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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

From Today's Papers - 12 Feb 2013
Too early to assess J&K situation: Intel agencies
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 11
With Kashmir cocooned away from the world with almost no television news, restrictions on Internet and a clampdown by way of a curfew, Indian intelligence agencies say "it is too early to make an assessment beyond the immediate" to gauge the fallout of hanging of Afzal Guru.

Afzal Guru, a convict in the December 2001 Parliament attack case, was hanged to death on February 9 at Tihar Jail here leading to protests in Kashmir.

Sources told The Tribune that it would be hazardous to guess the fallout, if any, of the execution. As of now, the curfew and the restrictions on the SMS, Internet, television and newspapers have put a lid on any possible protests. A source said: "It would be very premature to announce that security and intelligence agencies apprehend no trouble following the hanging. Anger could show up during the summer months by way of blockades, protests and even a few incidents of violence".

Continuous assessment was being made by pooling in the resources of the state police CID wing, the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, the Military Intelligence and the Signal intelligence units, added another official. Some of these units routinely trace talk over hand-held radio sets and long distance calls.

So far there have been attempts from across the border to ignite the flames in Kashmir, including the conduct of a prayer meeting for Afzal Guru. The situation in Kashmir will see it first test on Friday prayers. Curfew could be lifted from one or two district headquarters. At present, all 10 district headquarters in the valley are under curfew and more than 50 persons have been injured in spontaneous protests.

Explaining the need for secrecy, officials said had it been made public that Afzal Guru's mercy petition had been rejected, someone could have got stay like it happened in the case of Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar and the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. Either way, his hanging or his continuing in prison was a politically sensitive issue. "He had become a political football, there was no way out", a source said.

Yesterday, an angry Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah slammed the execution of Afzal Guru and said this would reinforce a sense of alienation and injustice among generations of youth in the Valley.

He had said the long-term implications of the hanging of Guru were "far more worrying" as they were related to the new generation of youth in Kashmir "who may not have identified with Maqbool Bhatt ( hanged in 1984 for the murder of Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre) but will identify with Afzal Guru."

Omar had said: "Whether you like it or not, the execution of Afzal Guru has reinforced that point that there is no justice for them (Kashmiri youth). This is far more disturbing and worrying than the short-term implications on the security front".
Rafale, Jaitapur deals not on table during French Prez visit

New Delhi, February 11
Enhancing cooperation in the key areas of defence, nuclear energy, counter-terrorism and trade will be focus of French President Francois Hollande's first visit here but $10-billion deal for Rafale fighter aircraft will not be inked during his two-day stay starting Thursday.

Hollande, who will be on a state visit to India, his first stop in Asia after becoming President, will be accompanied by his companion Valerie Trierweiler and a high-level delegation comprising his cabinet colleagues and 45-strong business leaders.

The French President will hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on international, regional and bilateral issues such as situation in Mali where French forces are fighting terrorists.

"With upgradation of the relationship to strategic partnership in 1998, the relationship has become multifaceted and symbiotic in areas such as defence, civil nuclear energy, space and counter terrorism. There have been regular high-level exchanges at the head of state/head of government levels," Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

Referring to Hollande's visit, French Ambassador Fracois Richier said "there would be no signing of contract for supply of Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft" during it. He was speaking at a panel discussion on India-France relations here today.

However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that the talks with India to finalise the purchase of warplanes were "looking up".

Diplomatic sources also ruled out inking of a contract for nuclear reactors at Jaitapur. — PTI
CRPF beat back Naxal ambush at Gadchiroli
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 11
Attempts by a group of heavily armed Naxalites to ambush a CRPF patrol party early this morning was foiled with the security men beating back the guerrillas, according to information available from the Maharashtra state police.

The incident happened at 7 am when a CRPF patrol, on what is described as a routine mission, on the outskirts of Sirpur village in Gadchiroli district's Pendri area ran into an ambush set up by the Maoists. After a fierce gunfight lasting more than two hours, the Maoists were beaten back with several of them injured, the police said here.

