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Sunday, 19 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 19 Feb 2012
Mamata, 6 other Oppn CMs oppose anti-terror body
Say setting up of NCTC violates the principles of federalism
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, February 17
Key ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s growing proximity to the BJP and other non-Congress political players has emerged as a fresh source of concern for the UPA government.

In the latest move, Mamata joined hands with six Opposition chief ministers to oppose the constitution of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) on the plea that it violates the principles of federalism. She has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh objecting to the special powers being given to the NCTC and asked him to “review and withdraw “ the decision.

“It’s is difficult for the state government to accept such arbitrary exercise of power by the Central government/Central agency, which will have a bearing on the rights and privilege of the states as enshrined in the Constitution of India,” she wrote.

Similar letters have been sent by Chief Ministers Naveen Patnaik (Odisha), J.Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu) and Narendra Modi (Gujarat) who have objected to the fact that the Centre had not consulted state governments on this issue. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan and P.K.Dhumal, respectively, have also opposed the creation of the anti-terror body which, they said, will encroach on the federal powers of the states.

While the Centre’s immediate task is to see that its ambitious plans to set up the NCTC are not thwarted, it is Mamata Banerjee’s growing tendency to align with non-UPA political players which has really got the UPA government worried as its survival is critically dependent on the TMC’s 22 Lok Sabha MPs.

More importantly, Mamata’s move comes at a time when Naveen Patnaik has been speaking about the presence of a third political front at the national level. Indicating that his party is in favour of leading such a formation, the BJD supremo contacted Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa to seek their support in opposing the NCTC which, he believes, could lay the foundation for greater bonding between the different regional parties and ultimately coalesce into a political front.

On its part, Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary maintained that they will resolve all outstanding issues with their allies through dialogue but also underlined that everybody had a collective responsibility to fight terror and there should be no compromise on security matters. She, however, dismissed Naveen Patnaik's idea of a Third Front, saying it was aware of the fate such a proposition had met in the past.

With relations between the Congress and the TMC on the decline, Mamata has used every opportunity to thumb her nose at the Centre. Much to the embarrassment of the UPA, she had joined the BJP-led NDA in opposing the Lokpal Bill. Similarly, the West Bengal Chief Minister had surprised the ruling combine when she agreed with the BJP’s objections to the Communal Violence Bill when it came up for discussion at last year’s meeting of National Integration Council. Mamata was also on the same page as the opposition on allowing FDI in retail trade, which forced the Centre to backtrack on this key policy decision.

n NCTC officers shall have power to arrest and search under Section 43A of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
n Will have the power to set up Inter State Intelligence Support Teams (INSIST)
n Can seek information, documents, reports, transcripts, cyber info from any agency

States say

n Power to arrest and seize that was vested with the Jt Secy in the Union Home Ministry, the secy, Home Deptt in State Govts is now being sought to be transferred to officers of Intelligence Bureau
n This can be misused. Setting up of INSIST would lead to usurping the states' rights

What is NCTC?

n National Counter Terrorism Centre was first proposed in the aftermath of November 2008 Mumbai attacks. To be functional from March 1
n An over-arching body, NCTC will have powers to tackle terrorism
n All intelligence inputs will go to it
n The Multi Agency Centre (MAC) with pan-India footprint will work under NCTC

Key Terror Attacks

Dec 13, 2001: Attack on Parliament, kills 12
Aug 25, 2003: Twin car bombings in Mumbai kill 52
Oct 29, 2005: 3 blasts in Delhi killing 59, injuring 200
Aug 25, 2007: 42 die in twin explosions in Hyderabad
May 13, 2008: Six explosions tear through Jaipur killing 63 persons
July 26, 2008: Serial blasts in Ahmedabad claim 45 lives
Oct 30, 2008: 13 blasts in Assam and three other towns leave 61 dead
July 13, 2011: 3 blasts in Mumbai, 21 killed
NCTC in national interest: Home Secy
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
The Union Home Ministry today defended the setting up of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), India’s first attempt at having a centralised counter-terrorism wing, as a move in “national interest” and countered the version of protesting Chief Ministers saying that it was not a result of any new legislation.

