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Thursday, 11 July 2013

From Today's Papers - 11 Jul 2013

China’s ‘Peace Ark’: The Navy and Band-Aid Diplomacy
- Kamlesh K Agnihotri*
An article titled “Peace Ark: From China with Love and Care”, in the English version of the popular ‘People’s Daily’ online on June 19, 2013 conveys a lot in addition to the benign and compassionate tone and tenor overtly articulated therein. This article reported the commencement of third voyage of Chinese Navy’s hospital ship ‘Peace Ark’ from Zhoushan port on June 10, 2013 for the ‘Mission Harmony 2013’. The four month long voyage includes visit to eight countries as also a short stint in the Gulf of Aden, probably for jointly operating with and providing medical support to the 14th PLA Navy anti-piracy task Force. The onward leg starting with Brunei was followed by a six days stop-over at Male from June 29, 2013. The return voyage would see the ship touch the ports of Karachi in Pakistan, Mumbai in India, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Thilwa in Myanmar, Labuan Bajo and Jakarta in Indonesia and Sihanoukville in Cambodia.
 The above article was high on emotional quotient and described the medical interventions by the ship’s doctors during the previous two voyages in quite melodramatic details. Acknowledging that these voyages in 2010 and 2011 were instrumental in propagating the Chinese idea of ‘Peaceful Development’, the ship has embarked upon the current voyage with a specific focus on Asian countries. The ship equipped commenced its mission by participating in the first ever joint Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise, organised by the ‘ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus’ Mechanism in Brunei from June 17 to 20, 2013. It also provided free medical services to the public, including diagnostics, OPD services, specialists’ consultation, minor surgeries and medicine distribution.
The ship continued to provide medical services in Maldives too, dispatching ten mobile medical sub-teams to eight far-flung islands of Maldives by its ship-borne helicopter, local aircraft and boats. A measured look at the Peace Ark’s future ports of call indicates the potential for China to build its image as a benign Asian benefactor through the ‘Band-Aid’ diplomacy.  The word ‘Band-Aid’ is metaphorically used to indicate the provision of highly visible but only preliminary management of a minor injury, possibly not serious enough to require further follow up or attention. In fact, limited time of the ship’s stay at any given port vis-à-vis the enormity of task, would enable it to achieve just that much. However, given the inadequacy of organised State medical cover to the deprived milieu in most cases where the ship is scheduled to visit, whatever medical support that comes along, is more than welcome.
Digressing a little from the argument, the success of a working model is measured in terms of four elements of ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘whither’ (purpose) and ‘when’, in common naval parlance. Applying these yardsticks to the current context, China appears to have rightly surmised the ‘what’, ‘whither’ (purpose) and ‘where’ components of ‘military operations other than war’ (MOOTW) model for its Navy. If the current medical mission of the ‘Peace Ark’ can be equated with the model’s ‘what’ component; and ‘whither’ representing the ‘soft-power projection intent; then its focus on Asia as the ‘where’ component may be the most appropriate choice. China had got early indications of this model’s potential effectiveness during the hospital ship’s Afro-Asian mission in 2010, where it treated a total of 12,353 outpatients, 57 in-patients and conducted 95 surgical procedures, particularly receiving overwhelming response from the people of Chittagong. The occasion for testing the ‘when’ component of this model for China may present itself sooner rather than later, given the susceptibility of this region being wreaked by maritime disasters at regular intervals.
Some Chinese analysts have linked the current voyage of ‘Peace Ark’ with the assertion that "as the world's second-largest economy, China has the responsibility and the capability to provide humanitarian services to people across the world." Such assertion seems to derive strength from the Chinese ruling elite’s new found confidence in taking leadership roles in global affairs. This was demonstrably clear by the Chinese President XI Jinping’s reported statement when meeting the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon on June 19, 2013, that “as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has heavy responsibilities to assume and has the capability to assume them.”
Thus, notwithstanding the time limitation for the hospital ship during port calls , provision of medical support to the needy will only generate significant goodwill – an outcome that  umpteen rhetorical statements in White Papers and other documents would never be able to achieve. The Chinese discourse also stresses that the US also uses a similar philosophy for furthering its politico-diplomatic ends.
If that be the most obvious inference, then it possibly makes a strong case for all the large sized and modernising navies to possess an equivalent capability in their fleets.

