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Saturday, 24 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 Sep 2011



India, UK sign pact on defence research

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 23 Under a new agreement, Indian and British scientists will work together to develop cutting-edge technologies for defence and security.  A letter of arrangement was signed by DRDO Director General V K Saraswat and Sir Mark Welland, Chief Scientific Adviser of Britain’s Ministry of Defence, in London.  The two countries will pool their world-class science and engineering expertise to work on projects such as unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced explosives, and factors affecting human performance on the battlefield.  Welland thanked Saraswat for his efforts in “reaching this milestone in our relationship with India”.

Strategic roads can’t be restored before two months: Army

Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 23 Last Sunday’s earthquake in Sikkim has severely hampered the Army’s movement and temporarily cast a shadow on its rapid counter strike ability in the strategically crucial mountainous state. The Army’s in-house assessment is that it would take more than two months to restore the road network, vital for movement in northern Sikkim that abuts China.  The infantry units under the 112 Brigade - some 5,500 men and officers - that is responsible for northern Sikkim are well stocked on all accounts - food, equipment like 105 MM artillery guns, vehicles and fuel.  The road blockade will also not affect the movement of the infantry as the troops anyway walk over obstacles. Besides, officials said that the quake would not have any impact on preparedness.  But, with the roads blocked, the movement of stocks, equipment, ammunition and weapons will be hit. The roads are needed to move heavy things that require wheeling in.  Fields reports from the Army reaching the headquarters here have led to the assessment that it could take two months to restore two key road arteries that take off from Chungthang (some 70 km north of Gangtok). One leads west to the Lachen valley and other leads east into the Lachung valley. Both the roads are vital for maintaining supplies to northern Sikkim.  In case of an exigency, there will be no way to replenish troops and equipment once the stocks stored at the forward bases finish.  Meanwhile, the Army has physically covered 94 villages in their search-and-rescue operations.

US-Pak strained ties Fight against terrorism may take new turn

The assertion of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the “Haqqani (terror) network … acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency” shows that the love-hate relationship between the so-called “key allies” in the war against global terrorism is fast getting transformed into a hate-hate one. Admiral Mullen has bluntly told Pakistan that Haqqani operatives attacked the US Embassy and Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and assassinated former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani with ISI help. This amounts to saying that the ISI is like any terrorist outfit and should be dealt with accordingly. The top US military official, due to retire soon, made this comment after a long meeting with Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani in Spain on the sidelines of a NATO conference. Perhaps the two, though considered friends, could not come to an agreement that Pakistan must abandon its policy of using terrorist networks to achieve its geopolitical objectives.  Before Admiral Mullen’s terse comment came the remarks by US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Hunter that “there is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government”. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, blaming the ISI for the successful operations of the Haqqani network against US interests in Afghanistan, told Pakistan while addressing a gathering at the Pentagon this week, “If you are against terrorism, you have to be against all forms of terrorism”. Amidst the rising tension between the US and Pakistan the Senate Appropriations Committee, a key US Congressional body, has suggested that security and economic aid to Pakistan must be linked to its cooperation in fighting the Haqqani network and other terrorist outfits.  There are clear indications that if Pakistan does not cooperate with the US in defeating its enemies in the Af-Pak region Washington may ignore Islamabad and go ahead with its plans to safeguard its interests in the area. The US has already started using what it calls the Northern Distribution Network, avoiding the routes passing through Pakistan, for its supplies to Afghanistan. Now what course the US takes to tame Pakistan remains to be seen. It seems the US post-troop withdrawal strategy for Af-Pak is undergoing a ch

