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Sunday, 13 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 13 Jan 2013
Air Chief warns Pak against LoC violations
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 12
The ongoing cross-border tension took a new turn on Saturday as Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne spoke of “other options” to ensure compliance of peace along the Line of Control (LoC) even as Pakistan did not respond to a call for a flag meet to de-escalate tensions.

Upping the ante, Browne termed the ceasefire violations by Pakistan (117 last year) as “unacceptable” and in a way warned the western neighbour that India was being forced to look at “some other options for compliance” if incidents of ceasefire violations continued. The Air Chief is chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, a body that has all the three Chiefs of Services.

Pakistan had not responded to India’s call for a Brigadier-level flag meet till 8 pm on Saturday evening to de-escalate cross-border tension. Normally, a time-frame of 48 hours is acceptable for a response. This period will lapse on Sunday morning, sources said.

NAK Browne’s remarks could set the tone of this skirmish over the next few days. Minutes after addressing youth of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) here, the Air Chief responded to reporters’ queries, saying: “We have a Line of Control, we have a ceasefire agreement, we have certain structures and mechanisms which are sacrosanct and any violation of these with impunity, especially what has been happening in the last few months, is totally unacceptable.”

The Chief, a fighter pilot who periodically flies jets and was on board a Jaguar on January 9, went on to add: “We are monitoring the situation carefully because if these things continue to be the way they are and these violations continue to take place, then perhaps we may have to look at some other options for compliance.”

Refusing to divulge the “options” being looked at by the government, he said, “Options are options. We do not discuss these openly. If the violations continue, we may have to look at the whole issue all over again.”

This is the second instance of tough posturing from the defence set-up in New Delhi in as many days. Yesterday, Defence Minister AK Antony had conveyed to National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon that the “beheading” of India soldiers was a turning point and the “prestige” of the forces had to be upheld. Menon leads the Indian diplomacy initiative with Pakistan.

On January 8, Pakistan Army regulars had infiltrated into Indian territory in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir and killed and mutilated the bodies of Lance Naiks Sudhakar Singh and Hemraj.

Meanwhile, Pakistan repeated its demand for a neutral probe into the firing along the LoC, but India rejected it on the premise that after the 1972 Simla Agreement, all issues have to be resolved bilaterally and, hence, there was no role for third party intervention, including that of the United Nations.

This comes after Islamabad's tit-for-tat move to summon the Indian High Commissioner on Friday to lodge a protest over the alleged killing of its soldier. A week of intermittent ceasefire violations has left four soldiers dead -- two each on either side of the LoC. Despite both governments speaking the language of restraint, tensions were unabated.

Fresh firing in Poonch

    Indian and Pakistani troops traded gunfire along the LoC in Poonch sector after the movement of a group of suspected infiltrators was detected
    Pakistan had not responded to India’s call for a Brigadier-level flag meet till late Saturday evening.
LoC martyr’s kin on fast-unto-death
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 12
The family members of LOC martyr Lance Naik Hemraj Singh have gone on fast-unto-death at Shernagar village, near Mathura, in western Uttar Pradesh seeking a personal visit from Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Media reports said martyr’s uncle, brother and wife have joined the protest, first started by the village chief and some villagers demanding civic amenities for the village, including repair of a link road to the village, naming of the road and a park after the martyr and installation of a new transformer.

The family was upset at the failure of senior politicians to attend the martyrs’ cremation, which was carried out in darkness due to power failure. Even the District Magistrate and the SSP reportedly reached late.

Mathura DM Samir Verma admitted that a section of villagers wanted some senior politicians to visit the village.
With Pakistan, follow a ‘Line of Caution’
In Pakistan right now, the discourse is not about India but its internal problems and the coming general elections. Its army even declared recently that the country’s enemy number one was now home-grown militants.
Raj Chengappa

Raj ChengappaBarely a year and a half ago, the Pakistan Army flew me down by helicopter to visit the Line of Control at Chakothi in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Bright blue highway signs indicated that Uri was just 11 km away and Srinagar 121 km. We stood at Aman Setu, the bridge that was opened in 2006 to facilitate trade and passenger movement between the two Kashmirs, waving to Indian soldiers, stationed on the other side.

