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Saturday, 30 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 29 Jun 2012

Role of Navies in Furthering International Diplomacy
̶  A comment on Chinese Naval port visits and Indian Naval Operational Deployments in the Indo-Pacific context.
̶   Kamlesh K Agnihotri

Two interesting events of maritime significance were reported in the Indian media in May 2012. Though both at them are fairly routine and commonplace occurrences in the contemporary maritime domain, one cannot help but notice a similarly of sorts between these two nearly concurrent events.  The first report related to the Chinese Navy's training vessel Zheng He calling on at India's Kochi Port on 09 May 12 for a four-day good will and the second was the announcement of a long range operational deployment (LROD) of four warships of India's Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command to the Western Pacific Ocean, scheduled to commence in mid May 2012.
The Zheng He training ship, with more than 300 sailors and students from the Dalian Naval Academy on board is on a voyage around the world that includes port visits to 14 countries. Kochi visit is the third leg of the ship's voyage. On the other hand, the Indian warships comprising missile destroyer Rana, stealth frigate Shivalik, missile corvette Karmuk and fleet tanker Shakti were scheduled to visit ports in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Japan and also engage in the first India-Japan bilateral maritime exercises there.
The striking similarity quite evident from these two activities is that the voyage of the PLA Navy training ship takes it across the Indian Ocean with a visit to an Indian port, while the Indian naval ships' transit though the South and East China Seas, with a 'call on' thrown in at a Chinese port.  But such is the nature, charter and special role of the navies as 'absolutely acceptable and legitimate' propagators of 'peaceful diplomacy' the world over.
Role of Navies in Peace Time
Navies, by the very nature of their operational role and additional characteristics of institutional flexibility, maneuverability, adaptability and reach are ideally suited to be appropriate instruments of their States' foreign policy and furtherance in their respective national interests. The British and the Americans have continually leveraged their naval power in the furtherance of their respective countries' foreign policy and achievement of political objectives. In the context of the current world order, it is considered that the occasions and opportunities for using Navies in their conventional role of war fighting are few and far between. However there are numerous opportunities for engaging in non- traditional activities which project the benign face of the State whilst keeping the force well trained, equipped and operationally active.
One of the least intrusive, most benign and reasonably effective roles of the navies involves the 'overseas deployment' and 'showing the Flag' visits to the port of foreign countries. Overseas deployment refers to a task wherein maritime forces are deployed far from own shores, to areas of operational or political interest. They operate in these areas independently or in conjunction with friendly navies, so as to gather operational and environmental knowledge; build defence and political relations; develop interoperability; project own reach and capability; and portray national interest, intent and industry.  'Showing the Flag' in foreign ports helps to foster good relations, besides demonstrating interests and involvement in the region. The visits also afford additional opportunities for interaction at several levels, providing a platform for exchange of perspectives, and to develop upon existing relations.
Attaching Significance to Current Voyages of Indian and Chinese Warships
The disposition of the Indian ships as on 15 June 2012 lay at Shanghai port of China. The ships were on return passage after having concluded India-Japan bilateral maritime exercise 'JIMEX 12' on 09 June 2012, Concurrently, the Chinese training ship 'Zheng He' was in Cadiz Port of Spain, preparing for the Atlantic crossing, after having visited Djibouti, crossed the Suez into the Mediterranean and called on the Italian port of Taranto. Both Countries' naval ships have a long voyage ahead, with the Indian ships slated to call on Port Kelang, Malaysia while the Chinese ship will visit Canada and Ecuador before heading onward to China via Indonesia and Brunei.
In the context of the current complex maritime dynamics in the Western Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea, this overseas deployment should send out a message of India as a 'major stake holder', striving for peace, stability and 'freedom of seas' in the region. The countries visited and the maritime exercises conducted during the ongoing Indian naval 'operational deployment' into the Western Pacific Ocean gives clear indication of Delhi's 'diplomatic' intent and inclinations.  While the port calls at Subic Bay, Hai Phong and Tokyo and subsequent joint exercise with the JMSDF showcased the Indian goodwill, friendship and congruence of interests, the visit to Shanghai demonstrated that India, at the same time, seeks greater interaction with China, militarily and politically. The Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Eastern Naval Command was reported to have stated on the occasion that "…friendship and cooperation between the Chinese and the Indian Navy was growing every year... and … [that] he welcomed more visits by the PLA Navy to Indian ports to build trust…."
Pretty much the same sentiment was expressed by the Flag Officer accompanying the Zheng He  ship at Kochi. He averred that "…the main purpose of the visit was to promote the ideal of a harmonious world and a harmonious ocean, as well as strengthen the friendship and cooperation between the two countries and the two navies…" As a demonstration of the above stated goodwill, the Chinese ship embarked an Indian naval cadet on board at Port Kelang for passage till Kochi.
While the mission of training ships cannot be compared with the 'operational deployment' of mainline combatants, the essential purpose of both the activities has been to 'show Flag'; display 'reach', 'presence' and 'sustainability'; and further the 'peaceful diplomacy' cause of their  respective nations.  Notwithstanding the difference in the mission profiles, there can be no denying the fact that the Delhi is serious about broadening the 'Look East' paradigm to 'Act East', while Beijing strives to maintain its visible presence in the Indian Ocean.
In this individual pursuit, it should be to the benefit of both the sides if friendly and cooperative relations - particularly between the two navies - in a peaceful and stable environment are maintained.
Let grey suits replace olive green: Krishna
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, June 28
Seeking to hard-sell Afghanistan to the private sector, India today asked the international community to invest liberally in the trouble-torn nation to ensure that the political or security vacuum arising in there after the drawdown by international forces in 2014 was not filled by extremists once again.

