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Saturday, 18 August 2012

From Today's Papers - 18 Aug 2012
Another ceasefire violation by Pak Rangers
11th incident in 13 days
BSF constable killed
Panic grips border villages
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Abdulian (Indo-Pak Border), August 17
Panic gripped villagers of Abdulian and Chandu Chack after Pakistan Rangers opened unprovoked and heavy fire on Indian posts along the International Border (IB) in the RS Pura sector, killing a BSF constable late last night.

Pakistan has violated ceasefire 11 times in the past 13 days along the 192-km International Border and Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

A BSF officer said Pakistan Rangers opened unprovoked fire on the Abdulian border out post around 8 pm on Thursday killing Chandan Rai of the BSF’s 135 Battalion. Firing continued till 11 pm before guns fell silent on both sides. Hailing from Assam, Rai had been with the BSF for 11 years.

The Rangers again opened fire on Friday morning, targeting the Abdulian and Korotona border out posts. “Firing began around 7.15 am and continued till 9.25 am. Rangers used small arms fire and, accordingly, we also gave them a calibrated response,” said the BSF officer, adding that the situation along the IB was tense.

About a flag meet, he said, “They are firing at us. Flag meetings are not possible under such circumstances.”

Panic gripped the border hamlet of Abdulian, where many houses located close to the border were hit by bullets. Bachno Devi (60) and her one-year-old grandson escaped by a whisker when two bullets fired by the Rangers hit the verandah of their house in Chandu Chak village around 10.30 am today.

To allay fears and instill confidence among the villagers, Medical and Technical Education Minister RS Chib and senior officials of the civil administration, police and BSF visited Abdulian and the adjoining Chandu Chack village.
Olympic medallist Vijay Kumar felicitated by Defence Minister
London Olympic silver medalist Vijay Kumar of the Army was felicitated today by Defence Minister A K Antony where he presented the rifle shooter with a cash incentive of Rs30 lakhs.

Acknowledging Subedar Major Kumar’s consistent good performance in international competitions, Antony said the shooter had been conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2007 along with out-of-turn promotion and other awards and commendations by the Army.

Antony also lauded the contribution of the Armed Forces to scouting and nurturing talent in various sporting disciplines and providing training using the state-of-the-art infrastructure.

"The Defence Minister reposed faith in the Armed forces to produce many more international level sportspersons and hoped the nation will have a richer haul of medals at Rio Olympics in 2016," Ministry officials said.

The ceremony was attended by Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and several other senior officers of the Armed Forces and Defence Ministry.

Kumar was promoted to the rank of Subedar Major by the government in a ceremony yesterday and Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh had promised him all help to elevate him to the rank of an officer.

Vijay, who had expressed his displeasure over the delay in getting the promotion soon after the medal ceremony in London Olympics earlier this month, had yesterday clarified that he was wrongly quoted by the media.
Finally, plans for National War Memorial approved: Defence Minister
New Delhi: The long-delayed national War Memorial for Indian soldiers, first proposed in the 60s, has been cleared by a group of ministers handled to manage the project. It will be constructed next to the India Gate in New Delhi, a location preferred by the armed forces.

Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters today, "Most hurdles for the construction of War Memorial has been cleared." While the armed forces wanted the war memorial to be built at India Gate at the centre of the capital, the Urban Development Ministry and other bodies like the New Delhi Municipal Corporation had objected, saying that the construction would mar the landscape that includes Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Indian Parliament. Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy was among the group of ministers who were appointed in 2009 to resolve differences of opinion. They have agreed that the layout of the memorial will be organic to the India Gate vista; it will surround the main canopy or chhattri at India Gate, and will list the names of thousands of soldiers who died in the line of duty.

The Union Cabinet is expected to formally approve the construction in the next few weeks.
Antony promises the eradication of corruption within the Indian Army
On the eve of the 66th Independence Day of India, the defence minister, AK Antony announced additional incentives and perks for the servicemen.
The minister claimed that the defence ministry has completed the construction of 54,000 houses for the servicemen, with another 70,000 units nearing completion. He also maintained that he is committed to the eradication of corruption from the Indian Armed Forces, an issue which has been highlighted by the former army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh.

The minister conceded that corruption was a serious issue within the armed forces, and that it has badly affected the morale of the troops. Antony also said that corruption in the defence sector can adversely affect the national security, besides having many other implications. He claimed that the defence ministry has already undertaken various methods increase the transparency fairness in the armed forces, thereby reducing the incidents of corruption. He urged the soldiers to work with honesty, hard work, and determination, while speaking in his annual address to the nation.

Antony also said that he has taken steps to ensure the quality of food rations, uniforms, and accommodation given to the soldiers. He further added that the “Aahar” ready-to-eat meals, developed by the defence scientists will be available to the troops within a few months time. He said that the new diet will take care of the nutritional needs of the servicemen, while providing food with a great deal of freshness. He also promised to upgrade the existing schemes which are available to the troops, such as the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) and Married Accommodation Project (MAP).

