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Friday, 11 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 11 Nov 2011





Manmohan, Gilani to write a new chapter After one-hour meeting, PMs walk out cheerily; hope second round of talks will be more productive

aj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief, in Maldives  Addu, November 10 For a relationship that is full of tumult, turbulence and twists, the setting for the latest summit between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani stood out for its placidity. The meeting was held in a thatched-roof conference suite at the Shangrila resort on the Addu atoll in the Maldives, that afforded a magnificent view of the palm fringed beach and the soothing sound of sea waves gently lapping against the glistening white sands.  Neither of the two leaders appeared dressed for the locale. Instead of bush-shirt and slacks, the two leaders were dressed in formals — Manmohan Singh in a bandgalla with a sky-blue turban that matched the colour of the sea nearby and Gilani with a smart dark suit and a spring green tie.  The Foreign Ministers of the two countries, SM Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar, known for their sartorial style, appeared overdressed too. Rabbani wore a maroon salwar kameez and carried a bright red bag that may have made eyes turn on Oxford Street. But on a beach resort, please!  As the summit began, Gilani turned to Krishna and with a smile asked, “I hope you find our foreign minister more amiable than her predecessor.” The air of bonhomie prevailed even after the delegates, including the two foreign ministers, were shooed out by the two leaders as they sat down for a one-on-one meeting that lasted for half an hour. This was Manmohan Singh and Gilani’s second meeting in 2011, the first being at Mohali during the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup clash in March.  That they had built a good rapport was evident as they walked out cheerily after their discussions to address the waiting media. Flanked by the two foreign ministers, they described the relationship as moving “in a positive direction”. Gilani, who was the first to speak, promised that “the next round of talks would be more constructive, more positive, and will open a new chapter in the history of both the countries.”  Manmohan Singh looked assured and, rather than reading from a prepared text as he usually does, spoke extempore and with gravitas. He began by saying, “I have always regarded Prime Minister Gilani as a man of peace. Every time I have met him in the last three years, this belief has been further strengthened.” Gilani looked pleased as Punch.  Like Gilani, the Indian Prime Minister also referred to opening “a new chapter in the history of the relationship between the two countries”.  Manmohan Singh then set the agenda for the next round of talks stating that, “It should be far more productive, far more result-oriented in bringing the two countries closer to each other than ever before.”  The two Prime Ministers appear to have learnt their lessons from the past well as they spoke with restraint and responsibility that made the dialogue process they had begun convincing. After the 26/11 attacks in 2008, India snapped formal talks with Pakistan. It was only at the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh in July 2009 where the two met on the sidelines of the NAM summit that Manmohan Singh decided to take the big leap forward by agreeing to resume the dialogue process.  But the controversial joint statement with an unnecessary reference to India willing to discuss charges that it was involved in Baluchistan saw Manmohan Singh face massive domestic flak. Part of the reason was that Manmohan Singh, flush with success at the polls that saw him get a second term as Prime Minister, had not prepared the Indian public for such a reconciliation with Pakistan.  With the Indian public still angry over Pakistan’s complicity in the 26/11 attacks and its inaction against its perpetrators, the backlash saw Manmohan Singh lose a large amount of political capital. It was only at Thimphu in April 2010 where the two leaders met on the margins of another SAARC summit, did they agree to move forward again. But a meeting of the two Foreign Ministers, Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, to work out the process ended in a fiasco with both sides trading charges.  The process of conciliation was held up till February 2011 when the two foreign secretaries met on the sidelines of the SAARC ministerial conference at Thimphu. It was here that the two sides decided to adopt a more cautious “step-by-step” approach and the resumption of a “structured dialogue”.  Both sides agreed not to be sidetracked by nomenclature of the past, and decided to discuss all the eight outstanding issues: peace and security including confidence-building measures (CBMs), Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul navigation project, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation, and the promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields.  In recent months there has been a flurry of high-level meetings between the secretaries of home, commerce, defence and water resources of the two countries to narrow the differences. The major gains during the first round of the resumed dialogue has been Pakistan clearing “in principle” the Most Favoured Nation status for India to improve trade, measures to step up cross-LoC trade and CBMs and the setting up of a judicial commission to visit India to speed up the trial of the 26/11 perpetrators.  The Maldives meeting between Manmohan Singh and Gilani formally kicks off the second round in the current dialogue process. Both leaders have pragmatically observed the next round should be “far more productive.”  Foreign Minister SM Krishna told The Tribune that he expected the second round to work towards something “doable and tangible.” That is going to be the key if the dialogue process has to sustain.  From Thimphu to Addu there has been real progress that, if pursued, could lead to a new chapter in the relationship that the two leaders referred too. If the next round consolidates the process, then it may culminate in Manmohan Singh paying the long awaited visit to Pakistan - his first as Prime Minister. That would indeed be historic.


