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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 09 May 2012
No shift in Pak policy on ceasefire violations
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, May 8
Despite Home secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan this month, there is no major shift in Pakistan’s strategy when it comes to ceasefire violations and infiltration bids in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly south of Pir Panjal ranges.

Army describes such misadventures as desperate attempts on the part of Pakistan to boost sagging morale of remaining ultras in the state.

Last year there were 56 ceasefire violations by Pakistan in entire Jammu and Kashmir.

“South of Pir Panjal ranges, which has 272-km of Line of Control (LoC), there were 39 ceasefire violations in 2011 and from January 1 to April 30, 2011 there were 11 such violations,” said Army sources.

“Similarly, from January 1 to April 30 this year there have been eight ceasefire violations and if we include one more violation that happened in Nangi Tekri area in Poonch on May 5, then the number goes up to nine.

“Though the marginal decline does not show any trend but Pakistan’s intentions are still the same-- to somehow keep the pot boiling in Jammu and Kashmir”, they added.

The sources maintained that there was no big shift in Pakistan’s strategy vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir.

Similarly, there were 12 infiltration bids on the LoC south of Pir Panjal ranges last year.

There have been six infiltration attempts south of Pir Panjal ranges this year so far. The number stood at seven during the corresponding period last year, the sources said.

“There is no change on the ground vis-à-vis ceasefire violations and infiltration bids. To put it more accurately, Pakistan is still up to its task,” they said.

In most of the cases of ceasefire violations, Pakistan tries to aid infiltration but on some occasions such violations were not related to attempted intrusions, said a senior Army officer.

There are areas along the LoC, which can be used for attempting intrusions but ceasefire violations in the areas where they (Pak) don’t have any scope to try and push militants to this side are done with a purpose of diverting attention of Indian troops. Besides, these are intended to express solidarity with the militants as well, he added.

Pakistani troops resort to such ceasefire violations to boost sagging morale of the remaining ultras on this side of the LoC, which, in real sense, is just a deceiving tactic, he said.
Tricky situation for India
Tightrope walk with Iran, US

Indian diplomacy has been faced with a complicated situation since the Iranian nuclear crisis led to the imposition of sanctions against Tehran by the UN, the US and the European Union. New Delhi has its own strategic compulsions for maintaining friendly relations with Iran. At the same time, India cannot completely ignore the American wishes to reduce its oil supplies from Iran. That is why New Delhi explained to visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday that India needed to buy Iranian oil to meet its growing energy demand, but it had brought the supplies down to just 12 per cent. India has also been taking less interest in the gas pipeline project which has been reduced to an Iran-Pakistan pipeline. An Iranian trade delegation, which is also in New Delhi for promoting bilateral economic relations, has been clearly told that the agenda for their talks cannot have oil as a subject owing to the sanctions problem.

But the US should also keep in mind that there is a limit to India as a sovereign nation accommodating its viewpoint on foreign policy issues. Honouring the country’s obligations as a member of the international community is one thing and keeping the US in good humour is an altogether different matter. To ask India to “do more” on the Iranian issue, therefore, is not fair on the part of the US. Ms Clinton should understand that if the US has to do all it can to safeguard its geo-political interests in the Af-Pak area, India, too, has its interests in Afghanistan which cannot be properly taken care of if India loses the Iranian link.

Ms Clinton’s offer to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to invest in West Bengal is, however, a welcome development. The state will also gain immensely once the issues between India and Bangladesh are settled conclusively. An agreement between the two neighbours on the Teesta river water issue could have been signed by now had Ms Banerjee not taken a stand different from New Delhi’s line of thinking. But, as External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told his Bangladesh counterpart, Ms Dipu Moni, in New Delhi, efforts are on to bring the West Bengal Chief Minister to the view that the country’s overall interests must be given precedence over the state’s interest.
Coordinating counter-terrorism
Go about NCTC the right way
by Inder Malhotra

INDIA, arguably the worst victim of terrorism, does need the National Counter-Terrorism Centre. But the surest way of not getting it is the manner in which the Central government — or, more accurately, the unilateralist Union Ministry of Home Affairs — has gone about it. Without an iota of consultations with the states or with the political parties represented in Parliament, it imperiously issued an executive order setting up the NCTC and even prescribing its standard operational procedure (SOP).

This reminded me of what Jawaharlal Nehru had said in 1939 about a viceroy “heavy in body and heavy in mind” who, without consulting a single Indian, had declared India to be at war with Germany. However, today’s Congress leaders, heading the United Progressive Alliance government, seem to have no interest in Nehruvian values of building up national consensus on all major issues even at a time when the Congress majority in Parliament was overwhelming and Congress chief ministers of stature ruled all the states. Or has the present leadership lost the will and the capacity to carry others along with it?

