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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

From Today's Papers - 14 Aug 2013
Pakistan Assembly passes anti-India resolution
Charges India with ‘aggression’; Delhi says LoC violations will hit ties
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi/Islamabad, Aug 13
The Pakistan National Assembly today passed a resolution charging Indian troops with “unprovoked aggression” along the Line of Control (LoC) in recent days. New Delhi, however, asserted that unprovoked ceasefire violations would impact bilateral ties.

The resolution comes after a television channel aired Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s message calling for a “new beginning” in ties with India.

The resolution, which threatens to further vitiate the atmosphere between the two neighbours, said: “This House forcefully reiterates that while Pakistan is committed to working for peace with its neighbours, it remains steadfast in its resolve to fully defend its sovereignty, territorial borders and national interests.”

The resolution, moved by Pakistan Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid, blamed Indian forces for “unprovoked aggression” across the LoC in recent days.

It also condemned “attacks” on the Pakistan High Commission, demonstrations outside the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) offices in New Delhi and efforts to prevent the Delhi-Lahore bus from proceeding to Pakistan.

The resolution urged India to respect the 2003 ceasefire agreement and reaffirmed support to the “struggle of Kashmiri people for the right of self-determination”.

It deplored the “unjustified public vilification of Pakistan in the Indian media”. The resolution also endorsed Sharif’s “forceful statement” for effective steps to ensure ceasefire along the LoC and improve the atmosphere by engaging constructively to build trust and confidence. Sharif had said: “Let us make a new beginning. Let us sit together to resolve all outstanding issues in a friendly manner and in a peaceful atmosphere.”

Shortly after the remarks, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “India is committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through bilateral dialogue in an environment free of violence and terror. However, upholding the sanctity of the LOC is vital. It is one of the most important CBMs (confidence building measures) between us.” He made it clear that India would not rest until Mumbai terror attack masterminded and LeT chief Hafiz Saeed was brought to justice. Akbaruddin asked Pakistan to ensure that its soil was not used for terrorism directed against India.
Remarks made before poll
A message beamed by a Pakistan news channel featuring Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calling for a “new beginning” in ties with India has turned out to be the remarks made before the general election in May. “The short clip run by a private news channel in its 8 pm show (yesterday), without tagging it as ‘file’ footage, was inadvertently used by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP),” the news agency said. - PTI
Tender norms tweaked to suit AgustaWestland: CAG
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, August 13
In a damning report on the purchase of the 12 VVIP helicopters at a cost of Rs 3,726 crore, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) today pointed an accusatory finger at how the purchase was made by specifically changing the tender to suit AgustaWestland, an Anglo-Italian firm.

It has apportioned the blame of tweaking the tender to a period when former Air chief Marshall SP Tyagi was the IAF Chief. The report signed by former CAG Vinod Rai has dragged in another former IAF Chief, Fali Homi Major for having allowed the trials of the helicopters to be conducted outside the country and on copters that were not even the ones that India was buying. It narrates how the crucial aspect of lowering the flying ceiling from 6,000 m to 4,500 m was done at orders of the Prime Ministers Office in November 2003, during the time of the BJP-led NDA rule. This was later implemented during the UPA rule in early 2006 by drafting requirements that suited AgustaWestland.

AgustaWestland is already facing criminal charges in Italy. In India, the CBI has named SP Tyagi and his three brothers for allegedly receiving cash to tweak the deal in favour of AgustaWestland.

The CAG said the initial “request for proposal” (RFP) issued in March 2002 for replacement of the Mi-8 helicopters for VVIP flying stipulated a mandatory altitude requirement of 6,000 m. “The EH-101 helicopter (later renamed as AW-101 of AgustaWestland) could not be field evaluated as it was certified to fly up to an altitude of 4,572 m only. The first RFP was subsequently cancelled due to emergence of a resultant single-vendor situation.” Indian Defence procurement rules do not allow purchases when only a single vendor is in the fray.

In the revised RFP issued in 2006, the mandatory “service qualitative requirement” (SQR) relating to altitude requirement of 6,000 m was reduced to 4,500 m and a cabin height of at least 1.8 m was introduced. “The mandatory requirement of having a minimum cabin height of 1.8 metre reduced the competition, the lowering of altitude requirement was against the inescapable operational requirement of 6000 metre for transportation to many areas in the North and the North-East, said the CAG.

The purpose of re-framing the SQRs was to avoid a single-vendor situation. The second acquisition process, again led to a single-vendor situation but AW-101 of AgustaWestland was selected.

