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Friday, 3 August 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 Aug 2012
Rebels use captured tank to attack military airbase
Syrian quagmire Damascus district under govt attack, 35 killed

Aleppo, August 2
Syrian rebels turned the gun of a captured tank against government forces on Thursday, shelling a military airbase used by war planes in the battle for Aleppo.

President Bashar al-Assad's troops, meanwhile, bombarded the strategic Salaheddine district in Aleppo itself with tank and artillery fire supported by combat aircraft while rebels tried to consolidate their hold on areas they have seized.

In the capital Damascus, troops overran a suburb on Wednesday and killed at least 35 persons, mostly unarmed civilians, residents and activist organisations said.

The fighting for Syria's two biggest cities highlights the country's rapid slide into full-scale civil war 17 months on from the peaceful street protests that marked the start of the anti-Assad uprising.

World powers have watched with mounting concern as diplomatic efforts to find a negotiated solution have faltered and violence that has already claimed an estimated 18,000 lives worsens.

More than 180 people were killed in Syria on Wednesday, 133 of them civilians and 45 of them members of Assad's forces, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The rebels' morale was boosted when they turned a government tank's gun on the Menakh airfield 35 km north of Aleppo, a possible staging post for army reinforcements and a base for military aircraft and helicopter gunships.

"We hit the airport using a tank that we captured from the Assad army. We attacked the airport a few times but we have decided to retreat at this time," a rebel fighter named Abu Ali told Reuters. — Reuters

Russia to oppose resolution on Syria at UN

Moscow: Russia said on Thursday it would not back a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria at the UN General Assembly, saying the document was unbalanced and would encourage rebels to keep fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The UN General Assembly was expected to vote on the resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia, which is openly supporting the rebel forces seeking to oust Assad. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement called the text "one-sided and unbalanced" and said Moscow would not support it in its current form.
Phasing out obsolete tech is Army Chief’s priority
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, August 2
Two months into the job, Army Chief General Bikram Singh has laid out his thrust areas and issued clear directions on what needs immediate attention. Topping his priority list is speeding up the phase-out of obsolete technology and force accretion.

The key issue is of the pending Mountain Strike Corps, the biggest force accretion plan for the Army, in the past two decades, sources said. The Corps will include a new set of artillery guns, light attack choppers and special equipment to thwart expected threats emerging from Pakistan and China from across the Himalayas. But this needs more than Rs 40,000 crore. The Chief has told his core teams to focus on speeding up the process, sources said.

The Army has an ongoing project of modernisation of equipment, providing new handheld guns and introducing more and more technology in the force. The country’s finances are not so healthy that the entire Rs 30,000-odd crore can be allocated in one go, sources said.

“It is about laying out priorities in the order of strategic needs of the forces and not bunching all needs together,” said a functionary, adding that timelines have been laid out and these would be adhered to.

Militarily, the Army suffers from shortages that are creating hollowness in its capability to respond effectively. Large part of this is due to old technology and the slow pace of change that has plagued the forces. At the moment, the force is stuck with outdated air-defence guns, an ageing artillery, 30-year-old tank technology and has not seen the next generation of technology shift, among other things.

General Bikram Singh, who took over on June 1, has set up a study group that will objectively lay out the General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR). The GSQR is the first step whenever a new weapon, equipment or even specialised clothing is to be purchased. Often, the GSQR’s were far removed from reality and have hindered participation of a wider pool of companies.

The Army now has a special cell called the ‘Request for Proposal (RFP) cell’ that is aimed at hastening the modernisation process. An RFP needs to be issued to invite interest from international suppliers. In routine procedures, it takes two years to just process a proposal. The move now is to set targets and priorities, said sources.

Instructions have been issued to study the defence procurement procedure and suggest refinements that can be then flagged to the Ministry of Defence for future course corrections.

Among the other thrust areas is listed “strengthening our (Army’s) secular fabric and apolitical nature”. This is seen as an important step. Just before the Chief was to take over, charges of “divisions” in the force had the government worried.
Army says its man ‘guilty’ of molestation will be punished
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, August 2
In view of the raging public protests against the molestation of a village girl allegedly by an Indian Army jawan at the Dimow area in Sivasagar district of Assam, the Army has issued a statement requesting the agitating organisations to have patience as the Army court is about to frame charges against the accused jawan who is now in its custody.

The incident that happened at Panidihing Dolpa village under Dimow police station on July 13 sparked a mass agitation led by Assam Tai Ahom Students Union (ATASU) and several women organisations which are demanding exemplary punishment to the jawan identified as Anil Kumar Upadhyay.

