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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 09 Oct 2013
15-day Keran operation ends, Army Chief blames Pakistan
Tribune News Service & Agencies

New Delhi/Srinagar, October 8
The Army on Tuesday called off the 15-day Keran operation in the frontier district of Kupwara and declared the sector cleared of infiltrators, even as Army Chief General Bikram Singh said it was impossible to infiltrate across the Line of Control (LoC) without the Pakistani Army's knowledge.

“I am very clear, having known the deployment along the Line of Control. No activities by the terrorists can take place without the support of the Pakistani Army,” Gen Bikram Singh said on the sidelines of the annual Air Force Day parade in New Delhi.

The Chief said the Army has much evidence (against the Pakistani Army), including a letter found on a terrorist, information and intercepts. "The covering fire that is given to them to infiltrate comes from their posts," he said.

He said the terrorists were not occupying any higher ground but sitting in a ‘nullah’ (rivulet) near the LoC. "This is not an intrusion... it is a desperate bid for infiltration. These terrorists were in a nullah (drain). What advantage would they get by sitting in a nullah?" he said.

In Srinagar, Northern Command chief Lt General Sanjiv Chachra said the search operation in the Keran sector had been called off and it had been cleared of infiltrators.

Describing it as a desperate multi-point infiltration attempt in the sector, he said, “We knew about it (large-scale infiltration). We knew they were coming from multiple points. Eight infiltrates have been killed and over 80 major weapons have been recovered from them, including 23 AK-47s, two pistols and 17 UBGLs.”

However, he was not specific about the fate of 30 to 40 holed up militants in the Shalabhato area, 130 km from Srinagar.

The Army had launched a massive counter-infiltration operation in Shalabhato on September 24 when a large number of militants tried to sneak into the Valley from multiple points along the LoC.

Chachra said some of the infiltrators might have gone back earlier. “Some of them were used (killed) in subsequent operations. The area has been cleaned up,” he said.

Though the Army Commander insisted the area has been cleaned up, he left room for further operations in the area, saying they would be launched on the basis of specific intelligence and surveillance.

“I have redeployed the counter-insurgency grid in such a manner that I can do further operations on surveillance and intelligence,” Chachra said. He repeatedly denied reports of infiltrators having occupied any Army observation post or village in the area of operation.

Eight infiltrators have been killed in three different operations around Shalabhato since September 23. A militant was killed on September 23 in Machil sector, a day before the massive search operation was launched at Shalabhato Keran.

On October 4, three militants were killed in Gujjardur area and in the second attempt by militants to infiltrate in the area of Fateh Gali on October 5, four militants were killed.

The Northern Commander, who was accompanied by Lt Gen Gurmit Singh, GOC-in-C of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, echoed the Army Chief’s views on the Pakistani Army being in the know of infiltration attempts.

“We are eyeball to eyeball on the Line of Control, with the Pakistan Army. How can such a large group infiltrate without the complicity of the Pakistani Army?” he said. Last contact with the militants in the Shalabhato area was made four to five days ago, he said.

The abrupt closure of one of the biggest counter-infiltration operations in recent years, however, left two questions unanswered: Why did the Army take 15 days to clean up the Shalabhato area?

The Army had till yesterday claimed that an effective cordon was in place and that it had complete control and domination in the area. If the cordon was effective, how and when did the terrorists escape?

8 militants dead, weapons seized

* Sept 24: Army launches massive counter-infiltration operation in Shalabhato after a large number of militants try to sneak into the Valley from multiple points along the LoC

* Sept 23-Oct 5: Eight infiltrates killed in three encounters; over 80 major weapons recovered, including 23 AK-47s, two pistols and 17 UBGLs

* Army denies reports of infiltrators occupying any Army observation post or village in the area of operation

General Bikram Singh, Army ChiefAlong the LoC, there is no way terrorists can operate in that area without the knowledge of the Pakistani Army... The covering fire comes from their (Pak) posts.
Combat terror jointly
India, Pakistan should not give up or give in
by Kuldip Nayar

IN his reply to my letter, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said: "I look forward to a time when Pakistan and India will be able to shed the debilitating baggage of the past and focus more on the future, when opportunities, rather than challenges, define the relationship between two proud and sovereign nations". His meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is an evidence of his ardent desire to make up with India.

