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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

From Today's Papers - 08 May 2013
India pulled down a tin-shed in Chumar to end LAC standoff
Ashok Tuteja/TNS
New Delhi, May 7
India did pull down a tin-shed it had started constructing at Chumar close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to arrive at an understanding with China to end the face-off between the forces of the two countries in Ladakh on Sunday night, sources said today.

The construction of the tin-shed was undertaken by India on April 18, after the Chinese incursion was noticed on April 15 in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) Sector.

The Army’s UAVs operating in eastern Ladakh has confirmed that the Chinese platoon camping in Depsang valley has gone back to its side of the LAC.

New Delhi is still wondering why the Chinese carried out the incursion when the two countries were conducted negotiations at almost every level of the government to peacefully resolve the boundary dispute. “Perhaps, the Chinese want to bring the border issue right to the fore at the highest level of the government to expedite a border agreement,” sources said. But at no point of time during the three-week standoff, India underestimated the Chinese intrusion or overestimated
the development.

Sources said Beijing had proposed to India about two-three months back a border defence cooperation agreement to expand friendly contacts between the troops of the two countries and better communication between them.

India was still studying the agreement. It might be discussed further between the two sides when External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid visits Beijing on May 9-10 to prepare the ground for the Chinese Premier’s trip to New Delhi later this month. The proposed agreement would, however, in no way replace the 2005 border accord between the two nations.

Narrating the sequence of events ever since the Chinese incursion was detected by India, sources said New Delhi was alerted on April 15 that one Chinese patrol had come to the DBO Sector, followed by some aerial sorties. India also did an aerial sortie and noticed that the Chinese had pitched tents there. India immediately took measures to counter the Chinese and this was when the forces of the two countries came face-to-face. Indian Army commanders took up the matter with their Chinese counterparts. On April 16, Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the External Affairs Ministry, who also heads the India-China mechanism for border management, took up the matter with his Chinese counterpart. When there was no satisfactory response, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai called the Chinese Ambassador to his office at the South Block on April 18 and firmly told him that India was determined to ensure the status quo as it existed on April 15.

Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar had also made it clear to his Chinese interlocutors that New Delhi was not prepared for any bargain and that the incursion could also affect bilateral ties. On April 18 itself, India also started building the ‘tin-shed’, which was brought down only after the Chinese removed their tents.

y April 25, India and China had arrived at some kind of an arrangement. However, on April 30, New Delhi was told that there were gaps of perception on the LAC. India told Beijing that this was not the time for going into minute details of how the Chinese incursion should end. The threat to cancel External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Beijing might have also helped in ending the face-off situation. The breakthrough came at the flag meetings held over the last week-end. Asked why did the Chinese do incursion, the sources said: “We still can’t fathom why it was done.”
 The understanding
India had started the construction of the tin-shed in Chumar on April 18, after the Chinese incursion was noticed on April 15 in the Daulat Beg Oldie Sector
The tin-shed was removed by Indian troops as part of an understanding with China to end the face-off between the forces of the two countries in Ladakh on Sunday night
IAF to upgrade vintage Avro aircraft
Vijay Mohan/TNS
Chandigarh, May 7
One of the oldest warhorses of the Indian Air Force, the Avro transport aircraft will soon get a fresh lease of life, enabling it to soldier on for at least another decade or so.

IAF sources said the upgradation suite envisioned for the Avro includes incorporating a radar, installing an auto-pilot system and a new communication system, besides better avionics. Studies have shown that the aircraft still retains some residual technical life and their life extension is feasible.

Though the initial batches of Avro aircraft, also known as HS-748, were initially procured from the United Kingdom and later these were licence-produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the upgrade will be undertaken by a private vendor, sources said. The MiG 21 is the only aircraft in IAF inventory that matches Avro in vintage.

The move to upgrade these vintage aircraft comes in the backdrop of major acquisitions hanging fire. While the contract for VVIP helicopters from Italy has run into rough weather, the procurement of the 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft is still a long way from finalisation. The process to procure light utility helicopters remains grounded.