India’s ‘Look East’ policy It can help counter Chinese assertiveness

by Harsh V. Pant  India’s relations with China have entered a new phase as New Delhi asserts its rights in the international waters of the South China Sea and deepens its engagement with Hanoi. The Indian External Affairs Minister was in Vietnam last week when India snubbed China and made it clear that ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) will continue to pursue oil and natural gas exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea. Asking countries “outside the region” to stay away from the South China Sea, China had issued a demarche to India underlining that Beijing’s permission should be sought for exploration in Blocks 127 and 128 and that without it, OVL’s activities would be considered illegal. Vietnam, meanwhile, had underlined the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks being explored. India decided to go by the Vietnam’s claims and ignore China’s objections.  The official Chinese reaction to the Indian decision was an assertion that China had undisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and its islands and that Beijing remained opposed to any country involving itself in oil and gas exploration there. But the official media has come out all guns blazing. The Global Times, an influential Communist Party-run newspaper, called India’s dealings with Vietnam a “serious political provocation” that would “push China to the limit.” It went on to argue that “China should try every means possible to stop this cooperation from happening.” Expressing its concern over the involvement of extra-regional powers in the South China Sea, the paper claimed, “China and relevant countries should digest the conflicts within the South China Sea, but when other countries step in, China should oppose them with all involved having to share the blame and resulting losses.” Though the paper often expresses the more hard-line nationalist sentiment in the party, main editorials are published with the approval of the Communist Party.  India’s bold move is aimed at asserting India’s legal claims in the international waters of the South China Sea as well as strengthening its relationship with Vietnam. Both moves unsettle China which views India’s growing engagement in East Asia with suspicion. With China expanding its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, India is staking its own claims in East Asia. Most significant in this regard is India’s growing engagement with Vietnam. Bilateral ties between India and Vietnam have got strengthened in recent years with the focus on regional security issues and trade. Traditionally, India has had a favourable presence in Vietnam with its support for Vietnamese independence from France and eventual unification of the country as well as its opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. With the rise of China in recent years, their ties have become strategic in orientation. The two states promulgated a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation in 2003 in which they envisaged creating an “Arc of Advantage and Prosperity” in Southeast Asia and have initiated a strategic dialogue since 2009. During his visit to Hanoi last week, the Indian External Affairs Minister, along with his Vietnamese counterpart, co-chaired the 14th India-Vietnam Joint Commission Meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation and agreed to add greater content to bilateral relations in the fields of defence and security, trade and investment, education and culture.”  Bilateral trade has grown since the liberalisation of Indian and Vietnamese economies with the trade volume now exceeding $2 billion. The signing of the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and India’s recognition of Vietnam’s market economy status will further boost economic ties. Vietnam has backed a more prominent role for India in ASEAN as well as India’s bid for the permanent membership in the UN Security Council.  Given that Vietnam and India use the same Russian and erstwhile Soviet platforms, there is a significant convergence between the two in the defence sector. Vietnam has sought Indian help in the modernisation of its military hardware. India’s exploration interests near the Vietnamese coasts have been threatened by China’s diplomatic offensive. Delhi and Hanoi have significant stakes in ensuring sealanes security and preventing sea piracy while they also share concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Indian strategic interests demand that Vietnam emerge as a major regional player and India is well placed to help Hanoi achieve that objective. It has been argued in Indian strategic circles that just as China has used states in India’s periphery to contain India, Delhi should build states like Vietnam as strategic pressure points against China to counter it.  India has decided to work with Vietnam to establish a regular Indian presence in the region as part of a larger Delhi-Hanoi security partnership with Vietnam giving India the right to use its port of Nha Trang. Delhi and Hanoi have significant stakes in ensuring sealanes security and preventing sea piracy while they also share concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Indian strategic interests demand that Vietnam emerge as a major regional player and India is well placed to help Hanoi achieve that objective.  India has been helping Vietnam for beefing up its naval and air capabilities. If the South China Sea is a disputed area for China and India should refrain from entering the fray so as to respect Chinese sensitivities, then India can rightfully ask China to do the same in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an area recognised by all major powers as a disputed territory. Yet China has had no compunction in enlarging its military and economic presence in the region.  A common approach on the emerging balance of power is evolving with India and Vietnam both keen on reorienting their ties with the US as their concerns about China rise. And a similar commonality of views is emerging among major powers on the South China Sea disputes which will hopefully force China to moderate its maximalist position on this issue. India’s entry into the scene was overdue. Now it should focus on building strategic partnerships with regional powers. Vietnam is a good place to begin this process.  The writer teaches at King’s College, London.

You risk losing an ally, Pak warns USA

Islamabad\Washington, September 23 Pakistan warned the United States it risks losing an ally if it continued to accuse Islamabad of playing a double game in the war against militancy, escalating the crisis in relations between the two countries.  Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was responding to comments by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who said Pakistan's top spy agency was closely tied to the Haqqani network, the most violent and effective faction among Islamic Taliban militants in Afghanistan.  It is the most serious allegation levelled by the USA against nuclear-armed and Muslim-majority Pakistan since they began an alliance in the war on terror a decade ago. "You will lose an ally," Khar told Geo TV in New York in remarks broadcast on Friday.  "You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so it will be at their (the United States') own cost."  Mullen, speaking in Senate testimony, alleged Haqqani operatives launched an attack last week on the U.S. embassy in Kabul with the support of Pakistan's military intelligence. The tensions could have repercussions across Asia, from India, Pakistan's economically booming arch-rival, to China, which has edged closer to Pakistan in recent years.  A complete break between the USA and Pakistan - sometimes friends, often adversaries - seems unlikely, if only because Washington depends on Pakistan as a route to supply U.S. troops fighting militants in Afghanistan, and as a base for unmanned U.S. drones. Pakistan relies on Washington for military and economic aid and for acting as a backer on the world stage. But support in the U.S. Congress for curbing assistance or making conditions on aid more stringent is rising rapidly. The unilateral U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May took already fragile relations between Pakistan and the United States to a low. Relations were just starting to recover before the Kabul attack. Both sides are now engaged in an unusually blunt public war of words.  The dangers could be enormous if Washington fails to arrest the deterioration in relations with Pakistan, a largely dysfunctional state run by a feckless, military-cowed government and teeming with Islamist militants. At stake are the fight against terrorism, the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and - as Islamabad plays off its friendship with China against the United States - regional stability. "Anything which is said about an ally, about a partner, publicly to recriminate it, to humiliate it, is not acceptable," said Khar. The USA has long pressed Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network, which it believes operates from sanctuaries in North Waziristan on the Afghan border. Pakistan says its army is too stretched fighting its own Taliban insurgency. But analysts say the Islamabad government regards the Haqqanis as a strategic counterweight to the growing influence of old rival India in Afghanistan. The Haqqani network, Mullen said, is a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).  The charges come amid mounting exasperation in Washington as the Obama administration struggles to curb militancy in Pakistan and end the long war in Afghanistan. Mullen, CIA director David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all have met with their Pakistani counterparts in recent days to demand Islamabad take action against the Haqqani network. Any Pakistani offensive against the Haqqanis would be risky. The group has an estimated 10,000-15,000 seasoned fighters at its disposal and analysts say the Pakistani army would likely suffer heavy casualties. — Reuters