My govt has authority to revoke AFSPA: Omar

Srinagar, November 10 After his tough talk with the Army for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said his government had the authority to revoke the controversial law and sought a 'workable' solution from the Army.  "I have the authority. The elected state government of any state has the authority. In this case (revocation of AFSPA), the authority rests with the Governor who would act on the basis of the state government's recommendations," Omar said, renewing his bid for lifting the controversial Act.  Insisting that 'no' is not an option for him, the Chief Minister told reporters here that he had sought a "feasible and workable" solution from the Army at yesterday's Unified Command Headquarters (UHQ) meeting in Jammu.  Omar's move is facing stiff resistance from the Army. Voicing its apprehensions, the Army is understood to have cautioned that even a partial withdrawal will be detrimental to the security apparatus.  Omar said his case for partial revocation of AFSPA had been backed by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. "(It) is further cemented by what the Cabinet Committee on Security has said and also what the Union Home Minister has said in recent media interviews. So I don't think it is anybody's case, least of all the Army's, that the state government does not have the authority (to revoke AFSPA)," the Chief Minister said.  Omar said the winter months provided a "window" to the state government and armed forces to go ahead with the phased revocation of AFSPA. "Sooner the better, because winter is normally a phase where militancy is at a low and that obviously gives us a window to consolidate and reorient our deployments and to see how this phased withdrawal is working," he said.  About the UHQ meeting, Omar said he had demanded that the recommendations compiled by the Army's two committees, headed separately by General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps and General Officer Commanding of Nagrota-based 16 Corps, should be made available.  "I have said (in a meeting with the Army) ‘no’ is not an option. So other than ‘no’ as an option, you give me other options that are feasible and workable and that is what I want those committees to examine," Omar said.  The CM said the Army had given a detailed presentation at the UHQ meeting yesterday and had expressed their point of view. "They wanted further discussions with me. I have instructed that since the two committees have already been set up to finalise the recommendations, I would rather (want) those committees make their recommendations known before further discussions," he said. — PTI


