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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 20 Jun 2012
Pak troops again open fire along LoC
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria & Darshan Bharti/TNS

Jammu/Poonch, June 19
After a brief lull, Pakistan Rangers violated the ceasefire for the fifth time since June 13 targeting Indian forward posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in the KG sector of Poonch district today morning. No troops were injured. Pakistani troops targeted Indian posts with small and medium arms. Official sources said that firing lasted for nearly an hour.

“Around 10 am, Pakistani troops again resorted to unprovoked and unwarranted firing in the KG sector. They used small arms fire that lasted around 15 minutes,” Jammu-based Defence PRO Col RK Palta said.

The Indian Army said it exercised restraint to de-escalate the situation.

“Since this time their fire was ineffective, we didn’t retaliate in a bid to de-escalate the situation,” said Col Palta. He denied reports of air space violation by Pakistan in the KG sector this morning.

The Army has dashed off a detailed note to Ministry of Defence and Army Headquarters at New Delhi about unprovoked firing by Pakistani troops in the KG sector and its fallout on cross-LoC trade and travel. The Indian Army repeated its message via hotline to Pakistan to hold the flag meet at the earliest to bring the situation back to normal. “No response has been received from Pakistan,” said Col Palta.

Sources said the 653 Mujahid Regiment of the Pak Rangers, a battalion of local PoK Mujahideens, had been assigned the task to push Pak militants into India.
Fresh flag meeting sought

    The Army has now sought a Brigade Commander-level flag meeting with its Pakistani counterpart to discuss the spurt in ceasefire violations. Pakistan’s response is awaited
    Brigade Commander-level meetings are sought only when the situation on the border escalates and starts showing no signs of a let-up
    Pakistan had on June 16 cancelled a Commandant (Colonel)-level meeting without assigning any reason
No headway on Sir Creek; India, Pak to continue talks
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, June 19
Though they did not make much headway at their two-day talks on the Sir Creek issue, the delegations of both India and Pakistan today expressed confidence that they could resolve the maritime dispute given the current state of relationship between the two countries.

“We have understood each other better and are certainly one step ahead. The meeting was held in a very positive and conducive environment,” a source said.

The Indian delegation at the meeting was led by Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao while the Pakistani team was headed by Rear Admiral Farrokh Ahmad, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence.

Even as the two sides reiterated their stated positions, they agreed that they were now in a position to discuss what they could offer each other for finding an amicable settlement of the issue.

Among all the disputes between India and Pakistan, Sir Creek is perhaps the only issue which the two sides consider as 'do-able'.

Sir Creek is a 96-km-long disputed territory between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands, which opens up into the Arabian Sea. Sir Creek divides the Kutch region of Gujarat in India and the Sindh province of Pakistan.

The creek, which opens up to the Arabian Sea, has been one of the several points of contentions between the neighbours. India has long held that the creek boundary should be in the middle of the estuary while Pakistan claims that the border should lie on the southeast bank.

A joint statement issued at the end of today's talks said: “The two sides discussed the land boundary in the Sir Creek area and also delimitation of the International Maritime Boundary between India and Pakistan.

“They reiterated their desire to find an amicable solution to the Sir Creek issue through sustained and result-oriented dialogue.”

They agreed to hold the next round of the talks on the issue in Pakistan at mutually convenient dates, to be determined through diplomatic channels, the statement added.
Aircraft carrier project delay to hit naval preparedness
Project runs two years behind schedule due to gearbox incompatibility
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, June 19
India's project to build a seaborne aircraft carrier of its own has been delayed by two years, raising questions on the Indian Navy's ambition to emerge as a dominant player in the Indian Ocean region. China is also keen to establish itself in this area.

About two weeks ago, the US had announced its new military policy to station more naval assets, including six aircraft carriers, in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited, is facing delay in the installation of gearboxes for the four powerful engines of the 40,000-tonne warship. As per estimates arrived at by the apex committee of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last month, the warship can now be launched by the end of this year. This will be almost two years behind its original launch deadline of October 2010.