Army to have another BrahMos missile regiment

New Delhi: As part of efforts to upgrade military capabilities in the north-east, the induction of an advanced variant of the 290-km range supersonic cruise missile in the army for mountain warfare has been approved by the government.  The approval by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) -- Ministry's apex decision making body-- will pave the way for induction of the fourth missile regiment in the army, Defence Ministry sources told agency here.  The sanction for inducting a regiment of the Block III steep-dive variant of the BrahMos, granted recently in a DAC meeting chaired by the Defence Minister, is expected to enhance the lethality of army's firepower in the north-east region.  The steep-dive attack cruise missile can hit enemy targets hidden in the shadows of mountains, they said.  The army has inducted a total of three regiments already including two of the Block II variant, which can precisely hit the intended enemy building or assets even in a cluster of buildings.  In the backdrop of massive military infrastructure buildup by China in its areas along the frontiers, India has taken several measures to improve its preparedness in the north-east.  These steps include deployment of two squadrons of the Su-30 MKI fighter jet aircraft in Tezpur and Chhabua in Assam and raising of two mountain divisions for deployment in Arunachal Pradesh and adjoining areas.  The government also revised its old military doctrine of not developing roads along the border and is working on developing over 70 strategic roads on the Sino-Indian border.  BrahMos is a stealth supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land and has been inducted in all the three services.

Change of baton at IGAR (S)

Imphal, September 23 2011: Maj Gen UK Gurung,YSM has taken over as the Inspector General Assam Rifles (South) from Major General CA Krishnan, AVSM today.  Maj Gen UK Gurung arrived from New Delhi on September 20, said a press release issued by PRO Hqs IGAR (S) .  He is an alumni of National Defence College and graduate of DSSC Wellington.  He has commanded an operational Headquarters in J&K and has held many distinguished command and staff appointment of the Indian Army.  The press release added, he is a highly qualified officer who has been handpicked for the important assignment.  Maj Gen CA Krishnan relinquished his command as IGAR (S) after a very eventful and 'fruitful tenure which saw Hqs IGAR(S) attain new pinnacles of glory, it added.  Maj Gen CA Krishnan and Mrs Krishnan were given a warm farewell during a simple ceremony held at Mantripukhri today.    CA Krishnan hands over charge to Gurung CA Krishnan hands over charge to Gurung   During his farewell ceremony, he appealed to the people of Manipur to participate in the peace process, hand in hand with Assam Rifles and Army.  He expressed his gratitude to all sections of people including civil administration, Government of Manipur and members of the media of Manipur for their unstinted support, constructive criticism and affection.  He also congratulated the new IGAR(S) on taking over the baton and wished him good luck for his tenure in Manipur.


Thursday, 22 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 22 Sep 2011






India, Pak must stop using RAW, ISI against each other: Imran

Shyam Bhatia in London  Imran Khan says India and Pakistan should stop using their intelligence agencies for settling scores against each other and base their future relations on civilised dialogue around a table.  The former Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, who was speaking at the London School of Economics, criticised what he described as the “back-stabbing” role of the agencies, like India’s RAW and Pakistan’s ISI.  He called for a “stable relationship where all our problems are discussed politically, based around a dialogue around a table and with an end to the role of intelligence agencies. “Any issue about Kashmir should be dealt with on the table and not using militants. It hasn’t worked.”  Imran, visiting the UK to promote his autobiography, ‘A Personal History’, is currently ranked as one of Pakistan’s most popular politicians. His political party, Tehreeq-e-Insaaf, is also expected to attract massive new support when the country goes to the polls in 2012.  He attracted repeated applause from a packed audience at the LSE where he talked about bilateral relations with India, the abysmal state of Pakistani politics, terrorism and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.  Asked about India-Pakistan relations, he responded, “As I’ve always maintained, you can’t change your neighbours. You have to live with them in a civilised manner.”  He added that Pakistan blames India for its troubles in Baluchistan and India blames Pakistan for the unrest in Kashmir. But asking his audience to look ahead, he went on: “The future is bright for South Asians.”  As far as Pakistan was concerned, Imran projected what he described as a “soft revolution” through the ballot box when elections are held next year. He claims that his own party, Tehreeq-e-Insaaf, is number one in the tribal areas and in the last four weeks alone has attracted 3,50,000 new members.  He anticipated “light at the end of the tunnel” because of increased political awareness than ever before, the existence of an independent Supreme Court and a vibrant, independent media.  Asked which Pakistani leader was his role model, he replied, “Jinnah. The reason is that Jinnah never compromised on his goals. He was selfless. He was dying of TB, but never gave up.”  If his party wins the next elections, Imran said one of his priorities would be to reduce the level of violence in the country. He painted a bleak picture of Pakistan where the economy has lost some $ 70 billion, terrorism is rampant on city streets and recent attacks on military bases, including army and navy headquarters, suggest deep internal divisions. He also explained that this has been the bloodiest year for Pakistan since independence with revenge attacks for every Pakistani army move against militants in the tribal areas.  In Imran’s words, Pakistan has become a polarised society with 30 Taliban groups active in the country.


