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Thursday, 3 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 02 Oct 2013

India, China hold border meetings

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, October 1

Indian and Chinese troops today conducted three separate border meetings along the 3,448-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) that runs in the Himalayas and is deemed to be the boundary between the two countries.


The meetings were conducted at the three designated meeting points for Army formation commanders to meet. These points were: Spanggur Gap in Eastern Ladakh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Bum La in Arunachal Pradesh and Brigadier-level officers led the delegation on either side.


Each of the places is separated by hundreds of kilometres and located at altitude in excess of 14,000 feet. The meetings were on the occasion of 64th Chinese National Day. Though scheduled long time back and are called the special border personnel meetings, the one conducted impromptu are termed ‘flag meetings’. These are to develop some understanding at the local level and to avoid an escalation in tempers.


These were the first official meetings since the August flare up in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh when both sides alleged transgressions.


Yesterday India and China had discussed the broad contours of the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), which is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing next month.


The Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on the India-China Border Affairs concluded its two-day meeting in Beijing yesterday. The Indian delegation was led by Gautam Bambawale, Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the External Affairs Ministry, and consisted of representatives of the external affairs, defence and home ministries as well as members of the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).


Today’s meeting between troops was on the Chinese side of the LAC. During the meetings, the Indian side is understood to have discussed the issue of transgression by Chinese troops into the Indian territory.


The two sides have been holding such meetings regularly since 1991 to maintain peace and tranquillity on the LAC through the forums of flag meetings and BPMs. During the event, Chinese cultural heritage was displayed that included various cultural programmes by the Chinese troops, officials said.


India and China are planning to have more such meeting points apart from the existing ones in Chushul, Bum La and Nathula. India wants at least two more such meeting points including one in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh.

Nepalese army chief visits Chandimandir

Tribune News Service


Chandigarh, October 1

Nepalese army chief General Gaurav Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana visited the Chandimandir Military Station near here today. He was presented a guard of honour and was briefed on various issues at the Headquarters Western Command.


Giving a major fillip to Indo-Nepal friendship and cooperation, General Rana is on a six-day visit to India to witness a combined training exercise -- Surya Kiran -- at Pittoragarh. Surya Kiran is a series of joint Indo-Nepal military exercises, which had initially started at the platoon level and has now been enhanced to battalion level. These exercises are aimed at achieving tactical level understanding and interoperability between troops of both armies.


General Rana is a second generation army officer who, after his initial schooling at Lawrence School, Sanawar, graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He has had an illustrious military career, which includes command of Nepal’s oldest infantry battalion, during United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Lebanon. He was Commandant of the Nepalese Military Academy and Director General of Military Operations, till he was appointed as the Chief on September 9, 2012.


The chief is accompanied with his wife Rohini Rana, dauther of late Raja Digvijay Pal Singh, and Rani Ananata Kumari of Awagarh. An alumnus of St Mary’s Convent, Nainital, and Sophia College, Ajmer, Rohini has been a freelance journalist, who is currently involved with various social service groups.


In the evening, Lt Gen Philip Compose, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, hosted a banquet. Other members of the delegation include Maj Gen Victor JB Rana, Brig Gen Suresh Sharma, Col Prem Dhoj Adhikari and Capt Shikar Bahadur Bhandari.

SC notice to VK Singh over age remark

R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent


New Delhi, October 1

The Supreme Court today issued a show-cause notice to former Army Chief General VK Singh (retd) asking him why proceedings should not be initiated against him for prima facie committing criminal contempt by issuing a statement to the media questioning the apex court’s motive in the case relating to his age.


The Bench, which had heard General Singh’s petition on the age row, has taken suo motu cognisance of his interview to a news agency (ANI) which was published in a newspaper last week.


General Singh had questioned the Supreme Court’s logic behind deciding the juvenility of the accused in rape cases on the basis of their school certificates and not applying the same yardstick in his case.


The Bench said his statement amounted to attributing motives to the Judges.

Gen V.K. Singh is playing politics

by Kuldip Nayar


I HAVE been getting calls from the Pakistan media to inquire whether the army stalled the government from certain decisions or forced it to take some without its willingness. Their concern is understandable because the army is the boss in Pakistan and even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who said the elected government would be superior, has to clear the agenda of close India-Pakistan relations with his army chief, Gen Parvez Kayani.


I have assured the Pakistan media that the situation in India is like the one prevailing in advanced countries in the West where voters are the arbiters. However, I can recall one example of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act under which the army can kill anyone on suspicion without being arraigned. The government was inclined to modify the Act after a commission's recommendations. But the army had its way and the Act stays without any amendment.


