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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 27 Dec 2011

India, Pak resume talks on CBMs
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, December 26 After a gap of four years, India and Pakistan today resumed talks on nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures (CBMs) as part of the peace process revived in February after a hiatus of more than two years in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.  The two countries discussed conventional CBMs today and will take up nuclear CBMs tomorrow at the meetings being held in the Pakistan capital.  The Indian side was led at today’s meeting by YK Sinha, Joint Secretary dealing with Pakistan in the External Affairs Ministry, while the Pakistani delegation was led by Munawar Saeed Bhatti, Additional Secretary in the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, and a former Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner in India.  At the crucial talks on nuclear CBMs to be held tomorrow, the Indian side will be led by Venkatesh Verma, Joint Secretary in-charge of Disarmament in the External Affairs Ministry, while Bhatti will lead the Pakistani team.  This is the fifth round of expert-level talks on conventional CBMs and the sixth on nuclear CBMs. The last round on the two subjects was held in October 2007.  Officials here were tight-lipped about the outcome of the talks but stated that a joint statement was expected to be issued tomorrow. Indications are that the CBMs could be announced by the two sides when the Indian Foreign Minister visits Islamabad in July next year.  Sources said the two sides were discussing expanding conventional CBMs to include avoiding incidents at sea. Other issues on the table are promoting trade and movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC).  In the area of nuclear CBMs, a further expansion could include pre-notification of cruise missile launches and discussions on a cooperative arrangement for dealing with Fukushima-like disaster.  Reports suggest that Pakistan also desires cooperation with India in the field of civil nuclear energy in view of the fact that the latter has got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to undertake nuclear commerce. Like India, Pakistan too is an energy deficient country. However, New Delhi does not seem interested in it.  The meetings are also reviewing the existing CBMs to make them more effective such as the practice of holding flag meetings on the border, not constructing new posts along the LoC and the practice of exchanging lists of nuclear installations on January one every year.  Moving Closer  n The talks on nuclear and conventional CBMs are a part of a peace process that was revived in February after a hiatus of more than two years in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.  n The two countries discussed conventional CBMs on Monday and will take up nuclear CBMs on Tuesday at the meetings being held in Islamabad.  n Reports suggest that Pakistan also desires cooperation with India in the field of civil nuclear energy in view of the fact that the latter has got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group to undertake nuclear commerce.

Delhi proposes new border facility as CBM with China
New Delhi, December 26 India has proposed to set up a new Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) venue along the Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh stretch of the Sino-Indian border as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries.  The proposal was given to the Chinese side during the 4th round of the Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) between the two countries earlier this month, sources told PTI here. So far, the two sides hold meetings at regular intervals at three such facilities in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.  The need for such a facility was felt by the Indian side as there was no such venue in the central sector of the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries, they said.  The proposal made by the Indian side headed by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma is still being considered by the Chinese side, sources said.  The LAC is broadly divided into three sectors which include Ladakh in Western, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in Central and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in Eastern sector.  Both sides had agreed to strictly adhere to provisions of 2005 Protocol for implementation of CBMs on the LAC to maintain peace in border areas. China will send a military delegation to New Delhi by the end of this month, which will be reciprocated by India in January 2012. — PTI
Navy joins search ops for boat tragedy victims
Chennai, December 26 Naval ships and divers have joined search operations to locate the bodies of victims in the boat tragedy at a lake near here which claimed 22 lives. Twenty-two persons drowned yesterday when the private boat in which they went on a pleasure trip as part of Christmas celebration capsized in Pulicat Lake, about 60 km from here.
Three boys, who were part of the 25-member group that boarded the craft, survived the mishap that occurred when the boat entered an area close to the sea mouth, where boating is banned. The boatman, a fisherman, also escaped.  The police said five more bodies were recovered today, taking the total to 18 and search operations by fire and rescue personnel and local fishermen in coordination with the Navy were underway to locate the remaining bodies.  The Navy said despite adverse weather conditions in the area, search operations were in progress in coordination with the civil administration.  "Indian Naval Ships Cheriyam and FACT-84 with divers embarked have been deployed to locate survivors and search and rescue operations are on under the supervision of Commodore Amar K Mahadevan, Naval Officer-in-Charge (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry..." an official release said. — PTI