America’s ultimatum to Pak over Haqqani link

Threatens to act against group leaders unilaterally  Washington, September 21 Accusing Pakistan’s military-run ISI of using the Haqqani network to carry out a “proxy war”, US has warned Islamabad to cut ties with the terror group and help eliminate its leaders or it will act unilaterally.  In what amounts to an ultimatum, the US administration have indicated that the US will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply, The Washington Post daily reported.  Quoting officials, the paper said the message was delivered at high-level meetings and public statements over the past several days reflecting Washington’s view that the yearlong strategy of using persuasion and military assistance to influence Pakistan’s behaviour has been ineffective.  According to the Post, White House officials and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta are said to be adamant in their determination to change the approach.  The report comes as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a meeting here last night that in his discussions with Pakistan army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, he had pressed Islamabad to end its links with the terror group.  “We covered a full range of issues focusing on the danger of the Haqqani network, the need for the Haqqani Network to disengage...the need for the Haqqani network to disengage, specifically the need for the ISI to disconnect from Haqqani and from this proxy war that they’re fighting,” he said during his address at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here.  He added, “The ISI has been doing this - working for - supporting proxies for an extended period of time. It is a strategy in the country and I think that strategic approach has to shift in the future.” — PTI


Mini UAVs to assist troops in J&K

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, September 21 Troops on ground in Jammu and Kashmir will soon have their own “eyes in the sky”. The Army is procuring 20 miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be deployed in the operationally sensitive Northern Command.  These UAVs, sources said, would be used for general surveillance along the Line of Control as well as in certain volatile areas in the hinterland. These would also be used during anti-terrorist operations for providing real-time intelligence and for detecting intrusions as well as for limited search and rescue.  Many armed forces the world over use mini UAVs for tactical purposes. These are man-portable systems that can be transported and operated by a crew of two and three. Though much smaller than the UAVs used for long range and high endurance reconnaissance, these nonetheless have emerged as indispensable force multipliers in combat situations where visual contact with the opponent is difficult, specially in rough terrain. Such systems are also being use extensively by the Allied forces in Afghanistan.  Several counties have designed and developed a range of mini UAVs. The Defence Research and Development Organisation also recently demonstrated its capability to produce a mini UAV, which has been christened Netra. Besides the Armed Forces, it has also been offered to the state police forces for security management and handling law and order situations.  The system being sought by the Army would be equipped with cameras and sensors having low light as well as night photography capability besides having the ability for simultaneous recording and transmitting imagery in real time. Also, it has the ability to operate in rough field conditions and combat environment, as the sound of its propulsion gear is not heard beyond about 50 metres and a runway is not required for its launch and recovery.  The Army’s requirement is that the system should have a minimum flying endurance of one hour and a service ceiling above 1000 metres with a radio-control range in excess of five kilometres.


Growing Sino-Pak nexus India needs to pro-actively counter it

Pakistan, it seems, is working overtime to ensure that China continues to remain its “all-weather” friend despite the brief uneasiness between the two following the recent incidents of terrorist violence in China’s Xinjiang province. China’s expression of displeasure over the ISI’s reported involvement in what happened in Xinjiang has made Pakistani leaders use all the tricks they know to convince their Chinese counterparts that Islamabad will do all it can to prevent the growth of terrorism in the Chinese province bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan President Asif Zardari not only visited China soon after the Xinjiang developments but also celebrated Eid in Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim-majority province of China. He revealed a number of projects that will be undertaken by Pakistan to strengthen his country’s relations with China.  Mr Zardari wanted to convince the Chinese leadership, particularly in Xinjiang, that it should not suspect Pakistan’s hand in the Xinjiang bomb blasts, though reports had it that the ISI was fomenting trouble there. What the Pakistan President stated during his China visit has been highlighted by the Pakistani ambassador in Beijing through an article in Global Times, an official Chinese publication. But what is disturbing for India is that Pakistan has offered China to invest in laying railway lines that will pass through PoK, an Indian territory forcibly occupied by Pakistan. There is a plan for a network of oil and gas pipelines also in PoK with Chinese involvement. India cannot afford to let these become a reality.  Earlier, China built Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which has boosted Islamabad’s trade with West Asian and other countries. Pakistan and China both need each other in view of the changing global scenario. But there is an India factor in the calculations of both countries. Pakistan wants to strengthen its position vis-à-vis India by maintaining a very close relationship with China at a time when the US has started cold-shouldering Islamabad. And China has been increasing its presence in Pakistan with a view to using it to contain India. The time has come for India to tell both China and Pakistan that any activity involving the two nations in PoK is illegal. There is need to approach the international community to end the Sino-Pakistani nexus in PoK.


Plateau worry for army

New Delhi, Sept. 21: One of the most strategic points on the India-China frontier, a plateau at 16,500 feet with a serene lake within it on the northern tip of Sikkim, is the biggest concern for the army since Sunday’s earthquake because China claims it.  Called simply “Plateau” by the soldiers, the high tableland circled by mountains is 16km at its widest and 23km at its longest. This is the only place on the frontier where the Indian Army has a toehold on the Tibetan Plateau.  Since Sunday, there has been almost no contact with the camps of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the army in Plateau.  From Plateau, India also has possession of a narrow strip some 4km long between two high ranges. This is called “Finger” because that is what it resembles on the map — a curving bit that juts into Chinese territory.  The border is unmarked except by cairns — little heaps of stones. At the southern end of this barren landscape is Gurudongmar Lake, brilliant turquoise in summer and mostly frozen in winter.  The ITBP and the army man two camps in Plateau and from mountain-top posts that rim Plateau, they have a clear view into Tibet allowing them to observe with sophisticated viewing devices any movement from a distance of more than 20km.  The high altitude means that an Mi 17 helicopter can land or take off from Plateau with only one passenger (it can seat 14). The area is the responsibility of the 112 Brigade headquartered in Mangan.  In 2008 and 2009 there were reports that Chinese vehicles and troops had crossed into Finger and were attempting to build a road across it. But the army says that there has been no alteration of the border here in 40 years.  The Indian and Chinese armies follow a set of rules when their patrols come across one another. The soldiers are not even supposed to make eye contact and Indian soldiers have reported locking arms and turning their backs on Chinese troops.  Plateau and Finger are north of Lachen, at least four hours in a four-wheel-drive in fair weather. In the last two years the Indian army has inducted at least a squadron of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the region — a rare place on the frontier that affords deployment of wheeled and tracked vehicles.  Maintaining the military presence in Plateau and Finger involves acclimatising the troops and keeping reserves of fuel, food and other supplies. The army assesses that the reserves will keep its men going for about a week.  But the temblor has come at a bad time for the military. In end-September and early-October each year, the army concludes its monsoon deployment and goes into an “Operational Alert” before winter sets in. This is the time when the “winter stocking” of forward posts — such as those in Plateau and Finger is carried out.  With the roads blocked by landslides and many villagers who are hired by the army as porters shelterless, winter stocking is on hold. One officer feared that the earthquake in Sikkim may have set the military infrastructure that was built up over three decades behind by about 20 years. Troops may now have to march to their posts, which were supplied by motor vehicles, on foot. This increases the military response time in the event of hostilities.


