No early troop reduction in J&K
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 9
The Army has not decided to reduce the troop strength from the J&K. Top commanders are of the opinion that any lowering of guard could be a setback to the hard earned peace. The Army’s response comes at a time when there is a heated debate on withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts of the state.
Officials today denied media reports that some battalions of the Rashtriya Rifles - the one tasked with fighting insurgents -- were being shifted out of Jammu and Kashmir to the northeastern region of the country. “Reports are baseless. This is not even under consideration,” a senior functionary said.
There was need to maintain pressure to retain the peaceful atmosphere in the state as anti-peace elements were still active in the valley and constant vigil is needed to maintain the peace, officials said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed three amendments to the AFSPA. The matter is pending before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The Army is not in favour of any amendment.
Earlier in the day, Army Chief General Bikram Singh recollected his close association with Kashmir. He interacted with children from the terrorism-hit area. “The Valley is always on my mind.
I have shed blood there,” said the Army Chief.
The school children from the Lolab valley in Kashmir had come to meet the Army Chief as part of their countrywide tour “Watan ki sair”. The tour is conducted by the Indian Army under ‘Operation Sadbhavana’ to bring people of Jammu and Kashmir into the national mainstream.
Receiving the students at the Army HQ here, he reminded them that he was injured in a shooting in an encounter during his earlier posting in the state. “Vaadi toh mere jehan mein hai, maine khoon bahaya ha wahan, maine goli khaayee thi (Valley is in my mind, I have shed my blood and have taken bullets),” he said in chaste Hindi and exhorted the students to join the Army in a big way. The Army Chief was hit by a bullet in an encounter with militants.
The Army Chief expressed his satisfaction over the improvement in situation in the Valley and wished that the younger generation of the state would live in peaceful atmosphere.
“How many of you would like to join army?” the Army Chief asked. Almost all the students present raised their hands in affirmation. “Remain committed and be focused in your approach to achieve your goal” he said while giving tips to these students on how to get the success in life.
SC notice to Centre on BSF excesses
New Delhi, July 9
The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre, seeking its response within three weeks to a plea for an independent probe into incidents of alleged torture and extra-judicial killings by the Border Security Force (BSF).
A Bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar passed the order on a PIL by a Kolkata-based NGO, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, contending that BSF personnel had committed more than 200 such excesses during 2005-11 in the border areas of West Bengal alone. These cases were never probed properly despite the fact that in most of the cases complainants had witnessed the victims being picked by BSF personnel, it said.
The state police had booked the victims instead of the BSF personnel and subsequently closed the cases, the PIL said.
Look-East Policy: Need for enlarged engagement
The commemorative India-ASEAN summit to mark 20 years of the completion of the Look-East Policy later in the year cannot be allowed to be just a milestone event. India will have to give direction and substance to the agenda and priorities for the next decade of partnership.
Arguably, a defining dimension of India’s post-Cold War external engagement has been the Look-East Policy conceptualized by former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao two decades ago. While the politico-economic imperative of the early 1990s may have shaped its initial content and course, in the last two decades it has acquired a self-sustaining critical mass to make it an indispensable factor in our politico-economic-strategic calculations.
Today, the Asia-Pacific region is India’s leading and fastest growing economic partner, vital for our economic security; it deeply impinges on some of our domestic concerns, specially in the Northeast and in the Andaman Sea. It is linked to our maritime and ecological security and enables a coordinated holistic response in dealing with natural disasters like the tsunami and even pandemics. Its space impacts on our conventional and non-conventional security environment, including threats of terrorism, piracy, transnational crime and spread of weapons of mass destruction in undesirable hands. Above all, the region stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific encompasses a space in which we could potentially play a significant role of partnership.
If, indeed, the Asia-Pacific is likely to remain vital for our national interests, how could we build upon the significant achievements of the past two decades of partnership as we commemorate this important milestone this year? Quite clearly, our priorities will need to go beyond trade, investment and other economic areas to include our growing geo-strategic concerns in the context of rapidly changing equations in the Asia-Pacific in which India now is an important player and a necessary factor in the geo-strategic considerations of the region. For us to optimise the full inherent potential of this partnership, apart from other steps, we may need to focus on many areas of cooperation with the region, both at macro and bilateral levels, in the coming third decade of our Look-East Policy:
First, a major thrust ---- as repeatedly emphasised by the Prime Minister --- has to be on integrating our economic structures and systems with those of the Asia-Pacific and working towards a Pan-Asian economic community, selectively and step by step harmonising our approaches and policies, building upon the free trade agreements and the comprehensive economic cooperation arrangements we have entered into with a number of counties. While this thought has been articulated in the pronouncements of our leaders (the Prime Minister’s earlier reference to the “arc of advantage”), no serious steps seem to have been taken so far.