The Union Home Ministry that drafted the framework of the NCTC, in consultation with the states, is aghast at the turn of events with an official saying, “states are protesting as if terrorism has boundaries”. A strong counter-terrorism effort is needed and the Centre only intends to coordinate that.

Union Home Secretary RK Singh said, “The NCTC has been set up under the amended UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act).” The NCTC comes into force from March 1.

The UAPA was passed by Parliament in January 2009 after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and all parties, at that time, had spoken about a strong law.

Reacting to the criticism, the Home Secretary said, “The NCTC is in national interest and it is being established under the existing laws.”

Singh allayed fears of the Chief Ministers who have cited certain Sections which they find offending saying “The sections which have been quoted have been on the statute for the past six-seven years. These are not any new provisions of law.”
We won’t provide airbases to US for attack on Iran: Zardari
Pak, Afghanistan, Iran want non-interference in their affairs
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

As tensions mounted in the Persian Gulf, Pakistan on Friday assured Iran that it would not provide any assistance to American forces in the event of a US attack on Tehran.

President Asif Ali Zardari held out the assurance during a trilateral summit here with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamid Karzai respectively, Geo News channel reported quoting its sources. Zardari said Pakistan would not provide its airbases to the US to launch an attack on Iran, according to the report.

The President said Pakistan and Iran “needed each other and no foreign pressure could hinder their ties,” the channel reported.

In a reference to the US pressure to abandon the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Zardari reportedly sent a message to the US “not to tell Pakistan who it can and cannot trade with.” There was no official word on Zardari’s reported comments.

However, a joint statement issued after the trilateral summit said the Presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan had called for “non-interference and non-intervention” in their internal affairs.

The leaders further pledged to step up cooperation for eradicating terrorism and militancy and said they would not allow “any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other.” They also agreed to “commence trilateral consultations on an agreement in this regard,” the statement said without giving details.

Meanwhile, addressing a join press conference with Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Ahmadinejad said on Friday said all problems in the region were the result of foreign interference.

“All problems are coming from outside. In order to promote their goals and ambitions… they don’t want to allow our nations to develop,” he said, without specifically naming any foreign power.

The outspoken Iranian leader said: “We should stick together in order to advance and achieve our goals”. “All these powers are interfering in our affairs. We believe that the problems of the region must be solved regionally,” he said.

The joint statement said the three Presidents had agreed to “proceed on the basis of mutual interest, mutual respect, non-interference and non-intervention in internal affairs.”

The statement said the three countries “reiterated their full support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive process of peace and reconciliation” in Afghanistan.

Zardari and Ahmadinejad assured Karzai that they would “extend full cooperation and stressed that any initiative in this regard must have authentic Afghan ownership,” the statement said. (With inputs from PTI)
Mi-17 V5 copters inducted into IAF
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
The first lot of Mi-17 V5 helicopters was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) at a brief ceremony at the Palam Air Force station today.

Defence Minister AK Antony said India’s latest acquisition would augment the Army’s military capabilities. He said the Mi-17 V5 helicopters would add to the flexibility and operational muscle, as well as capabilities of the IAF. It would help it in meeting its growing mandate, he added.

Earlier, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshall NAK Browne said the first lot of 21 choppers would be sub-divided and sent to Bathinda, Srinagar and Bagdogra. The lot stationed at Srinagar would also do duty at Thoise in Northern Ladakh besides being deployed for air-lifting operations at Saichen Glacier.
No rethink on jet deal: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
In what is a clear signal that India may not accept demands by British Prime Minister David Cameron seeking a review of the multi-billion dollar fighter-jet deal, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony has not only ruled out a rethink on the choice but he has also made it clear that there will be no political interference.

On January 31, New Delhi, after conducting extensive tests of global fighters, had announced that French firm Dassault Aviation’s Rafale was the lowest price bidder for the procurement of 126 jets for the Indian Air Force.

Cameron announced in British Parliament that he would impress upon the Indians to review their decision and have a look at EADS consortium’s Eurofighter Typhoon. EADS is a consortium of four countries - the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Antony, while responding to queries from the media, said Indian foreign policy and relations with any country have no connection with procurement of weapon systems.