The India-Vietnam Axis

India is the latest country to get drawn into the South China Sea dispute. Earlier this month, Beijing told New Delhi that its permission was needed for India's state-owned oil and gas firm to explore for energy in two Vietnamese blocks in those waters. This follows reports of a Chinese vessel confronting an Indian Navy frigate off Vietnam in late July.  Vietnam quickly cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks in question. Hanoi has been sparring with Beijing over the South China Sea in the past year, so such a response was expected.  What's new is New Delhi not taking Chinese aggression in that region sitting down. It immediately decided to support Hanoi's claims. Last week, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna visited Vietnam and made it clear that its state-owned firm would continue to explore in the South China Sea. The display of backbone helped India strengthen its relationship with Vietnam. If China wants to expand its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, New Delhi's thinking goes, India can do the same thing in East Asia.  The linchpin of this eastward move would be Vietnam. Hanoi fought a brief war with Beijing in 1979 and has grown wary of the Middle Kingdom's increasing economic and military weight. That's why in some quarters of New Delhi, Vietnam is already seen as a counterweight in the same way Pakistan has been for China.

That's not to say good India-Vietnam relations wouldn't exist otherwise. Vietnamese have traditionally held Indians in high regard because of the latter's support for Vietnamese independence from France and their opposition to U.S. involvement in the country. And New Delhi formulated a "Look East" policy as early as 1991, to capitalize on East Asia's economic growth. But the rise of China has given this relationship a powerful strategic—not to mention urgent—dimension.  Enlarge Image pant pant AFP/Getty Images  S.M. Krishna (left) with Vietnam's Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan in 2009.  Both sides realize that a stronger bilateral relationship starts with economic ties. The two countries signed an agreement in 2003 in which they envisioned creating an "Arc of Advantage and Prosperity" in Southeast Asia. So they've been boosting trade, especially after New Delhi signed a free-trade agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2009. The volume of bilateral trade now exceeds $2 billion.

Both sides could still do more to enhance economic cooperation. Bilateral trade is much below the potential, given that India and Vietnam are major emerging economies. The two countries also need to think creatively about expanding investment opportunities, especially in the energy, steel, and pharmaceutical sectors. This can be done by establishing stronger institutional mechanisms that review the economic relationship on a regular basis and take steps to enhance it.  New Delhi's abiding interest in Vietnam, though, is in the defense realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi beef up its naval and air capabilities.  Given that Vietnam and India use similar Russian and erstwhile Soviet defense platforms, New Delhi could easily offer defense technologies to Hanoi. Talks are ongoing for India to sell the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture. Such arms could allow Vietnam to project regional power and improve deterrence against China.  The two nations also have stakes in ensuring sea-lane security, as well as shared concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Hence, India is helping Vietnam to build capacity for repair and maintenance of its defense platforms. At the same time, the armed forces of the two states have started cooperation in areas like IT and English-language training of Vietnamese Army personnel. The two are also sharing their experiences in mountainous and jungle warfare.  Naval cooperation, however, remains the focus. Here, Vietnam has given India the right to use its port of Nha Trang in the south; the Indian Navy has already made a port call. It is not entirely clear what the final arrangement would look like, but the symbolism of this is not lost on China.  The two countries potentially share a common friend—the U.S. New Delhi has steadily built relations with Washington in the past decade, while Vietnam has been courting America as the South China Sea becomes a flashpoint. As these three countries ponder how to manage China's rise, they will be drawn closer together.  By lashing out against India for its dealings with Vietnam, China has shown it will try to deter strategic competitors from collaborating against it. But if both India and Vietnam stand firm, they could force Beijing to moderate its expansionist claims on the South China Sea and adopt a more conciliatory stance on other regional matters.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 21 Sep 2011






Hope soars for MFN status from Pak

Pak Commerce Minister likely to make announcement next week Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 20 India is hopeful that Pakistan would grant it most favoured nation (MFN) status when its Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim arrives here later this month for talks on promotion of economic and commercial relations as part of the resumed dialogue process between the two countries. India had granted Pakistan MFN status way back in 1996.  Fahim is expected to arrive on September 26 and hold talks with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on September 28-29. He is also scheduled to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet some other leaders and officials.  The Commerce Minister’s visit marks elevation of the dialogue process between the two countries to the ministerial level. The dialogue, suspended by India in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was resumed this February after a hiatus of over two years.  Sources said the two ministers would discuss issues like removal of trade barriers and reducing the number of items on the negative list of products that the two countries don’t wish to trade in. At the last meeting of Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New Delhi in July, the neighbour had announced measures to promote cross-border trade.  Under the changed environment when the two countries are talking of promoting people-to-people contact and enhancing economic ties, New Delhi believes Pakistan would not delay granting it the MFN status and fulfilling its obligations under the WTO regime.  Chambers of commerce of the two countries have also favoured expanding commercial relations. The Confederation of Indian Industry recently stated that it was an appropriate time for Pakistan to accord the MFN status to India.  Meanwhile, India has asked Islamabad to prepare the negative list of items, which it does not want to import from India. Pakistan maintains a ‘positive list’ of items which are allowed to be imported from India.  India-Pakistan trade was estimated at $1.85 billion in 2009-10. Of this, Indian exports were to the tune of $1.7 billion.  It is estimated that unofficial trade between the two countries through the Gulf route could be much more than the official trade.


