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Thursday, 31 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 31 Jan 2013
China to construct three more dams on Brahmaputra

Beijing, January 30
China has approved construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet in addition to the one being built, and much to the disquiet of India, it has not been informed about the plans so far.

A document approved by the Chinese cabinet recently mentioned three dams to be built at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra, Indian officials here said.

The document listing projects to be completed in China's 12th five year plan made a passing reference to the three dams without any details, they said. India has not been informed about the move so far, they said.

Asked about the plans to build the dams, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei told a media briefing here that "China has always taken a responsible attitude towards the development of cross border rivers".

"Any new project has to go through scientific planning and study with consideration of the interests of lower and upper stream countries", he said.

Brahmaputra river is known as Yarlung Zangbo in China. Asked whether plans to build the dams have been approved and whether India and Bangladesh, which were lower riparian countries of the river, have been informed, Hong said he needs to get specific information.

Beijing's decision comes at a time when India-China relations have improved considerably in all areas of cooperation and the two countries held lengthy round of the bilateral exchanges during National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon's visit here with his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo.

Sharing of cross-border river waters has figured in the discussions but apparently China has not informed India of its plans to build the dams. In his interactions with media after the talks, Menon has spoken about the two sides discussing water flows and China assurance that nothing what it is doing will affect the flows. — PTI
Navy, IAF adjudged best marching contingents
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
The Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been jointly declared the best marching contingents among the services and the CISF among the paramilitary forces in this year's Republic Day parade.

For the first time since India became a Republic, the Indian Navy marching contingent has won the award for the 'best marching contingent" at the parade.

Kerala won the prize for the best Republic Day tableau while Rajasthan was chosen second and Chhattisgarh third in the category of "best three tableaux", the official said.

The tableau presented by the Central Public Works Department has been selected for a special prize.

Children of the Eastern Zone Cultural Centre, Kolkata, won the prize for "best schoolchildren item" for Purulia's Chhau Dance. The consolation prize was won by Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Amalwas, New Delhi.

The official said three panels of judges were appointed for assessing the performance of marching contingents from the three services and paramilitary forces, the various tableaux and items presented by schoolchildren.
Zardari in difficult straits
Many factors may hit his party’s poll prospects
by G. Parthasarathy

President Asif Ali Zardari appears set to go down in Pakistan's history as the first head of a democratically elected government to complete its full term, without having been destabilised, dismissed or ousted by a military coup. President Zardari was under constant siege not only from his hawkish Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, but also from the country's mercurial Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Chief Justice bears a deep grudge against the President because of the latter's disinclination to restore him to office after he was summarily sacked by President Musharraf in 2007.

The empathy between the Chief Justice and General Kayani goes back to the days when as DG (ISI), then Lt-General Kayani was the only army officer close to Musharraf who did not harangue the Chief Justice when Musharraf summoned and summarily sacked him in 2007. Moreover, while pretending to be a champion of democratic freedoms, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had the dubious distinction of being among the first judges to sanctify the military coup by General Musharraf in October 1999. He was then Chief Justice of the Baluchistan High Court.

While haranguing the elected government and seeking the arrest of two prime ministers, the Chief Justice has treaded very warily in dealing with serving army officers. His decision to order the arrest of the present Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, came even while he looked the other way at allegations of kickbacks and illegal cash transfers in shady property deals by his son Arsalan Iftikhar. Moreover, General Kayani himself now has a tainted reputation even within the ranks of the army because of serious allegations of corruption and irregularities on the transit of NATO supplies against his brother.

President Zardari's troubles were compounded by the strange and unexpected return to Pakistan Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Barelvi cleric, who controls a vast network of charities, running hundreds of schools, colleges, libraries and medical facilities, primarily in the populous army-dominated Punjab province. A majority of Pakistanis are Barelvis and constitute a powerful, though leaderless and disorganised, vote bank.

While Qadri supported the 1999 coup by General Musharraf and was elected to Parliament, he soon found that he was marginalised because of the close links the military had with Wahabi-oriented groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which periodically target and kill Barelvis and Shias. He obtained political asylum in Canada, leading many to allege that with his strong views against terrorism, he enjoyed CIA and western backing.

Collecting around 30,000 supporters, Qadri undertook a “Long March” to Islamabad, where he demanded that the present “corrupt” government be replaced by an interim government, appointed by the Army Chief and the Chief Justice. He also demanded removal of the highly respected Chief Election Commissioner Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim. Interestingly, Chief Justice Chaudhry ordered the arrest of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on charges of corruption on the same day that Qadri reached the capital, sparking off yet another constitutional crisis. Pakistan's squabbling political parties got together and rejected Qadri's demands while calling for early elections as mandated by the Constitution. The National Accountability Bureau, investigating the case against the Prime Minister, rejected the Supreme Court's order for his arrest, stating that investigations in the case were still ongoing.

