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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 12 Jun 2012
BEML chief suspended over Tatra
CBI to question him in truck ‘deal’; Natarajan says he will come out clean
Ajay Banerjee/Syed Ali Ahmed/ Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Bangalore, June 11
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) suspended Chairman-cum-Managing-Director of the government-run defence equipment manufacturer Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) VRS Natarajan this morning. The move came following a request from the CBI seeking permission to probe him besides removing him from the post.

Natarajan faces a probe in the purchase of Tatra trucks which the BEML supplies to the Army. The CBI is of the view that Natarajan, who has been the CMD of the BEML for more than 10 years, is in position to influence the probe.

Sources in the MoD said the CBI would now have easier access to Natarajan and other BEML officials suspected to be involved in the Tatra truck deal.

Natarajan is the second senior official of a defence manufacturing unit to be under the CBI scanner. In 2009, the CBI had booked Sudipto Ghosh, Director-General of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), for illegal gratification.

Natarajan today said he respected the government’s decision and maintained he would come out clean. He arrived at his office in Bangalore and left soon after the MoD announced his suspension. Senior-most functional BEML Director P Dwarkanath has been handed over the charge.

The CBI registered a case after Defence Minister AK Antony asked it to look into the Tatra case. NRI Ravi Rishi has been booked. He is the person supplying the trucks to the BEML for further supply to the Army.

The CBI is probing if the BEML based in Bangalore violated guidelines in buying and supplying Tatra trucks to the Army. The alleged violations include allowing a middleman to broker the deal - defence equipment has to be bought directly from the manufacturer. The trucks were also allegedly overpriced and cost the Army around 60 per cent more than what the Tatra, the manufacturer, sells it to the middleman.

Before he retired in May, then Army Chief General VK Singh said he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the purchase of 600 substandard Tatra trucks for the Army.

Natarajan said the General’s assessment of the trucks was incorrect and he sought an apology from the General otherwise he would sue him for defamation.
On Day One of Siachen talks, India, Pak stick to their guns
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

Defence delegations of India and Pakistan began their two-day talks in the Siachen issue on a cautious note at Rawalpindi this evening.

The talks led by defence secretaries SK Sharma of India and Nargis Sethi of Pakistan are designed to find an acceptable resolution to the issue in the backdrop of the calls to demilitarise the world's highest battlefield. The discussions, according to official sources, revolved around reiteration of the respective positions by both the countries and some broad ideas in search of striking a common ground to revolve a solution that has eluded for so long.

“The ultimate resolution would await agreement between the political leadership of both the countries that may take long time,” a Pakistani official said.

Before the talks began, Pakistan emphasised the need for demilitarisation and an early pull back of forces, while India wanted authentication, delineation and demarcation of the respective troop positions before any withdrawal.

The bitter memories of the Kargil conflict loom over stiffening of India’s stance.

During the last round of talks held in New Delhi last year, Islamabad handed over a “non-paper” envisaging a roadmap for resolution of the issue. Pakistan had proposed immediate disengagement as a way forward.

Avalanche that killed 140 persons — 129 Pakistani troops and 11 civilians — on April 7 has lent urgency to the resolution of the issue. Countless soldiers and civilians have died on both sides more because of hostile weather-related problems than the occasional skirmishes. The catastrophic episode is believed to be one factor that may ultimately help soften entrenched positions though no immediate breakthrough is expected.

Ahead of the talks, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony cautioned against expecting any breakthrough at the meeting of the Defence Secretaries.

"Do not expect any dramatic announcement or decision on an issue which is very important for us, especially in the context of national security," he told reporters in New Delhi last week.

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security discussed the Siachen issue at a meeting last Thursday.

Second and the concluding round of talks will be held on Tuesday after which a joint statement is expected before the India delegation flies back home. The Indian delegation also met Pakistan’s new Defence Minister Naveed Qamar and visited Taxila on arrival on Sunday.\06\12\story_12-6-2012_pg1_3
Pakistan, India hold talks on Siachen

ISLAMABAD: Indian and Pakistani defence secretaries on Monday kicked off two-day talks on the issues pertaining to demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier. The 13th round of secretary-level talks formally commenced in the Defence Ministry against the backdrop of urge from Islamabad to demilitarise the glacier in the wake of an avalanche that killed 139 people at a Pakistan Army camp, sources in the ministry said. In the meeting, Indian Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and Pakistani Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi represented Indian and Pakistani sides respectively. The delegation arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a three-day visit. Talking to Daily Times, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said that Siachen was creating difficulties for the two countries as natural calamities were caused on both sides and now the two countries were holding talks to resolve the issue. Official sources said that Pakistan was aiming at withdrawal of forces of the two countries from the glacier and to station them back on the position the two countries held before 1984. India maintained that no troop withdrawal was possible without Pakistan authenticating current troop position, delineating the boundary on the map and demarcating it on ground. India was not willing for demilitarisation, but now they started to think that it would benefit the two sides if a workable and mutually acceptable agreement reached in connection to Siachen, diplomatic sources said. Earlier, the eight-member Indian delegation also called on Defence Minister Naveed Qamar. Matters of bilateral interests were discussed in the meeting. The minister expressed that it was in the interest of both the countries to resolve all outstanding issues, including Siachen. imdad hussain
Army Major drugged, robbed by three men, wakes up in hospital
A 28-year-old Indian Army Major was allegedly drugged, robbed and then left at an isolated place in Dhaula Kuan, South Delhi, by three unidentified men.

