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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 03 Sep 2013
Understanding key to relations with China: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 2
Defence Minister AK Antony today talked about a two-pronged Indian approach on relations with China. India, he said, was trying to have “more understanding” with China while at the same time it was strengthening its capabilities along the disputed frontier with its neighbour.

Antony was talking to reporters after inducted the US-built C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft formally into service of the IAF at the Hindon Air Base. Latter speaking on India-China relations, he reiterated that the two countries have an unsettled border. “Talks are going on to find an amicable solution to the long pending dispute. We are trying to have more understanding with them,” Antony said. He then went on to talk about the second part of the Indian approach. “Like China, we are also strengthening capabilities on the border”. Elaborating further he said: “We are taking these two steps together; of strengthening capabilities and of dialogue”.

Negotiations are underway to have a “more practical and effective” mechanism to prevent face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops on the LAC and efforts are being made to have confidence building measures, Antony pointed out. On being asked about the face-offs between Indian and Chinese armies due to difference in perception about the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Antony said: “Efforts are on to have more understanding between the two militaries. Apart from diplomatic channels, we are trying to have better understanding between the militaries”. For this, a greater number of border personnel meetings have been proposed.

Along the LAC, there are a more than a dozen disputed sites. Antony said: “Sometimes unfortunate face-offs do take place. Our Army and security forces are free in handling these incidents effectively”.

On being asked if the government has cancelled a trip by IAF chief Air Chief Marshall NAK Browne to China next month, Antony said it is “not correct” as he was visiting friendly foreign countries as per his wishes and invites by them. Reports in a section of the media said the IAF chief’s trip to China has been called off. Antony, on being asked if India was tilting towards the US since so many planes are being purchased from the US, said: “We are not tilting towards anyone. We have strategic partnership with many countries including the US. But we are very particular. We will not be party to any military bloc”.

At the induction of the C-17 Antony said: “The plane’s induction is a giant stride for the force and it will perform tactical and non-traditional operations”. Three of the planes were inducted and named the ‘Skylords squadron”.

The IAF has procured 10 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the US under a deal expected to be over Rs 20,000 crore. Air Chief Marshall NAK Browne said the plane would be operated from the advanced landing grounds in the northeastern states as well as from high altitude bases in north and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, indicating the wide sweep of the plane that can carry 70 tonnes of load and fly for 4,200 km non-stop. Till now the biggest plane in the IAF inventory was the IL-76, which carry some 40 tonnes of load.
India, South Korea discuss ways to boost defence ties
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, September 2
India and South Korea today discussed the potential for enhancing bilateral defence ties, ranging from cooperation for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region to joint defence production.

The two sides also agreed to step up cooperation in the spheres of maritime and cyber security at the 3rd India-South Korea foreign policy and security dialogue (FPSD) held in Seoul. The Indian side was led by Ashok Kantha, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry while the South Koeran delegation was headed by First Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Kim Kyou-hyun.

Both India and South Korea have been concerned over the increased Chinese assertiveness in the region, particularly on matters concerning the disputed South China Sea. In the field of defence, the two countries have been considering cooperation in futuristic defence technology areas.

At today’s meeting, the two countries also discussed potential for space and nuclear cooperation and upgrading of the bilateral trade and economic ties. Both sides also expressed desire to further expand and deepen their strategic partnership.

There was also a discussion on the possible outcomes from South Korean President Park Geun-hye's forthcoming visit to India. Discussing regional and international subjects of mutual interest, the sides agreed to step up coordination on East Asian regional issues.

South Korea also provided a briefing on the situation in the Korean Peninsula. Views were also exchanged on the recent developments in Afghanistan.

China factor

The two sides also agreed to step up cooperation in the spheres of maritime and cyber security at the 3rd India-South Korea foreign policy and security dialogue held in Seoul

Both India and South Korea have been concerned over the increased Chinese assertiveness in the region, particularly on matters concerning the disputed South China Sea

The two countries also discussed potential for space and nuclear cooperation and upgrading of the bilateral trade and economic ties
The crisis in Syria
The US pauses, the world waits

The situation in Syria is far from clear. While the US asserts that there is evidence of chemical weapons being used in Syria, Russia has dismissed the contention and the UN is still studying evidence that could show whether chemical weapons were used in a suburb of Damascus on August 21. The world waits as great powers position themselves over possible military intervention.

Even as the Americans maintain that hundreds of civilians have been killed in a chemical weapon attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, the fear of a unilateral American action has receded as President Barack Obama seeks approval from the US Congress; as British lawmakers rebuffed their Prime Minister's support for such action and Russian President Putin emerged as a strong opponent of any attack on Syria by Western powers. Now, President Assad has requested the UN to prevent any aggression against Syria. The UN Security Council has, in any case, frustrated US attempts to seek sanctions against Syria, with two of its members — Russia and China — protecting the Assad regime. However, the Syrian President will have to answer to the world body in case the UN investigators submit evidence of the attack. Military posturing has escalated, with the US positioning a flotilla of five naval ships in the Red Sea and Russia moving its surveillance ship to the area.