Second, priority will need to be accorded to creating and augmenting all encompassing regional connectivities and networking --- economic, infrastructural, social and institutional --- stretching from Myanmar to the Pacific coast. This too came across as a strong theme during our Prime Minister’s pronouncements in Myanmar. We will need to initiate regional consultations to identify and pursue specific projects connecting India to the entire region. So far, very little seems to have happened, although a few schemes have been on the drawing board for some time.
Third, Myanmar and Thailand, two of our closest neighbours with whom we share land and/or maritime boundaries, are pivotal to our Look-East Policy. Both are members of the nascent Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Techno- Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a sub-regional grouping comprising two ASEAN and five South-Asian countries, potentially vital for the development and security of our Northeast. Both are our traditional partners enjoying ethnic, cultural and trans-border economic links with the northeast. Both are the key to our security, specially maritime and ecological security. Cooperation with both is necessary for our efforts to combat and contain terrorism, insurgency and trans-border crime, particularly in our Northeast. Both are potentially important economic partners vital for the development of our Northeast. Indeed, economic integration, interdependence, connectivity and cross-border traditional links are the best insurance for peace, progress and stability, particularly of our Northeast. BIMSTEC needs to be more optimally factored into our Look-East Policy. So far, in concrete terms, very limited progress seems to have been achieved.
Fourth, China’s lengthening shadows and growing presence in our neighbourhood is best countered in this strategically important space through meaningful regional cooperation. ASEAN, for example, has its own concerns about China’s intentions in the region as reflected by the South China Sea standoff. Myanmar too has begun to show unease over China’s tight embrace. Japan and South Korea have their own differing perceptions with China in the context of the geo-politics of northeast Asia. It would be useful to engage the countries of the region in a strategic dialogue to identify and evolve possible convergences. The democracies of the Asia-Pacific, specially, could cooperate in dealing with common challenges. The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a regional security dialogue platform, could provide useful aegis for such exchange of views with India playing a more proactive role, notwithstanding China’s influential presence in the ARF. The idea cannot be to confront or counter China but to focus on the concerns of the countries of the region.
Fifth, maritime security is likely to emerge as a key concern in the coming decades. India’s pivotal role in the Indian Ocean stretching up to the Pacific could contribute to ensuring freedom of the seas, peace, security from piracy and sea-borne transnational crime and keeping this space conflict free. Our proactive engagement in this area is likely to yield positive results for our own security. Again the ARF could be used as an umbrella for such engagement with regional participants. We have already begun to see results.
Sixth, India enjoys excellent bilateral relations with almost all the countries of the Asia-Pacific, free of conflict or differences. We now have strategic dialogues with many leading Asia-Pacific countries like Japan, South Korea and some ASEAN countries. We are also members of many Asia-Pacific institutions. In the next and succeeding decades we will have to deepen and enlarge the content, scope and frequency of our strategic dialogue to include regional and global strategic issues in our discussions and evolve convergences, where possible. A shared “Asian” approach on issues of peace, security, development, democracy and on countering the challenges facing the region will have to be our larger objective in such strategic discussions. In this context, our effort could be to institutionalise strategic dialogue and cooperation arrangements, including on regional defence and security issues through the ARF and possibly the ASEAN Defence Ministers plus Meetings (ADMM+). India’s now acknowledged growing centrality in this process needs to be demonstrated and projected. India, along
with China, Japan, Australia and ASEAN, collectively, needs to shoulder the responsibilities of the new emerging Asia-Pacific security and politico-economic architecture in the coming Asian century.
India’s growing “soft power” and skills in HRD and S&T and ASEAN’s success in managing growth with equity and excellence in the service sectors, even in times of crisis, provide useful areas for enhancing cooperation involving people-to-people and grassroot links, an enduring and mutually beneficial basis for sustained cooperation. Specific task forces will need to be constituted to explore possibilities of cooperation in a time-bound manner. The direct involvement of the people is vital to sustained partnership. So far, critics would argue that India’s cooperation arrangements have been overly government-centric and government-driven. This has to change.
