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Sunday, 17 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 17 Apr 2011

Will Captain Avinesh be as fortunate as Gopal Dass?
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 16 Days after Gopal Dass, a resident of Gurdaspur, was released by Pakistan after spending 27 years in a prison there, a New Delhi-based family is hoping that they will get to hear about their missing son, Captain Avinesh Kumar Sharma.  The family believes that the missing Captain, who was of the 11 Engineers regiment, is languishing in jail in Pakistan since he went missing some 15 years ago in 1996.  On August 15, 1996, Capt Sharma, was on routine duty ferrying stores and supplies in a boat to forward posts along the India-Pakistan border. The boat was being used to cross the river Manawar Tavi, in Pallanwala sector in Jammu and Kashmir. All of a sudden, the boat capsized and all 17 occupants were thrown into the river, fighting the rapid currents that had swelled due to rain in the monsoon. All the other 16 solders survived, Sharma was swept away, probably downstream, into Pakistan. “I have visited the spot, it is just 50 metres away from Pakistan. The possibility is that he has been captured. His body or even his clothes have not been recovered so far,” says his brother UK Sharma, hoping that India takes up the matter afresh with Pakistan.  In the past week, the family, in its desperation to locate the missing Captain, spoke to Gopal Dass, but there was no clue. UK Sharma adds, “Gopal Dass told us that civilian and military prisoners are kept in separate jails”. Since 1996, the 11 Engineer regiment has reported him missing / untraceable.  The family mentions a letter written in October 2004 by Pranab Mukherjee, the then Defence Minister, saying “a signal intercept on May 14, 1997 revealed a conversation between Pak police officials that the officer (Capt Sharma) may have been held by the Pak law-enforcement agencies”. Mukherjee, who wrote the letter in response to a query posed by Balanandan, an MP, said the Military Intelligence even approached the Defence Attache of Pakistan but there has been no confirmation.  The family has also laid its hands on documents relating to conversation of the Director General of Military Operations of the Indian Army that he had with his Pakistan counterpart on May 27, 1997. The latter denied the existence of Capt Avinesh Kumar Sharma. The family also claims that the there were reports in 1997 of the missing captain having been shifted to a prison, along with a Tunisian national Abha bin Abdullah Dauhri.  The family has written to successive prime ministers, presidents and army chiefs.

BSF in a tizzy over cattle smuggling to Bangladesh 
Bijay Sankar Bora Tribune News Service  Dhubri (Assam), April 16 The Border Security Force personnel guarding the 134-km-long India-Bangladesh border in Dhubri district of western Assam face tough time in checking rampant smuggling of cattle from Indian side to Bangladesh by smugglers, who get help from local immigrant population living in numerous river isles in the area.  Clashes between the BSF jawans and cattle smugglers have been on the rise in recent times and the border guards often have to resort to gunfire to stop the cattle smugglers from transporting the cattle to Bangladesh or to disperse the village mobs, which often come out in defence of the cattle smugglers. The cattle are being brought from faraway places in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Bihar, as smugglers pay very high price.  According to BSF sources in Dhubri district, the force seized 16,990 cattle that were being smuggled to Bangladesh through the porous border in the Dhubri sector, during 2010 and the value of the seizure has been put at around Rs 30.69 crore.  The BSF also seized huge quantity of various contraband substances like cattle hide, fertiliser, ganja, tractor parts, timber, garments, a particular cough syrup, which were being smuggled out of the country to Bangladesh through the porous border. A seed called dhinsa of a particular weed that enriches the soil fertility is also smuggled into India from Bangladesh. The BSF source put the value of seizure of these items during 2010 at Rs 4.70 crore.  The BSF also apprehended 79 Indian nationals and 21 Bangladeshi nationals along the border for indulging in illegal activities.

