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Saturday, 5 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 05 May 2012
Changing scene in South Asia
Pakistan Army willing to improve ties with India
by T.V. Rajeswar

After visiting Siachen, where over 120 Pakistani soldiers were killed after getting entrapped by an avalanche, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said something very different for the first time in many years. Kayani expressed the view that all issues between India and Pakistan should be resolved to ensure co-existence which would allow the two countries to focus on development and public welfare. Speaking to reporters at Skardu, Kayani explained that the issue of Siachen was to be resolved through negotiations. Former Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif, too, agreed with the view when he said that Pakistan should take the initiative for resolving the Siachen issue. Kayani's reference to peaceful co-existence and resolution of all outstanding issues through dialogue was something remarkable and showed a welcome change in the thinking of the Pakistan Army.

Soon Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also supported the opinion expressed by Kayani. Addressing a conference on the role of NGOs in the development of Pakistan at Islamabad on April 23, Gilani said the era of wars was over and Pakistan was ready to resolve through talks all the outstanding issues with India, including the Kashmir dispute and terrorism. He referred to the hand of friendship extended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said that Pakistan was ready to reciprocate it fully.

Gilani pointed out that the basic issues, apart from terrorism and extremism, which plagued Pakistan were illiteracy and poverty. Pakistan President Zardari's pilgrimage to India on April 8 was to seek the blessings of the Khwaja of Ajmer. Yet Dr Manmohan Singh hosted a lunch when they also held talks on the outstanding issues involing the two countries. Nawaz Sharif praised Zardari for his initiative in meeting the Indian Prime Minister and trying to normalise his country's relations with India.

Pakistan encouraged the opening of a second trade gate at the Wagah-Attari border with a network of motorways constructed around Lahore from Wagah to reach the south-bound national highway and the north and west-bound motorways to Peshawar and Faisalabad, the textile capital of Pakistan's Punjab. Pakistan has also completed an eight-lane highway to the Ganda Singh Wala border near Kasur, 40 km southeast of Lahore and across the Sutlej to Ferozepur in India.

Pakistanis are happy over the offer of Dr Manmohan Singh to supply 5000 MW of power to energy-starved Punjab in Pakistan. It is a matter of achievement for President Zardari.

Elections are due in Pakistan next year. The Pakistan Army has shown its willingness to be on the same page with President Zardari.

The million-dollar bounty announced on the head of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed coincidentally came on the eve of Zardari's visit to Delhi and Ajmer. This has convinced Zardari on the need to be strict in tackling the issue of terrorism. Hillary Clinton had said earlier that Pakistan's policy of keeping snakes in the backyard and expecting them to bite only the enemies chosen by Pakistan but not themeselves should come to Zardari as a reminder. Whether he would take the initiative in taking strong action against Hafiz Saeed and his LeT jihadis remains to be seen. It was agreed during the Zardari-Manmohan Singh meeting on April 8 that secondary-level meetings should be held as scheduled to tackle all the outstanding issues, including terrorism.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is going ahead with seeking assistance from India in various fields of expertise. Pakistan Railway officials will hold a meeting with officers of Indian Railways for technical assistance when Pakistan would make formal requests for building what is described as a dozen "decent" railway systems in Pakistan. Pakistan is also seeking a large number of broad gauge diesel locomotives.

India has expressed its willingness to extend technical assistance for improving infrastructure in Pakistan. Sooner or later Pakistan is bound to realise that holding on to terrorism as an instrument of State policy would not be in its interests as Pakistan would be the real sufferers in the long run.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna made a sue motu statement in the Lok Sabha on April 25 when he said that Dr Manmohan Singh accepted the invitation of President Asif Zardari, extended at the lunch hosted by Dr Singh on April 8, to visit Pakistan at an appropriate time. Diplomatic channels will be used to work out mutually acceptable dates and make substantive preparations for the visit. Krishna said that during the 40-minute meeting with Zardari, Dr Singh told him that Hafiz Saeed's activities apparently had the support of the security agencies of Pakistan which did not augur well for the relations between the two countries. Dr Singh emphasised that there was need for taking firm action to curb terrorism and bring the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks to justice.

