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Thursday, 14 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 14 Jun 2012
India-US ties on right track: Krishna
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna sought to dispel claims that the US-India relationship had run adrift as they chaired the third strategic dialogue in Washington on Wednesday.

The relationship has, over the past three years, “only strengthened our mutual partnership in every field... We are making tangible and continuous progress,” said Krishna.

“What was once novel and unprecedented in our relationship is now almost routine and normal. In the process of our engagement we have built something more precious: friendship, goodwill, trust, mutual confidence, candour and belief in the importance of a successful partnership,” he added.

Krishna acknowledged that there were sometimes “questions and doubts” about the relationship. “They are inevitable in something so unique and new, but I believe that having settled the question of whether India and the US can or should work towards a close relationship, the question we ask now is how to harness the full potential of that relationship,” he said.

“We are on the right track. We have reasons to be satisfied but not complacent,” he added.

Hillary listed five areas in which the US and India are making progress: trade and investment; science and technology; education and people-to-people ties; security and defence; and cooperation in South and East Asia.

But, she said: “It is not enough to talk about cooperation on issues ranging from civilian nuclear energy, attracting more US investments to India, or defending human rights or promoting women’s empowerment. We have to follow through so our people... see and feel the benefits.”

“There is a lot of room... for further growth and we need to keep up the momentum,” she added.

On the economic front, despite the fact that bilateral trade in goods and services is on track to touch a new high of $100 billion this year, as a percentage of overall Indian trade the US percentage is dropping. The US and India are in talks to finalise a bilateral investment treaty, which would accelerate investment flows, create jobs, and generate growth. However, there is growing frustration in the US over restrictions to foreign investment and the slow pace of economic reforms in India.

Hillary said the US wants to advance negotiations on the bilateral investment treaty to reduce barriers to trade and investment in areas like multi-brand retail and to create hospitable environments for each country’s companies to do business in the other country.

On Tuesday, US firm Westinghouse Electric Co. signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nuclear Power Company of India Ltd. that would pave the way for the construction of nuclear power plants in Gujarat.

Hillary described this development as a significant step, but added that “there is still a lot of work to be done, including understanding the implications of nuclear liability legislation.”
Army orders Court of Inquiry
Kusum Arora
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 13
The Jalandhar-based Headquarters 11 Corps has ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the alleged theft of huge aluminium rods worth several lakhs used to erect signal towers from the Signals Centre situated in the highly secure Corps Headquarters zone. A Colonel-rank officer is heading the CoI, which was initiated on June 9, a day after the alleged theft of the rods came to the fore.

The Army authorities were tightlipped about how the matter came to the fore, number of rods that went missing and the exact market price. But sources maintained that the issue came to notice when tall aluminium rods weighing between 95 and 200 kg each were found missing from the stocks of the Signals Centre on June 8.

Sources ruled out an easy attempt to steal the rods from the stocks of the highly secure centre but maintained that it was a matter of grave concern and would be investigated at the earliest.

“All stocks of the centre are being checked. The Army is also questioning everybody linked with the centre to solve the case threadbare,” sources added.

The Army authorities also pointed towards a possible theory of alleged theft during the recently concluded “Exercise Ashwamedh” of the Vajra Corps, which was held from May 27th to 30th in the western sector. It is pertinent to mention here that troops from the Signals Centre, with its highly tactical battle equipment, were part of the exercise.

It was also learnt that the Army authorities were making inquiries from various scrap dealers to check if any such material was sold out to them recently, the sources added. Rumours are doing the rounds that the tower rods were to be dispatched to a unit in Ambala Cantonment. However, the sources did not divulge anything on this issue.

Meanwhile, though the police is in the know, no case has been registered as of now. When contacted, Manpreet Singh, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Jalandhar Cantonment, said, “Though an Army officer had approached us, we have not registered any case as there has been no green signal from their side.”