The intensity of the protests — with the agitators even threatening to take out a naked rally in Sivasagar town — forced the administration to offer a job to the victim at the State Institute of Rural Development at Sivasagar.

The open letter issued by the GOC, DAO Division, Indian Army, said that the Army court would definitely punish the guilty in a short time and that the girl would get justice.

The GOC stated, “I can understand your anguish against the molestation. Crime against women must be curbed and exemplary punishment given to the culprits. I would go further to state that this should be done ‘fast track’ as justice delayed is justice denied.

“It is to ensure speedy justice that we took over the case from the civil court. The suspect is currently in our unit lock-up and within a week of taking over the case, our inquiry has been completed. As soon as the sanction is received, the trial will begin.”
Coastal radars installation
Complete Phase I in 2 months: Antony

New Delhi, August 2
Defence Minister AK Antony today ordered that the first phase of the chains of coastal radars, both on the west and east coast, should be completed in the next two months.

The first two radars are ready and Antony, after carrying out a review, today said he would himself visit some locations soon. The chain of 46 coastal radars is an important component of the coastal security mechanism which will ensure monitoring and identification of maritime traffic. — TNS
China upsets neighbours
How India can counter Beijing’s territorial ambitions
by G Parthasarathy

WHEN the foreign ministers of 10 member-countries of ASEAN commenced their meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on July 9, no one expected to see the differences among the member-states on how to deal with China’s blatantly aggressive behaviour on its territorial claims in the South China Sea, leading to the first-ever breakdown in such a conference in the past 45 years. There was the usual consensus on such issues as economic integration, political and security cooperation, tensions over the North Korean nuclear programme and the ASEAN Declaration of Southeast Asia as a nuclear weapons-free zone. Moreover, when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke at the conference, he urged the need for ASEAN unity in dealing with the most pressing security issue, evoking serious concern in the region — the growing stridency and assertiveness of China on its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Reports from Phnom Penh indicate that after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech, the Chinese approached Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong and made it clear that China objected to the inclusion of any reference to differences on the South China Sea in the conference’s joint declaration. As recipients of massive Chinese economic assistance, the Cambodians have generally toed the Chinese line on regional issues and in the past even listened to Chinese advice that efforts should be made to block Indian participation in the East Asia Summit. When the tensions in the South China Sea were under discussion, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong refused to include any reference to the issue in the joint communique of the conference. With Chinese maritime vessels positioned astride the Scarborough Shoal located barely 100 kilometres from its soil and 1800 kilometres away from mainland China, and China threatening to send its vessels with naval escorts to areas it claimed, the Philippines vehemently objected to the stand of the hosts, Cambodia. Other countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, facing similar Chinese claims, were taken aback. When the Cambodians refused to budge, the Philippines Foreign Minister packed his bags and headed home.

It took some skilful diplomacy by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to salvage the situation. He worked with his colleagues to get Cambodia to agree to a six-point declaration which called for “full respect for the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”. Within hours of issue of this Declaration of Principles by ASEAN, China reasserted its sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and all the islands in the region. China, of course, has a unique and self-serving interpretation of the UNCLOS. It holds that the UNCLOS is “not an international treaty that settles disputes between sovereign states, nor can it be used as a reference for settling such disputes”. States having differences on maritime boundaries across the world, however, abide by the principles enunciated in the UNCLOS, for determining maritime boundaries, where there are differences.

China’s aggressive diplomacy in Phnom Penh has been accompanied by assertive military posturing in recent weeks, all across its maritime boundaries, in both the South China and East China Seas. On June 28, China began combat patrols in waters around the disputed groups of islands in the South China Sea. The move was described by its Defence Ministry as undertaken to protect “national sovereignty” in its territorial waters. It was said to manifest its “determination” to “defend our territorial waters” and to “protect our maritime rights”. Around the same time, the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) announced that nine new offshore blocks in the South China Sea, all in disputed waters with Vietnam, were open for oil exploration. This, after having warned India not to explore in the blocks allocated to it by Vietnam in an area it had been involved in exploration activity since 1988. The disputed blocks cover an area of 160,000 square kilometres, with some blocks located barely 80 miles from Vietnam’s coast and well within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Interestingly, in recent days, Vietnamese academics have drawn attention to Chinese maps and documents between the 18th and early 20th centuries that clearly demonstrate that China’s historical claims to sovereignty have never extended beyond its Hainan Island and did not even include the Paracel and Spratly Islands, leave alone the entire South China Sea.

