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Friday, 20 July 2012

From Today's Papers - 20 Jul 2012

Rahul Gandhi to be appointed as defence minister?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi [ Images ] has decided to join the government as time is running out for him and his Congress party.

Rahul is likely to be appointed defence minister and may also take up the responsibility of Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, a position vacated by Pranab Mukherjee [ Images ] when he became a candidate for the Presidency.

To become Leader of the House, Rahul has to be appointed a Cabinet minister.

Last week, top Congress officials ruled out any change in the prime minister or party president. Dr Manmohan Singh [ Images ] and Sonia Gandhi [ Images ] will continue doing their jobs till 2014 when a general election is scheduled.

Rahul, it is felt, cannot be home minister as it is a thankless job where result-oriented success is almost impossible in view of the ground realities in the country.

He cannot assume the role of finance minister as he does not have the knack for that job.

If Rahul is appointed rural development minister he may be able to lift his pro-poor image, but it will not make him eligible to join the elite powerful groups within the government like the Cabinet Committee on Security and Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.

Hence, the best possible portfolio for Rahul is defence where success and failure are a collective affair in peace time.

Rasheed Kidwai, author of 24, Akbar Road and a senior journalist, believes, "A bigger role for Rahul in the Congress party is unlikely because he is already general secretary. It is more likely that he will become Raksha Mantri."
Adarsh not a security threat’: Ex-Army chief differs with MoD
In sharp contrast to the Ministry of Defence’s stand on the issue, former Chief of Army Staff General (Retd) Deepak Kapoor on Thursday told the two-member Adarsh commission that he did not feel that the Adarsh housing society was a security threat on account of its height and proximity to a defence area.

On April 30, a Bench of the High Court had admitted a petition filed by Ministry of Defence, seeking demolition of the 31-storey residential building contending that it poses a threat to the defence installations near the building.

However, appearing before the Adarsh commission on Thursday, Kapoor claimed that there are a large number of buildings “of the same height in the vicinity of the Adarsh co-operative housing society”, because of which he did not feel that there was any more threat than the other buildings. He cited examples of two other buildings but could not say whether they were of the same height.

The commission, comprising retired Bombay High Court judge Justice J A Patil and former Maharashtra chief secretary P Subramhaniam, made a reference to the 26/11 terror attacks on the city. It also noted that Kapoor was the “highest authority in the land to defend the security of India”.

However, the former Army chief said, “Our country is exposed to terrorist attacks at different points of time and at different places... I am not aware of any recommendation on this issue having come from the Local Military Authority (LMA), Mumbai.” Kapoor had applied for membership to the controversial society in 2005. However, he resigned from his membership in October 2010 after media reports about irregularities in the society.

Asked for a specific reason why he did not verify the status of the property, Kapoor said,“I did not feel the need to verify all this, as prior to my applying for membership, large number of service officers had already applied and they were granted permission. Even the construction had started. Therefore I assumed that all clearances were obtained.”

In his statement, he placed responsibility on the LMA for considering aspects of the possible security threat. He noted that a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, like the building’s height, proximity to a sensitive area and the possibility of looking into the area.
Army intel funds under scanner, MoD refuses to clear accounts
The Defence Ministry has put the Army’s spending from its secret intelligence funds under scrutiny after allegations that these were misused by Army HQ over the past year. The secret funds, which are utilised through the Military Intelligence (MI) directorate, are audited internally by the Army but have to be cleared by the Defence Secretary.

It is learnt that the ministry has put the statement of accounts presented by the Army for 2011-12 under the scanner. While an amount of close to Rs 42 crore had been allocated under the head for the last financial year, the Army ended up spending a far greater amount, close to Rs 57 crore.

Sources said the competent authority has not cleared the accounts as ‘large amounts’ that have been spent cannot be cleared by “without checking”. “The competent authority has to be certain before clearing such large amounts. The accounts will be scrutinized carefully,” an official conversant with the matter said.

