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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 25 Sep 2013
NC, Congress dare Gen Singh to name beneficiaries

New Delhi, September 24
Former Army Chief VK Singh’s claim that money was paid to Jammu and Kashmir ministers from secret funds set off a political storm today with the ruling National Conference (NC) and ally Congress daring him to name the beneficiaries amid a demand for a CBI probe.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government was ready to investigate the claim if the beneficiaries were identified. The NC further threatened to initiate legal action against General Singh if he failed to name the ministers.

The Congress dubbed Singh’s remark irresponsible and not in national interest, while the NC said he had done something “extremely wrong” on the issue of funding of political parties.

“VK Singh should name the politicians. He should reveal the names (of those to whom money was allegedly paid). If details are given, we can investigate,” Shinde said.

The BJP said the issue was not about an individual but about the weakening of an institution.

“What the government is doing (targeting General Singh) is wrong, as these are matters of national security,” said party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

She termed the matter “highly sensitive” and lamented that the attitude of the government would only help India’s enemies. She urged the government to handle the matter with discretion.

In a statement bearing signatures of all present and former NC ministers, the ruling party in Jammu and Kashmir said it would be forced to take legal recourse if the former Army Chief failed to name the ministers.

Calling the remarks “absurd and far from truth”, the NC said the ministers concerned in the Omar Abdullah Cabinet would quit if they were named.

General Singh had yesterday claimed “certain ministers” in Jammu and Kashmir were given money by the Army for “stability” and that it had been going on since Independence.

NC president Farooq Abdullah demanded a CBI probe into the allegations made by General Singh.

General Singh’s remark drew sharp criticism from the Congress with former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad expressing shock and a party spokesperson slamming him for his “irresponsible” statement. “I have no knowledge about this and I am as curious as you are to know the names of the persons who were being paid and who are being paid,” he said. Congress spokesperson PC Chacko said General Singh’s “irresponsible” statements had brought “disgrace” to the Army.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said if he disclosed General Singh’s advice to him years ago on counter-insurgency operations as the then Chief of Eastern Army Command it would be a “big embarrassment” to everyone.

“If I reveal what VK Singh had advised me to do as Eastern Army Commander, it would be embarrassment to everybody,” said Gogoi. — PTI
We have defeated militants: Kenyan Prez
Five militants killed, 11 held 67 others found dead Bodies still under rubble of collapsed floors

Nairobi, September 24
Kenya's President said on Tuesday that his forces had "defeated" Islamists from Somalia's Al Shabab, had shot five of them dead and detained 11 others suspected of killing 67 people after storming a Nairobi shopping mall.

It remained unclear after Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on television whether the four-day security operation at the upmarket Westgate centre was completely over, or whether any militants were still at large or hostages unaccounted for. "We have ashamed and defeated our attackers," Kenyatta said, adding that bodies were still trapped under rubble following the collapse of part of the building late in the operation.

A fire began on Monday which officials said was started by the gunmen. Sixty-one civilians and six security personnel had been confirmed killed in the four days of bloodshed, Kenyatta said.

Five of the attackers were shot dead and 11 suspects were in custody: "Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed," he said. The President added that he could not confirm intelligence reports that a British woman and two or three Americans might be involved.

Forensic scientists were involved in trying to identify the nationalities of the "terrorists", he said. "Towards the tail end of the operation, three floors of the Westgate mall collapsed and there are several bodies trapped in the rubble including the terrorists," he added. The death toll had previously been put by officials at 62.

"These cowards will meet justice as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are," said the president, who thanked other leaders for support and used his address to both praise the response of the Kenyan people and call for national unity, six months after his election was marked by ethnic tensions.

Kenyatta had rejected the militants' demands that he pull Kenyan troops out of its northern neighbour. As part of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia, Kenyan forces have pushed Al-Qaida-linked Shabab on to the defensive over the past two years.

