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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 08 May 2012
Decision on AFSPA revocation coming soon, says Omar
Ehsan Fazili/TNS

Srinagar, May 7
Six months after he threw open a debate on revocation of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said he was hopeful of a significant development in the matter in the months ahead.

Omar said though the “final mile” had not been crossed, his government was on the “correct path”. “Unfortunately, so far we have not been able to cross the final mile towards the selective revocation of AFSPA, but we are on the correct path… In the months ahead, there has to be some development on the revocation of AFSPA from some areas of the state,” Omar said.

Addressing mediapersons after reopening of the Civil Secretariat in the state’s summer capital as part of the darbar move, the Chief Minister said he had taken up the matter with the Central Government.

On the occasion of Police Commemoration Day on October 21 last year, the Chief Minister had announced that AFSPA would be revoked from “some areas (of the State) very soon”.

The “silent option” trend adopted by my government on the issue did not yield results, Omar said, but added that it was necessary to have a public debate to get the desired results.

The Chief Minister said “significant progress” had already been made on revocation of the Act from some areas of the state where militancy had either gone down or come to an end. These areas included four districts, Srinagar-Budgam and Jammu-Samba in Kashmir and Jammu Divisions, respectively. The Army has contended that it was fighting a proxy war in Kashmir and the issue continued to be on the agenda of Pakistan, its Army, and the ISI. With the militant leadership still based in Pakistan and at least 42 training camps training youth to create trouble this side of the LoC, the Army has been strongly opposed to selective revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. “We cannot take any chance or risk on security,” said a senior officer, adding that the Act’s revocation was an easy step to be taken, but its re-imposition would be difficult in any eventuality.
India superpower in the making, says Russian envoy
Rajeev Khanna

Nainital, May 7
Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin has stated that the defence and energy cooperation between the two countries is set to expand in the days to come. Talking to The Tribune during a visit to the lake City on Monday, Kadakin said: " India can no longer be termed as our younger brother. It is an equal partner and a super power in the making. We are sharing the best technology and are moving ahead."

He pointed that the two countries were collaborating in the development of a fifth generation fighter plane. "Even Americans are working on the development of the fifth generation planes but India and Russia are moving ahead jointly," he pointed.

He also underlined the growing cooperation between the two countries and pointed that Russia had come forward in helping India realise it's potential in the field of nuclear energy. "The energy requirement in India is growing in consistent proportion. A lot of energy is required in the country and nuclear energy is the answer to its needs. France and America have been talking of providing nuclear fuel to India but it is Russia that is providing it," said Kadakin.

He also had words to say on the role of BRICS in the days to come. "It is a group of progressive economies and we are not against anyone. In the emerging world order our role will definitely increase. We are moving towards what is better for us," he said while replying to a query.

He pointed that ever since the two nations had signed the special strategic partnership accord more than a decade back, the friendship between the two countries has become more special. The Ambassador pointed that the two countries are looking forward to coming together in several spheres and further building up on the close relations that they have traditionally had.

The Russian Ambassador was on a short visit to Nainital. He went around the Naini Lake, admiring the natural beauty bestowed upon the town by nature. He underlined:" I love everything about the town, it's Mall Road, the lake and the weather."
Pump more money into defence sector: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 7
Making a pitch for a substantial hike in the budgetary allocations for defence, the opposition BJP today urged the Government to increase the outlay for defence and make it at least 3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The defence budget for this year (2012-13) is Rs 1,93,407 crore - 1.90 per cent of the GDP.

Initiating a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the functioning of the defence ministry, BJP leader Balbir Punj urged Defence Minister AK Antony to fight arms seller lobbies and make India self-sufficient in the field of arms and equipment. At present, nearly 70 per cent of its defence equipment needs are met by imports.

Punj raised the issue of increasing the GDP share of the defence budget. He pointed out that India with its vast challenges spends less than 2 per cent of the budget while the USA spends 4 per cent of its GDP on defence, Russia 3.5 per cent, Pakistan 3 per cent, France and UK 2.3 per cent and China 2.1 per cent.

The BJP leader asked the Defence Minister to use his proximity to UPA President Sonia Gandhi to push for a higher allocation for defence.

Punj also raked up the sensitive issue of the one rank-one pension scheme for the armed forces. “The entire House will back you”, he told Antony while adding, “Officers and jawans of the forces should not be left at the mercy of bureaucracy.”