Hostility between India and Pakistan is so proverbial that any movement towards lessening it comes as a relief. The meeting between the two may not have spanned the distance between the two countries. Yet, it has broken the ice and is a good beginning.

The skeptics are hard to please, particularly when Nawaz Sharif did not assure Manmohan Singh on the terrorist training camp in Pakistan (they number around 30). The meeting is a step forward. Both Prime Ministers were under great pressure from their domestic opposition lobbies. But they stood the ground and met for an hour. Both should be complimented in preferring a dialogue to the cancellation of the meeting that would have damaged the prospects of peace.

I have not been able to understand the logic of those who have opposed the meeting. Is there any other option? Both sides can defer the talks, but they have to engage themselves sooner or later. And the outcome of the meeting has been positive. Both Prime Ministers have rightly pinpointed the priority: To firm up the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC).

The agreement on ceasefire reached in 1993 has stood the test of time for a decade. It is unfortunate that the Taliban could penetrate in J&K and kill five Indian soldiers. Now that the two Prime Ministers have directed their respective Director-General of Military Operation (DGMOs) to meet and work out arrangements to ensure the ceasefire is not impaired. The DGMOs should also find out why the violation took place in the first instance. True, the Taliban, not the Pakistan armed forces, did it. But how did the Taliban come to use the Pakistan territory to shoot their way into India? Some connivance is obvious.

The Taliban menace, which has made practically every place in Pakistan unsafe, has to be met squarely. Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani has declared that the Pakistan army would stay in Swat, part of northern Waziristan, near the Afghanistan border. At the same time, he has differed with Sharif on talks with the Taliban. He should realise that the entire region has come to be threatened by the resurgence of the Al-Qaida, directing the Taliban.

The situation may aggravate when the western troops withdraw from Afghanistan next year. Already the Al-Qaida is recruiting young men and training them for strikes after the withdrawal. I have my doubts about the capability of the Afghanistan army and the police, trained by the US, to withstand the Al-Qaida onslaught.

The Al-Qaida's ideology of fanaticism has not been properly spelled out before the Pakistan public. The country has had a taste of it when the Swat Valley was occupied by the Taliban for some time. Music shops were closed and so were education institutions for girls. The veil was compulsorily imposed and the general expectation was that women would stay indoors. Not even an iota of free expression was allowed, much less the liberal thought.

Madrasas and mosques in the region have become the breeding ground of the Taliban and their ideology of fundamentalism. I cannot understand why some Muslim countries are financing them. The outcast Libya is reportedly supplying them with arms. Islamic countries seem to have forgotten the Arab Spring when the youth and liberal elements came on to the streets to confront fundamentalists. At that time, every Muslim country began chanting the mantra of democracy. The fundamentalists were able to create division in the ranks of students and defeat the demand for democratic regimes. The Al-Qaida's fundamentalist ideology can revive the spirit of Arab Spring.

I wish Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif had discussed the resurgence of Al-Qaida. Both India and Pakistan, particularly the latter, have to ponder over the vacuum created after the western forces quit. If combating terrorism is a priority for the two countries, the Al-Qaida and its instruments of tyranny, the Taliban, should be on top of their agenda. In fact, the Taliban in the shape of the Mujahideen are already operating in India. The situation is under control. But the birth of Hindu Taliban should be a point of concern for India.

I wish the two countries would realise the gravity of the situation and discuss a joint action. New Delhi should be able to anticipate the situation it could face if Islamabad goes under or functions at the behest of the Taliban. Even Kenya and Nigeria have not been able to escape the Al-Qaida's fury. Peshawar, the capital of the North Western Frontier Province, has been a target thrice in the last week, killing around 200 persons.

Pakistan is still not coming hard on Lashkar-e-Toiba. Hafiz Sayed, its chief, is leading prayers at the government-controlled Gaddafi Stadium and inciting people against India. Nawaz Sharif, when asked by Manmohan Singh about action against the terrorists who struck in Mumbai on 26/11, said the case against them in the court would progress now that the Pakistan's judicial commission had visited India.

