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Friday, 30 August 2013

From Today's Papers - 30 Aug 2013
Bhutan PM likely to brief India on talks with China
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, August 29
Bhutan’s new Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who arrives here tomorrow on his first overseas visit after assuming office in July, is expected to brief New Delhi on the recently concluded talks between his country and China over their boundary dispute, which has strategic implications for India’s security.

Tobgay will hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday apart from meeting other top Indian leaders and seek New Delhi’s help to boost his country’s economy and ease liquidity crunch. He is scheduled to meet Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during the six-day visit.

The visit assumes significance against the backdrop of a controversy between the two countries on the eve of elections in Bhutan in July when India withdrew oil and gas subsidies to the tiny Himalayan nation. India argued the subsidies were withdrawn due to technical issues, while Thimphu suspected New Delhi’s move was prompted by Bhutan’s friendly overtures towards China.

National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had travelled to Thimphu earlier this month to mend fences with Bhutan against the backdrop of the subsidy issue.

It is understood that Menon also counselled the Bhutan Government on how Thimphu should handle its boundary talks with China and ensure that India’s vital strategic interests were not affected.

Sources said New Delhi would like to know the details of the 21st round of boundary talks between Bhutan and China held in Thimphu on August 22. Tobgay will also seek grants from India to inject funds into Bhutan’s economy. Bhutan is facing an Indian rupee crunch that has hit the Himalayan country’s business community. India has assured Bhutan of assistance in addressing the economic situation. It is said to be working on a Rs 5,400-crore financial package for the neighbour.

New Delhi and Thimphu are chalking out the financial assistance in three categories - Rs 4,500 crore for the 11th Five Year Plan, Rs 500 crore as an “economic stimulus plan” and Rs 400 crore for spillover activities from the previous 10th Five Year Plan.

On the table

    Bhutan is likely to share the details of the 21st round of boundary talks with China held on August 22
    Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will seek grants from India to inject funds into Bhutan's economy and ease liquidity crunch
    The visit assumes significance as India had withdrawn oil and gas subsidies to Bhutan on the eve of elections in July
    India has assured Bhutan of assistance and support in addressing the economic situation
Ministerial team to visit Indo-Myanmar border

Imphal, August 29
A ministerial team will soon visit the Indo-Myanmar border to study undemarcated areas in Chandel district, Manipur Home Minister Gaikhangam said.

“A Cabinet team will soon make an inquiry on whether the proposed erection of border fencing near border pillar 76 would bifurcate several border villages of Manipur in Chandel district,” Gakhangam, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, said while attending a public function here yesterday. He said the proposed fencing work was initiated by the governments of the two countries and all efforts would be made to protect the territories of the border state.

Official sources said there was “no incursion or intrusion” of Myanmar Army or officials into villages near the border although attempts had been made by the latter to set up a base camp near border village of Holenphai, near border pillar 78, about a week ago.

Sources said the state government had, on different occasions, urged the Centre to initiate steps for re-survey of undemarcated border areas around border pillar 76 by authorities of the two countries, adding that some activities by Myanmar army and officials were going on in the Myanmar side near this border pillar. Major political parties and several organisations including United Committee Manipur (UCM) whose representatives had visited the controversial border areas, have urged the Centre to immediately conduct re-survey of the borderline with Myanmar authorities.

They had said if the proposed fencing was erected, more than 45 villages would fall within the territory of Myanmar. — PTI
Tread with care
Armed intervention the last resort

THERE is mounting evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, even if there is lack of evidence about who used them and how. This has to be condemned and the world must act to ensure that civilians do not become the victims of these weapons of mass destruction.

President Barack Obama had announced earlier that using such weapons would be crossing the line. Now, in the face of mounting evidence of their use, he is under pressure to intervene in a manner that would demonstrate the US might, without getting US troops on the ground.

The US has failed to gain a diplomatic consensus on Syria, and its attempts to bring in the UN Security Council sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have been foiled by Russia, which supports the regime, as do Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. Now it is under pressure to take unilateral action, and even here the traditional allies have displayed some reluctance to join in the armed intervention aimed at punishing the Assad regime for its alleged atrocities. The civil war in Syria dates back to the March 2011 protests in Deraa. The country has been embroiled in a civil war of attrition, which has come at a huge cost to the civilian population. Over 10 lakh refugees have taken shelter in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey and tens of lakhs have been displaced from their homes.

There have been some questions about the kind of forces that would replace President Assad, were he to be toppled. Indeed, the rebels comprise many shades of opinion, including some with radical extremist views. Even as the US seeks to balance a response that demonstrates its might without radically changing the balance of power in the region, it should make all-out efforts to seek a broad diplomatic consensus before undertaking any military action. There is much that can still be done to improve the situation on the ground and stop such atrocities. Any intervention in Syria should be based on a well-thought strategy, duly discussed and debated. Once committed, the US will be in danger of getting sucked into yet another Middle-East conflict which it may find difficult to pull out of.
Despite LoC tension, efforts on for Manmohan-Sharif meeting in NY
Ashok Tuteja/TNS
New Delhi, August 29
Pakistan is in touch with India to explore the possibility of a possible meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York next month.

