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Thursday, 1 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 01 Dec 2011

Chidambaram clears the air on relaxing AFSPA in J&K Says proposed CrPC changes not linked to Act lifting
Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, November 30 Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today sought to put a lid on the raging public debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister’s authority to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of the state.  In response to a question at his meeting with the media today, he said, “The position in law is that the decision to notify (disturbed areas under AFSPA) and the decision to denotify is to be taken by the Governor on the advice of the state government.” He was responding to a query as to who is actually the authority to revoke the Act.  The Home Minister’s response appears to put the onus back on J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The opinion of the Attorney-General GE Vahanvati, given barely 10 days ago, was reportedly different. The AG had opined that the Governor alone had the power to denotify areas classified as Disturbed Areas under AFSPA. The AG was asked after the Law Ministry gave its opinion.  The Home Minister’s opinion is in line with the Chief Minister and Union Law Ministry’s earlier opinion that the Governor alone cannot take any decision, which should only be taken by him only after consulting the elected Chief Minister.  The AG had cited a Supreme Court judgment in support of his contention that the Governor had the statutory authority to denotify disturbed areas under AFSPA. The AG’s opinion was sought after different interpretations of AFSPA emerged in an argument before the Supreme Court. Section 3 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act lays down that the Governor or the Central Government had the powers to decide and notify which areas of the state were disturbed. There is no mention of the Chief Minister.  Chidambaram said removal of certain areas from the disturbed list is his (Omar’s) effort. “That, as I said earlier, is in accordance to the Cabinet Committee on Security decision, which requested him to review the matter in the Unified Command," he added.  The Home Minister also sought to clear the air on the ongoing debate on having uniform application of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in the country and inclusion of a particular section of the CrPC into the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) in J&K.  The Home Minister, in response to a query if bringing in some of the provisions of Criminal Procedure Code missing in the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) was aimed at placating the armed forces, replied that the two issues were not inter-linked.  “As far as the CrPC provisions and the RPC provisions are concerned, there are some differences. For example, Section 197 of the CrPC is not reflected in the RPC. So, the Chief Minister has mooted that idea, irrespective of denotifying areas under AFSPA”. The CrPC is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir.  The inclusion of Section 197 of the CrPC in the RPC will give added assurance to paramilitary forces as well as anyone else who might apprehend that false cases may be filed, Chidambaram said, adding “so that is a separate exercise which he (Omar) is undertaking in his cabinet and in the assembly".
NATO attack a deliberate act of aggression: Pak army
Afzal Khan in Islamabad  Even as pressure mounted on Pakistan to attend the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan today turned down an offer for a joint inquiry into the attack by NATO gunships on two Pakistani posts. It also stuck to its decision to disallow supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan and to ask the US to vacate the air base in Pakistan.  Amidst reports that Pakistan has requested the UK to mediate between it and the United States, a spokesman of the Pakistan army ominously declared that though the final decision would be taken by the civilian government, the military was in the process of weighing various options.  Describing Saturday’s NATO attack on two Pakistani posts as an act of blatant aggression and refusing to accept an apology, the army today accused NATO of deliberately attacking the posts and killing 28 Pakistani soldiers “even after they were informed that the helicopter gunships were attacking Pakistani posts”.  The Director General of Military Operations ( DGMO) Major General Ishfaq Nadeem alleged that that just before the attack, a Pakistani officer was informed by an American sergeant that their special forces had received indirect fire from Gora Pai, located some 15 kilometres away from Volcano, one of the two posts manned by Pakistani troops. After seven minutes, a woman officer informed the same officer that the fire had, in fact, come from Volcano, which had been hit in retaliation.  The DGMO said the two posts were located at a place from where there has been no cross-border infiltration, though militant attacks from the other side had been continuing. The two check posts, he maintained, could not be mistaken for militant sanctuaries because the other side had been provided all available information about the number of Pakistani posts and their locations.  The posts were being manned by the experienced and battle-hardened 7-AK battalion which was equipped with both line and wireless communications equipment, but armed for dealing only with militant activity but not repelling an aerial assault. “The troops were geared for fighting terrorists and not border security,” he said.  The DGMO further said the Pakistan Army believed that Nato was monitoring the transmissions that night and knew they had hit Volcano checkpost. “A range of other options are being considered”. He said all options remained open to the government and the military though the final decision rests with the prime minister”.
