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Sunday, 13 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 13 Oct 2013


Hizb commander held in Bandipora

Tribune News Service


Srinagar, October 12

In a span of two weeks, security forces in Kashmir arrested another militant commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit.


Hizbul militant commander Junaid, aliases Manzoor and Arshid, a resident of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, was arrested in a joint operation by the police and the Army yesterday.


“Junaid, an A+ category militant of the outfit, was arrested from Dubban-Turkpura, Bandipora, in an apple orchard. After a tip off about his presence, the area was cordoned off. On being challenged, he tried to escape but was apprehended after a chase,” a source said.


“An AK-56 rifle, two magazines and 60 rounds of ammunition were recovered from him,” the source added.


The sources said Junaid was operating in Bandipora and Ganderbal districts.


“He is being questioned,” the source said. Earlier this month, security forces busted a module of the Hizbul Mujahideen in north Kashmir by arresting one of its top militant commanders, Nisar Ahmad Dar, alias Usman, a resident of Saidpora, Sopore, and four of his associates. Dar was wanted by the police in various militancy related incidents in north Kashmir and Srinagar during the past four years.


Security forces have stepped up operations against the terror outfit in north Kashmir.

Pak army backs Sharif against militants


Islamabad, October 12

Keeping open the option of military action against militant groups, Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani today said talks with them must be held within the constitutional limits.


Kayani, set to retire next month after leading the army for six years, said the military fully backed the government's move to hold talks with militants.


There is an opinion that the government was forced to go in for talks because of the failure of military operations against militants but this is far from the truth, he said while addressing a passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad. Though the use of force was the last option, the army was fully prepared to exercise this option if necessary, the 61-year-old army chief said. The army had the capability to mount a befitting response to the militants, he added.


Describing terrorism as a "big challenge" that goes against Islamic teachings, he said: "To deal with it, the national leadership chose the option of giving talks a chance. The Pakistan Army supports this move. — PTI

Stapled visas: India lodges protest with China

Tribune News Service


New Delhi, October 12

India today lodged a strong protest with China over issuing stapled visas to two teenage Indian female archers from Arunachal Pradesh who were due to participate in the World Archery Youth Championships in Wuxi. “The protest was lodged in Delhi today,” official sources said.


The fresh visa row between the two countries comes days ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing. China’s action obviously was prompted by its territorial claim over the entire north-eastern state.


The two archers, Maselo Mihu and Sorang Yumi, were barred from boarding a China-bound flight on Thursday night. The two girls said they were unaware of having had visas stapled on their passports till they reached the airport and were turned back.


Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader and Archery Association of India (AAI) president Vijay Kumar Malhotra today shot off a strongly-worded letter to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, asking him to immediately take up the matter with Beijing. The Chinese Government must stop issuing stapled visa and treat all Indian nationals equal, he said.


“The whole episode has raised questions about the political parameters worked out by the Indian and Chinese Governments.” The Chinese action amounted to insulting not only the Government of India but the entire country, said Malhotra in the letter, a copy of which was also sent to the Prime Minister.


Khurshid, however, sought to play down the issue, saying differing perceptions on the border issue between the two countries lead to such unsavoury incidents, which should not affect cooperation in other areas.


This is not the first time that India is involved in a row with China over stapled visas to Indians. In 2010, it had started issuing stapled visa to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir, thereby questioning the state’s accession to India. It later discontinued the practice after India’s protestations.

A failure and a missed opportunity

By setting the precondition of improvement in the situation on the LoC and action on terror to take forward bilateral relations, Manmohan and Sharif handed over the driver’s seat to the Pakistan Army, which has never shown keenness to accelerate the peace process.

Raj Chengappa


It is exactly two weeks since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but so far there are no signs of any positive outcome of the high-profile first summit between the two leaders.

The big decision in New York was to have the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two armies meet and “suggest effective means” to restore peace and tranquillity on the Line of Control (LoC) and ensure the sanctity of the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement. A fortnight later there is no word even on the dates on when the two DGMOs would meet. Meanwhile, ceasefire violations continue unabated and the Army has had to launch a major operation to clear Keran sector of militants.


All this is in sharp contrast to the expectations that were generated before the two met. Sharif had come promising “a new beginning” and there was even talk of his offering a major trade proposal that included bestowing on India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. For Manmohan Singh, had all gone well, he could have crowned his second term as Prime Minister by opening a new chapter in bilateral relations with Pakistan and paying a visit to his hometown Gah, located across the border.


Yet in a scene that has now become familiar with most Indo-Pak summits, the run-up to the meeting saw extraneous events conspire to force the leaders into reverting to hardline positions to placate domestic constituencies. These included the twin terror attacks in the Jammu region, the continued violation of ceasefire on the LoC by the Pakistan Army and Rahul Gandhi’s outburst that undermined Manmohan Singh’s authority.