It is learnt that the Special Envoys of the two countries -- SK Lambah (India) and Shaharyar Khan (Pakistan) -- have been asked to initiate back-channel diplomacy to see how tension could be brought down and a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif could take place. Lambah is likely to meet Khan in Dubai away from the media glare to hold free and frank discussions.

Though Indian officials were tight-lipped on ‘Track II’ diplomacy, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry confirmed in Islamabad that the two pointsmen for back-channel diplomacy were in touch with each other. ‘’As for the meeting in New York, it has been the position of the government of Pakistan that should an opportunity arise, we believe that such a contact between the leadership of the two countries will be a useful occasion to discuss the steps required to improve relations,’’ he said. Pakistan has proposed a meeting between the two PMs on September 29.

New Delhi has, however, remained ambiguous on the possibility of the meeting between the two PMs since the flare-up on the Line of Control (LOC) earlier this month. At the same time, it has reiterated time and again in recent days that Pakistan must ensure that its territory was not allowed to be used for terrorist activities against India so as to create an atmosphere for talks between the two nations.

Hours after IM founder Yasin Batkal’s arrest was announced this morning, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hoped that the thinking in Pakistan would change and it would hand over to New Delhi all those fugitives from the Indian law who have taken shelter in the neighbouring country.

Track II diplomacy at work

    The Special Envoys of the two countries -- SK Lambah (India) and Shaharyar Khan (Pakistan) -- have been asked to initiate back-channel diplomacy to see how tension could be brought down and a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif could take place
    Lambah is likely to meet Khan in Dubai away from the media glare to hold free and frank discussions
    Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry confirmed in Islamabad that the two pointsmen for back-channel diplomacy were in touch with each other
    Though Pakistan has proposed a meeting between the PMs on September 29, New Delhi has remained ambiguous on the possibility of the meeting since the flare-up on the Line of Control (LoC) earlier this month
Pakistan: More Soldiers Killed by Indian Fire in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has summoned India’s top diplomat to protest the killing of two of its soldiers on Thursday in what Islamabad condemned as “continued unprovoked” Indian fire along the disputed Kashmir border.  Military officials say that such Indian attacks within the past 24 hours have left at least three Pakistani soldiers dead and wounded several others. 

Tensions have been running high between the nuclear-armed rivals since early August, when India accused Pakistani troops of ambushing and killing five Indian soldiers in a remote Kashmir district.

Islamabad denies the charges and has since accused New Delhi of repeated violations of a mutually agreed to cease-fire in the disputed Himalayan territory.  

Pakistani army officials allege the latest Indian “unprovoked” aggression took place Thursday evening in the “Hotspring” sector of Kashmir, killing at least one Pakistani soldier and wounding two others.

The incident came just hours after Pakistan announced the death of one of its soldiers in a similar Indian attack along the military line of control dividing Kashmir.

A Foreign Ministry statement says that the Indian high commissioner was summoned to protest the killings of Pakistani soldiers and to convey Islamabad’s “serious concerns over the continued and unwarranted cease-fire violations” by the Indian army.

It added that Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani also urged India to “desist from such acts,” warning they have the potential to further escalate the tension.

Earlier on Thursday, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, told a weekly news briefing that Islamabad is demonstrating restraint in the wake of unprovoked Indian fire and the policy “should not be construed as a weakness.”

He said India needs to reduce the Kashmir tension and engage in a dialogue with Pakistan to settle differences.  The spokesman again rejected allegations that Pakistani troops were responsible for the killings of Indian troops.

“On our side we investigated and we found that none of Pakistani side was involved in it and we conveyed that to the Indian side," he said. "It is for the Indian government to investigate as to what happened and how it happened.

Pakistan, which in itself has been suffering from terrorism, cannot be held responsible for any act of terrorism that may have happened on the other side of the Line of Control," said Chaudhry.

New Delhi has long accused the Pakistani military of training and sending Islamist militants into the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir to fuel a separatist insurgency there.  Military leaders in India say that this year, there has been a spike in attempts by militants to infiltrate into Kashmir.
On Monday, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony warned in a statement that his country was running out of patience with what he called Pakistan army-backed transgressions across the disputed Kashmir border.  He demanded Pakistan act against its troops involved in the killing of Indian soldiers in the latest incident as well as the killing of two troops back in January.

The alleged Indian hostilities also dominated affairs in the morning session of the National Assembly, the lower house of the Pakistani parliament, where lawmakers unanimously adopted an anti-India resolution moved by the federal minister for defense production, Rana Tanveer Hussain.

“This house condemns this act of aggression and also expresses its serious concern over the continued violations of the cease-fire across the LoC [Line of Control in Kashmir] by the India army and demands for a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement [with India].  The people of Pakistan fully stand behind their civil and military leadership to defend the territory of Pakistan," said Hussain.