“Our foreign policy and relations are one thing, but our procurements are not based on political considerations. Procurement is based on trials by Services and the lowest price. There will be no other consideration,” Antony made it abundantly clear.

The minister was asked to comment on British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that he would ask India to rethink its decision on the deal and buy the Eurofighter Typhoon.
‘Army Chief age row taught lessons’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
Defence Minister AK Antony said today that lessons had been learnt from the age issue of Army Chief Gen VK Singh and added that “India cannot afford another such controversy”.

Speaking to the mediapersons on the sidelines of a defence function, he said, “We have learnt lessons from it. We are going to ask everybody in the Armed forces to strictly reconcile different documents so that this kind of conflict of does not happen in future.”

“It is not a personal matter. It happened unfortunately and it is over now. Do not raise the issue in the country’s interest,” he told the media.

When asked if there was any strain in the ties between the Defence Ministry and the Army, Antony said, "This is a closed chapter now. There is no strain.”
Army destroys classified Kargil documents
Former Commander of Kargil brigade calls it contempt of court
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
The Army has destroyed classified documents relating to operations during the 1999 Kargil conflict. This has been revealed in the Army's response to a query filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by former Commander of Kargil brigade Brig Surinder Singh.

Consequent to the reply, the brigadier's counsel today filed a contempt application against an Army Major and a joint secretary in the Defence Ministry, contending that the said documents were destroyed after the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) directed the Army to keep the said documents readily available for production in court.

"The original copies of the documents listed in the RTI have been destroyed by burning as per procedures. No record of any additional copies of the said documents being prepared exits in this directorate," said a note from the Military Operations Directorate attached with the Army's reply received by the Brigadier a few days ago.

Brig Surinder Singh was the commander of 121 (Independent) Brigade at Kargil in 1999. During mid-conflict, he was removed over allegations of mishandling classified information and later his services were terminated. He challenged the Army's actions in the Delhi High Court and the matter was subsequently transferred to the tribunal, where it came up for hearing today.

He had sought copies of several documents pertaining to the period of operations in support of the contentions he has raised before the tribunal. Some of these documents were attached by the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen VP Malik, along with his reply submitted in the case a few years ago and the contents of which also find mention in his book.

In his contempt petition, yet to be taken up by the bench, Brigadier Singh's counsel MP Goswami said they had sought contempt proceedings against Maj Harpal Singh and Arun Kumar Bal, joint secretary (establishment) in the MoD. He said affidavits filed earlier by the respondents revealed that the said documents were existing as on October 25, 2010, when the AFT issued the aforesaid orders on their production.

Speaking to mediapersons outside the court, Goswami said Gen Malik should also be questioned as to how he obtained and retained copies of classified documents when the same were being purported to have been destroyed without any copies being made. "If a brigadier can face action for allegedly retaining some official documents, the same provisions of law are equally applicable to the former Army Chief," he said.

The list of several hundred pages of documents said to have been destroyed include those related with Operation Meghdoot in Siachen, correspondence on Pakistani intelligence, Line of Control violations, firing incidents, intrusions, movements, VVIP visits, disputes along the border and other operational and administrative matters.

Counsel for the Union of India Gurpreet Singh said the petitioner today filed an affidavit before the bench giving his averments on the its observation that some information conveyed to the media was incorrect. "We will be filing a rejoinder to the affidavit on the next date of hearing in April," he added.
Sure to buy French Rafale jets: Indian Air Force
AFP/ PTI / Paris Feb 17, 2012, 20:55 IST

India will not veer from its decision to award a $12-billion-dollar contract to France for Rafale fighter planes, the Indian Air Force chief of staff said in an interview published online.

"We have a procedure as per the defense procurement policy that stipulates the contract goes to the lowest bidder," Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne told the US monthly Aviation International News at the Singapore Airshow.
India chose Dassault Aviation's Rafale plane over the Typhoon built by Eurofighter, a consortium made up of British group BAE Sytems, Europe's EADS and Italy's Finmeccanica.

Browne added in the interview posted Thursday that they have begun negotiations to finalise the contract for 126 planes and that any decision now to involve another manufacturer would be "procedurally untenable."

He was speaking after Rafale's rival Eurofighter said it still hoped to win the contract, despite Dassault being chosen for exclusive negotiations.