The Zardari government and Qadri reached an agreement on January 18, leading to the end of the agitation in Islamabad. While Qadri's demand for a national government appointed by General Kayani and Justice Chaudhry was rejected, the government agreed that the cleric would be “consulted” in the formation of an interim government. His other demands like the dismissal of the Chief Election Commissioner were also rejected. The government agreed that the National and Provincial Assemblies would be dissolved by March 16 and elections thereafter held within 90 days. It remains to be seen how a consensus would be reached on the formation of an interim government, though both major parties, the PPP and the PML (N), appear agreed that the army must not be allowed to intervene, using the Chief Justice and the likes of Maulana Qadri as proxies.

Preparations for the forthcoming elections are now gathering momentum. The anti-incumbency factor, amidst rising inflation, endemic power shortages and allegations of corruption will weigh heavily against President Zardari's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP). This is, however, countered by growing anti-Punjabi sentiments in rural Sind, the bastion of the PPP, about the assassination of two Sindhi Prime Ministers, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, purportedly at the hands of the Punjabi military establishment. Bilawal Bhutto has already played on these sentiments. More importantly, an important card for the ruling PPP-PML (Q) Alliance is its support for a separate state of “Seraikistan,” to be carved out of the Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan regions of South Punjab.

There is alienation in this Seraiki-speaking region against discrimination by Punjabi-speaking rulers, from the army-dominated North Punjab. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (N) have opposed this move and will find themselves at a disadvantage in South Punjab against a powerful array of politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Pervaiz Elahi and former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. With 80 per cent of Punjab's development budget going to the army-dominated North, which also dominates the Police and civil services, Seraiki grievances run deep. Insensitivity of the Punjabi establishment towards the aspirations of others has contributed significantly to the alienation in other parts of the country. The PML (N) is seeking to forge alliances with sectarian Barelvi groups to counter the Muhajir-dominated MQM in urban centres like Karachi and Hyderabad and in Punjab. Imran Khan, the favourite of jihadi and Taliban-oriented outfits and the military establishment, has been losing momentum but is likely to eat into sections of the traditional vote base of the PML (N).

The present scenario can change in the next five months in the run-up to the elections, given the propensity of the army to covertly influence the dynamics of politics. The army's traditional animosity towards the PPP runs deep as do its fears of what a strong leader from the Punjabi heartland like Nawaz Sharif can do to erode its domination of national life. Maulana Qadri's proposal for a caretaker government appointed by the army and the Chief Justice enjoyed tacit army support. Both Chief Justice Chaudhry and General Kayani are scheduled to retire this year. A handpicked caretaker government would perhaps not be adversely disposed to suitably “accommodating” them after their superannuation!
Mumbai varsity course text has material from Pakistani defence site
THANE: Thousands of undergraduate students, studying under the University of Mumbai, have taken lessons on human rights violations, the caste divide in India, and the alleged communal bias of the Indian Army and police from a Foundation Course-II (FC-II) book that has material sourced from Pakistan's defence website.

TOI reported on January 18 that Professor Michael Vaz authored the book, which has the controversial and communally sensitive content and is meant for first and second-year students. Vaz now claims that he was unaware that the selective content in the book came from the Pakistani site. "I was unaware that some of the content in the book was sourced from the Pakistan defence website. I do not want to talk on this issue, but will assure you that the new book will delete all such controversial references," Vaz told TOI. Critics had termed content in the book's chapter " Human Rights Violations and Redressal" as controversial.

The book, published by Mannan Prakashan, stirred a string of protests from political parties, with senior BJP functionary Sanjay Kelkar and general secretary from Navi Mumbai, Santosh Pachlag, holding a demonstration and burning copies of the book at Vashi, Navi Mumbai on January 18.

Pachlag said that less than a week after the TOI report, Vaz sent him a letter of regret stating that the controversial content in the book was not his own comments, but were sourced from newspaper reports and articles on the net. "In his letter, Professor Vaz shared the URL from where he had copied the content. One of the links was that of Pakistan's defence, wherein a commentator had painted a picture of India as an anarchic state torn by communal bias and caste-hatred," said Pachlag. "It's all vague commentary taken out of context by the writer and used to demonize India. However, it is very unfortunate that our students should be taught all that and that too in their textbook."