Indian-Russian armies to conduct joint exercise
Posted on November 29, 2011  Indian Army personnel will participate in a war-game with their Russian counterparts in a joint exercise to be held close to Moscow’s boundary with China and Mongolia next year to increase inter-operability between the two armies.  The fourth round of INDRA series of army-to-army exercise between the two countries will be held next year in Russia. The decision was taken recently during discussions with a nine-member Russian delegation, Army officials said here today.  The exercise will be conducted in ‘Cheetah’ training range in East Russia, close to Mongolia-China border, they said.  The two sides have also decided to make INDRA series of joint army exercises an annual affair, which will be held alternatively in India and Russia, the officials said.  So far India and Russia have conducted three rounds of INDRA exercises. The first such exercise was carried out in 2005 in Rajasthan, followed by Prshkov in Russia. The third exercise was conducted in Chaubattia in Kumaon hills some time back.  The exercise is aimed at increasing the inter-operability and mutual understanding between the two armies. It is part of a wide spectrum of ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries, officials said.  Decisions regarding the army unit which will participate in the exercise will be taken in due course of time, they said.  During the past exercises both the countries have gained significantly with each other’s experiences of anti-militancy and anti-terrorist operations in different terrains.  The exercise aims at learning from each other’s expertise in counter-terrorism in urban environment as both India and Russia have significant experience of anti-terrorism operations, officials said.  Besides the army-to-army exchanges, the two countries have also conducted naval exercises under the INDRA series.
Pakistan releases first images of border posts attacked by NATO
Amid rising anger, Pakistan's military has released a set of images which it says show the remote border posts attacked by NATO helicopters and fighter jets on Saturday in an incident that has soured relations between Pakistan and the United States.
A senior Pakistani army official has said a NATO cross-border air attack that killed 24 soldiers was a deliberate, blatant act of aggression, hardening Pakistan's stance on an incident that could hurt efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.  Major General Ishfaq Nadeem, director general of military operations, said NATO forces were alerted they were attacking Pakistani posts but helicopters kept firing.   "Detailed information of the posts was already with ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), including map references, and it was impossible that they did not know these to be our posts," Pakistani newspaper The News quoted Nadeem as saying at a briefing held at army headquarters on Tuesday.  The army released a video to the media showing what it said were the Pakistani border posts -- rough constructions of large stones, corrugated metal and canvas in isolated positions.  Filmed from a helicopter, it also showed foxholes and what appeared to be a mortar emplacement surrounded by rocks.  Nadeem was adamant NATO had been told it was attacking Pakistani positions. "They continued regardless, with impunity," The News quoted him as saying.
China to hold defense consultations with US, India
BEIJING - China will hold defense consultations with the United States and India, respectively, in December, Defense Ministry Spokesperson Geng Yansheng told a press conference here on Wednesday.  Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, will co-chair the 12th round of Sino-US defense consultations with US Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy in Beijing on December 7.  Ma will also travel to New Delhi to co-chair the fourth round of Sino-Indian defense and security consultations with Indian Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar on December 9, Geng said.  China will exchange views with the United Stated and India on bilateral ties, the regional situation and other issues during the consultations, he said.
