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Thursday, 28 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 28 Jun 2012

Did Pakistan Army, radicals veto Sarabjit’s release?
India renews appeal for his release; hails decision on Surjeet
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 27
Even as New Delhi awaits a factual report from its mission in Islamabad over Pakistan taking a U-turn on releasing death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, intense speculation is on in diplomatic and media circles over the role played by the powerful Pakistan Army and fundamentalists in the midnight drama.

Senior officials said the volte-face by Pakistan clearly reflected that there were multiple centres of power working at cross purposes in the neighbouring country. “How can you first announce Sarabjit’s name and later clarify that it is actually Surjeet Singh who is being released?,” an official said.

According to security analyst Alok Bansal, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari would certainly find it very difficult to pardon Sarabjit at this point of time, much as he would wish to, since he was besieged from all sides. “Zardari may be by far the most pro-India person in the Pakistani establishment, but the issue (of Sarabjit’s release) required deft handling,'' he said.

Bansal said he had no doubt that the Pakistan Army and the ISI were firmly against pardoning Sarabjit since he was charged with acts of terror. Also, there were many writ petitions pending in Pakistani courts against releasing Sarabjit.

The sense in New Delhi is that the civilian government, in its anxiety to create a positive environment ahead of Foreign Secretary-level talks in early July, did indeed decide to grant presidential pardon to Sarabjit. The spokesperson for the Pakistan President went on TV channels to make the announcement, which was seen here as a balancing act by Pakistan in the wake of the arrest of Abu Jundal, a key plotter of the Mumbai carnage.

However, the Pakistan Government was forced to reverse its decision as the move to release Sarabjit is learnt to have evoked an adverse reaction not only from the Army and the jihadi forces, but also from a section of the media.

This had also happened in the case of the proposed visa agreement between the two countries. Pakistan had initially agreed to sign the accord at the Home Secretary-level talks in Islamabad last month but went back on its commitment at the last minute. The accord is still awaiting signatures of the two countries.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna smiled when asked by journalists this morning as to how Pakistan could confuse Sarabjit’s name with that of Surjeet, another Indian inmate at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.

“We are waiting for a report about what really happened from our mission in Pakistan. We are also awaiting an official confirmation from Pakistan since we have not been told who is being released and when.”

Surjeet has been in Pakistani captivity for over 30 years. He was captured near the border with India on charges of spying during the era of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq. His death sentence was commuted in 1989 by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on the advice of then premier Benazir Bhutto.

Krishna also issued a statement saying New Delhi had seen media reports about the impending release of Surjeet Singh. “I welcome the decision and further renew our request to the President of Pakistan to release Sarabjit Singh,” he said.

He pointed out that India had consistently urged Pakistan on several occasions to take a sympathetic and humanitarian view in Sarabjit’s case. “I also appeal to the Government of Pakistan to release all Indian nationals who have completed their prison terms and request the release of all other Indians serving jail sentences in Pakistani prisons for petty crimes,” he said.

Why the U-turn

    The sense in New Delhi is that the Pakistan civilian government, in a bid to create a positive environment ahead of Foreign Secretary talks in early July, decided to grant presidential pardon to Sarabjit
    The Pakistan President's spokesperson made the announcement on TV, which was seen here as a balancing act by Pakistan after the arrest of 26/11 handler Abu Jundal
    The move to release Sarabjit is learnt to have evoked an adverse reaction from the Army, jihadi forces and a section of the media, forcing the government to reverse its decision

311 indian fishermen freed

KARACHI: Pakistan on Wednesday released 311 Indian fishermen from a prison here as a "goodwill gesture" and put them on their way to the Wagah land crossing to be reunited with their families. The fishermen, who were arrested for violating territorial waters, headed from Karachi's Landhi Jail to Lahore, and would be sent to India by bus. "By releasing the fishermen, Pakistan intended on maintaining friendly ties with India. We hope India will soon release Pakistani fishermen as well," said Sindh Minister for Law and Prisons Ayaz Soomro. — PTI
Do more to tackle terror, New Delhi tells Islamabad
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi , June 27
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today asked Pakistan to join hands with India to ensure that terrorism was eliminated from the region instead of combating the menace on a selective basis.