With rising sentiment against any unilateral use of force, the US should cooperate with the UN. With a reported one-third of the population displaced, Syria is a disaster zone that desperately needs humanitarian assistance. Civil unrest and war of attrition between the forces loyal to President Assad and the coalition of rebels has cost over one lakh lives. It has resulted in the large-scale destruction of a once prosperous nation. Instead of playing the 21st century version of the Great Game, the great world powers should work together to intervene against any use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria. Syria needs saviours; it remains to be seen if the world leaders can rise to the occasion.
Dithering on Syria
President Obama diminishes his own stature
by S. Nihal Singh

President Barack Obama's stunning decision to hold his hand in launching cruise missiles at Syrian military targets has left a lot of corpses on the floor. First, there is the diminished stature of the President himself, who has given the impression of dithering in commanding the still most powerful nation in the world.

Second, while the world was waiting with bated breath on the launching of the American missiles, President Obama has handed it a lemon. There is to be no missile strike until the Congress has reconvened on schedule and debated on the merits of a military strike.

Third, the whole moral issue of punishing a regime the US is convinced launched the chemical war attacks on its own people has gone by the wayside. The passionate advocacy of US Secretary of State John Kerry notwithstanding, President Obama is minding his own back, rather than behaving as the leader of the still remaining super power.

Apart from the question of the US Congress approving or otherwise the President's request for authorising narrow limited strikes at Syria as a shot across the bow, the entire issue of retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, as the US and many in the world believe, has now been thrown again into the diplomatic basket.

The Group of 20 summit meeting, including India, is due to be held in St Petersburg later this week, and in view of President Obama’s dithering, would be an ideal setting to go back to a diplomatic solution. In other words, the road may be open again to the stalled Geneva II talks on the basis of participants on the two sides coming to the talks without preconditions.

Perhaps the greatest casualty of the two and a half years of civil war as it has developed is President Obama; second removed is James Cameron, the British Prime Minister, who asked his Parliament for a vote on approval a British military intervention in Syria only to be handed a stunning rebuke. How the American leader will conduct himself in the remaining three years of his presidency is now a question mark.

President Obama was well aware that he was elected and re-elected to office as a peace candidate because after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans were tired of war. He promised to bring home troops from Iraq, which he did, and for a time, after owning the war in Afghanistan, he had second thoughts after his famous surge of troops did not work and set a 2014 deadline to bring back troops from Afghanistan.

In his effort to be true to the promise of being a peace candidate, President Obama has gone to the other extreme to show himself as the man who could not take a firm decision when his job as the supreme commander called for it. Americans might be tired of war, but their strong military power and still the most awesome military machine in the world must make them shrink in the face of what can only be described as a classic piece of dithering by their commander-in-chief. In the view of the average American it is better to be the blundering George W. Bush in Iraq's china shop than be a Hamlet at the head of America's military machine.

Domestically, President Obama's saga will have a profound impact on his Democratic Party's fortunes in the upcoming congressional elections and in presidential elections. Perhaps the most to be affected will be the prospective candidature of Hillary Clinton, who had seemed poised to take on the challenge the next time around, having lost out to Mr Obama in the Democratic primaries the last time around.

On a broader plane, Russian President Vladimir Putin, the host of the G-20 meeting later this week, could assume a key role in bringing the disastrous civil war in Syria to a less happy ending. But his American guest will have major problems in reconciling himself to a Russian-choreographed ending or even a mid-way house. After all, the US Congress will be asked to approve his request for authorising military strikes on Syria, an authorisation he did not need constitutionally.

The acuteness to President Obama’s predicament is, indeed, the highlight of the latest phase of the Syrian crisis. How it will end lies in the lap of the future, but the commander-in-chief of the US military will have to live many anxious moments as he goes about performing his many presidential duties. His domestic problems will inevitably mount.

In the end, of course, it might be such a bad outcome for the Syrian crisis to meander to the conference table. After all, all crises must be solved, if they are to be solved at all, around a conference table. What is unclear is how much blood there is on the carpet as the main contestants in the American drama fight it out among themselves on the post-mortem of the Assad regime.

The world will, of course, be sorry for how Mr Obama, who inspired so many around the world when he first appeared on the world scene, including his iconic speech in Cairo, has strayed so far from his promise. One assumes that his pragmatic side and silver tongue that enhanced his reputation far and wide also has an obverse side, his fear of failure.

Perhaps things will be clearer in St Petersburg later in the week. Perhaps there will finally be a Geneva II conference. Perhaps the Russian President and his American counterpart will kiss and make up. On a more realistic plane, the G 20 summit offers an opportunity to pull back and take stock of a vicious civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people and made close to two million Syrians refugees in neighbouring countries.

As a participant in the G 20 summit, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have a role to play in his trade-mark understated manner although his thought will be full of how to surmount the present economic crisis.
Ex-Army chief VK Singh on if he will run against Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Former Army Chief General VK Singh has said he has no plans to join politics or contest elections against Sonia Gandhi.