Some hours before Kenyatta spoke, the group said its ilitants were still holding out with hostages and that there ere "countless dead bodies" still inside the complex. "There are countless number of dead bodies still scattered nside the mall, and the Mujahideen are still holding their round Westgate," the group said on its Twitter feed. — Reuters
Funds were not given as bribe, says VK Singh
Sunit Dhawan/TNS

Gurgaon, September 24
Former Army Chief Gen VK Singh today sought to clarify his earlier statement on provision of funds to certain political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir by saying the money was not given as bribe and was meant for constructive purposes. He asserted that no attempt had been made to topple the state government by the Army’s technical support division.

“I have never said that the politicians were bribed. The money given to them was not for their personal or political use, but to engage people in constructive activities,” said General Singh while addressing mediapersons.

“I did not commit any mistake. When I had said some politicians were given money, it was not meant for their personal purpose or political purpose. It was not for lining their pockets or for bribe. If somebody says a minister was given a bribe, it is totally wrong.

“It was meant solely for stability... to win hearts and minds of people, to wean people away from separatist activities under the overall umbrella of ‘sadbhavna’ (harmony),” he said.

The former Army Chief also sought a probe into the leak of the confidential report and action against those responsible for it.

General Singh said the leak of the secret Army report to the media seemed to be a bid to divert people’s attention from the “burning issues”.

On the creation and functioning of an Army’s intelligence unit, he said it was meant to serve the national interest and disbanding it would defeat the purpose.

“Some people who say that the unit was my private army should discard such ideas. This unit was functioning under the DG, Military Intelligence. I am not here to micromanage things. I commanded 12 lakh men.”

Asked to reveal the names of politicians who benefited from Army’s funds, Singh said: “Probably that politician would not even know. Why are we talking about it? There is an anonymity that has been put into it. It will reveal the working of the unit.”

He said he wanted to have a case of treason against people who were involved in leaking the report and did not want to be blamed for the same by discussing the functioning of the unit openly.

“I will not speak on the intelligence operations…. whatever is not in the interest of the country, I will not speak on the issue,” Gen Singh said. On why he started the controversy by making the claim, he said: “I did not start this whole game. It was started by people who leaked the report.”
India begins joint army exercise with Nepal
BD Kasniyal

Pithoragarh, September 24
The two-week 5th joint military exercise of the Indian and Nepalese armies started here today. The exercise, which involves general combat warfare, mountain warfare, anti-insurgency operations in hill terrain and relief and rescue operations at the time of natural disasters, will conclude on October 6.

“Over 900 Indian and Nepalese troops are taking part in the joint exercise being conducted in the mountainous terrain of the border areas shared by both countries,” said an Indian Army spokesperson.

He claimed it would lead to better cooperation between the two countries.

“The joint military exercises between India and Nepal were initially held at the platoon level. It has now reached the company level. This shows how both countries are heading towards a higher level of cooperation in sharing military methodology,” the spokesperson said.

At the end of the exercise at different locations in Uttarakhand, the Army jawans from both countries would present cultural programmes on the night of October 6.
Army paid J&K politicians for events to promote harmony, not bribe, says General VK Singh
Pak Army magazine accuses India of violating Indus Water Treaty Agreement
Pakistani military's official monthly magazine has accused India of indulging in water offensive by violating Indus Water Treaty Agreement.

Even as it emphasised on peaceful relations, the Editor's Note in the magazine 'Hilal' said the situation has the potential to ignite tensions.

"The natural flow of water is essential for Pakistan's agricultural economy. Any willful obstruction of water thereof has the potential to ignite tensions between the two states. Pakistan had always looked for peaceful relations with India and it is keen to resolve all outstanding issues. It is now up to India to come forward and take concrete steps to maintain peace in South Asia," the note said.

The magazine, published by the military's Inter Services Public Relations, notes that after "literally" converting river Sutlej and Ravi into "sewers", India is now eying other water resources of Pakistani rivers.

The editorial, titled 'Games They Play: India's Water Infringement', claims that India is in the process of building as many as 67 dams on Pakistani rivers in violation of Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

"India has built and is in process to construct big and small dams, hydropower projects and reservoirs, numbering as many as 67, on the principal rivers - Indus, Jehlum and Chenab - that were allotted to Pakistan under the IWT," it says.

