bid to disrupt Independence Day?
Tunnel detected along Indo-Pak border
It was noticed when land caved in due to rains
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service
Jammu, July 28
Barely 17 days ahead of Independence Day, the BSF has detected a tunnel being dug 25 feet below the ground along the Indo-Pak border near Chalyari border outpost in Samba sector thereby foiling a possible plan of the “enemy” to cause disruptions on August 15.
The tunnel, which probably started from Pakistani side, was detected 500 yards well within the Indian Territory.
The BSF mans 192-km international border.
“It all happened yesterday afternoon when BSF jawans on a patrol duty noticed that a big chunk of land had caved in due to rains near Chalyari BoP in Samba sector,” said a senior BSF officer.
Suspecting some foul play, the BSF jawans alerted senior officers. “Subsequently, when we pressed into service heavy machinery this morning and reached 25 feet below the ground, we came across a tunnel,” he added.
“Apparently, we have pre-empted a possible plan of the subversive elements. It is not possible to dig the tunnel 25 feet below the ground without the involvement of engineers. We have also found some air pipes inside the tunnel, which are used for supplying oxygen,” said the officer while hinting at the possible involvement of Pak Rangers.
“As of now, we can’t say anything about the length of the tunnel and whether it started from Pakistani side. It’s up to the experts now. But, it looks we have pre-empted a possible plan of the enemy,” he added.
Samba SSP Israr Khan said, “It appeared that the tunnel had originated some 400 meters on the other side of the border. Not only it had crossed the border but the barbed fence put up by the BSF and had entered 100 meters into our territory.”
Khan further said it would not have been possible to dig such a tunnel deep inside the ground without the involvement of Pak Rangers.
“It had not opened up on the surface in our territory but they must have used a good technology,” said the SSP.
Khan didn’t rule out the possibilities of involvement of some subversive elements on the Indian side.
“It is possible that some people on this side were guiding them about the direction of the tunnel. Going by the findings so far, it looks that the tunnel might have been started several months back, possibly with a sinister design to do something big on August 15,” said Khan.
He informed that in the given circumstances police can only register a First Information Report of a trespassing case of intruding into Indian Territory by unknown persons with intent to cause harm.
However, he also felt that a big plan of the enemy has been foiled.
Cross-border passage: SSP
It appeared that the tunnel had originated some 400 metres on the other side of the border. Not only had it crossed the border but the barbed fence put up by the BSF and had entered 100 metres into our territory.
China keen to host Antony
New Delhi, July 28
In an attempt to improve its defence relationship with India, China is understood to have conveyed to New Delhi its keenness to host Defence Minister AK Antony. India is said to be considering the possible dates for the visits, informed sources said. When Antony visits China, it would be after six years that an Indian Defence Minister would be undertaking the trip to Beijing.
Sharad Pawar had visited China in 1992, George Fernandes in 2003 and Pranab Mukherjee in 2006 when they held the defence portfolio. Chinese Defence Ministers have visited India twice - in 1994 and in 2004.
Sources said China wants Antony’s visit to take place before the end of the year as that would provide him an opportunity to meet the new Communist Party leadership that is set to assume office in the once-in-a-decade power transition process which begins in October.
Antony could also raise with the Chinese leaders India’s concerns over Chinese activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as well as the much-debated nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Armies of the two countries had conducted hand-to-hand exercises in 2007 in China and 2008 in India. Naval warships of the two countries had also been paying goodwill visits to each other’s ports since 2004.
Both army and naval exchanges were suspended by India in 2010 after China started the practice of issuing stapled visas to Indian residents of Jammu and Kashmir, virtually questioning the state’s accession to India. The defence exchanges were revived last year after China quietly discontinued the exercise.
Apart from Antony’s visit, there is a possibility of an Indian Army team visiting China for the third hand-to-hand exercise.
Sources, however, ruled out a visit to India by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jingping who is widely expected to be named head of the ruling Communist Party and could become President next March replacing Hu Jintao. The visit could not be made possible at this stage as a result of India’s preoccupation with the election of its President and Vice-President followed by the monsoon session of Parliament. Thereafter, China would get busy with its own power transition process, the sources explained.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had invited Xi to India when he visited Beijing recently to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit. The Chinese leader had fondly recalled his visit to India in 1985 during the meeting with Krishna.
