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Saturday, 12 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 12 Nov 2011

Unified Command in J&K will decide on AFSPA: Antony
ribune News Service  New Delhi, November 11 Defence Minister AK Antony today backed the Army’s stand on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir. He made it clear that the unified command in Jammu and Kashmir would decide which areas can be removed from under the purview of the AFSPA.  Antony, the seasoned politician that he is, also made it clear that there cannot be public debate on the matter. In a way, it is being seen as a hint to J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and also to the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to avoid making statements in public on the matter.  The Defence Minister said the unified command would take a decision on the revocation of the controversial anti-militancy law.  Incidentally, the J&K Chief Minister heads the unified command that has senior Army officers on it.  Speaking on the sidelines of the foundation day function of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), Antony, replying to queries, said, "This is a very sensitive matter. As far as our ministry is concerned, we have already conveyed our view to the government.”  Antony added that it was after the discussions last year that the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) took a decision to leave it the unified command in Kashmir to take a decision on this question of partial withdrawal of AFSPA from certain areas.  Yesterday, Omar Abdullah had said that he would not take "no" for an answer from the Indian Army.  On China, Antony said India and China would finalise a new border management mechanism to resolve boundary issues by the end of the year. “Both governments have taken a decision to establish a new border management mechanism. Arrangements are over and by the end of this year, we will officially finalise it,” Antony said.  The new mechanism will help in resolving occasional problems faced on the border. The two nations have signed border agreements on methods of maintaining peace.  The mechanism will help in ensuring immediate contact between the two sides in case of a perceived transgression or intrusion on the boundary before such an incident creates a bigger issue.  On awarding a multi-billion dollar 126 fighter aircraft deal, Antony said there would be no political consideration. Two companies, including European Eurofighter and French Dassault Rafale, are now left in the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender and their commercial bids were opened on November 4 by the ministry.  The minister was asked if the Defence Ministry would take into account geo-political considerations before deciding on the winner of the mega deal.
India ‘jigri dost’, Pak twin brother: Karzai
Addu, November 11 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is understood to have discussed with him the regional situation, particularly in the war-torn country.  The two leaders held talks on the sidelines of the eight-nation SAARC Summit here. Manmohan Singh and Karzai are understood to have reviewed bilateral relations. The security situation in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, is also said to have figured in the talks.  Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister met his Nepalese counterpart Baburam Bhattarai.  After his meeting with Manmohan Singh, Karzai said India was the first country with which Afghanistan had signed a strategic partnership, signifying a "very positive" relationship.  Lauding India's generous developmental assistance to Afghanistan, he told private Indian channels that Afghan people were very grateful for that. He said India was a "jigri dost" (close friend) while Pakistan was a twin brother of Afghanistan.  "The India-Afghanistan partnership is very important for the two countries and also for the region... I hope we will work on creating a better environment for cooperation in the region, especially between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India," Karzai told channels. — PTI
India-China defence dialogue set to resume
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 11 India and China may resume their annual defence dialogue in January 2012. The last round was conducted two years ago in Beijing and ever since, there have been several reasons for India to avoid China.  A Chinese army delegation concluded its seven-day visit to India on Tuesday laying the groundwork for the forthcoming dialogue. This visit comes in the backdrop of the forthcoming 15th round of boundary talks between special representatives appointed by New Delhi and Beijing.  This was the second exchange at the level of the two militaries since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.  The visit of the Chinese army delegation comes after India sent its military team led by a Major General in June.  New Delhi had suspended military exchanges with China in August 2010 after it refused to grant permission to a senior Indian Army Commander to proceed on an official trip to Beijing.  When the two military delegations meet for the annual defence dialogue in January, several key issues, including resumption of hand-in-hand bilateral army exercise between the two nations, will come up. The Indian Army’s calendar for exercises with foreign armies during 2012, so far, does not include China.