Cautioning Antony on India’s dependence on imports for defence equipment, Punj said, “There are arms import lobbies which are very strong and they will never allow domestic production... the patrons of these lobbies are very highly placed," Punj alleged.

Punj questioned the government on the Tatra trucks deals and asked why no action was taken until the matter became public. Surprisingly, Punj praised AK Antony saying, “You are honest man” but attacked him soon, saying "no work, no mistake and clean image is a dangerous policy".

Earlier in the day, while replying to questions in the Lok Sabha, Antony said there would be complete transparency in the on-going procurement process for 197 helicopters for defence forces. An earlier deal to buy Eurocopter choppers from a European firm was scrapped. Antony informed that the Eurocopter deal was cancelled after some anomalies were discovered.

Subsequently, a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for 197 helicopters was issued. "When the process was in final stages, again we got a series of complaints from MPs.... We decided to appoint a Special Technical Oversight Committee," Antony said.

Procurement process for these choppers is on. "After going through everything, if anything goes wrong we will again cancel it," Antony said.

Low Spending

India with its vast challenges spends less than 2 per cent of the budget while the US spends 4 per cent of its GDP on defence, Russia 3.5 per cent, Pakistan 3 per cent, France and UK 2.3 per cent and China 2.1 per cent.

The assurance

Replying to questions in the LS, Antony said there would be transparency in the ongoing procurement process for 197 helicopters for defence forces after the earlier deal to buy Eurocopter choppers from a European firm was scrapped.
Army creates branch to evaluate field exercises
Headed by Maj-Gen, ARTRAC will bring in more objectivity, transparency
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Shimla, May 7
In a marked shift in its approach to evaluating field exercises and validating doctrinal concepts, the Army is creating a new branch to field independent observers and umpires, who would come within the purview of the commander holding the exercise. This is expected to bring in greater objectivity and transparency in the conduct and assessment of field manoeuvres.

The Army Training Command (ARTRAC) here, which oversees all training and doctrinal aspects, will now have a direct role in the evaluation of major exercises, a task till now relegated to regional commanders.

“The ARTRAC is in the process of creating a new branch headed by a Major General, called Formation Training, for the purpose,” Lt Gen K Surendra Nath, GOC-in-C, ARTRAC, told The Tribune. “This branch will have an active role in the formulation of exercises at the level of division and above, evaluating training and validating new concepts with the aim to identify weak points and improve the system,” he added.

As of now, the formation commander was responsible for planning and execution of an exercise as well as evaluating the outcome, with one of his own junior commander making up the opposing force. Donning two hats - that of the trainer and that of the evaluator, according to some senior officers, ran the risk of subjectivity and manipulation. Even the umpires nominated for the exercise were from within the same Command. Presently for its doctrinal approach and formulating training policies, the ARTRAC is largely dependent upon the feedback on exercises received from formation commanders.

About a decade ago, the ARTRAC had created a separate branch, RedFor that carries out a holistic assessment of the adversary’s war waging capability and associated issues as analysing and collating open source and classified information. Officers posted to RedFor also had the mandate of “thinking like the enemy” and acting as the adversary during closed-door war games, brain-storming sessions and simulation.

While the ARTRAC provides officers acting as the adversary during indoor war games, it is unable to provide the “Red” or opposing forces during field exercises as being an officer-centric think-tank, it has no operational troops under its command.

With the Formation Training branch coming up, the ARTRAC will have four Major Generals on its posted strength, with the other three heading the RedFor, Doctrine and Training branches.

The Army is also considering the creation of a new post of Inspector General (Training) for an independent assessment of training activities at various levels.
No Tatra trucks ordered after 2008: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 7
Defence Minister AK Antony today said Tatra trucks were purchased to meet the special needs of the Army but no vehicle had been ordered from the company after 2008. The minister made it clear that all purchases of the specialised truck in the past have been made on the parameters laid down by the Army. Army Chief Gen VK Singh had termed the trucks as “sub-standard” in his allegations.

Antony told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour: “The Indian government bought 6,500 vehicles from Tatra since 1986. The last supplies arrived in 2011 and no fresh orders have been placed since 2008. Owing to special circumstances nearly, 1,950 vehicles were bought from Tatra between 1999-2002. This was due to operational needs, because of Operation Parakram, the Defence Minister said.

