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Monday, 17 December 2012

From Today's Papers - 17 Dec 2012
6 soldiers killed in Siachen avalanche
One soldier missing Rescue ops continue
Tribune News Service & PTI

Srinagar, December 16
Six soldiers belonging to the 1st Assam Regiment were killed while one went missing after an avalanche swept through the southern part of Siachen glacier, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan, Army officials said.

The avalanche hit the Hanief sub-sector of Siachen glacier around 6.15 am today, Army spokesman Lt Col JS Brar told The Tribune. It hit a post located deep in the Karakoram mountain range where Indian and Pakistani soldiers guard the 70-km swath of snow at an altitude of around 19,000 feet, another Army official said.

The bodies of those killed had been retrieved. Brar said the operation to trace the missing soldier would be resumed tomorrow after it was called off during the day due to bad weather. "Avalanche rescue teams are already deployed at the site. The moment, the weather clears up, we will launch the rescue operation again," he added.

“The incident occurred during the inter-post movement of the soldiers,” officials said.

In February this year, eight soldiers were killed when two massive avalanches hit their posts in the Sonamarg area of central Kashmir and in the Gurez area of north Kashmir. A number of forward posts of the Army in north Kashmir and the Ladakh region fall in avalanche-prone areas.

An avalanche warning was issued in mountainous parts of the Kashmir region after heavy snowfall last week.

Siachen, described as the world’s highest battlefield, has been a witness to regular skirmishes between the armies of the two countries since 1984 when the Indian Army launched a pre-emptive military operation “Meghdooth” to secure control of heights dominating the glacier in the Ladakh region. A ceasefire was announced along the LoC in 2003 and is still effective.

Siachen is an avalanche-prone area and India has lost more people to weather and terrain than to enemy bullets here. However, it has brought down such casualties to a large extent by ensuring proper adaptation of the personnel to the conditions and through extensive scientific research by DRDO to improve living conditions of jawans there.

Pakistan lost 130 soldiers in an avalanche in the area earlier this year. India and Pakistan, which have held several rounds of talks to resolve the Siachen issue, were close to an agreement a few years back on demilitarising the region, but the accord failed to see the light of the day as Pakistan refused to authenticate its military position.

Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had recently said that India had hardened its position on the Siachen issue as compared to the 1989 stance it had adopted.

Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh has made it clear that the Indian military would not like to move out of the “strategically important” icy heights for which a “lot of blood has been shed”. He said the Army had conveyed its views to the government which had to take a final decision in that regard.
Malik blames Indian, Pak agencies for failing to prevent 26/11 attacks
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik today said the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks happened because both India and Pakistan were not interacting and sharing information with each other.

“We failed to prevent 26/11 because we were not talking to each other,” said Malik while delivering a lecture at the Observor Research Foundation during the last day of his visit.

Malik said Pakistani-American terrorist David Headley was a triple agent. “A US passport holder, Headley conspired with Al-Qaida terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, a retired major of Pakistan Army and three Indian terrorists - Abu Jundal, Jabbiullah and Fahim Ansari - and plotted India's worst terror attack,” he said.

Malik said Jundal, arrested in Saudi Arabia and deported to India, has confessed to have met Headley, who, in turn, was in touch with Kashmiri.

"So it is not a state-sponsored drama, a state-sponsored action. It is an action by non-state actors. Triangular nexus between Headley, (Ilyas) Kashmiri, the enemy of Pakistan, a Major who deserted the Pakistan Army, having joined LeT and of course the three Indians," he said.

“Headley was interacting with Indian and Pakistani non-state actors to coordinate the attacks. But for whom he was coordinating? Who was the third party,” questioned Malik. Headley, Malik said, was once arrested by the drug enforcement agency (DEA) of the US. “But how he managed to operate freely is a mystery. He came from the US. He had money and credit cards. He moved all over and even managed to create a social circle,” said Malik.

“All this should have come to the attention of some agencies. But the agencies failed, both here and Pakistan. We failed because we were not interacting," he said.

Referring to Jundal, who was present in LeT control room during 26/11 attack, Malik said: “He was a known criminal, having been charged in many cases. He also worked as one of the sources of a very elite agency of India. Now, see, he has used agencies also and went rogue. Put it another way, you become a source, you become a double agent. While he is working, living in India, he might have gone rogue and then went to Pakistan.”

On Kashmiri, Malik said, he was a part of the conspiracy to kill former Pakistan premier Benazir Bhutto. On Hafiz Saeed, one of the suspects in the Mumbai attacks, Malik said: “The determination of Pakistan is very much there to arrest him but with evidence.”

