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Sunday, 3 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 Jun 2012
India wants South China Sea to be a freeway
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 2
The stand-off between New Delhi and Beijing over shipping and maritime rights in the South China sea took a new turn today when Defence Minister AK Antony said “large parts of the common seas cannot be declared exclusive to any one country or group.”

“It is important to reaffirm the importance of maritime security and freedom of navigation for all. This should be in accordance with relevant universally agreed principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Antony said while speaking at the 11th Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

China is trying to control the sea for its exclusive use much to the chagrin of India, Japan and the US. Beijing has twice threatened Delhi that it should pull out state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Limited (OVL) from an off-shore oil block near Vietnam.

Separately, INS Airavaat had a mid-sea ‘brushing incident’ with a Chinese vessel in September last year in the same region. Ignoring Chinese threats, a flotilla of four Indian warships passed through the South China sea two weeks ago on way to South Korea to take part in a military exercise.

“Unlike in the previous centuries, maritime freedoms cannot be an exclusive prerogative of a few,” said Antony at the summit. “Maritime freedoms can be realised only when all states, big and small, are willing to abide by universally agreed laws and principles,” he said in a clear reference to China.

Later, Antony termed China’s huge defence spending as a “matter of concern.” China has a defence budget of $106 billion while India lags far behind with just $ 8.6 billion being allocated to its military needs in the current fiscal.

The Defence Minister said the two Asian giants were trying to work towards peace and stability. He gave the example of growing cooperation between India and China to fight piracy.
Egos, armies of India, Pakistan biggest hurdle to Siachen peace: Mukhtar
ISLAMABAD: With Pakistan Army Chief having recently stated that Pakistan wants a resolution to the Siachen issue, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar pointed out to BBC Urdu that the biggest hurdle in resolving the icy issue were armies of both Pakistan and India.

In an interview to the Urdu-language version of the British news service, Mukhtar said that both Pakistan and India would stand to benefit from resolving the Siachen issue.

In response to a question, he said reminded that Siachen was Pakistan territory and when India claimed it was theirs, Pakistan responded. However, he said that the only way to coexist was to sit at the table, discuss the matter. He pointed out that neither Pakistan nor India stood to gain anything from the stand-off on world’s highest battleground, rather it more to satiate respective egos. However, it remains to be seen what does this cost both sides.

“We think we can come to an agreement. India wants to talk on the Sir Creek issue first, we want to talk about Siachen first – the same issue of egos.”

“I think Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani understands this issue better than all of us and will help reach a decision when the time comes.”

When asked that he, being the Minister for Defence, was higher placed than the Army Chief, would he then allow a rank subordinate to take a decision, Mukhtar said that ‘Kayani would offer guidance – support, just as the government cooperates and supports the army.’

When asked if Pakistan wants a solution, why does it not make the first move (withdraw unilaterally), Mukhtar responded that India was a big country, and Pakistan expects that it would demonstrate magnanimity by making the first move.

In response to another question, he said that Prime Ministers of both countries, Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan, and Manmohan Singh of India, wanted to resolve the Siachen issue via dialogue.

When asked that since the governements of both India and Pakistan wanted a resolution, what was stopping them, the Defence Minister smiled and said that the hurdles were in what had been talked about earlier, the armies of both countries.
India concerned over China's military spending: AK Antony
Singapore: India on Saturday expressed concern about the hike in Chinese military spending, but said it does not perceive Beijing as a threat.

"China has increased their military capabilities and spending more on defence," Defence Minister AK Antony said at a Security Forum in Singapore.

"We are concerned over it," he said. The Defence Minister said "even though we don't believe in an arms race, but in our own way, to protect our national interest, we are also strengthening our capabilities on our borders."
Saying New Delhi favoured stable relations with its neighbour, Antony said the two countries had begun military-to-military cooperation.

"We had contacts at the army level, but of late, we have started extending them to he navies of the two nations," Antony said at the conference where the developments in the South China Sea were in sharp focus.

Like India, Japan also expressed concern over lack of transparency in China's massive defence spending, saying this secrecy posed a threat.