Chinese and Burmese Army Chiefs Sign Defense Agreement
The Chinese and Burmese army chiefs signed an agreement on defense cooperation in Beijing on Tuesday, a strong indication that the relationship between the two countries remains close despite an apparent thaw in Burma-US relations marked by the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Naypyidaw this week.  The commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation with the Chinese army and assured his counterpart from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), Gen Chen Bingde, of continued friendly relations between the two countries “no matter how the international situation changes,” according to the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency.  By raising the topic of changes on the international stage, the Burmese army chief made an obvious allusion to his country's improved relationship with the US, which is China's top political and economic rival, and his visit to China—which began on Sunday—served to counterbalance Clinton's visit to Burma.  In addition to his meeting with the PLA Chief, Min Aung Hlaing held talks with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is also the vice-chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, and both sides vowed to strengthen military ties between the two countries.  It is believed that Min Aung Hlaing’s agenda in Beijing includes seeking cooperation from China with respect to the ongoing armed clashes in Burma’s Kachin State, which is situated along China's western border. On Tuesday, the leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army, met with Burmese government officials in the Chinese border town of Ruili, but the discussions achieved no concrete results.  Despite some positive changes in Burma, the country's army chief remains a key stakeholder in Burma's nominal parliamentary democracy and under Burma’s 2008 Constitution has the ability to assume power in times of “national emergency.”  China has been a major ally of Burma since 1988, when the US-led Western bloc shunned Burma both diplomatically and economically following the military government's crackdown on democracy protests that year.  It is estimated that China has provided billions of dollars of military and economic assistance to Burmese rulers in the subsequent period of over two decades, in addition to giving them much-need diplomatic cover on the international stage with respect to human rights issues.  Despite the close relationship, Burma recently suspended a massive Chinese-backed hydroelectric dam in Kachin State, resulting in Chinese concerns regarding its many strategically important economic investments in Burma, particularly in the context of the renewed relationship between Burma and the US.  The Global Times, a mouthpiece for the Chinese government, wrote on Monday that China has no resistance toward Burma seeking improved relationship with the West, but it will not accept this “while seeing its interests stomped on.”  Analysts have said that Burma, with its strong nationalism, has never been a strategic pawn of China, that the relationship between the two countries is a marriage of convenience, and that Burma has often in the past attempted to counterbalance Chinese influence with other regional powers such as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean), its giant neighbor India and even Russia.  Through the 2000s, the Burmese authorities have increasingly been cognizant of Burma's strategic interests and managed to deftly maneuver its foreign policy when needed, according to Renaud Egreteau, Assistant Professor for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, who focuses on China-Burma-India relations.  “Even if China has long remained a critical partner, [former Burmese dictator] Than Shwe had visited India twice and sent his diplomats to Russia, the ASEAN and several other key partners in the past years,” said Egreteau in an interview with The Irrawaddy.  “With the US potentially coming back, the Burmese can add one more arrow to their diplomatic bow. But only to the extent it suits their long-term strategy; and so far this lies in more cordial relations with Washington, and less games with Pyongyang,” he said.
Bangla Army chief salutes Indian martyrs of liberation
