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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

From Today's Papers - 15 May 2013
Chinese Premier arrives next week; border row tops agenda
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 14
Barely a week after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to India from May 19-21, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be travelling to Japan on a visit that will be keenly monitored in Beijing.

Announcing the two visits at a media briefing here today, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India was committed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary dispute with China. “It is our conviction that an early settlement of the boundary issue will advance the basic interests of both the countries. We feel it should be pursued as a strategic objective by both countries,” he said.

The visit assumes significance against the backdrop of the recent incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh, leading to three weeks of increased tension between the two neighbours.

The spokesperson said the two countries were still discussing the joint declaration likely to be issued at the end of Premier Keqiang’s visit.

As of now, the Chinese leader will arrive in New Delhi on May 19 at the head of a high-level delegation. He will hold restricted and delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Singh the next day after he is accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

He will also have meetings with President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. The Chinese Premier will deliver a lecture on May 21 before leaving for Mumbai in the afternoon to address a meeting being organised by apex Indian chambers of commerce.

Meanwhile, Manmohan Singh will leave on his trip to Japan on May 27. After spending three days in Japan, he will go to Thailand on a two-day visit.

The growing Chinese assertiveness in Asia, introduction of a high-speed rail system in India and the civil nuclear cooperation will be high on the agenda during Manmohan Singh’s talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

Manmohan Singh was scheduled to travel to Tokyo in November last year for the annual India-Japan Summit but the trip had to be postponed following the sudden announcement of elections in the East Asian country.
Manmohan’s Japan trip
PM Manmohan Singh will leave for Japan on May 27
The growing Chinese assertiveness in Asia, introduction of a high-speed rail system in India and the civil nuclear cooperation will be high on the agenda during Manmohan’s talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe
The Indian PM’s visit to Japan will be keenly monitored in Beijing
Need to construct more bases on islands: Antony

New Delhi, May 14
Addressing concerns of China’s increasing influence in the Indian Ocean, India is looking to have additional bases and naval stations on islands in Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

A string of naval air stations and expansion of existing facilities are planned for Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands in the Arabian sea.

Defence Minister AK Antony today called upon the top brass of the Navy to strengthen maritime support infrastructure in the islands. — TNS
Navy hit by another ‘sex scandal’, Antony orders investigation
Tribune News Service/PTI

New Delhi, May 14
The Navy has been hit by yet another alleged “sex scandal” as the wife of an officer has charged her husband with forcing her to get “sexually involved” with his colleagues, prompting Defence Minister AK Antony to order a probe.

The case has come up on a day when the Defence Minister asked the top brass of the Navy in its commanders’ conference to take sternest possible action against officers involved in such deeds.

“The Defence Minister was very helpful and has told us that he has ordered a departmental inquiry into the charges made by me and my parents against my husband,” the woman complainant said here after meeting Antony.

She alleged that her husband, who is a Lieutenant Commander (equivalent to a Major in Army) posted at the Naval Ship Repair Yard (NSRY) in Karwar, “forced me to get sexually involved with his colleagues and consume alcohol.” The woman, who says she has shifted to her maternal home after this episode, has accused her husband of physical and mental torture.

An MBA, she got married in February last year to the officer. The woman alleged that her husband had threatened that if she disclosed about his deeds to anyone, “he would put up my nude pictures on the Internet to spoil my image socially”.

She said her husband is working on an important assignment related to the Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier at a shipyard in Russia and is about to be posted there soon.

In a complaint sent to the Defence Minister on April 30, she had demanded departmental disciplinary action against him.

The officer could not be reached for his comments.

In the recent past, several cases of sexual misconduct have come up against Navy officers including one where the wife of another Lt Cdr in Kochi filed an FIR against her husband and colleagues alleging that she was being forced into wife swapping by her husband.
TURNING POINT: Foreign policy overhaul
Pakistan is a country bedevilled by internal strife, a lot of which has roots in its relations with the neighbours. Raj Chengappa,
Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune Group of Newspapers, speaks to two foreign policy experts in Pakistan to find out what to expect from the new government regarding its approach to the US, Afghanistan and, more particularly, India. Excerpts:

‘Cross-border interference against Sharif’s policy’"
— Tariq Fatemi, former Pakistan diplomat and PML-N adviser
Tariq Fatemi, 69, is a former Pakistani career diplomat, currently working as a political analyst. He is a foreign policy ideologue of the PML-N and has helped draft the party manifesto.