Rehman MalikIt (Mumbai attacks) is an action by non-state actors... a triangular nexus between Headley, (Ilyas) Kashmiri, the enemy of Pakistan and a Major who deserted the Pakistan Army and joined LeT, and of course the three Indians — Abu Jundal, Jabbiullah and Fahim Ansari
Antony firm on war memorial at India Gate
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 16
Defence Minister AK Antony today made it clear that India Gate was the right place to build a national war memorial despite stiff opposition by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Minutes after laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti to commemorate the 41st anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 War, Antony said: “As far as we are concerned, this (India Gate) is the place to have a war memorial. We are very clear.”

The Delhi Chief Minister has opposed the construction of a war memorial at India Gate. In letters to Antony, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath, she has said an alternative site should be found for the memorial.

She says India Gate is the only popular hangout for the people of the city and the war memorial will restrict their movement in the area due to security reasons. The memorial will also affect the ambience of the area.

Antony stuck to his guns indicating that he was in no mood to yield, saying “after long years of efforts, a Group of Ministers set up by the Prime Minister and the three Services chiefs had agreed to set up the war memorial here. Before taking the proposal to the Cabinet (for approval), the Urban Development Ministry has written to all stakeholders to seek their comments and views. But I am sure that we will be able to clinch the issue”.

The Armed Forces have been demanding a war memorial in the National Capital to honour their men who made supreme sacrifice in various wars, conflicts and militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.

On the issue of Kargil martyr Capt Saurabh Kalia, Antony said India was pursuing the case with Pakistan. The officer was tortured and killed by Pakistan troops after being captured in the Kargil sector in May 1999. “We will pursue it and we are pursuing it with Pakistan,” he said.

Captain Kalia’s father NK Kalia, in conjunction with Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandra, has taken up the case with the United Nations Human Rights Commission seeking directions to Pakistan for a probe into the officer’s death.

He has also filed a plea in the Supreme Court to direct the government to take up the case of his son’s torture at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.

For and against

    Antony says a Group of Ministers set up by the Prime Minister and the three Services chiefs have agreed to set up the war memorial at India Gate after years of deliberations
    Sheila Dikshit feels India Gate is the only popular hangout for the people of Delhi and the war memorial will restrict their movement due to security reasons
AFT recommends action against Army’s law chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 16
While observing that the transfer of a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army’s legal branch to anther branch was “illegal’, the Armed Forces Tribunal has pointed out bias and prejudice on part of a Major General heading the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department, the Army’s legal wing. The AFT has suggested that the Ministry of Defence may take suitable action against him and other responsible after holding proper investigation..

Disposing of a petition filed by Lt Col Mukul Dev, alleging that he was transferred from the JAG branch to a branch dealing with land records, which had adversely affected his career, the tribunal in its order yesterday held that the transfer was made through an illegal order from within the Command Headquarters which had no authority to do so as it was the prerogative of Army Headquarters.

“We find that the applicant was indeed transferred, though illegally, from JAG Branch to Q Branch which was inappropriately made and he functioned in Q Branch under the Brigadier who headed Q Branch and not under the Deputy-JAG who headed the JAG Branch,” the tribunal observed.

Consequently, two of the officer’s annual confidential reports (ACRs) pertaining to the aforementioned period have been set aside, with directions to the Army to hold a selection board to consider his promotion to the rank of Colonel as a fresh case.

The two ACRs were initiated after the Lieutenant Colonel had moved court against his transfer.

In his petition, Lt Col Dev had challenged the legality and validity of the ACRs which had been initiated by Maj Gen PS Rathore, when he was heading the JAG Branch at Command Headquarters as a Brigadier.

He had alleged that Maj Gen Rathore, now posted at Army Headquarters, was responsible for his “illegal” transfer and subsequent harassment. He had also sought initiation of disciplinary actions against all the officers involved in the matter.

The plea: In his petition, Lt Col Mukul Dev had challenged the legality and validity of two ACRs initiated by Maj Gen PS Rathore, when he was heading the JAG Branch at Command Headquarters as a Brigadier
US-made Apache copters will be for IAF: Browne

New Delhi, December 16
The 22 Apache helicopters that are in the process of being acquired from the US will be for the IAF, Air Force chief NAK Browne said today. "The Apaches are going to be with us only as it is an ongoing acquisition process," Air Chief Marshal Browne said here today.

The Defence Ministry had recently allowed the Army to have combat choppers and said that all future acquisitions will be for it. "The government has decided to let the Army to have its own heavy duty attack helicopters. The decision to vest the future inductions of attack helicopters with the Army has been taken keeping in view the operational requirements in the field," Defence Minister AK Antony had told Parliament.