The Bangladesh Army chief, General Mohammed Abdul Mubeen, saluted Indian soldiers and officers who died fighting in liberating Bangladesh 40 years ago.  In his short but stirring speech to the cadets at the passing out parade of the 121st course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla on Tuesday, Mubeen said, “I avail this opportunity to pay my respect with due solemnity and recall with esteem all those officers and men of the Indian armed forces who made supreme sacrifices and fought alongside our freedom fighters during our glorious war of liberation of 1971.’’  Later, impressed by the march past of the cadets, the Bangla Army chief said, “I compliment all of you for your smart turnout, crisp, energetic and lively drill. I am impressed with your performance and feel delighted to be able to witness this spirited event first hand.’’  Quoting the motto of the Bangladesh Military Academy, ‘Chiro Unnoto Momo Shir’ (‘Ever high is my head’), Mubeen advised the young cadets to uphold the dignity and image of the Indian armed forces and the “great people of India at all times and in all places”. Earlier in the day, 302 cadets — including 16 foreign cadets from Bhutan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the Maldives — marched past the quarter deck, supported by the military bands of the Parachute Regimental Centre, Bangalore, the NDA and Bombay Engineering Group, Khadki.  Familiar tunes like Kadam, Kadam, Badhaye Ja, Jai Bharati, Vijay Bharat and Sare Jahan Se Achha regaled the onlookers, which included parents of the cadets, serving and retired army officers and military attaches from Pakistan, the US and UK.  Academy Cadet Captain (ACC) Deepak Awasthi, the academic topper, made it a grand double when he bagged the prestigious President’s gold medal for coming first in the overall order of merit at the passing out parade. Battalion cadet captain (BCC) Amit Dhankar won the silver medal and battalion cadet captain (BCC) Vikram Maan won the bronze. Oscar squadron bagged the Chief of Staff banner.  Speaking to media persons after the event, Awasthi, a resident of Kanpur and son of a retired subedar in the army, said he was very keen to become a fighter pilot. “I wanted to fly planes since I was a child and am looking forward to achieving my dream soon.’’  Modest about his achievement, Deepak who consistently topped academics in every single semester said, “It is fairly simple. You just have to score above average marks in every activity at the academy. But I never planned to come first. It just happened.’’ Dhankar, a resident of Rohtak and son of a sub-inspector in the Central Reserve Police Force admitted that that his father, Dilbag Singh, was his role model. “My father and grandfather (a former army soldier) inspired me to become an army officer.’’  Maan, a resident of Bhiwani (Haryana), also wants to become an infantry officer. A keen volleyball player, he recalled his tour of Turkey in 2010 as member of the Indian Cadet volleyball team as one of the most memorable moments of his career so far.
Silver jubilee of Army Aviation celebrated in Nashik
It was a moment of pride as the mighty Dhruv, Lancer, Cheetah, and Chetak helicopters soared to the skies and dipped to play the roles of rescue, utility and combat missions to perfection. The aviators and the flying machines of the Army Aviation Corps, displayed thrilling manoeuvers to commemorate the silver jubilee of Army Aviation at a programme at their base at Combat Army Aviation Training School (CATS) in Nashik on Friday.  The programme to mark the 25 glorious years of the elite corps of the Indian Army was presided over by Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh; Colonel Commandant of Army Aviation and GoC in C central Command, Lt General VK Ahluwalia; and Additional Director General of Army Aviation, Maj General PK Bharali. The occasion also saw a gathering of the serving and veteran aviators of the core.  The demonstrations began with the Dhruv, Cheetah and Chetak flying in an arrowhead formation to welcome the guests. The paratroopers of the special forces of the 15 Independent Para Brigade were then paradropped from a height of 10,000 ft by a ALH Dhruv in a tactical battlefield area. Two armed Lancers then surged in for strafing of enemy locality and conducted a recce in low flying to provide information to the commander of the troops on ground.  The helicopters then inducted infantry troops, vehicle for mobility as well as two 81 mm mortars in the battle area, displaying the best of coordination in air and on ground. Having gained proper information about the enemy through the air recce, a troop of tanks and the mechanised infantry platoon supported by the artillery then launched the final assault. The helicopters then demonstrated their role in rescue of casualties and lifting of men from the battlefield area by slithering operations.  Gen VK Singh said, “Army Aviation Core has come a long way from a humble start to an equipped armed core in 25 years.”He presented silver jubilee trophies to squadrons displaying best performance. The army chief also released the ‘First Day Cover’ and inaugurated the ‘Sky Soldiers’ photo gallery’.  Gen Singh told the media that there are many plans for the growth of Army Aviation. “Procurement delays are not under army’s control.”  The Colonel Commandant of Army Aviation, Lt Gen VK Ahluvalia, said that the old fleet of the Cheetahs and Chetaks will be replaced by 2012-13 in a progressive manner.
