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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 19 Mar 2013




India, China defence talks this month-end

Ajay Banerjee/TNS


New Delhi, March 18

Making some progress in bilateral relations, India and China are slated to hold high-level military talks at the end of this month when the top Indian defence establishment officials meet the visiting Chinese defence delegation in New Delhi.


The two sides will aim at cementing the agenda laid down in September last year when Defence Minister AK Antony and his counterpart General Liang Guanglie met in New Delhi, reviving ties and smoothening out some of the rough edges. It was the first visit to India by a Chinese Defence Minister since 2004.


Chinese Deputy Chief of General Staff General Qi Jianguo is set to arrive in India. He will hold talks with Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma. This will be the second meeting between the two officials since January. Sources said key points will be: enhanced defence cooperation, military exchanges like joint exercise, maintaining peace alongside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and discussion on plans to work together in the Asia-Pacific region.


The two functionaries had met in Beijing this January for the third India-China Annual Defence Dialogue.


During this round of talks, the two countries will be looking to have a formula to expand and enhance bilateral exchanges covering the Army, Navy and the Air Force of either country. The two functionaries will work at laying down the groundwork to boost mutual trust and enhance mutually beneficial practical cooperation.


At the last meeting, the two sides agreed to hold a bilateral military exercise in 2013. The dates and the scope of joint exercise are expected to be finalised during this meet.


By the principle of reciprocity, the joint exercise is slated to be conducted in China, the last one code named ‘Hand-in-Hand’ having been conducted in Belgaum, Karnataka in December 2008.


India and China have already announced that they have reached consensus on a wide range of issues relating to defence and military exchanges and cooperation. Besides joint exercises, the two neighbours, who often compete with each for global resources and a share in the overseas markets, have agreed to strengthen border cooperation between the border troops of the two sides. This is intended to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC.


With tension brewing in the South China Sea, Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi announced that his force was ready to protect Indian interest (in oil exploration) in those areas. Plans are afoot to begin joint maritime search and rescue exercises. Warships of both nations already cooperate on counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.


There is a school of thought which says that India and China need to focus on commonalities between the two countries which are more important than the differences they have.


Defence Minister AK Antony is slated to visit China in May/June this year, the first visit by an Indian Defence Minister since Pranab Mukherjee’s visit, who went there in June 2006.

On the agenda

The two sides will aim at cementing the agenda laid down in September

Enhanced defence cooperation and military exchanges like joint exercises

Maintaining peace alongside the Line of Actual Control

Laying down the groundwork to boost mutual trust

No defence talks with Lanka, for now

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, March 18

The ruling UPA combine, faced with protests from its key ally, the DMK, has reportedly agreed not to hold the annual defence dialogue with Sri Lanka in the immediate future.


Sri Lanka, in its diplomatic conversation with India, had proposed a start date for the talks on either March 23 or March 25 to which India has not agreed. New Delhi gave no official reason for holding back the defence secretary-level talks that were to carry on for three days.


Sources in the government said the date was tentative and nothing had been finalised. So it cannot be termed as a "cancellation". However, they confirmed that "the annual defence dialogue with Sri Lanka will not be conducted on the dates proposed by Sri Lanka".


The last meeting between the two defence secretaries was conducted in January last year in New Delhi. "No dates had been finalised due to scheduling issues on the Indian side; we are looking at other dates," an Indian source said. No new dates have been decided yet. During the talks, the two sides were to discuss ways to strengthen defence ties and finalise future military exercises.


The decision comes at a time when Tamil Nadu-based parties are up in arms over India's engagement with Sri Lanka. More so, after media reports surfaced how 12-year-old Balachandran, son of slain LTTE leader Prabhakaran, was shot dead in cold blood by Sri Lankans.


Tamil parties, including the key UPA ally DMK, have been criticising the government for holding training for Sri Lankan forces, which was subsequently shifted from South to North India. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking that Sri Lankan officers undergoing a course at Wellington in her state be moved out and the UPA had complied with her request.


