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Sunday, 20 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 20 Jan 2013




Manmohan’s message to Pakistan, ‘don’t mess with us’

The Prime Minister took a calculated risk of raising the stakes with Pakistan because in any case India expects no progress in its relations with its neighbour till the general elections are over this summer.

Raj Chengappa


Raj ChengappaAs the heat over the LoC incident in Jammu and Kashmir begins to cool down with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid saying he is willing to consider the offer of Hina Rabbani Khar, his Pakistan counterpart, for a dialogue on the subject, it’s a good time to take stock of whether India’s response was adequate and appropriate.


While initially the Manmohan Singh government exercised caution in its response, the Prime Minister upped the ante apparently when faced with strident criticism for his “weak” action from Opposition parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).


Sushma Swaraj, BJP leader in the Lok Sabha, while conveying her condolences to the parents of Lance Naik Hemraj Singh, whose body was found decapitated at the LoC, demanded, “We should take revenge. Today the country is demanding that we should not be proved a weak government… If we do not get his head we should get 10 of theirs (Pakistan soldiers).”


BJP President Nitin Gadkari even demanded that India take up the matter with the UN, forgetting that this was precisely what Pakistan wants, which is to internationalise the border issue again. In fact, the Pakistan government’s first demand was that the incident be referred to the almost defunct UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which India turned down.


Reaching out: Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and his wife with the family of Lance Naik Hemraj, killed by Pakistani infiltrators at the LoC

Reaching out: Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and his wife with the family of Lance Naik Hemraj, killed by Pakistani infiltrators at the LoC. — PTI


Realising that the situation was getting out of hand, Manmohan Singh undertook a series of damage control measures. He dispatched National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon to brief the BJP leaders about the incident. Then the Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, used his Army Day press conference to talk tough to Pakistan on the border, stating, “My directions are clear, I expect my commanders to be aggressive and offensive on the LoC.”


At the Army Day reception at the Chief’s house, the Prime Minister came out with an unusually tough statement on the episode: “After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan.” India sent back a group of Pakistan hockey players who had been invited for the Hockey India League tournament and put on hold the visa-on-arrival scheme for elderly visitors from Pakistan.


The big question was how far would the Prime Minister walk his tough talk? When he said it wouldn’t be ‘business as usual’, would he take the drastic step of breaking diplomatic relations or suspending the composite dialogue that both sides had worked so hard to make some progress? Before the Prime Minister needed to take this call, Pakistan seemed to have got the message. Soon after, the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries spoke to each other and agreed to deescalate tensions on the border. Next, Hina Rabbani toned down her aggressive rhetoric and called for a dialogue with Khurshid to sort out concerns about the LoC.


The real problem for India is that despite such reassurances it is finding it increasingly difficult to deal with a Pakistan government that lacks both cohesion and a clear centre of power. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government is on its last lap with elections due this summer. According to Pakistan’s constitution, an interim government is to be appointed after the dissolution of Parliament to oversee the elections.


India suspects the Pakistan Army is up to its old tricks to ensure that in the coming elections there is a fractured polity and thereby a weak civilian government that it could manipulate. With the extended tenure of Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan’s Army Chief, coming to an end in November, there is speculation about his post-retirement plans.


Given the domestic turmoil in Pakistan and a crucial transition in Afghanistan underway, the Pakistan Army is not likely to stage a coup in the coming months and capture power. Instead, Kayani may be looking to be elected President if a weak coalition government comes to power. Though, as history has shown, his successor as Army Chief may ensure that Kayani retires quietly or is banished abroad, like Pervez Musharraf was.


Manmohan’s tough talk and the Indian Army Chief’s belligerence appeared to have sent a clear message to the Pakistan Army that it should not mess with India. It was a warning to it not to internationalise the issue, including getting the US involved.


Pakistan has some leverage over the US Army till it pulls out of Afghanistan and it hoped to get it to put some pressure on India. But the US (and China too) quietly desisted, stating that the matter should be sorted out bilaterally. India also took a calculated risk of raising the stakes because in any case it expects no progress in its relations with Pakistan till the general elections are over.


Despite the hard talk, the Indian government did indicate to Pakistan that it had narrowed down its concerns to “the beheading” and the LoC and wanted someone in Pakistan to be held accountable. This enabled Pakistan to make the right conciliatory noises. So in that sense, after a sluggish start, the Manmohan Singh government seems to have recovered ground without pushing itself into a corner while dealing with Pakistan. That is a good move, but in the coming months India must not lower its guard while dealing with Pakistan.

Count judicial officer's Army service for pension benefits: HC

Saurabh Malik/TNS


Chandigarh, January 19

Thirty-six years after Kuldip Singh Uppal joined as a judicial officer after being demobilised from the Army, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed his petition and directed the counting of actual military service for pensionary benefits.


