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Friday, 17 May 2013

From Today's Papers - 17 May 2013
All-weather ties with Pak to continue, says China

Beijing, May 16
Ahead of Premier Li Keqiang's maiden visit to Islamabad, China today ruled out any change in bilateral ties with the new Pakistan government led by Nawaz Sharif, saying the "all-weather" relationship will continue.

Li heads to Pakistan on May 22 and will be the first foreign dignitary to meet PML-N chief Sharif after his election victory.

"To develop friendly ties with Pakistan is a set policy of successive governments of China. Likewise to develop friendly policy with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao said, adding no matter who comes to power in Islamabad the all-weather bilateral ties will continue.

The outcome of the elections in Pakistan will not have any impact on Li's visit, Song told a media briefing here on the Chinese Premier's visit to Pakistan.

Li will set out on his first foreign tour on May 19, visiting India first for three days followed by Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany.

"No matter how the international and regional landscapes and situation within our two countries evolve, relations between our two countries will be further consolidated," Song said.

The fact that Li's visit is taking place right after elections in Pakistan is full indication of high degree of mutual trust and special friendship between the two countries, Song said.

Li will meet President Asif Ali Zardari besides leaders of Pakistan's political parties and military.

He will deliver a speech on bilateral relations and meet people who contributed to China-Pakistan friendship, Song said.

To develop and grow a strategic partnership cooperation between China and Pakistan not only serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples but also contributes to regional and international peace, stability and development, he said. — PTI
India’s shame: 3,000 child soldiers involved in armed conflicts
Report finds 500 child soldiers in N-E, J&K; 2,500 in Naxal-hit states
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, May 16
At least 3,000 children, 500 in Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir and about 2,500 in Naxal-affected states of the country, are working for armed militant/rebel groups. It has been disclosed by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its just released report titled ‘India’s Child Soldiers’.

“The recruitment of child soldiers by the armed groups, including the Naxalites, is rampant and at least 3,000 children currently remain involved in armed conflicts. This estimate of child soldiers is conservative considering that the Maoists follow the policy of forcibly recruiting at least one cadre from each Adivasi family,” stated Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

This report which is the first ever comprehensive study on the subject in India, accused the Government of India of defending the records of the armed opposition groups, officially designated as terrorist groups, on the recruitment of child soldiers before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“India in its first report on the implementation of the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the UN Committee in 2011 stated that there is no recruitment of child soldiers, including by the armed groups in India,” the ACHR report states.

The ACHR, besides citing 11 cases of forcible recruitment of child soldiers by the armed groups, presented a number of photographs of child soldiers surrendering with their arms before then Home Minister P Chidambaram and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in 2011 and 2012.

The ACHR report mentions: “Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict states that armed opposition groups should not, under any circumstance, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years and the government shall take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalise such practices.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Government of India to inquire as to why the recruitment of child soldiers by the officially designated terror groups was concealed from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and take appropriate actions against the officials who are effectively ended up whitewashing the records of the armed groups on the recruitment of child soldiers.
Kabul for no-war pact among India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, May 16
Ahead of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to India next week, Afghanistan today proposed that India, Pakistan and Afghanistan evolve a suitable mechanism to address each other’s concerns in the larger interest of peace in the region. The proposed mechanism could also include a tripartite no-war pact among the three nations.
“There is a tremendous scope for trilateral cooperation between our three countries. We hope we can enter into a tripartite mechanism in the next two-three years,” Afghan Ambassador to India Shaida M Abdali said at a press conference while giving details about his President’s visit to India from May 20-22.

Making it emphatically clear that the relationship between India and Afghanistan should not be looked at from the angle of Pakistan, he urged New Delhi to intensify security and defence cooperation with Kabul. “We would like to get lethal and non-lethal equipment from India for the Afghan forces to defend our nation,” he added.

The Afghan envoy said India and Afghanistan should sit together in the coming months to outline the contours of their security and defence cooperation in tangible ways for implementation. “Off site military and law enforcement training assistance is necessary but hardly enough to systematise our security and defence cooperation in ensuring predictability, taking preventive and even pre-emptive action against any perceived offensive threats to the national security interests of Afghanistan and India.”

Asked about the Western attempts at reconciliation with the Taliban, Abdali made it clear that the outfit would have to abide by the red lines drawn by the international community, including adhering to the Afghan Constitution and eschewing violence.
Vacancies for NCC C-Certificate holders under-subscribed in services
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, May 16
Even as the shortage of officers in the defence services continues to remain a serious issue, the vacancies reserved for NCC C-Certificate holders in officer training institutions of the armed forces remain under-subscribed.