302 pass out of Defence Academy
Pune Marching to the tunes of Auld Lang Syne, 302 cadets of the 121st course of the National Defence Academy, (NDA), Khadakwasla, passed out of the Academy on Tuesday. In an impressive and crisp parade reviewed by General Mohammed Abdul Mubeen, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army, Academy Cadet Captain (ACC) Deepak Awasthi was awarded the President's Gold Medal. Battalion Cadet Captain (BCC) Amit Dhankad won the Silver medal while BCC Vikram Mann won the Bronze Medal. Oscar Squadron was adjudged the winner of the Chiefs of Staffs Banner.  “For me and my country Bangladesh, this is a momentous day in Bangladesh-India relations, especially between the two neighbouring Armed Forces. I avail this opportunity to pay my respect with due solemnity and recall with esteem all those officers and men of the Indian Armed Forces who made supreme sacrifices, and all those who fought alongside our freedom fighters during our glorious war of liberation of 1971,” said General Mubeen. The General's visit is relevant given that this is the 40th year since the war of liberation of Bangladesh.  “I always wanted to join the Armed Forces and what kept me motivated throughout the tough military training in the academy is the feeling that one day, I will be a senior officer,” said ACC Deepak Awasthi. Awasthi, whose father has been a retired subedar in the Corps of Signals has been topping the course throughout the past three years at the NDA. Awasthi, a cadet of the Air Force wing would be joining Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal on January 7.  Accompanied by his grandmother and parents, BCC Dhankad has already motivated his brother to join the forces following his footsteps. With his father serving in a Signals unit in CRPF, Dhankad said, “I always looked up to my father. In fact with my grandfather having served in the Army, there was no need of an external motivation. I am leaving the academy with lots of memories. The most prominent being of the recently concluded Torna camp wherein after long days of hard work, even small heights of mountains looked like Everest.”  Bronze medal winner BCC Vikram Mann is the first one in the family to have decided to join the forces. An Army cadet, Mann has represented India in the volleyball team at the World Cadet Games in October last year. “My days at Sainik School, Karnal motivated me to join the forces,” he said.  Among the senior serving officers present for the PoP were Lt Gen A K Singh, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Command, Lt Gen Jatinder Singh, Commandant, NDA, Air Vice Marshal Ajit Bhonsle, Deputy Commandant, NDA along with senior retired officers of the Indian Armed Forces.
Lawrence School to get Khetarpal's statue
SHIMLA: As a mark of respect to the heroic sacrifice made by Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, the Indian Army has decided to install Khetarpal's statue at his alma mater - Lawrence School, Sanawar, on December 3. On this day, Khetarpal's Poona Horse Regiment would be present.  The school authorities said that the 6foot statue would be unveiled by the master of ordinance from Army headquarters Delhi, Lt Gen Rajinder Singh. Officers who were commissioned to the Army with Arun Khetarpal are likely to reach Sanawar on December 3. Colonel of regiment 17 Poona Horse Lt Gen D S Sidhu would attend the statue installation ceremony.  It was on October 4 when the chief of Army staff Gen V K Singh, during his visit to Lawrence School, had announced to bequest a statue of Arun Khetarpal to his alma mater.  "Arun Khetarpal is an epitome of heroism and sacrifice. His name has reached among the bravest of the brave. The statue would encourage Sanawarians to excel in life," he had said.  Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal graduated from the school in 1966, and was commissioned to 17 Poona Horse on June 13, 1971. During the war, the 47 Infantry Brigade, with 17 Poona Horse under command were ordered to establish a bridge-head across the Basantar river in Shakargarh sector. Khetarpal had fiercely attacked the enemy strong points, and had captured many soldiers besides destroying the enemy tanks. Khetarpal was posthumously honoured with the highest wartime gallantry medal - the Param Vir Chakra.  Taken aback by Khetarpal's extraordinary courage, the Pakistani brigadier who had killed him apologized to his father 30 years later, and praised his courage by saying: "Khetarpal stood between victory and failure." This was when his father, Brigadier M L Khetarpal, was on a visit to his ancestral home in Sargodha in Pakistan.