Aircraft-carrier launch delayed by few weeks

Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 10 India’s poor record in meeting deadlines of defence projects has now hit the prestigious sea-borne aircraft carrier which is under construction at the Defence Ministry-owned Cochin shipyard in Kerala.  Despite a laid-down schedule and strict vigil by Defence Minister AK Antony, the planned sea launch, slated for December, has been postponed.  There has been a delay in the amalgamation of some critical components on board the 40,000 tonne aircraft carrier, said sources, hence the slight delay. The launch would be delayed by a few weeks, said officials.  This is India’s first attempt at building a sea-borne aircraft carrier on its own. A modular construction pattern (block-building method) is being followed. Complete blocks are built off site and then fitted into place. This is said to be a faster method of construction and is followed by leading European shipyards.  During the monsoon session of Parliament, Defence Minister AK Antony, answering a query in the Lok Sabha, said that 75 per cent of hull work had been completed and the ship would be launched in December. Additional work will be undertaken after the warship has been commissioned.  One of the reasons for the delay is the final fitment of the four General Electric-supplied LM 2500 engines.  The building of a ship of this size is divided into seven phases: design, construction planning, work prior to keel laying, ship erection, launching, final outfitting and sea trials. The keel of the ship was laid in February 2009. The last two steps - final outfitting and sea trials - are carried out after the launch. As per the original schedule, the warship is to be handed over to the Indian Navy by the end of 2013.  The Indian Navy has, in the past, operated two such aircraft carriers - the INS Vikrant and INS Viraat - but both had been imported. INS Viraat is still in service. Besides this, the Navy is expected to operate three aircraft carriers by 2015, which include Admiral Gorshkov being imported from Russia that is expected join the fleet next year and the one being built at Cochin.  After the sea launch, hundreds of km of wiring will be laid. A flight deck, capable of operating the Russian MiG-29K, Kamov-31 choppers and the indigenous naval light combat aircraft Tejas, will be laid. The vessel will have two take-off runways and landing will be done using arrester wires. It will have the capacity to carry a maximum of 30 aircraft with hangars to house these.  India’s neighbour China is aiming to induct three such carriers by 2015.


Indian warships guard Maldives

New Delhi, November 10 Acting on a request from Maldives, the Indian Navy has put in place a security ring deploying warships around the tiny Island nation, which is taking no chances with the security of assembled SAARC leaders.  India had put in place a similar security ring with three warships and helicopters during the 2008 SAARC summit in Colombo.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Yousuf Raza Gilani are among the seven visiting SAARC leaders who would be in Maldives for four days.  "At the request of Maldives, we have deployed our warships, including a Beas Class frigate, along with vessels of the Sri Lankan Navy around Maldives to provide security to the SAARC summit," Navy sources said here today.  Sources said the warships had been deployed there to counter any threat of terrorists using the sea route to target the summit venue.  However, they refused to divulge details about the number and type of warships deployed around the island nation, adding that the Indian Navy was not "in charge" of the security arrangements there. Two to three warships are believed to be in the area.  The Indian Navy has also been providing security to Maldives in its anti-piracy operations. India recently deployed a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft in Male and has been sending a warship or a naval plane to perform security roles for Maldives in the past two years. — PTI


AFSPA row: 'No is not an option' says Omar to Army   Read more at:

Srinagar:  The marathon meeting of the Unified Command in Srinagar on Wednesday has accentuated the communication gap between Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Army.  The Chief Minister today appeared defiant saying his government has the authority to revoke the controversial law. "I have the authority. The elected state government of any state has the authority. In this case (revocation of AFSPA), the authority rests with the Governor who would act on the basis of the state government's recommendations."  Insisting that 'no' is not an option for him, Mr Abdullah said  he had sought a "feasible and workable" solution from the Army at the Unified Headquarters meeting.  "(It) is further cemented by what the Cabinet Committee on Security has said and also what the Union Home Minister has said in recent media interviews. So I don't think it is anybody's case, least of all the army's, that the state government does not have the authority (to revoke the AFSPA)," the Chief Minister said.  While Mr Abdullah is bent on having is way, the Army has dug in its heels and said, withdrawal of the AFSPA from select areas is dangerous for the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.  The Army says in counter-insurgency operations  there are no isolated areas of stability. Pointing out that Pakistan's proxy war has not ended in Kashmir, the top brass argues that one peaceful summer is not enough to gauge normalcy  In New Delhi too, the divide is as sharp. While Home Minister P. Chidambaram is backing Omar Abdullah, other members of the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs like Defence Minister AK Antony and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee are advising  caution - a view supported by the Cabinet and Defence Secretaries after their recent trip to Kashmir.  But today Mr Abdullah received support from unexpected quarters. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Union Health Minister, said, "This is something which should be left to the chief minister of the state who is also the home minister of the state and to the home minister of India. Both of them are proper persons to know what's the situation. Why should we give an impression that nothing has changed in 20 years?"   Read more at:


India Presses Russians on Smerch Problems

NEW DELHI - India is pressing Russia about Smerch multibarrel rocket launchers (MRBLs) that Indian Army officials say have problems with their firing system. The Army is also having difficulties obtaining spare parts for the Russian-built weapons.  An Indian delegation raised the matters last month at a joint meeting in Moscow, Defence Ministry sources said. The outcome of the meeting was not known.