Krishna also told the Lok Sabha that the two leaders discussed developments in the region which included Afghanistan and the cooperation between India and Afghanistan for economic development. It may be recalled that India and Afghanistan signed a strategic pact in October 2011 when President Hamid Karzai made an official visit to New Delhi. Pakistan is playing a dubious game in its relations with Afghanistan which was exposed by a series of attacks carried out in Afghanistan by the Taliban militants of the Haqqani faction, which is apparently enjoying the patronage of the ISI .

The United States has announced that though in 2014 its armed forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan, it will retain a sizeable number of troops for training purposes. Economic assistance would also be continued to Afghanistan indefinitely.

These days Imran Khan, leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf Party of Pakistan, is drawing huge crowds for his rallies. He hopes to win the next election. In his various speeches, Khan has said that India and Pakistan should have cordial relations as is the case between the US and Canada.

There is also further news on the prospects of improvement in the economic ties between India and Pakistan. It may be recalled that in May 2010, there was a significant trade conference which led to the joint peace initiative by India and Pakistan for the improvement of trade relations between the two countries.

The same organisers have planned a second Indo-Pak economic conference on May 7 and 8 in Lahore in collaboration with the CII and the Pakistan Business Council. The conference will be presided over by CII President Adi Godrej of India and inaugurated by the Pakistan Prime Minister. It is hoped the meeting of trade and industry leaders from India and Pakistan would lead to substantial progress in their economic relations.
Western Command war exercise under way in Punjab
Kusum Arora/TNS

Jalandhar, May 4
Highest standards of battle manoeuvres involving extensive use of satellite imagery, air-borne surveillance, land and air-based radars are being explored by soldiers in the ongoing war exercise being conducted by the Western Command Headquarters.

The combat exercise, which is aimed at achieving "battle field transparency" and providing "real-time information" of the battlefront to the field commanders would play a major role in synchronising "quick decision making" during different operations.

Sources said the exercise would also see unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), attack helicopters and frontline fighter aircraft of the Western Air Command (WAC) carrying out battle drills in synergy with the Army.

Around 20,000 soldiers from two major formations - Headquarters Vajra Corps, Jalandhar Cantonment, and Rising Star Corps, Yol Cantonment in Himachal Pradesh, are taking part in the exercise. The exercise that started four days ago is slated to conclude by May-end.

While soldiers of the Vajra Corps are conducting exercise somewhere near Hoshiarpur, the Rising Star Corps is holding it in the areas of Pathankot and adjoining places of Punjab. "The Army has based its formations in different plains of Punjab to acquaint the soldiers with tactical might of the Army. Towards May-end, the soldiers would carry out the final manoeuvres of the war exercise," sources said.

During the exercise, thrust would be on operational preparedness, Army's fighting concepts and the induction of new warfare technologies. "The soldiers would practice the infusion of latest warfare technology focusing on "network-centric operations". It would also include infantry combat vehicles, T-72 tanks, mechanised vehicles in the exercise," said an officer.

It is pertinent to mention here that a similar combat exercise, "Shoorveer" involving 60,000 soldiers under the aegis of the South Western Command concluded yesterday at Hanumangarh on the India-Pakistan border.

Army Chief General VK Singh also went to review the exercise and the operational readiness of the troops. The exercise also saw participation of fighter aircrafts like C-130J Super Hercules, MiGs, Jaguars, Mi-17 and spy drones of the IAF.
It's the end of the war for India's army of Baldricks

The Indian army has finally given up the position of the "batmen", who acts as a servant to senior officers. Recent complaints claim the soldiers were being forced to act as waiters at private parties, drive children to school and take wives shopping.
The Indian army is one of the world's last to maintain the position of the batman – sahayak in Hindi. However, complaints have grown in recent years over soldiers forced to serve as waiters at private parties, drive children to school and take wives shopping.

The use of batmen in the Indian army dates back to its use by its British officers before independence.

The position was coveted and regarded as a path to promotion from private to sergeant or corporal. The relationship between officer and batman was portrayed by Blackadder and Baldrick in the TV comedy Blackadder Goes Forth.

The British Army phased out the practice at the end of the Second World War.

The Indian army wants to replace the batmen serving 30,450 officers with civilian "service assistants"

Manas Gupta, a political commentator, said he was denounced as unpatriotic by officers' families when he criticised the use of batmen. "I think this sahayak system was just a colonial hangover which turned into a perk for officers," he said.
Indian army shelves British colonial system of batmen
THE INDIAN army plans to abolish the colonial system of batmen or personal orderlies it inherited from the British military at independence 65 years ago.