Women in India may have proved their fighting spirit in many areas of life, but they are still considered unfit to fight for their country. Following a Delhi High Court order, issued last year, the defence ministry has finally extended permanent commission to women in the Indian army. So far, they were recruited on short service commissions that allowed them to work for up to 14 years. Such was the resistance from the establishment to the proposal for change that when the Delhi High Court challenged this practice last year, the defence ministry dilly-dallied over the order, and even placed a leave petition before the Supreme Court to have it reviewed. Although this convention is now about to change, women will still not be employed in the combat streams. Whatever excuse may be offered to justify this exclusion, the policy, ultimately, smacks of the crudest form of sexism. If women in most Western societies can be sent to some of the deadliest war zones in the world as soldiers, why not their counterparts in India? Is it because men in the Indian army cannot somehow come to terms with the idea of having to take orders from their female colleagues? A no less patriarchal attitude persists in the Indian air force where women are still not allowed to fly fighter aircraft.  The pursuit of gender equality is often turned into an excuse for tokenism. As a result, gender justice gets narrowly interpreted as gender balance, and the entire focus shifts to the number of men against that of women. But merely recruiting women in the army does not imply greater respect from men, or from society at large. What matters most is the kind of responsibility that is bestowed on women in the defence forces. It is not as if women are unaware of the dangers of serving as soldiers, so their male colleagues need not be unduly concerned about their safety and security. Ironically, Indian history is replete with heroic female figures. Women played a crucial part in the freedom struggle, contributed to the task of nation-building, and took on major roles in the political life of the nation. With the passing of time, it is expected that attitudes to women will change for the better. Unfortunately, the patriarchal imagination in India seems yet to outgrow a false chivalry and misplaced concern for the ‘weaker sex’.
Army in the market for new assault rifles
NEW DELHI: The Army now wants a complete overhaul of its basic weaponry for soldiers. The ball has been set rolling for the acquisition of advanced 5.56mm assault rifles in huge numbers to replace the existing indigenous 5.56mm INSAS (Indian small arms system) rifles, which has suffered from glitches since its induction in 1997-1998.  Defence ministry sources said a global tender has been issued to over 40 armament firms to submit their bids for the new 5.56mm assault rifles, which can be equipped with night-vision devices, laser designators, detachable under-barrel grenade launchers and the like.  The initial order is likely to be for direct purchase of around 66,000 rifles, followed by largescale licensed manufacture by the Ordnance Factory Board to equip the 13-lakh strong armed forces as well as the 8-lakh central paramilitary forces. The mega project could be well worth over Rs 20,000 crore once its exact contours are firmed up.  The Army is already inducting, or plans to induct, a wide array of small arms, ranging from "close-quarter battle'' (CQB) carbines and light-weight assault rifles to anti-material "bunker-bursting'' rifles and specialized sniper rifles.  The new 3.5-kg assault rifles to be acquired are in line with the Army's long-delayed F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) project, which is geared towards enhancing the "lethality and survivability'' of foot soldiers.  The aim behind F-INSAS is to transform soldiers into self-contained, fully-networked, mobile killing machines, with a high degree of 'situational awareness' and capable of operating in all-terrain and all-weather conditions.  Under it, infantry soldiers are to be progressively equipped with light-weight integrated ballistic helmets with 'heads-up display' and miniaturized communication systems; portable visual, chemical and biological sensors; hand-held computer displays, GPS and video links; and lethal firepower with laser-guided modular weapon systems  Army officers say INSAS rifles, which have an effective 400-metre range, are slowly but surely becoming obsolete. It had become the standard basic weapon for the 324 infantry battalions (each with over 800 soldiers) in the Army from the late 1990s onwards after the earlier cumbersome 7.62mm self-loading rifles were phased out.  INSAS rifles had several "teething problems'' in the initial phases, with complaints of "cold arrest'' and cracking of the bullet magazines, especially in high-altitude areas like Kargil and Siachen. This, in fact, had forced the Army to import one lakh AK-47 rifles in 1995 for counter-insurgency and other operations.  Though many of the defects in the INSAS rifles were later rectified, the Army still continues to use the "fail-safe'' and rugged AK-47s more for close-quarter fighting with militants in Jammu and Kashmir.

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