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Friday, 1 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 01 Feb 2013
Ensure India’s interests are not hit, China told
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

“Keeping an eye”

An MEA spokesman says India continues to carefully monitor all developments on the Brahmaputra

Indian concerns have been conveyed to the Chinese authorities at the highest levels

3 more dams

China has approved construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra in Tibet in addition to the one already being built. A document approved by the Chinese Cabinet recently mentioned three dams to be built at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra.

New Delhi, Jan 31
Alarmed over reports suggesting that China proposed to construct three more dams on river Brahmaputra in Tibet, India today asked Beijing to ensure that the interests of downstream states were not harmed by any activities in upstream areas.

Talking to reporters here, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India continued to carefully monitor all developments on the Brahmaputra and has conveyed its “views and concerns” to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels.

“As a lower riparian state with considerable established user rights to the waters of the river, India has conveyed its views and concerns to the Chinese authorities, including at the highest levels of the Government of the People's Republic of China. India urges China to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas,” he said.

He was responding to a query regarding China approving construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet in addition to the one being built.

A document approved by the Chinese Cabinet recently mentioned three dams to be built at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra, according to Indian officials in Beijing. 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.
Antony for wait and watch policy on ties with Pak
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31
Defence Minister AK Antony today reiterated a “wait and watch” policy in normalising relations with Pakistan while dismissing its claims of the Indian Army having beheaded Pakistani soldiers in the past.

Nothing should be done in haste, the minister said, adding that the second round of Director General Military Operations (DGMO)-level talks had reduced tension along the Line of Control (LoC), but the guard cannot be lowered. "We have to take all precautions to face any eventuality and we (the Ministry of Defence) are advising everybody that do not be hasty about normalisation. You wait and watch and only then move forward. That is our approach," he said on the sidelines of a defence function today.

Tensions along the LoC had flared up on January 8 after the brutal killing of Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh in Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

Antony also dismissed the Pakistani army claim in complaints to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) that several of its troops have been beheaded by the Indian Army over the last 15 years. "Totally baseless," he said in response to a query on Pakistan’s complaint to the UNMOGIP.

A newspaper report yesterday had cited Pakistani army complaints with UNMOGIP on the issue following which the Indian Army questioned the relevance of the UN body after the signing of the 1972 Simla Agreement. Army Public Relations Officer Colonel Jagdeep Dahiya had said yesterday, "Since the 1972 Simla Agreement, the relevance of UNMOGIP itself remains questionable.”

The UNMOGIP arrived in India in 1949 following the ceasefire and India says following the Simla Agreement all matters have to be resolved bilaterally.

On media reports of China building three more dams on the Brahmaputra river, Antony said, "We have not yet received the factual position. So, my reaction at this time would be premature. We will wait for the details and then the government will take a considered view."

Regarding operations in Naxal areas, Antony categorically stated that the IAF and Army will not get involved in direct operations and would provide logistics and training support to the central armed police forces.
India, Pak came close to N-confrontation 5 times
Shyam Bhatia in London

India and Pakistan came dangerously close to a nuclear confrontation on at least five occasions in the past 20 years, according to a visiting Pakistani nuclear physicist, defence analyst and editor of a new book “Confronting the Bomb: Indian and Pakistani Scientists Speak Out.”
In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy said the most serious confrontation was at the time of the 1999 Kargil war when Pakistan launched a covert operation hoping that its soldiers would ascend the mountains and cut India’s supply routes. Tensions were high and nuclear weapons were readied for use.

“According to Bruce Ridel, former Special Adviser to the US President who was present when President Bill Clinton met Nawaz Sharif in the White House, Nawaz replied in the negative when Clinton asked him if he knew what his army was doing.”

Other occasions

Hoodbhoy said the first of the nuclear dramas started more than a decade earlier - during Operation Brass Tacks in 1987 - just when Pakistan acquired the bomb and sent a message to India: Don’t get closer.

“General Sundarji was in charge on the Indian side. He was a man who was gung ho about putting Pakistan in its right place. Here was a man who was terribly in love with nuclear weapons and used to say India doesn’t need more than five nuclear weapons - for Karachi, Quetta, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad.”