It adds, "These projects include Kishanganga dam, Tulbul dam (Wullar barrage) and Uri-II hydroelectric plan on River Jhelum; Baglihar, Salal and Bursar dams on River Chinab; and Kargil dam, Nimmo Bazgo hydroelectric project on River Indus and Chutak hydroelectric plant on a tributary of Indus."

The military's September 2013 publication, Defence Day special, says India's building of dams on Pakistani rivers could cause major water shortages in Pakistan in future.

It says concerns are now growing in Pakistan that India is pursuing policies to strangulate Pakistan and is trying to exercise control over the water flows in Pakistan's rivers.

It adds, "The IWT also does not allow India to obstruct the flow of the run of rivers by storing or diverting the water but she is doing so which is a clear violation of the treaty and India must refrain from any such practice."
Indian army spooks carried out covert operations in Pakistan
NEW DELHI - The Indian military intelligence unit set up by former army chief General VK Singh was involved in sensitive covert operations in Pakistan and was even on the trail of 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, officials associated with it have told HT.
“Our main task was to combat the rising trend of state-sponsored terrorism by the ISI and we had developed contacts across the Line of Control in a bid to infiltrate Hafiz Saeed’s inner circle,” an official who served with the controversial Technical Services Division (TSD) said.
Asked for an official response, an army spokesperson said, “The unit has been disbanded. Details of the unit, which was the subject matter of an inquiry, are only known to the Chief and a few senior officers. It is for the defence ministry now to initiate any further inquiries.”
The spook unit was set up after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks on a defence ministry directive asking for the creation of covert capability.
Army documents, perused by HT, reveal the senior-most officers signed off on the formation of this unit. File No A/106/TSD and 71018/ MI give details of approvals by the Director General Military Intelligence, vice-chief and chief of army staff.
The TSD - disbanded after allegations that it spied on defence ministry officials through off-the-air interceptors - was raised as a strategic force multiplier for preparing, planning and executing special operations “inside depth areas of countries of interest and countering enemy efforts within the country by effective covert means”.
But it then got caught in an internecine battle between army chiefs. The TSD - which reported directly to Gen VK Singh - used secret service funds to initiate a PIL against current chief General Bikram Singh. As reported by HT in October 2012, secret funds were paid to an NGO to file the PIL, in a bid to stall Bikram Singh’s appointment as chief.
However, covert ops were the unit’s essential mandate and deniability was built into it and it reads, “The proposed organization (TSD) will enable the military intelligence directorate to provide a quick response to any act of state-sponsored terrorism with a high degree of deniability.” Its task was to carry out special missions and “cover any tracks leading to the organisation”.
Though covert operations were formally shut down by IK Gujral when he was PM in 1997, sources reveal the TSD carried out several such operations within and outside the country - such as Op Rehbar 1, 2 and 3 (in Kashmir), Op Seven Sisters (Northeast) and Op Deep Strike (Pakistan). Controversy is dogging the unit once again after disclosures in The Indian Express that secret service funds were also used to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Held Kashmir. The BJP has raised questions over the timing of the disclosures. While the defence ministry has had the inquiry report since March, the revelations have come soon after Singh shared the stage with the saffron party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi last Sunday.
Indian Army's 'cosmetic' programme faces valley of stir
This is one goodwill act of the Indian Army that threatens to create controversy rather than win all the hearts in Kashmir.

As part of its Operation Sadhbhavana (goodwill), the army has organised a cosmetology training programme for women in Uri sector near the Line of Control (LoC) and plans to organise similar programmes in other areas.

However, radical women separatist group Dukhtaran-e-Milat has called the exercise un-Islamic and asked local women to desist from joining these courses.

Under Operation Sadhbhavana, the army organises civic action programmes in the state. Integration and motivation tours to different parts of the country, medical camps and cricket tournaments are an integral part of this programme in the militancy-torn state.