China’s assertiveness is growing not only in the South China Sea, where it has set up a new Prefecture in Sansha in its Southern Hainan Island. Sansha has been designated as the centre for enforcing Chinese claims across the South China Sea and empowered to administer some 200 offshore islets. Similar growing assertiveness has characterised Chinese behaviour in the East China Sea also on issues like its territorial claims on the Senkaku Islands. China appears confident that with its growing military strength and economic influence, it can create splits in ASEAN and prevent the emergence of a unified ASEAN approach to deal with its territorial ambitions. China is today ASEAN’s largest trading partner with the two-way trade touching $300 billion in 2011 (against an expected $ 80 billion in bilateral trade between India and ASEAN in 2012).

In recent years, China has overtaken Japan as the largest contributor of economic assistance to ASEAN. Chinese FDI has also grown substantially in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. The Chinese are evidently calculating that with Myanmar, which like Cambodia is heavily dependent on Chinese assistance and investment, soon set to assume the chairmanship of ASEAN, they can ensure that ASEAN cannot mount a serious diplomatic challenge to their territorial ambitions in the near future.

Chinese domination of the sea-lanes of the Indian and Pacific Ocean would be a matter of concern to India as around 50 per cent of its foreign trade moves across the South China Sea. Moreover, with base facilities available in Seychelles and Gwadar, China is poised to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean. If China achieves its territorial ambitions in the South and East China Seas through coercive diplomacy, it could well be tempted to adopting a similar route on its growing territorial claims on India. It is, therefore, imperative for India to work with other partners in the East Asia Summit like the US, Russia and Japan to facilitate the emergence of a cohesive ASEAN strategy to counter Chinese territorial ambitions. Under no circumstances should India back off from its commitments made to Vietnam on offshore oil and gas exploration. Moreover, a much greater focus is required on accelerating the growth of defence, economic and investment ties with ASEAN countries, with particular focus on Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Why Indian Army should vacate Siachen?
It was expected that following the Gayari incident, the India would agree to drawdown its forces from Siachen and give political leadership a chance to negotiate the settlement of the twenty-eight years’ old dispute. However, once again Indian obduracy prevailed and the issue, which has claimed over 8,000 precious lives, the majority of which are Indians and due to inclement weather, failed to move them. The thirteenth round of talks between Pakistan and India, which was conducted between the Defence Secretaries of the two countries, failed to achieve any breakthrough. Unfortunately, Indian political leadership, while accepting so-called professional advice from their military establishment, felt it expedient to stick to their stated positions during the 11-12 June 2012 Pakistan-India Defence Secretary level talks on Siachen.

Saner Indian opinion builders, which include Lieutenant General (Retd.) Dr. ML Chibber, the GOC Northern Command, who had executed the illegal occupation of Siachen in April 1984, is today one of the leading voices in demanding a complete withdrawal of the forces from the highest battlefield in the world. Siachen is not merely a military issue between Pakistan and India; environmentalists note with serious concern that continuous military activities on Siachen are causing enormous melt down with catastrophic effects on flow of waters in Indus basin. One of the major reasons which negatively affected weather pattern contributed to the catastrophic floods in Pakistan in 2010 & 2011.

Studies indicate that the glacier was uninhabited before 1984, and the presence of thousands of troops since then has introduced pollution, while in order to facilitate the troops, glacial ice has been cut and melted through application of chemicals, causing it to recede at a rate of 110 meters per year. It has also been brought out that the dumping of non biodegradable waste in large quantity and use of arms and ammunition has considerably affected the ecosystem of the region, which may lead to “glacial retreat”. Preliminary findings of a survey by Pakistan Meteorological Department in 2007, based on satellite images, revealed that the Siachen glacier has been retreating for the past 30 years and is melting at an alarming rate of about 110 meters a year and that the glacier size has almost reduced by 35 percent.

In an eleven year period, the glacier had receded nearly 800 meters, and in seventeen years about 1700 meters. It is estimated that the glaciers of the Siachen region will be reduced to about one-fifth of their current size by 2035. While in the twenty-nine year period (1929–1958), much before the military occupation, the glacial retreat was recorded to be about 914 meters. One of the reasons cited for recent glacial retreat is chemical blasting, done for constructing camps and posts. In 2001 India laid oil pipelines (about 250 Kilometers long) inside the glacier to supply kerosene oil and aviation fuel to the outposts from base camps. As of 2007, the temperature rise at Siachen was estimated at 0.2 degree Celsius annually that causes melting, avalanches, craters in the glacier.