Hoodbhoy said when tensions peaked over Kashmir in 1990 and there was an exodus of Kashmiri refugees into Pakistan, Islamabad again moved its nuclear weapons from Kahuta to the Chaklala air force base on to F16s. “That’s when the Americans are said to have known about it and conveyed a message to the Indians to back off.”

In 2002, soon after the attack on India’s Parliament by Jaish-e-Mohammed, New Delhi invoked Operation Parakaram to “stare down” Pakistan. “Pakistan warned India by saying, “We’ve got nukes.”

Had India crossed the international border, it would have been confronted by a nuclear holocaust. Of course, Pakistan would have had to face one too.

“In 2008 at the time of the attacks in Mumbai, there were voices that said that it was the time to ready nuclear weapons. I was in a TV studio with General Hamid Nawaz.

“When the anchor asked what should be done if India attacked, General Nawaz replied: Let’s nuke them before they get too close to us.”

Safe-keepers of Pak weapons

Hoodbhoy said he himself was against nuclear weapons. “I want both countries to get rid of nukes. I want them to shake hands and embrace each other. India and Pakistan are cultural cousins. Let’s not let the Arabs divide us.”

He added that current concerns within Pakistan about the future safety and security of the country’s nuclear arsenal stem from worries about what would happen if Islamic extremists, or jihadists, got their hands on nuclear weapons.

“They believe the Government of Pakistan has to be destroyed for Islamic order to take over. So there is no limit to this madness. Even the Pakistan army which had as its recruiting slogan - Jihad in the name of God - today has had to distance itself from the jihadis.

“If a nuclear weapon gets stolen...if fissile material is stolen...that could have catastrophic consequences. A stolen nuclear weapon could be detonated in principle anywhere in the world and the most likely would be either a city in India or a city in Pakistan. You might ask why in Pakistan? Its beyond comprehension. But then, also beyond comprehension is why a Muslim would blow himself up in a mosque (in Pakistan).”

Currently, the custodian of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) of the Pakistan army which is made up of 12,000-15,000 soldiers headed by General Khalid Kidwai.

The SPD claims to have complete control over weapons by virtue of installing electronic locks, enhancing perimeter protection and having a Personnel Reliability Programme (PRP).

“Electronic locks are things that are installed and require keys. The keys are similar to how you protect your email and computer from predators,” explained Hoodbhoy.

“Permissive Actions Links, known as PALS, are devices that enable the nuclear weapon to explode if and when desired and only when they pass through strict environmental tests - environmental meaning that certain conditions have to be fulfilled. For example, if it is a bomb to be dropped from an aircraft, then it’ll experience zero gravity for a while...or if it is a bomb installed for a missile, then that missile has to experience acceleration and so forth.”

He said one of the key features of the safety programme was the institution of the Personnel Reliability Programme, devised with the help and funding of the US.

“That entails asking prospective employees, which means soldiers and others involved with nuclear weapons, to pass a battery of tests.

“To the extent that I know, they ask individuals about their religious affiliations. Of course, all of them are Muslim, but do they belong to the Wahabi sect, the Deobandhi, to this or that Sufi sect? And who are their friends? Who are the people they work with? All that goes into forming the PRP.

“What’s plainly dangerous is that if Pakistan continues to radicalise - at this rate - things might get out of the army’s control. So paradoxically, a strong Pakistan army is probably a better guarantor of stability than a Pakistani state that disintegrates. And India should recognise that.

“Even though the Indian and Pakistani armies are at loggerheads over a number of issues, the Pakistan army is necessary for India’s continued survival.”
Tell us the truth on Kargil, demands Pakistani daily
Islamabad: The country deserves to know the truth on the Kargil "fiasco" that led to the deaths of hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and damaged ties with India, said a leading Pakistani daily.

An editorial in the Dawn on Wednesday said "...we have understood how Kargil came to be what it really was: a poorly planned and badly executed operation that put hundreds of our soldiers at risk, and not the mujahideen-led jihad initially sold to the nation".