He had also said that the IAF was procuring 22 AH-64D Block-III Apache helicopters from Boeing Company of USA. Browne said the Apaches are not just for taking out enemy tanks or for air-to-ground operations but they can be used for multiple tasks such as taking out enemy radar stations and for air-to-air missions.

The Army had said recently that it was planning to send a proposal to the Defence Ministry for seeking transfer of attack helicopters from the Air Force at the earliest. Sources said the Army had also suggested that the proposal would also include transfer of the Apache helicopters which are being procured.

The IAF and the Army in the recent past have been involved in a battle of sorts for controlling the attack helicopter fleet and the Defence Ministry has decided in favour of the Army.

The Army already has an aviation wing but the Defence Minister has approved a long-pending demand of the 1.3 million-strong force for attack helicopters, overruling stiff opposition from the Air Force.

The Army had been demanding attack helicopters, saying these are mainly used for operations by it. The IAF had been strongly resisting it, with Browne saying the country cannot afford to have "small air forces".

The IAF is in final stages of completing the acquisition process of 22 Apache choppers from the US after the American machine edged out the Russian Mi-28 Havoc in the tender. — PTI

Army too wants Apache

    The IAF and the Army have been involved in a battle of sorts for controlling the attack helicopter fleet and the Defence Ministry has decided in favour of the Army
    The Army already has an aviation wing, but the Defence Minister has approved a long-pending demand of the 1.3 million-strong force for attack helicopters, overruling stiff opposition from the IAF
    The Army has been demanding attack helicopters, saying these are mainly used for operations by it. The IAF had been strongly resisting it, with Air Force chief NAK Browne saying the country cannot afford to have "small air forces"
3 years on, bunkers near Jammu border unused
Built for Rs 7.6 crore Repairs to cost Rs 4.9 crore
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, December 16
The Army is initiating disciplinary action against several officers responsible for lapses that led to the construction of sub-standard bunkers in forward areas near Jammu.

Constructed at a cost of Rs 7.6 crore by a private contractor, these bunkers - meant for storing ammunition - continue to remain unfit for use even three years after these were built The repair work is estimated to cost another Rs 5 crore.

A court of inquiry (CoI) convened to investigate the lapses brought out inadequate soil investigation and lack of proper supervision by the executing engineers and inspecting officers of the Military Engineer Services (MES).

The CoI also revealed hasty issue of completion certificate by the Garrison Engineer concerned while clearly ignoring various defects that had been repeatedly pointed out by the user ordnance unit.

Some portions of the structures collapsed just about a year after construction. A Technical Board of Officers assembled to investigate the defects held improper soil investigation, less foundation depth, foundation resting on filled-up soil, inadequate drainage and improper waterproofing as the reasons for the collapse. The board also observed that the contractor had not complied with the site orders given by the MES representatives.

Last year, the board recommended demolition and reconstruction of the damaged portions after proper soil investigation and redesigning the structure along with associated works, waterproofing and improving the drainage around the bunkers. The work, pegged at Rs 4.9 crore, is yet to be sanctioned.

While the CoI had pinpointed the responsibility on the officers concerned, who are now facing the music, the case also underscored the ineptness of internal controls in the MES. The checks to be exercised at multiple levels proved to be ineffective in preventing lapses despite red flags being raised.
An innovative senior JCO
by Yudhvir Kanwar

Irregulars (Scindehorsemen) are known to be inquisitive and innovative by nature. They can stand up to imponderables with a searching mind and come up with strange solutions, literally somewhat like a magician popping freebies out of the proverbial hat. It was in the early 60s when there were three stalwarts, Raghu Pannu (Maj Gen R.S. Pannu), Nirbhai (Major Nirbhai Singh) and Gaeky (Col A.R.D. Gaekwar), commanding respectively A, B and C squadrons. One by one each was being put through annual squadron training exercises in the area of the Duladdhi sand dunes near the regimental location at Nabha.

It was the month of June and summer was at its peak; temperature in the afternoon touching 45 degrees Celsius or so under shade. It was a terrible time to be in the open with Shermans, rehearsing tank battle drills. It was the turn of B Squadron to be out on exercise, when its innovative squadron senior JCO could not countenance his squadron commander, Major Nirbhai Singh, suffering the summer heat. He observed for a couple of days Nirbhai’s plight in the afternoon, gulping down ice-cooled glasses full of lime-sodas, sitting under a lone kikar tree and occasionally sipping beer to somewhat drug himself to ignore the heat and at the same time shifting his camp stool every now and then in keeping with the shifting kikar shade.