Sources said the incoming leadership in China was as determined as the current leadership to strengthen relations with India, particularly in the economic and trade fields.
''India will be a priority country for the next generation of Chinese leaders. They will also visit India soon, if not this year, then possibly next year,'' the sources added.
Both India and China are quite hopeful that the leaders of the two countries would be able to establish close personal rapport as that would help them deal with various complicated issues without depending on the bureaucracy.
Sources pointed out how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had struck a personal chemistry with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. The result was that the top leaders always sorted out through personal discussions any problem that arose between the two countries.
Navy to get long-range patrol aircraft soon
Tribune News Service
Seattle (US), July 28
Indian Navy’s wait for a long-range maritime patrol aircraft is due to end this year with the first of the three P8I aircraft scheduled to be handed over to the service. Yet, it would be a few more months before the aircraft reaches the Indian shores to begin surveillance duties.
Working on to deliver the aircraft on schedule, Boeing Defence and Security expressed confidence that it would hand over the consignment of all three aircraft by the end of next year, starting with the first in early 2013. The P8I is the first international sale approved by Washington to any country outside the United States Navy that placed order for the P8A Poseidon planes built on a 737 jet. The P8I is an advanced maritime patrol and surveillance capability aircraft armed with anti-submarine weapon like the Harpoon missile, the Mark 54 Torpedo and Mark 82 Depth Arm Bomb.
Touring the mission system installation and check-out facility here, a group of correspondents from India invited by the company had a sneak preview of the process that goes into preparing the aircraft on the assembly lines.
Even as the group of correspondents were briefed about the progress, the fuselage for the third and last aircraft ordered by India was being readied to join the assembly line sharing space with the P8A aircraft for the US Navy.
BDS Programme Manager Leland Wright told the Indian media at a briefing here today that July saw two significant milestones with the P8I first and second aircraft successfully undertaking an official flight. Weapons testing in the United States would be on over the next week.
The Indian Navy, the company officials said, is keeping a watch on the progress of the production schedule even as it prepares to train its pilots and other workforce on how to keep the planes flying.
Boeing officials said the Indian Navy sought the Magnetically Automatic Detection System and an Aft-radar for a 360 degree sweep. The company has decided to retain the mid-air refuelling boom system designed for the US Navy even though it is not required as per Indian technical specifications.
Syria army launches assault on Aleppo
The Syrian army launched a massive assault on rebels in Aleppo on Saturday amid growing world concern about the risks of reprisals against the civilian population of the country’s second city.
At least 29 people were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, contributing to a figure of at least 90 people nationwide.
The watchdog said more than 20,000 people, the majority civilians, have now died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted in March 2011.
Troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, which had been massing for the past two days, moved on southwestern districts of the commercial hub, where rebel fighters concentrated their forces when they seized much of the northern city on July 20.
Artillery pounded Salaheddin and other rebel neighbourhoods from 1030 IST as ground troops made their advance.
Panic-stricken civilians crammed inside minivans, on the back of pick-up trucks and inside cars, the word “shelling” on everyone’s lips.
“The fiercest clashes of the uprising are taking place in several neighbourhoods of the city,” the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.
At least 10 soldiers and three rebels were killed in fierce fighting after the launch of the assault, the Observatory said.
“The regime’s forces tried to storm the headquarters of Salaheddin but thank God, the heroes of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army repulsed the attack,” FSA Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi said.
“We have now destroyed eight armoured vehicles,” he said. “There are 100 tanks massed on the outskirts of the district. The battle will be hard because there is no balance of forces but we are determined and we have faith in God,” he added.
While the rebels’ small arms and rocket-propelled grenades are little match for the heavy armour of Assad’s forces, Abdel Rahman said “the army has not made any progress since the morning, and even lost five tanks.”
“There are thousands of people on the streets fleeing the bombardment. They’re being terrorised by helicopter gunships flying at low altitude,” said an activist.