Visible signs of bonhomie Indo-Pak ties face the litmus test
There can be little doubt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken a calculated risk by holding out an olive branch to his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at a meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian summit in the Maldives. Much as India may deny (so as to keep the hawks at bay) that the agreement to revive the stalled joint commission, to liberalise the visa regime and to dismantle excessive trade barriers amount to a tangible headway in the “composite dialogue”, there is an element of pragmatism and realism in going ahead with normalisation despite some of the major irritants persisting. Mr Gilani, too, has been pragmatic in moving beyond the perennial bones of contention. While Dr Singh has risked the censure of the Indian opposition by calling Mr Gilani a “man of peace” at a time when cross-border terror has far from abated, Mr Gilani has assured the Indian Prime Minister that it would conclude the trial of seven 26/11 accused on its soil soon. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik added his bit when he affirmed that the lone surviving assassin in the November 26, 2008, Mumbai carnage, Ajmal Kasab, should be sent to the gallows.  At a time when much of the world is benefiting from geographical divisions into trading blocs, the biggest thrust in the Manmohan-Gilani meeting has come from Pakistan declaring on the eve of the summit that it would grant India Most Favoured Nation treatment and India going a step beyond and declaring its intent to give “preferential trade” status to Islamabad.  This is not to say that the serious differences that persist would necessarily not erode the new-found bonhomie if rhetoric is not backed by work on the ground. With elections round the corner in five states, Prime Minister Singh can hardly afford Pakistan’s dragging of feet in dealing with the perpetrators of terror. Home Minister Chidambaram has complained time and again about Pakistan’s inaction against the 26/11 masterminds and the slow pace of the trial on its soil. Islamabad has also turned a deaf ear to India’s demand for voice samples of the perpetrators of terror. The Gilani government will have to deliver on these sooner than later. Besides, whether the Pakistan army which holds the key to how much its government delivers would cooperate in the process is still a factor that begs an answer.
Strategic encirclement by China Looking East to counter it
by Gurmeet Kanwal  China views India as a future challenger for supremacy in Asia and has been engaged in the strategic encirclement of India through its proxies like Pakistan along our land borders and its “string of pearls strategy” in the northern Indian Ocean region. However, till very recently India had not taken recourse to proactive measures to develop counter- leverages of its own. This is now changing gradually as India has begun to reach out to its friends in Southeast Asia and further east along the Asia-Pacific rim as part of a carefully thought through strategy to develop some pressure points.  The first step in the new “Look East” policy is to propel India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam to a higher trajectory. One month after China objected to oil exploration by India in the South China Sea under a contract awarded to the Indian state-owned company ONGC Videsh Ltd by the Vietnamese and three months after the Chinese Navy warned Indian Naval ship Airawat, which was sailing in international waters between the Vietnamese ports of Nha Trang and Hai Phong, to leave Chinese waters - a warning that INS Airawat ignored --- India and Vietnam signed an agreement on energy cooperation during the visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to New Delhi. The two countries also decided to pursue a regular security dialogue.  Visibly incensed, China’s state-controlled media responded angrily. The Global Times warned that prospecting for oil in China-claimed waters would “push China to the limits”. The relatively more moderate People’s Daily also did not mince words: “… China should denounce this agreement as illegal. Once India and Vietnam initiate their exploration, China can send non-military forces to disturb their work, and cause dispute or friction to halt the two countries' exploration.” The China Energy News said, “India is playing with fire by agreeing to explore for oil with Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea… its energy strategy is slipping into an extremely dangerous whirlpool.”  Chinese analysts are perhaps unaware that the ONGC’s association with Vietnam for oil and gas exploration goes back 23 years. For the time being India has chosen to ignore Chinese warnings and continue its activities in accordance with the contract signed by ONGC Videsh with Vietnam.  Defence cooperation between India and Vietnam is being gradually stepped up. Recent news reports have suggested that India is considering the sale of the non-nuclear BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to Vietnam. A case can be made out for the transfer of obsolescent SRBMs like the Prithvi missiles to Vietnam as these are likely to be removed soon from the Indian arsenal. Some Indian analysts have gone to the extent of saying that India should project Vietnam as “India’s Pakistan” in its quest to develop leverages against China as Vietnam offers India an entry point through which it can “penetrate China’s periphery.” Others have suggested the supply of military hardware at “friendship prices” and the provision of advanced combat training facilities in India, especially for Vietnamese fighter pilots.  Another nation on China’s periphery that India has begun to engage pro-actively is Myanmar. India’s relations with Myanmar, a devoutly Buddhist country, have been traditionally close and friendly. India’s national interest lies in a strong and stable Myanmar that observes strict neutrality between India and China. For India, Myanmar is a bridge between the countries comprising the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC for short, (Myanmar has an observer status at SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). President Thein Sein of Myanmar visited India in October to further cement the growing relationship.  