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Thursday, 15 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 15 Dec 2011

568 militants give up arms in Assam
With their outfit getting disbanded, the Karbi tribals are set to form a political party Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS  Diphu (Assam), December 14 All 568 militants of the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), a Karbi tribe insurgent group, today pledged to give up violence and surrendered weapons as an immediate consequence to a peace accord signed with the Government of India on November 25.  Self-styled chairman and commander-in-chief of the outfit Longsidar Senar led the mass surrender of weapons by the outfit’s cadres before state DGP Shankar Bauah, GOC 4 Corp, Lt Gen Shakti Gurung, and other senior police and Army officers at an official function held at Diphu in Karbi Anglong hill district.  The memorandum of settlement was signed by the UPDS with the Government of India on November 25 as a culmination of a prolonged peace process that started in 2002.  The UPDS militants surrendered 177 assorted weapons, including AK-47 assault rifles, rocket launcher, M-16 rifles, SLRs, G-3 and G-4 guns, carbines and pistols. They also deposited 18,740 rounds of assorted ammunition and 322 magazines. They deposited the flag of the outfit and took up the Tricolour.  The UPDS was formed in March 1999 and based in Karbi Anglong district which is administered by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) as per the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The UPDS initially demanded a separate state for the Karbi tribe, comprising the existing district and adjoining areas in other districts that are, or once were, inhabited by the Karbi tribe people.  With the outfit getting disbanded, the UPDS leaders are going to form a political party within a short time. Its general secretary Haren Sing Bey said since the process of formation of a new political party would take some time, the UPDS leaders would contest in the forthcoming election to the KAAC in January as independent candidates supported by the People’s Alliance for Peace Accord , a platform of non-Congress political parties in Karbi Anglong.
PM allays fears on China
Says the policy is to engage in dialogue on the border issue  Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, December 14 Despite certain unsavoury developments in Sino-India relations in recent months, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today refused to subscribe to the view that China could attack India.  "Our government does not share the view that China plans to attack India," Singh told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.  Emphasising that the border between the two countries was, by and large, peaceful, he said the policy of both New Delhi and Beijing was to engage in dialogue on the border issue though there had not been much progress in recent times.  He was apparently referring to the recent postponement of the 15th round of boundary talks between the special representatives (SRs) of the two countries.  Singh’s statement came after Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed that he has information that China has made preparations to attack India and has marked out areas near the borders for the purpose. He said the attacks were imminent. Yadav maintained that the neighbouring country had also stopped the flow of the Brahmaputra water to India.  The PM, however, maintained that he had assurance from the highest quarters that China has not stopped flow of Brahmaputra waters to India.  Singh accepted that there were intrusions from China into areas which India considers to be a part of its territory. However, China differs from India's claim on this issue.  "These matters are sorted out by the area commanders of the two countries," Singh said.  The PM stated that India has followed the policy of engaging in dialogue and good relations with China. India and China have been engaged in dialogue through its representatives on the border issue. Singh said both countries had made some progress in talks in 2005 and thereafter, but in recent times not much progress has been made.  Meanwhile, Defence Minister A K Antony told the Upper House that special attention was being paid to Chinese infrastructure development in border regions and necessary steps have been taken to address national security concerns through development of rail, roads and air fields in such areas.
Tardy pace of road work along China border
Antony reveals shocking statistics in Parliament Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, December 14 In yet another signal that India continues to ‘watch’ while its aggressive neighbour China ‘builds’, the Defence Ministry today revealed the shocking state of Border Roads Organization (BRO) which had led to stalling of important and strategic roads in the Himalayas.  Conversely, the Ministry today admitted that China was rapidly developing infrastructure in Tibet and Xinjiang regions bordering India.  The BRO is tasked with constructing roads in the Himalayas and is under the Defence Ministry. Till the end of October, that is in the first seven months of the ongoing financial year, it has spent just one-third of its allocated Budget. With winter having set in and almost all work on strategic roads stalled, the remaining months are just not suitable for much construction work in the mountains.  Defence Minister AK Antony, replying to a question in the Parliament today said only Rs 1,473 crore had been spent by the BRO out of its budget outlay of Rs 4,356 crore.  The biggest slowdown has occurred in areas bordering China, like Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Out of the Rs 3,474 crore earmarked for roads facing China in these states, only Rs 1,178 crore have been spent. Sources say not much progress can be expected in the winter months.  In October this year, The Tribune was the first to highlight how the BRO’s work was slowing down and would not meet targets. The Defence Ministry had hurriedly convened a high-level meeting and laid down a few immediate targets, which have got bogged down in red tape.  Sources say one of the targets is shifting around of a few ‘non-performing’ officials and some minor restructuring of the BRO.  Today, the Defence Minister, in his reply to the Parliament, revealed that the worst scenario was in Himachal Pradesh, where only 20 per cent of the work on roads bordering China had been done. A sum of Rs 93 crore of the allocated Rs 462 crore had been spent.  Another militarily vital region is Ladakh, where India and China have a dispute pertaining to boundaries along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Almost all roads in the region are purely for military use and this is the region where the 1962 war with China was bitterly fought.  While a sum of Rs 553 crore had been spent in J&K, only a small portion of it was spent in Ladakh. The target of the ministry was to spend Rs 1,431 crore. The picture of neglect presents itself in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh too.  At the start of this summer, a court of inquiry was presided over by Lt Gen SS Sengupta, Commandant of the Pune-based College of Military Engineering. It suggested, “The existing organisation, procedures and practices followed by the BRO….will not hold ground in today’s environment.” The Army and states demand high-quality work and complete accountability, it said.  “There is a need for restructuring the BRO with better practices and transparency,” said the CoI and recommended that a study group be formed. The report was submitted in September.