* Kamlesh K Agnihotri is a Research Fellow with the China Cell of the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy or the National Maritime Foundation. The author can be reached at
Top-level promotions in Army’s legal branch kick up a row
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, July 10
Top-level promotions in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department, the army’s legal-cum-judicial branch, have come under judicial scanner, with a brigadier alleging manipulation and violation of policy in the selection board proceedings to promote officers to the department’s apex position.

In a petition that came up for hearing today before the Armed Forces Tribunal’s Chandigarh Bench, Brig Dinkar Adeeb, among the senior-most JAG officers and till recently posted at Chandimandir, has averred that a junior officer, Brig T Parshad, was hastily granted out-of-turn relief on the eve of the selection board’s meeting and then his name was considered with a changed, improved profile, resulting in his empanelment for promotion to the rank of major general and consequently superseding those senior to him.

The senior most JAG officer is a major general and there are two vacancies in this rank, one of the Judge Advocate General and the other is the newly created post of the Director, Litigation.

Brig Adeeb has alleged that the selection board meeting was first postponed from May 2012 to September 2012 and then to October 18, 2012. Then suddenly, Brig Parshad, who had filed a statutory complaint against his ACR profile, was granted relief on the eve of the board’s scheduled meeting and the board was again postponed by a day wherein his changed, improved profile was considered and he was promoted.

He has contended that according to the Army’s policy, no officer can be granted out-of-turn relief and relief on complaints, which have to be disposed of only on “first come first served” basis. Further, the agenda and profiles of officers are frozen 15 days prior to the selection board meeting and changes cannot be introduced just prior to the board’s meeting.

Counsel for Union of India Capt Sandeep Bansal argued the promotions were done within the policy framework. He said the entire record pertaining to the matter would be produced to establish the facts.

The case

Brig Dinkar Adeeb has petitioned before the Armed Forces Tribunal that a junior officer, Brig T Parshad, was hastily granted out-of-turn relief on the eve of the selection board's meeting and then his name was considered with improved profile, resulting in his empanelment for promotion to the rank of major general and consequently superseding those senior to him
China defends its move in Chumar sector along LAC

Beijing, July 10
Virtually defending the latest incursion by the PLA in the Chumar sector in Ladakh, China today said its troops were patrolling on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and asserted that "status quo" should not be changed pending a final settlement.

"I have seen the relevant reports but I am not aware of the specific situation", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing when asked about the incident that took place ahead of Defence Minister AK Antony's visit here last week.

"Chinese defence forces have been patrolling along the Chinese side of the LAC", she said. "The general situation in the border areas is stable. We have the consensus that pending the final settlement of the boundary question, none of us (none from India or China) should change the status quo along the LAC", she said, indirectly asserting that neither side should resort to any infrastructure development.

"China would like to make joint efforts with the Indian side to safeguard peace and tranquillity of the border areas", Hua said. The incident took place on June 17 when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops intruded into the Chumar sector in Ladakh and took away a camera installed at the Indian border post.’

The camera which was removed was reportedly returned on July 3, a day ahead of Antony's visit, the first by an Indian Defence Minister since 2006. Antony held talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, his Chinese counterpart General Cheng Wanquan and Special Representative of the India-China border negotiations Yang Jiechi on July 5 and 6.

Before that Yang and National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon held the 16th round of border talks on June 28 and 29 after which both sides spoke of positive progress.