Police said Major Rahul Ashok Mahajan, posted at Military Hospital in Mathura, had come to Delhi on June 7 afternoon by train. He was waiting for a public transport at the Nizamuddin Railway station to go to Dhaula Kuan, when a boy asked him his destination.

The police complaint states that later an auto-rickshaw driver drove up to him and agreed to drop Major Mahajan and the boy to Dhaula Kuan for Rs 120.

“That boy and I shared the fare and boarded the auto. After travelling for some distance, another man stopped the auto asking for help. He also got in saying that he could not find any conveyance,” the complaint said.

Further ahead, one of the passengers said he was thirsty and the driver stopped the auto. The man returned with a bottle of juice and offered it to Major Mahajan, who took a few sips, the complaint said.

“As a few minutes passed, I started to feel dizzy and then fell unconscious. After that I do not remember what happened, I opened my eyes the next day in an Army Hospital in Dhaula Kuan. I later found that the all my belongings — including two suitcases, cash, mobile phone, laptop, debit cards — were missing,” Mahajan said in his complaint. His jewellery — a chain and rings — were also reportedly missing.

Passersby had spotted Major Mahajan lying unconscious at a secluded spot in Dhaula Kuan and taken him to the hospital. Police were also informed.

“We took the Major’s statement and have registered a case . Special raids to nab the members of this gang are on. The medical report has proved that his drink was laced with sedatives,” a senior police officer said.
Understanding the thaw
India-Pakistan relations have reached a historic turning point that neither country can afford to miss

At long last the ice in which India-Pakistan relations have been locked is beginning to melt. Pakistan has granted Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India's exports, bringing nearly 6,000 items onto the regular list of permissible imports. India is hastening to remove a host of non-tariff barriers to Pakistan's exports: a Joint India-Pakistan committee is even now pruning the forest of regulations enacted by 24 Indian standards organisations that had become India's answer to Pakistan's denial of MFN.

Pakistan began to buy petroleum products from India in March and is eyeing the purchase of 500 MW of power to feed its industries. Last month, 600 Pakistani businessmen visited a trade fair in Delhi to sell their products, and earlier this month India lifted its ban on Direct Foreign Investment from Pakistan. Sensing the birth of a new market, Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal announced the commissioning of an oil refinery at Bhatinda, not far from the Pakistan border. Indian investment to generate power from the Thar coalfields in collaboration with Pakistani and other enterprises could be the next step. In the past 64 years there had been only one visit by a Pakistani commerce minister to India and none by his Indian counterpart to Pakistan. Since last September, the two have met four times in seven months.

The thaw is evident in our political relations as well. It was set off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's spur-of-the-moment invitation to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to attend the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final cricket match at Mohali. This year, when President Zardari invited himself to lunch with Dr. Singh while on his way to Ajmer, instead of being pelted with brickbats at home, he was showered with bouquets. Mian Nawaz Sharif, the head of the PML(N), not only applauded Mr. Zardari's initiative but supported what he termed the promotion of ties with India “in a positive way.”

The most significant endorsement came, however, from the Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani, who remarked while visiting victims of the Skardu earthquake a week later that “peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people…… The decades of enmity between India and Pakistan should be resolved through negotiation.”

Call for help

Is the change of heart in Pakistan's ruling elite genuine? B. Raman, the noted Chennai-based security analyst thinks not, and sees only another attempt to mount international pressure on India to de-militarise Siachen. The logic behind his reasoning is hard to discern for Siachen is the least of the international community's present concerns and Pakistan is not exactly in its good books at the moment. But there are a score of other reasons for India to mistrust Pakistani intentions — from the mindset of its army, to the fragility of its besieged democracy, to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)'s constant protection of its home-grown terrorists.

All these, however are reasons for caution, not inaction. India-Pakistan relations have reached a historic turning point where India's most inveterate enemy is asking India for not just help but trust. This is a turning we must not miss.

Pakistan is turning to India because its very survival as a modern state is now in jeopardy. It was partly forced, partly lured into America's War on Terror in Afghanistan. In the eyes of its people, it has been used by the U.S. and NATO like a dirty dishrag, and is now about to be casually thrown away as they prepare for their exit from Afghanistan. And it has nowhere else to turn.

The steep deterioration in its relations with the U.S. during the past 18 months makes it virtually certain that it will lose all military and most of the economic aid it is receiving from the U.S. Without this, Pakistan will not be able to service its external debt and its economy will collapse.