In his petition before the Bench of Justices Surya Kant and RP Nagrath, Uppal asserted that he was granted Emergency Commission in February 1964, before being demobilised from military service in July 1969 after national emergency was lifted.


He then joined PCS (Judicial Branch) in October 1977 on the basis of a competitive examination against the vacancies reserved for released Army personnel. The respondent-state, in its reply, claimed it was for the High Court of Punjab and Haryana to decide his claim for counting military service.


Taking up the matter, the Bench asserted: “We, however, find that the state government being the competent authority is responsible for making a decision with regard to the grant of pensionary benefits, though in consultation or seeking comments from the High Court.”


During the course of hearing, counsel appearing for the Punjab and Haryana High Court submitted that the petitioner was relieved from the military service in 1969 and joined the PCS (Judicial Branch) in 1977. There was a gap of about eight years after he was demobilised from Army service. Therefore, the petitioner would not be entitled to count the length of Army service towards pension benefits.


The Bench asserted: “This argument in our considered view, is wholly misconceived.” It also took note of the argument by the state counsel, who said the exercise for counting military service was required to be conducted at the time of appointment and not thereafter.


The Bench said, “The note (to this effect) rather casts a duty on the competent authority to decide this matter immediately after the appointment of a person in public service... The petition, therefore is allowed with a direction to State of Punjab to count the period of actual military service rendered by the petitioner for pensionary benefits.”


The case


Kuldip Singh Uppal was granted Emergency Commission in February 1964, before being demobilised from military service in July 1969


He then joined PCS (Judicial Branch) in Oct 1977


He had sought from the court that his military service be counted for pensionary benefits

Injured radio operator left behind by Air Force crew in Chhattisgarh jungles critical

Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh: An injured radio operator left behind by an Indian Air Force (IAF) crew after their helicopter crash-landed under Naxal fire in Chhattisgarh yesterday is in critical condition in hospital.


The radio operator, Head Constable M R Sahu of the Chhattisgarh police, was rescued by commandos of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) from jungles in Bastar yesterday evening. He was flown out of Chintagufa on the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border this morning and admitted to a hospital in Jagdalpur.


Another Chhattisgarh policeman injured in a gunbattle with Naxals yesterday afternoon has also been brought to the same hospital. He is one the policemen that the IAF helicopter had set out to rescue when it was shot down by Naxals in Timilwara.

Some 150 commandos are guarding the damaged M-17 helicopter in Bastar. IAF engineers are on way to the area. The helicopter's hydraulic systems and generators are learnt to have been damaged.


A Chhattisgarh police spokesperson said the IAF crew will be spoken to and the circumstances under which they left the radio operator and the helicopter behind found out.


In an inexplicable decision, the six IAF crew members had yesterday left the radio operator in the grounded helicopter and gone looking for help. The helicopter had two light machine guns with about 100 rounds of ammunition and other personal weapons.


"We are unable to understand why the captain and the crew decided to leave behind an injured man and the helicopter," a senior Home Ministry official told NDTV yesterday.


An IAF spokesperson has maintained that the crew's first task was to seek support to secure the helicopter and get medical attention for the radio operator.


The pilot too has told Chhattisgarh officials that his primary duty was to save the remaining crew members.

Pakistan planted landmines on Indian soil, Indian Army says

NEW DELHI: To prove that an infiltration had been undertaken by the Pakistan army into Indian soil earlier this month, the Indian Army on Wednesday released photographs of landmines allegedly planted by Pakistani troops.


In a statement, the Army said that it had shared these photographs with Pakistan at the recently held brigadier-level flag meeting at Chakan-Da Bagh in the Poonch Sector, where the two sides discussed the repeated ceasefire violations. Pakistan has denied all charges of initiating the aggression.


According to various media reports, the photographs of the landmine devices have clear markings that show they were manufactured in ordnance factories in Pakistan. The mines were reportedly recovered in an area dominated by Indian troops.


Defence ministry sources were quoted by a television channel as saying that Pakistan had refused to accept the file with the photographs and returned it to the Indian officials.


At the meeting, India lodged a strong protest against the repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the line of control (LoC) and also expressed concern at the barbaric way Pakistani troops treated the bodies of the two Indian soldiers who were killed last week. However, the Pakistani side, the Army said, denied all charges and was "adamant and arrogant" in its attitude. New Delhi has expressed unhappiness over the outcome of the meeting.


India says there have been five ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops since the flag meeting. Two rounds of firing were reported near the Line of Control (LoC) within an hour last evening. The Army said Indian troops did not retaliate.


The Pakistan Army however alleged this morning that Indian troops violated the ceasefire on the LoC on Tuesday and "carried out unprovoked firing" in Hotspring and Jandrot sectors killing one of its soldiers at Kundi post.


Pakistan's director general of military operations talked to his Indian counterpart this morning and lodged a protested about the alleged incident.