He said the government had decided in 1997 to sign a contract with Tatra. In 2003, another contract was signed with it. On September 26, 2008, the Defence Acquisition Committee met and that was attended by all three chiefs, it was decided to change the General Staff Quality Requirements (GSQRs). We have not procured a single truck from Tatra since the new GSQR was okayed, he said.
Tatra deliveries as per NDA contract: Antony
No new order has been placed since GSQR change in 2008 as per the request of the army HQ
Press Trust of India / New Delhi May 07, 2012, 15:29 IST

Seeking to turn the tables on the Opposition, Defence Minister A K Antony today said the present government has not purchased a single new Tatra truck and the current deliveries were being made as per the contract signed in 2003.

Taking on the Opposition during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Antony said the government has continued with the procurement norms established as per General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) of 1986.
We have nothing to hide. So I can answer very boldly," he said, as BJP members tried to disrupt his reply.

He said no new order has been placed for Tatra trucks since the GSQR was changed in 2008 as per the request of the army headquarters.

Antony said India has been procuring trucks from Tatra since 1973 and after the break of the Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia, the then Indian government renewed the contract with the company in 1997.

"In 1997, the then government decided to have a new contract with Tatra. Again in 2003, another contract was signed. Again on record I can show you that it was given to Tatra. This contract continues," Antony said.

The Defence Minister pointed out that 2,950 Tatra trucks were procured between 1999 and 2003 by the then government, quoting special circumstances and requirement for troop movement for Operation Parakram.

"Between 1986 and 2012, we have procured nearly 6,500 vehicles from Tatra. Quoting special circumstances, in 1999, 2001 and 2002-03, 2950 vehicles were procured by the government of that day from Tatra for Operation Parakram. This has been going on like this," he said.

Antony said the government goes by the demands put forward by the defence forces while buying equipment.

"Government always procures as per the requirement of the army. We are not imposing on them. The army headquarters wanted to change the GSQR as the present one was of 1986," he said.

A meeting of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) was subsequently called on September 26, 2008, which was attended by the three defence chiefs.

"After change of GSQR even till today we have not procured a single truck from Tatra," he said.

Antony said trials are going on in which six Indian and 14 foreign companies are participating.

"Don't try to create a doubt," Antony told the Opposition members.

He asked the members to understand the background of how Tatra trucks have been bought by the army.

"Please understand the history of Tatra. Government of India and Armed Forces are not procuring or purchasing from Tatra for one year, or two years or seven years... Indian Army is procuring Tatra since 1973. Then Czechoslovakia was one country," Antony said.
Chief cleared press release against Tejinder Singh, Army tells govt
An Army press release this March accusing Lt Gen. (retd) Tejinder Singh of bribery and spreading misinformation was issued after verbal approval by the Army’s top brass, including Army Chief Gen. V K Singh.

This was revealed in a letter sent to the defence ministry by the Army’s Additional Director General (Public Information) Major General S L Narasimhan in connection with the hearing of the criminal writ petition filed by Tejinder Singh in the Delhi High Court, asking for withdrawal of the alleged defamatory press release, and action against Gen. V K Singh and other officials involved.

The defence ministry is pleading the case for the government, including the Army. It was asked by the court at the last hearing to clarify if the impugned statement was issued by the ministry or some Army officials. Narasimhan’s letter is a part of internal communication to defence ministry officials handling court proceedings.

The letter, accessed by The Indian Express, spells out the role of the Army Chief in issuing the release on March 5-6. The release alleged that stories about the unauthorised surveillance of mobile phones of defence ministry officials were “put out” in the media by Tejinder Singh.

“The clarification by integrated Headquarter of the Ministry of Defence (Army) dated March 5, 2012 was approved verbally along the chain of command through the Director General of Military Intelligence and Chief of Army Staff,” said the letter, No. A/810028/GEN/M/PI, endorsed by Narasimhan.

The government’s law officer appearing for the defence ministry did not, however, submit this letter in court during the hearing on Monday. He submitted another letter, which simply stated that the release was issued by the Army in accordance with its media policy.

This communication, handed by Additional Solicitor General A S Chandhiok to Justice Mukta Gupta, added that the press release was e-mailed to some mediapersons after consultation at the “highest level”.

A senior Army official involved in sending briefs to the defence ministry in the case confirmed that the two letters had been sent. Asked why only one letter was shown to the judge, the official said, “We had written these letters to the defence ministry in the wake of the petition pending in the court. It for them to decide what to show to the court and what not.”

The official said there was nothing improper about giving a verbal approval for issuing the release. “There are different forms of functioning within the Army. It is not mandatory to have written approvals in all cases and verbal nods are sufficient in certain cases,” he said.