Once implemented – sometime later this year – it would release some 30,000 combatants, or more than a regular army corps, allowing them to dump menial household chores and to rejoin their units as regular soldiers.

In exchange, the army proposes to replace batmen – renamed as sahayaks (assistants or helpers) some years ago in a feeble effort at distancing itself from its colonial heritage – by civilian personnel.

According to recommendations army headquarters submitted recently to the defence ministry, this change-over would entail hiring more than 25,000 civilians dubbed service assistants and non-combatant assistants at an annual outlay of Rs 1.78 billion (€312 million).

"The system of batmen in the army is demeaning for soldiers and should have been done away with years ago," said former major general Sheru Thapliyal.

In recent times many of them were treated little better than domestic servants by officers and their families, a role that robbed them of their self-esteem and made them the object of scorn in their units, he said.

Many were even forced to undertake household chores such as cooking and cleaning

The term batman evolved in the British army during the inter-war years, before which they were known as soldier servants.

Moreover, in the British and Indian armies prior to independence in 1947 and shortly thereafter, when officers typically came from the privileged classes, it was not unknown for a batman to follow them into later civilian life as domestic servants.

For officers batmen were meant to be "runners", to convey their orders to subordinates, maintain their uniform and personal equipment and drive vehicles.

They often acted as the officer's bodyguard and in deceptively vague military jargon were required to perform other "miscellaneous tasks" demanded by the officer.

This latter nebulous responsibility in the British Indian army, particularly in modern day Pakistan's North West Frontier, at times ended up as a euphemism for sexual liaisons between some officers and their batmen.

Many 19th and 20th century regimental histories hint broadly at steamy relationships between officers and Pathan batmen which, when they became known, resulted either in dishonourable discharges or the honourable alternative of suicide to sidestep regimental and familial disgrace.
India has toughened Siachen stand: Kayani
India has toughened its stance on Siachen, the world's highest battleground, said Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.   Kayani made the remark to media personnel after a visit to Gyari sector in the Siachen glacier area, his third since an avalanche entombed 140

The general said India was now demanding re-determination of positions, reported Dawn. He, however, added it "takes two hands to clap".

On April 18, the country's powerful army chief had said Pakistan favoured talks with India to demilitarise Siachen.

"Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people," he said.

"Both countries should sit together to resolve all the issues including Siachen," Kayani added. Pakistan, however, promptly did an about turn a day later when Islamabad insisted said there was no change in its stance on the disputed glacier.

Foreign office spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said here that Pakistan has made no change in its stance on the Siachen glacier. "It is in our mutual interest that we address all the issues," Khan said.

Responding to a question on whether Pakistan's civilian and military leadership had revised the policy on Siachen, Kayani said it was "too early" to say anything.
Indian Army testing its readiness in Punjab war game
New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) The Indian Army has launched a massive summer war game in the plains of Punjab to test its operational readiness, a defence ministry official said Friday.

Organised under the army's Chandimandir-based Western Command, the participating formations include the Yol Cantonment-based 9 Corps and the Jalandhar-based 11 Corps.

During the month-long exercise, more than 20,000 troopers, 200 tanks and infantry combat vehicles will test their skills to repel enemy attack and to carry out a short, effective offensive to weaken the adversary.

The exercise is being held close to the borders with Pakistan. It will validate the army's battle concepts, apart from absorbing new military technologies acquired by it in recent years, a defence ministry spokesperson based in Jalandhar, Punjab, said.

'This exercise is part of the army's systematic approach to training, which aims at transforming it into a modern, lean, agile and a well-equipped force, capable of accomplishing assigned tasks,' the spokesperson told IANS over phone.

Apart from the troops and the mechanised vehicles, the army will also get assistance in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles, attack helicopters and combat planes of the Indian Air Force during the exercise.

The army troops will also test their ability to work with advanced communication technologies.

'Such technologies will help the army achieve battlefield transparency, providing real time information input that will help in decision making during warfare,' the spokesperson said.
Tatra trucks to take part in summer trials by army
Notwithstanding controversy, Tatra trucks produced by the state-owned BEML are taking part in the summer trials conducted by the army for procuring heavy trucks to ferry missile and artillery systems.

