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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 22 Nov 2011

Indo-Pak deadlock broken There is no alternative to peace
by Kuldip Nayar  WE are back full circle to a proposal long familiar to the people in India and Pakistan: keep business separate from Kashmir. There was a time when Pakistan would refuse to have any trade with India until the Kashmir question was settled. New Delhi would say that it was not opposed to a solution of Kashmir, but the starting point should be business.  The meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Reza Gilani broke the deadlock and Pakistan did not underline Kashmir as the core problem. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Kher said after returning from the Maldives that Pakistan would “bend backwards” to be friendly with India.  This is a welcome development not only for the two countries but also for South Asia. Nothing in the region would move because the estrangement between India and Pakistan cast its shadow on any joint step forward. Islamabad should be complemented because it went away from its old beaten path.  Whatever Pakistan’s compulsions — the army is on board — it is a bold step which can lead to the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision not to link trade with punishment to the terrorists who are being tried in Pakistan for the attack on Mumbai three years ago is courageous at a time when his own stock is not high.  The Indian media is mostly critical and the hawks are even abusive. But they represent a minority which sees everything in Pakistan in a negative way. They do not want Pakistan to fall apart but they continue talking about punishing Islamabad. Their outlook tallies with that of India’s main Opposition party, the BJP. And left to both, the criticism of any breakthrough with Pakistan will be considered anti-national.  The Pakistan media may be a shade better. But it too does not rise from the parochial angle it has followed for decades. Nor are of any help the books still preaching that Hindus are enemies or incidents like the killing of four Hindu doctors in Sindh. Civil society there appears to have given up even the semblance of resistance. The murder of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the hands of fanatics has silenced even the boldest liberals, who are not realising that they are also a target.  The bureaucracy and the intelligence agencies on both sides do not see the development in the Maldives as an opportunity to shed the baggage of history of last six decades and start from a clean slate. I concede that all will not change at one sweep. Relations between India and Pakistan have to be evolved and tended carefully. The two governments will have to scale the mountains before they hit a sunny valley. It requires patience and perseverance.  India’s grievance of Pakistan not yet punishing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks is genuine. No explanation by Islamabad is convincing. Yet it has a point when it says that the evidence which India has provided is too weak to get a favourable verdict in the court. Now that Pakistan’s judicial committee is coming to India, it should be collecting as much evidence as it wants. The case must move forward.  Once it happens, doubts on this end would be assuaged to a large extent. And Dr Manmohan Singh is quite right when he says that another Mumbai may lead to unforeseen consequences. New Delhi will expect that Islamabad does not allow cross-border terrorism from its soil.  Yet I do not think that the case is the only hitch. Both countries do not have trust in each other and refuse to rely on the facts even when placed on the table. They are prey to a negative mindset and see to it that they stall the people’s desire to live as good neighbours. So long as terrorism is there, no argument against mistrust will work. A joint mechanism to eliminate terrorism was supposed to be set up a few months ago. But the proposal remains on paper. The mechanism when established should also visit the sites where terrorists are reportedly trained and armed.  When it comes to trade, New Delhi will have to ensure that there is a level-playing field for Pakistan. The balance of trade will be one indication. If Pakistan’s exports are too small compared to Indian exports, doubts may surface about New Delhi’s bona fides. True, the list of items would be prepared. But India can ask Pakistan which goods it can conveniently export to India so that there is no room for grievance or discrimination. Maybe, some of the tariff concessions New Delhi has offered to Dhaka can be extended to Islamabad.  India’s aim should be how to develop Pakistan economically so that it is not dependent on America or Saudi Arabia for assistance. This will ultimately stop foreign interference in the affairs concerning the region. Pakistan, on its part, should open the country to India’s investors. If they can buy large concerns in the UK or the US, they should be able to do so in Pakistan as well. There may be joint ventures between India and Pakistan. Economic ties in due course will become the sinews for friendship and then the gun will become superfluous.  It is understandable that the Pakistan government is under great pressure not to keep Kashmir apart. But there is no doubt that trade between the two countries will generate so much goodwill that a solution of Kashmir may become easy. After all, the governments on both sides did arrive at some understanding on Kashmir.  Once when Mr Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister in Pakistan, the coup by Gen Pervez Musharraf stalled the solution. The remark by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was: “We were almost there.” The second time when General Musharraf brokered a solution and was on the verge of inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for signing the agreement on Kashmir, the lawyers’ agitation changed the scenario.  I realise that it is difficult for both sides to rub off history. But there is no alternative to peace. They cannot change their geography and will have to accept each other as they are, not as they want them to be. If Germany and France could become friends after years of war, why can’t India and Pakistan?  My advice to civil society in Pakistan is that it should speak out in public. At present its criticism is confined to drawing rooms and it remains pathetically quiet even when it sees the truth being attacked. I have not seen a single voice of concern for the judge who sentenced the killer of Salman Taseer. The judge had to disappear after doing his duty because he knew that neither civil society nor the government would come to his rescue.