“They (Pakistan) should come out and declare a war on terror which should be across the board and not on a selective basis since they claim they are also a victim of terrorism,” he said at a breakfast meeting with the media here.

On whether the arrest of Abu Jundal, a key plotter of the Mumbai attack, would be taken up by India at the foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries on July 4-5, the minister pointed out that India had always focused attention on terror and terror-related activities at every meeting between the two neighbours.

Krishna said he was keenly looking forward to his visit to Pakistan in July but the trip had to be deferred in view of the Presidential poll. ‘’I am expecting alternate dates for the visit…as soon as we get the dates, the highest priority will be given to the visit.’’

On Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposed visit to Pakistan, Krishna made it clear that India had only accepted in principle the invitations extended by the President and the Prime Minister of Pakistan in its anxiety to normalise relations with the neighbouring country. “When that visit will take place will depend on various factors.”

He underlined that India needed to be courteous and have abundance of patience and perseverance in dealing with Pakistan. “We want to have peace and stability in the region. It is in India ’s national interest that we need to have a stable Pakistan .”

On the delay in signing the much-anticipated visa agreement that is expected to facilitate easy travel between the two countries, Krishna said: “We hope the accord will be signed at the earliest possible.”

Asked about the cooperation India had received from Saudi Arabia in getting Jundal deported from the kingdom, he said the government could not spell out how the Mumbai plotter was nabbed. “The fact of the matter is that we have succeeded in getting a known terrorist in our net. The Government of India, the Home Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry have all played a constructive and well-coordinated role.”
IAF copters rescue 12 stranded on boat clinic
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, June 27
Helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) today rescued all the 12 persons on board the boat clinic stranded in the Dibang river here.

The Dibang is one of the main channels of the Brahmaputra in eastern Assam. The motorboat had been immobilised after it hit the river’s bottom that had swelled up due to heavy siltation.

The boat clinic belongs to the Centre for North-East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES).

Ashok Rao, a C-NES programme coordinator, said that the 12 persons, including two doctors, nurses and boat crew, had been stuck in the gushing water near an isle under Amarpur revenue circle in the flood-ravaged Tinsukia district of Assam since June 21.

The medical team had gone there to provide treatment to dwellers of Amarpur isle.

The rescued persons were brought to the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Tinsukia. The boat clinic was also brought to safety today.

While there were foodstuffs on the boat, it had run out of its stock of drinking water. The villagers were providing drinking water to our stranded staff, a C-NES official in Tinsukia said.

It is one of the 15 boat clinics operated by the C-NES in Assam under financial assistance from the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

These boat clinics are an innovative means to reach out to lakhs of residents in numerous inaccessible river isles in the Brahmaputra.
Pakistan’s impending defeat in Afghanistan
Irrespective of how the coming security transition in Afghanistan pans out, one country is on a surprising course to a major strategic defeat: Pakistan. Every foreseeable ending to the Afghan war today portends nothing but serious perils for Islamabad.
Ashley J. Tellis

EVER since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has had one simple strategic goal on its western frontier: ensuring that Afghanistan remains a stable but subordinate entity deferential to Pakistan’s sensitivities on all matters of national security. Such deference was sought for a host of reasons. Islamabad wanted a guarantee that Kabul would not reignite the dispute over the countries’ common border (the Durand Line) and would not seek to mobilize the region’s Pashtun populations in support of either absorption into Afghanistan or the creation of a new nation. The Pakistani leadership also aimed to ensure that Afghanistan would not enter into close geopolitical affiliations with other, more powerful countries, such as the United States or India, in order to increase Kabul’s autonomy from Islamabad.
Drone strikes have failed to influence an Afghan settlement while succeeding in poisoning U.S.-Pakistan relations. Photo: AFP
Drone strikes have failed to influence an Afghan settlement while succeeding in poisoning U.S.-Pakistan relations. Photo: AFP

Amid the chaos that emerged after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan settled on supporting the Afghan Taliban as its strategic instrument for securing Kabul’s compliance with its objectives. Although the Taliban were not always dependable surrogates on these matters, they appeared better than other Afghan rivals, and hence Islamabad—despite its denials—has stuck by them to this day.

