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Saturday, 28 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 28 Sep 2013
Jammu attack: Lt Col Bikramjeet cremated with full military honours
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 27
The mortal remains of Lt Col Bikramjeet Singh, who was killed in a terrorist strike on an Army unit in Samba near Jammu yesterday, were consigned to the flames with full military honours in Chandigarh on Friday.

The body of Lt Col Singh, second-in-command, 16 Cavalry, was brought back to Chandimandir last evening. He was the only son of his parents Maj Paramjeet Singh (retd) and Luvpreet Kaur. Besides his aged parents, he leaves behind his wife, Navneet Kaur, who is a teacher, and eight-year old daughter Ramneet.

Wreaths were laid on the Tricolour-draped body on behalf of Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Chief of Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh, General Officer Commanding 2 Corps Lt Gen RP Shahi, Commander, Punjab Haryana and Himachal (I) Sub Area, Station Commander, Chandimandir, and other civilian dignitaries.

A ceremonial guard from a locally-based battalion of the Sikh Regiment reversed arms while buglers sounded the Last Post. A three-volley shot was also fired as a mark of respect.

A large number of relatives, friends and senior service officers, police officers from Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana, functionaries of the local administration and political leaders attended the funeral. Among those present were General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Lt Gen Philip Campose, Chief of Staff Western Command Lt Gen TS Gill, MP Pawan Kumar Bansal and former MP Satpal Jain.
No evidence of terrorists crossing border, says BSF
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung/TNS

New Delhi, September 27
The BSF on Friday said there was no evidence to suggest that the three slain terrorists had crossed over into India through the International Border (IB) with Pakistan in the Hiranagar sector.

The Hiranagar police station was the first target of the militants, who later attacked an Army camp in Samba yesterday. The police station is 5 km from the border.

The BSF has launched a survey of the IB in Hiranagar. The survey will look for any tell-tale signs left by the terrorists. "We are trying to search for their footprints," said sources. "We have examined the border fencing and there is no damage to it. The fencing is lighted and the intruder alarm systems are working perfectly," an officer said.

BSF officers, however, admitted there was no fencing on the Chhap Nullah and other such streams in the area.
SC upholds quashing of top JAG promotions
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, September 27
The Supreme Court today upheld the order quashing promotions to the top level of the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Department, the Army’s legal-cum-judicial wing, which had been passed by the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) after senior officers had alleged gross irregularities and manipulations in the selection process.

The AFT’s bench comprising Justice VK Ahuja and Lt Gen HS Panag had, on August 30, set aside the promotion of Brig T. Prashad to the rank of Major General, which is the highest rank in the JAG department.

Alleging manipulation in the selection board proceedings, Brig Dinkar Adeeb and Brig PK Sharma, Deputy JAG of Eastern and Northern Commands, respectively, had alleged glaring irregularities in the board proceedings. They had averred that their junior, Brig Parshad, was granted out-of-turn relief by expunging some of his ACRs hastily on the eve of the selection board. His name was then considered with a changed improved profile resulting in his empanelment and supersession of seniors.

During the hearing today, the apex court today took strong exception to the contents of the Central government’s order granting relief to Brigadier Prashad, wherein it was stated that the officer had to defend the cases pertaining to the Army in as many as seven states and the AFT, which he did “very actively by personally interacting with the Chief Justices of High Courts and AFT members, which helped in furthering the organisational interests.”

Interestingly, this order had not formed part of the court record during the proceedings at the AFT here, but was appended with the SLP filed by the Central government challenging the AFT’s order in the Supreme Court.

While the Army policy mandates that all inputs and career profiles of officers are frozen five days prior to the selection board’s meeting, Brig Prashad’s profile was changed a day before the meeting. The Army policy also stipulates that out-of-turn relief cannot be granted and all complaints have to be redressed on a first come first served basis. The Army had claimed that it was not practically possible to follow the five-day freeze policy, an argument that was junked by the AFT.

