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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 31 Jan 2012
14 nations to join India in naval exercise

New Delhi, January 30
Aiming to strengthen cooperation among navies in the region, Indian Navy will host 14 of its counterparts from South East Asia, Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region for eighth edition of Milan exercise in Andaman and Nicobar Islands starting Wednesday.

The five-day exercise will see participation of Seychelles and Mauritius for the first time in the event where nine countries including India will field warships. — PTI
UAV from 3 Idiots now part of defence forces
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that awed viewers in the Bollywood hit 3 Idiots has been officially inducted into the paramilitary forces. The Border Security Force (BSF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are using the drone, titled ‘Netra’, in counter-insurgency

The autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance was inducted into the paramilitary forces last month while the army, navy and several state police forces have shown a keen interest in acquiring it, say its makers.

It was developed by Ideaforge Technology Pvt Ltd, a company floated by a group of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Mumbai alumni, and the Pune-based Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

DRDO, after watching the film, tied up with IdeaForge to refine the Netra. It is designed specifically for anti-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations in forested areas. It can be used in hostage situations, border infiltration monitoring, local law enforcement operations, search and rescue operations, disaster management and aerial photography.

“Ten units of Netra have already been taken by the DRDO for research related works in their laboratories like Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Manali while less than a dozen have been provided to paramilitary forces,” IdeaForge vice-president (marketing and operations unmanned systems) Amardeep Singh said. “We have given the right of production to IdeaForge and those interested in buying it can get in touch with the company,” Alok Mukherjee, head of DRDO’s robotics division, said.

The company is now working on the next version of Netra in order to increase the flight time from the present 30 minutes per battery charge. It can fly within a radius of 1.5 km at an altitude of around 200 metres.
India ramps up ties with Myanmar, Thailand
Jyoti Malhotra / New Delhi Jan 31, 2012, 00:38 IST

The road from Moreh, a town on the Manipur-Myanmar border, to Imphal was used by the Japanese army in 1944 to come right inside the heart of British India’s north-east, even challenging the might of the empire.

For decades thereafter, the Imphal-Moreh road as well as other border roads in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland were pretty much left to their own fate, as India deliberately ignored the development of border infrastructure, fearful of easing an enemy’s passage inside the country once it had broken through the frontier.
But as India revamps its mindset on border areas and begins to look at neighbouring states — such as Myanmar and Bangladesh — as part of a contiguous hinterland that must also participate in India’s economic growth, the first glimmer of a shift in South-East Asia’s balance of power is becoming slowly apparent.

Take the stream of visitors making their way to Delhi recently, in the run-up to India’s commemoration in December 2012 of its “Look-East policy” and its 20-year-old partnership with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang’s official visit last October was quickly followed by Myanmarese president Thein Sein, also in October. Last week, just as Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, arrived in the capital to attend the Republic Day parade, the first woman head of government in several decades, Myanmar foreign minister Maung Lwin was departing Delhi’s shores.

Interestingly, 2010’s chief guest at the Republic Day ceremonies was South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, while last year’s chief guest was Indonesian president Susilo Yudhoyono, the latter a key member of Asean.

Yingluck, whose closeness to her brother and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is an open secret, is a businesswoman, as well as married to one. She is expected to follow in Thaksin’s footsteps, which is to promote a CEO-like approach to governance, even though Thaksin, still a billionaire, remains in exile in London and Dubai.

That school of thought clearly struck a chord in Delhi last week, through the official dialogue as well as at her meeting with the industry associations. Annual India-Thailand trade currently touches $7.5 billion, but with Yingluck proposing greater Thai investment in India — in the hotel industry, in the food-and-vegetable cold chain — chances are that both countries will double their target by 2015.

Still, it was Yingluck’s offer to India to invest in an Italian-Thai joint venture that is seeking to build a world-class port and attendant infrastructure in the Dawei special industrial zone on Myanmar’s south-western coast, that has stirred the tea leaves in the region.