Once the hull of the warship is launched at the sea, the outfitting is likely to take another four years, hence the warship is expected to be delivered to the Navy only by 2016, which is two years behind its original schedule. Defence Minister AK Antony had laid its keel in February 2009.

In January this year, the under-construction ship was taken out of the dry dock and stationed in the waters without some of the equipment that should have been in place.

Sources said one of the gearboxes had been fitted while another one arrived at the yard a few weeks ago. To get it fitted, the ship will have to be taken back to the dry dock. An Indo-German collaboration that supplied gearboxes for the 5,000-tonne stealth warship, INS Shivalik, was chosen in this case also. The aircraft carrier is almost 10 times bigger. The first lot of gearboxes provided by the company was unacceptable and had to be designed afresh.

The contract was to have around 18,000 tonne of the warship ready at the time of the launch, but it is still short by around 4,000 tonne, sources said. The MoD and the Navy have conveyed their displeasure to the shipyard and asked it to get the warship back to the dry dock and simultaneously continue with other works till the gearbox issue is sorted out.

The MoD had allocated Rs 230 crore for the modernisation of the shipyard. Since a modular-style construction has been adopted, it is possible to work on other equipment at another site.

The primary reason for the delay is the highly complex nature of the warship that India is attempting along with its simultaneous efforts to localise production. India is the fifth country attempting to make such a warship, which will have fighter aircraft stationed at its deck. So far, only the USA, Russia, the UK and France have produced such warships. China is re-fitting the one that it purchased from Ukraine after the USSR broke up.

Strategically, this delay will affect the Indian ambition to have two aircraft carriers in its Naval fleet. At present, India has only one, the INS Viraat, which after a life extension, is slated to retire in 2015. It is 50-year-old and the fighter aircraft on its deck, the Sea Harriers, are no more produced now. The second aircraft carrier, the Russian-origin Admiral Gorshkov, is undergoing sea-trials in Russia and is set to join the Indian fleet early next year under its new name, the INS Vikramaditya. In case the IAC is not delivered till 2015 - which is unlikely as per the present status - the Navy will be left with only one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

IAF flies commando plane fleet

The Indian Air Force, in an important tactical practice mission, simultaneously flew six planes meant specially for dropping commandos to test the readiness of the newly acquired US-origin C-130J transport aircraft fleet. IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerald Galway said the six-aircraft fleet of the C-130J took to the skies simultaneously from its home base at Hindon. The fleet was in the air for about an hour before returning to the base. Flying all the planes together indicates that India can rapidly airlift its commandos or almost a full infantry battalion.
Joint Indo-Russian military exercises to be held in August
The officials from the Indian Armed Forces today announced that they will be holding the fourth edition of the joint Indo-Russian army exercises in August 2012.
The exercise, which will have counter-terrorism operations as its main focus, will be conducted in the Asian part of Russia, near its border with China and Mongolia.

Army officials said that a total of 250 soldiers from both sides will attend the military drills, which has been codenamed as Indra 2012. The army also said that from this year onwards, the exercise will be an annual affair. The Armed forces of both India and Russia conducted their first joint military drill in 2005. The drills were conducted in the Indian state of Rajasthan, attended by elite troops from both the sides.

Russia hosted the second edition of the Indra drills, which were conducted in the European province of Pskov, located close to the Lithuanian and Latvian borders of the Eurasian nation. The third edition was conducted in the Chaubatia garrison, near the resort town of Ranikhet, in the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.

According to the Russian sources, the current edition of the drills will be conducted in the Republic of Buryatia, in the Siberian region of Russia. The region falls under the Russian Army’s Eastern Command. Unlike the other Russian provinces, Buryatia is home to an indigenous Asian minority, the Buriots. Buriots and other Asians make up close to 30% of the Republic’s population, outnumbered only by the Russians.

The schedule for the drills was first announced in February this year by the Indian officials. Last year, Russia had called off the drills, which were about to be conducted there, due to some technical issues. A planned bilateral naval exercise between the two nations was also cancelled, as the Russia Navy was busy in conducting rescue operations in the tsunami hit areas of Japan.