What are the key foreign policy challenges the new government faces?

The ongoing war in Afghanistan, how it is resolved, what happens between now and 2014, when the Americans are scheduled to pullout — the conflict in Afghanistan and its future is directly relevant to Pakistan, in fact the entire region. The party believes that only a regional approach to this problem, with global powers taken into consideration, can work.

Of course, the peace process should be Afghan led; after all they determining their own destiny. But there should be no foreign interference in Afghan affairs, and that would be the objective of the new government. How to go about it would depend on consultations with Mr Karzai, who has already called Mr Sharif on telephone and expressed a desire for an early meeting and recognised Mr Sharif's role earlier in promoting reconciliation.

What is your opinion about the way the PPP government handled the Afghan policy, and how different would be the approach now?

The new government’s approach would be to give greater confidence to Kabul and remove any doubts they may have regarding our support to the peace process. That we have no favourites in Afghanistan. It would be a pro-active role that will emerge after consultation with the regional countries. No one-sided effort is going to be successful.

Does that include India?

We believe Afghanistan as a sovereign state has the right to determine its relationship with other powers that wish to have a role in its economic and commercial growth. Peace and stability in Afghanistan will also be helpful in the restoration of peace in Pakistan, and if Indian economic assistance promotes that objective, it should be welcome.

How do you see Pakistan approaching the peace process with India?

In this issue, Mr Sharif has a deep personal interest because he has a sense of authorship, having initiated the peace process that resulted in the first ever official visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan. It led to the Lahore Declaration, which contained a road map for resolution of differences through dialogue. He wishes to pick up the thread where it was abandoned, and see that the relationship does not get caught up in perceptions. Common areas of concern have to be identified to push the process and make its benefits visible to the people of Pakistan and India. Unless we have ground support in both counties, this would not be possible.

Is Mr Sharif’s approach going to be different on the 26/11 Mumbai attack?

We are not yet aware of the details of the incident, as the government has not briefed us. But Mr Sharif is convinced that interference and intervention in each other’s affairs should come to an end, so that there is no suspicion or recrimination, and the dialogue process must be so instituted that it is not subject to the tremors in the relationship. As one of your leaders said, the process should continue uninterrupted.

On Kashmir, since 1999 there was a Musharraf process, there was talk of making borders irrelevant, and then there was a breakdown. What will be the approach now?

First let me point out we are not privy to whatever happened between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir after October 1999. The PPP itself states they did not have much knowledge of what transpired during General Musharraf’s regime. We first have to educate ourselves from the documents available with institutions as to what happened. But Kashmir would need to be looked at because unless the issue is resolved, the desire of both countries to bring a qualitative change in the relations will not happen. However, the resolution should be through peaceful negotiations in which Kashmiris should be a party, as their destiny is to be decided. The approach is what Mr Sharif took in Lahore — that given the goodwill and mutual resolve on the two sides, it should be possible to consider measures that promote peaceful resolution of problems.

As I understand, it would not be a ‘Kashmir first’ policy.

No. We had decided many years ago that we have to identify the various issues and take them up at the same time. Obviously, it would not be possible to have equal and measurable progress on all issues.

Pakistan has been holding back on the Most Favoured Nation status for India. Is the new government going to move on this?

Mr Sharif and the PML-N believe trade opens up tremendous possibilities not only for economic benefits but also to create the right atmosphere for dialogue. So we are in favour of it, but we have yet to study whether it has been delayed because of politics or fear of non-tariff barriers in India.

Given the US drone attacks, questions of sovereignty, and the angst that Imran Khan and others have tried to whip up, what is going to be the approach to the US?

The US is the world’s biggest economy, and Pakistan would want to work closely with it. As for drone attacks, US officials have claimed these happened with the approval of the Pakistan government, which has denied this. So we do not know the reality. But the party has stated in its manifesto that a comprehensive review will take place of any concessions that may have been afforded to some powers that impinge on Pakistan's independence. The agreements will be brought before Parliament.