Talking about the modernisation and indigenization plans of the Armed Forces, Antony said that the latest additions to the Indian Navy, such as the Shivalik class frigate INS Sahyadri, and the Akula class submarine INS Chakra will go a long way in strengthening the capabilities of the naval forces. He also pointed out the opening of the naval air station INS Baaz in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and claimed that the Indian Navy is fully capable of countering any external pressure on the region. He also added the development of the locally designed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is progressing well.
Practice what you preach

The Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, has raised some core national issues in an Independence Day address to cadets. Since the military still determines the national security policy, it is important to comprehend his message and, where necessary, to deconstruct it for everyone's benefit.

General Kayani says "the war against terrorism and extremism is the entire nation's war" and can only be won if the nation stands united behind the army to win it, failing which it will be faced with civil war. An important preamble of what constitutes a terrorist and what amounts to religious extremism in Islam underlines his conclusion.

All this is true. But the problem is that polls show the "nation" doesn't think the war against extremism and terrorism is Pakistan's war at all or that it is a core issue for them or the country. Indeed, as opposed to General Kayani's definitions, the "nation" unfortunately thinks that notions and expressions of Islamic rage, Muslim honour and religious certainty (intolerance) should be the prime motivating forces of Pakistani nationalism. Consequently, it cannot imagine, let alone believe, that Muslims can kill Muslims, despite the overwhelming daily evidence of Taliban terrorism and sectarian bloodshed.

How and why the "nation" thinks what it thinks is due, in no small measure, to the ideological brainwashing it has received at the behest of the civil-military establishment, via the "ideological" education system and media, in the last six decades in general and from the 1980s in particular when "Islamisation", "jehad" and "religious nationalism" became the core drivers of the state and the society. Therefore, when General Kayani reminds them that the "purpose behind creating Pakistan was not only to carve out a piece of land but also to establish a welfare Islamic state where the foundation of a tolerant and modern society could be laid... where the life and the property of minorities were safe and they could freely practise their faith", he should not be surprised why "this agenda could not materialise after 1947" in view of the substitution of the spirit of the Constituent Assembly speech of the Quaidi Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with the revisions in the constitution of Pakistan by General Zia-ul-Haq.

General Kayani believes the "country is passing through a critical phase in which the biggest threats are religious intolerance, political turmoil and anarchy... In this situation, all our efforts should be directed at improving and correcting our internal situation". This statement is most welcome not only because it is true at face-value but also because it explicitly identifies and focuses, for the first time, on internal existential threats to Pakistan rather than rely on explanations of external enemies and conspiracy theories of the ubiquitous "foreign hand" in primarily undermining Pakistan's integrity and sovereignty. But it also raises a couple of more fundamental questions. Are we then to believe that this formulation signals a paradigm shift in the military's doctrinaire position in which external "Hindu India" is projected as the eternal enemy and Pakistan's internal (Islamic jehad and Muslim nationalism) and foreign policies (strategic alliances with America, Afghanistan policy) all revolve around this policy? And if General Kayani's Pakistani state cannot "tolerate a parallel system and military force", which is a reference to the Taliban who espouse a brand of militant Islam totally alien and opposed to the constitutional political system in Pakistan, why is he ready to put up with militant "sectarian" or "jehadi' forces or Afghan Taliban in FATA who are equally inimical to the law and constitution and the sovereignty of Pakistan and are rampaging all over the country under the banner of one "banned" organisation or another National Defence Council?

Clearly, there are many contradictions in the package of problems and solutions offered by General Kayani. But this is not his fault. His civil-military predecessors have spent six decades battering at the social, political and moral edifice of the new Pakistan imagined by Mr Jinnah and one statement by him is hardly likely to galvanise his own institution behind him for a paradigm shift in national security policy let alone harness the people of Pakistan to put the pieces together again. But the least he can do by way of practising what he is now preaching is to lend his institutional shoulder to the efforts of those who wish to bury the hatchet with India; those who want to refrain from pushing favourites in Afghanistan; those who seek to make Pakistan a champion of regional peace; those who want to paint Pakistan in the colours of Muslim moderation and tolerance; and those who aspire for international legitimacy and economic comfort in relations with the international community.

Admittedly, this is a tall order. But time is running out and some dramatic initiatives have to be taken by the civil-military leadership to stop the downslide. First, we must fast track our "normalisation" process with India so that a modicum of trust can be built up to lay the framework for an end to the "war of the Intel agencies" that has necessitated a soft policy towards our "radical Islamist" assets at home and Taliban in Afghanistan. Second, we must rebuild the national economy by cobbling a new "budgetary paradigm" in which development expenditures and military expenditures are prioritised according to revised notions of "national power" and international financial assistance is geared to restructuring the fundamentals of the economy to increase revenues, plug leakages, reduce subsidies, emphasise poverty alleviation, mass education, social welfare and self-sufficiency. Last but not least, we must revise our education system and curriculum to reflect the needs of modernity and moderation in all dimensions of social and cultural life.

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