The retreating Naxalites left behind a cache of IEDs, landmines and a wireless set, the police said. Following today's attack contingents of police and paramilitary forces have been rushed to the area to conduct combing operations, the police said.

Last November, 13 personnel from the CRPF were killed at this very area when Naxalites laid a trap for the security forces and ambushed them from all sides. However district authorities say the government has built several kutcha roads in the area in order to allow effective movement of security forces.
B'desh border guards cross into India, open fire

Kolkata, February 11
Personnel of the Bangladesh Border Guards, manning the international borders with India, today crossed into the Indian side and opened 'unprovoked' fire leaving a 40-year-old farmer dead and a child injured in Uttar Dinajpur district in West bengal, BSF officers said.

The DGP of the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and other personnel, crossed the Kulik river close to the international border, entered Indian villages and fired three rounds near the Makarhaat area, killing Md Farid and injuring a 13-year-old boy, the officers said.

BSF Additional Director General (East) B D Sharma told PTI: "Later during a flag meeting at the commandant level, they have admitted to the firing. But they claim that the Indian had crossed over to Bangladesh side for smuggling and the firing was done on their side of the border." Local reports said that Farid was found dead along the border on the Indian side with fertilisers found on him.

"Our men are saying that their jawans entered the Indian side and killed the man after an altercation with villagers," Sharma said. Senior officers have rushed to the spot to handle the situation while the injured boy has been admitted to Raiganj district hospital. — PTI
Army Chief on visit to Japan

New Delhi, February 11
Aiming to strengthen defence and security cooperation, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh today embarked on a four-day visit to Japan, where he will hold interaction with its top military leadership.

India's relations with Japan have undergone a significant transformation since the establishment of India-Japan global partnership for the 21st century in August 2000 and establishment of Indo-Japan strategic and global partnership in 2006. A Defence Policy Dialogue has been established between the two countries. — TNS
Time to strengthen intelligence units in states
by R.K. Raghavan

Two judicial hangings of terror convicts, within weeks of each other, are far too many to handle for any nation, especially one that had been globally looked upon derisively as a soft state. The sudden courage and spirit displayed by a government, which was squarely accused all these days politicising and dithering over needed legitimate decisions, should baffle the uninitiated observers outside the country. To us, familiar with the turns and twists of the Indian scene, the inference, however, is too glaring. Whatever is the motive behind the uncharacteristic alacrity in hanging Ajmal Kasab and Mohamed Afzal Guru, after years of wanton inactivity, the UPA government should be complimented for going through with the logical follow-up to the apex court decision in clinical fashion. More than the decision, its ability to keep such crucial and sensitive moves under the wraps is a tribute to its control over the administrative processes.

What was, however, galling was the refusal to extend the fundamental and civilised courtesy to Afzal's wife and son for one last meeting with the famous prisoner before his life was snuffed out. If the authorities believed that this was an undue concession that would have compromised secrecy and, therefore, security at Tihar Jail, the easy option was to have brought the family by a special aircraft (such as the ones with the BSF which is heavily deployed in the Valley) for this meeting and flown them back to Kashmir just before the hanging. Such a treatment — which would have enhanced our image as a country that respects human values — was no favour at all to a prisoner, who was otherwise treated as of a special category, evidenced from the unpardonable reluctance to dispose of his mercy petition within reasonable time.

Two hangings in quick succession and in utter secrecy are repulsive and do not gel with most of us. Public celebration of the event by a few fundamentalists on the other side of the spectrum was even more nauseating. The whole episode reeked of vengeance and retribution, something that should persuade us to hang our heads in shame.

The million dollar question now is whether there will be a reprisal on the Indian state to protest Afzal's hanging. There was none after Ajmal Kasab was executed. This is no reason why there will be none this time. There is no room for complacency. Kasab was a Pakistani national and his direct participation in the 26/11 savagery was beyond dispute. Afzal was different. An Indian citizen, the evidence against him was circumstantial, and some human rights activists and associates (including SAR Geelani of Delhi University, who was acquitted by the Delhi High Court after the trial court had found him guilty) have gone so far as to claim that he was innocent. This complicates the situation.