Pro-government media had warned that the “mother of all battles” loomed in Aleppo as the government moved to reassert its authority after recapturing rebel districts earlier this week.
“Aleppo will be the last battle waged by the Syrian army to crush the terrorists and, after that, Syria will emerge from the crisis,” the Al-Watan newspaper said.
Reduce 'visibility' of troops in J&K: Antony
SRINAGAR: Reviewing the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, defence minister AK Antony today said the "visibility" of troops should be reduced as much as possible in the state without compromising efficacy.
Antony also asked security forces and intelligence agencies to enhance their coordination to thwart enemy attempts to disturb peace in the border state.
Antony, who is visiting Jammu and Kashmir after a gap of 18 months, did the review during high level meetings with governor NN Vohra, chief minister Omar Abdullah and senior officials of the security grid here.
Addressing a joint security review meeting, the Defence Minister said, "efforts should be made to reduce the visibility of the armed forces as much as possible without compromising efficacy."
"Antony today called upon the top brass of the Army, paramilitary forces, state police and intelligence agencies to bring more synergy in their efforts to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the state," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Antony, who is on a two-day visit to the state, said the coordination mechanism should be made perfect to thwart any attempt from enemies to disturb peace in the state.
"Enemies from across the border will continue their efforts; however, if the security and intelligence agencies understand each other better, the efforts of the enemies will not succeed," he said.
Cautioning the security forces, he also said, "in a democratic set up, like ours, there can be no justification for the violation of human rights".
Army to revise rates of hired land
Press Trust of India / Srinagar July 28, 2012, 21:05
Rent of private land under the occupation of armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir will be revised next year, Defence Minister A K Antony today said the
On a two-day visit to the state, the Defence Minister said the groundwork for revision of rent rates has already started.
"The Defence Minister announced that rate of rent of private land under occupation of armed forces will be revised next year by the Defence Ministry, groundwork for which has already started," the Ministry said in a statement.
The rates are revised every five years by the Ministry and the last revision was held in 2008.
The total area under possession of Army, Air Force and Navy in Jammu and Kashmir is 72651 acres.
In 2010, the Defence Minister had told Parliament that out of the hired or requisitioned lands, 15,496 acres are agricultural land and 396 acres are orchard land.
"Rent for hired land is revised every five years and the present rates were revised with effect from February 16, 2008, and the next revision of rentals is due with effect from February 16, 2013," he had said.
Kayani's aide appointed as Pak's new defence secretary
ISLAMABAD: Lt Gen (retired) Asif Yasin Malik, a close aide of army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, has been appointed as Pakistan's new defence secretary.
Malik is a former commander of the Peshawar-based XI Corps and did a stint in the Inter-Services Intelligence when the spy agency was headed by Kayani.
He replaces top bureaucrat Nargis Sethi, who was given additional charge as defence secretary in January after former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani sacked the previous incumbent, Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, during a standoff with the army.
At the height of the tensions between the government and the army over a mysterious memo sent to the US about averting a possible coup in Pakistan, Gilani had sacked Lodhi for "gross misconduct and illegal action".
Sethi, who was considered to be very close to Gilani, was then made the defence secretary.
She will continue to hold the post of cabinet secretary. A retired officer from the powerful army has traditionally held the post of defence secretary and media reports had suggested that Sethi did not get complete cooperation from the military.
A formal notification about Malik's appointment was issued on Friday.
Malik retired from active service last December and his last sting was as commander of the Peshawar-based corps that is engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the restive northwest.
Malik, who has attended training courses in American institutions, is expected to sign a bilateral memorandum of understanding with the US next week to cover the transportation of supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The MoU was approved by the cabinet this week. In another key appointment announced by the government on Friday, information group officer Shafqat Jalil was made press secretary to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
He replaced Akram Shaheedi, who was appointed by Gilani.
Army in dock for refusing to intervene in Assam riots
The Indian Army is in the dock for refusing to intervene in the Assam ethnic riots for two full days. Apparently, the army said it wanted the defence ministry's nod to move in as it was a communal riot.