Despite repeated efforts by The Indian Express, the Defence Ministry refused to comment on the matter. However, sources said the ministry has not taken the extreme step of freezing funds under the same head for this financial year as it would have repercussions for operational preparedness.

Sources said the Defence Secretary has not given his approval to last year’s spending after several signed and unsigned representations were received by the ministry, alleging misuse of the secret funds by Army HQ.

By the very nature of the matter, the secret funds are never externally audited and the CAG has no jurisdiction over the matter. Internal checks and balances, however, call for a strict audit within the Army — with the help of financial advisers — that is ultimately sent to the Defence Secretary for clearance.

These funds are meant for things like paying of informants, gathering of field intelligence from across the border, purchase of sensitive equipment that should not be made public.

Similar funds are available to other intelligence organisations like the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing, though the amounts are much larger.
India to roll out red carpet for Myanmar general
NEW DELHI: India will roll out the red carpet for a top military general from Myanmar during his forthcoming visit to India next month in line with the overall policy to ensure China does not manage to outflank New Delhi once again in the region.

General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces in Myanmar, will be in India from August 1 to 8. He is scheduled to meet defence minister A K Antony and the three Service chiefs — Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and General Bikram Singh - in New Delhi on August 3.

Apart from visiting Buddhist sites in Bodhgaya, the Myanmarese general will also be hosted at the Eastern Army Command at Kolkata, Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam and other defence establishments during the visit.

The visit comes soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to Naypyitaw towards end-May, the first such visit by an Indian PM to Myanmar in 25 years. While a dozen bilateral MoUs were inked, the PM also met Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi during his three-day visit to the country that is undergoing a phase of transition from total military control to some sort of political reforms.
Myanmar General coming next month
Aiming to strengthen military ties with India, a top official of the Myanmarese armed forces will be here on a week-long visit starting August 1.

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces Vice Senior General Miu Aung Hlaing will hold discussions with top military leadership, including the services chiefs, during his visit from August 1-8, Defence Ministry officials said here today.

He is scheduled to meet Defence Minister A K Antony and the three Service chiefs -- Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and General Bikram Singh-- on August 3.

The Myanmarese general will also be hosted at the Eastern Army Command in Kolkata, Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam and some of the DRDO labs in Banaglore during the visit.

The visit comes soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Myanmar towards end-May, the first such visit by an Indian PM to Myanmar in 25 years. PTI AJD PAL 07192115 NNNN
Indian Army starts massive recruitment campaign in the Brahmaputra Valley region of Assam
The Indian army kick-started its massive recruitment campaign this Tuesday in the Lower Assam. The drive, which will go on for two weeks, is taking place at the Kanthalguri Sports Complex in the city of Kokrajhar.
The event represents the first significant step taken by the army to get recruits from the Lower Assam region, which is dominated by the Bengali speaking Muslims and tribals.

The Deputy Commissioner of the Kokrajhar district, Donald Gilfellan flagged off the recruitment drive on Tuesday morning. Gilfellan praised the Red Horns division of the army for focusing on the region, and urged the locals to make maximum use out of the event. An army source said that they are targeting the districts of Udalguri, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Dhubri, Chirang, Baksa, Nalbari, and Darang during the latest recruitment drive.

Assam has been a sensitive region for the Indian Army for long. The multi-ethnic state, with large communities of Bengali speaking Muslims, Assamese Hindus and Tribals is embroiled in a low scale insurgency, with factions representing all the major communities fighting against the Indian army.

Although the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), representing the majority Assamese has been weakened over the recent years, the Muslim dominated MULTA (Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam) and the tribal factions such as the DHD (Dima Halam Daogah), NDFB (National Democratic Front of Bodoland) and the HPC (Hmar People’s Convention) are still active along the pockets of the state.

The Indian Army has been dominated by the North-western states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal ever since the independence. The presence of martial tribes like Jats and Rajputs mean that the rank and file of the army regiments, as well as a significant portion of the officers hail from these states. The only state outside the Northwest having an over-representation in the army is the Southern state of Kerala, which is also having a strong military tradition.