Is there going to be any move by Mr Sharif to have a Kargil commission to address concerns India might have on his role in permitting the attack?

I am not aware of the details, though I do know that Mr Sharif had absolutely nothing to do with the Kargil adventure. He was not in the know of it. He could countenance no such action at any time, and certainly not when he was reaching out to the Indian Prime Minister.
‘National strategy needed to deal with militancy’
— Ahmed Rashid, foreign policy expert
Ahmed Rashid, 65, is a journalist and best-selling foreign policy author of several books on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Rashid’s 2000 book, "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," was translated into 22 languages and sold 1.5 million copies after the 9/11 attacks. His latest book, "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan," was published in 2012.

What are the key challenges that Nawaz Sharif faces?

Sharif has come in at a very difficult time. There are two immediate concerns he has to address. The first is getting an economic package from the IMF and initiating economic reforms. The second issue is improving relations with India. That will be welcomed in the region as well as the West. Sharif also has to lay the ground to tackle problems vis-a-vis drone attacks and Pakistan being seen as enemy by the US. Pakistan has to change policies and improve its image.

What has Sharif to do in Afghanistan, and how should he move on the US?

There has to be a national security strategy to deal with the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan Taliban and the whole group of extremists and Punjabis fighting in Kashmir. Essentially, he has to persuade the military to get the Taliban to Doha, to talk to the Americans and Karzai. For the first time, there is a strong civilian figure with a mandate. Zardari had essentially handed over all security issues to the army. Now the US as well the army has to reckon with a new player, and I hope Sharif will persuade everybody to talk.

Do you see any difference in the Pakistan Army under General Kayani, or do they still want to have complete control of foreign policy in relation to Afghanistan?

At the moment they have control over the foreign policy, but there would be a lot of pressure on the army to accommodate civilian power. After all, Sharif has come with a mandate; it also depends on who is appointed Foreign Minister. Sharif’s initiative on India in the past 24 hours has shaken the subcontinent. I am sure he is talking to the army through back channels. He cannot go ahead without the army’s nod. The army also realises how bad the internal situation is.

What is your own assessment of General Kayani going when his retirement is due? How has he changed the approach of the Army?

He has not changed the approach of the army; the army has changed its own approach because of the internal situation—the losses it has taken from the Pakistan Taliban, terrorism, economic collapse, etc. Where will the army’s salaries come from? I hope there will be a new chief in a few months, and not of the Musharraf, Kayani or Kargil generation, and will be able to strike a better relationship with the Prime Minister.

What has been the attitude change of the Army?

I think the Army is looking for a solution to the Afghan problem and wants to help America and Karzai talk to the Afghan Taliban. Secondly, we have improved our relations with India in the past nine months, notwithstanding the setbacks from a few incidents of violence and terrorism in recent months. In the long term, the army did give Zardari the go-ahead to push trade and improve the visa regime. Sharif has a good start.

On Kashmir, Sharif firstly needs to dispel the notion that he was responsible for Kargil. The Kashmir problem has also not thrown up new solutions, with minor issues interrupting the peace process. Where can the breakthrough come from?

I am sure Sharif is going to ask the Indian Prime Minister to resume political dialogue on the differences, and Kashmir is No. 1. Indians are probably going to ask Pakistan to do something about Mumbai. I think for India 26/11 and the trial of those involved is more important than Kashmir. So there will have to be action on both fronts. India will have to accept the idea of Foreign Ministry-level talks on these issues. You can start with water, or something else, if not Kashmir. Pakistan will have to take steps too, like the trial of these people — but there has to reciprocity from the Indian side also so that it does not look one-sided or surrender for Pakistan.

You think the UPA currently is capable of doing that?

We are reading about India’s foreign policy courage. I think the Congress government has taken a very hard line on Pakistan. But I hope that in the last year before the Indian elections, the Congress might see it as a good opportunity to put a big feather in their cap, if they can be seen as developing a deeper relationship with Pakistan. They have done business with Sharif before.

You think a ‘Kargil commission’, as proposed by Sharif at one stage, is still a good idea?

I think we will see Kargil being quietly dropped from the agenda. It is too sensitive an issue in Pakistan and will revive the military-civilian conflict. I don’t think Sharif would want to revive it.

