needs relief on its eastern border. The question is can India capitalise on what seems to be rethinking underway in the Pakistan Army?  Alas, there is surprisingly less give here than is generally assumed. Rewind to the aftermath of Sharm el-Sheikh and how quickly the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, was forced to backtrack on the issue of supposed concessions to his Pakistani counterpart. This is because India’s Pakistan policy is hostage to the petty calculations of the political class in the country and powerful ministries within the Indian government with vested interest in portraying Pakistan as menace. Pakistan Army’s nursing of terrorism as an asymmetric tool to keep India discomfited sustains this impression. But it does not over-ride the facts of the neighbouring country being economically weak, politically in a pitiful state and destabilised by unending violence and internal strife perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Nor does it preclude the need for a realistic assessment of the “Pakistan threat” given the sheer disparities.  The trouble is that for the Indian politician ties with Pakistan are an externalisation of the sometimes tense Hindi-Muslim relations at home and both are manipulable for electoral gain. This is crass cynicism at work but the “Pakistan threat” also powers the Indian military’s existing force disposition and structure. Then again, how else can three strike corps worth of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and towed artillery accounting for 26 per cent to 32 per cent of the defence budget be justified if not with reference to Pakistan? Meanwhile, the far more substantive and credible threat emanating from China is only minimally addressed.  The nine Light Mountain Divisions desperately required as offensive capability to keep the People’s Liberation Army ensconced on the Tibetan plateau honest is nowhere as glamorous as armoured and mechanised formations. Like the IAS that ensures its group interests are never compromised come hell or high water, “cavalry” generals too are loath to see a reduction of armoured strength.  Indeed, Pakistan is now the touchstone to get the government to wake up to even strategic deficiencies that are far more telling vis a vis China. Rapid Chinese strategic nuclear buildup was met with passivity, but recent press reports about Pakistan surpassing Indian nuclear weapons strength galvanised the government into ordering some remedial action.  Such Pakistan-centricity is ironic in light of the severely controlled wars of manoeuvre India is politically compelled to wage against Pakistan owing to the organic links of kinship and shared religion, culture, language and social norms binding the two countries. There is, moreover, the factor of the politically conscious Muslim electorate wielding the swing vote in almost half the Lok Sabha constituencies, who may countenance bloodying Pakistan but not its destruction. Such systemic constraints are not acknowledged by either side but have been in force from the 1947-48 Kashmir operations onwards. In any case, which Indian government would order a military dismantling of the Pakistani state resulting in 180 million Muslims, pickled in fundamentalist juices for half a century, rejoining the Indian fold?  The home ministry, intelligence agencies and Central and state police organisations, animated by an institutional habit of mind, are, likewise, Pakistan-fixated and feed the popular paranoia of a rogue Pakistan always preparing for the next terrorist spectacular on Indian soil. As the 2002 Operation Parakram showed, the right response to Islamabad-supported jihadi actions is not mobilising field armies but instantaneous retaliatory airstrikes on terrorist installations in Pakistani Kashmir in tandem with targeted intelligence operations elsewhere in that country. Combine the stick of such pressure with the carrot of incentives to wean Pakistan from its hostility, such as unilateral easing of the visa regime, and offer of open trade and investment. It is a policy mix Delhi has not seriously pursued.  But, surely nuclear Pakistan poses a threat? Short of total demolition, which India has not intended even with conventional military means, Pakistan will be offered no excuse for going nuclear.  However, if despite the nuclear taboo the General Staff in Rawalpindi contemplates nuclear weapon use for any reason, including in what passes for “wars” in these parts, they’ll be ultimately dissuaded by an “exchange ratio” prohibitively stacked against their country. Loss of two Indian cities is not recompense enough for the certain extinction of Pakistan. It is simply a bad bargain.

Indian Army distributes high yielding hybrid seeds to J-K villagers
Leh, Mar 30: As a part of its co-operation with the general public, the Indian Army distributed high yielding hybrid seeds to the locals villagers in Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region.   Around 1500 villagers from various parts of Ladakh were present on the occasion on Tuesday to receive the seeds of various vegetables such as cabbage and onion, brought from Jammu by the III Division of the Indian Army.  Brigadier Ajay Kumar, Deputy General Officer Commanding of III Division, who was the chief guest at the formal function, said that this act would benefit around population of 1500 people residing in the region.  "Through this we believe that around seven villages with a population of around 1500 of public are being benefited by this. We have got this request from the villagers that they do not have good quality seeds, due to which the crop grown here is not good," said Brigadier Ajay Kumar.  "Looking at this condition, we studied it and then especially from Jammu we have brought these special hybrid seeds. And we hope that this will benefit all the villagers and hope that their production will increase and they will prosper," he added.  Thinley Dawa, Sub-Divisional Agriculture Officer, said that this measure would result in increased production and consequent enhanced income of the villagers.  "In many places in India people are being neglected in the agriculture sector. This is because of lesser yield and lesser production, so now recently for the past few years we have come to know that production is increasing with the use of hybrid seeds or seeds of high quality," said Thinley Dawa.  "So, due to these seeds distribution, people will get double income than the normal seeds. The quality of the crop would be better, it will be marketable," he added.  Thinley Dawa further noted that these hybrid seeds would lead to a reduction in the expenditure incurred on pesticides and fertilisers.  The aim of the camp is the 'Rural Community Development Programme' mooted by the Indian defence forces in the remote villages of Ladakh and to strengthen the bond between the locals and the security personnel.

Defence secretary talks to take a shot at resolving Siachen tangle
NEW DELHI: Ever since he visited the forbidding glacial heights in June 2005, PM Manmohan Singh has been keen to convert Siachen into "a mountain of peace''. With cricket diplomacy now injecting some momentum into Indo-Pak talks, whether this enduring "vision'' can translate into reality will be tested in the coming days with the defence secretary-level talks.  It's not as if the military face-off in the world's highest, coldest and costliest battlefield is intractable. A draft agreement on the festering Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge imbroglio was reached in 1989, when Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto were at the helm, and both India and Pakistan have accepted the need to demilitarize the glacial heights ever since.  The sticking point in the protracted negotiations, however, has been the "authentication'' of the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) beyond the NJ-9842 grid reference point, where the well-delineated Line of Control simply stopped dead in the 1972 Simla Pact, right till the Karakoram Pass.  India has been consistent in pressing for ironclad guarantees for the AGPL authentication, both on the maps and the ground, because its troops occupy most of the "dominating'' posts on the Saltoro Ridge, before there is troop disengagement, withdrawal and the final demilitarization of the glacier.  This is deemed crucial because if Pakistani troops move into the positions vacated by Indian troops, it will be virtually impossible to dislodge them from there. The Indian Army has worked on the political leadership to make this aspect "non-negotiable'' since it has occupied the "strategic'' heights at great cost.  "If Pakistan could violate the well-defined LoC during the 1999 Kargil conflict, it would be foolhardy to expect the undemarcated AGPL to be respected without concrete guarantees in place,'' a senior Army officer said.

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