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Monday, 23 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 23 May 2011

Terror attack on military base in Karachi
* Multiple blasts, firing kill 4 * Plane destroyed * 12-15 gunmen holed up in base  Karachi, May 22  Terrorists attacked a Pakistan military airbase in this southern port city tonight triggering multiple blasts and firing indiscriminately in which four persons were killed.  Geo News channel also reported that a four-engine aircraft was destroyed in the daring attack at the Pakistan Air Force's (PAF) Faisal airbase, which also houses PNS Mehran, the naval air station. Terrorists numbering between 12 and 15 were reported to be involved in the attack in the highly-secured area and were believed to be holed up inside late night. A Pakistan Navy spokesman said four persons were killed in a attack by terrorists on PNS Mehran. The spokesman didn't identify the dead but television channels reported they included a foreigner.  The terrorists targeted PNS Mehran where some Chinese engineers were engaged in work within the Faisal airbase, at about 10.40 pm, sources said. The nature of the blasts could not be immediately ascertained. Samaa television channel reported that between 12 and 15 terrorists were holed up in the base and were engaged in heavy gunfire with security forces. Geo television reported that five persons have been taken to hospital for treatment, including a foreigner. Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed that a group of terrorists had attacked the airbase. The terrorists were still within the airbase and naval commandos and paramilitary Pakistan Rangers were deployed to counter them, he said. “Terrorists have attacked the Pakistan Naval Mehran base and the terrorists are still in the base and have been engaged by our forces,” Malik said. “We have dispatched Naval commandos and paramilitary rangers to the base to tackle the situation,” Malik said. He said according to initial reports at least four explosions had taken place in the base.  Dawn News channel quoted witnesses as saying that they had heard up to five blasts. Heavy firing continued over 20 minutes after the first blast occurred. The high-security area houses the PA's Southern Air Command, Air War College and museum as well as PNS Mehran, the main naval air station in Karachi. — PTI

Jawan with aids shunted to remote area by CRPF
HC stays transfer, says the jawan requires specialised medicare and cannot be posted out of Chandigarh Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 22 It would be a “travesty of justice” if a Central Reserve Police Force jawan and his son, both afflicted with AIDS and requiring close medical attention, are transferred from Chandigarh to any place, ruled the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Yet the jawan, who lost his wife to AIDS and has three small children to look after, had to seek judicial intervention three times to get a stay on his transfer to remote and disturbed areas having no specialised medicare facilities.  Having spent 15 of his 19 years of service in the field, including 12 years in the North-East, the jawan requires just 11 months service to qualify for pre-mature retirement, on which he is willing to proceed. The authorities, however, are apparently not keen to grant him this laxity and permit him to continue in his present posting at a peace station close to Chandigarh a little longer.  On completion of the requisite period of posting at a peace station, the CRPF transferred him to a battalion based in a non-family station in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2010. He moved the High Court, which directed that he not be transferred till further orders or till he sought voluntary retirement. The transfer order was late withdrawn by the CRPF, rendering the petition infructous.  He kept performing his duties and in January 2011, was promoted to the rank of head constable. Thereafter, the CRPF again issued orders transferring him to the interior, trouble-torn regions of Chhattisgarh. He gave a representation to superior authorities seeking a posting to areas close to the PGI Chandigarh, but rather than support and sympathetic consideration from the force, he was ordered to report to his now place of posting on expiry of his leave. One again, he had to knock at the High Court’s door and the mater is still pending.  “This is the third time that the posting has been stayed,” his counsel, Rajeev Anand said.  “The jawan and his 10-year old son are in a bad medical state requiring continuous treatment at the PGI. The disease requires close monitoring and careful observation, and in times of sudden deterioration, they have to be rushed to the PGI,” he added.  The jawan’s disease, the counsel has contended, is in the last stage and his son would not be able to sustain the stoppage of specialist treatment if posted to remote areas.  He added that in the given circumstances, there was no alternate with the jawan to leave his mother & children, aged 10, 8 and 6, as other family members and relatives have also shunned them. The jawan’s wife had died from AIDS in 2005.  Interestingly, CRPF regulations state that individuals who are symptomatic of AIDS or are full-blown AIDS cases would be provided full medical treatment by the department till their death.