PM hopes new mechanism on border with China will bear results soon   Read more at:
On Board PM's Special Plane:  Sounding optimistic on the India-China relations after his meeting with President Hu Jintao earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight expressed hope that the decision to set up a new bilateral mechanism on border management would bear "concrete results" in the near future.  Giving a sense of the meeting with Hu on Wednesday in Sanya, China, Singh said they had talked about a wide-range of issues, including trade imbalance and the Chinese President had agreed that his country too has a "responsibility" to deal with the problem.  "It was a very cordial meeting. We discussed bilateral issues and trade imbalance. We also discussed other relevant issues to international situation and possibility of cooperation between our two countries in international fora like G-20, WTO and UN Security Council," he told accompanying journalists while returning from a five-day two-nation tour of China and Kazakhstan.  Singh and Hu met on the sidelines of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) Summit and among its significant outcomes were the decision to send a high-level Indian military delegation to China and setting up of a new mechanism for managing peace on the borders.
With regard to defence exchanges which are set to be resumed after a pause of about nine months, Singh said, "my expectation is that they will be continued."  India had suspended high-level defence exchanges in July last year after China refused proper visa to the then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal as he was serving in Jammu and Kashmir. This was seen by India as questioning its sovereignty.  About the new mechanism for border management, Singh said it was a Chinese proposal made during the visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to New Delhi in December last.  "This is work in progress. I hope some concrete results will be visible in the near future," he remarked.  On the issue of growing trade imbalance in favour of China, Singh said he had raised the issue with Hu, saying that India imports goods and services which gives rise to the imbalance and the Chinese President recognised that it was a "problem".  Referring to India's desire for greater access to Chinese markets, the Prime Minister said he had specifically mentioned two areas - pharmaceutical industry and IT -- where Chinese could do more.  "I can't say he (Hu) did say precisely about these two areas but he did say that he recognises that China also has a responsibility to tackle the problem of trade imbalance," Singh said.  

Manmohan returns empty-handed from China
Sandhya Sharma | New Delhi  The third BRICS summit managed to break ground for South Africa but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is returning from China late on Saturday evening, would be coming empty-handed.  No wonder ex-South Block mandarins are taking the visit with a pinch of salt. Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said it was “disappointing” that the meeting between Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao did not produce more results.  Despite not being an Indo-China summit, when leaders of the two Asian giants met at the southeastern Chinese resort in Sanya on the sidelines of the third BRICS summit, there were still many expectations.  The two sides did agree on issues like military cooperation and a border management mechanism to ensure “peace and tranquility”. Mansingh said that after nearly two years of aggressive behaviour by Beijing, an agreement on military cooperation was a good sign. But at the same time, he wondered, “Why is China holding up India’s permanent membership at the UNSC when four of the other nations have given their support?”  China had, for long, just been paying lip service to India’s UNSC bid. And at the BRICS summit too, it restricted itself to calling for a larger role to be played by New Delhi in the United Nations.  The inclusion of South Africa in BRICS summit has given a boost to its chances for a permanent seat in the UNSC but diluted India’s aspirations. “South Africa is now yet another claimant backed by BRICS,” said an analyst requesting anonymity.  While India did not gain much, China managed to build its clout. Jintao met around 15 heads of states, including Manmohan Singh. He also called for inclusive development in Asia as he attended the opening ceremony of the 2011 annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) on Friday.  Mansingh pointed out that the Chinese have been actually presenting their interests through these platforms. “Chinese weightage in international affairs is a reality and we must accept that,” he said.  Indian analysts following the PM’s visit closely also said that there was “no mention” from the Chinese side on the stapled visa issue or on the issue of addressing of trade deficit.  Despite no clear indications from Beijing on the stapled visa issue, New Delhi resumed the military ties with China after Manmohan Singh’s the 50-minute-long meeting with Jintao.  India had suspended military ties with Beijing last year following the latter’s refusal to give a visa to Northern Army commander Lt General BS Jaswal on the ground that he headed troops in Jammu and Kashmir. Chinese embassy’s issuance of stapled visa to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir only compounded issues. New Delhi had staunchly called off its defence ties with Beijing till the stapled visa issue was resolved. Since then, Sino-India relationship was on a backburner.  New Delhi has in the past retorted on the issue in the RIC (Russia, India, China) summit in Wuhan and tried paying back by the same coin to China’s two-faced visa policy. It called China to treat Jammu and Kashmir on a par with Tibet and Taiwan.  Singh’s visit also did not break any ground in so far as addressing the bilateral trade deficit is concerned. The PM did raise the issue but found no answer forthcoming from Beijing. “Deficit in China-India bilateral trade may rise higher than the expected $25 billion by 2015. This will only re-enforce India’s growing realization of sharing an asymmetric relationship with China,” Prof Swaran Singh, an expert on China’s foreign policy and diplomacy at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University said.  BRICS as a group had made progress during its first summit in June 2009 at Yekaterinburg in Russia. Brazil, Russia, India, and China had issued a declaration calling for the establishment of an equitable, democratic, and multi-polar world order.  Two years down the line at the third summit, has India merely gathered stones?