Government sources said on Friday that the army was requisitioned by the Assam government on July 23, but the army unit commander in the state refused to move in without orders from the defence ministry.
Sources added that this is in complete violation of the law, as under the CrPC, the armed forces must get deployed - even if on the orders of an executive magistrate - to control a rioting situation.
Ironically, the army camps are not far away from the areas hit by the riots. The Assam chief secretary had to write a letter to the home and the defence ministries. It was only after the home ministry strongly took up the matter with the MoD that orders for the deployment of 13 army columns were issued on July 25.
The delay of two days in army deployment, sources said, proved disastrous. "The army insisted they were only required to do flag marches anyway," a government source said.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday blamed the central government, saying that the situation would not have deteriorated had the army been deployed on day one. "We wanted the army from day one of the crisis and now, when it is here, the situation is gradually limping back to normal," he said.
Gogoi added that his government did not get any intelligence report from the Union home ministry that there was going to be such a flare-up. "If they had the information, why didn't they send the army immediately?" Gogoi asked.
The home ministry, though, insists that it reacted promptly to the situation - with sources saying that the deployment of five CRPF companies in Assam was ordered on the night of July 20 itself while nine companies were ordered to be deployed on July 22. It was only on July 24 that the home ministry ordered the deployment of 34 more CRPF companies and 17 other were asked to be deployed on July 25 too. But in the absence of adequate air-lift arrangements, the companies reached the strife-torn areas after much delay.
Ironically, 10 CRPF companies (out of the total 65 ordered) are still to reach the strife-torn areas and are stuck on the national highway in Tripura.
The army, meanwhile, denied being lackadaisical and said it followed the established procedure. "The army is a little wary of deploying its troops in any situation with communal overtones and in all such circumstances, clearance is sought from the defence ministry before deployment," army sources said.
Meanwhile, the communal violence has spread to Basugaon in Assam's Chirang district. Five houses of illegal immigrants were set on fire late on Friday.
Army, Mhow Cantonment Board at loggerheads
MHOW: Following the meeting between the elected members of the Mhow Cantonment Board (MCB) and Mhow station commander Brig Mukesh Kumar held on July 20, a cold war has reportedly started between the elected members and the army administration.
As the station commander is also the ex-officio president of the MCB, the members had gone to him with their grievances against the MCB administration.
One of the elected members, Mohan Agrawal told TOI that all the eight members had gone to Brig Mukesh Kumar with their grievances against the cantonment executive officer (CEO) Alok Gupta on July 20. The meeting was held in the conference room of the Mhow station headquarters, where the administrative commandant Col Danvir Singh was also present.
Col Singh said that some elected members had allegedly encroached the defence land, and were developing illegal constructions. He requested Brig Mukesh Kumar to cancel the membership of such members.
"As soon as Col Singh said this, there was a complete silence in the conference hall as majority of the members felt themselves targeted," Agrawal added.
Agrawal said that just after the meeting, the ward members met again and discussed on the strategy to be adopted to counter any move of the administration aimed at cancellation of their memberships. Also, all this led to tension between the administration and members.
Section 34 (e) of The Cantonments Act 2006 clearly says, "The central government may remove from a cantonment board, any member thereof who has himself done or aided or abetted encroachments on defence land in contravention of the provisions of this act and the rules and bye-laws made thereunder."
Thus, it is clear from this provision of the act that the government has the power to cancel their memberships in case they are found guilty. In such a case, the CEO of the board initiates the action of membership cancellation and after it is signed by the board president, is sent to the government for further action.
Sources in the MCB have also confirmed that the process of initiation of membership cancellation procedure has started in the board, which has further escalated the tension.
When CEO Alok Gupta was contacted in this regard, he said that it is true that many members have a charge on them that they have encroached on the defence land or have done illegal construction. He cited the examples of Suresh Thakur and Mukesh Solanki, against whom court cases are pending for illegal construction and encroachment. Gupta further said that he has also received complaints against three other corporators who have illegally constructed their houses on defence land. On any action against the members, he said that action will be taken according to the law.
When Col Danvir Singh was asked about what he had said in the meeting, he refused to comment.