Whatever the intended benefits of this strategy, it has alienated both the broader Afghan populace and the government in Kabul, which now views Pakistan as a habitually hostile neighbor. It has also undermined the U.S.-led international stabilization effort in Afghanistan, as well as hopes for a peaceful security transition—not to mention infuriating Washington, which now views Pakistan as a perfidious partner. And it has provoked heightened regional rivalry involving Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Iran, India, the Central Asian republics, and Russia, all of whom are determined to prevent a Pakistani-supported Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Worst of all, Islamabad’s strategy promises to fundamentally undermine Pakistani security. Every one of the three possible outcomes of the Afghan security transition leaves Pakistan in a terrible place.

Destined for failure

The most likely consequence of the security transition is a protracted conflict between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban that continues long after coalition forces have ceased active combat operations. These relatively low, but still significant, levels of violence would tax Afghan national security forces, distract the central and provincial governments, threaten the security of the average Afghan, and generally retard Afghan stabilization and reconstruction.

While such problems would be serious—though perhaps manageable for Kabul—they would by no means be favorable to Pakistan. A continuing insurgency in Afghanistan will further inflame passions in Pakistan’s own tribal areas and, given the links between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, will intensify the threats to Pakistan’s own internal stability at a time when the country’s economic condition remains parlous and its relations with the West precarious. Most problematically, this outcome would deepen the estrangement between Afghanistan and Pakistan, induce Kabul to be even less accommodating of Islamabad’s concerns, and push Afghanistan into a tighter embrace of Pakistan’s rivals.

The more serious, though still middling, outcome of the security transition could be a de facto partition of Afghanistan arising from a steady increase in Taliban control that is limited to the Pashtun-majority areas in the southern and eastern provinces. Beyond undermining Kabul’s effort to preserve a unified Afghan state, this consequence would put at risk the international community’s contributions toward reconstruction in Afghanistan.

If Islamabad is satisfied by such a result, it should think again. Although the Taliban’s reoccupation of its heartland might appear to produce a barrier region controlled by Islamabad’s proxies, its worst consequences would not be limited to the inevitable meltdown in Afghanistan-Pakistan relations. Rather, the chief concern is the chaos that would ensue from Kabul’s military efforts (almost certainly aided by Pakistan’s regional rivals) to regain control of these territories—a chaos that would inescapably bleed into Pakistan’s frontier regions.

Even if Afghanistan were to eventually fail in these operations, the outcome would be deadly for Pakistan. Any Taliban control of southern and eastern Afghanistan would lay the geographic and demographic foundations for resuscitating the old Pashtun yearnings for a separate state, a “Pashtunistan” that would threaten the integrity of Pakistan. Given the current resentment of the Taliban leadership toward its Pakistani protectors, Rawalpindi should not to be consoled by the prospect of a Pashtun buffer along Pakistan’s western borders.

The last and most dangerous potential outcome of the security transition in Afghanistan would be the progressive Taliban takeover of the south and east en route to a larger attempt to control all of Afghanistan. This would be a replay of the tragic events Afghans faced between 1994 and 2001, and would plunge the country into a Hobbesian civil war. All Afghan minorities as well as Pakistan’s larger neighbours would be implicated in a cauldron intended to prevent Islamabad from securing its desired “strategic depth” at their expense.

A cataclysmic conflict of this sort would be the worst kind of disaster for Pakistan. It would not just provoke major refugee flows that would further undermine Pakistan’s difficult economic condition. It would also integrate the violence and instability currently persisting along Pakistan’s western frontier into a vast hinterland that opens up even greater opportunities for violent blowback into Pakistan itself. The disorder that such a scenario portends would not only put paid to any Pakistani dreams of “strategic depth”—assuming this concept was sensible to begin with—but it would end up embroiling Pakistan in an open-ended proxy war with every one of its neighbours.