China has made rapid advances into Myanmar and established close political, military and economic relations. China is engaged in exploiting Myanmar’s oil and gas reserves, is building a 1,100-km overland pipeline from Kyaukryu port in Myanmar to the border city of Ruili in Yunnan and is developing Sittwe as a commercial port on Myanmar’s west coast. It is natural that Chinese naval activity in the Bay of Bengal will soon follow. China has also been stepping up arms sales to Myanmar as other nations, including India, are loathe to sell offensive military hardware to that country.  The key drivers of the India-Myanmar strategic relationship are cooperation in counter-insurgency operations and the need for India to ensure that Myanmar is not driven into Chinese arms through neglect of its security concerns and arms requirements. Indian insurgent groups (NSCN, ULFA and Manipur rebels among others) have been operating out of their bases in the weakly controlled areas across the borders of Manipur and Mizoram and Myanmarese rebels, primarily the Chins and the Arakanese, have often taken shelter on the Indian side. The two armies have been cooperating with each other for mutual benefit.  India-Myanmar cooperation is also essential to control narcotics trafficking and to curb the proliferation of small arms in the region. India and the other regional powers can play a positive role in the re-entry of Myanmar into the international mainstream so that it can be nudged towards becoming a strong and stable democracy.  India is also developing a low-key security relationship with Japan and South Korea. During Defence Minister A. K. Antony’s recent visit, Japan agreed to join India for the first bilateral naval and air force exercise in 2012. Significantly, stepping up defence cooperation, the two countries agreed to deal with maritime security issues, including anti-piracy measures, freedom of navigation and maintaining the security of the Sea Lanes of Communication to facilitate unhindered trade bilaterally as well as multilaterally with regional neighbours. The Japan-India Defence Policy Dialogue will be held in Tokyo in early 2012. This will be followed by staff-level talks between the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force and the Indian Army, and staff exchanges between the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force and the Indian Air Force.  As India begins to flex its maritime muscles and reach out to its East Asian and Southeast Asian neighbours, the geopolitical implications of enhanced strategic cooperation will not be lost on China. The footprints of the navies and the merchant fleets of India and China will increasingly criss-cross in future and there is need for a serious dialogue to avoid clashes. Both nations need to exhibit maturity and balance in their responses to the emerging challenges.n
Don't politicize AFSPA issue in Kashmir: Azad
Jammu, Nov 11 (ANI): Speaking on the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)' from Jammu and Kashmir, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has said there is no need to politicise the controversial issue.    "This should be left to the State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Union Home Minister P.
Chidambaram, and it is for them (to decide) who to consult and who not to consult. I don't think that there should be any controversy, and this should not be politicised," he told the media here.    Azad further said that a public debate on the issue should be avoided since it was a critical matter related to the country's defence.    "A big controversy is being made out of it. I can only say that there should not be any controversy on the issue. We should not politicise these issues and we should not try to take political advantage out of it," he added.    Earlier, Omar Abdullah reiterated his demand for withdrawal of the AFSPA from peaceful areas of the state, and said that he would not take 'no' for an answer from the Indian Army.    "I have said that 'no' is not an option I am willing to consider, 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 and then I'll take a look at it," he said.    In his effort to draw some conclusion for the removal of this law, Abdullah said that he had instructed the two committees to give its recommendations on the issue, so that he could debate the issue with the Indian army.    "I have instructed that since two committees have already been set up to finalise their recommendations, I would rather those committees make there recommendations known before I have any further discussions with them (Indian Army), on this," said Omar.    The Jammu and Kashmir Government had earlier hinted to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from some areas in the state. (ANI)
Indian Army's howitzer procurement plans run into rough weather
NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Army's plans to procure ultra-light howitzers for deployment along Sino-Indian border have run into rough weather and is expected to further delay its artillery modernisation programmme.  After the 1987 Bofors gun deal controversy, army has not been able to induct even a single piece of artillery.  Defence Ministry sources today said the process of procuring the M-777 guns from US-based BAE system has run into trouble. "Right now there is no progress in their procurement process," they said.  The procurement of these guns hit the roadblock soon after their trials in Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan earlier this year after the leakage of the field trial reports, the sources said.  As per Army's artillery modernisation programme, the procurement of 145 artillery guns was expected to begin by the end of this year.  After certain objections from rival companies, the file regarding these guns were sent to the Law Ministry for its opinion, they said, adding that these guns are to be procured from the US under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) routes.  Meanwhile, the procurement process for 155-mm, 52-caliber self-propelled wheeled howitzer guns has entered its final stages of technical evaluations with the completion of its field trials.  Rhinemetall from Germany and Konstrukta from Slovakia are in the race to supply 180 of these guns to the army.  The sources said the Defence Ministry has formed a committee to look into "certain issues" related to the howitzers offered by the two companies.  They said that by the end of this fiscal, one of these contracts for upgradation of artillery would be completed with the procurement process beginning soon after that.  In January 2008, the Ministry had issued global tenders for procuring artillery guns and howitzers for the mountains and plains, and self-propelled guns for deserts.