That alone can explain the sequence of events following the February 3 notification. Predictably, chief ministers, especially of states ruled by non-Congress parties, protested vigorously (incidentally, the most vehement protest had come from Mamata Banerjee, a key ally of the Congress). New Delhi’s casual response was that the matter could be discussed at a routine meeting of chief ministers with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to discuss internal security in April. This infuriated most of the chief ministers. They said the subject was vital — because it “encroached” on the states’ rights and distorted the federal structure — and demanded a full-dress meeting. It was scheduled for Saturday, May 5.

Unfortunately, those who fixed this date overlooked that it was bang in the middle of all-out jockeying and manoeuvring over the race for Rashtrapati Bhavan. Everyone considers it a rehearsal for the 2014 general election. No wonder then that political discord was at its peak and, therefore, the May 5 meeting ended in deadlock with much greater acrimony than might otherwise have been the case. Is it any surprise that, in the media’s judgment, the logjam is unlikely to be broken any time soon?

This said, the flip side of the picture is that some of the chief ministers went too far in their rejection of the NCTC, as proposed at present, and used unduly harsh language while denouncing the Centre. This was particularly so in the case of J. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu, Narendra Modi of Gujarat and Mamatadi of West Bengal. The trio rejects the very concept of an NCTC or a similar organisation. In doing so, it is being as unfair and unrealistic as the Union government is in acting unilaterally and issuing diktats to be followed meekly by the states. In this context it cannot be overlooked that at least one Congress chief minister, Turn Gagoi of Assam, spoke the language of his colleagues openly opposed to Chidambaram’s scheme of things. The private feelings of some other Congress chief ministers are different from their public stand.

In any case, no one, regardless of his or her position or responsibilities, can deny that the country’s counter-terrorism capacity needs to be strengthened across the board, that this has to be a joint effort of the Centre and the states, and that the need for a coordinating mechanism is inescapable.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was doubtless sincere when, inaugurating the meeting, he assured the assembled chief ministers that it was not a “Centre versus states issue” but the imperative of combating terrorism jointly. Why wasn’t this cooperative and sensible approach adopted before announcing that the NCTC was a fait accompli ? The states’ objection to a cut-and-dried and heavily flawed agency being imposed on them is legitimate.

The worst feature of the NCTC is that it is located in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and supervised by its director. Worse, NCTC operatives have been invested with the power of search, seizure and arrest, something even the British imperialists had never permitted. Extension of these powers to the IB and its subordinates is nothing short of converting it into the Indian version of the KGB. This is no scare mongering. There are still enough of us around who know what the IB and other agencies shamelessly did during the Emergency.

Mercifully, Chidambaram has shown flexibility on this critically important issue. He is prepared to locate the NCTC somewhere other than the inner recesses of the IB. But on the powers of search, seizure and arrest, he remains firm. He insists these powers are essential, and to overcome the states’ misgivings he is prepared to make states’ anti-terror units part of the NCTC and to include state directors-general of police (DGPs) in its council.

On the other hand, he still seems to be in a hurry. For, he told the chief ministers that making the NCTC operational must not be delayed. Several chief ministers who do not reject the NCTC out of hand have made constructive suggestions that need to be discussed thoroughly. It is not enough for him to promise to give “full consideration” to these but to insist that the final decision would be the Centre’s. This would aggravate the Centre-states confrontation.

At present tempers and emotions on both sides are high, and the atmosphere is febrile. Let things cool down. Let the presidential poll be out of the way. Then let the Centre and the states get together calmly and discuss all issues threadbare, if necessary, by holding several meetings of chief ministers. At the same time, the anti-terror message should be carried to the people to secure their support.

We often claim that our anti-terror and counter-terror measures are similar to those of the United States. But have we looked at the way the Americans have managed to set up more than 320 new institutions? Immediately after 9/11 they appointed a bipartisan commission that made agreed recommendations, which were readily accepted by the country. Moreover, with the consent of the US Congress, they formed the new department of home security that functions independently and reports only to the President. Why cannot we be equally adroit?
Security situation around Indian Ocean Region worrisome, says Defence Minister Antony
New Delhi:  Taking note of the "complex security matrix" in the Indian Ocean Region and "political developments", Defence Minister A K Antony today asked the Indian Navy to maintain high levels of preparedness in the area.