Time to reconsider

None of the plausible outcomes of the security transition advances Pakistan’s goal of creating a stable Afghanistan that would be sensitive to Islamabad’s core security concerns. Without doubt, Pakistan deserves secure borders and peaceful frontiers. Yet its own strategies—supporting insurgency and terrorism against its neighbours—have undermined its objectives. If Pakistan’s continuing behaviour is any indication, it does not yet appear to have grasped this fact.

An unhappy ending to the security transition is practically guaranteed by Islamabad’s unwillingness to press the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura to pursue reconciliation with Kabul and its reluctance to even call publicly upon the Taliban leadership to seek peace. On top of that is Pakistan’s continued reticence to clarify its preferred outcomes from the reconciliation process and its unproductive haggling over transit compensation for NATO shipments into Afghanistan. None of this convinces Afghanistan and the wider region that Pakistan means well. It may be true that Kabul will suffer most of all from Pakistan’s actions. But the generals in Rawalpindi ought to remember that their country too is facing strategic defeat if the international community fails in Afghanistan.

The writer is a Senior Associate, South Asia Programme, Carnegie Endowment for International Piece. The article is excerpted from its web journal
'Arjun Mark II' tank trial begins in Rajasthan
The trial of 'Arjun Mark II' tanks has started at Rajasthan's Pokhran field firing range, the Defence Reasearch and Development Organisation said on Sunday.

“The trials started on Friday last and will continue for the next two months. The ongoing trials will mainly focus on 19 parametres,” DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta said in a release in Jaipur.

“Indian Army accepted 124 Arjuns into service but the Army has made a follow-on order conditional upon 93 improvements to the Arjun, including 19 major modifications,” defence spokesperson S D Goswami said.

The major upgrades would be missile-firing capability against long-range targets, panoramic sight with night vision to engage targets effectively at night, containerisation of the ammunition, enhanced main weapon penetration; additional

ammunition types, explosive reactive armour, an advanced air-defence gun to engage helicopters.

“Other upgrades are an enhanced Auxiliary power unit providing 8.5 KW (from 4.5 KW) and an improved gun barrel, changes in the commander's panoramic sight with eye safe LRF, night vision capability including for driver, digital control harness,”he said.

This tank is the successor to Arjun Mark 1 Tank.

An Arjun tank is operated by a four-member crew comprising a commander-cum navigator, gunner, loader and driver.
India's premier defence academy reports recruitment scam
Mumbai: A serving Colonel was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation in Mumbai on Saturday after allegations of certain irregularities in the recruitment process for the post of Lower Division Clerks (LDC) and Group C employees in the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune.

However, the NDA officials say that they were still awaiting details from the CBI.

Apart from Colonel Kulbir Singh, Staff Officer to the NDA Commandant, five other persons have also been named in the complaint regarding the recruitment which took place during the months of May and June 2012.
All six have been sent to CBI custody till July 2.

Colonel Singh has been charged under 120B, 420, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act.

Reports say that the officer allegedly took Rs. 3-4 lakh from each person for a guaranteed appointment. He has also been accused of committing fraud in the examinations conducted for these posts.

The five civilians who worked as links between the candidates and the army officer include Balkrishna Charanlal Kanojia who runs a laundry at NDA and also owns two restaurants, Vishnu Prasad Sharma, Dattatrey Eknath Shitkal, Manoj Maruti Shiktkal and Ramesh Dilip Gaikwad.

According to the CBI, its officials conducted raids at 14 places in Pune and one each in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Sonepat and recovered Rs. 1.71 crore and some incriminating documents.
Filter used by Army may save lives
KOLKATA: A unique water filter used by Indian Army soldiers during postings in remote areas may soon come to the aid of civilians living in arsenic-affected parts of West Bengal.