Then, prior to the Indo-Pak summit, in his meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington DC, Manmohan said he had explained “the difficulties that we face given the fact that the epicentre of terrorism remains focused in Pakistan.” Clearly smarting over Manmohan’s comment, Sharif is said to have come up with the analogy of the “dehati aurat”, which he denied later. Soon after, at the UN General Assembly, both Prime Ministers spoke tough on relations between the two.


Even before the summit, lines were drawn. After the meeting, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said the two leaders had agreed that “the precondition for a forward movement in the relationship, which they both desire, is really an improvement in the situation on the LoC.”


My assessment is that the summit was both a failure and a missed opportunity. Both sides had expended much political capital to meet but came up with little to show. Instead, by setting the precondition of improvement in the situation on the LoC and action on terror to take forward the relations, Manmohan and Sharif have handed over the driver’s seat to the Pakistan Army, which has never shown keenness to accelerate the peace process.


Sharif came away from the summit with his authority considerably undermined and status diminished. By his loose talk and inability to get the Pakistan Army to silence the guns on the LoC before the summit, Sharif failed to capitalise on a chance to make a breakthrough he so wanted.


By complaining to Obama, Manmohan Singh expressed a lack of confidence in the new Pakistan Prime Minister’s ability even before they had met. The Indian Prime Minister was clearly at odds with his stated policy that differences between India and Pakistan should be handled bilaterally. Sharif had a right to feel miffed.


Sharif then misjudged the situation by presuming that the UPA II was on its last legs and that Manmohan Singh was a lame-duck Prime Minister. He seemed to indicate that he would prefer to wait for the next general election and make his big trade offering to a new government in India.


By not trusting his instincts and having the courage of conviction to improve relations with India, Sharif has again given those against the peace process a chance to harp on his “deceitful” behaviour in the past, including on Kargil. After all, it was Sharif who pushed for a summit meeting with Manmohan Singh and if it was just to get the DGMOs to talk to each other then the Pakistan Prime Minister had wasted a golden opportunity to set the agenda.


Yet all is not lost. Manmohan Singh exhibited courage by going ahead with his meeting with Sharif despite stiff objections. If Sharif is smart then after he gets the Army Chief of his choice in place, he should rapidly restore tranquillity on the LoC and by December unilaterally offer trade concessions to India as a gesture of goodwill. Manmohan Singh may then yet fulfil his dream of improving relations with Pakistan and visiting his hometown before he lays down office. For Sharif, the new beginning he dreamed of with India would have kick-started.

800,000 Evacuated as Powerful Cyclone Hits India

NEW DELHI — A powerful cyclone whose spinning arms engulfed much of the Bay of Bengal weakened Sunday morning as it crashed into India’s eastern coast, flooding homes and roads throughout the region and disrupting electricity and communications.

 The authorities evacuated about 800,000 people, one of the largest such evacuations in India’s history. The storm’s maximum sustained winds, which were approximately 124 miles per hour when the storm made landfall about 9 p.m. Saturday, had dropped to less than half that strength nine hours later.


At least five people were killed in the coastal city of Gopalpur because of heavy rain and high winds before the storm made landfall, officials said. The storm was expected to drop up to 10 inches of rain over the next two days in some areas.


The Indian predictions before the storm hit were less alarming than those from the meteorological authorities in the United States. Late Friday, the United States Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said the storm, then barreling across the Bay of Bengal, had maximum sustained winds of 161 m.p.h., with gusts reaching 196 m.p.h. — making it similar to a Category 5 hurricane, the most severe.


But once the storm arrived on land, its intensity was more modest, and Indian officials defended their more measured forecast as having been more accurate.


“We are not trying to downplay the intensity of the cyclone,” M. Shashidhar Reddy, the vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said at a news conference Saturday. “In fact, U.S. authorities are overplaying it.”


On Saturday, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, in Hawaii, reduced its estimates, saying they showed maximum sustained winds of about 138 m.p.h. and gusts of up to 167 m.p.h.


L. S. Rathore, director general of the India Meteorological Department, termed the storm, named Cyclone Phailin, a “very serious cyclonic storm.” By Sunday, Mr. Reddy said, the storm was likely to be downgraded to a “serious cyclonic storm.”


Still, the true scope of natural disasters in India is often not known for days, given its large population and fairly weak central government. And powerful cyclones in the Bay of Bengal have a history of being particularly deadly because the geography funnels the storms into some of the most densely populated and poorest regions in the world. About 12 million people were in the storm’s path, according to Indian officials.


More than 10,000 people were killed 14 years ago when a powerful cyclone came ashore in roughly the same area, and more than 300,000 were killed in 1970 when a storm hit what is now Bangladesh. But disaster preparation arrangements are far better now, officials said.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement Saturday that he had been briefed on preparations for the storm and had directed that the central government extend all needed assistance to state officials.


In the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh State, many mud homes and farms were destroyed, and uprooted trees blocked roads, according to officials there. About 30,000 people were evacuated from coastal villages in Andhra Pradesh.