Rehabilitating retiring soldiers  Use them to combat Maoists

by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)  More than 80 per cent soldiers retire at the age of 36 or 37 years and their annual number is almost 50,000. They do not even reach the midway point of their pay band, miss out on increments, get pension based on the point in the pay band they are retired, missing out 24/23 years of higher pay if they, like all civilian government employees, had to serve up to the age of 60 years.  Consequently, they suffer multiple disadvantages. Retired too early and given inadequate pension, they, in addition, lose out on the largesse of at least two subsequent Central Pay Commissions. After taking the best years of a soldier’s life, we throw him out to fend for himself in the harsh realities of life: to find a job in mid-life.  The Defence Minister has finally realised that ex-servicemen do need a second career. According to him, they could be accommodated in Central Police Organisations (CPOs — now called CAPFS), government jobs, etc, and that he will also write to the states to employ ex-servicemen. Surely, he should know that instructions to the states and the CPOs already exist to that end, but are not implemented. Simply because implementation of orders/instructions, enforcement of laws, timely completion of projects, etc, are extremely poor in this country. Above all, there is so much money to be made in fresh recruitment!  This trained manpower, instead of being taken as a national asset, is simply being wasted, resulting in an ever-increasing number of disillusioned veterans. The government must work out a comprehensive scheme to absorb this trained and disciplined manpower into gainful employment. Some percentage must be taken into government jobs, the CAPFS, the railways, the state police, the forest departments and so on. Some others can be given technical training so that they can run their own little establishments or join the industrial force. These schemes will be implemented only when an Act of Parliament to this end is passed.  CAPFS units presently deployed against the Maoists and those special state police units created to deal with the Maoists, no matter how fanciful a name one may give them, (Grey Hounds, Cobras, etc) have simply not been able to measure up to the job. Reinforcing these units, presently fighting the Maoists, with retiring soldiers will not do. The latter will soon acquire habits and work culture prevalent in these units.  The deficiency with these units is of leadership, which has failed to train their men and are unwilling to lead and share the risks faced by their constables, etc. Thus, policemen of all hues, ill trained as they appear to be, are being routinely killed in large numbers while their officers do not figure even among the wounded! How come in every “fire-fight,” Maoists are always successful in carrying away their dead! There is the other issue of morale of this constabulary. At the last Independence Day function policemen were given around 900 gallantry awards. This is an unusually high number. According to Sun Tzu, the great Chinese soldier and scholar, indiscriminate grant of gallantry awards to a force is a sure sign of low morale. There is complete failure to infiltrate these groups with intelligence organisations’ own operators (moles). Consequently, the police is being perpetually surprised.  Raising more CAPFS and state police units in any form will not do, as these have simply not been able to meet the Maoist challenge. Moreover, these units will be on the country’s pay rolls for the next 40 years and on the pension list for another 15 to 20 years: long after the Maoist problem would have disappeared. Therefore, raising of such units should be stopped and instead financial resources earmarked for these be deployed for the betterment of people in the Maoist-affected areas. The practice of outsourcing an anti-Maoist operation to SPOs and Salwa Judum groups must be ended. Such groups tend to become law unto themselves, settle personal scores, indulge in contract killings, kidnapping, etc, as it happened in Punjab during the eighties and the early nineties. Such vigilante groups are no solution for combating insurgencies.  Based on the indications from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the military is reported to be working on raising two Corps with Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units. RR battalions have been formed by milking regular units. This has resulted in serious deficiencies in the regular units, particularly of officers. This shortage is impacting training, administration and operational fitness of these units. Raising more RR units will aggravate this problem. It amounts to dealing with one problem and creating another far more serious. Further, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir does not appear to be stable enough to pull out RR battalions from there. In case these are raised as an additional manpower, the problem would be the same as in the case of raising more police units.  A better and cheaper option is to raise military units from the retiring soldiers, who are already trained. These units should be headed by Short Service Commission and other officers who retire early. It may be advisable to take some retired and yet young brigadiers and maj-generals who have a vast experience of counter-insurgency operations. This should be taken as their second career, spanning five (for officers) to 10 years (soldiers), with pay and gratuity in addition to the emoluments earned earlier. For cohesiveness and integration of personnel into well-organised units, it would be preferable to form them out of their original groupings — Dogras, Jats, Kumaon, the Artillery Regiment, etc.  Where possible, officers for these units too should be from the same groups. Brigade and divisional headquarters as well as corps headquarters can be formed mostly from the pool of retired officers and others. This force should be mandated to operate across state boundaries and work in consonance and in coordination with the CAPFS, state police forces, intelligence agencies and state governments. Such an arrangement will prove an effective instrument to completely eliminate the Maoist problem in a span of five to 10 years, which otherwise has all the portents of spreading. While these new units and formations are given six months to organise, integrate and train at the regimental centres, minimum essential temporary accommodation must be there in various locations where these units and formations are to be housed. Once such a proposal is accepted, the other details can be worked out.  The eventual remedy for the Maoist problem lies in undertaking developmental work in the affected districts. Therefore, anti-Maoist operations and developmental work must go apace; these should be well coordinated and be complementary to each other. While we go hammer and tongs after the Maoists, every step must be taken to avoid collateral damage and mishandling of innocents and those caught up in the vortex of Maoists violence. Operations should be coordinated by all agencies.  The Maoist problem needs urgent attention. Though the Prime Minister considers it as the most serious threat to internal security, there is much delay and procrastination in the proper tackling of this menace. Left inadequately addressed, it will spread, with grave consequences for the country’s stability and progress.n  The writer is a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff.