BAE Systems, which has a 33% stake in the consortium, said yesterday that it still "actively" upholds its Typhoon offer, adding: "There is still a long way to go before the contract is awarded."

The contract negotiations committee opened Dassault Aviation's Rafale bid on February 13 and identified the French company as its lowest bidder.

Browne called the Rafale selection "Brilliant!" in the AIN interview and added: "We got it at the best cost possible. The decision was based on performance and Rafale passed all qualifications."
Army to issue retirement note to General Singh next week
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Feb 17, 2012, 20:29 IST

With an official communication to be sent to Army Chief General VK Singh next week about his tenure ending on May 31, the Defence Ministry will announce his successor soon.

The Defence Ministry has shortlisted three seniormost officers-- Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Shri Krishna Singh and Northern Army Commander Lt Gen K T Parnaik for the top post.
Gen Singh, who is slated to return from his UK trip on February 20, will be given the Retirement Warning Letter (RWL) by the Military Secretary branch in the next few days, official sources said today.

RWL is normally given to officers about 10-11 months before their due date of retirement but had not been issued to Gen Singh as he had filed official pleas to get his date of birth changed.

The MS branch is awaiting the Supreme Court documents in the case and will issue the RWL soon thereafter, the sources said.

After rejecting Gen Singh's plea to change his date of birth to May 10, 1951, the Defence Ministry in November last year had asked the MS branch to issue the letter.

The MS branch expressed its inability to do so saying that the matter was sub-judice.

The Army chief had at that time had filed the Statutory Complaint with the Defence Minister AK Antony to accept May 10, 1951 as his date of birth.

On February 10, the Army Chief withdrew his plea on the age issue in the Supreme Court which held that May 10, 1950 will remain as his date of birth in service records.
Army presumed him dead, ‘kin believe’ Rifleman Dass alive in Pakistan jail
Amritsar Lance Naik Gopal Dasswent missing in 2000, family visits Attari to get clues from returning Indian prisoners

Only the ‘presumption’ of death and the ‘teasing gestures’ by the Pakistani army personnel after Rifleman Gopal Dass of 8 JAK LI (Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry) went missing in cross battle with the enemy during Operation Rakshak in August 2000 are keeping hopes of his family afloat. The family believes that Dass is alive in Pakistan jail.

It has been 11 years since Gopal Dass went missing on August 24, 2000 and was later “presumed dead” by the army authorities and all the benefits of his service, including job to one of his brother on compassionate grounds was extended to his family members. However, his family still waits for him to return.

Every time the family learns about Indian prisoners being repatriated from Pakistan, at least one of the family members reaches the Attari border to get a clue about Dass, who was 23 and unmarried when he went missing.

Holding a bunch of his photographs, Dass’ brother Mohinder Kumar reached out to the Indian prisoners who return from Attari border on Thursday. He travelled five hours by bus to reach the Attari border, but was dejected when none of the returned Indian prisoners could identify Dass.

“Whenever we learn that Indian prisoners are being repatriated back from Pakistan, someone from the family reaches the Attari border,” Mohinder told The Indian Express, sifting through the pages of a file that contains communiques from army authorities on different dates ever since Dass went missing.

Mohinder was given a job of Nursing Orderly (NO) on compassionate grounds after army authorities declared that “Gopal Dass has been presumed for official purpose to have been killed in action on August 24, 2000 in Operation Rakshak”.

“But, the Indian army personnel in Dass’ regiment told us that the Pakistani army personnel used to tease them saying that dass was in their custody,” said Mohinder. “The Pakistani soldiers used to tell the Indian soldiers that Gopal had four brothers and one of them had got married last year only,” Mohinder recalled, adding that such details also corroborated the belief that Gopal had been taken hostage by the Pakistan. “It was I who got married in December 1999 and the reference by the Pakistani soldier was towards me,” Mohinder said.

“We want Gopal with us. We know he is alive and is in Pakistan. The moment he returns, I would quit the job given to me on compassionate grounds,” said Mohinder.