Scientists at the Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) in Tezpur, Assam, have developed a unique filter that can protect people from water contamination. According to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister, V K Saraswat, this filter can be effectively utilized in arsenic and fluorine-affected areas. The membrane inside the filter just needs to be changed, depending on the kind of contaminant in a particular area. Saraswat believes that the filter can be useful in parts of West Bengal where arsenic poisoning is a major problem.

"This is a water treatment plant that needs no electricity and is easy to use. One just needs to pour the contaminated water into it and clean potable water flows out from the outlet. We have tested the plant with water laced with arsenic, fluoride, other contaminants, germs and other micro-organisms. All that one needs to do is change the membrane for a particular kind of contaminant. The membrane does not have to be replaced very often. It can be rejuvenated from time to time. We want to popularize this water treatment plant among civilians. It has worked very well for soldiers posted in remote areas where clean drinking water is hard to obtain. It would be of great help to the general masses if local bodies use these plants to supply clean drinking water to people. We have already taken up the matter with industry that may go in for large-scale production on a Transfer of Technology (ToT) basis. Our Aahar project has also been well accepted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( FICCI). The Aahar packets may also be used for midday meals and Angadwadi schemes," Saraswat told TOI at the Interim Test Range (ITR) at Dhamra in Odisha on Sunday.

Aahar is a name for two hygienically sealed meals consisting of rotis and daal that cost a mere Rs 25. This was developed by the Defence Food Research Laboratory ( DFRL), a unit of DRDO in Mysore. The daal comes in two varieties - instant palak and masala chana curry mix - and has a shelf life of 12 months (unless the seal is opened). The rotis have a shelf life of 15 days. According to DRDO, two machines have already been set up to make the rotis and the daal. Some companies have also expressed their interest in producing and marketing the packed food.

"Every packet has two meals. I don't think that one can get clean, hygienic food of this quality so cheap anywhere else. We developed our packaging technology to meet the needs of emergency rations for our soldiers. We are now ready to transfer this technology. Before long, you will get to see readymade food packets produced under our licence. The Aahar packets will be very useful as midday meals and in Anganwadi projects. This is our endeavour to take defence technology to the people," Saraswat said.
Agenda for new chief
By Gurmeet Kanwal, June 28, 2012

The new army chief must follow up quickly on his assurance to the media that nothing will be brushed under the carpet.

General Bikram Singh has taken over the reins of the Indian Army at a time when this great army – often referred to as the ‘last man standing’ – is passing through a rough patch in its history. The higher leadership of the army has been facing criticism for putting ‘self’ before ‘service’, contrary to the Chetwood motto that is ingrained into an officer’s psyche while undergoing training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun: “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.

Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.” (From a speech delivered by Field Marshal Sir Philip W Chetwood during the inauguration of IMA in 1932.)
The latter half of General V K Singh’s tenure as COAS was marred by unseemly controversies that have dented the image of the army as a first class fighting force. These controversies are too well known and too recent to bear recounting.

While individually none of them have amounted to much, collectively these have severely undermined the reputation of the army in the eyes of the public. In this mega-media age, the army’s image has also taken a hit internationally.

A dispassionate SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis reveals that up to the level of combat units, that is infantry battalions, armoured and artillery regiments and other arms and services, the army continues to remain a first rate fighting force. The combat-level army is as cohesive a fighting force as it has ever been and its operational ethos is marked by professional excellence and devotion to the nation well beyond the cause of duty. In this regard, the armed forces are the only organ of the state that is worthy of the nation’s trust.

However, a small number of officers comprising the army’s leadership ranks from brigadier onwards appear to have lost their moral compass and strayed in their approach from right to wrong. These officers have been involved in dubious and shady ventures – such as faction fights and land and housing scams. They have quite obviously failed in their judgment of what constitutes impropriety.
These officers have apparently forgotten the line in the prayer of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, that exhorts officers to choose ‘the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.’ Perhaps they have fallen victim to the ills that plague India’s civil society, which spawns them.