IAF to automate appraisal report generation of officers
Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, May 22 Aiming at strengthening and streamlining its human resource management, the IAF is automating and digitising the process of generating appraisal reports of its officers. The IAF is looking at the private industry to digitise its existing records and to develop a new automated report generating system.  The mammoth task involves digitising about 50 lakh pages of existing records that make up the dossiers of IAF officers. Then would come the task of integrating the database with the appraisal report generation system.  The Directorate of Personnel Officers at Air Headquarters is maintaining about 5,000 appraisal report (AR) dossiers, each containing 500 duplex pages. At present these ARs are manually stored separately for each officer in a chronological manner. Newly received ARs are filed in the dossiers and only a minimal amount of information is updated on an Oracle database by the directorate staff.  The appraisal report is one of the most important personnel document in the armed forces as it assess the performance and caliber of an officer at each stage of his service. His career progression depends on his appraisal.  The project will support the requirements of the personnel directorate to collect, compile, retain and recall AR dossiers and their contents in a supportable and sustainable electronic format. It will allow the directorate to process, file and store majority AR information into a secure database and permit staff the concerned to locate and share data effectively.

India goes full steam to finalize $10.4bn jet deal
NEW DELHI: Rejecting the carping by those ejected out of the hotly-contested $10.4 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) race, most notably the US, India is going full throttle to ink the "mother of all defence deals'' by December.  The aim is to ensure that deliveries of the 126 fighters begin from December 2014 onwards to stem IAF's fast-eroding combat edge. Top defence sources, in fact, said plans were afoot to base the first MMRCA squadron in the western sector, most probably at Ambala, by end-2015.  The first 18 jets will come in "fly-away condition" from the aviation major -- only Eurofighter Typhoon (EADS) and French Rafale (Dassault) are now left in contention -- finally selected for the project.  Subsequent batches of the 108 fighters, to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) after transfer of technology, will progressively be based in other operationally relevant locations, with special focus on the eastern front with China.  "The first fighter built in HAL should roll out in December 2016. Thereafter, HAL will deliver six jets per year, which will go up to 20 per year later. HAL will achieve 85% technology absorption by the end,'' said a source.  With plans clearly chalked out, MoD ruled out any scope for comebacks by the eliminated four fighters -- American F/A-18 'Super Hornet' ( Boeing) and F-16 'Super Viper' ( Lockheed Martin), Swedish Gripen (Saab), and Russian MiG-35 ( United Aircraft Corporation).  With only Typhoon and Rafale left in the reckoning after the "gruelling and transparent'' technical and flying evaluation, MoD's Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) and Technical Offsets Evaluation Committee (TOEC) are now working to submit their reports soon.  "We should be ready to open the Typhoon and Rafale commercial bids in July,'' said the source. Thereafter, it will take another month to determine the lowest bidder (L-1) because of "huge mathematical and data verification'' of the lifecycle costs of operating the jets over a 40-year period. Commercial negotiations with the L-1 vendor will then begin before the final contract is ready for signing by December.  Asked about "points'' being raised by eliminated vendors, sources said only Rafale and Typhoon were found "compliant'' on all the 643-660 technical attributes or ASQRs (air staff qualitative requirements) laid down to meet IAF's specific operational requirements.  "Our test pilots flew 222 sorties, over 270 hours, on the six fighters in different weather conditions in India and abroad. Each vendor was informed of its jet's performance at every stage... they have no reason to complain,'' the source said.  But what about the crucial AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, which is operational only on American fighters at present? MoD said the ASQRs did "not require a flying AESA radar''. Instead, vendors had to demonstrate "a baseline radar model in flight or on a test-bed, the complete working model in a lab and how it would be integrated'' on the Indian MMRCA. "Five fighters, including Rafale and Typhoon, met this requirement,'' said the source.  Overall, MoD and IAF are confident there are "enough safeguards'' built into the project, which include "performance-based logistics'' to ensure India "gets the best machine, spares and product support''.