Strategically, India can ill-afford to snap military ties with Sri Lanka, lest China uses the schism in India-Lanka ties to lands itself virtually at India's doorstep. Sri Lanka sits astride the passage from the west coast of India to its east coast, or vice-versa. A Chinese presence would be "most undesirable".

Pacifying Karuna

Colombo, in its diplomatic conversation with India, had proposed a start date for the talks on either March 23 or March 25 to which India has not agreed

New Delhi gave no official reason for holding-back the defence secretary-level talks that were to carry on for three days

During the talks, the two sides were to discuss ways to strengthen defence ties and finalise future military exercises

Pakistan makes history

But not enough for sustaining democracy


It is celebration time in Pakistan. For the first time in its turbulent history Pakistan’s parliament (National Assembly) got dissolved on the stroke of midnight on Saturday after completing its full five-year tenure. Earlier either the all-powerful army dismissed an elected House with its brute force or a belligerent head of state got rid of it because of its being inconvenient to him. This time also there had been speculation ever since the 2008 elections that the PPP-led government might have to go in for a mid-term poll owing to the rising pressure from the higher judiciary or the Opposition led by the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). There were also reports at various stages that the Pakistan Army might take over power because of the failure of the government on every important front.


The army could have intervened and recaptured the reins of administration from the civilian rulers during or after the anti-Taliban operation in the Swat valley in the Waziristan tribal area despite the army chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kiyani, not being interested in political power. But in the process of half-heartedly taking on the Taliban and the extremist movement’s sympathisers, the army got so much unpopular among the masses that it could not gather enough courage to dislodge the elected government. In fact, the Pakistan National Assembly has been able to complete its full term mainly because of the army having become the most hated institution as a result of various developments during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule and the subsequent tenure of the elected government.


The lovers of democracy in Pakistan, therefore, will have to remind the next government that it must concentrate on the socio-economic and other problems affecting people’s lives directly. Wasting time and energy on subjects like Kashmir or the search for strategic depth in Afghanistan cannot be in the larger interest of the people of Pakistan. The masses must be made to realise that an elected government is more caring than a military dictatorship from all angles and under all circumstances. Dictatorship of any kind has no place in today’s times.

Army trying to prevent terror attacks: Antony

NEW DELHI, Mar 18 (Agencies): Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday said the Indian Army has taken steps to prevent terror attacks on its camps in Jammu and Kashmir and also asked China to stop its infrastructure projects in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PAK).

"There have been two incidents of firing by terrorists on Army Camps in J&K during the last one year. One Army person was killed in one of the incidents," said Antony in Lok Sabha.

On steps taken to check such incidents, he said, "The Army has taken adequate steps to prevent attacks on Army Camps including deployment of troops and surveillance equipment."

The minister said troops are adequately trained and equipped to prevent such incidents.

"Intelligence inputs regarding possibility of such actions are disseminated to all concerned. Security drills are constantly reviewed and refined to prevent occurrence of such incidents," said Antony.

Antony added that the Indian government has asked China to stop its infrastructure projects in PAK.

"Government is aware of China undertaking infrastructure projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) which are being executed by Chinese civil companies," said Antony.

"Government has conveyed its concerns to China about their activities in PoK and asked them to cease such activities," he said.

He said government is not considering to withdraw troops from the Siachen glacier.

In reply to a question on death of soldiers in Siachen, Antony said since 2010, a total of 18 Indian soldiers have lost their lives in Siachen glaciers due to avalanches. While six soldiers were killed in 2010, five such incidents were reported in 2011. 2012 saw seven deaths and no such incident has been reported during the present year yet.

On whether the government proposes to negotiate with Pakistan to demilitarise the area, Antony said, "Any development and redeployment of troops in the area is contingent upon the threat perception, ground situation, operational and strategic consideration."

AK Antony said there has been no misuse of defence aircraft by VIPs, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As per the existing instructions, only Prime Minister is entitled to use Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft for non-official visits for reasons of security as well as for due performance as the Head of the Government," Antony claimed.