Except for this, I have found the Indian army obedient to the elected government. It may be a cliché but the army is apolitical and takes pride in eschewing politics. There may be discussions in messes or canteens of the armed forces on the present conditions obtaining the country. But they are healthy and nothing beyond the ventilation of disgust.


This is not even a case of Bonapartism. I know of a few aberrations on the part of certain army chiefs who have gone beyond the ambit of authority. But there is no instance of defiance. When Gen K.S. Thimmaiah, a popular army chief, submitted his resignation to the dismay of the public, it was against the functioning of the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon.


Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru intervened and made Thimmaiah to take back his resignation. Menon stayed on at the Defence Ministry and Thimmaiah retired after completing his term. General K. Sundarji went beyond his authority during the military exercises (brass tacks). He went into the disputed territory under China and into Pakistan.


Islamabad was so disturbed that it sent its Foreign Secretary Abdul Sattar to New Delhi. Sundarji was pulled up. However, he continued to be the army chief until his retirement. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was popular among the people, particularly after the victory in the Bangladesh war. Even the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was suspicious. He made it clear when he met her that he was proud to head such an armed force which did not interfere in political affairs. "You do your job and allow me to do mine," he was supposed to have told Indira Gandhi.


The latest example, somewhat disturbing, is that of Gen V.K. Singh, who retired recently as the army chief. He shared dais with the controversial Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. I wish V.K. Singh had waited a bit longer before jumping into politics. There is no harm in Generals joining politics. The greatest democracy of America has examples of top military chiefs like Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eishenhowr running for presidential election and winning the coveted position. But both of them did not rush to the election platform from the theatre of war. They contested only after decent intervals.


The main allegation against V.K. Singh is that he set up a unit, Technical Support Division, to snoop on the government at Srinagar and used secret funds to topple it. In an interview to a television network, he has gone further to say that the army has been financing since Independence ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government to maintain "peace and stability" in the state.


The allegation of snooping against the elected government at Srinagar is a serious one. The ruling National Conference is justified in demanding a probe by a sitting Supreme Court judge. The Centre is in the dock as far as V.K. Singh's admission that the military has financed all ministers in Srinagar is concerned. Let the Omar Abdullah government explain whether the charge is correct. Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister, is so disturbed that he has demanded a CBI probe immediately. The constitution by V.K. Singh of a special cell for special purposes has also to be looked into. The Defence Ministry has issued a statement saying the matter is being pursued for "further action." V.K. Singh was said to have been upset by the leakage of the report against him by top army officials.


The report is not yet in the public domain. But the charges are too serious to be left at that. The revelations make a mockery of the army's functioning in a democratic polity. Covert operations are conducted all over the world. They should never see the light of the day and the officials engaged in them should keep quiet till their death and not even mention them in their memoires.


The military also needs to revise its rules of retirement so that the former chiefs of the three services-army, air force and navy-are not able to join a political party for a decade after their retirement. Being in command they are bound to have earned enough fame to influence the voters. All this darkens the image of the army. However, V.K. Singh is not the entire army. He is a maverick. He has criticised even the Supreme Court for having rejected his claim to continue one year more in service because of his birth certificate was "incorrect." When he had made no effort to have the "mistake" rectified during his entire career, he had no right to do so after occupying the position of the Chief of the Army Staff.


V.K. Singh is all politics. Even his body language says so. What he has said speaks volumes of affairs between the government and the army. The self-righteousness of V.K. Singh is not understandable. Why did he not stand up and stop the financing work in Kashmir? Instead, he accelerated the process. He says that Omar Abdullah has "an agenda."


What is it and what did V.K. Singh do to stop it? To topple an elected government is no solution. His own credibility is in doubt. His association with Anna Hazare at present should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Supreme Court contempt notice to former army chief VK Singh on age row

The Supreme Court has issued a contempt notice to former army chief General VK Singh for allegedly criticising its handling of his case against the government over a dispute about his age.


The General has been asked to appear in court on the 23rd of this month with his response.


The judges today said of his comments, "The same amounts to scandalising the court and prima facie V K Singh's statement tends to scandalise the judiciary and also tends to lower the authority of the court."


Recently, in an interview, the General allegedly faulted the Supreme Court judges who heard his case to prove he was a year younger than the army records showed. If he had won, he would have been eligible for an extra year in office.


But after the Supreme Court judges indicated they were likely to rule against him, he dropped his case.


General Singh retired in May 2012 after a series of public run-ins with the government. One of them was his decision to sue the government for refusing to accept that his age was wrongly reflected in army records. If he had won, he would have been eligible for another year in office. He dropped his case in January after Supreme Court judges indicated he was likely to lose.


