Terror to dominate Indo-Pak talks
New Delhi, July 1
There is a palpable apprehension in official circles that the revelations made by Abu Jundal, a key plotter of the Mumbai attack, and Islamabad’s faux pas on the release of death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh may overshadow the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan here on July 4-5.
key issues on agenda
l Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani will also take up issues like peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges during their July 4-5 meeting
l India will reiterate its demand that Pakistan bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and ensure that the Pakistani territory is not misused for launching attacks on this country
l The demand for the release of Sarabjit and other Indian prisoners will also be raised
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani will take up issues like peace and security, including confidence building measures (CBMS), Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges during their two-day meeting.
Though no major breakthrough is expected at the talks, the two sides will reaffirm their commitment to stay engaged despite ups and downs in ties. The two top diplomats are also likely to finalise the date for External Affairs Minister SM Krishna’s visit to Islamabad to review the progress in the dialogue process with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.
Krishna was initially scheduled to visit Pakistan on July 17-18 but the trip has been postponed in view of the Presidential poll here. Since Parliament is scheduled to hold its monsoon session in July-August, the two countries are now looking at the possibility of Krishna travelling to Islamabad in late August or early September.
The talks are being held against the backdrop of Jundal’s sensational disclosures suggesting the involvement of Pakistani state actors in the Mumbai mayhem. Though Indian officials say they would not share Jundal’s revelations with Islamabad, it is highly unlikely that the two foreign secretaries would not touch the Mumbai attack issue during their meeting. Without doubt, India will reiterate its demand that Pakistan bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and ensure that the Pakistani territory is not misused for launching attacks on this country. The demand for the release of Sarabjit and other Indian prisoners will also be raised.
Pakistan is likely to again ask India to expedite solutions to issues like Siachen and Sir Creek, which both countries consider as 'doables'. Recent talks on these two issues had, however, not yielded results.
Pakistan believes that the two countries should make the dialogue process irreversible, regardless of the state of bilateral relationship. It is apparently dawning on Pakistan gradually that it has to resolve its differences with India on a bilateral basis without third party intervention. Islamabad also realises that it too could emulate India ’s economic success story by cooperating with New Delhi rather than confronting it. Hence, it has started dismantling trade barriers for India and will soon formally grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to its neighbour.
Asked about the likely outcome of the talks, official sources said one must not expect instant results from any India-Pakistan interaction. “It’s a process…one must, however, appreciate the fact that there is less tension between the two countries and they are both trying to improve ties, particularly in the field of trade.”
Sources also pointed out that the rhetoric from the Pakistani side on the J & K issue has come down considerably although the Pakistan High Commission has invited Hurriyat leaders for consultations ahead of the meeting between the foreign secretaries.
Regarding the new visa agreement between the two countries which is expected to facilitate easy travel, the sources said Pakistan is still insisting that it should be signed between home/interior ministers of the two countries. India, on the other hand, wants the accord to be signed as quickly as possible. The delay in inking it, New Delhi believes, is sending a wrong message to the people of the two countries.
On whether there was any possibility of India and Pakistan cooperating on the Afghanistan issue, the sources drew attention to the just-concluded Regional Investors’ Summit on Afghanistan, pointing out that it was for the first time that Pakistan had participated in an Indian initiative on Afghanistan.
China ready with its own stealth fighter jet
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 1
China is ready with its version of an operational stealth fighter jet and is set to induct the first lot anytime soon. The stealth fighter will put additional pressure on India in its defence preparedness plans as its neighbour races ahead in ramping up its air fleet, Army equipment, missiles and naval warships besides critical infrastructure like railways and road network.
Arms race on
l China’s first lot of 24 stealth fighters is ready for induction
l The stealth fighter will put additional pressure on India in its defence preparedness plans
What is stealth
l No aircraft is totally invisible to radars. However, stealth technology makes it difficult for conventional radars to detect or track the fighter, vastly reducing the enemy capability to launch a successful counter-attack. Special paint and design is needed for stealth to be successful
China’s first lot of 24 stealth fighters is ready for induction, Indian security agencies have informed the government. The Chinese have named the fighter J-16, not to be confused with the under development fifth generation stealth fighter Chengdu J-20. However, unlike the Chengdu J-20, the J-16 is based on tried and tested platform of the Russian origin Sukhoi-30-MK2.