Speed up probe into Sukhoi crash, Air Force told
New Delhi, December 14 The Defence Ministry today said it was surprised over the crash of one of the frontline Su-30MKI aircraft, which are the latest and the most-advanced war planes in the IAF inventory, and has asked the service to expedite its inquiry into the incident.  “I am surprised that an aircraft of this type has crashed... We will certainly look into the reasons for this. A Court of Inquiry (CoI) has been ordered to look into the reasons behind the crash,” Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju told reporters here.  The minister was asked to comment on the air crash involving the Su-30MKI aircraft near Pune yesterday.  Meanwhile, sources said Defence Minister AK Antony has expressed “serious concern” over the crash and has asked the IAF to expedite the inquiry to ascertain the reasons behind it. The ministry is also likely to hold a review of the flight safety measures taken by the IAF.  In a similar meeting held in November, the IAF had briefed the minister about the steps taken by the service to bring down the number of crashes.  Sources said though the HAL and the IAF have the domain knowledge of the aircraft and its systems, if there is a requirement, the help of Russian Original Equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can also be taken.  The Su-30 fighter aircraft were inducted into the IAF in late 90s and the advanced ‘MKI’ version of the planes started being inducted in the early part of the millennium and are considered to be new in service.  The particular aircraft that crashed yesterday was built at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).  The aircraft, which took off from the Lohegaon airbase on a routine mission, presumably developed a technical snag and crashed at Wade Bholai village, about 20 km from Pune. Both pilots ejected tosafety.  The jet crashed at 1.30 pm, around 50 minutes after it took off, officials said.  This is the third time a Sukhoi fighter plane has crashed since their induction into the IAF. — PTI
China’s base in Seychelles
A fresh challenge for India  China continues to plan and execute its strategic projects in different parts of Asia and elsewhere to expand its area of influence as a major world power. The latest is its military base in Seychelles, ostensibly established following a request from the government of this tiny island nation. It is China’s first overseas base of its kind, which is linked to its first aircraft carrier to be launched soon. The Chinese military presence in Seychelles should also be seen against the backdrop of Beijing’s anti-sea piracy operations going to begin shortly along with Thailand and Myanmar. The Chinese explanation is that it has gone ahead with its Seychelles project because it needed “safe navigation” facilities in the Indian Ocean region. China has such refuelling facilities in Oman and Yemen, too.  But New Delhi has reasons to feel disturbed as Seychelles, not far away from India, also has a US drone base. Besides Seychelles, the US has a major military base in Diego Garcia. Earlier, it was the US which was accused of contributing to the militarisation of the Indian Ocean region. Now China has started playing the same role. China’s activities in the region will be more visible now as, besides its Seychelles base, it has signed a contract with the UN-backed International Seabed Authority for the exploration of polymetallic sulphide ore deposits in the Indian Ocean for 15 years.  It is not only India but Japan and Vietnam will also be closely watching China’s moves to gain considerable naval strength in the region. Vietnam cannot take the development kindly as China unfairly protested against the recent pact that India signed with Vietnam for the exploration of gas and oil in the South China Sea. For India, the establishment of China’s military base in Seychelles appears to be linked to its strategy of having a string of pearls around India. But for countries like Vietnam, Singapore and the others in the ASEAN grouping, it is part of Chinese over-assertiveness to make them realise that they must learn to live with Chinese dominance in the region. These countries are looking towards India to play its rightful balancing role. India must not let them down.