Pachlag added, "The topics in the FC course are meant to sensitize the student community towards human rights violations and bring before it a true picture of the goings-on. Instead, the book is a propaganda tool for spreading lies about our nation and Professor Vaz has copied the content from a Pakistani website without bothering to verify the facts. Neither has the learned academician or the publisher thought it important to present a view and counter-view on the issue and now they want to wash their hands of the controversy."

Pachlag said the book's publisher, Nitin Shah, has given an unconditional apology, but it is too little too late as students have prepared for their exams from the book which is bound to colour their minds.

The BJP functionary added that they will take up the case with the police and press for sedition charges against the author and publisher. "It is not only anti-national but also a fraud as there is a clear copyright violation here by the author."

Vaz, on his part, said his new book would be vetted carefully and any blame ascribed to political parties or the mentioning of names would be strictly avoided.
No Knowledge of Pakistan Complaints, Indian Officials Say
Following the recent killings of Indian and Pakistani soldiers near the Kashmir border, a local newspaper reported classified United Nations documents show that the cycle of violence between troops of the two countries has continued despite the cease-fire in 2003.

The Hindu, a national English-language daily newspaper, said Wednesday that Pakistan has repeatedly complained to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan about the killings of at least 18 of its soldiers, including four beheadings, by Indian forces between 2000 and 2011. The United Nations group was set up in 1949 to monitor cease-fire violations between the two countries.

Indian officials denied the report on Wednesday.

In the worst flare-up since the 2003 cease-fire, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire near the Line of Control earlier this month, resulting in deaths on both sides. At the time, India accused Pakistan of beheading one of its soldiers, a charge Pakistan denies.

Among the complaints it filed, Pakistan alleged in 2003 that Indian forces decapitated one of its soldiers, the Hindu said.

The Hindu also reported that Pakistan also complained that Indian forces decapitated two civilians during a massacre in the village of Bandala in 1998, which claimed 22 civilian lives.

Indian army spokesperson Col. Jagdeep Dahiya described the article as “erroneous and speculative.”

“The Indian Army is highly professional and does not indulge in un-soldierly acts as alleged in the article,” he said. “The very fact that Pakistan has not raised such issues in bilateral interactions since 1998 bears testimony to allegations leveled against the Indian army being misleading,” he said.

Col. Dahiya also said that there is an existing mechanism to regulate conflict near the line of control between India and Pakistan. “The article seems to have been based on one-sided allegations made by the Pakistan army to UNMOGIP,” he said, an organization whose status is questionable.

Sitanshu Kar, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Defense, said that he had no knowledge of Pakistan’s complaints to the United Nations group, and that he had not been contacted for The Hindu article. “It’s the first time I’m hearing about this,” he said. “I have not seen any such document.”

Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for the India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that India did not have any formal exchange with the United Nations Military Observer Group. “We feel that Unmogip has outlived its relevance,” he said. The country’s relationship with the organization ended after India and Pakistan entered the 1972 Simla Agreement, in which both countries said they would resolve their disputes bilaterally.

Mr. Akbaruddin added that Pakistan had not raised these complaints directly with India. “Frankly, this is not a discussion we have had diplomatically,” he said.

An official at the United Nations organization’s office in Srinagar refused to comment on the report, or whether such complaints by Pakistan had been received. Calls made to the group’s office in Delhi were not answered.

Lt. Gen. Baljit Singh Jaswal, who from October 2009 to December 2010 led the Northern Command, which supervises troops in Jammu and Kashmir, said that India had engaged in no cross-border violations during that time.

General Jaswal, now retired, added that Pakistan had violated the cease-fire “numerous times” and that India had exchanged retaliatory fire.
Indian Army denies torturing, decapitating Pakistanis
The Indian Army Wednesday described as "erroneous and speculative" a media report that Indian soldiers had tortured and decapitated Pakistani troops.

The army said in a statement that it was a "highly professional force and does not indulge in unsoldierly acts as alleged" in the newspaper story.

"The very fact that Pakistan has not raised any such issue in bilateral interactions since 1998 bears testimony to the allegations being misleading," it said.

It said it was incorrect to say that there was no agreed mechanism to regulate conflicts along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

It said that "existing hotlines were effective in reducing the tensions along the LoC recently". A front-page story in a newspaper Wednesday reported classified Pakistani protests to the UN that accused Indian troops of torture and decapitation of at least 12 Pakistani soldiers in cross-LoC raids since 1998.

The report and the army denial follow tensions along the LoC after a Pakistani soldier was killed Jan 6 by the Indian Army and Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers two days later.One of the Indian soldiers was beheaded and the head carried away. The other soldier's body was reportedly mutilated.

The Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries have since agreed to stick to the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC.

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