Squatters occupy 12,000 acres of Defence land
Hyderabad, December 26 Around 12,000 acres of Defence land across the country is under encroachment and a government-ordered survey report in this regard is expected by the end of March next. This information was given by Union Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju at a news conference while referring to encroachments of Defence land.  The Ministry of Defence ordered the survey following large-scale encroachment on 17.56 lakh acres of land owned by it. It had identified around 12,000 acres of land that was encroached illegally in eight sectors in different parts of the country.  "The total defence land holding in the country is 17.56 lakh acres, out of which 1.6 lakh acres is in 62 cantonments. Now, the extent of encroached land is little over 12,000 acres which has happened historically.... They took up for survey in about eight circles. The survey report should be (out) by the end of this financial year," Raju said.  Close to half of total land occupied by squatters are reported to be in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.  Raju said the Defence Ministry was taking all steps to conserve its valuable land by computerising all the land records.  Defence Minister AK Antony held two meetings in this regard and ordered a resurvey to be done for all defence lands, he added.  Raju replied in the affirmative when asked if the private sector in the country was hesitant to venture into the Defence sector because of staggering costs, longer project time and complex technologies, "Quality norms are stringent and volumes are low and inconsistent. Unfortunately, many of these factors are true.  To be successful, we need excellent talent pool, including engineers, good infrastructure, high quality standards and the ability to deliver goods that suit various climatic conditions and widely difficult locations," he said.  The minister was chief guest at a function in which Avantel, a city-based firm, handed over 12 units of mobile satellite service (MSS)-based communication systems to Boeing.  The US aircraft maker will use these systems in its P-8i reconnaissance aircraft to be supplied to the Indian Navy. — PTI

Why Pakistan’s army is more popular than its politicians
Earlier this month, Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi sketched his thesis on why the army dominated Pakistan. He explained it in historical and cultural terms. He cited Jinnah’s aggregation of power, the Muslim League’s unconstitutional approach (referring to the violence of Direct Action Day) in getting what it wanted, the army’s cultural connections with rural society and so on.  He showed also how, correspondingly, in India the situation was different, because its leaders had always been constitutionally minded. The Congress party had a democratic history going back to 1885, and Nehru represented its third generation of leaders.  Sethi convincingly showed why the army was dominant in Pakistan. However, his thesis does not account for its popularity.  A Pew poll reported by Reuters a few months ago said the army was “overwhelmingly popular” in Pakistan. It said 79 percent of Pakistanis thought their army “had a good influence on the country.” The poll was taken after Osama bin Laden’s killing to see if the army had suffered in popularity. It hadn’t.  This devotion to their army is obvious to those who follow Pakistan’s media. The Urdu media especially, but also much of the English media.  The army is more popular in Pakistan than the country's political parties and its elected leaders. Reuters  The army is more popular in Pakistan than the country’s political parties and its elected leaders.  The question is why. Why is an army that imposed dictatorship on Pakistanis four times (1958, 1969, 1978 and 1999), displaced governments Pakistanis elected another three times (1990, 1993, 1996) and hanged a prime minister still popular? Why do Pakistanis love the ISI, an institution whose chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani says on oath that it meddles in elections, and spent US$ 1.6 million to see the PPP defeated?  Why do Pakistanis support an army that eats up a fourth of their budget (actual figures suggest a third), and is responsible for the profligacy that accounts for another third being spent as interest?  Why do Pakistanis hold their politicians responsible for the nation’s problems when Pakistan’s budget, its foreign policy, its security policy and its Baluchistan policy are run by the army? Why do Pakistanis like an army whose chiefs arbitrarily grant themselves extensions (since 1947, India has had 26 army chiefs, while Pakistan has had only 14) because they can?  Is the army popular because it is excellent at its function, that of defending Pakistan? But the record there is rather thin. So is it popular because of a threat? Whose aggression is the army defending Pakistan against?  The Pew poll said only 19 percent of Pakistanis thought the enemy was internal, the Pakistani Taliban. India is the enemy according to 57 percent of those polled.  The poll found that 74 percent of Pakistanis think India is a serious threat.  What could the nature of the threat from India be? The last war was fought in 1999 and would not have been fought had it not been begun by an unthinking general. Do Pakistanis actually believe Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi represent a military threat? This seems difficult to wrap one’s head around.  Do Pakistanis fear India so much that they have handed over Pakistan to the army? Or do they hate India so much that they want the army to defy it? Only 14 percent of Pakistanis have a positive view of India, which is half from the third that had a positive view in 2006.  The poll said 92 percent of Pakistanis thought their nation was in the wrong direction.  But how could it be otherwise? The army has power but pretends to be subordinate to the PPP. The PPP pretends to be in charge, but actually has no real control over the budget, no say in foreign policy, no freedom to trade with India, no power to improve relations with America. When the PPP tries to assert its democratically given right, it is accused of treason by the army, the judiciary and most of the media. Pakistan has lost its finest diplomat in the process.  The last time a majority of Pakistanis felt their country was headed in the right direction was under General Pervez Musharraf in 2005.  The fault does not lie with the stars, and it does not lie with the army which is only doing what is asked of it by its citizenry. The fault that Pakistan is a nation ruled by its army is that of Pakistanis.  The army’s real power comes from not its guns, but its popularity. Next week we shall look at an unexplored explanation for this.