India lodges protest with US over map
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 21 India today objected to "gross inaccuracies" in its map on the US State Department website showing PoK as part of Pakistan following which it was taken off the portal. "The government is aware of the gross inaccuracies, in the map of India, on the US State Department website. The government has consistently rejected incorrect depiction of India's borders on maps used by the US government," the Ministry of External Affairs said here.  "It has used every opportunity to convey to the US side its concern in this regard, and has asked that these maps be corrected. This position was reiterated by a senior MEA official to the US Deputy Chief of Mission today.  Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai made it abundantly clear that "as far as the PoK issue is concerned, the maps will have to be corrected… This is an issue we have to continue to give important attention to".  In a damage-control exercise, the US Embassy spokesperson said, "The map of India that was used on the State Department (website) had inaccuracies but was not meant to represent the same precision and intricacies of professional or scientific map."  "Any inaccuracies associated with boundaries of either physical or geopolitical features were unintentional and we have removed this inaccurate map once it was brought to our attention," the spokesperson said.
Defence Ministry earns SC wrath for inaction
R Sedhuraman Legal Correspondent  New Delhi, November 21 The Supreme Court today reprimanded the Defence Ministry for not reviewing the 28 cases relating to alleged lapses in the purchases made for the 1999 Kargil operations jointly with senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appointed as amicus curiae to help the court in the case.  “We are not happy at all. You say something to the court but you are not doing it. Why didn’t you do the review the cases with the amicus,” a Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai asked Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran.  Dwivedi contended that the government had specifically asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to have a look at the defence procurements during the 1999 action, known as Operation Vijay. In its December 2001 report, the CAG indicted several Defence officials, but the government had not initiated any action. Not even the annual increment had been stopped for any official, he said.  The ASG, however, said the departmental inquiries conducted on the basis of the CAG report did not find any lapses that called for action.  The Bench was hearing two PILs on the alleged scam. The CAG had noted that nearly 75 per cent of the Rs 2,163 crore worth of supplies were received well after the cessation of hostilities and therefore no way supported the operations.  The departments concerned had refused to accord sanction to prosecute officials holding that preliminary inquiries had shown that there was no substance in 28 of the 35 cases mentioned in the CAG report. The case would be taken up again on November 28.
Pakistan Army expresses reservations over MFN status to India: Reports   Read more at:
Islamabad:  The Pakistan Army has expressed its reservations over the civilian government's move to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and conveyed its concern to the administration at the highest level, the BBC's Urdu service reported on Monday.  A senior official privy to the army's interaction with the government on the issue told the BBC that military leaders had said the new contacts with India should be viewed in the context of the situation in Afghanistan.  "Military officials are of the opinion that MFN status for India is not in line with Pakistan's security policy in Afghanistan," the official was quoted as saying.  Military officials had advised the political leadership not to act in haste in trade relations with India, the BBC quoted its sources as saying.  The powerful military establishment, which guides Islamabad's defence and foreign affairs, believes Pakistan and India would be in competition for trading opportunities after the US withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, the report said.  Pakistan's cabinet recently approved a proposal to normalise trade relations with India.  Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other leaders have said the move will ultimately lead to the giving of MFN status to India.  Hardline religious and extremist groups, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawah, have opposed the move to give MFN-status to India and organised protests on the issue.   Read more at:
Bangladesh army chief to review NDA parade of 121st course on November 29
PUNE: Bangladesh's chief of army staff General Mohammed Abdul Mubeen will review the passing out parade (PoP) of the 121st course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla near here on November 29.  General Mubeen's visit holds significance for the NDA as it will be only the third instance of a visiting foreign dignitary to review the premier tri-services defence training academy's PoP. The visit also comes close on the heels of Indian army chief Gen V K Singh's five-day tour of Bangladesh in June.  The NDA was formally established in January 1955 as a premier institution for training young cadets in the three wings of defence, ie. army, navy and air force, while they simultaneously pursue academic degrees, which are presented by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).  After a three-year stint at the NDA, the cadets go to the respective officers' training academy for army, navy and air force for advanced courses and subsequent commissioning into the armed forces as officers.  In all, 318 cadets including 16 foreign cadets from friendly foreign countries like Bhutan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Maldives, among others, will pass out from the 121st course. These cadets had joined the academy during the autumn session on December 28, 2008.  Speaking to reporters on Monday, NDA commandant Lt Gen Jatinder Singh said, "The Bangladeshi army chief's visit is a good thing to happen to the academy. There is always an element of reciprocity in such visits in context of the bilateral relations between the two countries."  Of the 16 foreign cadets to pass out this year, 10 are from Afghanistan, four are from the Maldives and one each from Bhutan and Tajikistan.  Asked whether the academy had any plans to increase the number of foreign cadets from friendly nations for training, Singh said that it was for the governments concerned to take a call on these issues depending on various considerations, including academics and the need for military knowhow.  Of the 318 passing out cadets, 215 (including the 16 foreign cadets) have been training in the army while 62 and 41 cadets are trained in the air force and navy, respectively. Academic stream-wise, 106 cadets represent the science stream while 108 represent social science studies. Another 104 undertook their studies in computer science.  According to NDA public relations officer Flt Lt J Sreeprakash, 377 cadets joined the academy's 126th course in the autumn term 2011. As of now, the academy is training 2004 cadets, which includes 80 cadets from friendly foreign countries.  Air Vice Marshal A S Bhonsle, deputy commandant of the NDA, and other senior officials were present on the occasion.