The IAF also plans to replace the existing Avro fleet and is seeking 56 transport aircraft in this category at an estimated price of $ three billion. The proposed aircraft would have a payload capacity of 6-8 tonnes.

The IAF began inducting Avro twin-engine turboprop aircraft in 1964. With 64 aircraft, this fleet formed the backbone of the IAF’s airlift capability till AN-12 and AN-32 were procured. At present about 30-odd aircraft still remain in service, mostly relegated to training and communication roles.

Avros also formed part of the IAF’s Communication Squadron designated for VVIP transport till this role was taken over the Brazilian Embrarer-135 executive jets in 2005.

Acquisitions hanging fire

    The move to upgrade these vintage aircraft comes in the backdrop of major acquisitions hanging fire
    The contract for VVIP helicopters from Italy has run into rough weather
    The procurement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft is still a long way from finalisation
    The process to procure light utility helicopters remains grounded
Antony: No give and take with China
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 7
Even as Defence Minister AK Antony today clarified that there was no ‘give and take’ with China on ending the stand-off in northern Ladakh, India has conveyed to China that its objections on air-strips in Ladakh were baseless as all of them were well within Indian territory and none of them were near the disputed sections of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Antony today said the status-quo ante has been restored along the LAC. Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Antony dismissed talk of India having retreated and withdrawn from any bunkers. “Status quo as on the pre-April 15 position has been restored”, Antony said.

This means troops on both sides has withdrawn to position they held before the April 15 incursion. The Chinese had pitched tents near Raki Nullah, south-east of the advanced landing ground (ALG) at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO). The ALG is euphuism for air-strips which are not paved. The location of the tents was in the area which is disputed segment of the LAC. The Indian response was two-pronged. One it pitched a tent right across the Chinese tent. Second, on April 20, it quickly built a tin-shed fortification near Chumar in a separate disputed area of the LAC in south-eastern Ladakh.

The Chinese have withdrawn from the disputed area and so has India withdrawn from the tin-shed bunkers set-up in the disputed section. Since both, the Chinese tents and the Indian bunkers were in disputed territory, both had to withdraw. Troops of both sides patrol up to the perceptions of the LAC but are barred from firing at each other in the disputed areas.
India destroyed bunkers in Chumar to resolve Ladakh row, Army officers confirm
SRINAGAR: India has agreed to a Chinese demand to demolish bunkers near their de facto border in the Himalayas, Indian military officers said, as part of a deal to end a stand-off that threatened to scupper slowly improving relations.

Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off 100 metres (330 feet) apart on a plateau near the Karakoram mountain range, where they fought a war 50 years ago, for three weeks until they reached a deal on Sunday for both sides to withdrew.

The tension had threatened to overshadow a visit by foreign minister to Beijing on May 9. China's Premier Li Keqiang is expected to visit India later this month.

Details of the deal have not been made public but a senior officer from the Indian Army's northern command said India had agreed to abandon and destroy bunkers in the Chumar sector, further south along the disputed border.

"The bunkers in Chumar were dismantled after we acceded to Chinese demand in the last flag meeting. These bunkers were live-in bunkers," the Army officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

India said up to 50 Chinese soldiers intruded into its territory on the western rim of the Himalayas on April 15. Some Indian officials and experts believed the incursion signalled Chinese concern about increased Indian activity in the area.

India said the Chinese soldiers were 19 km (12 miles) beyond the point it understands to be the border in the Ladakh region of Kashmir, a vaguely defined line called the line of actual control, which neither side agrees on.

China denied it had crossed into Indian territory. China won the border war they fought in 1962, which soured relations for decades, but ties between the Asian giants have been improving in recent years. China is India's top trade partner.

India has been beefing up its military presence for several years on the remote Ladakh plateau, building roads and runways to catch up with Chinese development across the border in a disputed area known as Aksai Chin.

The decision to agree to the Chinese demand and demolish the bunkers followed heavy criticism of the government over its handling of the incident by the opposition.