Though the Sukhoi-30 design is not ideal for stealth technology, the Chinese engineers have reportedly tweaked the wings and brought them more in line to provide it stealth, preventing enemy radars from picking it up to launch a counter-offensive, sources told The Tribune.
Beijing has named the J-16 as an ‘intermediate stealth fighter’ that will fill in till the originally planned fifth generation J-20 is inducted in 2017. Due to its size and weight, the J-20, probably, according to analysts, needs a set of newer, more powerful engines than the existing AL-31 engines borrowed from the Russian Sukhoi 27. Till then, as the J-20 develops, China has virtually changed the game in relation to India by developing the J-16 to meet its immediate needs. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of China was the first to show interest in the J-16. The Shenyang-based factory producing the plane has been asked to produce these with capability to fire anti-ship missiles, sources said.
The indication of the PLAN showing an interest is being keenly observed as the Sukhoi — on which the J-16 is based — can fly for long distances. India and China are competing to emerge as dominant navies in the region while the US has just announced its policy to shift focus to the Asia-Pacific region. India is co-designing and co-producing with Russia a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with stealth technology under a $35 billion programme. The plane code named PAK FA T-50 is being regularly test flown at KnAAPO’s airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia. It is powered by Russian-origin AL-41-A engine which is much more powerful and some 150 kg lighter than the AL 31, powering the Chinese aircraft the J-20. However, the Indo-Russian fighter is unlikely to be inducted till 2017.
900 NSG commandos to be off VIP security
New Delhi, July 1
For the first time in many years, the country's elite counter-terror force NSG has decided to pull out its over 900 commandos rendering VIP security duties and put them to perform specialist counter-terror and counter-hijack operations.
The 'black cat' commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) are segregated into five units, two Special Action Groups (SAGs) manned by officers and jawans from the Army and three SRGs (Special Rangers Groups) comprising personnel from paramilitary forces.
While each of the two SAGs (51 and 52) are tasked for counter-terror and counter-hijack operations respectively, the SRGs (11,12 and 13) render logistical support to the SAGs during operations and are deployed for guarding high-risk VIPs/VVIPs.
Each unit has about 900 personnel. According to the new blueprint prepared by the commando force under its last Director General Rajan K Medhekar, the 11 SRG will be taken out from its present task and converted into a regular SAG-like unit for undertaking specific counter-terror operations.
New NSG chief Subhash Joshi has also put his officers on job to accomplish the task.
Sources privy to the development said the contingency force, with 15 VIPs/VVIPs under its security cover at present, has the lowest number of protectees after many years and the force decided to use this opportunity to return to its original charter of performing counter-terror, counter-hijack, hostage rescue and sky-marshalling duties onboard aircrafts.
"Two SRGs are enough for catering to the present number of protectees," they said.
NSG was raised under an Act of the Parliament in 1984 as a federal contingency force.
The commandos of the SRG unit will now be given extensive training in counter-terror operations by the Force Commander and IG (Training), both Brigadier and Major General rank officials of the NSG based at its garrison at Manesar in Gurgaon near here.
The plan, according to sources, is to raise this squad by next year and once the training is done the commandos of this new unit would only perform combat-terror operations. "Considering NSG's expansion to the new hubs and keeping in mind the emerging trends in terrorism, the force needs more strength of commandos to undertake counter-terror operations," a senior NSG official said.