New revelations paint an even bleaker picture of this gamble that General Musharraf took as army chief.
"...when the head of the ISI's analysis wing at the time (Lieutenant General Shahid Aziz) says he only found out about the operation after it had been launched - and that the same was true for most of the corps commanders and senior army staff, including the head of military operations - his words should prompt yet another look at the Kargil fiasco," said the daily.

"Not taking the senior leadership into confidence, both within the army and in the other armed forces, had obvious consequences: the lack of a viable strategy, inadequate logistical planning and a poor calculation of the Indian response, all of which cost Pakistan the lives of hundreds of soldiers, further damaged relations with India and contributed to the political upheaval that followed," it added.

It pointed out that there is no objective public record of what took place.

"Musharraf had reportedly banned discussion of the topic at the National Defence University, where military operations otherwise form important case studies. And while it eventually surfaced that scores of Pakistani soldiers had died, the lies the media was fed in the early days of the conflict indicate that misinformation was a critical component of this operation."

The editorial said that many questions still remain, including about the role of the political leadership.

"Was the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, aware of the plan? Was he ordered to seek out American help for a ceasefire, or was he responsible, as Gen Musharraf has claimed, for the operation's failure?

"A decade and a half later, it is time for an objective, official examination of the facts, and for making them public. If Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz and others who have spoken up are wrong, they should be contradicted. Even though preventing future mistakes is all that can be done now, the country deserves to know the truth," it added.
Antony rubbishes Pakistan’s claims of its soldiers’ beheading by Indian Army
New Delhi: India on Thursday rejected as "totally baseless" Pakistan's claim that its troops have also been beheaded by the Indian Army in the past.
Defence Minister AK Antony said though tension along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir have "reduced" after the talks between the Directors General of Military Operations of the two countries, there was a need to remain vigilant and his Ministry has advised the government against being hasty on the issue of normalising ties with Pakistan.
"Totally baseless," he told reporters here when asked about Pakistan Army's claim in complaints to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) that several of its troops have been beheaded by the Indian Army in last 15 years.
Reports had said on Wednesday that Pakistan Army had filed complaints with UNMOGIP on the issue following which the Indian Army questioned the relevance of the UN body after the signing of the 1972 Simla agreement.
"Since the 1972 Simla Agreement, the relevance of UNMOGIP itself remains questionable," Army spokesperson Colonel J Dahiya had said.
Tension along the Line of Control (LoC) had increased between the two countries after the killing of two Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops on January 8 in J&K's Mendhar sector. One of them Lance Naik Hemraj was beheaded.
On reports that China was building three dams on the Brahmaputra River, Antony said, "We have not yet received the factual position. So, my reaction at the time would be premature. We will wait for the details and then the government will take a considered view."
He said "Even though after the second round of DGMO-level talks the tension around LoC has reduced, we cannot lower our guard and we have to be vigilant 24x7.
"We have to take all precautions to face any eventuality and we are advising everybody that do not be hasty about normalisation. You wait and watch and then only move forward. That is our approach," he said.
Austerity in India - Defense and welfare spending to be slashed
(Reuters) - India's finance minister is putting welfare, defence and road projects on the chopping block in a last-ditch attempt to hit a tough fiscal deficit target by March, risking short-term economic growth and angering cabinet colleagues.

The cuts will reduce spending by about 1.1 trillion Indian rupees ($20.6 billion) in the current financial year, some 8 percent of budgeted outlay, or roughly 1 percent of estimated gross domestic product, two senior finance ministry officials and a senior government adviser told Reuters.

It is the first time the scale of the cuts and details of where the axe will fall have been made public, with officials revealing startling details about delays to arms purchases and belt-tightening for politically sensitive rural welfare schemes in an election year.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has staked his reputation on lowering the deficit to 5.3 percent of GDP to improve the investment climate following ratings agency threats to downgrade to junk India's sovereign debt if action was not taken.

After a series of investor-friendly reforms and small steps to reduce fuel subsidies, he has now turned firepower on big-spending colleagues, some of whom are pushing back, worried cuts will hit voters ahead of a national election due in early 2014.