Out of a total of 1,617 seats available in various military training academies, around 180 vacancies per year are reserved for NCC C-Certificate holders. Out of this, about 125-140 C-Certificate holders are joining various academies for training to become officers, a recent report by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence has revealed.

About 80,000-85,000 cadets obtain the C-Certificate each year. In addition to the reserved vacancies, NCC cadets also join the services through the open category. The report says that about 175 cadets join the armed forces in the open category, making the total number of NCC cadets, including C-Certificate holders, joining the services to be about 300 per year.

According to available information, the number of C-Certificate holders joining the armed forces in 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 116, 159 and 126, respectively. Most of the entrants were for the Officers Training Academy for short service commission in the Army.

The NCC has an authorised strength of 13.4 lakh cadets, making the number of cadets joining the services each year a miniscule percentage of its cadre.

One of the reasons cited for the vacancies remaining undersubscribed is that most NCC cadets being from Arts stream, are not eligible to join the Navy and the IAF where a science background is required.

Out of the sanctioned NCC cadet strength of 13.4 lakh, almost 60 per cent or about 8.4 lakh cadets are from the Junior Division/Wing and cannot appear for the C-Certificate.
Army aviation operating at just 66% of sanctioned strength
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, May 16
As plans to expand the Army Aviation Corps (ACC) and procure new generation utility helicopters for it face stiff headwinds, the Army’s youngest combat support arm continues to face serious deficiencies in its helicopter fleet. Obsolescence of its flying machines apart, the corps is operating at just 66 per cent of its sanctioned strength.

The AAC has a sanctioned strength of 358 helicopters, but is, according to latest figures available, holding 237 helicopters, resulting in a shortage of 112 helicopters.

There is also some deficiency in the AAC’s manpower. Against an authorised strength of 9,324 officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks, the corps’ is having a posted strength of 8,899 personnel. The ACC is primarily engaged in recce and surveillance, communication and tactical airlift with a limited albeit growing strike capability in an offensive environment. The Army had been engaged in a turf battle for long with the air force over the ownership of the Mi-25/35 attack helicopter gunships operated by the IAF in support of the Army. Recently, the Union Government decided that the Army would own and operate attack helicopters.

The ambitious plan to procure 197 light utility helicopters for the ACC to replace the aging fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters remains grounded with the tendering process having been cancelled several times over various allegations. The utility helicopters would be used for high altitude logistics support. The ACC also has long-term plans to acquire dedicated attack helicopters, tactical battlefield support helicopters and medium lift helicopters.

The Army is also reported to have concluded commercial negotiations for procurement of 20 Cheetal helicopters from Hindustan Aeronautic Limited and the proposal is awaiting financial approval.
India, China can ‘prevent’ border issue from affecting ties

Beijing, May 16
Playing down recent border standoff in Ladakh ahead of Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India, China today said the two sides have the ability to prevent such issues from affecting overall growth of ties, while working "very hard" to find a solution at an "early date".

"There are some historical issues between India and China, including the boundary question. The consensus of the two countries and leaders is that we have more overlapping interests than differences and we have more cooperation than competition," Chinese vice-foreign minister Song Tao said.

Besides being ancient civilisations and emerging markets, both countries "have the wisdom and resourcefulness to properly manage our differences", he said while briefing the media about Li's three-day visit to New Delhi and Mumbai starting May 19.

"For that we have the ability to prevent these differences from affecting overall growth of our relations," he said answering a question.

"We both are working very hard to find a solution to this (boundary issue) at an early date. I think through concerted efforts of the two sides we have made positive progress in addressing the issue," he said.

The new Premier who has chosen India to be first stop of his maiden overseas visit will also visit Pakistan, Switzerland and Germany later.

The fact that Premier Li has chosen India as one of the countries on his first overseas trip shows the importance the new government attaches to China-India relations, Song said.

During his stay in New Delhi, Li will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on bilateral ties and issues of mutual interest and also meet President Pranab Mukherjee.

He will make a speech on India-China relations and also attend China-India business summit and other important activities, Song said.

The two countries also will sign several agreements to further cooperation in various areas, he said without giving details. "I believe with concerted efforts from both sides Li's visit will produce fruitful results," he said.