NSG commanders, according to the blueprint, foresee an event where simultaneous attacks could be launched at multiple centres in the country and then the commandos will have to be rushed in different directions. "The 26/11 Mumbai attack involved about 400 commandos in three days. Considering we have multiple terror hits at one go, we need to have a good number of fighting commandos and some in the reserves to replace them," they said. — PTI
n The commandos, who will be pulled out, would be part of specialist counter-terror and counter-hijack operations
n Keeping in mind the emerging trends in terrorism, the force needs more strength of commandos to undertake counter-terror operations, say NSG officials
Jundal got first terror lessons in Nepal
Abu Jundal New Delhi, July 1
Sayed Zabiuddin alias Abu Jundal, handler of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, picked up his “first lessons” in terrorism when Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Mohammed Aslam alias Aslam Kashmiri arranged for his arms training in Nepal in 2004.
Claiming to be indoctrinated after the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, 30-year-old Jundal told interrogators that he was introduced to ‘Jehad’ by Aslam Kashmiri, a resident of Hasplote in Thanamandi of Rajouri in Jammu region.
According to his interrogation report submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Zabiuddin said four youths from Maharashtra and Gujarat were handed over to Aslam Kashmiri for exfiltration through Poonch region in 2004, but they were killed by Army.
Official sources today said Aslam Kashmiri again approached Zabiuddin and Fayaz Kagzi and asked them to accompany him for arms training, but the killing of four youths had raised doubts that he could have been working for Army.
This prompted Aslam Kashmiri to put them through to LeT high command in Pakistan on phone as proof that he was working for the terror group, Zabiuddin told his interrogators.
After this, Zabiuddin, a resident of Beed in Maharashtra, along with four others, left for Nepal, where they received training in arms and manufacture of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).
Upon his return, Zabiuddin engaged in brainwashing more youths for spreading the terror network in the hinterland, the sources said.
His links with terror activity came up during the probe into the blast at Ahmedabad railway station that occurred early on February 19, 2006. — PTI
Navy computer networks hacked
New Delhi, July 1
Hacker groups have penetrated the sensitive computer networks of the Navy after which an inquiry was launched against naval officers in the Vishakhaptnam-based Eastern Naval Command.
Around seven months back, a Board of Inquiry (BoI) was ordered against some officers in the Eastern Command after it was found that some of the computer systems were bugged and had been penetrated by hacker groups, Navy officials said.
They said the BoI has now completed its investigations and has sent its findings to the Navy Headquarters which will take a decision on the action to be taken regarding these officers on the basis of the BoI recommendations.
Some data has also been lost and efforts are on to find out the extent to which vital information was compromised due to these bugs, officials said. They said the bugs were detected during checks carried out by naval cyber security teams.
However, a Navy spokesperson said the case has got no connection with the INS Arihant as it is a totally separate project and has no connection with the Eastern naval command.
This is the second such case of IT security breach which has come to light this year in the Navy as another BoI had recommended action against four senior officers for allegedly possessing and leaking classified information through social networking sites.
Four officers from the technical branch were tried by the BoI for allegedly possessing classified information on their personal computers.
They were also found to be sharing this on social networking sites such as Facebook. — PTI
Army to interlink hospitals for organ transplant
Chandigarh, July 1
In order to expand the scope of organ transplant and enable more patients to benefit from such procedures, all major military hospitals are being interlinked with the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplant Authority. This would enable other hospitals to harvest organs from donors instead of just a handful of centres that have the facility to perform the transplants.
The Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplant Authority co-ordinates organ donation in the military. Interlinking hospitals is among several new measures being initiated by the Armed Forces Medical Services to give an impetus to transplant procedures within the services.
While there is a large number of Army, Navy and Air Force hospitals spread across India, there are just five military centres for kidney transplants and one for liver and heart, which cater to the requirement of Armed Forces personnel and their dependents. Patients from across the country who require transplants are referred to these centres.
At present, barring a couple of exceptions, organs for transplant are harvested from donors admitted to the five transplant centres, which may result in non-availability of transplantable organs at times and leading to a long waiting list and a lengthy waiting period.
Army sources said the scope of organ transplant within the services was considerable, given the large number of military personnel, their dependents as well as greatly increased exposure of troops to adverse climatic and operational conditions.
The Army recently introduced liver transplant surgery and now plans to go in for lung, intestinal and pancreatic transplants, which would require a large donor base.