Delhi to Dhaka, with love
Looking back in the 40th year of independence of Bangladesh, the War of Liberation in 1971 in what was then East Pakistan can be militarily encapsulated into two stages, first as a predominantly low-intensity conflict of insurgency and terrorism by the Mukti Bahini, from around April to December of that year, and the next as a decisive, high-intensity conflict of two weeks, from December 3-16, in which the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force participated in support of the ongoing freedom struggle.  Opposing them in both stages were elements of the regular Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force, supported by a large body of armed civilian auxiliaries recruited locally and absorbed as Razakars, Mujahids, Ansars and the East Pakistan Civil Armed Forces. The subsidiary conflict between the Razakar force and the Mukti Bahini involved Bengalis on both sides and was ferociously fratricidal. India shares its longest land border of 4,095 kms with Bangladesh, running contiguous with the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, with many shared commonalities of ethnicity, language and culture in each segment. It needs no reiteration that Indo-Bangladesh relations constitute an especially sensitive “handle with care” issue for India, in which the linkage of a common Bengali identity between the people of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal constitutes a very significant factor in the development of friendly relationships between the two countries. This must be capitalised to the fullest extent. For its part, Pakistan will never forget that the sovereign country of Bangladesh was once its own eastern wing, neither will it forgive India for providing effective support to the liberation movement which culminated in the humiliating surrender of 93,000 troops on December 16, 1971, in Dhaka to the joint forces of Bangladesh and India. Pakistan has adopted “Badla for Bangladesh” as the guiding principle for its foreign policy vis-a-vis India, but realises that it is incapable of posing a credible military threat on its own without Chinese assistance. It has, therefore, selected the long war option of terrorism and low-intensity warfare to hit back at India. There are efforts to influence individuals in positions of authority in Bangladesh to support ties with Pakistan and facilitate the establishment of an infrastructure of sanctuaries, training facilities and provision of material aid for anti-Indian fundamentalist and tribal militant groups. India for its part must learn to cope with this unstated “Pakistan factor” which is present as an unseen background entity to erode goodwill for India and be prepared to forestall attempts to procrastinate and obstruct the timely progress of Indo-Bangladesh negotiations for amicable resolution of whatever issues are under consideration by both countries. Bangladesh is acutely conscious of its contiguity with India and the overwhelming disparity between the two nations. As the smaller of the two, Bangladeshi sensitivities are easily bruised and irritated by even small acts of apparent thoughtlessness or discourtesy on India’s part no matter whether unintended or how rapidly remedied. A gaffe by Indian diplomacy or bureaucracy even at individual level can thus create an adverse impact completely disproportionate to the issues or functionaries involved, and with the potential to reverberate all the way to New Delhi or Dhaka. In this context the major faux pas during the two-day visit to Bangladesh by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September 2011 has had serious repercussions on India’s goodwill in that country. An ideological battle for the soul of the country is being fought on the streets of Dhaka between supporters of the Awami League and those of fundamentalist organisations like the Jamaat Islami. The new generation in Bangladesh born after the liberation struggle in 1971 find it difficult to connect with the past and perceive only inequalities in the present equations between India and Bangladesh. Many among them are labelled as “Indian agents” if they display any positive sentiments towards this country. Pro-India groups amongst them find it difficult going in view of the total lack of progress in addressing contentious issues between the two countries like the Tipaimukh dam, sharing the waters of the Ganga and the Teesta rivers or the recent Indo-Bangladesh treaty on resolution of territorial enclaves within each other’s territories. Even the affair of the nondescript Moore Island in the estuary of the Haribhanga River in the Bay of Bengal carries weight out of all proportion to its size. Though Islam is professed by the majority of the population in Bangladesh, the Awami League established secular principles in governance after the War of Liberation in 1971. But they were forced out of office after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 by a group of Bengali Army officers repatriated from Pakistan. The Awami League was followed by a chaotic series of governments who adopted a pro-Pakistan, anti-India and anti-minority stance to develop relationships with Saudi Arabia primarily to obtain aid. Nevertheless, the Awami League managed to retain its political foothold until Sheikh Mujib’s daughter Begum Hasina became Prime Minister in 1996 and again in 2009. The fluctuating politics of Bangladesh are difficult to untangle within the space available here. Suffice to say that India must make more efforts with far more energy and diligence than at present towards proactively countering Pakistan influence in Bangladesh.