Antony said despite the pleasantries, he had free and frank discussions covering virtually all aspects of the boundary problems, including the April 15 Depsang Valley incursion in which, Chinese troops pitched tents. — PTI
China for freeze on infra development along LAC

New Delhi, July 10
China has proposed freezing of infrastructure development along the border under a new pact but it is set to be rejected by India which is in the process of building infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China has made the proposal as part of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) which is under negotiation between the two countries, highly-placed sources said.

In the proposal, which is in the form of a paragraph in the BDCA, the Chinese side has said there should be a freeze on development of infrastructure in any 'disputed area', they said.

India is set to reject the proposal in its response expected to be conveyed to China by the end of this month, the sources said. India is in the process of major infrastructure building exercise along the LAC and the Chinese proposal appears to be aimed at scuttling that. The BDCA was proposed by China during the Defence Secretary-level talks earlier this year.

Sources said the proposed pact would be a "comprehensive" one encompassing some of the protocols and agreements signed by the two countries in the past.

The border pact is aimed at avoiding flare ups on the boundary between the two countries. Other proposals made under the pact include non-tailing of troops if noticed during patrolling along the disputed LAC and to not fire at each other under any condition.

India and China have held several discussions on the BDCA during the recent past but after incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in April, the movement on the proposed act has increased. During Defence Minister AK Antony's recent visit to China, the two sides agreed to conclude negotiations on the pact at an early date.

After Antony's talks with Chinese leaders, the two sides agreed on a slew of confidence building measures, including having greater frequency of meetings at the border and increased exchange of visits of both young and senior armed forces officials.

India and China have also agreed to resume their Army-to-Army exercise to be held in China in October this year in the Chengdu military region. The two countries have also agreed to further strengthen the existing agreements and protocols between the two sides and emphasised the importance of enhancing mutual trust and understanding between the two militaries for maintaining peace and tranquility on the border. — PTI

India to reject proposal

* China has made the proposal to put a freeze on infrastructure development along LAC as part of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement which is under negotiation between the two countries

* India is in the process of major infrastructure building exercise along the LAC and the Chinese proposal appears to be aimed at scuttling that

* Sources said India is set to reject the proposal and the response is expected to be conveyed to China by the end of this month
India to intensify maritime cooperation with SL, Maldives
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, July 10
Seeking to protect its strategic interests in the wake of growing Chinese influence in its neighbourhood, India yesterday entered into a long-term agreement with Sri Lanka and the Maldives to intensify cooperation in maritime security.

Under the trilateral initiative, the three South Asian countries will take collaborative measures in the areas of maritime domain awareness, strengthen coordination of maritime search and rescue, promote maritime oil pollution response cooperation, expand ‘dosti’ (friendship) exercises and share information on illegal maritime activities and piracy.

The breakthrough came at the two-day meeting on trilateral cooperation on maritime security held among the three countries in the Lankan capital of Colombo. The Indian side was represented by National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshanker Menon, The Maldivian side by Defence and National Security Minister Mohamed Nazim and the Lankan side by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

New Delhi’s move is clearly aimed at countering Beijing’s bid to spread its strategic footprint in the region. New Delhi has been concerned ever since China was awarded the Hambantota port development project in Lanka. Much to India’s discomfort, Beijing also inaugurated its embassy in the Maldives in 2011 and has since then been eyeing for some key infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Countering China

* New Delhi's move is clearly aimed at countering Beijing's bid to spread its strategic footprint in the region

* New Delhi has been concerned ever since China was awarded the Hambantota port development project in Lanka

* Much to India's discomfort, Beijing also inaugurated its embassy in the Maldives in 2011

* The country has since then been eyeing for some key infrastructure projects in the Indian Ocean archipelago
Psychological warfare
A new phase of jihad in J&K
by Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd)

THE militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is a mix of violence and clever use of psychological warfare. Having failed to succeed in their designs to defeat the security forces, militants are trying to discredit and defame them to ultimately force them to be moved out. There are many instances of false allegation against the Army operating under difficult conditions in the militancy-affected area.