Indo-Pak composite dialogue: No movement on Sir Creek talks
ISLAMABAD:   Talks between India and Pakistan failed to make progress on the contentious issue of Sir Creek, despite the fact that the dispute over the estuary is described as one of the ‘most easily resolvable issues’ between the two South Asian neighbours.  “Both sides exchanged non-papers (proposals) in order to take their discussions forward, with a view to finding an amicable settlement of the issue,” according to a joint statement issued on Saturday, at the end of the two-day talks that began when an Indian delegation, led by Indian Surveyor General Subba Rao, arrived in Islamabad on Thursday.  The negotiations on the Sir Creek issue resumed after a four-year gap. In 2007, the two sides had conducted a joint survey of the 96-kilometre estuary that divides Pakistan’s Sindh province from the Indian state of Gujarat. Both India and Pakistan have contesting territorial claims but, in sharp contrast to Kashmir, the issue is not considered a political hot button in either country.  “The two sides exchanged maps outlining their respective positions. Both sides also marked their respective demarcations of the maritime boundary,” said one defence ministry official familiar with the negotiations. He also described the dispute as “one of the most easily resolvable” issues between India and Pakistan, which could lead to progress on other disputes.  Analysts say that a resolution of the Sir Creek issue could lead to progress on Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield in Kashmir, where thousands of troops are holed up in freezing temperatures that have killed more soldiers than fighting.  Both sides have agreed to discuss the delimitation of the international maritime boundary between the two countries and will meet at a ‘mutually convenient date’ to discuss the matter. India and Pakistan both frequently arrest fishermen for crossing the maritime border.  “The talks were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Tehmina Janjua. “It is a positive move that bilateral talks made the headway in a constructive manner with a view of result oriented engagement between the two countries,” she told The Express Tribune.  However, both sides, when contacted, remained tight-lipped about any breakthrough. During the visit, Indian delegation also called on Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Athar Ali.  The Pakistani negotiating team was led by Rear Admiral Shah Sohail Masood, another defence ministry official.  The Sir Creek issue had been discussed earlier this year, when Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman visited New Delhi in what was the first round of the composite dialogue after the 2008 Mumbai attacks scuttled talks between India and Pakistan.  The issue also came up for discussion when the two countries’ commerce secretaries met, as well as during the negotiations on water disputes.  The next round of the composite dialogue includes a visit by an Indian judicial delegation to Pakistan to discuss releasing prisoners from either country’s jails. (With additional reporting from Reuters)

Pakistan Says China to Operate Key Port
BEIJING—Pakistan's defense minister said China has agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned but underused port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad would like the Chinese to build a base there for the Pakistani navy.  Ahmad Mukhtar gave no clear timetable on the possible change at Gwadar, on Pakistan's western coast, which is currently managed by a Singaporean government company. But his statement Saturday is the latest illustration of how Pakistan is portraying China as a powerful alternative ally and aid source if the U.S. scales down military assistance for Islamabad in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing.  Mr. Mukhtar made the announcement after accompanying Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on a visit to China last week. During that visit, Pakistani officials say, Beijing agreed to expedite delivery of a second batch of 50 jointly developed JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, possibly within six months.  The fighter agreement prompted India's defense minister, A.K. Antony, to express serious concern in a meeting with reporters late Friday about the growing defense ties between China and Pakistan, and to assert that India's only possible response was to build up its own military arsenal.  Attempts on Sunday to contact Mr. Antony and other Indian officials for comment about Gwadar were unsuccessful.  In the past, Indian officials have expressed concern that China plans to use Gwadar as a staging post for naval operations in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and beyond.  China's Foreign Ministry didn't immediately respond to a request to comment.  China—Pakistan's biggest arms supplier—provided 80% of the initial $248 million funding for the construction of Gwadar, a former fishing village in the southwestern province of Baluchistan whose 14.5-meter-deep port is the only one in Pakistan capable of handling the biggest cargo ships.  Pakistani officials say Gwadar will be a trade hub for Central Asia and a transit point for Chinese oil imports, most of which are now shipped via the Malacca Strait, making them vulnerable to piracy or naval blockades.  China and Pakistan also have discussed plans to build an oil pipeline from Gwadar to northwestern China, and two new stretches of railway extending the Pakistani network to Gwadar at one end, and to the Chinese border at the other.  Some U.S. and Indian military officials see Gwadar more as part of a so-called "string of pearls" naval strategy, wherein China has also funded construction or upgrades of ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  China, however, says its involvement in these ports is only commercial. Some experts question the commercial and military value of Gwadar because of a long-running separatist insurgency in Baluchistan and the high cost of building and maintaining a pipeline and railway.  Construction of Gwadar started in 2002 and finished in 2007. Since then it has been operated by Singapore's PSA International under a 40-year contract, for which a Chinese company also had bid.  But the port has attracted far less traffic than it is designed for over the last four years, due in large part to opposition from politicians in Baluchistan, who say local people get insufficient benefit from the port and other commercial projects, relative to the central government.  PSA's contract has been challenged in Pakistan's courts and in September, Adm. Noman Bashir, the country's naval chief, called for it to be reviewed. Pakistani officials also say the Singaporean government hasn't pushed hard enough for Pakistan to become a full dialogue partner, taking part in some talks and meetings—as India is—within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  Mr. Mukhtar's statement said the Chinese government had agreed to Pakistan's request that it take over operation of Gwadar when PSA's "term of agreement" expired, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.  "We are grateful to the Chinese government for constructing Gwadar Port. However, we will be more grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is being constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan," Mr. Mukhtar was quoted as saying.  A spokesman for PSA declined to comment.  While hailing its close ties with Pakistan last week, China was more reserved in its public statements to avoid antagonizing the U.S. and India and becoming too embroiled in Pakistan's problems, political analysts say.  But some analysts also say China sees an opportunity in the aftermath of bin Laden's death and the expected drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to expand its influence in Pakistan as part of a long-term plan to contain India, open new trade routes, and enable it navy to operate further afield.  "China is trying to undercut the U.S.'s numerous interests in Pakistan," said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "Gwadar was the linchpin of [the] 'string of pearls' strategy and the latest news adds to that. India faces a unique challenge that no other country does. Its two nuclear armed neighbors are closely aligned and are stepping up joint military programs. India will have to step up its deterrent capabilities."  Mr. Mukhtar said in his statement Saturday that Pakistan had also asked for an unspecified number of 4,400-ton frigates on a "credit basis" from China, and for the Chinese government to train Pakistani personnel on submarines.  He also asked China to induct the JF-17 into the Chinese air force in order to encourage overseas sales of the relatively cheap, multipurpose fighter jet. He said that China "subscribed" to Pakistan's request to buy a more advanced Chinese fighter jet called the FC-20, also known as the J10, but didn't give further details.