Sharif wanted to assert civil authority over the army, but he was thrown out in 1999. What do you see happening now?

We should not see this black-and-white in terms. This is an evolution, not revolution. The army has to gradually accept this. I would call it civilian sharing of decision-making in foreign policy. And a lot will depend on Sharif’s personal relationship with Kayani and the next army chief. The fundamental breaking point in Pakistan always has been the lack of civil-military relationship.

Is Pakistan still on the brink, as the title of your latest book suggests?

The result of the elections shows we will have a stable government, and not a weak coalition. It will not be subjected as much to blackmail by smaller partners. And if Sharif can do one or two major things in the first couple of months, I think we are on our way.

What is the big message from the elections this time?

The message is to the Taliban, military and to everyone else — that democracy works, and there is no other way to go except through democracy.
MiG-29K a game changer for Navy
Ajay Banerjee/TNS
New Delhi, May 14
Indian Navy’s first supersonic fighter MiG-29K will be a “game changer” as the country expands its sea-going fleet in line with its growing aspirations of a regional power controlling the security of the Indian Ocean while attempting to match pace with China.

The first lot of 18 MiG-29Ks was commissioned this week at Goa and will be based on the deck of the sea-borne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (renamed INS Vikramaditya), which is slated to arrive this yearend.

Once the MiG-29K is based on the deck of the carrier, it will enlarge the sweep, the speed and the reach of the naval air fleet like never before. In terms of technology, ability to fire at targets in air, at sea and on land, the new lot of MiG-29K is four times more potent than the present lot of deck-based fighter jet Sea Harrier, inducted over 30 years ago.

The aircraft has a range of 1,650 km and can be further extended as it can be refuelled mid-air by the IAF’s IL-78. A real time working scenario will include an IL-78 flying close by — some few hundred miles away — to refuel the fighter when needed on a longer mission. It can fly in all weather conditions day or night and perform multiple roles.

New Delhi aims to induct 45 of these machines which will cost $ 2.4 billion (Rs 13,200 crore). A squadron each will be positioned on board INS Vikramaditya and the indigenously-built aircraft carrier slated for sea launch on August 12. “The MiG-29K will be a game changer in the Indian Ocean. It will allow us to fly longer distances and maintain a better vigil. The arc of the influence of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean region now stands increased and strengthened,” Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, said at Goa.

Russia has classified MiG-29K as a generation “4-Plus” fighter. It carries beyond visual range missiles, two kinds of anti-ship missiles, nine weapon stations, a Zhuk ME multi-mode radar, fly-by-wire technology and a helmet-mounted display for pilots.

It can hit targets on the ground without emitting a radar signal for the enemy planes or radars to pick.

The navigation suite includes a dual system of the GPS and GLONASS (Russian satellite based) updates.

The avionics are compatible with night vision goggles which pilots will wear for night flying. Its two engines — RD-33MK — are smokeless and have been tweaked for carrier operations that require great thrust to take off due to short ship-deck.

Test flying of the aircraft was completed in September last year on board INS Vikramaditya. At least 24 fighters can be based on the ship alongside eight Kamov 31 helicpoters.

Lethal firepower

    The MiG-29K has a range of 1,650 km; can be refuelled mid-air by an IAF IL-78
    It can hit targets on ground without emitting radar signal
    Carries two types of anti-ship missiles, nine weapon stations and a Zhuk ME multi-mode radar
    Offers helmet-mounted display and night-vision goggles to pilots
    A squadron each will be positioned on board INS Vikramaditya and an indigenously-built aircraft carrier
Indian Army's first woman jawan found dead
KOLKATA: Indian Army's first woman jawan Shanti Tigga was found hanging in a railway hospital in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district on Tuesday, police said.

A senior police officer said prima facie it appeared to be a case of suicide.

The 37-year-old Tigga's body was found in the toilet of a cabin at the Alipurduar Railway Hospital.

Tigga, attached to the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of the Territorial Army and posted at the Chalsa Railway station, was last week found tied to a post by the railway track at Deopani village and later claimed that she was abducted by unknown people.

She was admitted to the hospital after that.

"It appears to be a case of suicide. She was provided security and there were guards outside the cabin," the senior police officer said.

Her son, who was also in the cabin, raised an alarm after she did not come out of the toilet for long.

