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Monday, 15 July 2013

From Today's Papers - 15 Jul 2013

Two Chinese choppers ‘violate’ Indian airspace
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu, July 14
In an incident that could further increase tension on the high Himalayan border between India and China in the northern sector, two Chinese army helicopters have violated Indian airspace in the Chumar sector in Ladakh division of Jammu and Kashmir.

The incident is said to have happened on July 11, days after the Red Army soldiers took away a surveillance camera from a strategic bunker in the Chumar sector, 300 km from Leh.

Though the Army is silent about the incident, highly placed sources claimed that both the helicopters surveyed the area for a few minutes before returning to their territory.

This is another major violation on the border after the deep incursion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in April when they entered Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and pitched their tents.

"The Army is monitoring the situation and the report has been sent to the Defence Ministry. The issue is being investigated to ascertain the purpose of the incursion as it is a major provocation," said an Army officer.

The incident is likely to raise fresh tensions between the two Asian giants despite the fact that Defence Minister AK Antony had recently visited the Communist country and discussed ways to maintain peace on the border and resolve complex border issues which have remained major issues of discord between the two countries for the past six decades.

Ladakh again

    The PLA copters violated Indian airspace in the Chumar sector on July 11 and returned after flying for some time there
    Army sources played down the incident, claiming the two PLA copters had not entered inside Indian territory
    Chumar has seen a number of incursions in the recent past including an incident on June 17 where Chinese troops took away an Army surveillance camera
Final testing of upgraded Arjun in Aug
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
The upgraded version of the Arjun series of tanks will undergo final testing in August. The tank, Arjun Mark-II, will be tested for different parameters in two phases in Rajasthan.

The first test will examine its missile firing ability, while the second one will look into tank’s automotive aspects i.e. its running especially with added load. The Army and the DRDO will conduct these trials.

The first set of trials is slated in the second week of August, while the second one will be conducted in the third week.

Successful testing will pave the way for the production of the upgraded Arjun. In all, 124 tanks of the first series have been produced so far.

The tank is produced by the DRDO’s, Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment near Chennai.

A major modification involves equipping the new version of the tank with missile firing capability. The DRDO aims at firing missiles accurately up to a range of 2,000 km. The missiles, fired through the tank’s main gun, are primarily meant for targeting armoured vehicles and fortifications over extended ranges.

The automotive trials will test the new suspension of the tank designed to handle up to 70 tonne weight. The engine will be from the same German parentage.

The upgraded version has 89 improvements over its predecessor. These include long-range missile firing capabilities, panoramic sights with night vision, enhanced weapon penetration, digital control, better hunter-killer capability, improved auxiliary power unit (APU), better communication equipment and navigation aid. The tank will have frontal explosive reactive armour (ERA) to protect against incoming missiles.
Denied top posting, Lt Gen may drag army to court

A lieutenant general may drag the army to court after being passed over for appointment to a top-level post last week.

In a rare violation of the seniority principle, the force overlooked Lt Gen GS Bisht and named Lt Gen Nitin Kohli - who is six months junior to the former - as the signal officer-in-chief. The post is that of the head of the army's information technology and communications wing - the Corps of Signals - and falls vacant on August 31.

Sources said Bisht would seek defence minister AK Antony's intervention before challenging the appointment in the armed forces tribunal. In a rare instance of intervention, the defence ministry had overruled the navy two years ago in a similar case and upheld the seniority principle.

In response to an HT query, army sources said "suitability" for the job was an important criterion, apart from seniority, in making such appointments. Kohli's appointment has been approved by the government, a source said.

But a retired general said, "It's a bit strange that an officer is found to be fit to be promoted to the three-star rank but unsuitable to hold a particular appointment in that rank."

Bisht is currently the commandant of Officers' Training Academy in Gaya, while Kohli is the director general of manpower planning and personnel services at the army headquarters. He was commissioned into the army in December 1975, six months after Bisht.

The Corps of Signals provides communications and electronic warfare support to military commanders to enable them to command their forces. It also provides connectivity to the navy and air force during joint operations.

An army official said a signal officer-in-chief would handle communications projects worth at least Rs. 3,000 crore in a tenure of two to three years.
Army chief to review Jammu & Kashmir security situation
NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of recent terror activities in the state, Army chief Gen Bikram Singh will be in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday to review security situation with the state government and top military commanders.