Inaugurating a four day-long Naval Commander's Conference in New Delhi, Mr Antony highlighted the Navy's ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

"The security situation in our immediate neighbourhood has become really complex. Considering the challenges in the IOR, it is essential to maintain high levels of operational preparedness at all times," he said.
On prevailing factors in the region which needs consideration, he said, "On the one hand, there are some political developments. On the other hand, a number of other factors are a cause for worry and need to be factored into our preparations, both in the short-term and long-term."

India's strategic location in the IOR and the professional capability of our Navy bestows upon us a natural ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability here, Mr Antony told the Commanders.

The Defence Minister also stressed upon free movement of trade and energy supplies and various economic activities such as fishing and extraction of mineral resources and termed them "crucial" for the economic security.

"Security of maritime activity through sea-lanes in Indian Ocean is of crucial importance for the economic prosperity of our nation and that of the world," he said.

Commending the Navy's modernisation programme, Antony specially mentioned the induction of the nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra and said, "It has ushered in a new era of submarine operations".

"It (INS Chakra) has placed us in a select group of Navies that operate such a platform. We must ensure that Chakra is utilised effectively to harness its real potential and also evolve operational concepts for future platforms," Mr Antony said.

Observing that the Navy is on its course to acquire potent platforms which will add to its blue water capability, he said, "Induction of INS Vikramaditya in the near future, the potent MiG 29 Ks, as well as P-8I Rong-Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft would strengthen the Navy further." Mr Antony also highlighted the recent maiden successful test flight of Naval version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy) in this context.

Expressing satisfaction over Navy's commitment to indigenization, he said, "44 out of 48 ships and submarines, presently on order, are being constructed in India. The Navy has also maintained close liaison with DRDO and participated actively in research and development projects."

Cautioning that the satisfactory pace of indigenization should not lead to "complacence", he said, "Public Sector shipyards must speed up construction of warships and submarines and further modernise the infrastructure and technology of ship-production."

The Defence Minister also exhorted the Navy and other agencies to put in more efforts to meet the timelines of the ongoing projects.

"This requires a synergy and active cooperation between Navy and all other concerned agencies. Such synergy is imperative for achieving self-reliance and ultimately reducing our dependence on foreign suppliers, particularly in areas of advanced technology," he said.

Stressing on the government's commitment to improving the service conditions of its armed forces, Mr Antony said, "To increase the attractiveness of Navy as a career, the Defence Ministry has taken several initiatives for grant of Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme and approved the honorary rank of Chief Petty Officers (CPO) for sailors."

"Our government will continue to provide the necessary funds to construct accommodation for Service personnel under the Married Accommodation Project for officers and sailors," he added.
Tatra trucks scam: CBI questions more people
NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation has intensified its probe to unearth alleged irregularities in procurement and supply of all-terrain Tatra trucks to the Army and has called some former defence ministry officials and executives of Vectra, involved in the deal, for questioning.

Agency sources said they had found documents suggesting the role of some government officials in the multi-crore deal between Tatra Sipox (UK) and public sector undertaking BEML. However, the officials questioned on Tuesday were of middle-level posts.

The CBI had reportedly earlier questioned BEML chairman VRS Natarajan, Vectra chairman Ravinder Rishi and director (defence procurement) in BEML V Mohan. Mohan was asked to provide some documents regarding the procurement of components from Tatra Sipox (UK) owned by Rishi, sources said.

The CBI has registered a case naming Rishi and unnamed officials of defence ministry, Army and BEML on March 30 for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating and also under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Both Natarajan and Rishi have denied allegations levelled against them.

The CBI is probing alleged irregularities in assigning of supply from then Czechoslovakia-based Tatra, with which the agreement was originally signed in 1986, to Tatra Sipox (UK) owned by Rishi in 1997 showing it as original equipment manufacturer and the fully-owned subsidiary of the Czech company which was against the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure, sources said.

Army chief Gen V K Singh has said that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a former lieutenant general to clear the purchase of a fresh batch of 600 trucks.
Armed forces asked to meet new challenges
Defence Minister A. K. Antony on Tuesday said India was raising an offensive Corps and taking steps to boost its preparedness along the border with China. Nobody should expect “dramatic” results from talks on Siachen with Pakistan, even as India continues to insist on proper authentication of Pakistan troop positions at the highest militarised zone, before any disengagement is undertaken there.

Expressing concern at growing military ties between Pakistan and China, Mr. Antony, while replying to a discussion on the performance of his Ministry in the Rajya Sabha, said the Indian armed forces have been issued a directive to change their strategy to meet the challenges presented by the two hostile nations.