There were other mega-controversies. He set up a military intelligence unit with 30 members that was accused of spying on the Defence Ministry. An explosive letter from him to the Prime Minister warning of severe deficiencies in arms and ammunition was leaked. General Singh also suggested that Defence Minister AK Antony showed no interest in ordering an inquiry after the army chief told him that he had been offered a 14-crore bribe to clear a deal for military trucks.

Carter: U.S.-India Defense Collaboration Moves to Next Level


By Cheryl Pellerin

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2013 – Deputy Secretary Ash Carter delivered a groundbreaking collaborative defense proposal to Indian military officials during his recent trip there and is committed to continuing to put new ideas on the table, he told an audience today at the Center for American Progress.

Carter traveled to India, Afghanistan and Pakistan on a 7-day trip that began Sept. 12, but at this event he focused on what he called the strong and rapidly growing defense partnership between the United States and India.

“In the United States, with U.S. industry … we identified and put forward to the Indians a truly groundbreaking entirely new collaborative proposal to co-develop with India a next-generation Javelin antitank capability,” Carter said.

The proposal addresses a key military requirement for both armies and is an unprecedented offer the United States has made unique to India, the deputy secretary added.

During the trip, Carter delivered a second round of potential capability areas of cooperation proposed by U.S. industry. And in India, Carter said he made sure to hear from senior Indian industry representatives about their ideas for increasing private-sector partnerships.

The push to reach the next level of defense collaboration and co-development with India comes after 15 months of effort between the countries to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to such work, Carter said.

The underlying program, called the Defense Trade Initiative, was devised by former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, and Menon and Carter used DTI to find ways to take the nations’ defense cooperation to the next level.

Among the advances made possible through DTI, Carter said, involved export controls.

“We have demonstrated repeatedly that we can release sensitive technology to India,” Carter said.

“We've adapted our system in ways that will speed our release process for India,” he added, “especially in the Department of Defense, recognizing that for … all partners this process is subject to case-by-case review and there will always be some technologies that we will keep to ourselves.”

Areas of progress include technology transfer, licensing agreements, license exceptions, end-use monitoring and others.

“We've also taken unprecedented steps to identify forward-leaning proposals by industry, from industry on both sides for defense items to be co-produced and -- the true measure of our common goal -- co-developed by the U.S. and India,” Carter said.

These include a maritime helicopter, a naval gun, a surface-to-air missile system and a scatterable antitank system, all of which the deputy secretary discussed with Indian officials during his recent visit, he said.

“In each instance,” Carter noted, “the United States has fast-tracked these projects to ensure that our internal processes are ready to go as soon as the Indian government wants to move forward.”

U.S. and Indian research and development experts also play a critical role in areas that include the cognitive sciences and others in which DOD would incentivize increased cooperation by U.S. defense researchers, the deputy secretary said.

“I let the Indian government know last week that I will be incentivizing U.S. researchers who seek and find Indian partners in key research areas we identified previously,” he added. “We'll ensure that those innovative projects receive priority funding. This is an approach we've only ever taken with the United Kingdom and Australia, and now India will join that company.”

When Carter visited India a year ago, he visited the Lockheed Tata plant in Hyderabad, which assembles parts for the C-130J cargo plane, a partnership between an American company and an Indian company, he said.

“This was a partnership that was encouraged and applauded by the U.S. and Indian governments but was not founded by either one,” Carter added.

“This year I had the opportunity to travel to Hindon Air Force Station, where the Indian Air Force operates a growing number of C-130Js and also C-17s,” he said.

While he was there, the deputy secretary was briefed by an Indian Air Force pilot who landed and took off in a C-130J in the Himalayas from an altitude well above 16,000 feet, “certainly a record and quite an accomplishment,” Carter said.

“We're excited to have the next tranche of six C-130Js included in a pipeline of several major defense sales currently under consideration by the Indian government,” he added. “Our goal is for India to have all the capabilities it needs to meet its security requirements and to be a key partner in that effort.”

The Defense Department also invests in joint exercises, Carter said, because the U.S. and Indian militaries remain the most visible cooperative efforts between the two nations and serve as a cornerstone of the defense cooperative relationship.

Such exercises allow the U.S. and Indian militaries exposure to one another's tactics, techniques and procedures, he said.

“They also allow Indian troops access to U.S. troops, making operating together possible if it proves necessary to further U.S. and Indian interests and, perhaps most importantly, helping foster person-to-person ties in the defense area that are so important to our two countries in other areas,” Carter observed.