The additional bio-hazard of waste dumping has compounded the problem. The waste produced by the troops stationed there is dumped in the crevasses of the glacier. Mountaineers who visited the area while on climbing expeditions witnessed large amount of garbage, empty ammunition shells, abandoned parachutes and other items dumped on the glacier, which can neither decompose nor they can be burned because of the extreme climatic conditions. About 1000 kilograms of waste is produced and dumped in glacial crevasses daily by the Indian forces.

Ironically, the Indian army is said to have planned a “Green Siachen, Clean Siachen” campaign to airlift the garbage from the glacier, and to use biodigestors for biodegradable waste in the absence of oxygen and freezing temperatures. Almost forty percent (40 %) of the waste left at the glacier is of plastic and metal composition, including toxins like cobalt, cadmium and chromium which eventually pollute the water of the Shyok River (that finally enters the Indus River near Skardu.) The Indus is the main source for drinking water and irrigation. Research is being conducted by scientists of The Energy and Resource Institute, to find out ways for successfully disposing the garbage generated at the glacier using scientific means. Some Indian scientists of DRDO, who went on an expedition to Antarctica, are also endeavouring to produce bacteria that can dwell in extreme weather conditions and can be helpful in decomposing the biodegradable waste naturally. Messing with nature was bound to take its toll.

The flora and fauna of the Siachen region are also affected by the huge military presence. The region has been home to rare species like snow leopard, brown bear and ibex which are facing extinction owing to the military incursion. One solution, which is internationally gaining ground, is the idea of declaring the Siachen region a “Peace Park”. In September 2003, the governments of India and Pakistan were urged by the participants of 5th World Parks Congress held at Durban, to establish a peace park in the Siachen region to restore the natural biological system and protect species whose lives are at risk.

An Italian ecologist Giuliano Tallone proposed the establishment of Siachen Peace Park at the conference. Let the Siachen Peace Park be dedicated to all the brave soldiers who have laid down their lives at Siachen so that our next generations can have a peaceful environment friendly future.
India may offer to train Myanmar Army
NEW DELHI, Aug 2 – In a fresh attempt aimed at wooing Myanmar to mount crackdowns on rebels operating out of the neighbouring country, India is likely to offer supply of non-combat military equipment, besides training its army personnel.

The agreement is expected to be firmed up during the ongoing visit of Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services of Myanmar, General Min Aung Hlaing. The Myanmar Army Chief began the Delhi-leg of his tour on Thursday.

The Chief of Myanmar Army, on an eight-day tour of India, is scheduled to hold discussions with Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the three Service Chiefs. The visiting General would also visit the Eastern Army Command in Kolkata. He has already paid a visit to Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam.

Sources said that India has decided to offer to train more Myanmar Army personnel and supply them with military equipment to bolster the strength of its Army to take on the militants of the North-East operating out of the neighbouring country. Myanmar and India share 1,600-km-long land border, which is virtually open.

“India has been urging Myanmar to crack down on the insurgents from north eastern region. Myanmar has become a haven for North East rebels to regroup and launch attacks on India,” said sources.

India has also decided to give more equipment to the Myanmar Army including earth moving machines, added sources.

Many rebel groups of Manipur and anti-talk faction of ULFA, besides Khaplang faction of NSCN, have set up bases in the neighbouring country. The Khaplang faction, meanwhile, has signed a ceasefire pact with the Government of Myanmar, shocking North Block, which also has a similar pact with the Khaplang faction.

New Delhi has been under pressure of the north-eastern States including Assam to press Myanmar to flush out the rebels like Bhutan and Bangladesh did.

At the last meeting of the Chief Ministers on Internal Security, several Chief Ministers closed ranks in raising the issue.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla had said by sharing “porous” international borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, the State remains prone to a host of illegal activities like smuggling of weapons and narcotics.

“Mizoram shares 404-km-long porous international borders with Myanmar, where free movement regime is allowed. The Indo-Myanmar unfenced border is characterised by hostile terrain covered with dense canopy. Hence, Assam Rifles alone cannot effectively monitor the Indo-Myanmar border,” he said.

This, he said, has a direct bearing on the internal security of not just Mizoram but also “for the whole north-eastern region, as Indian insurgent outfits use it as a conduit for arms smuggling and for crossing over to neighbouring countries for seeking shelter or training”.