The clashes in Kashmir, many believe, have undermined a push by Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to normalize relations with India.  In his first address to the nation earlier this week,  Sharif emphasized that instead of fighting one another, Pakistan and India should jointly wage a war against poverty, illiteracy and backwardness plaguing their region.

Just days before the latest hostilities broke out in Kashmir, the two countries were about to resume their stalled wide-ranging peace dialogue to settle bilateral disputes that have long strained ties between India and Pakistan.

Analysts are worried the tensions could derail efforts on both sides to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in New York next month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Indian MoD, Contractor Faulted in Guided-missile Purchases

NEW DELHI — India’s Defence Ministry has been severely criticized for buying 10,000 Konkurs-M anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) from Russia despite having a licensed production facility for the missiles at state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

The latest report of the comptroller and auditor general of India (CAG), placed in the Indian Parliament recently, said, “Failure of BDL to supply the missiles intended by the Indian Army resulted in conclusion of a contract for import of 10,000 missiles at a cost of $188 million defeating the very objective of avoiding dependence on foreign supplier for the ammunition.”

A source in BDL said the Russians failed to transfer the technology to India, which kept BDL from absorbing the information on time and led to production delays. However, a Russian diplomat here said all promised technologies for the advanced Konkus-M missile have been transferred to BDL.

However, the CAG report said BDL was slow in enhancing the production base for the Konkurs-M missiles.

“The Hyderabad-based defense public sector unit BDL planned to increase its production capacity from 3,000 to 4,500 missiles per year by 2012, and up to 6,000 missiles by 2013. In reality, the capacity was augmented by only 500 missiles per annum until February 2013.

“The delay in supply created a capability gap in the Army to fight tanks fitted with [explosive reactive armor] panels, thereby impacting its operational preparedness,” the CAG report said.

“Production of missiles is a complex challenge for India, which includes transfer of technology, absorption, acceptance of the missiles by the services and finally serial manufacturing the same based on the demand by the armed forces,” said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst. “The failure of the BDL, which has been touting Konkurs as one of its products for long, could be due to glitches in this entire cycle, thus its inability to deliver missiles to the Army has led to large deficiencies forcing the government to import the same.”

Another retired Indian Army officer said the delay by BDL led to a shortage of ATGMs, which finally led to purchases from Russia. “An inquiry should be held to find if the delays by BDL were intentional and meant to benefit the Russians,” he said.

On the delays in production, a BDL official who did not want to be identified said there were delays in transfer of technology, but added there was also a delay in giving orders to BDL from the service headquarters.

An Indian Army officer said the best option is to buy fully formed missiles from original equipment manufacturers, rather than from BDL, to meet operational requirements.

When asked about BDL’s performance, the Army official said BDL’s monopoly should be broken and the MoD should identify another agency, preferably in the private industry.

Former Indian Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh had warned of the shortages of ammunition, including Konkurs-M missiles. The November purchase of the 10,000 Konkurs-M missiles was a desperate reaction to Singh’s warning, an Indian Army source said.

With the serious concerns raised by the CAG regarding BDL’s production capabilities, alternatives will have to be explored to meet the Army’s requirements. “India has to address the entire missile-production cycle in BDL on priority or look for alternate foreign sources until BDL provides assured delivery,” Bhonsle said. “The large requirement means that only the US or Russia will have production facilities to provide thousands of missiles that are required by the over 400 battalion foot and mechanized infantry and approximately 70 tank regiments.”

An MoD official said the Army’s initial requirement is about 24,000 ATGMs to arm its 356 infantry units, adding that this procurement will be completed by the end of the twelfth plan period in 2017.

India has also been negotiating with the United States for the purchase of Javelin ATGMs and with Israel for Spike ATGMs. MoD sources said the negotiations with the US have been stalled over technology transfer, while negotiations with Israel on the Spike are also on hold, but gave no reason.

The purchase of new generation of ATGMs worth $3 billion could be re-floated as a separate program by the end of the year, the source said.
Inter-rivalry between Indian Army units led to killing of 5 soldiers: Hizb
Srinagar, Aug 28: Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen on Wednesday claimed that it had no role in the killing of five Indian Army personnel in Poonch Sector during the intervening night of August 5 and 6.
In a statement issued to a local news gathering agency CNS, Hizb spokesperson, Salim Hashmi said that the inter-rivalry between two regiments of Indian Army was the cause of these killings.
“Whatever, Indian Defence sources claimed in this regard was totally baseless and false. Indian Defense Minister changed the statements like clothes. At first he blamed Mujahideen for these killings. Later on, he held Mujahideen and Pak Army responsible for this attack. And in his last statement he completely raised his finger on Pakistan Army,” Hizb spokesperson said.
“Reliable reports suggest that on the spot of crime 20 Bihar Regiment of Indian Army had completed its duty and the forward post was taken over by 14 Maratha Light Infantry. Army personnel from both these units exchanged fire over the matter of some transactions which resulted in the death of five Indian soldiers,” he said.
“Indian political parties especially right wing Hindu extremist parties are playing politics over the issue and in order to gain vote bank these parties are indulging in anti-Pakistan propaganda,” he added. CNS

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