India has denied Pakistan's allegation. "If a Pakistani soldier has been killed, it may have been in retaliatory firing. We have not crossed the line of control," Army chief General Bikram Singh said this morning as he visited the family of one of the two jawans who were killed by Pakistani troops.


"We have never violated human rights, but when they fire, we also fire," he added.

Indian army just made up story of soldier beheading along LoC: Musharraf

In an interview to Times Now, Gen Pervez Musharraf fought tooth and nail to defend the Pakistan Army’s stand dismissing allegations that the Indian soldier was beheaded by their Army with help from militants.


A visibly aggressive Musharraf, in turn, heaped the blame of deteriorating relations with India on the latter, saying that there has been no effort from India to maintain civilised relations.

“Beheading a soldier and sending back his body is inexcusable. However, knowing the Pakistan Army, I can say for sure that it is not in our culture to do something as horrific as that. No disciplined army would do that,” said Musharraf.


When grilled further about the Pakistan Army’s nexus with militants like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a visibly agitated Musharraf said: “We are not mad people. Stop painting us as rogues when you yourself are not prepared to admit all the cruelty that you inflict on us. Let alone LoC, what is the logic behind kicking our singers out, sending back our hockey players?”


The former President of Pakistan went on to add that India has always had an inclination to be hysterical about everything. “The politicians, media everyone in India have a tendency to be hysterical about everything,” he added.

India Could Retaliate Against Pakistan for Beheading, Army Chief Says

The Indian military may retaliate at a “time of its choosing” for the recent beheading of an Indian soldier by the Pakistani army, the chief of the Indian army said Monday, ahead of a meeting at the border of the two countries.


“The beheading of our soldiers is unacceptable,” Gen. Bikram Singh said in a press conference in New Delhi. “If provoked, we will retaliate,” he said. “We reserve the right to retaliate at a time of our choosing.” The general also said that Indian soldiers were beheaded in 2011 and 2012 at the border, but did not provide more information about those incidents.


India and Pakistan have been observing a cease-fire since November 2003, but relations between the two countries continue to be tense, and that tension has escalated this month.


On Jan. 6, Pakistan accused the Indian army of crossing the Line of Control, killing one Pakistani soldier and injuring another critically at the Churonda post in the Uri area of Kashmir. India denied the allegations, and said that three civilians in the same area were killed by the Pakistani firing. Two days later, India accused Pakistan of killing two soldiers and beheading one of them. Pakistan denied those allegations, and suggested that United Nations observers should conduct an independent investigation, which India has turned down.


General Singh did not share any precise information, despite pointed questions, about the killing of the two Indian soldiers. The “situation is dynamic” at the border, he said. “There are actions and reactions.” He said that two days ago, the Indian army killed three people on the Line of Control, who may have been either members of the Pakistani army or infiltrators supported by them. “I expect all my commanders to be aggressive and offensive at the Line of Control,” he said.


General Singh said he intended to use any pressure possible, including “international pressure, to get the heads of our soldiers back.”


India and Pakistan, who both have nuclear weapons, have fought three wars in the past five decades.


Indian Army preparing for war: Pak media


New Delhi/Islamabad: India is preparing to launch a major strike on Pakistan, a Pakistani publication alleged, referring to a report citing New Delhi's plan to construct underground shelters for storing missiles, rockets and ammunition close to the borders.


The report published in the 'Pakistan today' said that India is planning to construct underground shelters to store ammunition close to the borders with Pakistan and China.


Citing that the development was a follow-up to the ongoing tensions between the two neighbours following the killing of two Indian soldier (one Indian soldier was beheaded by troops from the other side and his head was taken as trophy by Pakistan rangers), the report claimed that Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh was considering a proposal to shift at least 2,000-2,500 metric tonnes of ammunition near the border.


Apart from providing better logistics in the event of a war, these ammunitions termed to be "expensive and operationally important"’ will provide logistical support to the Northern and Eastern Army Commands, the report claimed.


The report claimed that New Delhi viewed Beijing as the "real long-term threat" over Pakistan and has taken up two pilot projects for construction of "underground and tunneled" storage of ammunition near the "northern borders" with China.


According to the report, a committee consisting of the Indian Army, DRDO and other experts had selected five sites in the north-east and two in Jammu and Kashmir for the underground shelters, but the plan was later narrowed down to a site each in Leh and Sikkim.


Similar project are expected to come along the western border with Pakistan, the report claimed.


At present, only around 4.5 lakh of the 8 lakh tonnes of ammunition authorised for the Army has proper storage facilities in the shape of modern and fire-resistant storage sheds or storehouses. The rest is stored mostly in the open, exposed to the weather. This often leads to explosions, fires and “mishandling of ammunition incidents’’ causing regular deaths as well as destruction of ammunition.



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