However, Defence spokesperson Naresh Vig said, “The case has been reported to police. Meanwhile, CoI has also been ordered and investigations are on.”
Siachen dialogue
Move ahead with caution

The two-day India-Pakistan talks on the Siachen issue in Rawalpindi concluded on Tuesday without any outcome. This is what was expected when both sides were giving hints of sticking to their stated positions. Defence Minister AK Antony had made it clear last week that “no dramatic announcement” should be expected as Pakistan was showing no sign of agreeing to India’s logical viewpoint that demilitarisation of the glacier was possible only when both countries’ troop positions on the Actual Ground Position Line were recorded and properly delineated on the ground as well as on the map. This is aimed at ensuring that Pakistani troops are not able to recapture the heights vacated by India. This is, however, not acceptable to Pakistan. It may reflect its real intentions.

Yet one should not lose hope for a breakthrough at some later stage as both sides have agreed to continue the Siachen dialogue. Pakistan will have to provide proof that it is really serious about troop withdrawal from the glacier area as stated by its army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani. Shaken by the Gyari avalanche disaster on April 7 resulting in the killing of 140 persons, including 129 Pakistani soldiers, the top Pakistani General said: “We want this issue to be resolved and it should happen. It is a tough mission for us and them, which has its costs.” India, too, has been supportive of demilitarisation of the Siachen area but only after ensuring that Pakistan is never able to repeat its 1999 adventure.

Pakistan’s problem is that it says something and does something else. It is faced with a serious financial crisis with US aid having been linked to its performance on the anti-terrorism front. China is not prepared to bail it out the way Pakistan wants it. Pakistan’s economy today survives mostly on aid from rich Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, but that is not enough. For Islamabad, therefore, there is no logic in maintaining its troop presence on the Siachen heights. Actually, demilitarisation of the glacier area is in the interest of development in both countries. The opportunity that has come with the realisation of this hard reality in Pakistan must be used to change the character of Siachen from the highest battlefield in the world to a glacier of peace.
Pakistan violates ceasefire again, fires at Indian positions
JAMMU: In the second incident of ceasefire violation this week, three army jawans were injured, one of them critically, when Pakistani troops today fired at Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Krishna Ghati sector of Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district.

"Pak troops resorted to a brief small arms firing on posts along LoC in Krishna Ghati sector in Poonch district at around 14:00 hours today," a defence spokesman said.

"In the firing one of our jawans got hit and while our boys were trying to extract him, the Pakistani troops opened fire again in which two more soldiers were injured.

"While the other two have been evacuated and shifted to Command Hospital, the first one could not be extracted till the last reports came in and his chances of survival are very slim," he said.

The defence spokesman said the Indian troops did not retaliate at first, but when two more jawans got hit they fired back at the Pakistani posts.

He added that firing was stopped from the Indian side as the troops were trying to extract the body of the jawan.

This is the 12th ceasefire violation by Pakistan this year.

The spokesman said a strong protest has been registered against the incident.

Meanwhile, the BSF jawan who was injured in the ceasefire violation on Monday in the same sector succumbed to his injuries this morning, officials said.
Suspended CMD of BEML to be charged with corruption?
After suspension, former CMD of Bharat Earth Movers Limited may face prosecution for allegedly favouring Ravi Rishi’s firm Tatra Sipox to acquire the all terrain Tatra trucks for the Indian Army despite the fact that they were supposed to manufacturing most of the parts in India.

According to a report in the Times of India, Natrajan may have ignored a clause in the earlier contract which stated that the firm needed to start manufacturing certain parts indigenously before it signed a new contract with the suppliers of the Tatra trucks in 2003.

Natrajan was suspended from his post by the Ministry of Defence. Screen grab from CNN IBN

According to the CBI, Natrajan did not consider this clause while signing a deal with Ravi Rishi-owned Tatra Sipox in 2003 and continued to import the parts for the all-terrain trucks thereby favouring the firm.

CBI officials also said that they believe that Natrajan had attempted to mislead them during earlier inquiries and had attempted to influence witnesses like former employees that the CBI had called for questioning.

According to CNN IBN , the CBI believes that the company continued to import the Tatra trucks through the Vectra group despite the fact that the original makers of the truck were still selling trucks to other armies.

Natrajan was suspended from the post of CMD of BEML after the CBI said it could hamper fair investigations into allegations that he was involved in offering a bribe to former Army chief VK Singh. Singh had alleged that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to approve the acquisition of a tranche of Tatra trucks.

Natrajan had defended himself against the allegations and claimed they would prosecute Singh for his statements. However, he was pulled up for his comments by the Ministry of Defence.

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