According to a recent news report, a group of women representing various women's organisations has submitted a memorandum to the Defence Ministry urging a fresh investigation into the alleged mass rape in Kunan Poshpura village. The reported incident dates back to February 23, 1991, when soldiers belonging to 4thBattalion of Rajputana Rifles are supposed to have resorted to mass rape during the night of February 23-24. The allegation at that time was "… that up to 100 women were 'gang-raped without any consideration of their age, married, unmarried, pregnancy etc'. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 80".

Unless one assumes that the whole battalion comprised depraved officers and men, the allegation is prima facie preposterous. The case had been investigated by different agencies at that time and the allegations had been found to be false. In light of this, what is even more disturbing is the reported comment of Salman Khurshid during his visit to the Valley on June 28, 2013. When questioned about this 22 years old incident, he is reported to have remarked, "What can I say? I can only say that I am ashamed that this happened in my country." In saying so the minister has gone against the findings of his own government. Nothing could be sadder.

A few hard facts about the reality in J&K need recalling. In the beginning of this year Mirwaiz Mohammad Umar Farooq had openly appealed in Srinagar that Pakistan should do something or the 'freedom struggle' would die out. After that Hurriyat leaders went to Pakistan, except Syed Geelani. According to media reports they all met Gen Kayani, the Pakistani Army Chief. They undoubtedly would have met the ISI operatives too. The Mirwaiz also travelled to Muridke to meet Hafiz Saeed of LeT and spent more than a day there. Yasin Malik did the same and pictures of his meeting the LeT supremo were in the media. The attempted revival of terrorism is an outcome of those efforts. A recent ambush when eight soldiers lost their lives is one of the outcomes and is unlikely to be the last act of militants. The effort to get the old allegation of mass gang rape in Kunan Poshpura reopened is a related attack on the morale of the security forces. Repeated calls by some quarters for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act fall in the same mode.

Pakistan is known to have raised combined SSG and LeT teams for activities along the LoC. All these militancy related developments have an obvious link. The adversaries appear to be winning in every encounter because they are highly trained and motivated and well armed. With our LoC fences, they cannot cross into Kashmir without fire support from Pakistani posts. There has been a ceasefire in place since 2003. It is a strange ceasefire where Pakistan can open fire whenever they need to and we keep exercising restraint. When we were erecting the fence, Pakistan constructed a bund in many places along the LoC. As a result their small arms fire is more effective against us vis-à-vis ours. We have to respond with mortars and artillery to equalize that, making the retaliation more visible and seemingly escalatory.

It is the start of a new 'freedom struggle - Jihad'. The intensity would surely pick up tempo after the Western troops pull out of Afghanistan next year and more jihadis are available to operate in J&K. Our head-in-the-sand policy is not leading us anywhere. We have to see and face the reality. Undoubtedly, secularism is the strength of our Constitution. But secular should not be synonymous
with suicide.

There is little use banking on the J&K Government to handle the situation. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had aroused great hopes when he assumed charge. Unfortunately, he seems to have fallen prey to populism. The state political leadership remembers nationalism and patriotism only when they need free money from the ever-generous New Delhi. At other times the leadership there talks of 'over their dead bodies' whenever one mentions pulling the rest of J&K out of the clutches of the Valley. Their focus remains on getting back 'strayed' youth from Pakistan, each one with a Pakistani passport with multiple Pakistani wives and children in tow and kid-glove treatment of Hurriyat leaders and others over ground workers who are openly getting money from Pakistan and distributing it. Patriotism gets mentioned only when the State leadership crosses the south of Banihal. Most of their pronouncements and actions are willynilly providing a boost to a new phase of jihad.