In March 2002 (while the NDA was in power), the PMO objected to a single-vendor situation and later in November 2003 suggested lowering the flying ceiling from 6,000 m to 4,500 m and having a cabin height of 1.8 m. “In the revised RFP of 2006, issued during the UPA’s time, instead of making the SQRs broad-based to increase the competition, these were made more restrictive, thereby narrowing down the choices to a limited range of helicopters”. SP Tyagi was the IAF chief at that time.

The CAG says the IAF did not even conduct “field evaluation trial” (FET) of AW-101 of AgustaWestland. Merlin MK-3A and CiV-01, helicopters of the same company, were used for the purpose, and not on the actual helicopter.
The observations
There were violations of “defence procurement procedure” in the contract for helicopters
The Defence Ministry deviated from procurement procedure and tender on several instances in the deal
The IAF did not even conduct “field evaluation trial” of AW-101 of AgustaWestland, instead Merlin MK-3A and CiV-01 helicopters of the same company were used for the purpose
Pak firing unabated, 11 Indian posts targeted
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Jammu, August 13
Pakistani troops opened heavy fire on 11 Indian forward posts in Balakote and Mankote sectors along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district for nine hours on the intervening night of August 12 and 13.

Panicked villagers fled their houses in the night and took refuge in safer areas.

Indian troops gave an “effective” response to the unwarranted and unprovoked act of the Pakistan army.

Pakistani troops had opened heavy fire on 11 Indian forward posts on the intervening night of August 11 and 12 along the Line of Control in the Durga Battalion area in Poonch district with mortar shells, rocket propelled grenades, automatic and small arms firing.

Rangers also targeted BSF posts in Ramgarh sector along the International Border of Samba district this morning. “Firing continued throughout night in Mendhar battalion and Hamirpur areas by Pakistani troops in sheer violation of the ceasefire agreement,” said Jammu-based officiating Defence PRO SN Acharya. He said the firing stopped at 6 am. “No damage or injury to our troops has been reported.”

Sources said around 9 pm last night, Pakistani troops opened unprovoked fire on Indian forward posts of Deri Dabsi, Shiva, 81, 82, 83, 84, Banglore, Sheri, Pili, Phagwari Gali, Sabra Gali and Balakote in Mendhar and Hamirpur areas of Poonch.

“Pakistani troops opened fire from eight posts viz Kayat Forward, Kanyat Rear, Gold Tree, New Defence, Dabsi Rear, Dabsi Center, Dabsi Forward and Goga posts, where 605 Mujahid Regiment is based,” a source said.

The Indian posts in these areas are being manned by 5 Grenadiers, 49 Rashtriya Rifles and 15 Bihar Regiment, they added.

Villagers especially in Basuni, Sandot and Balakote areas fled to safer areas. “They returned to their villages after the firing stopped around 6 am. No loss of life has been reported from these villages,” a source said.

Pakistan Rangers also opened small arms fire in Ramgarh sector of Samba district along the International Border. “Around 7.30 am, Rangers opened small arms fire on Narainpur post of the BSF from their Ashraf post, inviting a calibrated response from us,” said a BSF officer. The gun-battle lasted over 15 minutes.
Chopper scam: former Air Force Chief Fali Major counters CAG report
The Defence Ministry changed its own rules to sign a contract worth nearly 3700 crores for 12 helicopters with AgustaWestland, an Italian-owned company, the government's auditor has said in a report that dissects the deal that's now being investigated for possible kickbacks in both Italy and India.

Among the violations that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) lists is the decision in 2007 by then Air Force Chief Fali Major to allow trials for the helicopters under consideration to be put through field trials overseas, instead of at home.

The AgustaWestland trial was held in the UK; the American Sikorsky chopper was tested in the US from 16 January 2008 to February 2008, the CAG report says, describing the air chief's decision as "unjustified."

But speaking to NDTV, former Air Chief Marshall Major said, "No Chief can clear a decision to carry out trials abroad... It needs an endorsement by the government and the government did endorse it."

The CAG report also says that critical criteria listed for the new helicopters, intended for the use of top politicians, were changed to ensure AgustaWestland made the cut. So the cabin height was increased to 1.8 metres from 1.45 metres and the altitude that the helicopters were needed to fly at was reduced from 6000 metres to 4500 metres, without which AgustaWestland would have been ruled out.

The report acknowledges that Defence Minister AK Antony was not comfortable with foreign trials but cedes that the government signed off after being assured that "the trial team was fully competent to carry out the task" abroad.

Former Air Chief Marshal Major also pointed out to NDTV that the Defence Procurement Procedure allows testing abroad as long as specifications are met.

The process to buy the helicopters was initiated by the NDA government in 2003 when Atal Behari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.