Relevance of Simla Agreement
A close look after four decades
Yet another anniversary has come. The Simla Agreement was signed by Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto 40 years ago on July 2, 1972. Here is, however, a minor quibble. It was actually signed after midnight; so, technically on July 3. Have its provisions been implemented? Short answer, ‘No’. Does it still have any relevance? Short answer, ‘Yes’. And that provides the reason for delving further into these questions.
The Simla Agreement was required from India’s perspective to establish durable peace and sanctify the principle of bilateralism with Pakistan after the India-Pakistan war of 1971. It ended in the east with the excision of East Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh. In the west, Pakistan gained some territory across the ‘ceasefire line’ beyond the Munnawar Tawi river in Chamb, and some ‘pimples’ of territory across the international border in India. A status quo ante situation was agreed upon under the Simla Agreement along the international border. Captured territories were exchanged. But the areas gained across the ‘ceasefire line’ in Jammu and Kashmir would be retained. India lost territory in Chamb, but acquired valuable strategic depth in the Kargil-Dras sector, which was the theatre of the Kargil conflict in 1999.
Incidentally, the ‘ceasefire line’ was deliberately re-designated as the ‘Line of Control’ in the Simla Agreement, a change in nomenclature that enabled India to end the tenure of the UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan). It was charged with maintaining peace along the ‘ceasefire line’ established by the Karachi Agreement (1949), but was found very irksome by New Delhi with its frequent calls for site inspections and constant nitpicking about border violations.
The two major decisions taken by New Delhi (read Indira Gandhi), and incorporated into the Simla Agreement that drew most flak were to return the territories captured by India across the international border and to return the 93,000 (mostly military but also civilian) prisoners of war (POWs) to Pakistan. The popular belief is that Indira Gandhi showed naïveté, and was deceived by the wily Bhutto’s nebulous promise during a one-on-one meeting that he would work towards converting the new ‘Line of Control’ in Jammu and Kashmir into an international border. Is this true? Three lines of argument are possible to question these popular myths.
First, it must be appreciated that Indira Gandhi had an inherited sense of history. She realised that imposing a victor’s peace on Pakistan would only ensure its enduring hostility in future. The humiliation of Germany in the Treaty of Versailles (1918) almost guaranteed the recrudescence of hostilities and World War II in 1939. It is another matter that the Pakistan Army, disgraced after 1971, quickly regained its primacy in Pakistan and is obsessed with the desire to avenge its humiliation. It did not allow India-Pakistan relations to normalise then. Or, ever after.
Second, the return of the captured territories and the POWs was equally informed by hard-headed calculations. New Delhi had consistently argued all through 1971 that its support to the Mukti Bahini and the insurrection in East Pakistan was an act of humanitarian intervention - indeed the literature recognises this humanitarian intervention by India to be a ‘just war’. It would have been disastrous for India to have held on to the captured territories thereafter for any base motive like bargaining for political advantage.
Third, the decision to return the POWs was equally pragmatic. For one, they were, in Bhutto’s memorable words, ‘a wasting asset’. The longer India kept them, at considerable expense, incidentally, to itself, the greater the opprobrium it was attracting, since many of the POWs were women and children. Besides, if India was to use these POWs as hostages it needed to remember that Pakistan was holding a large number of Bengali (Bangladeshi) military and civilian personnel as hostages to ensure the repatriation of its POWs by India. Furthermore, Bangladesh had incarcerated a huge lot of Bihari Muslims in camps around Dhaka, who needed to be transferred to Pakistan. Matters were further complicated by Sheikh Mujib’s strong desire to hold war crimes trials against senior Pakistani officials. It took much persuasion by New Delhi to talk him out of this insistence. Ultimately, a three-way repatriation of the POWs to Pakistan, Bengali (Bangladeshi) military and civilian personnel to Bangladesh, and Bihari Muslims to Pakistan was negotiated in 1974 to resolve these thorny issues.