Addressing the day-long 'Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan' here, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said: "We feel that foreign investment and domestic private sector development, both small and large scale, can play a role. Let the grey suits of company executives take the place of olive green or desert brown fatigues of soldiers; and CEOs, the place of Generals.''

The meet was attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and officials and businessmen from 33 countries, including Pakistan, China, Russia, the US and Iran. The objective of the conclave, the first of its kind hosted by India, was to attract foreign investment into Afghanistan in the light of new opportunities opening up in areas like mining, hydrocarbons and infrastructure, and badly needed investments in traditional sectors like agriculture, industry, capacity-building, health and services, after three decades of conflict.

Economic growth with massive investment in infrastructure and other key areas of the country's economy would itself become an important factor in the improvement of the security situation, senior Indian officials said.

Calling upon the international community to act together in the interest of the collective security of Afghans and the global community, the Indian minister said: "We need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of withdrawal, uncertainty, instability and foreign interference.''

Investments, he said, could provide hope for employment, training and opportunity for the future. "We encourage our industries to venture into Afghanistan in numbers together with Afghan partners.''

Underlining that Afghanistan had suffered three decades of conflict and violence that had destroyed the structures of the state, he regretted that the embattled nation still remained a special case for development and technical assistance in the years to come.

Krishna made it clear that India would continue to pursue its vision to stabilise Afghanistan through trade and investment and regional cooperation. "We invite international investors and regional countries to join in this vision for Afghanistan individually or in partnership with others.''

In his address, Afghan Minister Rassoul sought to dispel fears over security in his country, saying the investors would not only be rewarded with significant returns but also play an important role in the restoration of peace and stability within the region.

''It is important to note that investors who choose to invest in Afghanistan will not only be rewarded with significant returns on their investments, but they will also play a vital role in the restoration of peace and security within the region,'' he said.

Admitting that there were certain areas in Afghanistan where the security was not ideal, he said these areas, however, represented a small part of the country.
Tejas completes weapons test
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, June 28
Indigenous warplane Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is "inching ahead" on its path to enter the operational service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). The single-engined fighter has just completed a crucial weapons test at a firing range in western Rajasthan. The test was one of the last few important milestones that Tejas has to be cover before it gets to be in the operational service with the IAF.

The test aimed at checking combat capabilities of the plane under extreme weather conditions. Daytime temperatures in the deserts of Rajasthan can go up to 50°C nowadays. The outcome of the test and the IAF assessment would be known over the next few weeks. The fighter carries weapons in its underbelly.
Off-air phone-tap: Army confirms MHA letter, says

The Army is going through its records afresh after the union home ministry sought details of what is believed to be undisclosed purchases of off-air interception systems that surfaced during an audit of such equipment.

Army Headquarters officials confirmed that the ministry had raised questions, and said that a response would be drafted after an internal "double-checking" of records.

The Indian Express on Thursday reported that a glaring discrepancy came to light during an audit of snooping equipment by the ministry after defence PSU BEL said 20 such devices had been sold to the Army. The Army has in the past denied having off-air phone interception systems.

While the Army will send its version to the home ministry shortly, one explanation being offered is that the systems were part of a secretive electronic warfare system that the Army uses on the border. "Project Suraj" is used to jam enemy communication and signals but, in the absence of adequate checks, can be moved around and misused as phone interceptors, sources said.

According to the rulebook, within the military, only the Defence Intelligence Agency — which comes directly under the Integrated Defence Staff — is authorised to intercept phone conversations, that too only in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir where it has an active counter-insurgency role.

The audit of off-air phone-tapping equipment was carried out after allegations in 2010 that the National Technical Research Organisation was tapping phone conversations of politicians. The government then ordered a recall of all such devices.
Indo-China Armies discuss peace in Ladakh

New Delhi: Armies of India and China on Thursday held a flag meeting in eastern Ladakh to discuss the situation along their boundary and agreed to maintain peace and tranquility there. The meeting was held at the level of Brigadiers at Spanggur Gap in eastern Ladakh where the two sides discussed the situation along the boundary and agreed to maintain peace and tranquility, Army officials said here. They said the meeting between the delegations of the two Armies was part of Confidence Building Measures (CBM) between the two sides.
Army sent me Pakistan for spying: Surjeet Singh told Indian media
New Delhi: Indian spy Surjeet Singh, who was freed by Pakistan from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday morning after 27 years since his arrest, has said that he was sent by Indian military for spying in Pakistan.

"Yes I went there for spying," he said while talking to media soon after landing his steps on India soil.

He said that Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails were not facing any trouble and difficulties. He said that Pakistani authorities were treating all the Indian prisoners friendly, adding that they all were provided better food.

When asked question about Sarabjit, 49, who is being held at Kot Lakhpat and had confessed to be involved in a string of blasts in Punjab province in 1990 that killed 14 Pakistani citizens and injured dozens of others, Surjeet claimed that Sarabjeet Singh would also be released soon.

He said that he was hopeful for Sarabjit Singh's release on August 14th.

He said that he had met Sarabjit for several times and he was physically and mentally okay.

At the same time when Surjeet Singh was being released, Sarabjit's sister also met the Indian minister for external affairs. Krishna said that he would visit Pakistan next month and would take up the issue with Pakistani authorities.

Earlier on Thursday morning, Singh was freed from Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail and hand over to Indian authorities at Wagah border after 27 years since he was arrested on charges of spying.

Singh's counsel, Awais Sheikh, told the media that the Indian national was arrested during the tenure of military ruler Zia-ul-Haq.

Singh was given the death sentence under the Pakistan Army Act in 1985. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1989 by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Earlier, Pakistan announced it was to free death sentenced prisoner Sarabjit Singh, but late at night, Presidential Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar clarified that it was not Sarabjit, but Surjeet.

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