The guards found her hanging after they broke open the door to enter the toilet.

Joining the Indian Railways in 2005, Tigga successfully cleared tests to join the Railway Engineer Regiment of the Territorial Army. Six years later, she became the first woman jawan of the Indian army.

A police officer said a probe was on against Tigga following accusations that she had taken money from people on the pretext of getting them jobs.
Key Indian military team's visit to China uncertain
Uncertainty looms over a significant military team's visit to China next week, a fallout of the Chinese incursion of April 15.

It is learnt that the defence ministry is reconsidering a proposed visit by senior military officials and bureaucrats to China beginning May 11.

About 15 officers of the rank of brigadier from the National Defence College, India's premier school for grooming future leaders, are slated to visit China and Thailand as part of the college's two-week foreign countries tour programme.
A top source told HT that the government was thinking of cancelling the China leg of the tour and pairing Thailand with another country, in the wake of China's refusal to order its troops out of Indian territory in eastern Ladakh.

"We have backup plans in case the border standoff requires us to rework the itinerary," an NDC source said.

If the China tour is called off, the participants will miss out on interactions with high-ranking Chinese military officials and visits to key military, industrial, and financial establishments.

This is not the first time that the NDC, set up in 1960, may have to reschedule a foreign tour. A visit to Germany had to be called off in the aftermath of the second nuclear test conducted by India in 1998. The officers then visited Egypt and Mauritius.

The NDC, which is under direct control of the defence ministry, is equivalent to the internationally-renowned Royal College of Defence Studies in the UK.

A former army chief said the government should knock off China from the NDC itinerary to send out a message that Chinese incursions can disrupt bilateral military ties.

The army is believed to have told the government that India needed to send out a strong message to China that it would not accept a prolonged Chinese presence on the Indian side.
Army Chief briefs Antony, NSA on security situation
Two days after Defence Minister A K Antony vowed that India will not stop developmental works and upgradation of military infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite the border stand-off with China, a high-level security meeting was held in which Army Chief Bikram Singh briefed Antony as well as National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon on the security situation.

The meeting, which was also attended by Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, is believed to have focused on the recent stand-off along the LAC and ways to counter any further possible moves that can create similar disturbances along the border.

Sources said the Army discussed military infrastructure works along the border, especially the road network that is currently going through a rough patch, partly due to the slow pace of environmental clearances. Even though last month's stand-off only got resolved after the Indian side agreed to dismantle certain fortifications on its side of the LAC in Chumar, the government is of the view that infrastructure projects need to continue but need to be carried out carefully to avoid possible confrontation like the one at the Depsang plain.

The Army is believed to have given an update on the current level of preparedness, including the pending CCS approval to the raising of a new mountain strike corps that is to be based in the Northeast to boost defences. The proposal has been cleared by the Defence Ministry and is pending for a final approval for several months.

The Army's views are also believed to have been taken in the meeting on a new proposal by China for a new border agreement to cut down aggression in border patrolling and creating extra structures to encourage interaction between local commanders.
India Step Ups Welfare Schemes For Former Gorkhas
KATHMANDU, May 14 (Bernama) -- India is planning to spend over Rs 12 billion (US$164.81 million) in welfare and pension schemes for former Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad said the Indian government will increase funds for the ex-servicemen to more than Rs 20 billion (US$366.19 million) from the next fiscal year, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

The Gurkhas are military units in the British or Indian army (Gorkhas) enlisted in Nepal.

The Indian Army currently spends Rs 8.75 billion (US$160.29 million) including Rs 7.5 billion (US$137.39 million) on pensions for former Gorkha soldiers.

"The Indian government is committed to continue various welfare activities for the benefit of the ex-servicemen and their family," said Prasad.

There are more than 1,26,000 Nepalese soldiers receiving pension from the Indian Army.

Prasad was in Kathmandu to inaugurate the 23rd annual meeting of the Indian Ex-servicemen Welfare Organisation of Nepal (IESWON).

The five-day meeting will discuss ways to expand current welfare activities in various projects related to health, education, drinking water and infrastructure.

Nepal's Defence Secretary Tilak Ram Sharma and representatives from India's Secretary at Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare and Ministry of Defence were also present at the event.

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