Song also said the Indian Government, too, had "put in a lot effort" to make Li's visit happen. Referring to the recent visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here, he said: "The Indian side also attaches great importance to Premier Li's visit and believes that the visit will inject strong impetus to China and India relations." The purpose of Khurshid's visit was to make preparations for Li's upcoming visit to India and to make sure that the visit will be a productive one. — PTI
China’s long sleep and dream
Li’s visit may be a memorable one
by T.V. Rajeswar

THE Chinese nation had slept for well over a century.  This was the period when the Anglo-Saxons unleashed the disgraceful opium war (1839 – 1862) in the name of free trade, killing thousands of unarmed Chinese people. The Chinese nation was sleeping during this period. Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, “Let it sleep; when it wakes up it will shake the world”. With the arrival of Mao Zedong, followed by Deng Xiaping, China has truly shaken off its slumber and it’s now well and truly awake and alert.

Now the Chinese have started dreaming and dreaming big. The Chinese Communist Party recently elected a new General Secretary and other members of the Politburo. The new General Secretary, who is also the military commander-in-chief, Xi Jinping, announced that China has the greatest dream which was the revival of the Chinese nation. His announcement reverberated throughout the nation.  Schools have been organising “Chinese-dream” speaking competitions.  Party officials have selected model dreamers to tour workplaces and inspire others with their achievements. An analyst writes that the adoption of a personal slogan that conveys a sense beyond normal wisdom and vision in a short memorable phrase has been a rite of passage since the time of Chinese resurgence.

The latest slogan is ringing throughout the Chinese nation.  In his acceptance speech, Xi Jinping stated at the National People’s Congress, China’s Parliament, that the Chinese dream would be fulfilled by the middle of the century.  It was ordered soon after that the concept of the Chinese dream be written into school textbooks to make sure that the message got across.

After his recent visit to Beijing, the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that the America, China and other countries should all work towards a pacific dream of cooperation on issues ranging from job growth and climate change control of pandemic disease and proliferation.  This suggestion did little to abate mutual suspicion between the two countries.  The idea of a pacific dream, said a Chinese commentator, was an American attempt to spread the American dream to every corner of Asia in order to ensure America’s dominance of this region. 

Xi Jinping has also said that the Chinese dream is the people’s dream. He said at the National People’s Congress that while China has no doubt well and truly risen from its long slumber, it should not alarm the neighbouring nations and their people. But the actual situation is somewhat different. China is going all out to strengthen itself militarily and economically. China has made territorial claims on South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and India. India does not accept the assertion of China on the South China Sea.  Japan also has reacted strongly to Chinese military actions near the disputed Islands. With the US backing as its secondary strength, Japan has warned that it would not accept China’s claims on the disputed islands and would challenge them. 

A well-known Chinese think tank recently published an interesting Blue Book. While it may not represent the official view of the government, it is very close to it since the government and party officials man these think tanks. On India, the Blue Book has expressed the view that the government is in serious crisis but it is likely to emerge as a strong country after successfully dealing with its problems and challenges. It is worthwhile to know that the Blue Book summary on India refers to corruption scandals and divisions within the UPA. On the foreign policy front, the Blue Book notes that India has focussed on boosting relations with its neighbours in South Asia, pushed forward peace with Pakistan and developed strategic relations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, countries with whom China also had strong economic ties. 

The Blue Book sees the US as a pivot to Asia and strengthening of alliances in the region is viewed by the Chinese analyst as being directed to contain China.  The Blue Book also notes that India’s defence cooperation with the US, Japan, Vietnam and Australia has strengthened it.

What lessons does India need to learn from these developments?  India has to act with maturity while dealing with the resurgent China.

The recent Chinese intrusion in Ladakh has been dealt with amicably after flag meetings between Indian Generals and their Chinese counterparts and also by holding discussions between the  two countries at the diplomatic level.

When External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid visited Beijing, his discussions with his Chinese counterpart provided the hope that sooner or later an amicable border settlement between two great countries of the Asia can be worked out. 

A reference to a book by Martin Jacques of the London School of Economics titled “When China Rules the World” (published in 2012) is inescapable.  Martin Jacques’s celebrated book overturns conventional thinking about the ascendancy of China, showing how its impact will not be just economic but also cultural. As China’s powerful civilization reasserts itself, it will signal the end of the global dominance of the Western nation-state, and a future of ‘contested modernity’.

The forthcoming visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is of considerable importance.  While interacting with an Indian youth delegation in Beijing, imperial gardens housing the headquarters of China’s ruling Communist Party and central government, Li spoke warmly about his visit to India 27 years ago as the leader of a youth delegation.  The fond memories of the visit made him choose India as his first overseas visit after becoming the Premier. After reaching New Delhi on May 19, Li will also visit Mumbai before leaving for Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland.