In May, he said, 200 Indian Army soldiers trained with members of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, [N.C.,] where they jointly conducted various scenarios related to a U.N. peacekeeping mission, from humanitarian assistance to air assault.

“I hear Indian soldiers were even able to shoot off a Javelin or two,” the deputy secretary added. “And one day soon I'm confident that we'll co-develop these weapons.”

As for the United States and India, Carter said, “we're each big, complicated democracies. We move slowly, but over the long run we also move surely. And that to me is the trajectory for us and India in the defense area.”

Gen VK Singh row: army's the loser

Every Indian army chief evolves a vision for his army, as he gets ready to sit across that Oakwood high table, once the office table of some illustrious predecessors such as Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Some, like Gen K Sundarji, transmit that vision to

their officers and some others keep it to themselves but never shift their focus from it. We do not know what was Gen VK Singh's vision for his army.


If it was to cleanse the army of any traces of corruption, he did not go the whole hog against it except for the Siliguri land scam, where he did corner some top-ranking officers. He handled well the bribe offer to him to accept 600 Tatra vehicles and apprised the defence minister of it, and that by itself was enough. It was for the minister to take further action, such as blacklisting Tatra etc.


Besides the upgradation and modernisation of the army, the other area which ought to have been of major concern to him was the army's morale, which had received severe blows from successive central pay commissions, making army service the last preferred career choice for the country's youth. He appears to have lost track and shifted his focus, rather belatedly, to the issue of his date of birth. The government was determined to stall it, merits of the case notwithstanding; even the Supreme Court, from whom he had high hopes of justice, decided to advise him to "sway with the wind."


Top-secret letter


During this period, the government became revengeful. First came that crude story of a coup, leaked out to a gullible newspaper (remember the leaked story of the defence secretary being called back from a foreign tour and summoning of the director general, military operations, at midnight) and the leak of that top-secret letter from the army chief to the PM, in the absurd hope that suspicion would stick on him. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) buried the case of the letter leak, which had serious implications for national security, because the finger of suspicion turned towards a low-ranking lady officer of the cabinet secretary.


Unfortunately, the matter did not end there. Gen VK Singh's sharing the stage with Narendra Modi at an ex-servicemen rally in Rewari (Haryana) triggered yet another set of innuendos by the 'dirty tricks department' of the government. The first and rather frivolous charge being that Gen VK Singh engineered a public interest litigation (PIL) in an alleged fake encounter against the present army chief by paying money to an NGO from intelligence funds, all this to alter the line of succession in the army. The present chief was a brigade commander when a 70-year-old man had died, maybe as part of collateral damage, in an encounter by his troops. In this case and during Gen VK Singh's tenure, the army had defended the case as a genuine encounter.


TSD operations


The more serious charge being (again part of an internal report of the army that had been put aside by the ministry of defence for nearly six months) that secret funds from the Technical Services Department (TSD), an intelligence unit of the army, were paid to a minister in Jammu and Kashmir to topple the very government where he was, and is, a minister. Firstly, the TSD was not raised by Gen VK Singh, as is being alleged, but by his predecessor on the instructions of the national security adviser (NSA) and with the approval of the defence minister. By its very nature, TSD operations were 'top secret'. In that event, the government should neither have brought out the TSD's existence nor publicised its working. The same should have been the stance of Gen VK Singh in that infamous interview on TV channels. The allegation of tapping the defence minister's telephone turned out to be equally silly.


Since army deployment on internal security duties in J&K appeared unending, the army started a project, Sadhbhavana, which was aimed at gaining the confidence of the local population, veering them away from the influence of separatists etc. For such activities, the Centre provides funds. Sometimes, parts of these funds were handed over to the departments concerned of the government to undertake and/or assist the army. Possibly, to meet the shortfall in funds, some money from intelligence funds, too, may have been diverted. In the allegation where money was paid to a minister, the fact is that it was given to the minister's department to organise cricket tournaments etc. to engage the youth in fruitful activities.


Judicial probe


Politicians in J&K have taken umbrage to Gen VK Singh's revelations and are vociferous in demanding an inquiry and action against him. If so required, let his conduct be investigated by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. However, it needs to be told that army chiefs do not micromanage intelligence funds or any other activity of the army.


Since Independence, India has poured billions of rupees (other than funds from intelligence agencies) into J&K and much of these have ended up in the pockets of politicians. Let the union government state how much money has been given to the state since Independence and let the assets of J&K's political leaders be investigated by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The outcome of such an inquiry will shock the nation. Also, tell us the number of people in the Kashmir valley who pay income tax!


Finally, in this spat between the government and Gen VK Singh, it's the army which has been damaged the most: its cohesiveness as well as integrity.


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