The only point is that Afzal owed allegiance to a weakened Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), founded in Pakistan in 2000, which lost a lot of ground after the rise of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and its encouragement by the ISI. The JeM suffered a major split in 2003 following differences between its overall leader Maulana Masood Azhar and its Karachi chief, Abdullah Shah Mazhar. It is also a fact at the same time that some of those who abandoned the JeM following the split moved over to militant outfits sympathetic to Al-Qaeda.

The LeT, responsible for the 26/11 attack on Mumbai and reportedly with some links with Al-Qaeda, has its significant indirect presence in India in the form of cadres of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen. It is facile to expect that the latter will remain quiet. Coming as it does against this backdrop, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's outburst against New Delhi for the Afzal execution is absolutely provocative. For quite some time he had been known to be opposed to the hanging. His predicament is quite understandable. His stand is clearly one of self-preservation, aimed at the stability of his otherwise fragile administration, and we cannot fault him for the posture he has taken. He has to necessarily convey his dissent with the Centre in public, and this he has done with an eloquence that should egg on the militants who are resolved to fight the Centre at all costs. A few columnists in the print media have also poured venom on New Delhi. They have managed to muddy the waters by circulating the impression that the evidence against Afzal was dicey and that he had been grievously wronged. It is naïve to believe that this orchestrated tirade against New Delhi is of no consequence. It should actually serve to harden militant thinking further.

I will, therefore, be totally surprised if there were no violent actions in the near future, not only in the Valley but in the heart of the country as well. Active support from across the border is a distinct possibility. It is anybody's guess as to what form that would take.

By all accounts our security forces are reasonably well prepared to meet any contingency. There may not be any major attacks on them or on civilian population. Sabotage of vital installations is, however, a distinct possibility. Airports and aircraft are seductive targets. The ease with which IC814 was hijacked on the eve of Christmas in 1999 with a humiliating sequel in which we had to release three of our prisoners serving a term in our jail is still green in our memory. The CISF at Indian airports has done a remarkably good job in protecting aviation infrastructure against terrorist adventure. But what about our flights which originate outside the country? There is some cause for worry here.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has a reasonable record in the area of fighting terrorism, with some scoops which could prevent major terrorist attacks. Despite certain irritants, such as the Headley episode, our relationship with the FBI/CIA and a host of foreign agencies has also been healthy. This has brought rich dividends. The heightened risks to our national security flowing from the Kasab and Afzal hangings dictate a closer collaboration with foreign intelligence outfits. Any criticism of our government for getting too cozy with them will be unwarranted. Sovereignty niceties should take a back seat, at least temporarily.

What I am most exercised is about the strength and effectiveness of the intelligence machinery in the states. Barring a few — that too on special occasions and for short spells — State Special Branches have been a weak link in the vital chain. They have been unabashedly misused for promoting the interests of ruling parties and Chief Ministers anxious to keep a tab on their Cabinet colleagues. Their professionalism is uniformly poor. The IB can greatly help in restructuring them, especially to equip them better for fulfilling their anti-terrorism role. The two currently enjoy a decent relationship.

What I envisage, however, is a symbiotic union that is bereft of politics. State Special Branches need a permanent cadre of their own, which is recruited on very high standards and their staff conferred attractive incentives, both in terms of salary and perquisites, combined with a fast rate of promotions. Only such a scheme of things will bring in recruits who are not allured by the unmentionable and downright illegal rewards that have become part and parcel of the tenure with the police in the field. The creation of an elite intelligence corps in the states that would complement the IB's resources and skills requires extreme enlightenment of state governments. Looking around, I do not perceive this just now!
Army chief General Bikram Singh leaves for Japan to bolster military ties
NEW DELHI: With India and Japan further cranking up their military ties across the entire spectrum, Army chief General Bikram Singh left for Tokyo on a four-day visit on Monday evening. There is a definite upswing in the strategic-military partnership with Japan.