Another controversial issue pertaining to the Simla Agreement is whether Bhutto had reached an understanding with Indira Gandhi to convert the ‘Line of Control’ into an international border, and that he reneged from this offer. Nothing, obviously, is inscribed in the Simla Agreement. New Delhi’s beliefs are largely based on P.N.Dhar’s account, written in 1995, about the one-on-one meeting between Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in which he is believed to have made this offer. Dhar informs that Indira Gandhi told him about this promise immediately after the meeting. Abdul Sattar, who later became Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and was also in Simla when the Agreement was finalised, has flatly denied that Bhutto made any such promise. When interviewed by me many years later, P.N.Haksar had an enigmatic answer regarding Dhar’s account: “Was he present in the meeting?” We shall never know what transpired in that one-on-one meeting. But, more disconcertingly, the Simla Agreement had also enjoined the Heads of State to meet again to reflect on all these issues, which was to be preceded by their representatives’ meeting earlier for this purpose. These meetings never took place.
Judging by subsequent actions, however, Bhutto did move some way towards converting the ‘Line of Control’ into an international border. The Northern Territories were incorporated into Pakistan, and ‘Azad Kashmir’ (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) was made a province of Pakistan in 1974. For its part, New Delhi installed Sheikh Abdullah in Srinagar and initiated some steps to draw Jammu and Kashmir more closely into the Indian political structure. These steps were probably designed to imbue the ‘Line of Control’ with the attributes of an international border. Then, why did this process stall, and not continue? The short answer is that both the main protagonists of the Simla Agreement became distracted and embroiled in internal affairs. A virulent drought situation, the railway strike, and JP’s Nav Nirman Movement claimed Indira Gandhi’s attention over 1973-74, later leading her to declare the internal Emergency in mid-1975. Bhutto was similarly required to deal with serious disturbances in Balochistan. The Pakistan Army had to be called out, which greatly assisted their rehabilitation, and return to their earlier position of centrality in the country’s polity. The quirk of circumstances, therefore, rather than any lack of will adversely affected this process.
What is left then of the Simla Agreement? Should it be consigned now to the dustbin of history?
This would be a hopeless overreaction. Article III, relating to the restoration of relations between India and Pakistan, lays out the full spectrum of normalisation measures that need being pursued. They include establishing greater communications through all available means, promoting travel facilities, resuming trade and economic cooperation, and exchanges in the fields of science and culture. Only the slightest reflection would reveal the distance that remains from realising these goals to even a minimal extent.
And that explains the relevance of the Simla Agreement even after 40 years.n
War of Words
After meeting a near fatal accident, NDA passout Prathmesh Apte wrote his debut novel ‘Destiny's Missed Call’
A freak accident in 2008 just three months before he was to be comissioned as an officer in the Indian Army, crashed all his dreams. In the words of NDA (National Defence Academy) passout Prathamesh Apte, the body blow that the accident caused was ‘unfathomable'. "There I was, a 21-year-old, ready to wear the olive greens and serve my country, and the next thing I knew was I was being boarded out owing to a back injury sustained while riding horses. I was clueless as to what would I do in life," recalls Apte.
However, today, four years later, life outside the armed forces is a second inning for him. "I finally feel that I have purpose now in my life," he adds. Apte who completed his Bachelors in Law and CS has written a novel, 'Destiny's Missed Call' that details the life of a cadet in the NDA and also aims to clear misconceptions that are in the mind of the youth regarding the armed forces.
"Once a civilian enters the portals of the academy (NDA), it is a totally different experience for him. The manner in which the cadets are groomed, the leadership qualities that are instilled in them it is all a different feeling. I had a strong urge to pen down the experiences of the NDA. Of course the story is completely fictitious, but it is set in the backdrop of the academy," says Apte. While he took almost three and a half years to write the book, Apte says that the book was one of the main reasons that helped him during the initial days after his injury.
The story details the life of a boy Varun, who enters the hallowed portals of the academy. It goes on to describe his growing up years, grappling with punishments, the disciplined lifestyle and the huge amount of fun that the cadets have during their times at the NDA. "There is a popular misconception that almost three quarters of the batch are children of soldiers and officers serving in the armed forces or are from the Military schools in the nation but that is not true," Apte says, adding, "When I was at NDA, there were about four per cent of cadets who were students of serving or ex-army officers. The rest were all first timers like me."