The specifications in the tender were altered in 2006 and ratified later in 2010 when the UPA had come to power. But the CAG report finds no fault with the NDA's role, which weakens the defense of the incumbent government, which has tried to pass the buck for the alleged scam to its predecessor.

The report, which was shared with Parliament today, was prepared by Vinod Rai whose term as CAG ended in May.

It appears to fault the man who took over from him, Shashikant Sharma, who was a senior bureaucrat in the Defence Ministry and played an important role in approving the changes to the tender.
Indian armed forces know democracy's better than any other way: Lt General Anil Chait
Lt General Anil Chait is chief of India's Integrated Defence Staff. He coordinated and at times led recent rescue and relief opera-tions in Uttarakhand. Speaking with Srijana Mitra Das, Lt General Chait explained human challenges Uttarakhand posed, belief shared between India's citizens and soldiers — and how our armed forces have a passion for democracy:

What were the most difficult aspects of the Uttarakhand mission?

The most challenging was search, rescue and evacuation. The canvas was as wide as 40,000 sq km. In the absence of information, we had to grid the complete area, insert soldiers and establish control — this involved walking every trail and locating those needing help. The challenge was to find survivors amongst the dead, amongst creeks, crevices, nallahs and hills. The priority was to evacuate the living.

On the Kedarnath axis, we found seven people sitting amongst their dead. We gave them nourishment, then said, we have to take you out of here — but someone said, how can we leave our own parents, our children and go? Soldiers had no choice but to bodily lift people out. That was a story of extreme human challenge.

In Badrinath, we had 3,000 people anxious to leave because the weather was going to pack up. This was a law and order situation which we aren't empowered to tackle. We could only bring order by the soldiers' steadfast conduct.

A young woman was amongst a group stranded near Gangotri. She begged us to evacuate her for writing her IAS exam. We had to take older people first but her pleas stayed with us. I prayed to God to end this helplessness. The next day, the weather cleared — we could take everyone out and the girl could write her exam.

The spectrum of evacuees was wide, including the old and infirm, ladies, children, the medically affected and animals. Time and weather were at a premium and the requirement of troops was very large — strength had to be enhanced from 5,000 to nearly 8,500. The emotional suffering of people, pilgrims to locals, posed some difficulty. But we understood the stranded were extremely stressed out and had to be handled with utmost care — and everyone, seeing men in uniform, knew that the soldiers of the nation were there to save each and every life.

This was a saga of believing this is your country and your army, which exists only for the service of its people. This belief saw us all through — that was the story of Uttarakhand.

You mention belief — what would you say to those worried about corruption impacting the armed forces?

The ethos and roots of the Indian army are way too strong for any malaises to eat into. We are just one community of patriots and warriors with only one purpose — service to the nation and its people.

There have been a few incidents but these have been dealt with swiftly — and severely.

Compared to several other nations, the Indian armed forces have retained a passion for democracy — could you elaborate?

We definitely see democracy as a better way of life. There can be some minor things here and there — but the freedom of expression, the fundamental benefits which come with a society that believes in democratic values far outweigh any other way of governance.

A democratic way of life should be very disciplined. Today, we are a young democracy, we'll probably take a little time — but we certainly know that democracy is far greater than any other way of life.
BJP demands apology from defence minister AK Antony on army statement
NEW DELHI: BJP has demanded an apology from Defence Minister AK Antony for his 'shifting positions' on the attack on Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir and 'refusal to acknowledge' the involvement of the Pakistani army.

As the government appeared to shift its position on Wednesday, a day after Antony told Parliament that the attack was carried out by "people dressed in Pakistan army uniforms", BJP repeatedly disrupted proceedings in both Houses and later moved a privilege motion against him in the Lok Sabha for allegedly misleading the country. In a press statement, the Army had said its patrol was ambushed by a Pakistan Border Action Team close to the LoC in the Poonch sector. Approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with soldiers of the Pakistan army had carried out the attack on Tuesday, the Army said.

The minister's statement provided an opportunity to Pakistan to get away by claiming that the attack was carried out by "non-state actors", the BJP said. "AK Antony has let the country down. He should apologise to India," said Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of the Opposition. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha alleged that Antony had changed the statement after the prime minister's approval. "I had issued a breach of privilege notice against the defence minister for misleading the House and altering the statement of the Indian Army. According to this, he was not behaving like the Defence Minister of India but rather as that of Pakistan and I brought this up in Parliament," Sinha said.

That BJP was not prepared to give up its aggressive stand on the issue was clear when it continued with its demand for an apology from Antony when the food bill was introduced in the House in the afternoon. "Food security is important, I agree. But border security is equally important," Swaraj said.

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