There is a need for J&K and India to wake up before the situation in Kashmir turns more serious and gets out of hand.
Time running out for ‘71 POWs
Indian soldiers are believed to be languishing in Pakistan jails for 40 years now. Their families feel betrayed and are convinced the Government of India has not done enough to bring the men back from captivity.
The writer is the daughter of Major SPS Waraich, whose name figures first on the list of the original 40 soldiers and officers declared ‘missing’ in the Lok Sabha in 1979. She is a member of the Missing Defence Personnel Relatives Association and has been closely following the matter. Her views are personal and based on research and data collected by her.
By Simmi Waraich

India is helping other countries trace its missing soldiers from World War II in the Northeast, but our country has not shown the will to trace its own men even after a Major wrote a letter in 1974 saying he was alive along with 20 other officers.

On October 17, 2012, the Department of Defence POW at the Missing Personnel Office of the US announced that the remains of two airmen missing in action from the Vietnam War had been identified and would be buried with full military honours. In an investigation conducted over 17 years to identify the remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools.

India, too, is cooperating with the US to find its missing personnel in the Northeast. As per the BBC News (June 24, 2008): “A US team is visiting the remote state of Arunachal Pradesh in north-east India to search for the remains of US pilots who crashed during the WW-II.” India has also promised to help Bangladesh find its soldiers believed to have been killed in the 1971 war and buried in West Bengal, through a DNA analysis of the remains.

Army records

But consider India's record in regard to its own missing defence personnel. Records of 15 Punjab say two officers, two JCOs and 72 other ranks went missing while 9 Jat notes one officer as missing. Records of Pakistan's 28 Cavalry states an officer of 9 Jat was captured. Did the Indian Government take cognisance of these reports when it sent back 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war (POW) and got back ours? Should the Air force and Army not have made sure that those listed as missing were accounted for?

In war, mistakes happen. In the mayhem of the battle, 5 Assam Regiment noted Major Ashok Suri as killed in action and sent a helmet to his parents with two bullet holes and bearing someone else's name. His body was not found. Should the Army not have made a separate category for those whose bodies were not recovered? Those who were seen being captured should be recorded as POW. Major Suri's status changed when his father Dr RS Suri received a handwritten note from him dated December 7, 1974. The letter contained a slip in which his son had written, “I am okay here.” The covering note read: “Sahib, Valaikumsalam. I cannot meet you in person. Your son is alive and is in Pakistan. I could only bring his slip, which I am sending you. Now going back to Pakistan.” It was signed “M. Abdul Hamid”.

Letter fails to move

In August 1975, he received another missive dated “June 14/15/16, 1975, Karachi”. The letter said: “Dear Daddy, Ashok touches thy feet to get your benediction. I am quite okay here. Please try to contact the Indian Army or the Government of India about us. We are 20 officers here. Don't worry about me. Pay my regards to everybody at home, specially to mummy, grandfather — the Indian Government can contact Pakistan government for our freedom”. The then Defence Secretary had the handwriting confirmed as Ashok's and changed the official statement from “killed in action” to “missing in action”.
Wg Cdr HS Gill, who went missing in the 1971 war, was reportedly spotted at Attock jail in Pakistan. A former Indian spy wrote about it in his book.
Wg Cdr HS Gill, who went missing in the 1971 war, was reportedly spotted at Attock jail in Pakistan. A former Indian spy wrote about it in his book.

Major Suri's faith in the Indian Government was to be belied as it shifted the file of “missing in action” from the old Secretary to new ones; old ministers to new ones, with no coherent policy. He continues to be “killed in action” in the Army records.

In 1996, Riaz Khokhar, foreign minister of Pakistan in India, said in an interview to a news channel that they knew of no Indian Armymen in their jails. He said if they were there, they may be under assumed names. A strange explanation, which could mean the names of the prisoners were changed, like Kashmir Singh became Ghulam Mohammed, or — as we saw in the jail records of 10 Pakistani prisons in 2007 when our government sent us to look for its soldiers without having done any groundwork — that a Kamal became Qamal. So many names could be changed accidentally or deliberately.

Fourteen of us visited the jails in Pakistan even though we had asked our government that we wanted to see records of the Army and visit Attock, which is a military jail, and not civilian jails. We had also told the government that it was not our job to look for these men as they were the nation's soldiers, and as civilians, there was little we could do.