Gen Singh will reach Srinagar on Monday where he will hold discussions with Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah and governor NN Vohra, senior Army sources told PTI here.

During the visit, the Army chief will be given a detailed briefing by the 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Gurmit Singh on the activities of terrorists and the security situation in the Kashmir valley, they said.

The visit comes after an increase in the militant activities in the state including an attack on an Army convoy on June 24 in which eight jawans were killed and several others injured.

The newly-appointed Northern Army commander Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra is also scheduled to brief the Army chief about the security scenario in the state.

The Army chief is also expected to be given a detailed briefing about the situation along the line of actual control (LAC) with China.

The Army is taking several measures to strengthen its position at LAC in view of the recent incursion by the Chinese troops in Depsang valley and the situation in the Chumar sector.
Antony calls for closer India-China military ties
Beijing: Calling for closer military ties between India and China, Defence Minister A K Antony on Saturday said that it would be easy to maintain peace along the borders if both the forces have trust, mutual respect and confidence.

"If the military leadership on both sides from the top to the ground formations can maintain both trust and mutual respect, and confidence, then it is easy to maintain peace and tranquility at the border areas," Antony told Political Commissar of National Defence University General Liu Yazhou.

Antony visited the academy of People's Liberation Army on Saturday on the second day of his official visit.

During the meeting, the defence minister and Liu agreed to enhance military exchanges between the two countries.

Antony had on Friday held wide ranging discussions with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Defence Minister Gen Cheng Wanquan on a host of issues including maintaining peace and tranquillity at the borders.

In his interaction with Liu, Antony recalled his meeting with Premier Li and Gen Cheng.

"India and China are close neighbours. Our relations are expanding in many areas," he said, adding he had detailed discussions with the Chinese leadership on bilateral ties.

"Both sides are and have clear consensus that we must maintain peace tranquility and stability at our borders. In that endeavour military-to-military cooperation is an important aspect," he said.
Accompanied by a high-powered delegation consisting of top officials from Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, Antony went round the sprawling 15,000 sq mts varsity campus evincing keen interest in China's defence forces' training programmes for the officers of all its three forces.

Officials said Antony had expressed interest to visit the top military academy to study the Chinese pattern as India has recently launched its National Defence University in New Delhi which was expected to be ready in the next few years.

Indian officials said that efforts are on currently to evolve combined training programmes for all the forces.
China & India: All Not Quiet on the Western Front
Reports of a fresh Chinese incursion in India’s Ladakh region surfaced in the first week of July, barely two months after a tense border face-off in mid-April when a Chinese platoon set up camp about 19 km inside Indian territory. Reports of the latest incursion, which took place on June 17, came three days after the July 5-6 visit of the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to China.

According to reports, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol in the Chumar sector of southern Ladakh smashed Indian bunkers on June 17 and took away a camera placed on the ground, about 6 km ahead of an Indian Army post. The camera was ostensibly installed by the Indian Army to monitor Chinese troop movements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border separating Indian-administered Kashmir from the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin area.

India reportedly raised the issue two days after the incident at a border meeting on June 19. The Chinese returned the non-functional camera in early July. Given that the reports surfaced three weeks following the incident and going by New Delhi and Beijing’s attempts to play down the incident, it seems as if the two countries do not want to see a repeat of the April stand-off.

Reacting to the incident, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying denied the reports saying, “I have seen the relevant reports but I am not aware of the specific situation." She added, “Chinese defence forces have been patrolling along the Chinese side of the LAC of the China-India border. The general situation in the border areas is stable. We have the consensus that pending the final settlement of the boundary question no one of us should change the status quo along the LAC."

However, the Indian government’s attempts to play down the situation did not go well with the opposition, with the Bharatiya Janata Party accusing the government of “suppressing” the information. In the government’s defense, its response may have been guided by an attempt to prevent the situation from snowballing into a raging controversy fuelled by India’s hyper-sensitive media.

Yet the latest incident is a cause of deep concern and raises serious questions about China’s intentions. Even more so, since the incident has occurred against a backdrop of a spate of high-level visits exchanged between the two countries in recent months, including that of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India in May. Interestingly, New Delhi and Beijing held the 16th round of their Special Representatives' talks on the boundary question barely days after the incursion in the Chumar sector, which focused on devising joint mechanisms to avoid repetition of a Depsang-like situation.