Finally, Asia-Pacific regional organisations like the East Asia Summit (EAS), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the ARF, the Track II Council for Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) and other dialogue arrangements and the many ASEAN-driven regional fora of which India is a member provide an opportunity to engage with China in the regional context. This could be cautiously explored and used as an incremental confidence-building measure with China. Both countries, through regional arrangements, could find themselves in a web of mutually reinforcing equations which may not only be beneficial to the region but also act as a benign factor in our own complex relations with China. The Asia-Pacific dimension of India- China relations, if handled with caution, could emerge as an important factor for peace and stability in the region, as for our bilateral relations. We, together
with the regional players, will cautiously need to explore mutually reinforcing elements with China.
The next decade could be a period of opportunity for India in the Asia-Pacific. For the first time in many decades, India is becoming integral to Asia-Pacific peace, progress, security and stability. It is increasingly being seen as one of the pillars of the emerging politico-security and economic architecture of this rapidly changing region on the threshold of a promising century. More importantly, the regional perspective of India is positive and India is seen as a desired partner in a shared Asia-Pacific space. We will need to build on this opportunity by creating mutually beneficial and reinforcing imperatives of interdependence, sharing and common destiny. The time for an imaginative phase II of our successful Look-East Policy may have arrived. The commemorative India-ASEAN summit to mark 20 years of the completion of the Look-East Policy later in the year cannot be allowed to be just a milestone event. India will have to give direction and substance to the agenda and priorities for the next decade of partnership. ASEAN, from all accounts, is eager and receptive to deepening and enlarging its engagement with a potentially powerful India. Its own Look-West Policy is clearly anchored on developing closer relations with India. Are we ready?
The thrust areas
l A major thrust has to be on integrating our economic structures and systems with those of the Asia-Pacific and working towards a Pan-Asian economic community.
l Priority will need to be accorded to creating and augmenting all- encompassing regional connectivity and networking stretching from Myanmar to the Pacific coast.
l Myanmar and Thailand are pivotal to our Look-East Policy. Both are members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Techno- Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
l China’s lengthening shadows and growing presence in our neighbourhood is best countered in this strategically important space through meaningful regional cooperation.
l Maritime security is likely to emerge as a key concern in the coming decades. India’s pivotal role in the Indian Ocean stretching up to the Pacific could contribute to ensuring freedom of the seas, peace, security from piracy.
l India enjoys excellent bilateral relations with almost all the countries of the Asia-Pacific, free of conflict or differences. We now have strategic dialogues with many leading Asia-Pacific countries like Japan, South Korea and some ASEAN countries.
l Asia-Pacific regional organisations like the East Asia Summit, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific, the Asian Development Bank, the ARF, the Track II Council for Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific and other dialogue arrangements and the many ASEAN-driven regional fora of which India is a member provide an opportunity to engage with China in the regional context.
The writer, a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, was closely associated with the early phase of the Look-East Policy.
India ready to deliver three copters to Suriname army
By Stabroek editor | 2 Comments | Breaking News | Monday, July 9, 2012
Next Page »
(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – India has completed the 2009 order to deliver three Dhruv helicopters for Suriname’s army. Permanent Secretary for Defense John Achong and Lieutenant Colonel John Antonius, recently left for India to inspect and to finalize the order, several defense officials confirm to de Ware Tijd.
A four to six months training course for pilots and maintenance personnel is scheduled for October. Plans to train 10 pilots from Suriname since March 2010 on the HAL Rotary Wing Academy in Bangalore have been delayed. On the website of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL-India) Suriname is referred to as a major customer. Former Defense Minister Ivan Fernald headed a delegation to India in early 2009 to place the order.
The helicopters are financed with a US$ 15.3 million credit line by the Indian government. HAL typifies the so-called Dhruvs as sophisticated light helicopters. They measure 16 meters in length, are five meters high and weigh a little more than 2.5 tons. The helicopters, an Indian design, have an operation range of 640 kilometers.
Gunmen attack Pakistani army camp, kill 8 people
ISLAMABAD: Gunmen killed eight people in an attack on Monday on a Pakistani army camp in a city where thousands of hardline Islamists spent the night on their way to the capital to protest the government's recent decision to reopen the NATO supply line to Afghanistan, police said.