Army Thar exercise nears end
NEW DELHI: India's ongoing 'Sudarshan Shakti' combat exercise, which is testing swift mobilization and multiple blitzkrieg thrusts across the border, has reached its culmination phase with around 300 tanks, 250 artillery guns and 50,000 soldiers amassed in the Thar desert. "Spread over an area 175-km by 150-km, the exercise is all about validating our concepts and doctrines with the ongoing transformation and technological upgradation in all arenas," said an officer. With its Sukhoi-30MKIs, Jaguars, spy drones and attack helicopters, IAF is also out in full force for the Mahagujraj exercise being held in conjunction with Sudarshan Shakti.
Sr defence officials had vested interests: Adarsh whistleblower
Saurav Ray, the former defence estate officer who blew the lid off the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam on Monday claimed that senior defence officials had vested interests in the society and diluted his recommendations for getting the land back to the army. Ray made these remarks before the Adarsh Inquiry Commission on Monday.  "There were other senior defence estate officers in Southern Command and directorate general of defence estates who were members of the Adarsh CHS and had vested interest in taking up the proposal and diluting my objections and observations," Ray said before the Commission.  In June 2003, after the land was handed over to Adarsh CHS, Ray had written to Pradeep Vyas, the erstwhile Collector, seeking the transfer of the land in favour of the Indian Navy and had also requested the collector not to transfer the land to any private housing society.  In November 2003, Ray wrote to the director of audit, Defence Services claiming that the Adarsh CHS was "dubious".  "I said so because Adarsh CHS was using the name and façade of the welfare of ex-servicemen and Kargil martyrs, whereas many of its member were civilians who had no connection with the army, or the Kargil operation," Ray said.  "They were misusing the sentiments of Kargil martyrs for their own benefit," he added.  Ray specially flew down from Phnom Penh for the deposition.
India-China defence ties on fast track
After a hiatus of nearly two years, bilateral India-China defence relations are heading towards normal with the defence secretaries of the two countries scheduled to interact under the aegis of the annual dialogue on December 8-9. The last meeting on the annual defence dialogue took place on January 6, 2010, after which exchanges were suspended in July as Beijing refused to give the visa to then northern army commander on grounds of his serving in Jammu and Kashmir.  While the agenda of the umbrella dialogue between defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deputy chief of general staff general Ma Xiaotian is being worked out, the direction of the bilateral defence cooperation will be set by national security advisor Shiv Shanker Menon during his visit to Beijing on November 28-29. It is understood that bilateral defence exercises are on the anvil with defence exchanges in respective institutes and the possibility of games between the troops facing each other across the 3,057-km line of actual control (LAC).  Menon will meet his counterpart and state councillor of China Dai Bingguo and give final touches to the new border dispute redressal mechanism, which will be handled by the foreign ministries of the two countries at joint secretary level. This mechanism will be at a higher plane than the flag meetings between sector commanders along the LAC. “What needs to be worked out is the frequency in which the two sides will be in touch and gravity of incidents on the disputed border, which will automatically activate the joint-secretary level mechanism,” said a senior official.  These two developments flow out of the positive Chinese action on the stapled visas front. Beijing has stopped issuing stapled visas to J&K residents after New Delhi took up the issue and there is hardly any movement of Arunachal Pradesh residents to China. The other is the meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit on November 18, 2011. While New Delhi stood its ground as far as oil and gas exploration off the coast of Vietnam was concerned, it also recognised the peace dividend of the tranquil border between the two countries.  While China has vastly improved its military logistics through road and railway infrastructure in the restive Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang province, the PLA has placed special emphasis on missile coverage of India through new complexes along the LAC.
India to buy more ARVs for T-72 MBT fleet
By Rahul Bedi 11/21/2011  The Indian Army has ordered 204 additional WZT-3 armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs) from state-owned Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) for an estimated USD285.6 million under a direct transfer of technology from Bumar of Poland.  Official sources said the order, placed in late October in support of the army's T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs), is to be completed by 2014 and that no global tender was issued as it was a "repeat order" involving a public sector defence company.

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