"Every ministry is affected by the budget cuts. We are trying hard to get as much money as possible," said a senior official in the road transport ministry, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

A drop-off in investment, hurting growth, is blamed in part on public spending that is funded through market borrowing crowding out the private sector.

Policymakers say getting India's finances in order will give private players room to borrow and the confidence to invest.

"With fiscal discipline, what will happen is that there will be larger money with the private sector, which can be used for the growth," said B.K. Chaturvedi, a senior adviser to the government on infrastructure spending.

Chidambaram will officially report the revised spending figures for 2012/13 when he presents next year's budget to parliament on February 28.

"It is I who have done the math, the deficit will remain below 5.3 percent this year, next year it will be below 4.8 percent. I am not going to cross these red lines," Chidambaram told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

His attention has turned to spending because revenue has dropped. The economy is on track to grow about 5.6 percent this year, the lowest rate for a decade, and the government is struggling to raise $10 billion in hoped-for windfall cash from partial privatisations and mobile spectrum sales.

The government had originally targeted a fiscal deficit of 5.1 percent in the current financial year, but loosened the target in October. It was 5.8 percent in 2011/12.


The impact of measures to cut bloated subsidies will mostly not be felt this fiscal year, which runs to the end of March.

"We are estimating a budget cut of 1.1 trillion rupees ($20.6 billion) as an outer limit. However, the final picture will be clear by March 15 when we have a clear idea about tax collections and the fuel subsidy bill," said a senior finance ministry official, who declined to be named.

A senior official at the defence ministry -- the world's biggest arms importer in recent years -- said a $1.9 billion cut there could delay efforts to buy howitzer guns and Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States by at least few months.

"The Indian army would be hit hard due to budget cuts," said the official, noting that a defence deal worth more $12 billion for procuring 126 jet fighters from France's Rafale was already delayed by at least three months.

Up to $4 billion will be lost at the rural development ministry, which has the largest budget after defence, hitting spending on roads, housing, and the government's flagship rural job-guarantee program, a senior official in the ministry said.

Top officials at the finance, transport, rural development ministries and a government body on spending said ministries were likely to get 20-30 percent less funds for assets and projects such as roads, power, rural housing, jobs and shipping.


Critics warn that at a time of low growth, lower spending risks deepening the slowdown without helping the deficit-to-GDP ratio, a problem familiar to the austerity-racked economies of Europe.

Chidambaram's cuts mainly affect capital investment and he has avoided attacking government wage bills and subsidy spending known in India as "non-plan expenditure".

Even so, powerful ministers have protested about the impact lower spending will have.

Jairam Ramesh, Rural Development Minister and a close confidant of Rahul Gandhi, the ruling Congress party's likely candidate for prime minister in next year's vote, wrote to Chidambaram asking for a review of the cuts to rural welfare.

"Both Prime Minister and you have spoken about the need for fiscal consolidation, but not at the cost of our social priorities," a government source said, reading from the letter to the finance ministry.

Congress draws support from India's rural majority and a second-term victory in 2009 was partly due to a scheme guaranteeing work to the country's poor, along with a $13 billion farm debt waiver introduced by Chidambaram.

Abheek Barua, chief economist at HDFC Bank, India's second largest private lender, recognized the need to lower the deficit but said the cuts would hit the investment cycle and short-term demand and damage a drive to improve creaking infrastructure.

"Ideally the government should have cut non-planned expenditure such as subsidies," he said. "It also fails to a address the supply bottlenecks leading to inflationary pressures."

The finance minister was backed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and influential adviser Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a series of meetings with government officials, two officials privy to the agenda of the meetings said. Congress party leaders have publicly given backing to fiscal consolidation in recent days.

Harvard-educated Chidambaram has promised to provide enough funds for the government's flagship programs -- food security, rural jobs, village roads, health and education in the budget -- once he succeeds in improving the government deficit this year.

India earmarked $97 billion for spending on such projects out of the $278 billion budget for the current fiscal year.

The finance ministry has also imposed a ban on hiring in ministries, meetings at luxury hotels, the purchase of new vehicles and places some restrictions on foreign tours.

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