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Friday, 18 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 18 Jan 2013
LoC peaceful after DGMOs’ parleys
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
Some semblance of peace has been restored along the volatile Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir after the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan spoke to each other yesterday.

The Indian DGMO Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and his counterpart Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem had spoken to each other on Wednesday on the hotline. They are mandated to speak to each other once a week but can call up anytime in the case of a crisis. The hotline ensures that the two officials tasked by their respective nations to plan military operations remain in touch and thrash out matters at their level instead of allowing a free-for-all at the LoC.

The two DGMOs had arrived at an understanding to restore peace along the LoC following heavy firing and skirmishes since January 6. At the time of filing this report, there were no reports of any firing from across the LoC, officials today confirmed.

The 2003 ceasefire agreement binds troops on both sides to maintain peace. In 2012, there were 117 violations.

Recounting the last 12 days, officials said those were testing times at the LoC. It all started on January 6 when Pakistan alleged that one its soldiers had been killed in firing by Indian troops in the Uri sector. The Pak DGMO called up his counterpart to lodge a protest on January 7. The Pakistan foreign ministry issued a demarche to the Indian diplomat the same day. Two Indian soldiers were killed next day. One of them was beheaded. That led to an exchange of fire the next day in which one Pakistan soldier was reportedly killed.

On January 11, India suggested a Brigade-level flag meeting to which Pakistan agreed on January 13. The meeting held next day produced no result. Intense shelling was reported the same day.

India, in the meantime, hardened its stand with Defence Minister AK Antony terming the beheading a “turning point”. The Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne took it one step further, telling Pakistan that “other options were being considered to maintain peace along the LoC”. On January 14 Army Chief promised “retaliation”. The next day the Prime Minister declared, “It cannot be business as usual”.
The little parade commander
by P.C. Sharma

No other police force had such a humble beginning as the Sikkim Police. It was set up with a workforce of only one head constable and five constables by a resolution by the King of Sikkim in Council in November, 1897, at Aritar, an obscure place on the Kalimpong-Lhasa trade route.

Over the years, the Sikkim Police grew into a large force serving in all the districts of Sikkim. Guarding the frontiers of the state to fighting crime and maintaining internal peace became its prime functions after the merger of the kingdom with India.

In November 1997 the Sikkim Police was to complete 100 years of its journey from Aritar to Gangtok. It was my privilege to be its DGP in its centenary year.

The centenary celebrations were planned with great gusto and imagination. The prime objective was to generate the people's interest in their own police. The chief event was the huge parade comprising different ranks.

Paljor Stadium was carefully chosen as the venue of the parade. Stately pines overlooking it on the one side and the panoramic view of Gangtok spread on the other, made it a vista of unique splendour. Citizens of Gangtok turned up daily to the stadium to watch the rehearsals. Perched on the steps of the stadium in their colourful 'bakhus', it was a pageantry of colour and human charm in this setting. Never before were they interested in their police as when witnessing them march in parade in front of them. The lady police — beautiful young women — in uniforms, especially designed for them, attracted the people of Gangtok immensely.

The parade practices became eventful for the curiosity and interest generated by them among children. Not only did they keenly watch the parade rehearsals, they formed a squad of their own and marched in step with the police. Sudesh Subha, a lad of six years, though physically challenged in one hand, outdid all his peers. Watching the policemen in parade, he picked all their skills including the words of command. His steps were perfect, his commands loud and clear. Carrying a small baton in the manner of holding a rifle, he acquired all the attributes of a little parade commander.

We decided to get a police uniform stitched for him fitting his size. It was also decided that he would march ahead of smart SD Negi, the parade commander, on the final day of the celebrations.

It was a huge colourful parade, a spectacle indeed, the sight of which regaled the citizens of Sikkim. But what delighted them was also the sight of the little Sudesh Subha marching ahead of the parade commander, saluting the Governor of Sikkim in perfect steps and giving right commands. Like the parade commander, he marched alone ahead of the parade squads, yet his steps were in perfect harmony with them and in tune with the drum beat. Looking right to the dais, he gave a smart salute to the Governor, who reviewed the parade.

The parade over, Subha marched to the Governor who lifted him up in his arms and announced a reward for him. The Sikkim police will forever remember the little commander who is now a strapping young footballer playing in Paljor Stadium.
France keeps up air strikes, African troops plan advances
Bate Felix
France kept up its air strikes against Islamist rebels in Mali as plans to deploy African troops gathered pace amid concerns that delays could endanger a wider mission to dislodge al Qaeda and its allies. France has already poured hundreds of troops into Mali and carried out days of air strikes since last week in a vast desert area seized last year by an Islamist alliance that combines al Qaeda’s north African wing AQIM with Mali’s home-grown MUJWA and Ansar Dine rebel groups.

