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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 28 Feb 2012
China opts out of meet on piracy in Indian Ocean
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 27
China has opted out of the two-day maritime conference on piracy and challenges in the Indian Ocean that started here today. Speakers from the USA, France, Australia, India and Gulf countries are participating in the conference to highlight issues that confront navies and merchant vessels in the pirate-infested waters.

The conference on "Indian Ocean challenges - a quest for cooperative solutions" is being organised by the Ministry of Defence-backed think tank, the National Maritime Foundation headed by former Naval Chief (retd) Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

Without China's participation and its cooperation, the conference is incomplete and may not throw up an exact picture for policy makers, officials maintain. The Chinese Navy is working on the high seas against piracy and has posted its warships in the Gulf of Aden to provide an escort to merchant vessels crossing the piracy-prone areas. It even cooperates in forming the escort schedule with India.

For China and India, the security of the sea lanes of communications (SLOCS) is vital. These SLOCS run across the high seas and around 82 per cent India's gas and oil needs are shipped through these waters. In case of China, around 61 per cent of its oil and gas is shipped through the Indian Ocean.

In the backdrop of China opting out of the conference, it is explicit belief that India alone cannot be the dominant player in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister AK Antony today said the "real problem" of piracy was located on land where powerful people were backing the sea brigands and piracy cases were continuing at an alarming rate.

"While the pirates can be neutralised at sea, the real solution lies in addressing the root causes-which are complex and are actually located on land. Pirates are only the front as there are powerful people behind them," he said.

The minister said India has put forward certain proposals before the United Nations to tackle piracy, for which a consensual and cooperative effort was required.
NCTC to miss its March 1 deadline
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
After days of hectic political lobbying, the Ministry of Home Affairs today announced that the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) will not be operationalised from its scheduled date of March 1.

The Tribune, in its edition dated February 24, had mentioned that the NCTC will miss its deadline. The MHA had announced in the first week of February that the NCTC - a single point pan-India body - will start functioning from March 1.

The NCTC is facing stiff opposition from non-Congress Chief Ministers. The NCTC may take its shape only after a meeting of the police chiefs of all states likely to be held in Delhi on March 10. The appointments of the director and three joint directors of the NCTC have also been put on hold.

The Union Home Secretary will invite Chief Secretaries and Commissioners of Home Departments of states along with the DGPs and heads of anti-terror organisations for a meeting, possibly on March 10, to "discuss in detail the scope and functions of the NCTC", Home Ministry sources said.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has written a letter to the Chief Ministers explaining the NCTC.
Army Act needs to be reviewed

STRIKING a balance between the need to punish wrongdoing and the rights of those accused of wrongdoing is a delicate task the world over. But sometimes it becomes patently obvious that an unwelcome imbalance has resulted and that is surely the case when it comes to the Pakistan Army Act, 1952. From the state having the right to terminate the services of an officer or jawan and there being no recourse to judicial review, to allowing punishments to be enhanced at the appellate stage, to being able to deny the documents of the trial proceedings of a military court to the accused, the denial of fair and legitimate rights and due process to those tried or punished under the Army Act is hard to defend. That the major distortions have come under military dispensations only makes the case stronger for a thorough review of the Act to bring it in like with the spirit of the constitution and international norms. So, it is some relief that the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society has called on the government to review the Army Act and strengthen the protection for those tried or punished under it.

The Society may have its own motives for taking up the matter. It was one of the more high-profile organisations to openly criticise the Musharraf regime, and has included in its resolution on bringing changes to the Army Act specific references to personnel dismissed through administrative orders during the Musharraf era. Nevertheless, the thrust of their demands is largely correct. Perhaps most problematically of all, the jurisdiction of the high courts to review certain actions against civilian or uniformed individuals under the Army Act has been ousted by a clause of the constitution, while the Supreme Court’s ability to intervene has also been somewhat limited to matters of ‘public importance’ and concerning fundamental rights. Surely, more judicial scrutiny, not less, is required when the armed forces have the ability to proceed against civilians under laws governing the armed forces.

To be sure, being a country racked by terrorist violence and one where militants are known to have infiltrated the armed forces, the law must be able to adequately deal with those seeking to undermine and overthrow the state. But basic civil liberties also need to be protected. The long journey to becoming a country where the rule of law has primacy will never be complete until regressive measures are expunged from the statute books.

— An editorial in Dawn, Islamabad

Antony terms China’s reaction to Arunachal visit objectionable
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
Defence Minister AK Antony today reacted sharply to China’s “objections” to his visit to Arunachal Pradesh last week.

“Statements made by China are objectionable. Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India like Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and any other state of India. As Defence Minister I can visit any place within my country,” he said on the sidelines of a seminar here today.

China claims a large part of Arunachal as its territory, which is disputed by India. The two nations have a boundary dispute, a legacy of the British days. Antony expressed surprise over China’s reaction and termed it “highly objectionable”, adding that Beijing had “no right” to interfere in India’s domestic affairs.

China had reacted sharply to Antony's visit to Arunachal Pradesh to take part in its 25th Statehood Day celebrations and said that India should refrain from taking any action that could "complicate" the border issue.

New Delhi said it took this matter seriously, asserting that Beijing had no right to interfere in its domestic affairs. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said Arunachal was a “part and parcel” of India. "India will not tolerate external interference of China in Indian territorial affairs," he said.
Defence Min okays $1.5-bn aircraft deal for Navy
Press Trust of India / New Delhi Feb 27, 2012, 20:30 IST

To boost maritime surveillance capabilities of the Navy, the Defence Ministry has approved the proposal to procure nine medium range reconnaissance aircraft expected to cost over $1.5 billion.