AFT decision

The AFT's bench comprising Justice VK Ahuja and Lt Gen HS Panag had, on August 30, set aside the promotion of Brig T. Prashad to the rank of Major General, which is the highest rank in the JAG department
Terror and talks
Spoilers, egotists and rogue elements at work
by B.G. Verghese

The dastardly Samba attack by Pakistani terrorists of the "Shohada Brigade", believed to be a pseudonym for or a wing of the LeT, took 10 lives but failed to derail the forthcoming Manmohan Singh-Nawaz Sharif talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. The incident needs to be probed for security lapses, and assumes special significance as it took place across the international border and was not just a routine violation of the LOC. This constitutes a marked and unprovoked escalation for which Pakistan is answerable over and beyond routine obfuscation, denials and quibbles.

The objective of disabling the mini-summit talks in New York was, as usual, powerfully aided by jingoistic politicians, gleefully sermonising television anchors and vituperative panellists whose self-goal scoring rate has climbed steadily in response to their own cheers. The proposed prime ministerial talks must be called off, they cried. The government must here and now declare what it proposed to do to punish Pakistan, and Manmohan Singh must abandon his silly pursuit of a "legacy". The tirade, commencing with Shram el-Sheikh, was both immature and unfair. Whatever else his alleged failings and faltering, the Prime Minister has been courageous and statesmanlike, like Vajpayee, in pursuing the path of peace with Pakistan in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. This is leadership, not retreat, and shows adherence to a larger vision.

Manmohan Singh should talk because there is no better option? But what will he say? He can and should tell Nawaz Sharif bluntly that he must walk his talk. Every stab in the back, defended with crude denials in the face of compelling evidence, and subsequent confessions and pleas to "move on" and not reopen old wounds, will not wash. To plead that Pakistan is being far more severely bled by terrorism cannot evoke sympathy and is a totally dishonest defence as these same terrorists are home-grown hate mongers and despicable killers, trained, armed, sustained and led by (elements of) the Pakistan military-mullah establishment. India can therefore reserve the right to take such action it deems fit anywhere and at any time in defence of its citizens and national integrity.

Having said that to Nawaz Sharif, while reiterating his desire to stand by the small but discernible democratic and secular forces in Pakistan and walk the extra mile in any and every direction, Manmohan Singh should state as such in measured terms at a press conference in New York so that the world knows where India stands. He should repeat this to Obama. Back-stopping Islamabad at every step, having itself helped rear the Taliban and other jihadis in Pakistan and piously connived at cross-border terror is unacceptable.

As far as the "core" issue is concerned, Manmohan must tell Nawaz Sharif and the world that the only solution to the J&K question lies in moving forward on the path trodden by him and Musharraf through 2005-07until the latter broke off on account of totally unrelated internal problems. That formula included sanctifying the existing boundary/LOC in J&K; making it an increasingly "soft" border by promoting cross-border movements, trade, investment, cultural exchange, tourism and transit; setting up joint institutions to manage and monitor these arrangements; and leave it to each side to grant the fullest degree of autonomy to constituent units on its own side within this evolving condominium under twin sovereignties.

Additionally, Manmohan Singh has hinted at exploring possibilities of joint development and management of the Indus waters under Section VII ("Future Cooperation") of the Indus Waters Treaty that could lead to integrated basin development. He has also recalled the vision of J&K with its syncretic, humanistic culture and the hope that it can once again become a hub of commerce and cooperation with Inner Asia, Central Asia and near-West Asia. Far-fetched? Those who endorsed the SAARC Eminent Persons Group's vision of a South Asian Community with a common currency some 12 years ago did not think so.

This is the broad, statesman-like vision we should pursue and not the pettifogging, chauvinistic, ruinous path rabble-rousers would have us tread.

Even while the nation confronts problems of non-governance, mis-governance and competitive political folly, a wholly avoidable and thoroughly irresponsible aggravation has been rashly introduced by V.K. Singh, former Army Chief, whose swollen ego and vaulting ambition has led him into a minefield of his own making.