China's military budget jumped over 11 per cent this year to a staggering $106 billion.
Defence campuses in line of sight of tall buildings
Pune They are the tallest structures in the city and probably logical solutions to the growing population of a metropolis, but another side of the growth story is that some of these 100-metre-plus towers are around important/sensitive defence establishments and can give anyone a peep into their compounds.

For a visitor to the National Defence Academy, (NDA), it is hard to miss tall structures outside the campus. The 20-plus storey towers of Nanded City, a residential-commercial project under way on Sinhagad Road, provide a bird’s eye view of NDA. The Sudan Block, the heart of the NDA, is clearly visible.

While NDA has increased campus security after reports of possible threats, the Academy can do nothing about the high-rises except approach civic authorities. “High-rise buildings are a concern. We have taken up the matter with the authorities concerned,” said an NDA spokesperson without being specific.

Satish Magar, CMD, Nanded City, said, “No construction is allowed within 500 metres of NDA, a norm we have adhered to. IAF clearance is mandatory for high-rises, and we have them. The city has so many defence establishments that making an NOC mandatory for every project will make construction almost impossible. In today’s tech-driven times where missiles can be fired at the press of a button and one can peep into any establishment with the help of technology, such concerns are insignificant.”

According to civic officials, there are no defence-centric height norms for buildings other than those that need Indian Air Force (IAF) clearance. The state rules do not make No Objection Certificate (NOC) from defence authorities mandatory for such constructions.

The defence authorities concerned take up the matter case-by-case with the civic administration.

On May 19, The Indian Express reported how four 11-storey Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) towers in Lohegaon had violated the NOC given by the IAF 2 wing. Two squadrons of the premiere fighter Su-30 MKI, Base Repair Depot and a missile squadron are located at 2 Wing. When Express visited the site, Su-30 squadrons, the ATC and runway were clearly visible. Although the IAF does not openly reveal the number of aircraft/ squadrons at a particular location, all this can be sighted from atop the SRA.

In October last year, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne had expressed concern over construction of high-rises near the 2 Wing. The Air Officer Commanding (AOC), 2 Wing had said six construction clearance cases were taken up with Air HQ. The Aircraft Act 1934 makes NOC from IAF mandatory for construction around Air Force Stations. An IAF letter to PMC dated February 15 says, “Many high-rises have come up in Lohegaon overlooking the IAF Camp. Air Force assets can easily be targeted from these buildings.”

Another 20-plus storey structure-Castle Royal Towers, behind the University of Pune (UoP)-gives a clear view of the CME building, Military Hospital Khadki (MH) and another defence set-up with Army vehicles parked inside.

God’s Blessings, a 100-metre tower in Koregaon Park, provides a bird’s eye view of the Army Sports Institute and the adjacent army unit with 30-plus trucks parked inside. Amit Bhosale, director, ABIL group said, “We have obtained permissions from the IAF, DGCA as well as clearances of land titles and those for proximity to defence establishments from the Defence Estates Office (DEO) for both the projects.”

Recently, the construction of a shopping mall on 8A Lothian Road was halted due to its proximity to SCHQ supply depot.

Constructions around defence establishments are governed by Works of Defence Act 1903 (WDA). While defence officials can object to constructions within the cantonment limits, they have no control over buildings that loom tall around defence establishments, but are outside the cantonment limits. An Army official said, “On the basis of sensitivity of the defence establishments, constructions are not permitted within a radius of 100, 500, 1,000 and 2,000 metres. Obtaining an NOC for height from the defence is not mandatory. The State government, by a gazette notification, has to make it mandatory. Only Kerala and Secunderabad in AP have such provisions. We raise objections invoking WDA on a case-to-case basis.”

No construction is permitted within 2,000 metres of the Ammunition Depot, Dehu Road, and 366 metres of the Transmission Station, Wadgaon Sheri, as per the WDA limit. This, however, stands violated. “We have issued FIRs but there has been no result,” said the officer.