“We have given a new directive to our armed forces to meet the new challenges, in the context of the new threat faced by the country. After analysis of the threat perception, we have found that the picture is problematic,” he said.

The Minister noted that India faced a “volatile and dangerous” neighbourhood. “No one can predict the situation that will prevail tomorrow. What will be the situation in Afghanistan — no one can predict. We cannot predict the political future of some of our neighbouring countries.”

On Siachen, Mr. Antony said: “Some people have said we are hardening our position; some say we have softened the position. We have neither hardened nor softened our position. We are standing where we were.”

The 13 round of Defence Secretary-level talks on Siachen would take place in June second week. “Don't expect dramatic results [from the next round of talks]… It is a complicated issue.”

Mr. Antony said the government was strengthening the defence capabilities. “Under the 12th Defence Plan, we have sent a proposal to the Finance Ministry to raise an offensive Corps with two special divisions, and it is in final stages. The force-level has been increased substantially. We had earlier approved raising of two mountain divisions, along with a Special Forces battalion, an artillery brigade and an armoured regiment for deployment in the northeast sector,” he said.

“If China can strengthen its capabilities in Tibet, then we can also build capabilities in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh,” the Minister asserted.

Defence budget

On defence expenditure, he said: “We will need to have a second look at the defence budget... We have been given Rs 1.93 lakh crore this year, but as per the estimated requirement of the armed forces, we would want Rs 2.39 lakh crore. We want Rs 45,716 crore more. I have asked the government to provide us more money.”

Mr. Antony pointed out that large-scale import of arms was another area of concern. The government was working towards replacing the foreign vendors with indigenous production.

“I hope that in the years to come, we would be able to replace foreign vendors in our country,” he added.

Referring to the delay in taking action on the alleged bribe offer to Army Chief General V. K. Singh, Mr. Antony said he had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the matter as soon as the matter came into public domain. “That day [when Gen. Singh reported the matter to him] I didn't do anything... I accept that I didn't take action, I don't deny that. The Army Chief didn't want to pursue it then, so I didn't take action.”
Antony says he ordered CBI probe into bribe offer on his own
Under attack for delaying action for two years on the alleged bribe offer to Army Chief Gen VK Singh, defence minister AK Antony on Tuesday said he had ordered a CBI probe as soon as the matter came into public domain without anybody demanding it.
Antony said he had not taken any
action when the Army Chief told him about the bribe offer in 2010 as he had told Gen Singh to do so but he had refused to pursue the matter then.

"That day I did not do anything...I accept that day I did not take action. I am not denying that," he said, replying to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the functioning of the defence ministry.

As Opposition members sought to corner him over his inaction leading to an uproar, Antony said the Army Chief did not want to pursue it "so I did not take action".

Recalling Gen Singh's visit to his office in 2010, Antony said the Army Chief had told him that he had been offered crores of rupees as bribe by Tejinder Singh.

"I was shocked," the defence minister said while displaying how he put his hand on his forehead.

"After that day, nobody took any action...Nobody demanded CBI inquiry. When the matter was printed, without anybody asking for CBI inquiry, I ordered CBI probe," Antony said.

This agitated Opposition members as V Maitreyan (AIADMK), Balbir Punj (BJP) and some other members were on their feet. They were saying that the matter would not have been investigated had it remained secret.

The Chair had a tough time placating the agitated members to enable Antony continue with his reply.

Antony said when he read in newspaper on March 26 about Gen Singh's allegation that he was offered Rs. 14 crore bribe, he was "shocked that such a statement has been made by the Army Chief."

He said he immediately called the Defence Secretary and directed a comprehensive CBI inquiry at 11am the same day and the order reached the investigative agency by 3 PM.

"We have nothing to hide," the defence minister insisted.

With regard to the Tatra trucks which are mired in a controversy, he said there was an MoU with Tatra Sports of UK in 2003 as Czechoslovakia, where the main factory was based, which broke up into two countries.

He noted that he had ordered CBI probe on February 15 this year into the alleged wrongdoings in the Tatra truck deal with BEML.

"I don't blame anybody. We don't want to cover anyone," he said, adding if anything wrongdoing had taken place, the law will take its course.

Talking about various allegations of corruption involving the armed forces like Adarsh Housing scam, Srinagar land scam, Pune land scam, Kandivili land scam, Antony said, "We will not spare anybody, howsoever powerful he may be."
Everybody could have been avoided age row, says Army Chief
Chief of the Army Staff General V.K. Singh on Tuesday said the defence establishment's “foot-print” in Kerala was bound to get bigger given the State's “strategic vicinity” to the nation's island territories and international sea-routes.