The Army has recently taken measures to ensure the representation from all parts of the country and the recent event in Assam is a part of that measure. Also, the army officials hope that the recruitment of the locals will strengthen the nationalist trends in the area and reduce the insurgency.
Omar disagrees with army over Kashmir situation perception

Srinagar, July 19 — Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Thursday reacted sharply to a statement by a senior Indian Army officer that the situation in the state is "alarming".

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the voting in the presidential poll, Abdullah said: "The situation is not alarming at all. If at all the situation is really alarming, it reflects the failure of somebody and we should also talk about that."

"Nobody should make such statements. We have had large numbers of tourists visiting the state this year. Such statements can cause alarm among the people," Abdullah said in reply to a question about the statement of the 15 Corps commander, Lieutenant General Om Prakash.

The general had said in a recent media interaction that the situation was alarming because of the recent influx of guerrillas into the Valley.

Asked whether the ruling party's vote was also a vote for clemency to parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, Abdullah said: "We have already made our position clear on that. It is not for the president to basically decide on clemency it is the government that decides such issues".
Goa CM asks Army to vacate land
PANAJI: The tussle between the armed forces and the government over land continues in Goa with chief minister Manohar Parrikar saying that getting the Army to "vacate from Lahore" would be easier than getting it to free "even an inch of land in Panaji".

"It is easier to get the Army to vacate from Lahore, but not from even an inch of land in Panaji," Parrikar said in the assembly on Wednesday while discussing the issue of getting defence forces to exit from land they had "occupied" in the state.

The issue has been a prickly one since 1961 when Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule. The main points of clash have been over plots of land occupied by the Army in Panaji, where the 2 Signal Training Centre has headquarters, and the international airport at Dabolim being operated by the Navy.

Repeated efforts made by the state government to get the airport as well as the plot in Panaji vacated of the defence control have fallen on deaf ears, say politicians across party affiliations.

"We have already given the army alternate land on the outskirts of the city and asked them to hand over the place (plot occupied by the 2STC headquarters), but they are not doing it for years now," Parrikar said.

Congress legislator from Dabolim Mauvin Godinho told Parrikar not to hand over land to the navy at the new greenfield airport being built at the Mopa plateau, 45 km north of here.

"I completely support the Army and Navy, but I cannot understand this possessive thing they have about land. This is not right. We will not give land for a naval enclave in Mopa. We will do it on a commercial basis," Parrikar said.
Former army chief trying to save his skin? Gen Kapoor says Adarsh not a security threat

In a significant development, former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Thursday said that he didn't believe that the Adarsh building in Colaba, which overlooks a military station, was a security threat.

Kapoor said this before the two-member judicial panel that has been formed by the Maharashtra government to probe the Adarsh scam.
This claim made by Kapoor, who retired as the Chief of Army Staff in 2010, is not surprising. He had applied for and was allotted a flat in the Adarsh society building in 2005. According to him, he surrendered the flat in 2010 after the Adarsh scam broke out.
"I am aware that the site of Adarsh building is in the vicinity of the Army area in Colaba. But I did not find out whether construction of a high-rise building so close to an Army installation would be a security threat," Kapoor said.
He went on to add: "It did not occur to me that the building would pose a security threat because there are number of buildings of similar height in the area (in Colaba)."
The former Army chief's statement is at odds with that of the Defence Ministry that has all along been objecting to the Adarsh construction on two grounds: one, that it is a security threat as it overlooks a military installation; second, that the land was in their possession and it belonged to them.
The defence wants to demolish the 31-storey building as it poses a threat and has even filed a petition in the Bombay High Court for this.
Kapoor felt that the local military authority would be in the best position to determine whether a building is a security threat or not. However, he seemed to contradict himself when he said that a number of factors go into deciding whether a building can be classified as a security threat.
"The height of the building, proximity to a sensitive area and ability to overlook into the sensitive area needs to be considered," Kapoor said.
According to the Defence Ministy, Adarsh fulfills all these criteria. It is quite near to the military installation, and being 31-storey high, it also overlooks the military installations.

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