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Friday, 15 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 15 Apr 2011

Towards India-China bonhomie
Together, they can speed up their growth  The on-going BRICS summit in Sanya in China has provided a fresh opportunity to New Delhi and Beijing to give a new direction to their bilateral relations. It is, therefore, good that India and China have decided to establish a working mechanism to sort out their border disputes which have been coming in the way of cementing their ties. There are clear indications that both sides are enthusiastic to narrow down their differences on any issue concerning the region or the world so that they can together lead the coming Asian century. It is not without significance that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jintao preferred to downplay the irritants between the two countries during their meeting on Wednesday. They have changed the political climate involving India and China, and this can definitely help them to find a way to settle their disputes.  India-China relations had suffered a setback when Beijing started the unjustifiable practice of issuing stapled visa to anyone from Jammu and Kashmir or denying visa to people from Arunachal Pradesh trying to visit China. India was stunned when China refused to issue a visa to Lt-Gen B. S. Jaswal because he commanded the country’s troops in Jammu and Kashmir. India reacted strongly to this and decided to discontinue with the practice of military exchanges between the two countries. However, now military exchanges may be resumed soon, as National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told journalists in Sanya.  India and China have massive scope to strengthen their economic relations. They can benefit a lot from each other’s achievements in different areas. At present the balance of bilateral trade is in favour of China. India has to work hard to reduce it. India may gain considerably if China allows greater access to India in areas like information technology (IT), pharmaceuticals and agro-products, as Dr Manmohan Singh pointed out during his meeting with President Hu. It is not difficult for the two countries to attain the bilateral trade target of $100 billion by 2015 if there is enough understanding of each other’s requirements.

China supports greater role for India in UN
Ashok Tuteja writes from Sanya in China  In what reflected a “positive change” in Beijing’s stand on India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council as a permanent member, China today joined other BRICS nations in calling for a comprehensive reform of the world body, including the Security Council.  In the “Sanya declaration” adopted by the BRICS leaders, China and Russia, two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, said they attached importance to the status of India, Brazil and South Africa in international affairs and understood and supported their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN. Currently India, Brazil and South Africa are also members of the Security Council.  Indian officials said they were satisfied with the BRICS formulation on UN reforms. “It’s quite satisfactory…it’s an endorsement…they (China) have spoken about UNSC reforms,” Manbir Singh, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry said.  He recalled that the BRICS nations, at their last summit in Brazil in 2010, had only called for UN reforms in the declaration adopted by them, without making any reference to the expansion of the Security Council. New Delhi’s view is that China was gradually realising the increasing support for India in its quest to become a permanent member of the Security Council and, therefore, modifying its own stand vis-√†-vis New Delhi’s claim.  While dealing with other political and diplomatic issues, the BRICS nations came out against the Western air campaign in Libya, condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and underlined the importance of international cooperation for the development of safe nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  They also expressed their support for the African Union high-level panel initiative on Libya while pledging to continue their cooperation on the situation in the North African nation in the UN Security Council.  South Africa was the only BRICS nations to approve a UNSC resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorising all necessary measures to protect civilians, paving the way for the coalition air strikes in the North African nation. The other four BRICS nations had abstained from voting, seeking a political settlement of the crisis without the use of force.  New Delhi’s concern over the unrest in Libya also found mention in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s press statement on the conclusion of the BRICS summit. “The developments in West Asia and North Africa and the aftermath of the huge tragedy that befell Japan have introduced fresh uncertainties in the global economic recovery process. At the same time, the world continues to grapple with threats to security from terrorism and piracy,” he said.  Regarding international terrorism, the BRICS countries fell in line with India’s articulation that there was no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism.  Recognising the central role of the UN in coordinating the international action against terrorism within the framework of the UN charter and in accordance with principles and norms of the UN General Assembly, the BRICS leaders called for an early conclusion of negotiations in the world body of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, proposed by India, and its adoption by member states. They also promised to pay special attention to combat cyber crime.