Army ITI students develop geared battery-operated van

A group of students of Motor Mechanic, Electrician and Welder trade of Army ITI at Ambala Cantonment have developed a Battery Operated Utility Van, which has five gears including a reverse gear.  According to a press statement by Hq Kharga Corps, a battery operated vehicle with gears is not common in India.  The idea was conceived about six months ago, when the Dean and instructors of Army ITI decided to fabricate a battery operated vehicle which should be unique and at the same time had training value commensurate with the cost incurred.  “In consonance with training philosophy of ` Learning by Doing ‘ the trainees and the instructors worked overtime and fabricated this pollution free and energy efficient four-wheeler. The project is in keeping with the motto of `health solution, rid of pollution’ and has rightly been named `The Cleanlander’,” said a press statement of Hq Kharga Corps. Brig EME, Kharga Corps, also provided technical guidance throughout the implementation process.


Top Officers for Army-to-Army Contacts With Pak

With a view to forging better ties, two GOCs today favoured army-to-army contacts between India and Pakistan.  "Army-to-army contact is not a bad thing at all (between India and Pakistan). This can be worked out," General Officer Commanding (GOC), 16 Corps, Lt. Gen. J P Nehra said.  He was addressing a conference here on the second day of the seminar "Mapping Contemporary Pakistan", jointly organised by the Department of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu, and White Knight Corps.  Lt. Gen. Nehra was reacting to recommendations of various panelists and academicians favouring army interactions for forging better ties.  "Panelists have suggested volleyball and tennis matches between the two armies along the border. It will help in the process of engagement," the GOC said.  "However, we should be realistic and pragmatic in our approach and never sacrifice the national interest," he said.  The GOC, 10 Infantry Division, Major General Rakesh Sharma, also favoured interactions between the two countries.  "Why not have interactions at the military level (between India and Pakistan)? At some level we should meet and talk," he said.  "We have held interactions with PLA. But, we have not interacted with the Pak Army," he said.  The GOC Romeo Force, Major General G S Shergil, however, did not favour such a suggestion.  "I do not subscribe to this point of view as it will create problems in various quarters," he said.


Age row: is the army chief right?

If the general wanted to change his birth date, he could have done so earlier; but accepting his demand will go a long way in salvaging the government’s long-term relationship with its military.

Maj Gen Nilendra Kumar (Retd)  Former Judge Advocate General of the Indian Army

A plea to treat 1950 as the army chief’s year of birth will be a setback for the army’s cleansing drive  The last few months have seen Army Chief V K Singh’s name in the media in a controversy relating to his age. The general is an outstanding soldier who is a renowned strategist and a brilliant practitioner of military craft. I have known him well for over four decades. I, however, differ with him and his well-wishers on a few counts.  The general has submitted a statutory complaint on the matter of his birth date. Army Act Section 27 affords a right to any military person who feels wronged by the decision of any superior to seek remedy from the central government. The remedy is available to all, from the junior-most soldiers to the senior-most commanders. There are a number of reasons that make the case of the army chief different.  General V K Singh joined the National Defence Academy in June 1966. Three years later he entered the Indian Military Academy and, after completing his training, was commissioned in the Infantry in June, 1970. The year 1950 was recorded as his year of birth when he filled out the UPSC admission form for the National Defence Academy. Sometime in 2006, an entry of 1951 in the matriculation certificate came to be reported. There are discrepancies in the documents held by the Adjutant General and Military Secretary Branches of the army headquarters.  The regulations enjoin that any discrepancy in the date of birth is to be reported within the first couple of years after entry into service. The claim is then examined and settled. In this case, the officer could have taken timely recourse to those provisions to get the actual date entered in his dossier.  While he was a major general and waiting to be cleared for elevation to a three-star general he gave a written assurance that he would abide by the 1950 year and not to stake any claim for the year to be reckoned as 1951. Having once forwarded such an undertaking and gained promotion to a higher rank, would it be open for him to demand that 1951 be accepted as the year of his birth?  There are numerous allegations and counter allegations. It has been asserted that V K Singh was pressured to submit an undertaking to avoid withholding the process of the entire selection board.  Some believe that the case was put on the fast track by engineering a query under the Right to Information Act enquiring about the dates of birth of all army commanders and above. Certain members of political parties are reported to have met the prime minister to plead the army chief’s case. The outcome is not known.  Army headquarters took the unusual course of seeking the opinion of three former Chief Justices. They ruled in favour of the army chief. Perhaps they were approached without the government’s concurrence. If so, such a precedent may have dangerous consequences. Any soldier, say, a person convicted by a court martial, may obtain and forward comments and recommendations of former judges or law officers to demand a reversal of valid and bonafide decisions.  The matter is being projected by a few as a civil-military conflict. This view appears to overlook the fact that the matter was handled by three successive military secretaries starting with General Richard Khare. If the army did not agree to accept 1951 as year of birth, would the fault lie with the ministry of defence?  A plea to treat 1950 as the army chief’s year of birth will be a setback for the army’s cleansing drive. Can a senior commander be allowed to use his headquarters to pursue his personal case against the higher authorities? Should a general be retained to serve as a chief if he has any complaint against the government?  The army chief has risen to the very top position in the army, which is administered by well-regulated orders and rules. It is ironic that having attained the senior-most position he has now chosen to project his grievances against the system.  A statutory complaint in the shape of an alternate remedy has to be first submitted before approaching a court of law seeking judicial remedy. Any delay in disposing of the complaint or an unfavourable decision may lead to the matter being taken to Armed Forces Tribunal and further acrimony.


