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Monday, 14 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 14 Nov 2011

India, Pak prepare to test military might
* War games begin almost simultaneously * Tanks accompanied by fully equipped infantry troops, air elements to be used Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, November 13 Nuclear armed neighbours India and Pakistan are conducting almost simultaneous war games in their respective territories over the next few weeks. The two armies, which have gone to war four times - in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 - since Partition, will be separated by only a couple of hundred miles as they fine-tune their skills.  On both sides, it was expected that tanks will be used on the ground accompanied by fully equipped troops of the infantry besides air elements like attack choppers, fighter jets, UAVs and radars.  The Indian Army, aided by elements of the Indian Air Force, has already started what is termed as a ‘build-up’ to the major exercise named “Sudershan Shakti” being conducted in Rajasthan. This includes a series of manoeuvres involving a small number of troops culminating in the first week of December.  Pakistan will start its two-week joint exercise with China named ‘Youvi-IV’ on November 16, which, as per Islamabad’s own admission, is aimed at mutual exchange of experience and sharing of real-time information. The exercise will encompass techniques and procedures involved in low-intensity conflict operations. This will be conducted opposite India’s Barmer sector.  New Delhi and Islamabad have to inform each other whenever the armies close in on the borders for practice lest it should be wrongly construed as preparation for an attack. This protocol was worked out following the 1988 Operation Brasstacks when the entire western command of the Indian Army was deployed for an exercise. Gen K Sundarji was the then Army chief. Pakistan had raised a red flag and an understanding to inform each other was reached.  The Indian exercise will test the Army’s efficiency. In the last six months, this is the second full-scale exercise of the Indian Army to transform itself into a force aided by high-end technology. This is to ramp up the speed and accuracy of striking capabilities besides being aimed at provision of seamless integration with attack choppers and fighter jets of the IAF.  One of the key features of the transformation is real-time data and video sharing from inputs between tanks on the ground, IAF aircraft in the sky and advancing infantrymen. Commanders on the field and Generals sitting in war-rooms will be seeing the same live pictures as the entire battlefield will be connected seamlessly.  The data will be beamed across laptops using a mix of satellites and radio communication. All this will have very high encryption levels and is supposed to be very secure to prevent snooping.  In May this year, Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps had conducted an exercise “Vijayee Bhava” across an area of 2,400 square km in the deserts.  Incidentally, the transformation studies were ordered by Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh, when he was the GOC-in-C of the Eastern command. Gen Singh had also headed the 2 Strike Corps.  Sino-Pak drill      Pakistan will start its two-week joint exercise with China named ‘Youvi-IV’ on November 16     As per Islamabad’s own admission, it is aimed at mutual exchange of experience and sharing of real-time information     The exercise will encompass techniques and procedures involved in low-intensity conflict operations     The exercise will be conducted opposite India’s Barmer sector
Row over AFSPA Brinkmanship not in nation’s interest
JAMMU and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s move for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas of the state has led to a major but avoidable controversy. While his views have found support from Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Army has expressed its opposition very clearly. Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s stand is that only the Unified Command, headed by the Chief Minister, should take a decision on AFSPA. Without naming anybody, Mr Azad questioned the wisdom of Congress state unit chief Saifuddin Soz in opposing the “unilateral” announcement of the Chief Minister. The divergent views of Congress leaders indicate that the party’s central and state units have different perceptions of AFSPA. This is understable, but the issue is too sensitive and certainly it should not be politicised. The best course under the circumstances is to evolve a political consensus, as suggested by Mr Azad.  However, the differing views of politicians on the subject are not as disturbing as is the fact that the state government and the armed forces are in opposite camps. The Army in particular believes that AFSPA’s withdrawal from any part of the state will weaken the drive against militancy. The Army wants the Act to remain effective all over Jammu and Kashmir irrespective of the improvement in the situation in some parts of the state. It does not see merit in the Chief Minister’s stand that winter is the right time for going ahead with the pullout plan because infiltration from across the Line of Control declines substantially during this period.  Mr Omar Abdullah and officers of the Army appear to be indulging in brinkmanship, which cannot be in the nation’s long-term interest. While the Chief Minister should have avoided taking a strong stand that “no” is not an option, the armed forces also should not show rigidity in expressing their view. The ideal thing is that the forces should put across their opinion and leave the rest to the political leadership. It is true that it is the armed forces involved in anti-insurgency operations which have to show results at the ground level. But in a democracy they have to go by what the political leadership decides. This is how the nation’s interest can be effectively protected.
