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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 04 Sep 2013





India opposes military action against Syria

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, September 3

India has firmly opposed any military action against Syria while emphasising that it would wait for the outcome of the UN inspection about the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Arab nation.


“There can be no military solution to this conflict. We continue to support the proposed ‘International Conference on Syria (Geneva II), being the best prospect for a political solution, for bringing the Syrian Government and the Opposition to the negotiating table,’’ MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said on Tuesday in response to a query.


The statement came on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to St Petersburg for the G-20 Summit of top industrial nations and emerging economies. The Syrian crisis is likely to be one of the main items on the agenda of G-20 leaders even as they chalk out a strategy to grapple with the global economic situation.


The PM has already indicated that global factors such as tensions over Syria had caused general weaknesses in emerging market currencies like the rupee. The MEA spokesman pointed out that India has consistently called upon all sides to abjure violence so that conditions could be created for an inclusive political dialogue leading to a comprehensive political solution, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. About the allegation of use of chemical weapons in Syria, the spokesman said India has supported the complete destruction and elimination of chemical weapons worldwide. The international legal norm against the use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone should not be breached. “However, we will prefer to await the full results of the UN inspection,” said the spokesman. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said New Delhi was keeping a close watch on the situation in Syria.


Delhi’s worry


    India's uncertain economic situation makes it more vulnerable to external shocks

    US-led strikes against Syria would inevitably lead to an increase in oil prices and put severe burden on the country’s economy

    Any escalation of the situation in Syria would also have a spillover effect on millions of Indians working in the Gulf and sending precious foreign exchange to the country. West Asia is home to six million expat Indians

Israel-US missile test fuels fears over Syria

* Russia detects ballistic launches in Mediterranean

* Markets feel the heat


Jerusalem/Moscow, Sept 3

Israel tested a US-backed missile system in the Mediterranean on Tuesday but did not announce the launch in advance, prompting a disclosure by Russia that kept the world on edge as the United States weighed an attack on Syria. The morning launch was first reported by Moscow media that quoted Russian defence officials as saying two ballistic "objects" had been fired eastward from the centre of the sea, roughly in the direction of Syria.

The news ruffled financial markets until Israel's Defence Ministry said it, along with a Pentagon team, had carried out a test-launch of a Sparrow missile. The Sparrow, which simulates the long-range missiles of Syria and Iran, is used for target practice by Israel's US-backed ballistic shield Arrow.

"Israel routinely fires missiles or drones off its shores to test its own ballistic defence capabilities," a US official said in Washington. Western naval forces have been gathering in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea since President Bashar al-Assad was accused of carrying out an August 21 gas attack in his more than two-year-old conflict with rebels trying to topple him. Damascus denies responsibility for the incident.


On Tuesday, the rightist premier spoke of anti-missile systems as a national "wall of iron". "These things give us the power to protect ourselves, and anyone who considers harming us would do best not to," he said in a speech.


Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon shrugged off a question from reporters on whether the launch might have been ill-timed. He said Israel had to work to maintain its military edge and "this necessitates field trials and, accordingly, a successful trial was conducted to test our systems. And we will continue to develop and to research and to equip the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) with the best systems in the world."


Arrow designer Uzi Rabin said tests of the anti-missile system are planned "long, long in advance" and generally go unnoticed. "What apparently made the difference today is the high state of tension over Syria and Russia's unusual vigilance," he told Reuters.


A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman quoted by the Interfax news agency said the launch was picked up by an early warning radar station at Armavir, near the Black Sea, which is designed to detect missiles from Europe and Iran. RIA, another Russian news agency, later quoted a source in Syria's "state structures" as saying the objects had fallen harmlessly into the sea. The Russian Defence Ministry declined comment. — Reuters


The economy


    Two years of war have quintupled unemployment, reduced the Syrian currency to one-sixth of its prewar value

    The economy is shrunk 35%, say govt and UN officials

    Civil war has disrupted agriculture, tourism and slashed oil revenues

    Foreign currency reserves down about $2 billion to $5 billion from $18 billion




Russia: Has leased port facilities in Tartus (2nd largest port city in Syria) for its naval fleet. Russia is believed to have sent Syria dozens of missiles. It supports Syria in the civil war.


Iran: Syria sided with non-Arab Iran against Iraq and was isolated by Saudi Arabia and some of the Arab countries.