Dawei’s geographical location — on the isthmus that separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand — is so compelling that it has the potential to completely transform India’s relationship with Asean as well as East Asia.

Both Chennai and Kolkata are just across the Bay of Bengal, and both countries are already talking in terms of ramping up connectivity across this large lake by introducing ferries to Yangon, as well as Dawei.

As Myanmar emerges from its self-imposed isolation and reaches out to the world, and the world returns the compliment, Dawei could soon become a major stop on the maps of merchant ships.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Yangon and her announcement that the US would soon revoke sanctions on Myanmar (this is expected to happen once democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi participates in the April elections) is both a reaffirmation of the democratic spirit in Myanmar — as well as the US return to challenging China’s rising power in Asia.

In Clinton’s wake, from Pakistan to France, the world is beating a path to Myanmar’s door. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has been the most recent visitor, but dignitaries from France, UK and Australia have travelled both to its interior capital, Naypydaw, as well as paid obeisance to Suu Kyi in Yangon. Interestingly, Myanmar’s parliamentary speaker, Shwe Mann, told his Indian counterpart, Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, as well as Indian officials during his visit here in December, that “India’s model of inclusiveness was a model for Myanmar.”

Myanmar’s foreign minister, Maung Lwin, reiterated the message last week, giving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a detailed account of Myanmar’s “planned and orderly commitment to reform,” both economic and political. Agreements with several dissident ethnic groups have been reached, he said, and discussions with those holding out, such as the Kachins, remain on the cards.

India’s trade and economic figures with Myanmar, at $1.25 billion, are low, especially when compared to Myanmar’s trade relationship with China, touching $4 billion. Myanmar exports natural resources, such as timber, and agricultural products such as kidney beans or ‘rajma’, to India, while India exports machinery, industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods.

Nevertheless, Delhi remains heartened by the fact that only days before Thein Sein came to India last October — he began his visit by paying his respects to Buddha’s shrine in Bodh Gaya — the Myanmarese cancelled a $3.6-billion dam that China was building in their country.

Thailand’s proximity means it is a natural player in Myanmar. Besides the Dawei investment, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported last week quoting the New Light of Myanmar, four foreign companies were forming a joint venture with three domestic companies to run a special economic zone in Pathein, in the Ayeyawady region, also in south-western Myanmar. Two of the four foreign companies are from Thailand, one from Hong Kong and the fourth from Indonesia.

Indian officials point out that strategic interest in Myanmar, as well as in the greater Asean region, can only be complemented by “greater Indian business interest. Indian companies should take advantage of the fact that India refused to kowtow to US pressure and withdraw from Myanmar. Now as Myanmar opens up, they have to be first off the mark,” one official told Business Standard.

Essar and ONGC Videsh are making money from their 20 per cent stake in an oil block off the Rakhine coast, officials point out, while a detailed project report on building a 1,200-Mw project on the Chhindwin river is almost ready.

Officials say they hope the private sector will make use of India’s $500-million credit announced during Thein Sein’s visit to improve ties with Myanmar.

Delhi’s intention to expand its presence in the region is at last showing on the ground. Finally, 132 km of a beautiful, road from Moreh, the Manipuri border town, and across the border to Mandalay, as well as the last 165-km stretch to Mandalay has been built.

With the Thais also building their share of the stretch from Myanmar, the trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand could soon put India’s neglected north-east in the heart of Asean’s action.
Pak hardliners openly spew anti India, US, Israel venom
Islamabad, Jan 30 (ANI): Various hardliners, including the Pakistan Defence Council (PDC) have warned the government against reopening of NATO supply routes, threatening strikes and sit-ins if the rulers compromised on the issue.

They said that they strongly opposed any compromise over the blood of Pakistan Army and tribal brothers in return for dollars.

Demanding that drone attacks should be stopped immediately, PDC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq said the government should resort to the path of jehad instead of trying to appease the US by supporting its policies.