Against this backdrop, the diatribe by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi against the Congress and non-BJP governments was in a bad taste. He depended on a Pakistani anchor's prankish remark that Sharif compared Manmohan Singh to a 'dehati (rural) woman'. No such remark was made as it turned out to be later. Modi, aspiring to be the country's Prime Minister, should be cautious in what he says. But then he gets lost in his demagogy.
Have evidence of Pakistan army's support to Keran infiltrators: Army chief
Blaming Pakistan for provoking one of India's longest anti-infiltration operations in recent times, Army Chief General Bikram Singh today said no infiltration attempt along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is possible without the support and knowledge of the Pakistani army.

"We have had evidence of Pakistan army's involvement for a long time," General Singh said, adding, "My assessment is that the infiltration will continue. They want to push as many terrorists as possible before winter." (Read full transcript)

The two-week long army operation at Keran, 100 kms from Srinagar, to prevent a group of 40 terrorists from entering India ended today with the death of seven terrorists and injuring six army jawans. (NDTV exclusive: First images of terrorists killed)

Bodies of dead terrorists may also have been dragged back or buried in crevices or the thick jungle, army sources said.

The Indian army conducted seven massive search operations of a three-km area in their mission to hunt down the terrorists in the Keran sector along the Line of Control.

"On the LoC, we are eyeball to eyeball with Pakistan Army. How can such a large group infiltrate without the complicity of the Pak Army?" General Officer Commanding (Northern Command) Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra said in Srinagar while announcing the end of the operation.

Yesterday, NDTV spoke exclusively to one of the soldiers who was engaged in the massive encounter. He said he saw 35 to 40 infiltrators as he took a bullet in the abdomen.
Praful Patel questions barring public sector units from Air Force's aircraft tender
Top UPA ministers are battling it out over a Rs. 13,000 crore aircraft deal. Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel has written a strongly-worded letter to Defence Minister AK Antony, complaining about the Air Force's decision to not allow public sector units (PSUs) to participate in a global tender for supply of 56 transport aircraft.

Mr Patel, in his letter sent on Monday - a copy of which is available with NDTV - has questioned that decision, contending that PSUs should be given an equal opportunity and level playing field".

"This being a government/public procurement, an equal opportunity and level playing field is required to be provided to all capable entities irrespective of being 'Public' or 'Private' in nature. This will also encourage healthy competition," Mr Patel said in his letter.

In July this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had decided to replace its ageing fleet of AVRO planes, mainly used as transport aircraft, with new planes at a cost of around Rs. 13,000 crore. Russian and European companies like Illyushin, Antonov, Airbus among others, are believed to be among those shortlisted for the deal.

Eventually, the Ministry of Defence plans to encourage private players in the sector to tie up with these manufacturers for producing the said aircrafts in India. Currently, only Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a PSU, has the required expertise for such production.

"There are many PSUs who meet all the prescribed criterion for participating in this tender, but are being denied the opportunity to participate in this tender only because they are PSUs," Mr Patel said in the letter, adding no private entity was in a position to meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force just yet and asked the Defence Minister to reconsider the decision.
Army carrying out combing ops around Shalbattu village - See more at:
As operations against infiltrators in Keran entered the 14th day on Monday, sources in the defence and home ministries said these were restricted to combing operations by the army around Shalbattu in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir where the first encounter between infiltrators and the army took place last month.
“There has been no retaliatory firing in Shalbattu since October 1. As of now, the army is carrying out combing operations around Shalbattu village to ensure there are no infiltrators lying to ambush the troops,” said a source.

Explaining why the operation was taking so long to complete, a source said the area was situated at 10,000 feet with a Pakistan post overlooking it. “The operation is a deliberate (slow) operation as we don’t want casualties.”

Monday had brought with it a potent mix of coincidences that led to speculation that the situation in Keran was extremely serious with the phrase ‘another Kargil’ being bandied about: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the three service chiefs in Delhi, and the army held a press conference in Srinagar in which it displayed a cache of arms and ammunition recovered over the past two weeks.

It later transpired that the PM’s appointment with the service chiefs was a routine biannual meeting of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) that he heads.
The arms and ammunition that were displayed were recovered in Gujjardur and Fatehgali in Keran sector, approximately 4 km and 20 km as the crow flies respectively from Shalbattu.
The area’s altitude (10,000-12,000 feet) and terrain — thickly-forested steep slopes, deep ravines and crevasses — means it can take at least two days to traverse a distance of 4 km in this area.

The PM eventually discussed Keran with the service chiefs during the NCA meeting.