Karwar to become largest defence zone in Asia
“The expansion of Sea Bird Naval base will turn Karwar, part of Uttara Kannada district, into the largest defence zone, not only in India, but also in Asia, thereby increasing the country’s maritime power multi-fold,” said Union defence minister AK Antony during the inauguration of housing township for the Sea Bird Naval base employees at Amadalli near Karwar on Saturday.  Work for the second phase of the base has already begun, and this is expected to create large-scale employment opportunities for the local youth. In the next 10 years, a number of infrastructure projects are expected to come up for construction in Karwar and Ankola.  The government had spent Rs127 crore for rehabilitation of the project. Many families were displaced, and over 1,000 youth belonging to displaced families have been imparted with skills through various industrial training institutes. He said about 60% of the people working in the naval base belong to Karwar and Uttara Kannada district. But several issues related to rehabilitation are still not solved due to technical reasons, but efforts are on to solve them expeditiously.  Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral NK Varma, said the Karwar Sea Bird Naval base is one of the most strategic naval bases in the world. In the coming days, its importance to the country’s maritime defence will improve further. The second phase will get additional jetties, dockyards, airports, and transit systems.  “The Sea Bird’s second phase of development has adequate land, and there is no need for land acquisition,” assured minister Antony.  The cost of completion of the second phase will not be less than Rs1,25,000 crore, which will be five times the amount spent in the first phase. The airport, which will come up in the second phase, can be used forcivilian purposes, said the minister. Referring to a report in DNA on the Navy shelling the Nethrani Island in Bhatkal taluk, Admiral Varma said that the National Biodiversity Committee has permitted them to practice shelling in the Nethrani Island. However, the Navy has been asked not to harm birds and marine life, he clarified.

Attorney general directs army chief to stick to 1950 as year of birth
The attorney general (AG) has given his observation to the ministry of defence (MoD) regarding army chief General VK Singh’s age that he should stick to 1950 and not 1951.  According to sources, the AG, GE Vahanvati’s, has directed that the chief could not change his age like this, from 1950 to 1951, as it would result in protracted litigation, with personnel going to court over the issue.  Last week in an unprecedented move the MoD had referred the matter to the AG, on the age row of the chief, before the matter came up before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), for a final approval.  The MoD gave all the papers pertaining to the matter, and the law ministry’s opinion to the AG and sought guidance and advice on the matter, so that a final decision could be taken.  The controversy has simmered for the past five years, but the difference of opinion has all along been there, between the MS and AG branches of the Indian Army.  The Military Secretariat (MS) branch of the army maintained that the chief’s birth date is May 10, 1950, while the AG (Adjutant General) branch said it was May 10, 1951.  In a letter of 2008 to the former chief Deepak Kapoor, General Singh, then Eastern Army commander, had admitted that his birth date was 1950, to the MoD putting an end to the controversy.  The case had been closed in 2008 following the chief’s letter, but was reopened recently after a Right to Information (RTI) query.  MoD could not confirm the matter, when contacted, while the army also said that they were unaware of the matter yet. Defence minister AK Antony was out of Delhi, in Kolkata, owing to the political developments in West Bengal, and would return to the national capital late on Thursday.

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