Manipur Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh also asked for accelerating border fencing works. “The 400-km-long unfenced Indo-Myanmar border with Manipur is a cause of concern for the State’s internal security as numerous crimes are taking place along this porous border,” he said.
Army Southern Command chief visits city
PTI | 07:08 PM,Aug 02,2012

Chennai, Aug 2 (PTI) A senior official of the Southern Command of the Indian Army today visited the city and reviewed the operational preparedness of the force. Lieutenant General AK Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command also inspected the administrative functioning of Headquarters Andhra, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala Area (HQ ATNK&K Area), a Defence release said. Singh also felicitated Dr SS Badrinath, President, Medical Research Foundation Sankara Nethralaya for his work in Opthalmology and the assistance being provided to the Armed Force personnel, it added.
Armies of India, Russia to hold joint counter-terror exercise
New Delhi: Armies of India and Russia will hold their first joint counter-terrorism war games involving tanks and armoured fighting vehicles  close to Moscow's boundary with China and Mongolia from August 7.

The fourth round of army-to-army exercise between the two Armies will involve over 250 troops from both sides and will be conducted at a training range in Republic of Buryatia in South East of Russia, Army officials said in New Delhi.

The exercise aims at carrying out counter-terrorism operations by mechanised heavy combat group under UN mandate, they said.

he exercise will help prepare forces of both the countries for anti-terrorist operations to eliminate terrorist groups and also to conduct recce and search actions and isolation of terrorist groups, officials said.

The Indian contingent is headed by Additional Director General (Mechanised Forces) Maj Gen R S Chand and includes troops from 14 Mechanised Infantry, 16 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles and troops from Parachute Regiment, Artillery and the Army Medical Corps, they said.

During the exercise, the Indian troops will also get an opportunity to use Russian equipment, officials said.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Ilyushin-76 aircraft will also be the part of the exercise ending on August 16.

India and Russia have so far conducted three rounds of INDRA exercises. The first exercise was carried out in 2005 in Rajasthan, followed by Prshkov in Russia. The third exercise was conducted at Chaubattia in Kumaon hills some time ago.
India's BEL Puts Proposed Offsets Deal With Hellenic Defense Systems On Hold
India’s state-owned BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited) has put on hold a pre-offsets agreement over air defence gun systems it signed with Grecian company Hellenic Defence Systems SA which is currently under investigation by the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

      Hellenic Defence Systems SA is being investigated for allegedly offering Ganton India a 10 percent commission for each successful deal the company clinches. Ganton India and its U.S. subsidiary, Gangon USA are owned by jailed Indian defence agent, Abhishek Verma.

      Already under investigation, front company Ganton USA and its subsidiary Ganton India arranged a meeting between BEL officials and a HDS delegation that arrived in India for participation in the Army Air Defence Guns programme.

      Ganton Limited then secured a non-disclosure agreement with BEL on the recommendation of Hellenic Defence Systems for exploring offset business.

      While the CBI conducts its investigation, BEL has decided to defer the HDS deal pending the completion of the inquiry.

      “So far, Hellenic Defense System has not been blacklisted by the Government. While the CBI’s investigation is on, we will not enter into any kind of agreement with the company. We are neutral,” said BEL Corporate Communication Officer K.S. Krishna while speaking to

      “We’re also not saying that we won’t go ahead, it only depends on the outcome of the investigation”.
Indian Army Chief reviews operational preparedness of X-Corps near Pakistan border
New Delhi: Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Thursday visited the Bhatinda-based 10 Corps and reviewed measures to improve operational readiness of troops and their training.

He was accompanied by South Western Army Commander Lt Gen Gyan Bhushan and was briefed by Corps Commander Lt Gen Sanjeev Anand on the operational preparedness of troops in the area.

"The Army Chief appreciated measures undertaken by the formation to improve operational readiness and training of the Corps and also the efforts made to improve the quality of life of soldiers and their families," officials said here.

Gen Singh also interacted with the veterans and assured them that their welfare will always remain a priority for the Army. He also felicitated gallantry award winners amongst the veterans.

Last week Gen Singh had visited the Jaipur-based South Western Command of the Army and had discussed the challenges facing the army and the collective efforts required in overcoming them. He had also met state Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

"The Army Chief had emphasised on maintaining a high level of operational readiness to meet any eventuality. He also discussed issues pertaining to civil-military relations and programmes for development projects and human resources in the region," the officials said.

It was General Singh's first visit to any Command after taking over as the Army Chief.

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