Prez to get glimpse of maritime power
President Pratibha Patil will get a glimpse of the country’s maritime power when she boards the presidential yacht, INS Subhadra, off the Mumbai coast next week to undertake a review of the naval fleet, a tradition that Dr Rajendra Prasad began in 1953. Patil, the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, will review the fleet on December 20 in a spit-and-polish ceremony to be attended by defence minister AK Antony, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, army chief General VK Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.  Every President reviews the naval fleet once during his or her tenure. Patil will be the woman President to do so. A flotilla of 81 ships and 44 aircraft will take part in the parade, which will begin with Patil being presented a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute.  The warships taking part in the Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) include India’s sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat, frontline destroyers, stealth frigates, submarines, amphibious assault vessels, tankers and missile boats. The highlight of the air component will be the newly inducted MiG-29K maritime fighters.  Patil will be the 9th Indian President to review the naval fleet in a two-and-half-hour ceremony at the Mumbai harbour. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam reviewed the fleet in February 2006 off India’s eastern coast.  Only three Presidents --- Dr Zakir Hussain, N Sanjiva Reddy and Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma ---did not review the fleet during their tenures. The Shah of Iran and then defence minister YB Chavan reviewed the fleet in 1956 and 1964, respectively --- the only two instances when the honour went to individuals who were not President.  Patil will release a PFR commemorative stamp and also inaugurate a maritime heritage exhibition.
Has Bangladesh's creation benefited India strategically?
By IANS,  New Delhi: Has India's role in the creation of Bangladesh 40 years ago benefited this country strategically? The poser, at a seminar here Wednesday, produced a rather iffy answer: The strategic environment will flow from the geopolitics of the region.  "Can (Bangladesh Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina carry the people and the army for another term? On this will depend the geopolitics of the region. An improved strategic environment would flow from this," noted security expert Maj. Gen. (retd) Ashok Mehta said.  He was participating in the question-nswer session at the seminar "1971 War: India's Greatest Victory" organised by the Indian Army funded think tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS).  Mehta had earlier spoken on "Military Lessons Learnt" from the Indian Army operation that ended Dec 16, 1971, with the surrender of 93,000 troops in what was then East Pakistan and the creation of an independent Bangladesh.  "There was the question of 10 million refugees (who had poured into India after the military crackdown in East Pakistan in March 1971). What was the option? Initially it was a limited military solution of creating enclaves along the border with India to house the refugees and an interim Bangladesh government," Mehta said.  "But, as other elements began to coalesce, it was hoped the creation of Bangladesh would secure India's eastern flank from the hotbed of sanctuaries (that existed along India's northeastern states). That did not happen for several years. Sheikh Mujib (who mentored the Bangladesh freedom movement) left the scene early (being assassinated in 1975). Frequent regime changes compounded the problem," Mehta said.  "Now, the situation has changed. Our commandos are conducting joint exercises. The Bangladesh Army chief took the salute at the NDA (National Defence Academy) passing out parade. ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) insurgents are being deported. What was originally envisaged can happen if Sheikh Hasina can carry the people and the army for another term," Mehta maintained.  In all this, what was left unsaid was that the government has studiously refrained from celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, the last full-blown conflict the Indian Army has been involved in.  There was, however, a reference to the 25th anniversary of the surrender in 1996 and former Indian Army chief Gen. V.P. Malik, who chaired the seminar, lamented that it too had not been celebrated.  "The raksha mantri (defence minister) had agreed that the 25th anniversary would be celebrated but then there was nothing from the government. At a meeting with the three service chiefs, the cabinet secretary asked: 'Why do you want to celebrate? What do you wish to achieve?' He was told: 'Because India has never won such a victory for centuries. Strategy will change but military history will not.' All this cut no ice," Malik said.  So, what were the lessons learnt from the war and where do we stand today?  Mehta painted a rather horrific picture.  "The civil-military relations, which were at their peak in 1971, are down in the dumps. Inter-services cooperation was at its peak. Today, there is no integration despite the (creation of the) IDS (Headquarters, Integrated Defence Staff. I can't get the three chiefs to sit for one (TV programme). So much for integration," he noted.  "The modernisation process is pathetic. The measures suggested in 1986-87 by the Defence Planning Staff (created for the first time) are only now being implemented. Of the 114 recommendations in the Kargil report, only 67 have been implemented, partly implemented or are likely to be implemented. The key recommendations are not even being considered," Mehta added.  The report was formulated after the 1999 Kargil conflict when the Indian Army went into action to evict Pakistani Army intruders who had occupied the icy heights in Jammu and Kashmir. At the centre of the report is the recommendation for creating a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to serve as a single point of reference between the three services and the defence ministry.  Eleven years after the report was submitted in 2000, the government says the CDS can be created only after consensus on this is built among all political parties.