This was my second visit to the LoC from the Pakistan side, the first being in November 2004, a year after the ceasefire agreement came into place. There was then sporadic exchange of fire between the two armies. Only a dirt road and a rickety bridge led to the LoC at Chakothi and the atmosphere was still tense.

When I returned in May 2011, there was a sea change in the atmosphere. Apart from a freshly tarred highway, enough for double-lane traffic, there was a newly built facilitation centre that doubled both as a dry port for trade and a visa checkpoint.

Syed Asif Hussain, the impressive Secretary to the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government, told me, “There has to be a paradigm shift in the approach of both countries. The narrative should change from the focus on territory to that of development. People do not want confrontation. Instead, they want food and security from internal threats.”

From this atmosphere of hope and peace, we appear to be almost back to square one after the deplorable mutilation of the bodies of the two Indian jawans killed at the LoC. In this current surcharged atmosphere, it is politically correct to talk in terms of giving Pakistan a fitting reply for its perfidy on the LoC.

Even the normally circumspect Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony described the decapitation of an Indian soldier killed at the LoC as “inhuman” and “provocative”. Talking tough, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that India would have to explore “other options” if there was repeated violation of the ceasefire.

Without doubt the mutilation of the bodies of our soldiers is a heinous action, deserving both national and international condemnation. But even as we beat our collective chest in anger and anguish, it is wise to proceed with caution while demanding action against Pakistan. There is talk of cutting of all diplomatic relations, halting trade and putting off the liberal visa regime that had just been signed with much fanfare between the two countries.

We must try and analyse why tensions have suddenly escalated before we advocate extreme measures. It is a fact that ceasefire violations at the LoC have almost doubled in the past year between the two countries. Yet at the same time, we have signed a liberal visa regime and Pakistan is on the verge of finally giving India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status that would enhance trade between the two countries. Though Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik almost undid most of the gains by his loose talk when he visited Delhi recently.

India still rankles over the inaction of Pakistan against the perpetrators of Mumbai 26/11. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army has been doing an excellent job in halting infiltration bids by militants sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI. In the Valley, there has been thankfully almost two years of relative peace which has resulted in a boom in tourism. The major complaints are against the shortage of LPG rather than talk of separation.

So why would Pakistan suddenly want to escalate tensions between the two countries? One line of thinking is that with the general elections to be held this summer, the Peoples Party of Pakistan (PPP)-led government may see it fit to raise the Indian bogey again. But the fact is that all three major political parties — the PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf — have talked of having good relations with India.

In Pakistan right now the discourse is not about India but on its internal problems, both political and security related. The Pakistan government’s current worry is not border tensions with India but how to stave off the “long march” of Tahir-ul-Quadri, the cleric who returned from Canada recently and is demanding reforms across the board.

Rather than turning the heat on its border with India, the Pakistan Army appears to be more focused on quelling internal security threats and on ensuring that it has a larger say in Afghanistan. Just last week, the Pakistan Army, which is showing signs of a lack of cohesion in its ranks, announced that in its new military doctrine, the country’s enemy number one was home-grown militants and internal threat of terrorism. India was down to second place.

So if Pakistan or its Army is suddenly raising the stakes against India, we need to understand why. We need not, like Pakistan, have a kneejerk reaction and stop trade and bus service across the LoC. We need to discern its game-plan and then take action commensurate with our assessment of the new threat. Till we have clarity, it is better to proceed on the line of caution while considering retaliatory action, though we must make it clear to Pakistan that India is deeply offended by what happened recently on the LoC.
China-wary Army for mountain strike corps
NEW DELHI: The Army has come up with a fresh proposal for the new mountain strike corps, apart from two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades, to plug operational gaps along the LAC (line of actual control) as well as to acquire "some offensive capabilities" against China.

The raising of the new formations will cost around Rs 81,000 crore, spread primarily over the 12th Plan period (2012-17), with a little spillover into the 13th Plan if necessary, say sources.

"The approved 12th Army Plan, as part of the LTIPP (long-term integrated perspective plan), already ca-ters Rs 62,000 crore for the corps. The Army is now asking for another Rs 19,000 crore," said a source.

With additional armoured regiments and infantry units based in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, the new mountain corps (around 40,000 soldiers) will for the first time give India the capability to also launch a counter-offensive into TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) in the event of a Chinese attack, say sources.