India and China agree to normalize relations
(, Apr16, 2011)  India and Chinese have on Apr 13 indicated an improvement in their relations with the restoration of defence ties, exchange of visits by their top leaders and taking of steps to tackle their adverse balance of trade, reported Reuters Apr 13, citing India's National Security Adviser Mr Shiv Shankar Menon. The two were also reported to have agreed to set up a consultation mechanism for their long-running border dispute. The development followed a 50-minute meeting between Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao ahead of the BRICS summit involving the emerging powers Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in the southern Chinese resort of Sanya.  The two sides were reported to have reached in principle agreement on establishing a "working mechanism for consultation and coordination on border affairs". "This will handle important border affairs relating to maintaining peace and tranquility," Menon was quoted as saying, though adding that "in practice it is one of the most peaceful borders that we have."  On defence ties, Menon has said a multi-command Indian Army delegation would visit China later in the year. Asked whether that might mean joint exercises at some point, he has answered: "It could certainly. We've done so in the past and we'll probably do so in the future."  PTI Apr 13 cite sources as saying an Indian delegation could visit China as early as Jun’11 and was expected to be headed by a Corps Commander level officer of the rank of Lt General. And the IANS news service Apr 13 cited Menon as denying there was a blanket ban on defence ties. “We have always continued defence exchanges. For instance, meetings of our commanders, flag meetings or the border commanders' meeting, all that has gone up," he was quoted as saying.  Also, Menon has said Singh accepted the Chinese president's offer to visit China soon and that the gesture was reciprocated by Singh and accepted by Hu.  On trade, both the government’s were expected to come up with lists of specific sectors where they had been seeking better market access from the other. It was not clear, however, how this would address India’s serious concern over its huge trade imbalance with China. However, as part of a drive to boost trade and investment, China and India were on Apr 14 expected sign an agreement to extend mutual credit lines denominated not in dollars but in the BRICS' local currencies.  In broader terms, China’s official Xinhua news agency Apr 13 reported that the two leaders agreed to further deepen their strategic cooperative partnership so as to push forward the development of the two countries. They also vowed to promote peace, stability and prosperity in Asia as well as the world, it added.  The report noted that on Apr 13, China and India announced the official start of the "Year of China-India Exchange". The purpose was stated to be to broaden people-to-people exchanges so as to enhance mutual understanding.  The report noted that China and India had announced the establishment of their strategic and cooperative partnership in 2005. It cited Singh as saying economic and trade cooperation was the cornerstone for the two countries' strategic cooperation.  However, nothing was mentioned about the issue of China’s issuance of stapled visas for residents of Jammu and Kashmir, although the IANS report cited Menon as saying the Chinese "are working to resolve this”.

Gilani visits Kabul for strategic talks with Karzai
Islamabad—Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will visit Afghanistan today for talks with President Hamid Karzai. The prime minister will have in-depth discussions with President Karzai on bilateral relations and regional matters.  The Premier would be accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.  Defence Minister Ahmed Mukthar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Finance minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Foreign State Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and foreign Secretary Salman Bashir are among the PM’s delegation.  The Prime Minister’s visit is part of the two countries joint commitment to consult, cooperate and coordinate on all issues of mutual interest and concern.  Pakistan is deeply suspicious of its rival India’s role in Afghanistan, where New Delhi has provided $1.2 billion in aid since a US-led campaign ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.  On Wednesday, Pakistan joined Turkey in voicing support for initiatives to stabilise Afghanistan, including efforts for dialogue with the Taliban.  “We’ll be facilitators to any format that leads to peace,” said President Asif Ali Zardari, during his official visit to Turkey.  “Whatever needs to be done, Pakistan will be playing a positive role and hoping to facilitate the transition and dialogue,” he said.  Pakistan was the main supporter of the Taliban until the September 11, 2001 attacks, after which it transformed into the frontline US partner in its campaign against extremism.

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