Omar lobbies for removal of AFSPA
Meets Defence Minister Antony in Delhi; likely to call on PM today Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 13 A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the process of objectively reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir had not been completed, Defence Minister AK Antony and state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today discussed the issue in the National Capital.  The meeting assumed significance in view of Omar Abdullah’s growing impatience over lack of consensus on withdrawal of the controversial Act from select areas in the state.  Omar had virtually announced last month that the Act would be withdrawn ‘soon’. He later held that it was his ‘intention’ and not ‘decision’. But last week in Jammu, the Chief Minister reiterated that his government had the authority to take the controversial decision.  Defence Ministry spokesmen remained tight-lipped on the deliberations today but made no secret of their stand that a public debate on the sensitive subject was not desirable. The J&K Chief Minister is likely to call on the Prime Minister on Monday.  At today’s meeting, Antony is learnt to have told Omar that various possibilities and options had to be kept in mind, including a realistic assessment of the situation in the state, especially volatile conditions across the Line of Control (LoC).  “The dynamics have changed in the past 12 months due to the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and militants making attempts at infiltrating across the LoC,” said sources while explaining what the Army thought about the matter.  The J&K Cabinet is slated to meet on November 17 where the issue of withdrawal of AFSPA could be on the agenda. A couple of days ago, Omar had asserted that he had the power to decide on the issue and the state Cabinet could recommend its withdrawal.  The view of the forces is that re-imposition of AFSPA would be next to impossible in case things take a turn for the worse. They instead favour a reduction in the ‘visibility’ of the forces. The Army has already voiced its apprehension that in case AFSPA is withdrawn from parts of the Kashmir Valley, convoys carrying supplies and equipment to the Kargil-Drass-Siachen areas could come under militant attack.  Two days ago, Defence Minister AK Antony had made it clear that there cannot be a public debate on the matter. Antony’s statement is being seen as a hint to Omar Abdullah to refrain from making statements on the subject in public.  Today, Antony and Omar met at the Defence Minister’s official residence. Antony has already made it clear that the Unified Command headed by Omar, with the northern Army Commander as one of its members, was empowered to take a decision on the demand for the withdrawal of AFSPA.  It implies that the view of the Army cannot be rejected by the Unified Command, which is a consultative body. No decision is taken without a general consensus in the Unified Command and in this case, there is no consensus.  Sources said the Defence Ministry has held consultations with the Home Ministry on AFSPA as security of the state is largely dealt with by the Army and not by the para-military forces which are under the Home Ministry.
Prakash Karat demands revocation of AFSPA across India
New Delhi, Nov. 13 (ANI): Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat on Sunday demanded the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) across India.    "Firstly, we want the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) abolished, not only in Jammu and Kashmir, but also in Manipur and other states where it is enforced.
Also, the provisions of this law are an assault on the fundamental rights of the citizens of our country," he said.    Karat said that conditions in Kashmir were conducive for the Act to be lifted from at least those areas where there was no militancy.    "The government had promised that the law would be reviewed. This was discussed in an all-party meeting, Parliamentary party delegations also went (to Jammu and Kashmir). Our interior minister had also said that there would be a review," said Karat.    "One year on, there is scope of lifting the AFSPA from many areas where the armed forces are not deployed, and where there is no militant violence today. In order to remove the AFSPA from those areas, their proclamation as 'disturbed' areas should be done away with," he added.    Defence Minister A K Antony had on Friday said the Unified Command would take a decision on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain regions of Jammu and Kashmir.    Speaking on the sidelines of the foundation day function of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) here, Antony said: "This is a very sensitive matter, and as far as our ministry is concerned, we have already conveyed our view to the government. And after the discussions last year, 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 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas."    "So, as far as we are concerned, we have left it to the Unified Command in Kashmir to decide," he added.    Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had earlier on Thursday 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 will take a look at it," Omar told mediapersons in Srinagar.    Asserting that the Jammu and Kashmir Government hoped to phase out this law during this winter season, Omar said: "Well obviously, the sooner the better, because winter is normally a phase where militancy is at a low and that obviously gives us a window to consolidate, to reorient our deployments and to see how this phased withdrawal is working."    "So obviously, I would like as much of the winter months available to me. Whatever redeployments, whatever reorientation needs to take place that will happen," he added. (ANI)
Indian soldiers and connection
New Delhi: Every year, at 11.11 hours Nov 11, an Indian Army team is in Ypres, Belgium, to observe the anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I.  This Friday too, a team joined the military pageantry and the ceremonies in memory of the Indian men who laid down their lives in the battlefields of Flanders.  "Indian military leaders and soldiers participate every year in the ceremonial Last Post sounded at the Menin Gate at 11.11 hours in November each year, at the invitation of a Belgian composer and conductor called Hans Vermeersch, who is married to an Indian and runs the unique Rajhans Orchestra of Flanders at the coastal Belgian town of Knokke," a source said.  The Indian Army delegation was led by Additional Director General (Ceremonials and Welfare) Maj Gen K Majumdar; Director (Ceremonials and Welfare), Col BS Pundhir; Indian defence attache in Paris Brigadier Pankaj Arora; and Superintendent in the Military Wing at Paris K.S. Dadwal, according to sources.  Since 2002, Vermeersch hosts a pair of Indian Bagpipers from an Indian Army regiment, which fought in Flanders Fields between 1914 and 1918, and conducts a public concert in Belgium or France dedicated to the Indian soldiers of Flanders Fields, they added.  The Indian Army bagpipers at the event Friday were Havildar Yogender Kumar and Lance Naik Ranbir Singh from the Rajputana Rifles.  Over a million Indian soldiers had fought for the British Army in Europe and other theatres of that war and more than 57,000 Indian soldiers perished in the battlefields of Flanders.  The number of Indian soldier casualties was more than even what the Belgian Army suffered.  To mark the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers, the Belgian government and the people have erected a memorial at the Menin Gate in Ypres, the central town of the Flanders battlefield, through which Indian soldiers marched into battle after the long train ride from Marseilles in France between 1914 and 1918.  The memorial for the Indian heroes came up through assistance from the Indian government, Ypres municipality and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2001, and wreaths are laid by international and Indian officials there every year since.  United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi too had laid a wreath at the memorial during her visit to Belgium in 2006.

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