Police were searching for the culprits and it was unclear if any of the Islamist protesters were involved, said Basharat Mahmood, police chief in the eastern city of Gujrat where the attack occurred.
"It is surely a terrorist attack," said Mahmood. "The attackers could have taken cover. They could have hid themselves among the protesters."
The camp on the outskirts of Gujrat was attacked at around 5:20am, a little less than an hour after the leaders of the Difah-e-Pakistan, or Defense of Pakistan, protest movement finished delivering speeches inside the city, said the police.
The group, which includes hardline Islamist politicians and religious leaders, left the city of Lahore on Sunday along with 8,000 supporters in 200 vehicles to make the 300-kilometer (185-mile) journey to Islamabad. They traveled about halfway, spent the night in Gujrat and plan to hold a protest in front of parliament in the capital on Monday.
The roughly half dozen gunmen who attacked the camp were riding in a car and on motorcycles. They killed seven soldiers at the camp and a policeman who tried to intercept them as they were escaping, said Mahmood, the police chief. Four policemen and at least three soldiers were wounded, he said.
The camp that was attacked was set up to look for the body of an army major who was flying a helicopter when it crashed into a river in the area, said the police.
The leaders of Difah-e-Pakistan include people with known militant links, including Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, and Maulana Samiul Haq, known as the father of the Taliban.
But they are not known to be supporters of the Pakistani Taliban, who have waged a bloody insurgency against the state over the past few years and killed thousands of soldiers and police.
Many of the Difah-e-Pakistan leaders have strong historical links with Pakistani intelligence, and the group is widely believed to have been supported by the army to put pressure on the U.S. while the government negotiated over the NATO supply line.
Pakistan closed the route in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The government finally agreed to reopen the supply line last week after the US apologized for the deaths.
One of the reasons Pakistan waited so long to allow NATO troop supplies to resume was that it was worried about domestic backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant.
Difah-e-Pakistan leaders said on Sunday that they were holding their so-called "long march" to Islamabad to prevent Pakistan from becoming a slave to the US and to show that many citizens are unhappy with the decision to reopen the route.
But the number of protesters has been relatively small so far given Pakistan's population of 190 million, and the demonstration is unlikely to have any effect on the government's decision.
Army tip: ask IPS officers to fight Maoists
New Delhi, July 8: The Union ministry of home affairs is back to the drawing board on its counter-Maoist strategy, consulting military experts and comparing experiences since the June 28-29 shooting in Chhattisgarh in which an estimated 22 villagers were killed.
In one of a series of meetings, a senior officer from the Army Headquarters gave blunt advice to Union home secretary R.K. Singh: “Get your IPS officers to command battalions and lead from the front instead of making them babus behind desks.”
On the intervening night of June 28 and 29, 22 tribals, said to be unarmed, were killed in two separate attacks by the Central Reserve Police Force in south Chhattisgarh.
A total of 17 were killed in Sakerguda, 3km from a CRPF camp at Basaguda. Of those killed, 12 were under 16 years of age and two were 12-year-olds. Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh alleged they were used as “human shields” by the Maoists and Union home minister P. Chidambaram has said he was “deeply sorry if innocents” had been killed.
In the Indian Army, that is involved in training central and state police forces for counter-Maoist operations, there is the feeling that the CRPF and the central police organisations are not suitably trained and lack leadership skills at the tactical level.
The Army Headquarters has also advised the home ministry that the CRPF should change from the company and platoon-level deployment to battalion-level deployment. This advice was given after a ministry of home affairs official told a military adviser that the CRPF had adopted the army’s Kashmir model of “grid deployment”.
The army’s advice was also reflected in a paper presented by a former army officer, Brigadier (retired) Rumel Dahiya, now adviser (net assessment and defence studies) at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
In a paper presented at the army-backed think-tank Centre For Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), Brig. Dahiya wrote: “Presently the CRPF is employed in company and platoon lots and often attached to police stations or to the district police. There is no specific area of operations assigned to CRPF battalions under the command of their commanding officer. Companies are often commanded by inspectors in their 50s who neither have the energy and stamina nor motivation to fight an invisible opponent with thorough knowledge of terrain and enjoying local support.”
The senior officer from the Army Headquarters, who was advising the home ministry, was surprised to learn that no IPS officer is commandant of a battalion of the CRPF. IPS officers join the force only at the level of deputy inspector-general and upwards. Commandants are junior and are drawn from the CRPF’s own cadre.