The Indian Express reported on September 20 that an Army Board of Inquiry, headed by the DGMO, had probed various alleged misdemeanours by Singh when Army Chief and found him prima facie guilty of setting up a Technical Services (Intelligence) Division that purchased equipment for unauthorised eavesdropping and funding an NGO to pay a J&K Minister, Ghulam Hasan Mir, to bring down the Omar Abdullah government. As in the case of his age-fudging row, Singh engaged in newspaper and TV interviews in which he denied indulging in snooping or bribery, "clarified" earlier statements and defended himself by making the most damaging remarks about the Army intelligence routinely paying J&K ministers for "nation-building" and "stabilising the state" over many decades. This practice has been indignantly denied by senior Army commanders who have served in J&K.

Denials by the impugned J&K Minister and an understandably furious Omar Abdullah had him retort that the Chief Minister had his own "agenda". He challenged the timing of the leaked report and asked why no action had been taken since March when it was handed over to the Defence Ministry. He described the published contents as false and motivated, described the leak as "treason", and attributed the timing to provide a smokescreen after the "bombshell" report that the government is planning to compromise with the US on civil-nuclear liability stipulations. The BJP take was that the timing followed Singh's appearance on an ex-servicemen's platform with Narendra Modi and aimed to discredit the former Army Chief.

Sections of the media and the political class tore into the government. They worked themselves into a tizzy over the issue, partly defending Singh's position by harping on the timing rather than the content. At the end of the day, Singh had done enormous damage to the country by his reckless statements and bravado. The Singh affair has been mishandled by the Defence Minister from the day the man took the government to court in full uniform on a paltry, self-serving issue of his own wrongly recorded age at the time of recruitment. The Supreme Court, which he had approached and now scorns, dismissed his petition. It adversely commented on his thrice having given his solemn word when securing his three last promotions that he would accept the Army's determination of his contested age, only to renege on his word and fight the battle all over again at the next, higher level.

Singh has yet to be proven guilty of the charges levelled against him. A high-level, speedy and independent judicial inquiry is imperative on his alleged misconduct. The national interest, the country's democratic ethos and the integrity, discipline and morale of the Armed Forces demand no less.

Finally, the selection of the three Service heads must be changed from a manipulative seniority principle to selection on merit by an independent board.
Former army chiefs reject General VK Singh's claims on paying J&K ministers
Eight former Army Chiefs today rejected Gen(retd) V K Singh's statement that Army has been paying money to certain ministers in Jammu and Kashmir since independence to bring in stability there.

"No funds were ever provided by the Army, to any politicians, political party or any NGO in their tenures and nor would they have allowed that," the former Army Chiefs said in a joint statement issued in Delhi.

They are Generals O P Malhotra, SF Rodrigues, Shankar Roychowdhury, Ved Prakash Malik, S Padamanabhan, NC Vij, JJ Singh and Deepak Kapoor.

The statement came against the backdrop of a controversy over Gen V K Singh's recent remarks that the Army was paying money to certain ministers in Jammu and Kashmir to bring stability in the state.

Gen VK Singh had later clarified that this money was not a bribe and suggested that it was given under Operation Sadbhavna of the force towards winning the hearts and minds of the people.

The former chiefs said the aspect of paying money to ministers should not be mixed with that of Operation

"This aspect should not be mixed with 'Sadhbhavna' operations, which are carried out to provide infrastructure, education and health services etc. to the local populace in J and K and for this pre and post audited funds, with laid down deliverables and procedures, are allotted in the defence budget," they said.

They further stressed that the Indian Army is completely apolitical and that they do not dabble in politics and the Army takes great pride in this time honoured tradition.
Indian Army is completely apolitical: Former chiefs
New Delhi: Eight ex-Army Chiefs on Friday rejected Gen(retd) VK Singh's statement that Army pays money to ministers in Jammu and Kashmir.

The reaction came in the backdrop of a sensational remark made by the former-Army chief VK Singh that the Army was paying money to certain ministers in J&K to bring stability in the state.