Militants traditionally increase infiltration bids in J&K just before the onset of winter as snowfall makes it difficult to do so once winter sets in.
However, many have been surprised with the severity of attempts made this year.

According to the army, there have been 120 infiltration attempts this year, the highest since a ceasefire agreement was signed between India and Pakistan.

At an earlier press conference, 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh said that the latest infiltration was a “massive, desperate attempt”, suggesting that it could have been provoked by the “heavy damage” inflicted on infiltrators in recent months.
- See more at:|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p
India Evades Action on Special Forces Command
The Indian government has shelved a proposal to establish a separate Special Forces Command, according to Defence Ministry sources — a move that drew sharp criticism from military officials and analysts.

The proposal to establish a Special Forces Command was made last year by a select panel on national security called the Naresh Chandra Committee.

A decision on the proposal was rolled over to the next government, after the general elections in early 2014, said a Defence Ministry official, who gave no reason for the move.

“The prime minister continues his silence and the defense minister has no gumption to take up for unified command of the borders,” said Prakash Katoch, a retired Indian Army lieutenant general and special operations expert. “The government of India may take a couple of months, if not years, to take a decision to establish a Special Forces Command, and even if they do, will come up with another white elephant with little strategic advantage.”

A lack of clarity on the role of the special ops forces may be one reason for the government’s indecision.

“The Indian concept of employment of special forces has yet to graduate from that of tactical in support of conventional operations to strategic employment, as the US [Navy] SEALs,” or the British Special Air Service, said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst. “This will have to be a political decision and would require a high degree of strategic sophistication, which I do not think the Indian political leadership is displaying for now.”

An Army official said India’s special ops forces — which number about 10,000 troops from the Navy, Air Force, Army and paramilitary units — have been used only for conventional warfare and internal security threats. The officer argued the special ops forces should be used for strategic tasks, such as deterrence against irregular threats and asymmetrical warfare.

“Asymmetric war is not launched against the military, but a nation,” Katoch said. “Special forces must be central to asymmetric response, but in the current context, we neither have the political will nor even the military will, and hence have not been able to establish deterrence to this asymmetric war.”

Bureaucratic barriers also may have played a role in the government’s inaction.

“The Indian bureaucracy, which supposedly handles these issues, has neither the expertise nor the structure needed for the purpose. The reluctance to allow the creation of a professional body can only be attributed to the bureaucracy’s fear of losing their clout and turf,” said Venkataraman Mahalingam, a retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

Special operations will play an increasingly significant role in future conflicts, an MoD official said. The special ops forces are to be equipped with advanced weaponry and command, control, communication and intelligence systems, the official said. Sources in the Army, however, said there have been delays in buying specialized equipment and weapons.

“Everything is planned for, but we are not following the system of ‘packaged equipping.’ If an assault squad does not have the complete package of equipment as authorized to it, the combat potential will obviously be commensurately less,” Katoch said.
Keran operations over, terrorists did not occupy Indian posts: Army

Read more at:
Keran: The Indian Army on Tuesday called off the 15-day long Keran operation, saying the area has been cleared of the infiltrators backed by Pakistan. Northern Command chief Lt General Sanjeev Chachra said the infiltration bids are not possible without the help of the Pakistan Army and maintained that his forces are on high alert and will continue to ensure that the sanctity of the LoC is maintained. He also said that no Indian posts were occupied by infiltrators. While the search operation has been called off, Lt General Chachra said the anti-infiltration operations will continue. He also said that the Army had intelligence inputs about these infiltration bids and that the bids are going to continue as winter is approaching. "The counter infiltrartion bid is in place across the LOC. There will be infiltrations bids. We have intelligence inputs on them and we are well prepared," Lt General Chachra said.

Read more at:
While he did not give the number of terrorists who tried to enter into the Indian territory, Lt General Chachra said that while some infiltrators in the Keran sector have been eliminated, other bids have been foiled. The Army said eight bodies have been recovered. "The last contact was established four to five days ago. Eight bodies have been recovered," Lt General Chachra said. The Army had been battling an estimated 30 to 40 terrorists in the Shala Batu village in the Keran sector for the past 15 days. The Army had earlier released aerial pictures of the terrorists killed at the Line of Control during the operation. It also made a massive recovery of arms and ammunition from the infiltrators.

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