The court appeared satisfied today with the letter that was submitted, and asked Tejinder Singh’s counsel Anil K Aggarwal to respond as to how the petition was maintainable as a writ. A writ petition involves invoking superior courts, and is viewed as an “extraordinary form of relief” which is utilized when no other form of adequate or speedy remedy is available under the law.

“You have alternative remedies in law. Civil suit is one of them. How do you make a writ petition maintainable in this court?” the court asked Aggarwal.

When Aggarwal replied that the writ petition was good in law since it involved breaching the petitioner’s fundamental right to reputation, Justice Gupta asked him if he had any Supreme Court precedent establishing right to reputation as a fundamental right.

“You come back prepared with answers what fundamental right you claim to have been violated and why this court should entertain your petition as a writ,” the judge said, fixing May 24 as the next date of hearing.

In his petition, besides Gen. V K Singh, Tejinder Singh has named Vice-Chief of Army Staff S K Singh, Lt Gen B S Thakur (DGMI) and Major General S L Narasimhan.

He has also filed a separate criminal defamation complaint in a magisterial court, seeking their prosecution under penal charges relating to defamation and false charge of offence made with intent to injure. The complaint will be heard on Tuesday.
'Pak formally proposed Siachen pullback'
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi May 08, 2012, 00:37 IST

During his meeting with PM Manmohan Singh on April 8, President Zardari had made the request for mutual withdrawal of troops: Antony to Lok Sabha

Pakistan President Asif Zardari had formally appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a mutual withdrawal of troops from the Siachen Glacier sector. Defence Minister A K Antony says the request was made on April 8 in New Delhi, a day after an avalanche buried 129 Pakistani soldiers and 11 civilians at Gyari, the headquarters of a Pakistani battalion near Skardu in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
While several Pakistani decision-makers, including the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief, Nawaz Sharif, have issued media calls for a mutual withdrawal, only now has it emerged that Pakistan officially broached this proposal with New Delhi.

On Monday, Antony told the Lok Sabha, “In view of the recent avalanche resulting in heavy casualties at Siachen, Pakistan has requested India for withdrawal of their respective troops from the region.”

In his written reply to a parliamentary question, Antony further stated, “The President of Pakistan, during his meeting with Prime Minister on April 8, pointed out the need for all issues in the bilateral relationship, including Sir Creek, Siachen, and Jammu and Kashmir to be addressed. Both leaders felt need to move forward step by step and find pragmatic and mutually acceptable solutions to all those issues.”

A range of Pakistani leaders have supported General Kayani and Nawaz Sharif in calling for a mutual withdrawal from “the Siachen Glacier.” For the Pakistan Army — say Indian experts like Lt Gen P C Katoch, former commander of the Siachen Brigade — an early withdrawal would mask the stinging defeat they suffered here after the Indian Army established itself atop the towering Saltoro Ridge that gives India complete domination over the Glacier.

“The Pakistan Army has been badly beaten on the Siachen Glacier, but they hide that from their public. Kayani, like his predecessors, wants to demilitarise the glacier and end the dispute quickly so that the Pakistani people never get to know,” says Katoch.

Meanwhile, the Siachen dialogue makes little headway. Through 12 rounds of talks, the most recent last May, New Delhi has insisted it will pull back troops only after joint “authentication” of the frontline along the 109-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), as the de facto border is called. The AGPL has never been marked on the ground or on any document accepted by both sides. If Pakistan violated a demilitarisation treaty, says the Indian Army, it would enjoy easier geographical access to Siachen, leaving India at a serious disadvantage.

Pakistan resists “authentication” as a pre-requisite to demilitarisation, ostensibly because that would legitimise the AGPL, and India’s alleged “violation of the Simla Agreement” which restrains both sides from altering the status quo on the border. Pakistan wants demilitarisation, withdrawal and authentication to proceed simultaneously. Last month, after General Kayani’s call for a mutual withdrawal, Islamabad announced it would stick to its traditional position.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, has earlier been willing to accommodate Pakistan in a Siachen settlement. In 2005, during a visit to Siachen, he stated he would like to convert Siachen into “a mountain of peace.”

The Siachen became a military flashpoint in April 1984, when the Indian Army occupied Bilafond La, a pass above Siachen, narrowly beating a planned Pakistani occupation of the same pass. Although there has been a ceasefire in place since 2003, most casualties in the 16,000-21,000 battleground take place due to the weather.

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