Of valour and quest in Indian army   Read more at:
The Indian Army is the largest voluntary army and, next to China, the second largest army in the world. It is also a large conglomeration of values, experience, regimentation, customs, traditions, ethos and culture. When combined, it takes the shape of a multi-spectrum kaleidoscope, covering many centuries. Inspite of its large size and diverse regional cultures, it is a shining example of unity in diversity as also the strength of our nation.  As the nation celebrated its 65th Independence Dayon August 15, its men in olive green looked back at their achievements, with a deep sense of pride and satisfaction. These can be attributed to a glorious military history and "core values" of high significance. During the span of its rich history, thousands of soldiers have fought hundreds of battles, worldwide, many of epic dimensions. Recourse to arms was only taken when peace was threatened. In fact, the word 'peace' forms the very core of Indian philosophy, a benchmark. Coming to traditions, Indian soldiers hail from all regions, where tradition and chivalry play a vital role in society.  These are based on, both, historical cum religious events and legends, where heroic figures became role models. Iconic warriors like Arjuna, Ashoka, Tipu Sultan, Chhattrapati Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Tantia Tope, Rani of Jhansi, Ranjit Singh, Gulab Singh and Zorawar Singh, to name a few, have proved to be a great source of inspiration.  This forms the bedrock of our regimental traditions, and many regimental customs, battle cries, crests, badges and so on are based on such traditions even today. That apart, it is also a fact that the Indian Army has fought the maximum variety of opponents, worldwide, be they the Turks of the mighty Ottoman Empire, Germans, Italians, Japanese, foreign mercenaries operating alongside Belgian based Gendarmerie in Congo, armed tribals of the North West Frontier Province, the Chinese, Portuguese, Pakistanis, Somalis, Hutu rebels in Rwanda, various factions in Sri Lanka, foreign trained and armed terrorists in the States of Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.  Indian Army soldiers Indian Army soldiers As a corollary, bravery and valour are other related factors, which distinguish Indian soldiers worldwide. To cite a single example, during the two World Wars, next to the Royal British Army, Indian officers and soldiers earned the largest tally of Victoria Crosses, the highest award meted out for valour and bravery in battle-totalling 42.  All this could instill a sense of pride and awe even amongst the staunchest sceptics. Post independence, too, the Indian Army has risen to numerous operational challenges. These include four major wars fought along India's borders and many other localised conflicts: counter insurgency operations in the North Eastern States, the Kargil war of 1999 and the ongoing 'proxy war' in J&K.  It has also operated in different terrain, altitudes and weather conditions, such as the sub zero mountainous and glaciated region of Siachen, icy plateaus of North Sikkim, deserts of Rajasthan, salt marshes of Gujarat, riverine and dense jungle terrain of the North East, island territories of Andaman & Nicobar and the Lakshadweeps.  Such an exposure is rare for any army, that too, which is located in the unique Indian peninsula. True to traditions, Indian Army's various regiments and 'Scholar Warriors' have risen to the clarion call on each operational occasion, with alacrity and firmness.  The adroit handling of such challenges, give an insight into the raw guts, steel sinews and moral fibre of Indian Army personnel, irrespective of their regional ethnicity or regimental affiliation. It is a proven fact that when operating collectively, as part of formations, they imbibe a common credence, based on national values and fervor.  India has also been a champion of global peace, under the aegis of UN Peacekeeping. The Indian Army has participated, in an exemplary manner in UN Peacekeeping operations, in more than a dozen countries, spread across four continents.  Presently, with nearly 7,200 troops deployed in various mission areas abroad, India is ranked amongst the largest and most reliable troop contributing nation, towards this laudable UN cause. That apart, it has also conducted joint military training, in varied scenarios, on a number of occasions, including with armies of the USA, Russia and China, amongst many others.  The Indian Army is not just about soldiering. It has made inroads into a plethora of diverse fields as well, such as creating a secure environment for its nationals; ecological development and nation building; border guarding; internal security; providing quality aid and succor to victims of floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides and other natural or man made disasters and endurance based feats. Its varied experiences have helped it to attain all round excellence and gain tremendous confidence in itself, its leaders and the system per se.  In the field of sports and adventure activities, too, it has made great inroads. If its mountaineers have conquered some of the highest mountains time and again, often from difficult directions, its personnel have traversed the world in yachts, skied to the South Pole, conducted lengthy desert safaris, established new records in para sailing, hang gliding, free fall, motorcycle expeditions and white water rafting.  In international sports, too, it has created history by winning medals in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Asiad. All these achievements have been the result of sound planning based on a clear vision, sustained training, sheer guts, determination, camaraderie and esprit de corps.  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "Success often comes to those who dare and act. It seldom goes to the timid". Based on this adage, the Indian Army dedicates itself with renewed zest and vigour to attain greater heights, and to face new challenges, in diverse fields, in the years to come. Army is not just a noble profession; it is a way of life.   Read more at:

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