In Uri sector, the army had roped in a noted beautician to give training to 15 local women at a 15-day course held at the Women Empowerment Centre. Make up, grooming and cosmetology were part of the curriculum to help the women to set up their own beauty parlors in rural areas.

“Cosmetology is a booming business and students can even start their own beauty parlors.  The event saw great enthusiasm among the women as rarely such training is organised and they took full advantage of the opportunity to come forward,” said a defence spokesman at Srinagar.

“Basically we are doing this to empower women so that they can earn their livelihood. The army ropes in professional beauticians to train these girls,” Naresh Vij, defence spokesman at Srinagar, told dna.

However, terming this programme “un-Islamic”, Dukhtaran-e-Milat chief Aasiya Andrabi asked the women to immediately disassociate themselves from such programmes. “It is not allowed in Sharia. Our sisters and daughters should know that it is un-Islamic.  They should disassociate from such activities,” said Aasiya.

Poonam, a qualified beautician who was the instructor for the course, however thanked the army for organising these training programmes for the locals. “We are thankful to the organizers,” she said.
India, China to hold border mechanism meeting in Beijing
India and China are scheduled to hold a border mechanism meeting in Beijing this weekend to finalise the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), record forward movement on clarification of the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) and device new procedures to handle future face-off between the two armies.

While the bilateral strategic economic dialogue is presently on in Beijing, the meeting of working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs takes place on September 29-30, 2013. At this meeting, joint secretary (east Asia) Gautam Bambawalla will hold talks with director general (boundary) Ouyang Yujing to close the BDCA agreement so that it is ready for signing during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Beijing on October 23 next month.

It is understood that the agreement is close to finalisation, but India is looking for dilution in the Chinese draft that calls for a ban on new structures being constructed within 20 km of the LAC. The border mechanism meeting will designate officers who will handle the hotline between Indian Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Peoples’ Liberation Army headquarters. The agreement is designed to foster confidence between the two armies. Since the last July border mechanism meeting, Delhi is pushing Beijing to finalise on a mutually agreed boundary line to rule out any repeat of Depsang face-off this April. India wants to set in place new mechanisms to handle face-offs on LAC between the armies.

Beijing feels that Delhi has expanded the number of disputed areas in the eastern Ladakh sector. In 1990s, according to Beijing, there were two mutually accepted disputed areas — Trig Heights and Demchok — but the number went up to 12 after India and China showed western sector maps to each other at the 12th meeting of the expert group on June 17, 2002.

India says that growth of bilateral relations is rooted in peaceful border and that PLA activity in Depsang and Chumar sector in the past two years has been an area of concern. It is for this reason that it wants to have an agreed line so that there is no option for any disagreement in future.
Row over army pay-offs: Jaitley cautions govt, Gen VK Singh
Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely on Tuesday cautioned the UPA government as well as former army chief Gen VK Singh against sensational leaks and disclosures about the alleged pay-offs by the army in Jammu and Kashmir, saying these could severely hit India's security interests.

In an article, Jaitely said "should such an information have been leaked out by a political establishment which had a problem with the former army chief. Pushed to a corner, should the army chief at all have admitted that such payments were indeed undertaken? The UPA government has abandoned its state-craft. It does not mind if the country is hurt as long as the UPA can score points when faced with a certain electoral defeat."
Jaitley said all these activities were neither accountable to Parliament nor judicially justiceable. Larger public interest demanded secrecy. "My charge against the UPA government is that for narrow political interest it has deliberately leaked out the covert operations in two cases thereby creating a serious set back to our counter insurgency operations."

The BJP leader said the desirability and the appropriateness of these activities is a subject matter for the government of the day to decide.  "Prime Ministers, Home Ministers, Defence Ministers, Chief of the Army staff, heads of IB and R&AW and several others in the government are  privy to information which  must necessarily die with them.  It even cannot become a part of their memoirs."