Allegedly, a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit set – Technical Services Division (TSD) – was set up by General VK Singh in May 2010. The TSD’s existence came to light in March last year when it was alleged that the unit had tapped the phones of Defence Ministry officials.

Rejecting all allegations that Army pays money to political parties, the former-chiefs said, "No funds ever provided by Army to any politician or political party in their tenures nor would they have allowed that."

"Army is completely apolitical," the chiefs said in a joint statement issued here.

They are Generals OP Malhotra, SF Rodrigues, Shankar Roychowdhury, Ved Prakash Malik, S Padamanabhan, NC Vij, JJ Singh and Deepak Kapoor.

However, General VK Singh had later clarified that this money was not a bribe and suggested that it was given under Operation 'Sadbhavna' of the force towards winning the hearts and minds of the people.

He also said that the unit (TSD) was not set up by him and was established by the Army "at the behest of the National Security Advisor after the dastardly attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists who were subsequently labelled by the media as 'non-state actors'".

"TSD was created as a capability mentioned in the operational directive of the Defence Minister and set up following the due process of procedures existing in the Army as part of intelligence units under the DGMI," General Singh said.

Earlier, on the government’s charge that Singh’s statements had caused “enormous damage” to India’s Kashmir policy, VK Singh had said, “I can go on oath and say what good work has been done (by the TSD) for Kashmir’s grass-roots democracy. These angles are wrong.”

Singh had said he would be the last person to do anything that could be inimical to the country’s interests.

He had made it clear that the TSD had only implemented the mandate given to it by the defence minister, refusing to elaborate on the tasks assigned to the covert unit.

“Everything cannot be revealed…let’s leave it at that,” Singh had said.

Asked to comment on why was a covert unit funding stability projects in the conflict-torn state, Singh had said anything with a “sarkaari” tag was viewed with suspicion.

“Same goes for sadbhavna or goodwill projects undertaken by the Army. If you want work to be done it has to be done covertly,” he said, stressing that politicians were not bribed.
Secret Indian Army unit implicated in anti-constitutional acts
A huge controversy has erupted within India’s ruling elite over revelations of illegal acts carried out by a secret military intelligence unit set up by the previous Indian Army chief, General V.K. Singh, in 2010.
According to reports published in the Indian Express last week, the Technical Services Division (TSD): attempted to engineer the ouster of the elected government of Jammu and Kashmir (India’s northernmost and only majority-Muslim state); spied on politicians and Ministry of Defence officials; and mounted a dirty tricks campaign to derail the appointment of Singh’s successor.

The Indian Express says its account of the unit’s activities is based on a report made by a high-level Army investigative team that was forwarded to the Ministry of Defence along with a recommendation for a criminal investigation last March.

The newspaper says the army inquiry found that under V.K. Singh’s supervision “secret service funds” were used “to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, to pay off an NGO [to make allegations of criminality against another top army officer and, thereby] change the line of succession in the Army top brass,” and to purchase “off-air interception equipment to conduct ‘unauthorised’ covert operations.”

There have been suggestions in the Indian press that India’s ex-army chief may have targeted Abdullah—whose National Conference is part of India’s Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance coalition government—because he urged the repeal of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act. Passed in 1990, this legislation gives the army sweeping powers in Jammu and Kashmir, where an anti-Indian government insurgency erupted after the central government rigged state elections in 1987, and has provided legal cover for massive human rights abuses, including summary executions and kidnappings.

The army apparently shut down the TSD after Singh’s retirement in May 2012. But from all reports, the government has taken no further action, despite having had the results of the Army’s inquiry in its hands for the past six months. And despite the fact that the current Army leadership has in effect charged the previous Army Chief of establishing a secret intelligence unit to defy and subvert India’s civilian authorities.

In response to the Indian Express articles, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) issued a statement saying the army’s report on the TSD was still under review. “The report,” said the MOD, “impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further action after a careful examination of the report.” It added that the government has measures in place to prevent “undesirable activities.”