The Indian officer said earlier that Chinese officers demanded that India stop construction of bunkers, tunnels and huts along the line of actual control, as the vaguely defined border in place since the 1962 war is known.

They also objected to nomads crossing from India to grazing meadows on the Chinese side, the Indian Army officer said.

An official in defence ministry said on Monday the deal to end the standoff as a "quid pro quo" and said China had also demanded India take down listening and observation posts in the Chumar area, which is close to a Chinese road through Tibet.

It was not clear if India was dismantling those posts.
India airlifts military hospital to Tajikistan to strengthen geo-strategic footprint in Central Asia
NEW DELHI: India has quietly airlifted a military hospital, with doctors, paramedics and equipment, to Tajikistan as part of the deepening "strategic partnership" with the energy-rich central Asian country that shares borders with Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

India already has over 100 Indian military personnel stationed at the Ayni airbase in Tajikistan, a country that also shares close proximity to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), as a kind of a "military outpost". The new hospital will serve to further strengthen India's geo-strategic footprint in the crucial Central Asian region.

Defence ministry sources say two of the newly-acquired C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft of the IAF airlifted medical stores, equipment and 55 personnel over the last month to establish the "India-Tajik Friendship Hospital" in southern Tajikistan.

"The 50-bed hospital will treat both military as well as civilian people," said a source. The setting up of the hospital comes at a time when vice-president Hamid Ansari is on a visit to the landlocked country to further cement the bilateral strategic partnership and well as expand its "Connect Central Asia Policy" to build stronger linkages with the five Central Asian countries.

This is not the first time that India has established a hospital in Tajikistan, which shares a 1,400-km with Afghanistan. In the 1990s, India had run a famous field hospital at Farkor on the Tajik-Afghan border to treat wounded fighters from the then Northern Alliance that was battling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

It was at the very same hospital that the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masood was pronounced dead after being assassinated just two days before the 9/11 terror strikes in 2001. But around a decade ago, India had inexplicably shut down the hospital.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's visit to India last August, during which the long-standing bilateral partnership was elevated to a strategic partnership, had then laid the groundwork for the new hospital.

With a broad convergence of views on security matters and cross-border terrorism, the close equation with Tajikistan becomes even more important for India now in the backdrop of the drawdown of US-led international forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

The Indian "military outpost" at the Ayni airbase, around 15 km from Tajik capital Dushanbe, also helps New Delhi keep tabs on its economic and strategic interests in Central Asia as well as "any anti-Indian activity" in the terrorism-infested Af-Pak region.

Indian Army, IAF and Border Roads Organisation personnel had worked hard to upgrade the airbase, which includes extension of the runway and construction of three aircraft hangars, an air-control tower and perimeter fencing around the base, at a cost of over Rs 100 crore.
MHA-Army turf war over ITBP’s control escalates even as Chinese retreat
NEW DELHI: The three-week military standoff with China on the Ladakh heights may have now de-escalated but it has triggered a raging turf war between the home ministry (MHA) and the defence ministry (MoD), much like the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai had provoked a blame-game among different maritime security and intelligence agencies.

The Army, backed by MoD, has taken to strongly reiterating its decade-long demand for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to be placed under its ``operational control'' for ``better and coordinated border management'' along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

Having already pushed for jurisdiction over ITBP with national security advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, coupled with inter-ministerial consultations on the Naresh Chandra taskforce on national security, the MoD-Army combine now wants ``an early decision'' by the Cabinet Committee on Security to resolve the imbroglio. ``Single-point command and control has become critical after the Chinese intrusion,'' said a senior officer.

But MHA has already dismissed the move, holding Army will not get control over ITBP come what may. One of the seven central armed police forces (CAPF) under MHA, ITBP mans the LAC along the Tibet border with around 17 battalions. And, Army is positioned in ``depth'' for support with some 23 battalions. MHA officials stress ITBP showed alacrity in reporting the 19-km deep intrusion by the Chinese soldiers in Depsang Bulge to all authorities concerned on April 15 itself.