However, despite claims by the Chinese interlocutor Yang Jiechi of “breaking new ground”, the two countries seem nowhere close to resolving the boundary dispute. China’s perceived incursions also come at a time when Beijing is involved in territorial disputes with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – which makes the timing of its territorial row with India all the more curious.

Whichever way one looks at them, these incursions do not bode well for Sino-Indian ties and raise questions about the intentions of the new Chinese dispensation in Beijing, which seems to be potentially testing the waters before forcing the border issue with India. They may also shed light on the multiple factors influencing Chinese decision-making, including domestic constraints and government-military relations, among others. India would do well to expect and be prepared for similar border incursions over the coming months – particularly at a time when the Indian government’s political capital is at its lowest in the lead-up to the 2014 elections.

One way India could strengthen its hand in its dealings with China would be by shedding some of its ambivalence towards the so-called US pivot to Asia and intensifying its diplomatic engagement with other Asian partners like Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
US exit: India steps up Afghan army training
NEW DELHI: India is stepping up training of Afghan National Army (ANA) in a major way, even as it also considers supply of military equipment to the fledgling force, in the backdrop of the US-led coalition preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

Defence ministry sources say "a major Indian effort has been launched for capability enhancement of the ANA" to ensure it can handle the internal security of Afghanistan after the progressive exit of the 100,000 foreign soldiers from there by end-2014.

India is worried about the stability of the strategically-located Afghanistan after the withdrawal because it is likely to witness a concomitant surge in the activity of the Taliban and its deadly arms like the Haqqani network, which have long worked in league with the Pakistani Army against Indian interests.

Defence minister A K Antony, in fact, recently warned the Indian military brass to be on guard to tackle "any spillover effect" in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere due to Pakistan's continuing support to the Taliban and its inroads into Afghanistan.

Though India has worked largely on re-construction and developmental projects in the war-ravaged country over the last decade, it is now also boosting the "capacity-building" of ANA. If 574 ANA personnel were trained in different Indian Army establishments in 2012-13, for instance, the number will be "well over 1,000" in 2013-14.

The training includes counter-terrorism operations, military field-craft, signals, intelligence, counter-IED, information technology, battle-field nursing assistance and, of course, the English language. Afghan personnel are also being "attached" to the Infantry School at Mhow, Artillery School at Devlali and Mechanised Infantry Regimental Centre at Ahmednagar for specialized courses.

India has also posted some Army officers in the central Asian nation teach basic military and English skills as well as military doctors to help at hospitals in Kandahar and elsewhere. The training of Afghan pilots and technicians in operating Russian-origin Mi-35 helicopter gunships is also on the anvil.

A joint Indian military-civilian team had also gone to Kabul earlier this month after Afghan President Hamid Karzai submitted "a wish list" of military equipment to India during a visit here in May. The 17-page list includes armoured vehicles, 105mm artillery guns, utility helicopters, trucks, communication equipment and the like.

Sources said the visit of an ANA "Strategic Group", with 10 high-ranking officers, was also planned to India from September 1 to 13. The delegation will hold talks with the top military brass here, part from visiting military establishments in Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Two Chinese choppers violated Indian airspace on July 11
LEH: Two Chinese army helicopters violated Indian airspace on July 11 in the Chumar sector in Ladakh, days after their soldiers intruded and took away an Indian surveillance camera.

The PLA choppers violated Indian airspace in the Chumar sector on July 11 around 0800 hours and returned after flying for some time there, sources said.

However, Army sources played down the incident, claiming the two People's Liberation Army (PLA) choppers were only flying close to the Indian airspace and had not entered inside our territory.

The two Chinese choppers were probably carrying out a reconnaissance of the area, sources said. The incident happened soon after defence minister AK Antony's visit to China when the two sides discussed measures to enhance peace and tranquillity along the line of actual control.

Chumar has seen a number of incursion incidents in the recent past including an incident on June 17 where Chinese troops took away an Army surveillance camera meant for keeping an eye on the PLA troops patrolling there.

Chumar, 300km from here, is the same area where Chinese troops triggered tensions in April smashing some bunkers besides cutting wires of cameras installed at the border post.

Chumar has always been an area of discomfort for the Chinese troops as this is the only area along the China-India border where they do not have any direct access to the LAC.

India and China have been working towards signing a border pact to maintain peace and tranquility along the LAC where a number of incursion incidents have been observed in the recent few months.

More than a couple of years ago, Chinese troops had entered the Indian territory using their Mi-17 medium lift choppers and dropped food and other supplies in Ladakh.

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