As with the development of the over 5,000-km Agni-V and 3,500-km Agni-IV ballistic missiles — coupled with the ongoing progressive deployment of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones, helicopters and missile squadrons in the northeast — the overall aim is to have "strategic deterrence" in place to dissuade China from embarking on any "misadventure".

The proposal for the new corps — recently approved by the CoSC (chiefs of staff committee) comprising the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs — will of course have to be get the final nod from the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) after requisite wetting by the defence and finance ministries for it to be implemented. The plan to raise a new mountain corps, headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, is not new. Last year, the government had referred it to the CoSC for a rethink and fine-tuning, which has now been completed.

As part of the overall plan for "major force accretion" along the "northern borders" with China, two new infantry divisions (35,000 soldiers and 1,260 officers), have already been raised at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. Their operational tasking is the defence of Arunachal Pradesh, which China often claims as its territory.

"Mechanized elements (tanks and infantry combat vehicles) are also being strengthened in eastern Ladakh and Sikkim," said the source. Moreover, a Rs 26,155 crore plan to develop infrastructure along the 4,057-km LAC by 2020-21 is already underway.

The new corps, with two specialized high-altitude divisions for "rapid reaction force capability in mountains", will add to all this. This will give India, which for long has focused on the land borders with Pakistan, some offensive teeth against China as well.

This is critical because China has "aggressively" strengthened its military capabilities in the TAR, with at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads. This, as earlier reported by TOI, allows China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.
Fresh firing in Poonch after Indian Army detects movement near LoC
Poonch: Even as the tension between India and Pakistan continues to escalate, fresh firing has been reported from the Krishnaghati area in Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir. According to reports, the firing began after the Indian Army noticed some movement across the Line of Control (LoC) in the area.

This comes a day after firing was reported from the Pakistani side on eight Indian posts in Krishna Ghati and Sona Gali sectors. According to sources, the firing had lasted for about 20 minutes.

"There was a movement of 6 to 7 persons close to LoC opposite Krishna Ghati sub-sector in Poonch sector at around 2145 hours tonight", Defence Spokesman Col RK Palta. Indian troops opened fire on the suspected infiltrators, the spokesman said adding that thereafter exchange of heavy fire took place.
After about half-an-hour of exchange of fire, the suspected infiltrators disappeared from the scene, Col Palta said adding the intensity of firing from both sides has reduced but is still on.

It is suspected that either a groups of militants or Border Action Team (BAT) could have been undertaking movement close to LoC opposite Krishna Ghati in Poonch on Saturday night. The eruption of exchange of fire broke a lull of 48 hours.

Pakistani troops had violated the ceasefire by firing mortars shells and from small arms on Indian posts along LoC, the Defence spokesman said.

Earlier on Friday, there were reports of overnight firing from the Pakistan side in the Poonch sector at more than three places along the LoC. India maintained that the firing was unprovoked. There have been three violations of the nine-year-old ceasefire along the LoC in the past five days.

The tension between the countries escalated after two Indian Army soldiers were killed and their bodies brutalised in a cross-border raid by Pakistani troops on Tuesday while a Pakistani soldier had died on Sunday. The clashes were among the most serious violations of the truce that was put in place in late 2003.

The tension has remained along the LoC as Pakistan hasn't yet responded to the Indian Army's offer of a flag meeting to de-escalate the situation. Angered by the response, India's Air Chief has warned of other options, even as 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed is continuing to stoke the crisis.

"What is happening in the last few months is not acceptable. If this continues, perhaps we will have to look at other options for compliance of the set norms on the border," said Air Force chief NAK Browne.

The air chief's remarks appeared aimed at Pakistan's delay in responding to India seeking a flag meeting to bring down tensions in areas like Poonch. Though no firing was reported since Friday night, unconfirmed reports claimed a build up of Pakistani troops along parts of the Line of Control.

In Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed accused India of complicity in the bombing of 82 people in Quetta earlier this week, and warned of an ugly situation in Kashmir. Accusing India of trying to worsen the situation, Saeed said, "They want to escalate the violence to avoid a permanent resolution...This border tension can turn into an ugly situation like a war and we want to avoid it."