One afternoon, the squadron senior JCO, ably supported by his Squadron Quarter Master Duffadar, came up with a very thoughtful design to provide cool environs to his squadron commander. The senior JCO surreptitiously arranged from a nearby village a sturdy charpoy, capable of withstanding the weight of his 6’ tall, well-built squadron commander. Four robust 30-foot long ropes were tied at the four corner-legs of the charpoy.

The aim was to lower a charpoy with Nirbhai on board into a 20-30 feet shallow well, keeping the charpoy just above the water level to ‘cool’ him for the better part of the muggy afternoon. The lowering of the charpoy with a dummy on board was rehearsed a number of times, involving eight men holding fast the four ropes tied to the charpoy, with two men to each rope and the senior JCO controlling the process of lowering this improvised contraption with a pre-planned set of hand signals, ensuring all the while a balanced and smooth descent. The experiment was successful. And it was ritually put descending into the well for the afternoon siesta. Nirbhai was thus, hopefully, to be relieved from the summer agony, kind courtesy his innovative senior JCO.

This state of ‘blissful comfort’ was rudely interrupted one fateful afternoon when one of the ropes gave way and a sleepy Squadron Commander suddenly found himself hanging mere inches above a stagnant bit of water in the well. A hurried emergency ‘recovery operation’ ended the worthy Squadron Commander’s worst fears of an uncalled for mid-siesta ‘dunking’. Needless to say, the innovative senior JCO had very suddenly discovered that he had some other pressing ‘engagements’ elsewhere and was not seen for the rest of the day!
Six Army soldiers killed in Siachen avalanche, one missing
Six Indian Army soldiers were killed and one is missing in an avalanche that struck the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir early today.

The tragedy occurred in Sub Sector Hanif in Turtuk area of the glacier when troops of the 1st Assam Regiment were moving between posts. All the six bodies have been pulled out of the snow.

"At around 6.15 am, our posts at a height of over 17,000 feet came under an avalanche in Sub Sector Hanif in Siachen. Six jawans lost their lives. One is missing," Army spokesman Lt Col JS Brar said in Srinagar.
"Avalanche rescue teams have been deployed, but the operation had to be stopped because of adverse weather. The search will be restarted the moment the weather clears up," he said.

The Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range of the Himalayas is the world's highest and coldest battlefield, with both Indian and Pakistani soldiers stationed there.

There have been repeated calls to demilitarise the glacier because of the cost of maintaining troops at those icy heights and the high casualties from hostile weather.

More troops have died on the glacier due to adverse weather than combat. In April, an avalanche killed 139 people at a Pakistan Army camp.

This is the first time in several years that an avalanche has hit an Indian position in the Siachen Glacier, army sources said.

India and Pakistan have held several rounds of talks to end the military stand-off, but without success. Talks were last held in June this year in Rawalpindi, but both sides stuck to their stated positions.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in the standoff on Siachen since 1984. The guns have largely been silent since late 2003 after a ceasefire.
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India pursuing Capt. Kalia's killing with Pakistan: Antony
New Delhi, Dec 16, 2012 (IANS):

India is pursuing with Pakistan the killing of Capt. Saurabh Kalia during the 1999 Kargil conflict, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Sunday.

"We are handling it in an appropriate manner and we will pursue it. Now we are pursuing it with Pakistan at the moment," Antony told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, upon his arrival in New Delhi Friday, had said he was not sure whether Capt. Kalia "was killed by a Pakistani bullet or by the weather".

Malik Saturday defended his comments on Capt. Kalia, saying he was quoted out of context.

Capt. Kalia of the Jat regiment and five soldiers were captured by Pakistani troops and held captive from May 15 to June 7 in 1999. The six soldiers were brutally tortured and shot dead.

Capt. Kalia's father N.K. Kalia has taken his son's torture-killing to the Supreme Court, saying Pakistan should be asked to apologise.

He has also approached the United Nations Human Rights Commission, asking it to probe his son's killing as a war crime.

N.K. Kalia has been pressing the defence ministry, the army headquarters, external affairs ministry and the Prime Minister's Office for over a decade to exert pressure on Pakistan to punish the Pakistani soldiers responsible for the act in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Indian Army chief to visit Sri Lanka over bilateral defence cooperation
Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh will visit Sri Lanka this week to step up bilateral defence cooperation and meet the country's top leadership, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Singh will be on a 3-day visit from December 18 during which he will visit the north, north central and central provinces, the Sri Lankan army said on Sunday.

He would visit security forces headquarters in the northern town of Vavuniya and would also visit the ex-LTTE combatants training centre in the same district.

He would call on the Sri Lankan President and the top defence official Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

"This visit will mark another important milestone in the warm and cordial relations between the Indian and Sri Lanka armies", a statement said.

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