Rajendra Raut, executive engineer, PMC said, “Besides the IAF station and the transmission station there are no works within our limits where such restrictions exist. There are norms regarding distance, but for height there aren’t any except an IAF NOC.”

The concern over high-rises has been, however, taken note of at the highest level. A process to amend the WDA has been initiated by the MoD.

An MoD letter dated May 18, 2011 addressed to three services chiefs says citing Sukna and Adarsh, “WDA needs to be comprehensively amended so as to take care of concerns of the defence forces. The process of amendment has been put into motion.” According to a DEO official, a survey of constructions within 100, 500 and 2,000 metres of various defence establishments in the city is currently being carried out.
New army chief General Bikram Singh insists he wants to look to the future

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Looking to bury the controversies surrounding the army during his predecessor's tenure, the new army chief, General Bikram Singh, said instead of dwelling on the past, his focus would be on the army's future.

"You drive a car while looking through the wind screen and not the rear view mirror," General Singh said on his first day as chief of the army staff on Friday.

"My thrust is what has happened in the past has to be left behind," he added, when asked his opinion on Defence Minister A. K. Antony's message to the army that the baggage of the past should be left behind.

As he got into the driving seat after the customary guard of honour, General Singh said the force would continue to remain apolitical and secular, asserting that nothing will be brushed under the carpet.

Having served five tenures in New Delhi, a fact he himself highlighted when asked about his ties with the defence ministry, the new general is no stranger to the intricacies of civil-military relationship.

"I've had five tenures in the army headquarters. This is my sixth one. We have not had problems in the past, at least. Let me see what the problems are now, we will take it forward. We are a disciplined force. I am sure there will be no problems," he said.

But that is far from being General Singh's only challenge at the helm, what with the army itself being riddled with several intra-force controversies.

The appointment of 3 corps commander Dalbir Suhag as army commander has got held up because of allegations of lapses against him in a botched military intelligence operation in Assam.

The same intelligence unit is also facing fresh accusations of being involved in a fake encounter. And then there is the trouble in Nyoma, where officers and jawans had come to blows besides issues surrounding the alleged sexual misconduct of troops on a UN assignment in the Congo.

When asked how he intends to deal with such cases, General Bikram Singh, whose name was dragged into the UN case as the incident occurred when he was force commander, promised that nothing would be brushed under the carpet.

Towards the fag-end of his career General (retd) V. K. Singh had highlighted the serious deficiencies in the army's war-preparedness, averring to the lack of proper ammunition and weapons and an antiquated armoury.

Asked about this, General Bikram Singh assured that he would address the issue of modernisation. "It is going to be my endeavour to ensure that the army remains operationally ready and worthy of the expectations of our people, and is able to fulfil it in the correct manner," he said.

In his first message to his 1.3-million-strong force, General Bikram Singh exhorted the ranks to strive to uphold the army's dignity and integrity.

"Let us put our best foot forward. Let us continue to remain a secular force, let us continue to be an apolitical force and let's continue to do our job as it is supposed to be done," he said.

Read more at:
Army clerk held for trying to sell secrets to ISI
New Delhi: In a worrisome development, a soldier working as clerk under a powerful Military Intelligence (MI) unit of the Army has been held for allegedly attempting to pass on highly confidential operational information to the ISI.

As reported in The Indian Express, the soldier - identified as Shivdasan - was employed as a head clerk in the unit and was nabbed in April.

As per reports, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had laid a trap to nab the soldier. The entire operation involved a “double agent” and a relative of the soldier in Dubai.

The DRI recovered a compact disc (CD), pen drive and highly classified documents which the soldier was trying to hand over to the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI.

The Army has been left baffled by the kind of information that the clerk was trying to sell.

Army sources say the data, which is being analysed, likely contains detailed operational plans, information on troop deployments and even conversations between top officers at Army Headquarters.

Shivdasan was employed in the Technical Support Division (TSD), which was constituted in the last two years and functions from within the Army Headquarters.

Reports said the TSD, headed by Colonel Honey Bakshi, has access to privileged information. It had made headlines recently after being accused of illegal surveillance. The allegation was, however, refuted by former Army chief General VK Singh.

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