However, despite the tensions remaining high, most experts are of the view that the two countries should not risk the biggest India-Pakistan confidence building measure - a ceasefire that has lasted nine years now.
Defence Ministry formally confirms beheading of soldier
An Indian Army press release cited by Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, to the effect that the two Indian soldiers killed in the recent cross-LoC incident “had not been mutilated and beheaded” was based on incomplete information, the Ministry of Defence formally clarified on Saturday.

In a statement titled ‘Mutilation and beheading of Indian soldiers killed in Pakistan raid’, MoD spokesperson Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya noted Mr. Jilani's remarks to the media in Islamabad on Friday — reported in The Hindu on January 12, 2013 — as well as an earlier Reuters wire service story of January 8 which had quoted the spokesperson of India’s Northern Army Command as saying that while the bodies had been mutilated, they had not been beheaded.

“It is clarified that Pakistan has quoted the initial press release given by the spokesman of Indian Army’s Northern Command, on 08 Jan 2012, when the details of the incident were still not clear,” the MoD said. “Subsequently, on the same day, Indian Army made a statement that the body of one soldier was mutilated. Both these statements were made based on the information available at the time of making those statements.”

Seeking to set the details right, Colonel Dahiya said that “it is reiterated that the body of one soldier was found mutilated and beheaded, the body of [the] second soldier was also mutilated during this ceasefire violation on 08 Jan 2013 in Mendhar Sector by Pakistan”.
Uri commander’s forceful retaliation led to beheadings?
As New Delhi raged over the attack by Pakistani troops claiming the lives of two Indian soldiers on Indian soil, and the mutilation of the bodies, the Union ministry of home has received inputs that suggest that Indian army units in the Uri sector could have provoked the incident. While there was sporadic firing exchanged in some parts ofthe LoC, a cross-border raid by the ghatak (commando) platoon of the 9th Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) in the early hours of Sunday could have been the provocation.

Top sources in the Union Home and defence ministries told DNA that the Pakistani attack was in all likelihood a retaliation for the attack carried out by 9 MLI.

The commander of the 161 brigade, stationed in the Churchunda sub-sector, Brigadier Gulab Singh Rawat, had decided to take a very aggressive posture. Sources said that he asked the commanding officer of 9 MLI to take “proactive action”, to launch a quick raid against a post that was harassing Indian positions.

The successful Indian raid led to the death of a Pakistaninon-commissioned officer and escalated tensions across the LoC.

Normally, such an escalation leads to the issuing of a formal alert from the Udhampur-based North Command of the army to all its formations. This alert should have gone out to all the three corps that it commands — the Nagrota (Jammu) based 16 Corps, the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and the Leh-based 14 Corps.

Of these, 14 and 15 Corps are the most active as they man the LoC from Jammu right through to Kargil, from where 14 Corps takes over.

Incidentally, the neighbouring 12 Brigade in Uri had just seen a change of command after Brig RK Singh took over from Brig BS Raju. Any change of command of a major formation on the LoC is a sensitive time and troops are expected to be on high alert. The absence of the alert led to all the formations running things as business as usual. That was when the Pakistanis decided to retaliate in the Mendhar sector that is part of the northern Jammu region.

This area is manned by the 25th Division of the Indian Army and 13 Rajputana Rifles was one of the battalions manning this sector.

While army headquarters believes that the attack was carried out by men from the Baloch regiment, it has not ruled out the role of a team of the Special Service Group (SSG) which is part of the elite Pakistani Special Forces. Reports suggest that the attacking party was dressed in black dungarees usually preferred by the SSG.

Another intelligence input suggests that this could have been an attack carried out by irregulars from the LeT after its chief, Hafeez Saeed started raising “Border Action Guards” to attack Indian troop positions on the LoC. Indian intelligence experts have ruled out the attack as a major shift in policy on part of the Pakistani General Headquarters (GHC) in Rawalpindi.

“We believe that this was a local action purely in retaliation of what the raid our troops carried out in the Uri sector,” a senior intelligence official told DNA. The Union home ministry is also looking at the role played by Brig Rawat and whether his “aggressive posture” could have been avoided.

There is a feeling in the government that Brig Rawat has a very “aggressive track record” which could have escalated tensions on the LoC at a time when the nine-year-old ceasefire was holding up well. An inquiry into the incident has been ordered by Army Headquarters and a decision on Brig Rawat could also be taken in the coming days.