Haq said that they wanted peace and stability in the country, but if the US, India, Israel or any other power dared aggression, they would be responded to with full force, adding that the whole nation was united for the defence of Pakistan.

He further said that India, which allegedly was responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of Muslims, should not be given the status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN).

Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saeed even went to the extent of saying that all religious parties would stop NATO supplies to US soldiers in Afghanistan by force if the government doesn’t announce a date for quitting the American war on terror.

Saeed further said that the US and India were highly worried because of their defeat in Afghanistan, and therefore they have launched a propaganda campaign against Pakistan.

He said that India begged Washington not leave it alone in Afghanistan but Americans assured New Delhi they would get her declared most favoured nation by Pakistan.

Saeed also said that the “Multani prime minister” is quick to accepting his mistakes like his retreat on Abbottabad operation and a statement in Supreme Court. “I advise him to confess this land was used against Afghanistan.”

“Let’s seek forgiveness from Allah. Let’s accept publicly that the strategic partnership with US was a wrong decision,” he added.

Chairman of the council and chief of JUI-S Maulana Samiul Haq administered oath to the participants, who pledged not to hesitate in sacrificing their lives for the sake of the country and for foiling American, Indian and Israeli conspiracies. (ANI)
Maiden Fauji Mela enthralls audience
GUWAHATI: The first 'Fauji Mela' exposition held by 4th Corps at the historic Darrang College ground in Tezpur on Sunday was opened with a heartrending song by Bhupen Hazarika 'Koto Juwanor Mrityu Hoi', which he wrote while sitting at the Bomdila Club after the Sino-Indian War in 1962.

Defence spokesman Lt Col S S Phogat said the event organised by the 4thCorps headed GOC Lt Gen Shakti Gurung was inaugurated by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. "The exposition was aimed to showcase the strength, organization and capabilities of the Indian army to the people of the state. The finesse of its conduct by the Gajraj Corps made it an event to cherish," the spokesman stated.

The theme of the Fauji Mela was, 'We care for our People'. The role of the army in national integration manifested itself in the event. The chief minister's wife, Dolly Gogoi, also present at the mela which was attended by several senior civil and military dignitaries, including chief secretary NK Das.

The highlight of the mela was a well choreographed display of combat power comprising of combat free fall by commandos, mock attacks, battle drills and a high energy charge by Gorkha soldiers severing the heads of the enemy with their khukris. There was also a captivating display of skills by the army dog unit and delightful trick riding on mules exemplified the cohesiveness of the army jointmanship with the Air Force.

The event was witnessed by over 10,000 spectators, the spokesman added.
More Army resistance over AFSPA than I would have liked: Omar
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has expressed surprise over “more resistance” from the Army over withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir despite assurances that their interests would be protected.

Maintaining that discussions on partial withdrawal of AFSPA were on, Omar said the Army never had a counter-insurgency role in Srinagar district as it was always the state police and CRPF playing the role. “Unfortunately, there is more resistance than I would have liked from the Army for the reasons I don’t understand. It’s a considered decision that the areas that we are looking at for the removal of AFSPA are the areas where we don’t require the Army to operate.” He said the state was ready to take into consideration rightful concerns of the Army.

“We understand Army has certain concerns regarding their establishment whether it is Badami Bagh (Cantonment area), Sharifabad and Tattu ground (army camps). We are saying those areas... we will keep them out of ambit...,” he said.

‘India’s rights record in 2011 disappointing’
New York: Human rights record of India in 2011 got a thumbs down from a leading global rights group for its “failure” to protect vulnerable communities and rapped the government for custodial killings and police abuses. Human Rights Watch (HRW) also criticised the government for its inaction in repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and for remaining silent on the “gravest abuses” in countries like Syria.

In its World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries. In India’s case, HRW said it has been a “disappointing year for human rights”.
“Custodial killings, police abuses including torture, and failure to implement policies to protect vulnerable communities marred India’s record in 2011 as in the past,” HRW said in its report.

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