The officer said this was contrary to the practice in the army in which lieutenants, captains and majors command sections, platoons and companies before rising to command battalions as lieutenant colonel or colonel.
This means that the men they command know that their commanding officer is worthy of leading by example.
In fact, even as the counter-Maoist operations have led to a greater interaction between the military and the police, the differences between the two types of forces have become even starker. A military adviser from the Army Headquarters has been attached to the home ministry for the past four years.
Not only the army, but also the air force has been complaining that the central and state police organisations are not following standard operating procedures or routing their requests through the right channels. Although the army is not directly involved in the counter-Maoist operations, it has two battalions deployed in south Chhattisgarh for more than a year for training.
But the Chhattisgarh government has not yet given the army maps for it to move into the “manoeuvre range” allocated to the army in the Marh region. The vice-chief of army staff, Lt General S.K. Singh, had also visited Chhattisgarh recently.
The differences in the styles of functioning were most apparent when Union home secretary R.K. Singh visited Chintalnar in Chhattisgarh.
Chintalnar is the CRPF camp just a kilometre from Mukram where 76 policemen were killed by Maoists on April 6, 2010, in the largest insurgent strike in 60 years.
Officials accompanying the home secretary spent a tense one hour waiting for an Indian Air Force helicopter to pick him up from the Maoist hotbed.
A group of about a dozen officials, including R.K. Singh, flew from Raipur to Chintalnar. The helicopter dropped the officials at the spot and flew back to Jagdalpur because the IAF cannot switch off the rotors at any location except Jagdalpur and Raipur.
“We were then communicated that since the air had become rarer because of the heat, the chopper will not be able to come on time. There was a delay of over an hour. All compulsions notwithstanding, the home secretary was left stranded at a vulnerable spot,” said an official who was part of the group at Chintalnar.
Later, the chopper could ferry back only five persons and senior officers, including inspectors-general, had to be left behind. Another smaller helicopter was requisitioned that airlifted the remaining team.
Security force officers said the IAF choppers had limited flying hours because of their compulsion on spares. Four choppers of Mi-17 class fly for security forces in Chhattisgarh. Compounding the situation, the ministry of civil aviation recently banned the Global Vectra group helicopters from flying, thereby cancelling the plan for wet-leased choppers from the company. “They were ready to fly 100 hours, which could have given us time to reach deeper for troops deployment in emergencies,” said an official.
But there is another side to this “handicap” of security forces.
Some senior police officers feel that the excessive use of helicopters have made CRPF and state police’s presence thinner on the ground. As a result, Maoists are able to block roads. “They are moving less on foot. As a result, there is little area domination. There is more reliance on helicopters to avoid casualties,” said an official from Chhattisgarh.
CBI to make arrests in Tatra case soon
NEW DELHI: The CBI may soon make some 'significant arrests' in connection with the probe into alleged irregularities in the procurement of Tatra all-terrain trucks to the Indian Army as the agency has found some 'crucial evidence'.
Officials, however, refused to say whether Vectra Group chairman Ravi Rishi and suspended BEML chief V R S Natarajan would be arrested. "We have evidence against some people connected with the Tatra deal and they would be arrested soon," a source said.
CBI officials, who carried out an on-site verification of BEML facilities in Bangalore for the production of Tatra vehicles, have gathered "crucial" evidence which indicate alleged involvement of some senior officials of the public sector undertaking, sources said.
The sources said based on the report of the officials, the agency will soon call Natarajan, Rishi and former senior officials of BEML for questioning again.
The agency had examined some officials of the defence ministry as well to gather evidence in the case. Sources said after another round of questioning, the agency may make "significant" arrests within 10 days.
Natarajan and Rishi have already been questioned by the agency in connection with the case. Both have refuted allegations of any wrongdoing.
During the inspection, CBI officials found "very primitive level facilities" where "so-called indigenization" of vehicles took place for supply to the Army, the sources said. They said despite the clause of indigenization and upgrade of technology in the original agreement signed with Tatra AS, the indigenization process remained way behind satisfactory levels.
Sources said the trucks, which are now assembled by BEML and supplied to the Army, have "not performed well in higher altitudes and despite red flags raised by Army several times, the PSU continued supplying older technology vehicles". CBI sources said DRDO also procured vehicles from Tatra for its missile systems which fared much better than those procured by the Army through BEML.