Rogue Pak colonels behind LOC killings  

Military-civilian sources in India warn that the command structure of the Pakistan Army is being challenged by a growing number of fanaticised officers. They are unwilling to obey COAS General Ashfaq Kayani's orders to focus attention on counter-terror operations to the west rather than continue the old eastward India-centric policy. The fanaticised officers aim to "create a series of incidents along the Line of Control (LoC) that they hope will lead to conflict with India, thereby giving them an excuse to downsize anti-Taliban and anti-terrorist operations along Pakistan' s western frontier". The revised Pakistan Army military doctrine worked out by General Kayani places stress on challenges along and across Pakistan's western frontier rather than the border with India to the east.

Since 2011, some units of the Pakistan Army across the LoC have been "unusually aggressive across the wide sector guarded by India's 25 Infantry Division", whose remit includes Rajouri, Poonch, Mendhar, Haji Pir and Nowshera. Because the border fence set up by India is located more than a kilometre inside Indian territory, "the intention of the Pakistan side seems to be to make the fence the new boundary, by denying access to Indian soldiers who patrol the other side of the fence, albeit on Indian territory". Since 2011, "the Pakistan forces have planted mines near the fence, so as to discourage patrols there". Last month, five jawans lost their lower limbs because of such mines, a fact thus far not revealed to the public.

These sources warn that "it is not only the civilian leadership (of Pakistan) that has lost control of army units in the field but the higher echelons of the Pakistan Army as well". They claim that "there is widespread anger within the ranks at General Kayani's insistence that extremists are a bigger threat than India", in view of the close operational relationship that has existed between the Pakistan Army and extremists since the 1979 covert war against the USSR got launched in Afghanistan. "Should such provocations continue, it would mean that Kayani has lost control of his men", and that the strategy of the COAS of concentrating forces in the west is being sought to be reversed through a replay of Indo-Pak tension. They point out that Kargil occurred "just when it seemed that peace had a chance in 1999", the difference being that at that time, the then COAS (Pervez Musharraf) was fully behind the provocative policy of his men, whereas General Kayani, according to information reaching India, "understands that India has zero intention of launching a war against Pakistan".
    The higher echelons of the Pakistan Army have lost control of units in the field.

Sources within the civilian side point out that beheadings and other mutilation of Indian soldiers by fanaticised segments of the Pakistan Army is not new. "A similar incident took place in 2003 that was hushed up by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, while two soldiers of the Kumaon regiment were beheaded in mid-2011". That incident too was downplayed in the euphoria of a possible Aman ki Asha. A military source claims that "the head was not the only body part that was severed as a trophy by the Pakistan side", other parts of the body were mutilated as well. He added that an effort was made to decapitate the second killed soldier as well, "but this was thwarted by fire from the Indian side".

Civilian sources warn that the only way to deter such attacks "is to develop offensive covert capabilities in Pakistan". They complain that in 1997, I.K. Gujral began downsizing covert capabilities in Pakistan's policy, which has been continued under both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, both of whom seem to believe that India can outsource its defence against Pakistan to the United States". They point to the recent disbanding of the Technical Services Division (TSD) after General V.K. Singh remitted the office of COAS last year. The unit was accused of spying on civilian leaders at the behest of General Singh, a charge "which conveniently overlooked the fact that the TSD functioned not under the COAS but under the Defence Intelligence Agency, a specialised unit operating under the Ministry of Defence. Military sources say that the "Off Air Interceptors" of the soon-to-be-disbanded TSD "are of immense value in finding out what is going on across the borders", and rue the fact that "this capability is now being given up". It needs to be mentioned that the present COAS, General Bikram Singh, is reported to have decided to disband the TSD on the recommendation of a panel headed by a lieutenant general.

Both military and civilian sources agree that "covert capability needs to be created" that can deter rogue elements within the Pakistan Army and their collaborators in Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terror organisations from carrying out attacks on India. They warn that "at present, such capacity does not exist, thereby creating a window of opportunity for fresh terror strikes on the scale of 26/11". The worry is that, having failed to generate hostilities between the conventional armies of both sides by provocations such as the beheadings, out-of-control fanatics within the Pakistan Army will sponsor fresh mass terror attacks on India, so as to achieve their objective of conflict.

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