The army had issued a global tender for procuring over 255 heavy eight-wheeled trucks in 2010 and a few indigenous companies along with BEML are competing, sources said here.

The summer trials are being held in desert and hot and dusty conditions at different locations across the country after winter trials of the participating companies were held late last year, army sources said.

The army has carried out trials of six-wheeled trucks and Tatra is among the six companies including Tata and Ashok Leyland taking part in it. The tender issued in 2009 for buying around 1240 trucks was open only for Indian manufacturers.

The army had been procuring such trucks from BEML but after the changes in General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) in 2008, it was decided that they would be procured through multi vendor tenders.

The decision in this regard was taken in a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council in 2008 chaired by Defence Minister AK Antony.

After the decision for procurement of trucks through multi-vendor tenders, the Army has inducted Tatra trucks in limited quantities for its urgent requirements.

The army has been procuring Tatra trucks since 1986 and more than 7,000 of them are in service with the armed forces and other defence organisations.

Tatra hit the spotlight after Army Chief Gen VK Singh alleged that he was offered a Rs 14 crore bribe to clear 600 "sub-standard" trucks.
Clashes in Kashmiri training camps in Pakistan

There have been a number of clashes reported as some Kashmiri militants in Pakistan have wished to return to India. Army sources say there are about 2,500 militants in various training camps in Pakistani Kashmir.
There are growing incidents of clashes between militants wanting to return to Jammu and Kashmir from training camps in Pakistan and those wanting to stay on, intelligence sources say.

"Recently two Kashmiri militants desirous of returning home from the Bagh training camp opposite Uri sector of the Kashmir Valley got killed in clashes with those who wanted to stay put," a source said. Sources added that those showing a desire to return to India were under strict vigilance.

There was also growing resentment due to ill treatment of the Kashmiri youths in the training camps.

Indian Army sources say there are about 2,500 militants in various training camps in Pakistani Kashmir. There are over 40 such camps on the other side of Line of Control (LoC).

The Jammu and Kashmir government had notified in November 2010 a rehabilitation policy for militants willing to shun violence and return to the Valley. The state has received over 1,000 applications under this policy. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that 67 cases have been recommended for return while others were under process.

According to Abdullah, many of those in Pakistani training camps had fled Jammu and Kashmir between January 1989 and December 2009.

The father of one Kashmiri young man who wants to return to the Kashmir Valley expressed disgust over red tape.

"It is such a cumbersome and lengthy process that our children are frustrated," he said. "Also, once the officials (in Pakistan) know the identity of those willing to return, they harass and beat them."

A police officer agreed that the process of verification was long and this was forcing frustrated youths now in Pakistan to resort to illegal ways to return.

Recently, nine such militants who had escaped from one of the camps in Pakistan were arrested along with their Pakistani wives and 20 children from Sonouli in Uttar Pradesh on the India-Nepal border.

All of them were on their way to the Kashmir Valley. According to official policy, all applications for returning to India will be scrutinized by superintendents of police before these get the final clearance from a high-level committee.
Will Army Chief be summoned in defamation case? Delhi Court may decide today
New Delhi:  A Delhi Court is expected to decide today whether to summon Army Chief General V K Singh in connection with a defamation suit filed against him by retired officer, Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh.  In the initial hearing on April 26, the court had deferred its decision.

Lt Gen Tejinder Singh claims that allegations made against him in a March 5 press release issued by the Army are "completely false and concocted". One of those allegations is that he offered General VK Singh Rs. 14 crore in bribe on behalf of a company called Vectra in 2010. The Army Chief had caused a stir when he made that allegation in an interview in March.

The matter is now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which recorded Gen Singh's statement last month and on Wednesday questioned Lt Gen Tejinder Singh.
Ravi Rishi, the CEO of Vectra, which provides Tatra trucks to the Army, has also been questioned by the CBI.  Mr Rishi has denied that Lt GenTejinder Singh either formally or informally represented Vectra as a middleman.

Lt Gen Tejinder Singh had testified before the court last month and sought that the court summon the Army Chief.

The retired Army officer had also approached the Supreme Court last month, asking it to sanction a CBI inquiry against the Army Chief for allegedly ordering the illegal monitoring of phones in the Defence Ministry. Lt Gen Tejinder Singh says the CBI should raid the homes and offices of Army Chief General VK Singh and his relatives.

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