Lebanon: Damascus plays an important role in Lebanon by virtue of its history, size, power, and economy


China: Has significant trade ties with Damascus. In 2009, mutual trade between the two countries was worth nearly $2.2 billion


The Mediterranean ripples


    Israel’s said it, along with a Pentagon team, carried out a test-launch of Sparrow missile

    The launch was picked up by an early warning radar station at Armavir, near the Black Sea, which is designed to detect missiles from Europe and Iran

    The Sparrow simulates long-range missiles of Syria and Iran and is used for target practice by Israel's US-backed ballistic shield Arrow

    Arrow designer Uzi Rabin says such tests are planned in advance and generally go unnoticed


Obama hopes Congress will vote for military action


Washington, Sept 3

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was confident that Congress would vote in favor of US military action in Syria and said the United States had a broader plan to help rebels defeat President Bashar al-Assad's forces.


During a meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House, Obama called for a prompt vote and reiterated that the US plan would be limited in scope and not repeat the long U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad's capabilities," Obama said.


"At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition," he said. Obama said he was willing to address concerns among lawmakers about the authorization for force that the White House sent to Congress.


"I look forward to listening to the various concerns of the members who are here today. I am confident that those concerns can be addressed," he said. "I would not be going to Congress if I wasn't serious about consultations and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission, we will be more effective." — Reuters

Rajouri-Poonch axis: Highway of infiltration

Vijay Mohan/TNS


Along the Line of Control: As ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) continue in several places across Jammu and Kashmir, the most volatile area remains the Rajouri-Poonch axis in the south-western part of the state. It is often referred to as the “highway of infiltration” for Pakistan-backed terrorists.


The BSF, which has 14 battalions deployed on the 740-km-long LoC, says there have been 52 violations along the LoC in Jammu Frontier till September 2 this year. It’s double the number of violations reported in 2012. In 2011, there were 15 violations.


“Any activity on this part of the LoC has a definitive bearing on the stretch of the demarcated International Border, which Pakistan refuses to recognise and refers to it simply as a working boundary,” said SS Tomar, BSF’s Inspector General, Jammu Frontier. “The violations should be seen in the larger perspective of the geo-strategic situation that emerges after the withdrawal of the NATO forces from Afghanistan in 2014,” he said.


The Jammu Frontier is responsible for the management of the 210-km stretch of the International Border, running from Kathua in the south to Akhnoor in the north of Jammu. BSF battalions under the Jammu Frontier are also deployed on several locations on the LoC from Akhnoor to Poonch, where they are under the operational control of the Army. BSF deployment beyond Poonch is the jurisdiction of its Kashmir Frontier.


While the Rajouri-Poonch sector remains the hotbed of cross-border fire and counter-fire, violations have been reported from Uri, Tangdhar, Dras and Kargil regions, north of the Pir Pangal range in the Kashmir sector.


There are two main reasons for the cross-border fire, which also included mortar shells and rockets. The primary reason is to assist terrorists who are looking to infiltrate into Kashmir. Minister of State for Home RPN Singh stated in Parliament last month that there were 1,000 attempts of infiltration by terrorists along the LoC between 2010-12, in which 160 terrorists were killed while 570 others were forced to fall back. This year over 80 attempts have been reported.


The second reason for firing is to instill a fear psychosis in the civilian population, disrupting their routine life and creating a general situation of chaos and disillusionment that is conducive for exploitation. Regular fire not only affects lives of locals in the vicinity, but puts the brakes on administrative and developmental works as the people concerned refuse to venture into the hot-spots due to safety concerns.


The Rajouri - Poonch axis, officers said, is a favoured route for infiltration by terrorists on account of tactical advantages offered by a relatively low-altitude, mountainous terrain with dense forests, several negotiable passes and streams, large civilian settlements on either side and the absence of snow making the routes accessible all-year round - a contrast with the more difficult terrain in the northern parts of the state beyond Pir Panjal.


After infiltrating from Rajouri-Poonch, it is just a clean four-hour run to Srinagar along the Old Mughal Road. The region across the LoC in this sector, referred to as Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, is also known to be home to a large number of terrorist training camps.


The hotbed


    The Rajouri-Poonch axis is a favoured route for infiltration by terrorists on account of tactical advantages offered by a relatively low-altitude, mountainous terrain with dense forests, several negotiable passes and streams, large civilian settlements on either side and the absence of snow making the routes accessible all-year round

    After infiltrating from Rajouri-Poonch, it is just a clean four-hour run to Srinagar along the Old Mughal Road

    The region across the LoC in this sector, referred to as Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, is also known to be home to a large number of terror camps

China army not letting Indian troops patrol LaC

A spot report, commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the India-China border issue, has confirmed the government’s worst fears.