Li went on to say that that for this vision to come true, the two countries must shake hands and conduct exchanges so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world and truly make the Asian economy an important engine for the world economy.

Let‘s hope that the Chinese Premier’s visit will truly mark an important phase in Sino-Indian relations.
Afghanistan looks for Indian defence help
As plans to reduce Western troops gather pace in Afghanistan, the war-torn country on Thursday hoped to establish enhanced defence ties with India, including the supply of lethal and non-lethal military equipment. Kabul’s demand also comes just ahead of President Hamid Karzai will visit
to India next week.

Asked about what kind of defence assistance Afghanistan was looking to get from India, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali said, “The partnership agreement does not distinguish between lethal and non-lethal (military equipment). We have talked about security and defence cooperation.”

Abdali also talked about interest in Indian Army training. “Other assistance in small stages is most welcome... but we would like to go beyond the current trend of cooperation between the two countries in the defence sector,” he added.

At present, India provides training to some Afghan Army officers. Pakistan has been wary of India’s role in Afghanistan and any move to step up defence ties would add to scepticism. This demand is also coming at a time, when Pakistan-Afghanistan ties are frayed. India has followed a policy of keeping the military engagement to a minimum with Afghanistan in the past.

“It is a critical time for all of us and we need to do more than what we are doing right now,” he said. The Afghan envoy also welcomed India’s recent commitment of upgrading the strategically important Chabahar port in Iran that would help India get access to land-locked and resource- rich countries. An estimated $100 million (approximately Rs. 548.7 crore) is required for the modernisation of the port.

“We would like to see the conclusion of the agreement on the Chabahar port,” Abdali said. “We are very happy that this is gathering momentum. We hope that we sign the trilateral trade agreement among India, Afghanistan and Iran as quickly as possible. We are optimistic after Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Iran.”

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) special representative for Afghanistan Vygaudas Ušackas, who is presently visiting India, also sought Indian government’s active cooperation in the development of the country. Ušackas said the EU is committed to long-term association with the development of the region, which became centre of US’ ‘War on Terrorism’ after the September 11, 2001, attacks there.
Mukherjee appoints Lt. Gen. (Retired) Nirbhay Sharma as next Arunachal Pradesh Governor
New Delhi, May 16 (ANI): President Pranab Mukherjee has appointed Lt. Gen. (Retired) Nirbhay Sharma as the next Governor of Arunachal Pradesh.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan release said that Lt. Gen. (Retired) Sharma will be the state's governor from the date he assumes charge of his office.

A post graduate in military science and an M.Phil in Defence Studies from Madras University, Lt. Gen. (Retired) Sharma is one of the most distinguished and decorated field commanders of the Indian Army.

During his tenure in the army, most of his assignments dealt with Jammu and Kashmir and the north eastern states.

His last assignment in the army was that of being a Corps Commander and Security Advisor to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.

During the period, his landmark contribution in fighting the ongoing proxy war in Kashmir, including the successful conduct of parliamentary and assembly elections are well known.

Apart from brilliantly directing anti-terrorist operations of over one lakh elements of the security force, his accomplishments include construction of anti-infiltration obstacle system along the LOC, opening the Uri-Muzaffarabad Road and the construction of 'Aman Setu'.

He had earlier raised a division during the 'Kargil War' (in record time). The concurrent conduct of disaster relief operations during the 'Snow Tsunami' and Earthquake also drew praise and recognition.

His slogan of "Jawan aur Awaam, Aman hai Mukaam" and its manifestation on ground brought in a new approach and momentum to the ongoing peace process in Kashmir.

He took part in the 1971 War and was a part of the Airborne Assault Group, the first Indian Army Unit to enter Dacca.

Apart from commanding a battalion on the China border, he was part of the Sino-Indian Working Group and coordinated counter-insurgency operations in the North East with civil agencies and inter-ministerial delegations. The peace process with Naga rebels commenced during this period. Close interaction with the representatives of the armies and governments of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh for effective border management and formulation of joint strategies to combat militancy, anti-national/ criminal/ hijacking activities and disaster management were also part of his charter.

As Director General (Perspective Planning) at the army headquarters, worked on the restructuring of the army headquarters and assisted in drafting 'Army Vision 2020'.

As Master General of Ordnance, his stamp of dynamism is distinctly seen in the field of material management of the 1.2 million strong Indian Army with varied and complex inventory worth over Rs. 50,000 Crores and an Annual Revenue Budget of Rs. 6000 Crores.

He has also served as a member of the Union Public Service Commission and a Distinguished Fellow at ORF's Institute of Security Studies. (ANI)

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