“Indian Army’s Winter War Games Culminate in Rajasthan”
The Chief of Army Staff, Gen VK Singh visited Rajasthan to witness the culmination phase of Exercise “SUDARSHAN SHAKTI”. The Southern Army Commander, Lt Gen AK Singh accompanied the Army Chief to witness various innovative manoeuvres of the exercise. Also present were Senior officers from Army and Air Force.  Gen VK Singh during his visit to the various formations and units viewed the operational procedures, of an integrated theatre offensive. Various operational contingencies were simulated and response strategy debated and executed. The Army Chief surveyed the operationalisation of seamless network of information systems, quick and effective decision making, on-call air and artillery support, with a dynamic and lean logistics back-up; all of which enhanced the effectiveness of the operational manoeuvres as per Lt Gen Sanjeev Langer, GOC Sudarshan Chakra Corps.  The implementation of Transformational Initiatives that were tried out will be receiving the personal attention of the Southern Army Commander and Army Chief, who have been at the forefront of the proposed changes.  Curtains thus came down on one of the largest, most innovative and daring exercise “SUDARSHAN SHAKTI”. As the troops now head home after a gruelling three months of intense training.
Defence ministry probing leakage of field trials report on ultra-light howitzers news news
New Delhi: An inquiry has been ordered by the ministry of defence into the reported leakage of a report that concerns the field trials of M-777 ultra-light howitzers, government told the Lok Sabha today.  Through a written response, defence minister AK Antony said, "four pages of draft field trial report were received in an anonymous envelope by the army headquarters. An inquiry in the matter is underway."  Noting that the field evaluation trial report of the guns was a confidential document, he said "detailed instructions exist about the security of classified documents. Aberrations, if any, are dealt with as per the relevant rules."  Ultra-light Howitzer is amongst the equipment that is included in the Artillery Profile 2027 prepared by the artillery directorate of the Indian Army, he said.  Replying to a question on procurement of these guns on single source basis, he said "the procurement on single vendor basis from ST Kinetics, Singapore is sub-judice. The option of procuring the equipment through US government (FMS route) is also being pursued."  On field evaluation of M-777 guns, he said "the field evaluation of ultra-light howitzer comprises three parts i.e. user trials, DGQA trials and maintainability trials."  Out of these, only user trials of the gun proposed to be procured through US government have been completed, he said.  The performance of the gun can be ascertained only after evaluation of all three trial reports, Antony said.
Ex-major sentenced in bribery scheme
An ex-U.S. Army major was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison and ordered to repay $400,000 for helping a former fellow officer from San Antonio in a multimillion-dollar bribery ploy.  Charles Joseph Bowie Jr., 45, of Georgetown, pleaded guilty to a money-laundering charge and admitted taking the money while helping former Army Maj. John Cockerham rig an Army contract to pay $13 million for nearly 1.5 million cases of bottled water from an India-based company for the war in Iraq.  Bowie's lawyer, Robert M. Phillips, characterized his client as a bit player in Cockerham's scheme. Phillips asked for probation, noting Bowie had a “glittering” 25-year Army career.  Bowie told U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez that his judgment was thrown off by a troubled upbringing and post-traumatic stress disorder from his military career. He apologized and asked for leniency.  “I made a ... poor decision,” Bowie said. “I am deeply, deeply disappointed in myself.”  Rodriguez noted Bowie's service but said he had “disgraced the uniform” and rejected the call for probation. The judge gave him 24 months in prison. Prosecutors had asked for 30 months.  Bowie, who received an “administrative separation” from the Army, will pay $1,500 a month restitution from his retirement pension.  Cockerham has admitted collecting $9.6 million of $15 million in bribes he expected to get from at least eight companies, most of which were based overseas. Altogether, officials say, he tainted military contracts totaling $125.5 million and was caught in the largest graft probe to come out of the Iraq war.  The investigation, now in its seventh year, focused on corruption at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military post in Kuwait, and on officers who handled contracts for supplies for U.S. troops. Two officers killed themselves during the probe. Sixteen other people pleaded guilty.  Former Army Maj. Eddie Pressley and his wife, Eurica, were the only ones to go to trial. Both were convicted of graft charges in Alabama in March and await sentencing.  Federal prosecutor Mark Pletcher told Rodriguez that Bowie and Cockerham were commissioned as majors on the same day and became acquaintances in Kuwait.  Bowie asked Cockerham about starting a contracting business and Cockerham told him he would give him a bottled water contract, even though Bowie had no experience.  Pletcher said Cockerham instructed Bowie how to set up his own company, Triad United Technologies Inc., then awarded the contract to “Contracting Company A,” according the court documents that employed a pseudonym for the firm, which still is under investigation.  In exchange for using Triad's registration as a government contractor to get around rules, the other firm agreed to pay Bowie under a sham “consulting” agreement.  “Bowie would be paid $100,000 a month for seven months, and would do nothing,” Pletcher said.  In 2008, Bowie bought a posh home worth more than $500,000 in Georgetown and left his modest residence in Copperas Cove, near Fort Hood, where he was stationed, public records show.  Read more:

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