Stating that he was unaware of the truth or otherwise of the allegation, Jaitely said "the government leak  published in a newspaper indicated that a certain politician of Jammu and Kashmir  had received  funds for allegedly toppling the state government.  The former army chief has stated that the army does make payments to stabilize the system  in states  affected by insurgency.  It stabilizes them by either helping  the community  through community friendly activities or otherwise."

The senior BJP leader said, "None of us knows or is entitled to know the details of these activities.  The right to information cannot apply to these activities.  The CBI cannot invoke  its investigative jurisdiction  to start investigating whether  secret funds have been properly spent by the Intelligence Bureau, the R&AW or the Military Intelligence or by any other agency."
Polluting the army
There is something ecological about news. It picks up tremors, sounds, the noise and gossip of the system. By mimicking the way an event is described, it sends messages which are tacit, early warnings that our system is in danger.

The controversy surrounding V K Singh is one such event. In the immediate background is a shadowy informal report by the army exploring the retired general's use of army funds to destabilise the state government in Jammu and Kashmir. I admit Singh is a controversial man but it is the Congress regime's handling of the situation which bothers one.

There is first the problem of timing. The report is selectively leaked and secondly it is timed more as an attack on Singh the new politician, than Singh the old soldier. It is as if the Congress seems to be attacking Singh for sitting next to Modi at a rally. Defence Minister A K Antony's mumblings that the defence ministry is taking the report seriously does not add much to the clarity. It appears like political opportunism at its worst.

One can understand Congress anxiety, the touch of Modi envy it feels before the elections. But what is unforgivable is the way it has been soiling institutions. The Congress has to realise that it is de-institutionalising India, destroying the sanctity of the army, the university, the nuclear and scientific establishment as structures. These institutions can only survive if they display their normative power.

One institution in particular has suffered under the Congress. It is the army. The social contract with the army clearly declares that the civilian is superior to the army and yet the regime must make sure the army is not contaminated by politics. Firstly, the Congress, as TV reports demonstrate, creates a bad image for the army. A few weeks back the men in uniform were the heroes in the Uttarakhand disaster. Suddenly come the report on army's fund and the Congress portrays the leadership as a bunch of conniving clowns.

The former army general is accused of using secret army funds to destabilise an elected regime. The general's clandestine activities include paying huge amounts of bribe money to a local politician.

This charge raises serious issues. The army through its intelligence agencies collecting information on a sensitive border area could be understandable. But if the army is interfering in electoral politics, in the behaviour of civilian regimes, it is violating the social contract and is threatening both the constitutional and democratic frameworks. TV reports these events as a series of question marks. The parodies of Arnab Goswami, his brand line "the nation wants to know", become a continuing resonance to this scandal.

There is no doubt that Singh might have to answer a few questions but Nirmala Sitharaman, the BJP spokesperson, asks the right question when she asks why is the Congress soiling the few institutions which still remain uncontaminated?

This raises a side issue, the transparency and quality of Congress spokesman on TV. I am not a BJP voter but I must confess BJP spokespersons are far more convincing and articulate. Ravi Shankar Prasad and Sitharaman are immaculate professionals. In contrast, Antony looks like an absent minded housewife waiting for her husband to speak and Salman Khursheed, the external affairs minister, as an illiterate. He sounds edgy like someone who is out of depth or who has not done his homework. It is as if the Congress has lost its mind and its ability to speak coherently and TV registers every tremor of illiteracy patiently.

The Congress has to also ask itself a few questions. As a Nehruvian institution, can it corrode institution building in India, the protocols of responsibility around the army, CAG and nuclear power?

There is an absent mindedness which is almost cancerous. Lost files, leaked files, closed files seem to sum up the Congress approach to governance. Singh was a soldier and a controversial one in the final stages of his career. Yet as a retired army man and a citizen, he has every right to participate in politics. It is true that as he starts a career in politics, his army career will be called into question. But there is caveat which Mahesh Jethmalani and Sitharaman have emphasised. Attacking General Singh cannot be turned into a general purpose attack on the army. Institutions cannot be wished away cheaply and this fable, TV has brought out tacitly but effectively.

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