Inviting the enemy home
Demilitarising the LoC is a hideous proposal  In any given situation, the demilitarisation of the Line of Control that runs through Jammu & Kashmir is a dangerous idea, given Pakistan’s implacable hostility towards India. This is all the more so now with the Indian Army reporting that at least 1,000 terrorists, trained and armed by Pakistan, are waiting to cross the LoC to create mayhem in Jammu & Kashmir and other States of India. Any thought of even partial demilitarisation, therefore, should be promptly abandoned. This insidious suggestion has been doing the rounds in South Block and is being promoted by those who are persuaded by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s policy of mollycoddling Pakistan at the expense of India’s national interest. These are the people who are willing to do anything to please those who wield power and influence in Pakistan, namely that country’s belligerent Army and a decrepit so-called ‘civilian’ Government which is at the beck-and-call of the Generals in Rawalpindi. To float this proposal at a time when Pakistan’s Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is flexing his muscles and snubbing the Government of President Asif Ali Zardari on virtually every issue makes as much sense as leaving our frontiers open for a full-scale invasion by enemy forces. Islamabad is abuzz with rumours of the Army taking charge of Pakistan’s affairs, indirectly if not directly, by installing a puppet regime which will be more amenable to its demands than the PPP Government — in other words, a doormat to be trampled upon by jackboots — and virtually every country of substance is reviewing its policies vis-a-vis Pakistan. The US, for instance, is in the process of severely restricting its engagement with both Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Yet, we are witnessing our Government pushing for an ever-softer line, unmindful of the consequences which can only be disastrous. This is not a ‘confidence-building measure’ as the protagonists of demilitarising the LoC claim it is; this is offering the Pakistani Army a tantalising opportunity to achieve with ease what it has been seeking for decades.  Ever since he came to occupy the Prime Minister’s office by accident, Mr Singh has been seeking to recast India’s Pakistan policy in a mould that suits the interests of those elements in Islamabad and Rawalpindi who see India as their main enemy. There is a strange impulse to pander to the nation’s foes as the Prime Minister pursues a place in history as ‘peace-maker’; nothing else, it would appear, matters to him. Hence his repeated and craven capitulation before Pakistan’s rulers — first General Pervez Musharraf and  now Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Hence also his stunning description of Mr Gilani as a “man of peace” when all available evidence is to the contrary. Tragically, while the Government is forced by Mr Singh into toeing the line of least resistance, India looks increasingly enfeebled and unable to stand its ground, leave alone protect its frontiers from those who live to see their dream of inflicting a thousand cuts on this nation to be fulfilled. There is no percentage in blaming the Army. It continues to alert the Government of the dangers of its policy of appeasement just as it has now informed South Block of jihadis waiting to cross the LoC. A politically bankrupt regime bereft of all credibility cannot be allowed to take such a momentous step. It must be stopped from proceeding any further with demilitarising the LoC. India matters far more than the foul intentions of this Government.

Uncertainty over Indian Army chief Gen. Vijay Kumar's age rages
NEW DELHI: Uncertainty over the year of birth of Indian Army chief Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh continues, with all indications that Defence Minister A.K. Antony may not respond to a statutory complaint from the former submitted in August this year.  The controversy relates to the army chief's request, made over a year ago, for restoring his date of birth as May 10, 1951, in the army's official records, which also had May 10, 1950 as the year of birth.  The complaint's 90-day mandatory period for a response ended a month ago, but Antony has maintained that he was not bound by the Army Act under which the statutory plea had been made by Gen. Singh.  Defence ministry sources said Monday that Antony will, however, reply to the complaint from the army chief, but say he was not competent to sit on judgement over the age controversy as it involved legal issues.  The minister would go by the advice of the legal officers.  Gen. Singh had submitted his statutory complaint in August over a month after the defence ministry rejected his request to change his birth year from 1950 to 1951, based on the recommendations of the attorney general, who had rejected the demand.  Antony also informed parliament then that the age was fixed with 1950 as the year of birth when his case came up for appointment as army commander and earlier as corps commander, and hence he will retire in May 2012.  The army chief's age had become controversial as a change in the year could upset the line of succession of the 1.13-million strong army.  If 1951 is accepted, Gen. Singh would be entitled to serve another nine months than his scheduled retirement on May 31, 2012.  If he retires in 2012, the present Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, is likely to take over as the next army chief. If Gen. Singh's tenure gets extended, then the present Northern Army commander, Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, may get to head the army.  The army chief had earlier sought the opinion of five legal experts including four retired chief justices of India: G.B. Patnaik, V.N. Khare, R.C. Lahoti and J.S. Verma, apart from former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam.

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