In 1979, Samarendra Kundu, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, submitted a list of 40 defence personnel thought to be in Pakistani jails, in the Lok Sabha in response to a question by Amarsinh Pathawa and said: “The Indian Government is making all efforts and is in constant touch with the Pakistani government through their embassy for their release.”

Why was it that it did not stir any politician or defence chief to take up the issue on top priority? Dr RS Suri's persistence turned the apathy into some action but the fact remains that till the will is not transmitted by the head of the government of a state to the other that the country is determined to get to the bottom of the case and would not rest until they get their soldiers back, there was and is little likelihood that anything would happen.

Lack of will

The Prime Minister expresses his helplessness: “What can we do when they do not agree?” Are these the words of the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy? The current President said: “Do you think they would be alive now?” Shocking insensitivity! And who does it hurt? The nation that does not care for its own men. Contrast this with the Israelis who traded 3,000 Palestinians for one Israeli soldier.

The Army and Air Force have been equally insensitive — asking for signatures on pieces of paper which changed the categories from “missing” to “presumed killed in action” so pensions could be released.

Two Indian jawans, Jagseer Singh and Mohd Arif, were captured in September 1999. When Pakistan president Parvez Musharraf visited India in 2001 for the Agra Summit, he denied Indian soldiers were in Pakistan jails. At that time, these two jawans were there. They were brought to Adiala jail in Rawalpindi from an undisclosed location, where they had been kept for five years in 2004. Jagseer Singh wrote to his mother, following which the Indian Government sought their release.

However, in response to Major Suri's letter, the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs told the distraught families to keep quiet as the soldiers may be killed. The government sat even more quietly for the next 41 years doing nothing more than periodically asking Pakistan politely to return its soldiers.

Mohan Lal Bhaskar, a former spy who was repatriated in 1974 after six years, met Major Ayaaz Ahmed Sipra and Col Asif Shafi of Pakistan's 2 Punjab in Kot Lakhpat jail, Lahore. They told him they met a certain Gill of the IAF and a Capt Singh of the Indian Army at the Fort of Attock. Bhaskar wrote this in his book “I Spied for India”. Ayaaz Ahmed and Shafi later moved to the US, where Shafi was traced by the son-in-law of Sqn Ldr Jain, another officer missing and believed to be in a Pakistani jail since the 1971 war. Shafi confirmed he had met Wg Cdr Gill in Attock. Several Pakistan defence officers were arrested in 1973 on charges of conspiring to overthrow Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government and were jailed in Attock.

Last year Jaspal Singh, a jawan of 15 Punjab who had gone missing, but whose name is not on the list, met a carpenter in Oman and spoke to him in Punjabi. He was dressed like a Muslim. When the carpenter told him he was from Durgi, Jaspal said his father-in-law was from there. He enquired about his wife and son but told the carpenter not to tell his family. The carpenter returned and confirmed the story. However, neither did the government nor the Army follow the lead. Jaspal's family lives in a limbo, with no reason to disbelieve the carpenter and no way to rejoice in the news that he is alive.

On our persistence, the government set up the Committee for Monitoring Missing Defence Personnel (CMMDP) some years ago. Currently, its chairman is Vice-Admiral Pattanaik. The committee has not contacted the affected families so far. Its members meet once in six months. It has not even summoned old war diary records from units or bothered to ask Major Suri's brother for his letter. Why enact a farce of helping the Americans or Bangladeshis find their dead soldiers when we are not even willing to search for our living?

Apart from making annual statements in the Lok Sabha, Preneet Kaur, MoS for External Affairs, made a statement similar to Samarendu Kundu's last year. Had the government shown any tenacity, it would not have suffered the ignominy of letting its officers die in a foreign land even as their families know no peace.