Army Chief may enjoy extended tenure
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 14 Indian Army Chief General VK Singh, who is supposed to retire in June next year, may enjoy an extended tenure and he could now retire an year later in June 2013. The final decision to extend his will rest with the government.  This development has taken place following a clarification regarding the General’s exact age. The Law Ministry has cleared the confusion over his age following a discrepancy in his service records. The Law Ministry has opined that General Singh's correct date of birth is May 10, 1951, and not May 10, 1950 which he had accepted after controversy about his age surfaced around 2008, when he was being considered for appointment as Eastern Army Commander.  The Army Chief's date of birth varies in records of the Adjutant General's and Military Secretary's branches. The AG branch, the official record keeper for salary and pension, has May 10, 1951 as Singh's date of birth but the Military Secretary's (MS) branch, in charge of promotions and postings, records his date of birth as May 10, 1950.  The Army, for replying to an RTI query about the age of its top-level officers, had through the Defence Ministry sought Law Ministry's opinion if date of birth mentioned in the matriculation certificate could be used for ascertaining correct age. “The Law Ministry answered in affirmative saying the correct age of Army chief should be May 10, 1951 as the matriculation certificate is the valid document for date of birth proof,” Defence Ministry sources said here.  As per rules, an Army Chief can serve for three years or up to the age of 62, whichever is earlier. "The Ministry of Defence is still studying the situation," said sources, while explaining the present status of the case in the Ministry. Even if his ‘correct’ date birth his accepted he will complete three years of service in March 2013 as he joined in March 2010.  The varying date of birth of Singh in Military Secretary's branch had come up at the time when Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash was heading it and possibly, till 2008, the General himself did not know of the discrepancy.  Following the confusion, the Army Chief had told theContinued on page 13 Defence Ministry that he did not have any knowledge about MS branch records having a different date of birth. The confusion stems from the form he filled when he was 15 years old and signed up to join the national defence academy (NDA) at Pune.  The clerk handling his papers for the UPSC exams listed the teenage Singh as 16 instead of 15.  While his matriculation certificate had the exact date of birth, the MS branch some how recorded it wrongly. If the Defence Ministry decides to extended the tenure of the Chief, it could upset the plans of several other senior Army officers.  Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, the Eastern Army Commander and Lieutenant General KT Parnaik, the Northern Army Commander, head of the line of candidates for the next Army Chief.

Army Chief proves he's younger than believed
New Delhi:  It turns out that the man who heads the Indian Army is a year younger than many believed - or wanted him to be.  General VK Singh has been arguing that he is 60 - which means he can stay in office till 2013. The Law Ministry, after studying documents, has agreed that General Singh was born in 1951 and that the confusion arose from a form he filled when he was 15 years old. The clerk handling his papers for the UPSC exams listed the teenage Singh as 16 instead of 15.  The Defence Ministry now has to decide if this means that General Singh will retire in 2013. That could upset the plans of several other senior Army officers.  Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, largely tipped to succeed General Singh as the next Army Chief, may be ruled out of contention - because by 2013, he will have hit retirement age.
And in that case, Lieutenant General KT Parnaik, currently Northern Army Commander, may find himself at the head of the line of candidates for the next Army Chief.

China 'committed' to develop military ties with India
Sounding upbeat over the resumption of defence exchanges with India, China today said it was "vigorously committed" to developing military ties with its "important neighbour" and was ready to resolve the visa row through friendly consultation.  Replying to a question on the resumption of defence exchanges agreed upon at yesterday's meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese president Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lie told a media briefing that China always valued military ties with India.
"India is an important neighbour of China. China is vigorously committed to developing military to military relations with India," Hong said.  After a considerable pause, India is set to restore full defence cooperation with China, with a high-level Indian military delegation expected to visit this country in June.  The decision to send a military delegation to China marks an end to the freeze on high-level defence exchanges by India after the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal was denied a proper visa in July last year for travel to Beijing because he served in Jammu and Kashmir.  "China always values our military exchanges with India and believes the two sides could proceed from the overall interest of bilateral relations, follow the principal of seeking a common ground while solving differences to promote sound and stable development of military relations," the spokesman said.  The Indian decision comes amid apparent moves by China to reverse its two-year policy of giving stapled visas to people hailing from Jammu and Kashmir.  To a question on whether China has ended the policy of issuing stapled visas to Kashmiri residents in India, Hong said: "I would like to point out that for issues relating to people to people exchanges in our relations, we are ready to properly solve this issue through friendly consultation".

KV Jalandhar Cantonment faces closure, admissions stop
JALANDHAR: As the 44-year-old school – Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV 4), in Jalandhar Cantonment – is facing closure, fresh admissions have been stopped after Army authorities failed to transfer the land to it as per the agreement with the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan. However, Army authorities have preferred to remain silent over the issue.  Currently, over 1,300 students are studying in the school, which is being run from an Army building and is sprawling over 26 acre land.  Confirming the directions from the KV Sangathan (Jammu region) to stop fresh admissions, school principal A K Loomra said other classes were still continuing. However, he said element of uncertainty was looming large over the fate of students and teachers as they would have to be shifted to other three KVs in the cantonment. Even as Army authorities are yet to give a reason, uncertainty looms large over the students, who include wards of the Army personnel.  While the army had provided the land to the KV4, which was originally named as Garrison school when it was started in 1967, it was still owned by the Army.  Principal said as per the agreement with the sponsoring agency, in this case Western Command of the Army, was to transfer the land to the KV and the KV Sangathan had been repeatedly asking the authorities for the past several years to transfer the land to the KV. Principal said, "After the army did not transfer the land to the KV as per the agreement with the Sangathan the latter decided to take this step."  However, this development has caused disappointment among students and teachers, "When the actual focus should be on increasing the schools, such an old institute is facing closure due to apathy of the authorities," lamented father of a student.  The common refrain among students and parents is that shifting has its own problems when academic session had already started. Sub Area Commander Brigadier Arup Sen was not available for comments as he did not return the calls. However, defence PRO Naresh Wig said "no comments".