Western and regional powers are concerned the insurgents will use Mali’s north as a launchpad for international attacks. West African defence chiefs were to meet in Bamako on Tuesday to approve plans to speed up the deployment of 3,300 regional troops foreseen in a U.N.-backed intervention plan to be led by Africans.

Speaking from a French military base in Abu Dhabi at the start of a day-long visit to the UAE, President Francois Hollande said French forces in Mali had carried out further strikes overnight "which hit their targets." "We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air," Hollande said. "We have 750 troops deployed at the moment and that will keep increasing so that as quickly as possible we can hand over to the Africans." France plans to field a total 2,500 soldiers in its former colony to bolster the Malian army and work with the intervention force provided by the ECOWAS grouping of West African states. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, accompanying Hollande on a visit aimed at firming up trade relations and making progress on a possible sale of 60 French Rafale fighter jets, said he was confident Gulf Arab states would also help the Mali campaign. Fabius said there would be a meeting of donors for the Mali operation most likely in Addis Ababa at the end of January. He predicted the current level of the French involvement in Mali would go on for "a matter of weeks". ECOWAS mission head in Bamako Aboudou Toure Cheaka said the West African troops would be on the ground in a week. Their immediate mission would be to help stop the rebel advance while preparations for a full intervention plan continued. The original timetable for the 3,300-strong UN-sanctioned African force — backed by western logistics, money and intelligence services — did not initially foresee full deployment before September due to logistical constraints. Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Guinea have all offered troops. But regional powerhouse Nigeria, which is due to lead the mission, has cautioned that even if some troops arrive in Mali soon, training will take more time. The plan is being fast-tracked after a plea for help by Mali's government after mobile columns of Islamist fighters last week threatened the central garrison towns of Mopti and Sevare, with its key airport.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France's goals were to stop the Islamist rebels, to "safeguard the existence of Mali" and pave the way for the African-led military operation. U.S. officials said Washington was sharing information with French forces in Mali and considering providing logistics, surveillance and airlift capability. "We have made a commitment that al Qaeda is not going to find anyplace to hide," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters as he began a visit to Europe.

As French aircraft bombarded mobile columns of Islamist fighters, other insurgents launched a counter-attack further to the south, dislodging government forces from the town of Diabaly, 350 km from Bamako. French intervention has raised the risk for eight French hostages held by al Qaeda allies in the Sahara and for 30,000 French expatriates living in neighbouring, mostly Muslim states. Concerned about reprisals at home, France has tightened security at public buildings and on public transport. The U.N. said an estimated 30,000 people had fled the latest fighting in Mali, joining more than 200,000 already displaced. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday welcomed the French-led military intervention in Mali and voiced the hope that it would halt the Islamist assault.

France, which has repeatedly said it has abandoned its role as the policeman of its former African colonies, is among the toughest proponents of a speedier deployment of the African troops, and convened a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the crisis.

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters after the meeting that the US, Canada, Belgium, Denmark and Germany had also offered logistical support for France’s Mali operation. No Europeans or other African Union members will be allowed in the defence chiefs meeting in Bamako on Tuesday, a western diplomat said, requesting not to be named. "They don't want any French pressure at the meeting," the diplomat said. — Reuters
India unlikely to agree to Foreign Minister-level talks with Pak: Sources
LoC row: Pictures released; Indian army exposes Pakistan

New Delhi, Jan 16: Cornering Pakistan amid tension at Line of Control (LoC), India army on Wednesday, Jan 16 released pictures accusing Pakistan of planting landmines in Indian territory. According to army officials, they had informed Pakistan regarding the photographs during flag meeting between government officials of both countries. However, Pakistan has denied all charges of initiating the aggression or entering Indian territory. The photographs, released by the Indian Army today, show that the landmines were planted by Pakistani troops in Indian territory. When pictures where shown to Pakistan side during meeting, it refused to accept and returned the photographs to Indian officials. Relation between the two neighbouring countries worsened when Pakistan continued to violate ceasefire on LoC even after meeting. The Indian Army was quiet for sometime. However, finally on Monday, Jan 14, Army Chief General Bikram Singh broke his silence and warned Pakistan of retaliation. Singh has made it clear that the Indian soldiers deployed in Jammu and Kashmir will strike back strongly if there is any further provocation from their Pakistani counterparts. Lance Naiks Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh were killed by Pakistani troops on Jan 8 in Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan Army regulars took away the head of Hemraj as a trophy and also mutilated the body of the other soldier.

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