Speaking exclusively to NDTV, the former Army Chief dwelt at length on his efforts to unite the large community of former servicemen to ensure that their voice is heard and that they get their dues. "If they become a vote bank, so be it. Why should it scare people? It is high time the veterans' voice is heard," he said.

But elections, said General Singh, who has been a prominent presence at the side of Gandhian activist Anna Hazare in his anti-corruption campaign, "is nowhere on our mind."

He dismissed media reports that he was considering a BJP offer to field him against Congress president Sonia Gandhi in her Lok Sabha constituency Rae Bareli and quipped: "They (the reports) are the product of a ripe imagination."

Asked if he opposed the ruling Congress, the ex-Armyman said, "I am against nobody. I am for a better India."

General Singh also brushed aside charges of misuse of funds or exceeding his brief in setting up an intelligence unit called the Technical Support Division (TSD), and also allegations that the division, now closed, spied on the political establishment.

"The TSD was set up at the directive of the Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) and was initiated during my predecessor's time. It was only implemented during my time. It was meant to give the Indian Army a capability to act against the adversary across the border," he said, adding that its closure had affected India's "ability to counter the happenings on our border."

The retired General works closely with Anna Hazare and has formed an organisation called the Jantantra Morcha. He said he had associated with the 76-year old Mr Hazare because "he is a genuine person and everyone else abandoned him."

He was referring to a fallout between Anna and members of his core team of activists like Arvind Kejriwal, who has since launched his own political party.
US Army ignores shared PC login flaw, asks soldiers to keep quiet
A soldier was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement by the US Army after pointing out a security flaw which allowed accounts on shared PCs to be accessed without proper authentication.

The trivial login issue, which seems to allow soldiers to operate shared PCs with the access rights of the previous user, was exposed last week in a report on BuzzFeed, and has since been confirmed by senior US Army staff.

Army staff authenticate on shared computers on bases and in the field using Common Access Code (CAC) smart ID cards. On completing a session the card is removed from the reader and the session should be terminated. However, it appears that the logoff process is often slow and can easily be cancelled by the next user, who can then continue to access the system under the previous user's account.

The issue itself is not hugely serious, although it's not difficult to imagine a rogue member of staff easily manipulating it to gain access to information they should not have, or to carry out actions unmonitored - something which should be a high priority in US defense and intelligence circles, given the many high-profile problems keeping control of their data in recent years.

The way the problem was dealt with, on the other hand, could serve as a textbook example of how not to deal with security problems.

The issue has been known about for over two years, with one Army lieutenant who spotted it facing all manner of troubles when he tried to report it to senior staff. Having been told that the problem was too tricky to fix, he was then allegedly made to sign a non-disclosure agreement and told he could face imprisonment if he broke it.

Others who pointed out the flaw to superiors were faced with silent inaction.

A statement issued by senior Army IT security staff after the problem appeared in the news has advised soldiers to be more careful when logging out of shared PCs.

It really shouldn't be beyond the abilities of IT staff to fix a problem like this, especially within a two-year time frame.

Admittedly army funds are not unlimited, like any budget, and rolling out a fix to machines scattered all over the world might be quite a task, but the problem should at the very least be noted down and added to requirements for any future redesign or upgrade.

Responding to helpful bug reports by enforced vows of silence and threats of jail is no way to encourage people to be open about problems they may spot.

More advanced, specialised vulnerability research may be restricted to dedicated experts, but the everyday users of a system are an invaluable resource for spotting simple, easily-exploited security holes.

Encouraging people to take more care and have responsibility for their own security clearly has some value. In an institution which relies heavily on discipline this approach may provide a powerful check on violators, but in normal situations it should only be part of the solution, not the only layer of protection.

Rules for accessing secure systems should be backed up with technical controls too; even the army can't trust everyone it employs, as they now know to their cost.

In business settings, this approach to dealing with IT issues would be inexcusable. But then, most businesses don't have the threat of 30-year prison sentences to dangle over potential data miscreants.
CM tells minister to clear Army base hurdle
KALIMPONG: The hurdle over land acquisition for the country's largest Army aviation corps base is set to be cleared. The base will stretch over nearly 670 acres in Sarugaon and Damdim in Jalpaiguri district.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee met GOC of the Sukna-based 33 Corps at the Kalimpong Circuit House on Monday evening. At the hour-long meeting, which North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb described as fruitful, the CM is learnt to have given her final clearance for the strategic project and asked Deb and others to facilitate acquisition of the land, which comprises mainly waste land and tea garden.

Lt General K J Singh, commander of the 33 Corps, was accompanied by senior staff members. The meeting was also attended by top police and administrative officials. The project had run into the usual land acquisition hurdle, but with the Army pointing out that at least 10,000 jobs would be generated for the local people from the project, the CM showed keen interest in clearing the hurdles.

The base, which in Army parlance is termed a 'composite aviation base', will house fixed wing fighters and transport aircrafts as well as helicopters and, at a later stage, unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The Army will invest Rs 1,322 crore on building this base for the new strike corps being raised for the Chinese frontiers along Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

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