The Army, however, contends there are ``glaring deficiencies'' in the ``deployment and patrolling patterns'' of ITBP, which is also ``not optimally-equipped in weaponry'' and has ``limitations'' in reacting to operational contingencies. ``The trip-wire situation along the LAC can escalate without much transition time...ITBP, which has a police mindset, is not geared for this,'' says another officer.

The MHA stand has been backed by the external affairs ministry in the past with the belief that border management with China is best done by a CAPF during peace-time. ITBP automatically comes under Army's operational control during any conflict.

India's land borders with China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal — totalling 14,880-km — all suffer from a similar lack of coordination and synergy among multiple forces manning them. Besides, Army and MHA are also at loggerheads over the latter's move to replace Assam Rifles with BSF along the 1,643-km border with Myanmar.

This when both the Border Management Task Force and the Group of Ministers' report on ``reforming the national security system'' after the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan had stressed the ``One Border-One Force'' principle. ``Multiplicity of forces on the same borders has inevitably led to the lack of accountability as well as problems of command and control,'' held the GoM report.
China’s military might on an upswing, Pentagon says
NEW DELHI: From potent long-range missiles and new-generation nuclear submarines to expanding space, electronic and cyber warfare capabilities, China is pursuing ``long-term comprehensive'' military modernization designed to ``fight and win short-duration, high-intensity regional military conflicts''.

This is the assessment of Pentagon in its latest report on China's expansive military might, which was submitted to the US Congress on Monday. The report acknowledges that ``preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait appears to be remain the principal focus and primary driver of China's military investment''.

But India, especially after the recent three-week military standoff with China on the eastern Ladakh heights, has to remain constantly on its guard. India is way behind in terms of military capabilities, and China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) further accentuates its already stark combat superiority.

Pentagon says China has 79 major warships and 55 submarines, five of them nuclear-powered. It is also undertaking a robust programme to build ``multiple'' aircraft carriers, after inducting its first one Liaoning last September, to project its power further offshore. The new Jin-class nuclear submarines, being armed with the 7,400-km range JL-2 missiles, also give China its ``first credible, long-range sea-based nuclear deterrent''.

In sharp contrast, India has only about 30 major warships, an ageing fleet of 14 conventional submarines and one nuclear-powered submarine, INS Chakra, leased from Russia without any long-range missiles. India's first indigenous nuclear submarine, the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, armed with the 750-km range K-15 ballistic missiles, however, is slated to begin sea trials soon. Only after it becomes operational by 2015 will New Delhi's long-awaited nuclear weapon triad be in place.

With projects underway to build J-31 advanced stealth fighters, counter-space weapons, long-range ballistic and cruise missiles, guided-missile destroyers and frigates, Pentagon says it will ``enable the PLA to conduct a range of military operations in Asia well beyond Taiwan, in the South China Sea, western Pacific, and Indian Ocean.''

The report also takes note of the ever-growing China-Pakistan nexus. ``Pakistan remains China's primary customer for conventional weapons. China engages in both arms sales and defence industrial cooperation with Pakistan, including co-production of the JF-17 and F-7 fighters, F-22P frigates with helicopters, K-8 jet trainers, early warning and control aircraft, main-battle tanks, air-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles.''

Cyber-warfare is another top-priority for China, with it being viewed as ``unconventional warfare as well as preemption weapons''. Pentagon directly accuses China of indulging in major online espionage and hacking of US networks to steal technology to fuel its military modernization. India, too, has faced incessant cyber attacks, with Chinese online espionage agents frequently breaking into sensitive Indian military and other computer networks.
Japanese army chief visits India's Eastern Command HQ
Japan's Chief of Army Staff General Eiji Kimizuka visited the Eastern Command Headquarters at Fort William here Tuesday and discussed issues concerning security and enhancing military ties between the two armies.

General Kimizuka interacted with Eastern Command chief Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh during his one-day official trip to Kolkata.

"The two discussed issues concerning security, enhancing military ties between the armies and other issues of mutual interest," according to a defence press release.

General Kimizuka is on a four-day visit to India from Sunday.

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