The government can redeem itself a little if it takes a cue from countries which have set up similar committees that make all-out efforts, follow each lead, and respect a man who has fought for his country and deserves better than to be left to languish in a foreign land. The US has a POW medal of honour. Defence Minister AK Antony promised us when we returned from the emotionally gruelling trip in 2007 that India would not stop till it gets to the truth.

Some of these men may still be alive. Stranger things have happened.

Questions, no answers

* Over time, some civilians and Indian spies returned from jails in Pakistan. They were debriefed by the Indian Government before being allowed to return to the mainstream. Some of these men spoke of meeting and seeing missing Indian Army personnel in Pakistani jails. Are these claims false?

* Have similar stories been concocted by emotionally distraught relatives?

* How does one explain the evidence and the acknowledgement of the government, which was the first to make a statement in the Lok Sabha in 1979 that 40 defence personnel were believed to be in Pakistani jails?
Jane's: UK military spend to be overtaken by India

LONDON — Defense analysis firm IHS Jane's says that Britain's military budget is set to be outstripped by its former colonial subject, India, within the next few years.

Jane's said that projections being published Wednesday show that Britain - now No. 4 in terms of global military spending - is due to fall behind Russia this year before slipping into sixth place behind India in 2017.

Britain's Ministry of Defense disputes some of Jane's figures and describes its prediction as "baseless speculation."

But the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that given U.K. budget forecasts and India's projected economic growth it is reasonable to assume that the two nations' military budgets will be neck-and-neck by 2016.
CPI leader slams Chinese Army chief for provocative statement
Guwahati: Senior leader of Communist Party of India (CPI) D. Raja has criticized the Chinese Army chief’s statement regarding Indian Army’s movement. Raja who is in Guwahati for a party meet said that Major General Luo Yuan should maintain restraint and not make such provoking statements at a time when Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony is on an official visit to Beijing.

Earlier, Major-General Luo Yuan had said that India should be cautious about what it does and says and should not provoke new problems by deploying more troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“If the Chinese Army Chief has made such a statement, it is unwarranted and provocative. At a time when Indian defence minister A.K. Antony is on a visit to China, the resolution of border dispute between India and China is at higher level at the level of political leadership of both the countries, both India and China,” Raja said on Friday.

He also said that even the Chinese premier Li Keqiang had wanted friendship with India during his visit.

“If that is the spirit, the Chinese Army Chief must restraint, he should not make such provocative statements particularly at the time when our own Defence Minister A.K. Antony is on an official visit to China. They should leave the border dispute to be solved by the political leadership by both the countries,” he added.

Moreover, the CPI national secretary also expressed the party’s dissatisfaction regarding the Food Security Ordinance.

“The Ordinance is not at all acceptable to us as it is undemocratic. It’s a poll gimmick by the UPA government and nothing else. What was hurry to issue an ordinance? We are demanding a thorough comprehensive debate. The present bill also needed to be drastically amended,” he said.

Earlier, the Union Cabinet had approved a food security ordinance to implement the Food Security Bill which aims to provide subsidised food grain to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people. Other political parties including BJP, Samajwadi Party too have opposed the ordinance.
In Pakistan, army adamant on fighting the other Taliban
(Reuters) - In the past few years, Pakistan's Swat valley has been occupied by Islamic insurgents, undergone a bruising counter-offensive by the army and then flooded by waters that washed away acres of fruit orchards and steeply terraced fields.

In October last year, the valley which lies about 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital Islamabad was again in the global spotlight when Islamic gunmen shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.

Now, as villagers try to piece together shattered lives, the military is coming under pressure to talk peace with the Taliban, a ruthless Pakistani offshoot of the Islamic radical movement of the same name in neighboring Afghanistan.

Civilian Pakistani leaders elected in May want to open a dialogue with the homegrown militants set on overthrowing the nuclear-armed state. They say the local people are fed up with the violence and that any talks will be legitimized by U.S. efforts to promote peace with the Afghan Taliban.

But the powerful military, which has spent years chasing the Pakistan Taliban into ever-more remote hideouts, is in no mood to negotiate with militants who have killed thousands of soldiers and who they say cannot be trusted. Some villagers back that stand.