General Singh's visit is part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two countries and highlights the importance of India's ties with Japan. A bilateral defence policy dialogue has been established. Army-to-army staff talks have also been institionalised,'' said an official.

General Singh will be meeting with the Japanese defence minister, the chief of general staff and the Army chief to discuss how to further strengthen bilateral ties. He will also visit some defence establishments,'' he added. The visit comes soon after India and Japan, both wary of the increasingly assertive behaviour of China and the rapid modernisation of the People's Liberation Army, held their first-ever maritime dialogue on January 29.

Ranging from joint combat exercises and coordinated anti-piracy patrols to counter-terrorism and service-to-service exchanges, India and Japan are implementing a new action plan to advance security cooperation''. The nine-point action plan, which dwells upon strategic and defence cooperation as well as coordination in tackling terrorism, piracy and proliferation, is meant to reinforce the strategic focus in the global partnership'' between India and Japan, say officials. India and Japan have similar views on several global and regional issues like extremism, terrorism and WMD-proliferation.

The two are also keen to ensure the safety of sea lanes in the Indian Ocean Region and Asia-Pacific because both depend largely on maritime traffic for their energy and trade needs,'' said an official. In addition to regular exercises between Indian and Japanese Coast Guards, our naval warships are also conducting coordinated anti-piracy patrolling in the Gulf of Aden. We also have regular Navy-to-Navy staff talks,'' he added.
US Offers Rs 9,900-Crore anti-Tank Missile to India
Yet another multi-billion dollar defence deal with the United States is in the works. New Delhi is in discussions with Washington to buy anti-tank guided missile systems worth $1.8 billion (Rs 9,900 crore) to arm its troops with the capability to destroy enemy armour.

The Indian Army is projected to deploy 8,356 Javelin missiles and 321 launchers to knock out enemy tanks from a distance of 2.5 km – it had first tested the capabilities of the missile in October 2009 during joint military exercises with the US.

The outcome of the latest tests of the missile – a joint venture between US defence firms Raytheon and Lockheed Martin – is expected to give fresh impetus to the proposed acquisition.

The fire-and-forget Javelin missile acquired and engaged targets up to 4.75 km, nearly twice the range requirement of the Indian Army, during tests conducted at Eglin Air Base in Florida.

"The US and Indian armies will be conducting Yudh Abhyas exercise at Fort Bragg in the US in May 2013. This may present another opportunity for Indian soldiers to fire the Javelin…The enhanced range performance is a critical milestone for us," Brad Barnard, senior manager, Raytheon Javelin International Growth, told HT at Aero India 2013.

The enhanced capability indicates that the one-man portable missile can potentially be used in both vehicle and dismounted roles. India plans to buy the Javelin system under the US government's foreign military sales (FMS) programme in which the Pentagon serves as an intermediary.

This is a government-to-government transaction, unlike direct commercial sales negotiated directly between foreign governments and the US arms manufacturers.

Defence minister AK Antony had told Parliament in August 2010 that India was looking at a possible purchase of the third-generation anti-tank guided missile from the US. The Javelin Joint Venture is awaiting a formal letter of request to kick start the procurement.

Raytheon executives said the firm was ready to respond to all requests of the Indian government relating to the evaluation and procurement of the Javelin missile system.

The US is pitching for the lucrative order at a time when Antony has asked the armed forces to prioritise their purchases against the backdrop of a shrinking defence budget. He, however, emphasised that the military's operational readiness would not be compromised.

Foreign military contractors don't seem to be discouraged. BAE Systems international managing director Guy Griffiths told HT, "This is not an unusual issue. We face such situations everyday in the US and Europe. We are taking a long-term view of the Indian defence market and our prognosis is things will improve as the economy grows."

US defence and aerospace firms have won contracts worth more than $9 billion (Rs 49,500 crore) over the last five years to equip the Indian military with special operations aircraft, heavy airlifters and submarine hunter planes. India is also negotiating deals worth $3 billion (Rs 16,500 crore) with the US for supplying heavy-lift and attack helicopters to the IAF.

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