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Saturday, 22 December 2012

From Today's Papers - 22 Dec 2012




India, Russia may sign defence deals during Putin’s visit

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, December 21

With differences still persisting between the two countries over the future of their civil nuclear energy cooperation, an agreement on Russia constructing units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KNPP) is unlikely to be signed during President Vladimir Putin’s coming visit to India.


“I don’t think the agreement on units III and IV will be signed because we are still negotiating it but there will be more than a dozen documents which would be concluded covering the entire gamut of relations, including military cooperation,” Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin told reporters ahead of Putin’s visit for the India-Russia annual summit on Monday.


It is understood that the two countries could ink deals on the sale of fighter jets and aircraft engines to India next week which could be worth some $ 7 billion. Putin is believed to have his sights on selling 42 Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighters and on the long-term supply of 970 warplane engines. Asked about the hitch in inking the agreement for the KNPP III and IV units, the Russian envoy said Moscow believed that the pact should be under the terms and reference of the 2008 accord while India was insisting on negotiations under its new civil nuclear liability law. He was confident that the differences would be resolved and the agreement would be signed sooner rather than later.


He also indicated that the two countries had not found a solution to Russian telecom giant Sistema’s over $ 3 billion investment in India. The issue has been hanging fire ever since the Supreme Court passed an order in February cancelling all 122 licences (including that of Sistema Shyam Teleservices) following allegations of bribery and corruption in the allocation of 2G spectrum. Sistema has challenged the court order and wants the Indian government to find an alternative solution to avoid international arbitration.


Kadakin wondered why India could not protect the investment made by Sistema, particularly since the two countries have a bilateral investment promotion agreement between them.


Asked if Russia was looking at an improved relationship with Islamabad, he said Pakistan was an important country for Russia, particularly in the post 2014 phase after the drawdown of foreign troops from Afghanistan. “However, we shall never supply anything to anyone which can be detrimental to India.”

No unilateral activity in South China Sea, says Khurshid

Suggests strategic partnership with China

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, December 21

India today said it was not undertaking any unilateral activity in the South China Sea, while expressing its firm resolve to work for good, neighbourly and mutually beneficial relations with China.


“There is no question of doing anything unilaterally in the South China Sea. The issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea should be sorted out by the countries concerned through an appropriate dialogue,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said at a press conference at the end of the two-day ASEAN-India commemorative summit.


To a question on the recent warning by China to India to refrain from undertaking any unilateral activity in the disputed sea, he said India was involved in exploration activity in the blocks allotted to it by Vietnam in the disputed sea under an agreement signed between the two countries in 1988. “This is not something new... it’s a commercial arrangement.”


He admitted that the South China Sea issue, against the backdrop of aggressive posturing by China, had been raised by several ASEAN leaders during their bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


Khurshid said New Delhi believed that a good and wholesome relationship with China was not only good for the two countries but for all of Asia and the world. He even went to the extent of suggesting that India and China should become strategic partners. “There may be some issues on which we have differences, but they can always be sorted out.”


Asked about the Maldives scrapping of the Male airport project awarded to Indian infrastructure major GMR, the minister said the matter was raised by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak during his meeting with Prime Minister Singh. The Malaysian Government-owned MAHB holds 23 per cent while GMR holds 77 per cent stake in the joint venture. Khurshid said India had asked for "an update" on Maldives’ side of the story.

52% drop in empanelled ECHS hospitals

Vijay Mohan/TNS


Chandigarh, December 21

Eight years after the Ex-servicemen’s Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) was launched, large gaps continue to persist in its infrastructure and support services, with the number of empanelled hospitals available for in-house treatment falling drastically.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had approved a list of 1,054 empanelled hospitals till March 2011 but the number is now down to just 507 hospitals or 48 per cent of the approved number. In case of the remaining 547 hospitals, the contract or agreement has expired and has not been renewed.


Civilian hospitals were empanelled to take the patient load off service hospitals as well as make medical facilities available to the ex-servicemen closer to their place of residence.


Ex-servicemen and their dependents requiring hospital admission are referred to empanelled civilian hospitals in case of non-availability of beds or facilities in service hospitals. The hospitals are initially empanelled for a period of two years.


Civilian hospitals are empanelled at both military stations as well as non-military stations. Of the 1,054 hospitals, 601 are located at military stations i.e. cities or towns having significant military establishments in or adjacent to them, while the rest are in non-military stations with no service presence.


While in military stations, ECHS subscribers have the option of treatment in service hospitals, in non-military stations, they have to rely on empanelled hospitals.


In the absence of empanelled hospitals, aged and sick ex-servicemen and their dependents in non-military stations are being put to the inconvenience of undertaking long journeys to the nearest service or empanelled hospital. The ECHS caters to a population of around 35 lakh, including 11 lakh ex-servicemen and 24 lakh dependants. It has an annual operating budget of around Rs 1,000 crore.


The scheme is also battling several other issues like shortage of medical staff, non-availability of medicines in polyclinics, timely release of payments to civilian hospitals and laboratories, and instances of inflated bills.

Indian Army Chief assures full commitment to Sri Lanka's security

Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 01:33 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 20, Colombo: The visiting Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh as a part of his current official visit to the island called on the Sri Lanka's Commander-in-Chief President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo Thursday.


During discussions with the President, the Indian Army Chief assured his government's full commitment to Sri Lanka's security and expressed that the Indian government and the military are committed to further strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

He thanked the President for erecting the monument commemorating the Indian Peace Keeping Force.


Recalling the cordial and historic relations that continue to exist between the two countries, President Rajapaksa underlined the need for further fostering of such cooperation and understanding since both nations are the closest neighbors to each other in the Indian Ocean.


The visiting Army Chief presented a Buddha statue to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to mark the occasion.


Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Ashok K. Kantha, Major General Rajeev Tewari and the Defense Attaché at the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka Captain Sumith Kapoor were present for the discussion as well as the Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya.


General Singh also called on Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Ministry of Defense. Earlier on the day (20), General Bikram Singh paid courtesy calls on the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Jayanath Colombage and the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal H.D Abeywickrema at their respective Headquarters in Colombo.


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