"No bill is pending for payment in connection with Prime Minister`s non-official visits from December 2006 to December 2012. Bills for airlift for use of IAF aircraft are raised by IAF from time to time and necessary action is taken thereon," he said.

Government has not received any proposal to set up new commands to handle country's space assets, cyber infrastructure and for controlling commando operations, Defence Minister asserted.

In a written reply, he said that "no proposal to set up three new commands to handle threats to country's space assets, cyber infrastructure and for controlling commando operations has been received by the government.

Antony said that the government attaches very high priority to the welfare, safety and security of Indian fishermen.

"From time to time, there have been reports of attacks and apprehension on Indian fishermen near International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). As soon as reports of attacks on Indian fishermen are received, the Government, through diplomatic channels, takes up the matter with the Sri Lankan authorities," he said.

"Keeping in mind the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of the issue, Government has impressed on the Sri Lankan Navy to act with restraint, not to fire on our fishermen and treat our fishermen in a humane manner. The Government of Sri Lanka has denied involvement of their Navy in these incidents," he said.

The minister said the government continues to remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that fishermen on both sides can continue to pursue their livelihood in a safe, secure and sustainable manner.

In reply to a question on the appointment of chief of defence staff (CDS), the defence minister said, "The process of consultations was initiated in 2006, with raksha mantri writing to the leaders of all major political parties to obtain their views on the creation of the post of CDS."

Subsequently the political parties have been reminded to provide their views. Views of some political parties are still awaited. A decision on the matter would be taken after completion of the ongoing consultations, he said.

On recruitment in Army in last three years, Antony told the House that in 2010, 1488 officers, including 93 women were inducted in the service.

In 2011, there were total 164 women officers out of the total induction of 1780 officers, followed by 2035 officers in 2012. In 2012, 157 women had joined the service.

India calls off high level defence talks with Sri Lanka amid row over ethnic Tamil issue

New Delhi: Following backlash from DMK supremo M Karunanidhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa over human rights violations against Tamils in Sri Lanka, India on Monday called off Defence Secretary-level talks with the island country, which were slated to begin on March 23. The Congress had also sent its leaders to placate Karunanidhi, who wants the words 'genocide' and 'Eelam' added to the US-sponsored resolution in UNHRC against Sri Lanka.


In 2012 India was forced to vote against Sri Lanka in UNHRC due to DMK pressure and is likely to vote in favour of the amended resolution again. Jayalalithaa had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding the government move amendments to the US-backed resolution.


However, the Centre is opposed to the idea of 'Eelam' and will not accept the term 'genocide'. India is also said to be against an 'international' probe into the alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army during the battle with LTTE cadres.

India remains top arms importer while China becomes fifth largest exporter

NEW DELHI: India remains the world's biggest weapons importer for the third year in a row, ahead of China, which has turned into an exporter and overtaken the UK as the world's fifth largest supplier, selling its military wares mainly to Pakistan, a report by a Swedish thinktank has revealed.

More than half of the weapons exported by China are bought by Pakistan, which is now the world's third largest importer of weapons after India and China, the 2013 edition of the annual study by the highly regarded Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said. The thinktank is regarded an authority in international defence expenditure and arms transfers.


India replaced China as the world's leading importer of weapons in 2011 and has retained the distinction since. Despite criticism of its import dependency -India imports 70% of its armament needs - and failure to develop a defence industrial base at home by engaging the private sector, India accounted for 12% of global imports during 2008-12.


During this period, India's imports were 109% higher than that of China, which was the second largest importer of weapons. The key difference between India and China has been that while the latter has used years of imports to develop a thriving domestic defence industrial base and become the world's fifth largest exporter of weapons, India's domestic defence industry remains a public sector monopoly and government policies keep the private sector out.


"What we need to do is clear. India needs to become an exporter of weapons. India needs to develop indigenous weapons systems," said former chief of army staff, General (Retd) Shankar Roy Choudhury. "Government policy does not allow the private sector to come up. It does not allow export of weapons made in India. We have a network of state-owned defence production companies and ordnance factories. They have failed to produce anything new. It is the vested interest of the bureaucracy that is perpetuating this system," he added.


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