The Pakistan Army is feeling equally betrayed. When George Bush's attention wandered away from Afghanistan to Iraq, it realised that the war in Aghanistan would be prolonged and would probably end in failure. This would leave Pakistan to face the full wrath of the victorious Taliban and its al-Qaeda linked associates within Pakistan. It therefore took out one, possibly two, insurance policies: the first was the creation of a sanctum within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for the Haqqani network of Islamist fighters; the second was to give sanctuary to protect Osama bin Laden. The Pakistan Army had intended to use both as powerful political tools to extend its sway over Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO left, but its strategy collapsed when, after dismissing Gen. Stanley McChrystal in 2010, President Obama decided to strengthen the Karzai government and allow his forces to enter Pakistani airspace with drones to attack the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.

When the succession of events in 2011 — CIA operator Raymond Davis' killing of two ISI shadowers in January, the killing of bin Laden in May, and the U.S.' inadvertent killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers inside Pakistan territory in November brought peoples' anger to fever pitch but failed to elicit an apology from Mr. Obama, and when Pakistan's northern neighbours rushed in to fill the supply gap left by Pakistan's closure of its supply routes from Karachi, the Army too realised that Pakistan was truly alone.

Even then the change of direction has not come easily. The Army's reaction to the U.S. turnabout in 2010-11, was to insist upon going it alone. To do this it was prepared to keep the supply lines closed, continue supporting the Haqqanis, and help them to retaliate against the U.S. drone attacks by stepping up their attacks on high profile U.S. and NATO targets in Afghanistan.

Trade issues

This is where the Army and the Zardari government seem to have parted ways. For Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani saw that this would further deepen Pakistan's isolation and hasten its economic ruin. Only a very high level of tension between the government and the Army can explain the bizarre drama that followed — with Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, dictating an unsigned memo to the U.S. Army Chief warning of an imminent army coup in Pakistan, to the one man, Mansur Ijaz who, he must have known, would take it straight to the ISI. The Army attempted to use the memo to discredit the government in Pakistan but the hostile public reaction to the very idea of a military coup, and its subsequent failure to get the Supreme Court to oust Mr. Zardari and imprison Mr. Gilani, showed the Army that the days of military rule were over. It could determine security policy, but only as part of a democratic government. It is this little noticed victory for democracy within Pakistan that has opened the portals for a rapprochement with India.

How far the rapprochement goes will depend on the sagacity of the leaders, especially ours. While Pakistan's foreign exchange outgo will actually drop when smuggling, and third party trade through Dubai is replaced by direct, legitimate trade, the imbalance between Pakistan's exports to and imports from India will appear even larger than it does today. New Delhi would therefore do well to think of ways in which to reduce this apparent gap lest it become fodder for the hate-India lobby in Pakistan. The least that is required is a rapid dismantling of India's non-trade barriers against Pakistan, but New Delhi would do well to consider lifting restrictions on the imports to textiles, which make up three fifths of Pakistan's exports, as well as cement and light engineering goods, as part of its commitments under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

In its own best interests, Pakistan would do well to reciprocate by granting India the transit rights to central Asia that it has long been requesting. The transit fees on this trade alone would go a long way towards bridging Pakistan's balance of payments deficit. A speedy implementation of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project followed, hopefully, by one to Iran would meet Pakistan's foreign exchange and energy needs while giving India its much needed access to central Asia's energy supplies.

But the rapprochement will remain incomplete and fragile if it does not address the political and security concerns of the two countries. The thaw in fact began only after the two countries decided not to let the punishment of the terrorists of 26/11 and Kashmir stand in the way of resuming the search for peace. This search requires us to assuage the Pakistan Army's fear that India's quest for influence in Afghanistan is aimed at maintaining the capacity to present it with a hostile neighbour to its west. A quiet reassurance that India supports the continuation of the Durand line as an approximate border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and an offer to coordinate our aid to Kabul with Pakistan's, would go a long way towards doing so.

Some in India may be inclined to gloat over Pakistan's discomfiture and regard its overtures to India as a form of Indian victory. This would not only be unwise but short-sighted. Pakistan has approached India because it knows that a stable, even if sometimes fractious, Pakistan is essential to India's own security. An improvement in its security and a strengthening of its democracy will serve the interests of both. Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has frequently mentioned the need for trust. But what she has actually implied is that a measure of trust is essential for both countries to better understand where their true interests lie.
I’d like to fight against corruption: Gen V K Singh
GURGAON: Former Army chief, General V K Singh, participated at a felicitation ceremony at Jatoli-Haily Mandi in Gurgaon said that he appreciates the efforts of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare, who are campaigning against corruption.

Interacting with media persons in Pataudi, General Singh said that Ramdev and Hazare are fighting for the common man and people should support them.

However, the former Army chief did not drop a hint whether he would join either of the two camps.

Anna Hazare has already expressed that he would welcome like-minded people like Singh after his retirement to be a part of his team to fight corruption.

The Army chief said that during his 42 years of service in the Indian Army, he has hidden nothing from people. The former Army chief said that now he would live like a common man and would start a campaign to make people aware against corruption.

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