The ground situation report, submitted by National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) chairperson Shyam Saran to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 10, 2013, underlines that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops are not allowing their Indian counterparts to patrol the Indian perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.


Singh had told Saran to visit the eastern Ladakh and Siachen sectors from August 2 to 9 for reviewing the border infrastructure development and LAC situation. Saran, who had conducted a similar exercise in May 2007, has reported a grim scenario of Chinese transgressions in the Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) sector, Depsang Bulge and Chumar.


The report has been shared with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).


An inter-ministerial committee headed by home secretary Anil Goswami has reportedly been set up to monitor the LAC situation and the existing empowered committee on border infrastructure development, led by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, has been asked to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks in Ladakh.


Though the government is tightlipped about the report, Saran has indicated that the “limits of patrol” line has become the new LAC for India in certain areas of Ladakh sector.


The Chinese define the LAC in eastern Ladakh as marked on a map in then premier Zhou En-Lai’s letter of November 7, 1959, to then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.


The Indian perception of the LAC, as marked by the China Study Group (CSG) in 1976 on the basis of the 1962 war positions, vastly varies from the Chinese one on at least 12 pockets from DBO to Chumar.


However, the CSG — which comprises the foreign, home and defence secretaries, the army vice-chief and two intelligence chiefs — defined the “limits of patrolling” for the Indian Army to maintain border peace. The patrol line is between New Delhi and Beijing’s LAC perceptions and 2-20 km short of the Indian line.


Saran has reported that the Chinese have built a motorable kutcha road to a sensitive Track Junction area in the DBO sector, thus changing the position on ground and in violation of the 2005 protocol.


The former foreign secretary told the PMO that Indian troops were able to go only up to the patrol line in Depsang with the area defined as “bulge” with Chinese PLA. The April 15, 2013, Depsang incursion at Raki Nullah was designed to prevent the Indian patrols from reaching Points 10, 11, 11A and 13 with Point 12 outside the patrol line.


Saran and former northern army commander Lt Gen PC Bharadwaj also surveyed Pangong Tso, a saltwater lake through which runs the LAC. They found a beefed up PLA firmly entrenched in their position in the Srijap area.


Saran is also concerned with the situation in Chumar where the PLA is making frequent transgressions, claiming 85 sq km of Indian territory despite the international border defining the two countries.

Army's first female JAG takes the helm Wednesday

WASHINGTON — For the first time in the Army’s history, a woman will become the service’s senior uniformed legal authority when Brig. Gen. Flora D. Darpino takes over as Judge Advocate General on Wednesday.


Darpino will receive a third star, the required rank for the position, in a promotion ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Pentagon auditorium.


After being nominated to the position in June by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate last month, she’s slated to take command at a time of increased scrutiny of the military’s handling of sexual assault cases, with legislators in both houses of Congress trying to strip commanders of authority over serious criminal prosecutions.


Currently, JAGs advise commanders on legal proceedings within their commands, but if those bills become law, JAGs would likely assume decision-making power over major prosecutions.


Darpino currently runs the Army’s law school, the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Va.


Among her previous assignments, she commanded the Army Legal Services Agency at Fort Belvoir, which includes a division that provides defense attorneys to soldiers facing court-martial as well as lesser proceedings. She also has served as the chief judge of the Army Court of Appeals and Judge Advocate for U.S. Forces-Iraq. She was commissioned into the Army JAG Corps in 1987.


Darpino is taking over from outgoing Judge Advocate General Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman, and will serve a four-year term.

Pak army chief Kayani visits LoC

Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Tuesday visited the LoC to assess the security situation in the wake of violations of a ceasefire in the region over the past few weeks.


Gen. Kayani visited the Kotli sector of the Line of Control, an area that has witnessed heavy exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops.


Official sources said the powerful army chief visited the LoC to personally assess the security situation and to be briefed by top commanders.


Gen. Kayani also met soldiers posted along the LoC and appreciated their bravery, the sources said.


Despite a truce put in place along the LoC in November 2003, intermittent skirmishes have continued along the heavily militarised ceasefire line.


The situation heated up on August 6, when five Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Pakistani troops on the Indian side of the LoC.


Since then, both sides have accused each other of violating the truce. At least four Pakistani soldiers, including a captain, have been killed in recent weeks.


The tensions on the LoC have affected bilateral ties even though back channel talks are on to restore normalcy.


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