When asked whether the matter would be referred to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation—as the army has itself recommended—the MOD said it had yet to decide whether a criminal investigation is warranted.

India’s military is usually loath to having outside agencies such as the CBI scrutinize its affairs. That it has urged the CBI be charged with mounting a criminal investigation into the activities of the now-defunct TSD is an indication of the seriousness of the illegal actions it uncovered. It also suggests that the current army leadership does not have confidence that the military and MOD can be trusted to investigate this matter fully and to hold Singh and others to account.

What is incontrovertible is that the MOD and India’s Congress Party-led government are determined to shield the criminal and anti-constitutional activities of the army from any sort of public scrutiny. That is why they have sat on the Army report for the past six months and now that some of its findings have been revealed in a press exposé are striving to downplay the affair and to continue covering it up.

The MOD and government have refused to confirm any of the allegations against V.K. Singh and the TSD, let alone make the Army report public. Nor will they commit to any timeframe for responding to the report or to making that response public.

India’s official opposition, the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has charged the Congress Party of leaking the army investigative report to the Indian Express so as to sully V.K. Singh’s reputation just days after he appeared alongside their party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “The Congress-led UPA government is troubling eminent personalities who want to join the BJP,” declared party president Rajnath Singh.

While it cannot be excluded that someone in the crisis-ridden Congress government gave the report to the Indian Express, elements within the army top brass frustrated at the government’s inaction are a more likely source of the leak.

In any event, the actions of India’s two principal parties complement each other. The BJP serves as V.K. Singh’s attorney, immediately dismissing the allegations that he subverted the constitution as Congress slurs; while the Congress seeks to sweep the entire affair under the rug, so as to keep the Indian public in the dark as to the ultra-reactionary forces that are developing within India’s military.

This is a military, it need be added, that has been lavished with massive budget increases and new weapon systems for the past fifteen years and which, recognizing its growing importance to the Indian bourgeoisie’s ambitions to become a “world power,” has become ever-more assertive. Repeatedly in recent years, Indian generals have issued bellicose anti-Chinese and anti-Pakistani statements that appear to be at odds with the stated policy of the civilian government.

During his tenure as Army Chief, V.K. Singh repeatedly clashed with the UPA government. This included making an unprecedented appeal to the Supreme Court to delay his mandatory retirement for one year, on the grounds that the birthdate on his army record was wrong.

The launching of Singh’s Supreme Court appeal directly preceded an incident that caused the MOD to fear that a military coup might be underway. According to press reports, on the night of January 16-17 2012, the MOD became concerned when mechanized infantry and paratrooper units carried out manoeuvres near the capital, New Delhi. Standard procedure calls for the MOD to be informed of such manoeuvres; however, for reasons that have never been explained this was not done.

Two months later Singh was again plunged into the thick of controversy when a letter he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was leaked by him or his aides. The letter charged that due to government delays in the procurement process the military’s modernization program was way behind and the army was, as a result, “unfit for war.”
Fresh ceasefire violations by Pakistan along LoC in Poonch
A day after twin attacks resulting in killing of 10 people including an army officer, Pakistani Army today resorted to unprovoked firing on Indian forward posts along the LoC in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, drawing effective retaliation.

"Pakistani troops opened fire from small and automatic weapons on Indian forward posts along the LoC in Mendhar-Bhimbhergali Sub-sector of Poonch district at around 1645 hours today, Defence Spokesman S N Acharya said.

Indian troops hit back, triggering an exchange of fire which was on till late in the night, the spokesman said adding there were no reports of loss of life or injury to anyone.

This is the 20th ceasefire violation along the LoC in September this year, the spokesman said.
12 militants killed as major infiltration bid foiled: Indian Army claims

Fresh encounter rages near Balbir Post in Keran Sector

Srinagar: Indian Army on Thursday claimed to have killed 10-12 militants after foiling a major infiltration attempt near Shalbhutu in Trehgam sector of North Kashmir’s Kupwara district while as fresh encounter rages at Jama Gund area in Keran Sector of the same district.