Ajai Shukla Military Analyst and Former Army Officer  By insisting on his rights, the army chief has embodied popular disenchantment against the MoD

It would be naïve to believe that the controversy about when the Army Chief, General V K Singh, was born (and, therefore, when he should retire) is simply about a date of birth. Singh has provided his boss, Defence Minister A K Antony, cast-iron evidence to prove that he was born on May 10, 1951. This includes 15 categories of documents including his birth certificate from an army hospital; his matriculation certificate; four decades of service documents; promotion and medical records; and a range of civilian documents including his passport, PAN card; and driving and gun licences.  Nor is the argument sustainable that Singh should have changed his date of birth within two years of being commissioned, which is all that ministry of defence rules permit. The Army List of 1974-75, which is the key army document that records his date of birth as 1950, was only published four or five years after Singh became an officer. Besides, he insists he is not seeking to “correct” his date of birth. The Adjutant General’s Branch, the prime authority that maintains officers’ personal records, has always recorded the correct birth year of 1951. Singh demands only that his birth year be “reconciled” with this lawful authority.  Since the documentary record is so clear that Singh was born in 1951, why is this controversy snowballing into a corrosive civil-military face-off? The answer is that Antony has taken a position on this case and fears that withdrawal would result in a serious loss of political face. A weakened UPA wants to look decisive after a series of political mistakes: Telangana and the Jagan Mohan Reddy crisis in Andhra; the 2G scam; and the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation. Dizzy from opposition pummelling, the UPA fervently hopes (the same mistake that it made with Reddy and Hazare) that a resolute rebuff will cause Singh to back off. But, typically, the government misjudges the doggedness of its army chief.  Singh’s determination to defend his honour (he is indignant at being painted a liar) is fortified by the manipulative argument that the MoD has put out through media leaks. This insinuates that Singh has already been elevated to the pinnacle; by clinging on longer he is tarnishing the army’s image. But this is chicanery. Singh reached the top through merit, not government endowment; and the vast majority of his officers back him as he faces up to a capricious MoD that seeks to humiliate their chief.  India’s soldier community, both serving and retired, overwhelmingly believes that the military is ill used by the babus and dhoti-wallas, their mocking reference to the political-bureaucratic establishment. They believe that the government has misused the unexceptionable principle of civilian control to encroach on turf that is acknowledged worldwide, even in the most liberal democracies, as the preserve of the military. Many ask why their generals meekly accept even improper instructions from the civilian government (as in 1962). There is a wellspring of resentment at the way generations of generals have bartered away service interests in exchange for post-retirement office. In contrast there is admiration for V K Singh. He could have arranged a happy sinecure, perhaps in some Raj Bhavan, in exchange for a quiet exit. Instead, by insisting on his rights, he has embodied popular disenchantment against the MoD.  Most people would have preferred the chief to make his stand on something relating to equipment procurement or strategic planning, where the MoD has demonstrably failed its soldiers, sailors and airmen. That would have spared him barbs about self-interest. Nevertheless, it is in our democracy’s long-term interest to question the assumption that – just as Nehru tamed General Thimayya; and Vajpayee sacked Admiral Bhagwat – the government can ram any decision, howsoever perverse, down any military chief’s throat.  Legal advisors on both sides – the MoD’s as well as the army chief’s – insist (as lawyers are prone to doing!) that their client has an unshakable legal case. But both sides must realise that there will be no winners in a fight to the finish. The ball is in the MoD’s court; if Antony is as wise as is rumoured he will cut a deal with General V K Singh, salvaging the government’s long-term relationship with its widely-respected military.


Ambala: Army jawan refuses to cut braid citing religious freedom

A junior commissioned officer (JCO) of the Indian Army, posted in Ambala, has stirred a hornet's nest by refusing to cut-off his choti (braid) when ordered recently.   Citing right to religious freedom, Subedar S.P. Shukla, who has put in 28 years of service with a spotless record, declined to follow the orders issued to him.   The army sees Shukla's carefully nurtured choti as a violation of rules prohibiting display of religion. He is now pitted against age-old army traditions to honour, what he calls, his religious freedom.   "On August 15, Major General Alok Dev saw me with the shikha (braid) and directed that I should be asked to remove it. I cannot do so. This is against my religious freedom and is my constitutional right. I replied back very politely to him in a letter that I request that an advice be taken from experts on this," Subedar Shukla told Headlines Today.   He wrote a detailed letter to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 40 Artillery Division giving out his reasons for sporting the braid.   "I am a disciplined soldier and I do not want anything wrong to happen with the army. But I want a decision on this issue so that everyone benefits from it," he insisted.   Despite the stand-off, the army has not initiated any action against Shukla for now even though he has refused to follow a direct order.





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