Long-term consequences

This is a serious development with grave long-term consequences for the army’s operational ethos. The armed forces have always held their officers to higher moral standards than the civil society that they come from. Immediately corrective action must be taken to put an end to declining moral standards. General Bikram Singh enjoys an excellent reputation as a professional soldier and will no doubt lead by personal example to arrest and correct the downslide in the moral standards of the army’s higher ranks. Restoring the trust of the nation in the army and the confidence of the soldiers merit his highest consideration in the months ahead.

The new COAS must simultaneously take stock of the army’s preparedness for war and internal security challenges. General V K Singh’s leaked letter to the prime minister spoke of ‘critical hollowness’. The CAG’s recent report revealed that the state of defence preparedness is a cause for serious concern. Parliament’s standing committee on defence has noted these developments with concern.

Weapons, ammunition and equipment shortages have persisted for long and several chiefs before General V K Singh had written to the prime minister and the defence minister for help to remove these. During the Kargil conflict the nation had heard the then COAS, General V P Malik, make the chilling statement on national TV, “We will fight with what we have.”

Another issue that needs the chief’s immediate attention is the continuation in service of obsolescent weapons and equipment well past their operational life and the stagnation in the process of military modernisation aimed at upgrading the army’s war-fighting capabilities to prepare it to fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century. Among other areas, he will need to concentrate on upgrading the artillery’s firepower potential, the ‘night blindness’ of the army’s infantry battalions and mechanised forces, and the fact that the air defence guns and missile systems are almost completely obsolescent. Simultaneously, he must also help the MoD to restore civil-military relations to a healthy level.

Perceptions matter and the new chief must take action transparently on recent cases of indiscipline, corruption and ‘botched up’ counter-insurgency operations. He must follow up quickly on his assurance during his first media interaction on June 1 that nothing will be brushed under the carpet. Only then will the nation’s faith and confidence in the army’s war-fighting capability will be restored.
Explain off-air phone-tapping purchases, MHA tells Army
The controversy over unauthorised phone-tapping has surfaced again after a defence public sector entity informed the home ministry that it had supplied at least 20 off-air interceptors to the Army, setting off alarm bells in the government as the Army had denied holding any such equipment in the past.

The home ministry is learnt to have officially sought details from the Army about these interceptors. While the Army is yet to give its response, official sources pointed out the possibility of an anomaly in the information provided to the home ministry. These sources, however, confirmed that an official communication has indeed been received from North Block.

Such equipment is usually held by the Defence Intelligence Agency which comes directly under the Integrated Defence Staff. The PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd, is said to have accounted for the DIA pieces separately.

The home ministry is the nodal office entrusted with the task of carrying out an audit of off-air interception equipment sold in India in the past decade, their deployment and ownership. In doing so, it had asked all relevant government agencies for details of the equipment they hold.

The Army had then said it did not use such equipment and did not have them in their stock. As per rules issued by the government for interception of phone conversation, only nine agencies are authorised to tap phones. The DIA is one of them but is authorised to use the equipment only in insurgency-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.

When asked about the home ministry letter, the Army officially refused to comment but insiders said the information was being double-checked before a response is sent. The audit of off-air interception equipment was prompted by a controversy in 2010 after allegations emerged that the National Technical Research Organisation was tapping phone conversations of politicians. This prompted the government to crack down on the illegal use of interception equipment, with an order to draw up a list and recall such devices if necessary.

Last year, the home ministry sent out an advisory to all state and central departments to return any such equipment in their possession, pointing out that only authorised agencies can tap phone conversations. Since last May, when the advisory was sent out, many agencies, including state governments, have surrendered their equipment.

Off-air, unauthorised

In India, the use of off-air interceptors is now restricted, mainly because such systems can easily be misused to monitor phone conversations without authorisation or the involvement of service providers.

While switchboard interception — using service providers — is legal, authorisation from union/state home secretary is required to monitor specific phones.

However, an off-air interceptor can tap all mobile phone conversations in a small area of operation without the knowledge of law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, only select agencies, including IB, R&AW and DRI, were authorised to possess these systems. (The Army is not among the organisations authorised to possess such devices.)