China signals interest in expanding defence exchanges
Ananth Krishnan  “It is vigorously committed to developing military-to-military ties with India”  Defence exchanges were suspended in July last  BEIJING: The Chinese government said on Thursday it was “vigorously committed” to developing military ties with India, drawing a line over nine months of strained defence ties and indicating it was in favour of expanding military-to-military contacts.  The two countries on Wednesday agreed to resume defence exchanges following a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao, along the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Sanya, in southern China's Hainan province.  Defence exchanges were suspended in July last, when China voiced objections to issuing a regular visa to the head of the Army's Northern Command, saying the “sensitive” region of Kashmir was under his control. Since 2008, China has been issuing stapled visa to Indian citizens in Jammu and Kashmir, a move that Indian officials felt is tantamount to questioning Indian sovereignty over the State, and one that has strained diplomatic ties.  “India is an important neighbour of China. China is vigorously committed to developing military-to-military relations with India,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Thursday.  “China always values our military exchanges with India, and believes the two sides could proceed from the overall interest of bilateral relations, and follow the principle of seeking for common ground while solving differences, to promote the sound and stable development of our military relations,” he said.  According to Indian officials, China had agreed to receive a delegation comprising officers from the Northern Command later this year, and will issue them regular visas. China has not issued stapled visas since November, Indian officials said adding that it was not, however, clear whether the policy had been stopped.  Mr. Hong did not reply to a question on whether China had indeed withdrawn the stapled visa policy, or whether it was merely making an exception to allow exchanges to resume. He said: “For issues relating to people-to-people exchanges in our relations, we are ready to properly solve these issues through friendly consultation.”  The resumption of exchanges would allow both countries to address persisting mistrust, said Zhao Gancheng, Director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.  “I think the two sides have successfully resolved problems, including I think, the stapled visa issue,” he said. “Resuming exchanges is useful and helpful in improving mutual understanding on security issues, and to get better perceptions of what both sides are thinking about.”  He said the two countries should, at once, resume holding joint exercises. “We have had three naval exercises, and one or two army exercises on counter-terrorism. We have not yet conducted any joint exercise between the air forces. Perhaps this is the time for the two sides to resume these exercises, which is useful for both countries to get a better understanding of each other.”

Army promotion policy: MoD yet to decide
The ministry of defence (MoD) has not yet accorded its permission to the Indian Army to abandon the current promotions policy of segregating top Army officers (major generals and lieutenant-generals) into staff and command streams, defence sources have said.  As reported earlier by this newspaper, the Army wants to revert back to the “single stream policy” that it was following prior to 2009. Defence sources said the government would engage in deliberations before deciding whether to give permission to the Army to revert back to the “single stream policy”. The Indian Army top brass was keen that this segregation in streams should be done away with, starting from the promotion board for general-rank officers that was held in January this year on the grounds that this was leading to anguish among some of its top officers who were selected in the staff stream in the past two years. But the government wants to evaluate all aspects before taking a decision. The Army had also proposed other changes, such as increasing weightage for performance of officers in the previous rank as well while deciding on promotions, and including any weightage for “distinguished awards” received by officers in the five percent value judgement component in promotion boards (instead of the 95 per cent computerised component) while deciding on promotions. The MoD may seek certain clarifications from the Army on why the Army wants to go back on a promotion policy introduced just two years ago. During the tenure of the previous Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, the Army had decided to introduce this segregation which was made effective from January 1, 2009. Staff positions refer to administrative duties while command positions refers to the command of various Army Corps and Commands (for lieutenant generals) and Divisions (for major generals). Sources said the Army is keen on a new policy wherein all its general-rank officers would be eligible for command positions. Under the existing policy, officers selected for staff positions cannot aspire to command the Indian Army’s Divisions, Corps and Commands. Incidentally, the Army has also recently granted permanent commission to 18 lady officers in the Army Education Corps. The Army is also yet to take a decision on granting permanent commission to women officers in other streams beyond streams such as the Army Education Corps and the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch.

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