Interacting with presspersons on his maiden visit to the military station here, General Singh said already five major public sector units, all having a bearing on the country's defence production, were in Kerala. The Army's deployment and infrastructure build-up in the State, including the positioning of its amphibious combat battalions, would depend on immediate and future threat perceptions.

Replying to a question on the controversy regarding his age, the General said it could have been immensely avoided. Asked who could have avoided the row, he said “by everybody.”

The Army chief said the North East was as safe as any other region in the country. Insurgent groups such as National Development Front of Bodoland and United Liberation Front of Asom had come to the negotiation table. In Nagaland, there had been a cessation of the hostilities between different groups and the State. Manipur no more had the profile of a violence-prone State. Tripura was largely peaceful except for a few isolated instances of sporadic violence. India's main battle tank Arjun was already in service. The Army would continue to evaluate the current and future versions and prototypes of the battle tank, point out the rectifications to be made and decide whether they were good or not, he said.


On the issue of possible corruption in defence procurement, the General said the Army's thrust was on “transparency and probity” in all matters. “The Army has elaborate procedures to ensure that we don't get saddled with equipment which are not good or substandard. If we find defects, the Army corrects it. I will also say that it requires a wide range of changes in the entire system. The Army is just a miniscule part of it,” he said. The General said he had Defence Minister A.K. Antony's support on the proposed “one rank-one pension” scheme of the Indian Army. Its implementation would cost the public exchequer Rs.1,300 crore.

The Army chief mixed easily with journalists, camera persons, fellow officers and their families. He asked reporters whether it was okay if he spoke informally with them during tea rather than taking the podium to answer their questions.

Earlier, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy released a coffee-table book, ‘North East Trilogy,' written by Dipti Bhalla and Kunal Verma. Lt. Gen. A.K. Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, was among those present.

The Army chief arrived here on a two-day visit on Monday. He visited the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple on Tuesday morning.
Force operationally prepared to meet any contingency: Army Chief
Army Chief General V K Singh on Tuesday said the force was operationally prepared to meet any contingency, days after he highlighted major “shortcomings” in the country's defence preparedness.

On corruption in defence deals, he said it was important to ensure probity and transparency.

Speaking about defence preparedness of the country, the Army Chief said, “With great confidence, I can say that operationally we are prepared to take on any contingency that can arise.”

Singh said defence preparedness was a large field that comprises training of troops, morale of the troops and the type of equipment and other things.

In a letter to the Prime Minister on March 12, General Singh had complained about lack of defence preparedness and ammunition. He had also pointed out the obsolescence of air defence systems in the force. The leakage of the letter in the media had triggered a controversy.

Maintaining that adequate measures were being taken to check corruption, he said, “Corruption has always been a major issue. We had people fighting against corruption for long time. Certain exposes have come up in recent times in various fields which included the defence sector also.

“Our thrust area is to ensure transparency and probity and also to ensure that middlemen and dealers who indulge in wrong practices are checked,” he said.

He said it was also important that the defence forces were not saddled with sub-standard equipment.

Singh said it required wide ranging changes in the entire system in which the Army was only a minuscule part of it.

Gen Singh, who was the chief guest at the release of the Army-commissioned book on north eastern region 'North East Trilogy', said the area was now much more peaceful than it was five years ago.

Citing examples of different north eastern states, he said the Army was closely working with state governments to bring insurgents to negotiation with the government.

Asked about the “threat perception” posed by China to that region, he said, “China is our neighbour.”

He, however, said when you have a border that has not been settled, there can be all types of things happening. I do not want to say more on that,” he said.

On the demand for one-rank one-pension, Singh said this was something that “we had been pursuing” and expected a positive outcome with the support of Defence Minister A K Antony.

As per the present estimates, its implementation would cost Rs 1,300 crore.

Gen Singh said north eastern region of the country was as safe as any other part and the Army was working for the last couple of years to ensure that peace prevailed.

A lot of insurgent groups fighting against the state had come forward to have settlement with the governments.

In the case of Assam, groups like ULFA and NDFC were fighting. In Naglaland, insurgent groups had ceased their hostility with the government.

Manipur had a comparatively violent profile because of differences between two major groups. “We are working very hard to ensure that they also come to negotiate and settle with the state government,” he said.

Tripura had only law and order problems and Meghalaya was very peaceful except for some political issues. “Generally I would say, as a whole, north east is much more peaceful than five years ago.”

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