A Russian diplomat here said the firing system problems occur only in isolated cases, and noted that the Army had tested the weapons before bringing them into service.  The Indian Army needs more Smerches, despite the technical problem, an Army official said.  India bought the Smerch in 2005 and 2006. New Delhi asked for technology transfer, but Russia refused.  The Army relies heavily on the Smerch MRBLs, which can fire 12 rockets at once and hit targets out to 70 kilometers, along with the Russian-origin Grad 122mm rocket systems and indigenous Pinaka MRBL.  Its range can be extended to 90 kilometers, the Army official said. It can also launch surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, he added.


India sees us as competitor: Chinese army

Terming India’s proposal of “massive up-gradation” of defence infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border as “bold moves”, Beijing on Thursday said it implied that New Delhi was “starting to treat China as a de facto competitor”. Calling it India’s repositioning of its national security strategy, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it would be the largest such mobilisation since the Sino-Indian border clashes of 1962.  Reacting for the first time to reports of Indian defence infrastructure upgrade, the PLA daily said within five years, India looked set to 90,000 more soldiers and raise four new divisions along its borders with China.  The Chinese military daily also noted that India was in the final phase of choosing a new fighter for its air force. Referring to New Delhi’s decision in October to deploy BrahMos cruise missiles against China, the daily said this would be “the first time it has taken such a step with offensive tactical missiles”.


Army to train youth for recruitment into the armed forces.

Jammu, Nov 10 (PTI) Army today launched yet another initiative to train and guide eligible, aspiring and volunteer youth of border districts of Rajouri and Poonch for recruitment into the armed forces. Counter Insurgency Force (Romeo) launched the initiative for recruitment into the armed forces under the policy of 'Indian Army of the People, For the People, By the People', Officiating PRO (Defence) S N Acharya said here today. The aim of this training was to prepare, guide and train the youth under close supervision of qualified army instructors for recruitment rallies scheduled in near future, he said. As part of this initiative, Rashtriya Rifles Battalion carried out screening of eligible volunteer youth in the respective areas of responsibility, he said. Qualifying test was conducted on the first day to select potential candidates and finally 24 candidates were shortlisted, he said adding shortlisted and selected youth were put through systematic training with a view to ensuring that they qualify physical and written tests at army recruitment rallies and central Armed Police Forces.


Indian Army not happy with Omar

SRINAGAR: Talks between the government of Indian Occupied Kashmir and Indian Army over controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) have collapsed.  The Indian Army is against the removal of the Act and insisted it must stay. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is strongly pitching for removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) "in areas where the Army has not operated for years".  At the Unified Headquarters meeting called to review the overall security scenario and attended by top Army commanders, heads of various security forces and intelligence agencies, the CM said AFSPA had to be partially withdrawn from the state.  Omar is facing stiff resistance from the army for removing the Act from some parts.  "What is the problem in removing AFSPA from those areas where the Army has not worked for years? When did they (Army) work in Srinagar or Budgam the last time?" he asked.


Omar Abdullah lashes out at Indian army

Srinagar: Chief Minister of Indian controlled Kashmir Omar Abdullah has harshly criticised the Indian army for having special powers in the disputed valley.  He told reporters on Thursday that there had been a decrease in militancy in the region over the last few years. He said that he had asked the army to renounce special powers, which had been given under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. “I have asked army to tell me an answer other than no,” he said.  Abdullah said that they wanted to withdraw the special powers from the army at least in those areas where was no army deployment. We want to remove such powers, especially in Sopur, Kupwara and Baramulla.  On the other hand, the Indian army seems reluctant to give up its powers, seeking more expansion in the powers. It is to mention here that the army enjoys policing power under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.


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