"(The Taliban) doesn't accept the government's writ, they are not faithful to the constitution, how can a political party talk to them?" said Abdul Rehman, an elder in the village of Kalam, a former tourist hotspot high in the Swat valley and ringed by snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Khush. The village is famous for repelling Taliban attacks.

"We forced them away, first on our own, then with the help of the army," Rehman told Reuters during a visit organized by a U.N. organization funding flood relief work in his village, which is set among pine forests and walnut orchards.

The debate over whether to open peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban has taken centerstage in the country as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan after a 12-year war against the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan's military leaders are at pains to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban, to which Pakistan maintains ties and which they argue can be seen as fighting against occupation, and its local imitators who they see as domestic terrorists.

The Pakistani Taliban pledges allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban but Omar is careful not to be seen to attack the Pakistani state. The Pakistani Taliban's suddenly sacked its spokesman on Tuesday amid signs of strained ties between the groups.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his prominent rival Imran Khan both offered to talk to the Pakistani militants while campaigning for May's federal and provincial elections. While Sharif won the federal elections, Khan's party emerged victorious in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province that includes Swat Valley and remains a hotbed of Pakistani Taliban activity.

The information minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the Northwest Frontier Province, told Reuters that the provincial government had called a meeting of other political parties and stakeholders to prepare for peace talks.


"The United States has opened up a Taliban office in Qatar and is holding negotiations with them, and we are being told to continue to fight and die," Khan said last month during a visit to Peshawar, the province's violence-blighted capital.

"For the last nine years we have relied on the army to bring peace, but instead the situation got worse," he said. "It's now time for politicians to resolve the issue."

Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), says the violence in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a reaction to U.S. drone strikes and pro-Washington policies by the army, and that talks are the only answer.

But there is no easy solution.

Most of the militants seek refuge in the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) - districts strung along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan and run by central writ - and the provincial government cannot control the process.

FATA is used as a base by the Pakistani Taliban, members of the Afghan Taliban and groups linked to al Qaeda.

Sharif's federal government can only do so much. Pakistan's military largely has a free hand regarding internal security, and influences foreign policy, especially relations with neighbours.

It is the army, its intelligence agencies and the Taliban itself who will decide whether to talk or fight.

The Pakistani Taliban has shown interest in talks, but has stepped up attacks after a series of drone strikes on its leaders and also because it doubts the ability of the civilian leadership to convince the military to allow negotiations.

"If we felt that the PTI government or the Nawaz Sharif government were in a position to take a serious step towards peace talks and can oppose the intelligence agencies, then we can seriously think about peace talks," the group's then spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a video released in June.

So far, the military has shown no inclination to relax an offensive many officers feel they can win.

"We have to take the fight to them," said a regional commander flying a helicopter over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Just before the elections, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani made it clear he would not talk to the militants unless they lay down arms and accept Pakistan's laws.

"There is no room for doubts when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state," he said in an April 30 speech.


Locals in Swat said there was good reason to mistrust the militants.

A previous peace deal gave the Pakistani Taliban the breathing space it needed to take power in the valley and then extend influence into neighboring districts just 100 km from Islamabad in 2009.

That summer, worried by the creeping proximity of Taliban territory to Islamabad, the army launched a full air and ground assault and government forces regained control in a month. But the operation displaced 2 million people, and later, many returned to nothing but dead livestock and flattened orchards.

Floods that ripped through Swat the next year made things worse, destroying many of the tightly packed terraces where corn and wheat grow along steep mountainsides. Acute malnutrition among children has jumped by more than a third.

Saifullah Khan Mahsud, an expert on the situation in FATA, says the army believes it has the Pakistani Taliban on the back foot and is biding time for a fatal blow in border areas like North Waziristan, where the militants and other global groups are holed up.

"At the end of the day it is the military stance that is going to prevail," he said.

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