India had conducted joint military exercises with Singapore and Indonesia, early this year. Indonesian troops joined their Indian counterparts for a training operation in the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Vairangte in Mizoram, on February 2012. The exercise lasted for more than three weeks.
Pak fires crisis along the border
A serious situation has erupted on the Line of Control (LoC) following unprovoked firing by Pakistani army, which has been using heavy automatic and small arms fire to target Indian forward positions in different sub-sectors of Poonch since Monday.

Two soldiers, including a BSF personnel, have been killed and two others injured in the firing.

Efforts to de-escalate the situation received a jolt when Pakistan postponed the flag meeting scheduled to be held at Chakan-Da-Bagh on Saturday without giving any reasons. The Cross-LoC trade via the Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing also remained suspended, awaiting de-escalation of the situation in the Krishna Ghati Sector.

“The situation remains tense (on the LoC) but under control,” said Col RK Palta, defence spokesman at Jammu

The crisis deepened on Saturday night when Pakistan army once again fired on Indian posts in the Krishna Ghati sector without any provocation.

“Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing, using heavy automatic and small arms fire, from 12 different posts at Saturday. Later at 11.15 pm, Pakistan fired mortars and a large number of high explosive rounds on Indian posts in the same area. The firing continued till 12.30 am on Sunday ,“ Col Palta said.

The Indian army also retaliated by controlled effective firing to the Pakistani provocation. “Troops exercised utmost restraint. The response to Pakistani firing, though controlled, was effective fire. The Indian Army continues to maintain a high level of alert all along the LoC,” he added.

The tension started on Monday when Pakistani forces violated the ceasefire at Krishna Ghati sub-sector of Poonch sector in which a BSF jawan was injured. He succumbed to wounds on Wednesday night.

Pakistan forces on Wednesday afternoon, however, upped the ante and opened indiscriminate firing on Indian positions causing injuries to two soldiers, one of whom later succumbed.

The Indian Army immediately reached the Pakistani army through the hotline asking for restraint to de-escalate the situation. “Instead of responding to the Indian message, Pakistanis repeated the firing, injuring another jawan. Seemingly unsatisfied with Indian restraint, Pakistan continued to fire (on Indian posts).On the night of June 15 our posts again came under small arms fire from the Pakistan side,” Col Palta said.

The Indian Army regretted that all attempts towards de-escalation of the situation and the resumption of routine life for civilians in the area, have received a negative response.

Around 102 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir have taken place since 2010. Around 44 cases of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir were registered in 2010. Around 51 cases of ceasefire violations were reported in 2011.

India and Pakistan declared cease-fire on all the three borders -- 772Km LoC, 192 Km International border and 122 Km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen – in 2003.
Probe into Tatra case to be widened to cover irregularities
New Delhi, June 17, 2012, DHNS:

The ongoing investigation into the allegations of bribery in the supply of defence equipments to the Indian Army through state-owned firm, Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) is likely to be widened and to go beyond the probe against V R S Natarajan, the suspended Chief Managing Director of the public sector company.

According to sources, the government is keen on taking action against anyone involved in these deals being probed by Central Bureau of Investigation — be it directors of the company, officials, insiders and outsiders, army personnel and even politicians.

Sources further informed that the investigation was not just about the bribes in the Tatra deals but various other cases of alleged wrongdoings in the supply of defence equipments.

The country’s premiere investigating agency is expected to summon Natarajan for questioning in view of the documentary evidence gathered by it and purported revelations made by retired and serving Bharat Earth Movers Limited officials.

Natarajan was suspended last week from the post of BEML chief by the Defence Ministry on the recommendation of the CBI to carry out a “free and fair” probe after the agency discovered that all those BEML officials summoned for questioning were allegedly being “tutored” by him in advance.

The issue had come to fore after former Army Chief Gen V K Singh in an interview in March alleged that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired officer to clear 600 sub-standard Tatra trucks for the Army.

Soon after the former Army Chief levelled these allegations, Defence Minister A K Antony ordered a CBI probe to investigate the charges.

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