While talking to media persons today at Badam Bagh Cantonment here, 15 Corps Commander, Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh said that 10-12 militants were killed near LoC in Shalbhutu area of North Kashmir after over 30 militants in camouflage tried to infiltrate into this side at multiple points on Sep 24.

However, alert troops challenged them, resulting in a massive gunfight which is still continuing. He, however said, we are not in a position to retrieve the bodies of the killed militants, “as militants on the other side are challenging by firing intermittently”. “At least 30 militants are in the area engaging the troops near LC,” he added.

The army has been conducting pro-active operations both on the Line of Control (LoC) and the hinterland in the valley.
GOC said that militant groups from across the LoC are desperate to infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley before the mountain passes get closed this winter. He claimed the number of infiltration attempts is rising as compared to previous year. “Attempts are still being made to send more militants into this side.”

“Though the number of infiltration (attempts) has gone up this year but we have not lowered guard,” he said, adding the troops are still on high alert to foil any such attempt.

Lt Gurmit said we have excellent intelligence network in place to take on challenges concerning us as there is excellent synergy between intelligence agencies and security forces but “the present security situation is under control,” he said.

“The security threat is there. We had already received inputs there are training camps on the launching pads which are active and ready to infiltrate. We have effective intelligence in place as we have grid support from the intelligence and security forces and they are doing good job,” Gurmit added.

He said that most militants who have attempted to infiltrate belong to Jiash-e- Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Al-Badar outfits. “A thorough search operation is going on in the area with the help of reinforcement.”

Sources told GNS that about 14 to 16 militants managed to sneak into this side of Keran Sector four days ago.

Defence sources said that following the infiltration attempt, the vigil along the LoC has been intensified and combing operations have been started. “Soldiers have increased vigil along the LoC as intelligence reports suggest that groups of militants are waiting to infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley.”

They said the soldiers are carrying out combing and search operations through the dense forests in Keran, Macchil, Handwara, Kupwara and Gurez sectors of the Valley which have emerged as favored infiltration routes for militants over the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, Sources told GNS that 6 to 7 militants who recently infiltrated engaged with troops of 23 Grenadier at Jumgund area near Balbir post in Keran Sector today afternoon.

Heavy exchange of fire was going on in the area when this report was filed. (GNS)
There are no winners in VK Singh's latest battle

To the wider public, last year's indecorous battle over the Army Chief's birth-date was nothing more than a bit of petty bureaucratese that made national headlines.

Sure, there were plenty of articles about how either VK Singh or the Ministry of Defence (take your pick) were ruining the image of the unimpeachable Indian Army, but for those not immersed in New Delhi (and Chandigarh's) complex conspiracy theories involving caste, chains of command and other c-words, it was simply a document certification problem that ordinary Indians face everyday - just one that happened to affect the Army Chief.

The current battle is nothing like that one. First there was the leak about an internal report regarding VK Singh's Technical Support Division, which is alleged to have carried out all sorts of nefarious, anti-democratic activities.

The leak was certainly in public interest, if proven true. The timing, however, just days after the former Army Chief appeared on stage with the Congress' Public Enemy No. 1 Narendra Modi, could not have been more suspect.

Then the man who once held command of the awesome fighting force that is the Indian Army, faulty equipment aside, went and made things worse.

Rather than sticking to his understandably pugnacious opinion that the 'leakers' should be hanged for treason, VK Singh decided to admit to some of the allegations that the Army did indeed give money to political functionaries.

Just as the timing of the leak cannot be ignored, neither can the political implications of Singh's decision to reveal details be swept under the rug.

This is no longer a battle over what number was filled up in a form, nor even over who gets to be the Army Chief and for how long.

As important as it might be for the people of India to be aware of the TSD's activities in the long run, for the moment, with the battle set to get dirtier, it doesn't seem like anyone will come out of this smiling.

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