Agencies used these to gather intelligence, but govt has recently cracked down after a few instances of misuse came to light.
Retired Indian Army officer to be honoured by Bangladesh
KOLKATA: This retired Indian Army officer may not have received the recognition he deserved in India but the Bangladeshi government has now decided to honour him for saving the lives of the family members of Bangabandhu Sk Mujibur Rahman, including Sk Hasina, Sk Rehana and their mother from the hands of Pakistani troops. Few people in the country know that as a young unarmed Major, Col (retd) Ashok Kumar Tara confronted nearly 10 armed Pakistani soldiers who had orders to wipe out Mujib's family and convinced them to surrender to him.

Col Tara received a Vir Chakra after the 1971 Indo-Pak War but this was not for his efforts at Mujib's house in Dhaka's Dhanmandi. It was for the hand to hand battle that he and his men fought during the battle in Gangasagar where Param Vir Chakra recipient L/Nk Albert Ekka attained martyrdom.

"We had captured Dhaka airport a few days before December 17, 1971 and I was in charge of security as there was a lot of VIP movement. Around 9 am on that day, a Mukti Bahini leader rushed to us and said that Mujibur's family was being held captive at Dhanmandi and the Pakistani soldiers guarding them had orders to kill them. My officers ordered me to move to Dhanmandi with three men to review the situation. About 100 yards from the house, I came across a large crowd of people. They warned me against proceeding to the house, pointing to a bullet-ridden body in a car. The Mukti Bahini members said that the dead man had tried to drive towards the house and had been shot,"" the retired colonel from the 14 Guards recounted.

Tara decided that it would be foolhardy to try and attack the house. The lives of the civilians inside were of importance. He asked his men to wait with the mob and handed over his sten gun to them, ordering them not to proceed unless called for. The brave young man then proceeded towards the house.

"When I was near the car with the body, I called out to the people in the house. My shout of Koi Haireceived no response. I moved closer and when I was about 10 yards away from the main gate, I called out once again. This is when a soldier on the roof of the house showed himself and ordered me to stop. He told me that I would be shot if I proceeded. I told him that I was an unarmed Indian Army officer. I also reminded him that the Pakistan Army had already surrendered and there was nobody to save him or his colleagues from the Mukti Bahini. I could see armed soldiers behind three bunkers. I pointed to the IAF helicopters flying overhead and resumed my dialogue. I insisted that everything was in control of the Indian armed forces and they would never be able to return to Pakistan or see their families or friends unless they surrendered,"" Tara said.

After some time, the gates opened and nearly 10 Pakistani soldiers laid down their arms and moved forward. Tara ordered his men to escort them back to base and entered the house. There he found Sk Hasina, her sister, mother and other members of the family. They were in panic as they had overheard the Pakistanis talking of their plans to assassinate them before leaving the house.

"The family had not had proper food for about two days and had survived on biscuits. We arranged for supplies for them and I was put in charge of security. Finally, it was time for my unit to leave for India but the family would not allow me to go. They had received information that Mujib had been released in Pakistan and was on his way to Bangladesh and wanted me to stay and meet him. When Bangabandhu was told about me by his family members, he hugged me and treated me like his own child. After spending some more time with the family, I returned to India,"" the colonel said.

SK Rehana, during her last visit to India had wanted to meet Tara but he was not available. He has now received information from the Bangladesh Embassy that their government is planning to honour him for his courage and saving the family.
Indian Army hit by twin scams
The Indian Army is hit by twin cases of corruption maligning the uniform. In one of the cases shocking revelations by a firm alleging that National Defence Academy (NDA) is asking for cash for sponsoring an event. In the other case a Major General reportedly getting caught red handed while accepting a bribe from a local contractor. The Indian Army meanwhile has told TIMES NOW that permission has been granted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to approach the NDA on these allegations. In another scam, Major General in charge of Army Supplies in Northern Command is under scanner. Major General has reportedly been caught red handed while accepting bribe from a contractor. The ASC is meant for all type of supplies, food and other items to troops of Northern Command, including the Siachen Glacier sector.

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