While brothers of Dass continue to look for clues, their mother, Satya Devi, has firm belief that he is still alive. “Siane bande kehnde ne ki mera larka zinda hai par kise de kabze vich hai (Learned persons assure me that my son is alive, but is in the custody of someone),” Devi said over phone from Chhan Rorian, Dass’ native village in Jammu and Kashmir. “We are waiting for him to return,” she added.

“We are 100 per cent sure that Gopal is alive and is in Pakistan,” said Jugal Kishore, another brother of Gopal.

The officials of Pakistan army had tried to pass off the body of an unidentified person as that of Dass on August 30, 2000. The maggot-infested body did not match the description and physical parameters of Dass, who was shorter in height than that of the body. Also the distinguishing marks of Dass were also found absent on the body.
Select the best for Army Chief
HK Dua.

Wise Generals don’t fight avoidable wars. The Chief of Army Staff, General V K Singh, fought a prolonged war on a personal issue, stretched his lines beyond a limit and lost it.

As a serving Chief of one of the largest armies of the world he ought not to have become a complainant before the highest court of the land – only to lose the war he had waged for several months over the date of his birth.

Was he born in 1950 or in 1951 was the question. Involved was a few months’ extension of his tenure in the top most job in the Indian Army.

The Indian Army has a high reputation to keep and it was the duty of General V K Singh to protect it. By approaching the Supreme Court he staked his own honour and that of the post he was holding. Both have come out somewhat bruised.

Why he made a simple question of his own date of birth a matter of honour cannot be easily explained. Had the system of army promotion done injustice to him, or was it some pent up grievance he was nursing all along that had pushed him on to a wrong track which was bound to lead him to a dead-end.

Going by the obiter dicta of the two judges it was clear that Gen. V K Singh was overdrawing on his honour theme that he felt would be compromised if he was to be considered born in 1950.

The judges rejected his demand that he be considered born in 1951, but gave avuncular advice to the chief that he is “a great soldier” and that a date of birth did not have a bearing on his honour.

Having reached the acme of his career with the Indian armed forces, the court seemed to be asking: “What more do you want, General?”

The judges did not want to go into the question that V K Singh was born in 1951. They chose to go by May 10, 1950 as the date of birth as shown in the application form filled in by the young aspirant himself when he sat for the NDA examination, and also by the records of the UPSC.

The Supreme Court also saw merit in the Ministry of Defence going by the undertaking given by the General himself in 2008 and 2009 that he would go by the 1950 date. This was when he was being promoted to higher ranks on the ladder that led to his being the Chief of Army Staff.

Justice H L Gokhale said in the court: “The government gave you an opportunity. It is not fair to criticize the Defence Ministry. The matter was treated as closed. The government made you Chief of the Army. They could have easily said ‘We don’t need such a person’.”

Justice R M Lodha said: “We want to ensure as Chief of Army you continue to serve the country as you did in 38 years. This verdict should not come in your way. Wise men are those who move with the wind.”

As good old uncles often do, this was an exercise in applying balm to a General who has lost his battle, and who might take defeat to heart and quit his job.

Men who have a heightened sense of honour often need such a piece of advice and it is good the Supreme Court gave it to the General. The Chief himself in his long career himself might have given this kind of advice to a junior with a hurt ego.

Whether General V K Singh chooses to accept the Supreme Court’s advice remains to be seen. On the surface, his continuance at the helm seems to have become untenable. This is because he took the battle too far, leaving himself with little space to beat retreat with a grace.

It is for him to decide. In service, he would become a kind of lame duck in uniform; always looking back over on his 38 years of the battles, won and lost, including the great DoB battle.

General V K Singh should feel happy he made it to the top. He must, however, ponder whether it was worth all the bother. He might also consider whether it is wise to divide his Army in two camps – for and against him on his personal issue.

Or did he get carried away with the breaking news headlines in the newspapers or on the TV channels? For weeks the General’s age had become their staple.

The government has clearly won the case in the Supreme Court. But it must review the system of selecting the Chief of Army Staff. Particularly it should consider whether the seniority principle which guides the selection process gets the best of chiefs for the Army.

Often the senior-most General may not be the option. Indian Army requires the ablest of the commanders to be its chief. The accident of getting born on a particular day should not be decisive.

The best way perhaps would be to select the best General out of top brass of eight top commanders.

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