The approval for procuring the advanced medium range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft was granted by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Friday, Ministry officials said here today.
The nine MRMR planes will be in addition to the 12 American-origin P-8I long-range (LRMR) aircraft already being acquired by Navy at a $3.1 billion price tag.

Several global aviation majors including American Lockheed Martin, Swedish SAAB, French Dassault Aviation, Brazilian Embraer and European EADS are in contention for this big contract.

With an operating range of over 350 nautical miles, the MRMR planes will act as Navy's eyes and ears over Indian Ocean in the medium range.

While the P-8Is, with an operating range of around 1,200 nautical miles, will patrol the outermost layer of India's three-tier maritime surveillance grid, Israeli spy drones like Heron and Searcher-II as well as Dorniers make up the inner most layer.
Defence minister A. K. Antony gets agitated over Chinese objections to his trip to Arunachal Pradesh

Read more:

Defence minister A.K. Antony is a reticent man.

But his agitation at Chinese objections over his recent trip to Arunachal Pradesh came forth on Monday in a rare show of eloquence.

After Antony's visit to the North-Eastern state on February 19, a Chinese foreign ministry official had issued a veiled warning.
Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony delivers a speech during the silver jubilee celebration of Statehood Day in Itanagar earlier this month

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony delivers a speech during the silver jubilee celebration of Statehood Day in Itanagar earlier this month

'India should work with China to maintain peace and stability in border areas.

China advocates seeking a fair and rational solution through equal and friendly negotiation.

Beijing's stand on the border issue, including disputes regarding the eastern sector, has been consistent and clear-cut,' the official had said.

This was in line with the fact that China has routinely objected to Indian leaders visiting Arunachal Pradesh which it refuses to recognise.

But that has not prevented India to emphasise that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of the country.

Accordingly, Antony's visit was to take part in its statehood celebrations. On Monday morning, Antony hit back, asserting that the Chinese official's comment was 'objectionable' and visiting the state was part of his 'duty as defence minister of India'.

'I was surprised to see such a reaction. I feel it is most unfortunate and, at the same time, it is really objectionable,' Antony said in response to Chinese remarks.

His Arunachal visit was marked by a grand celebration which included a fly past by Indian Air Force's top of the line fighters - the Sukhoi-30s.

The IAF has recently moved Sukhois to the North-East to strengthen its capabilities in the region. In a provocative gesture, the fighter formation that took part in the celebrations was led by the same IAF officer who was denied a visa by Beijing last month.

China had objected to the presence of the IAF pilot, Group Captain M. Panging, in a defence delegation scheduled to visit Beijing.

Panging, whose brother is in the army, belongs to Arunachal Pradesh and China is averse to giving visas to people from the state. China 'advised' Antony, saying India should refrain from taking any action that could 'complicate' the border issue.

    The McMahon Line serves as the effective boundary between India and China. This line separates Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet
    It is named after Sir Henry McMahon, then foreign secretary of British India, who negotiated the boundary agreement between Great Britain and Tibet at the Simla Accord in 1914
    But China rejects the accord, claiming Tibet was not sovereign so it did not have the power to conclude treaties. Thus it considers Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory between India and China
    The McMahon Line extends for 890 km from Bhutan in the west to 260 km east of the great bend of the Brahmaputra in the east along the crest of the Himalayas

It had issued similar statements when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil visited the state.

Antony said he had been visiting Arunachal since 1984.

'This time, I was thrilled to visit the state on its silver jubilee of attaining statehood,' Antony, commenting about the progress made by state, had said.

China views Arunachal Pradesh as part of the border dispute but India has countered the move, leading to a stalemate in the talks to settle the boundary question.

As the fresh row between India and China broke out, a group of US Army soldiers landed in New Delhi for the next round of the bilateral exercise Yudh Abhyas.

The growing military ties between India and the US have often made Beijing uncomfortable.

The Yudh Abhyas 2011-12 will involve mechanised forces. A reconnaissance platoon with the Stryker reconnaissance vehicle has also arrived for the exercise that will take place in the Rajasthan desert.

As the US troops landed in India, Antony also talked about the military presence of the world's major powers in the Indian Ocean Region despite the waters being far from their shores.

'Unlike the Atlantic and Pacific, a few of the major powers are geographically contiguous to its waters and yet they have maintained a certain military presence and abiding politico-diplomatic interest in these waters,' he said, speaking at a maritime seminar.

Read more:
Army invincible in Desert Storm
Army Chief's visit to Israel likely to be deferred
US troops to celebrate Holi with Indian Army
A group of 200 US army troops will get a taste and a feel of Holi, the Indian festival of colours, even as they test their battlefield skills with Indian Army personnel during an annual war game in the Rajasthan desert beginning next week.

With barely a week left for the exercise to begin, a group of 30 American troops along with their Stryker reconnaissance armoured personnel carriers and support equipment arrived here Monday. The rest will arrive later.

The American troops will participate in the bilateral Yudh Abhyas-2012 war games involving the mechanised forces of the two countries, an army spokesperson said here.

"With Holi falling within the training calendar (on March 8), the US troops will also get a colourful experience of this vibrant festival as a part of the cultural exchange between troops," the spokesperson said.

The troops and their equipment are from the 2nd Squadron of 14th Cavalry Regiment from the 25th Infantry Division of the US Army's Pacific base in Hawaii. The initial lot of 30 will directly proceed to the exercise area and will be joined by another 170 American army personnel within a few days.

The joint exercise is designed to promote cooperation between the two militaries at the tactical level, while sharing training procedures and building joint operating skills, within the framework of UN peacekeeping operations, the spokesperson said.

During the exercise, troops from both nations will engage in joint planning for a variety of missions including live fire drills, cordon and search operations and search and rescue training.

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