According to Apte the only reason why the NDA is called the 'Cradle of Leadership' is because the cadets from the sixth terms and the fourth terms are responsible for the freshers. Also, even though there is a senior-junior hierarchy between cadets separated by just one term, the camaraderie that it builds up is, in his words, 'irreplaceable'. One of his latest assignments now at the NDA is to speak to cadets who have been medically boarded out of the academy. "Both the cadets as well as their parents go into depression when the news is broken to them. I want to tell them that there is still a life they can look forward too."
On the issue of how he dealt with his personal crisis he says, "Yes I was crushed too but then we really have two options in life medically or emotionally- to give up or fight it out. And I chose the second one," he says with an optimistic smile.
Welfare of ex-armymen is Army's top priority: General Bikram Singh
Pathankot (Punjab), July 1 (ANI): Welfare of the ex-army personnel, war widows and their dependents would be the prime priority of Indian Army, General Bikram Singh, Chief of Indian Army said this while addressing a conclave of army veterans and widows, hosted by Ex-Servicemen's Forum here on Sunday.
"The welfare of our ex-army men and their brave women is one of my aims which I have incorporated within my command that I want to fulfil," Gen Singh said.
He noted that such measure could encourage more youth to join the army, since they would be assured of social security.
"The youth who want to join the army would come in only when they see that the welfare of the ex-servicemen and the brave women are being taken care of. Otherwise why would they come? This is to ensure that our army grows stronger, and to show that it is our duty to look into your welfare. We shall fulfil this with utmost honesty," added General Singh.
General Singh and his wife Bubbles Singh distributed certificates to distinguished veterans and also honoured several war widows.
The General also mentioned about ensuring more teeth to the welfare measures, which the Army Headquarters would monitor.
"It is my wish that the mechanism to look into the welfare of the ex-servicemen should be more strengthened. The Army Headquarters will take it up," he said. (ANI)
Indian Air Force Gets More Wings To Fly: Over 200 Flying Officers Commissioned
As many as 216 young men and women were commissioned into the Indian Air Force on Saturday after they successful completed their graduation from the Air Force Academy at Dundigal, Hyderabad.
This Combined Graduation Parade of the flight cadets of No. 189 Pilot Course, No. 130 Ground Duty Course and No. 114 Navigation Course, who were trained at various IAF training establishments such as - Air Force Administrative College(AFAC), Coimbatore, Air Defence College, Lucknow, Air Force Station Hakimpet, Begumpet and Yelahanka besides the Air Force Academy marks the culmination of their successful basic and professional training.
Flight Cadet Naveen Lather commanded the immaculately turned out cadets formed in six squadrons on the parade ground in front of the Sekhon Block. The impressive parade was reviewed by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, who awarded the President's Commission to the flight cadets on behalf of the President of India.
Congratulating the newly commissioned officers, the Air Chief welcomed the young men and women into the brotherhoods of arms.
"I welcome each one of you into the fraternity of the IAF and the Indian Armed Forces," the Air Chief said according to a press release. "You have my personal assurance that your safety, care and comfort will remain my highest priority. We will ensure that our people get to fly and operate aircraft and equipment which is the best in the world."
Browne said "With the privilege of commanding men, comes the responsibility of looking after your subordinates. The IAF's vision statement - 'People First Mission Always' contains an important leadership lesson."
"It implies that while the mission accomplishment is imperative, the focus has to be on our 'People'. The people placed under your charge will look up to you for guidance and leadership and it will be your sacred duty to prove to be a good role model to them," Browne added while stressing the importance of taking care of those under one's charge.
Of the newly commissioned officers 95 are from Flying Branch, 19 from Navigation and 102 from the Ground Duties. In addition three Naval Officers and one Coast Guard Officer were also awarded wings on completion of their Flying Course.
There was a traditional fly past by Hawk, AN-32, Dornier and Kiran aircraft while a low level aerobatic display by Su-30 MKI kept the audience spellbound.