K. Baliah, a district official involved in rescue efforts, said coastal residents had been reluctant to leave until they saw the sea rise. “At first they refused to leave their properties,” he said. Then, “when the water started to enter their communities around 2 p.m., the people decided themselves that they must leave.”


The surge accompanying the storm was expected to reach nearly 10 feet, weather officials said, which would cause heavy flooding across Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, another coastal state.


Service members from the country’s army, air force and navy were deployed to help in rescue and relief operations, A. K. Antony, India’s defense minister, said.


The air force deployed C-130 aircraft, recently purchased from the United States, to help in the efforts, and the navy had diving teams with inflatable rafts deployed at important locations, Mr. Antony said. Military helicopters were also available for rescues, he said.


Pentayya Chintakayala, 33, a fisherman from a village near the port city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, said the fishermen of his village had stopped fishing and moved their boats inland, but were concerned that they could lose everything if the storm was as severe as predicted.


“What they tell us on television and what we see in the waves have nothing to do with each other,” he said. “Fishermen don’t always listen to the warnings, and 90 percent of the time that’s O.K., but 10 percent of the time the warnings are true, and we lose everything because we don’t believe them. Fishermen are stubborn like that.”


Mr. Chintakayala added that it was difficult to store fishing equipment very far inland, “because the boats are heavy and there isn’t much place to store them.”


Officials in the Visakhapatnam district were able to evacuate 21,500 people to relief camps by Saturday evening, including 3,500 inhabitants of flood-prone slums in the city of Visakhapatnam. But they said that they had often resorted to force, and that 30,000 more might have to be evacuated if the worst predictions came to pass.


“Basically the people are not willing to come to the shelters, because they are worried that they will lose their belongings,” said M. Venkateswarao, the district revenue officer. “They say that nothing bad will happen and that we are unnecessarily forcing them. But even if one person dies, it will look very bad for the district administration.”


Malavika Vyawahare and Hari Kumar contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Vivekananda Nemana from Visakhapatnam, India.

Another ceasefire violation by Pakistan army in Poonch


After suffering heavy damages in the exchange of firing late Friday night the Pakistan army on Saturday trained its guns on the forward Indian posts in Balakote and Mankote area of Mendhar sector of Poonch and resorted to 'unprovoked' firing for over two hours in the area.


According to the sources, at least 20 Indian posts in the forward areas of Balnoi were targeted by the Pakistan army with mortar shells,small arms and automatic fire.


In the heavy exchange of fire which was first reported around 1830 hours, the Indian troops are claimed to have reverted strongly inflicting heavy damages to the Pakistani troops and other fortified bunkers on the other side of the LoC.


According to Defence PRO Col. R.K. Palta, the unprovoked firing from the Pakistan side started around 1830 hours and lasted till 2030 hours. He claimed that the Indian troops strongly responded with same calibre of weapons and in the exchange of fire no loss of life and other casualty was reported till last reports came in.


The Indian troops are maintaining tight vigil all along the line of control to prevent fresh infiltration bids from across the LoC in the coming days. The Pak army is learnt to have provided shelter to large number of trained militants along the LoC before pushing them inside the Indian territory to execute terror plots hatched by their handlers in Pakistan. 


Meanwhile, following repeated incidents of ceasefire violations and regular targeting of civilian areas along the LoC, the majority of border residents have been forced to stay indoors and spend long wintry nights fearing for the well being of their loved ones huddled inside fragile houses.


The border residents, living under the constant fear of death and destruction in the firing line of Pakistan army guns, are angry as they have been doing so without any state govt. help since first week of August when tension escalated  between the two neighboring armies in the aftermath of attack on the Indian soldiers inside LOC.


Expressing their serious concerns, villagers in one of the forward  village of Poonch told reporters, the situation here is once again taking an ugly turn.


The villagers said,"for last three days the Pak army is regularly pounding Indian posts and using high calibre of weapons". "We do not know where to hide as Pak guns are targeting civilians areas with the sole purpose of triggering migration".


"Pakistani troops are targeting us on almost daily basis and still we are not getting nay help from the local authorities", the villagers alleged.


"Every evening we have to face the trauma of roaring Pak guns, it is getting beyond our control". We are not able to sleep properly in the night due to heavy exchange  of firing.


The villagers demanded that the state govt should relocate them to safer zone for the time being.


Court-Martial VK Singh Over his Kashmir Remarks: Former Congress President



SRINAGAR —  Former Congress president Ghulam Rasool Kar Saturday said former Indian Army chief VK Singh should be court-martialled for his remarks that politicians in Kashmir were on payrolls of Indian Army.


“Indian defence ministry is authorized to recall any Army general after his retirement. So Singh should be recalled and court-martialled. This will send a message that nobody can bring disrepute to the democratic set up of India,” Kar told Srinagar based CNS news agency.


Mr Kar claimed that India was not keen to take any action against General Singh. “It was absurd on part of the home ministry to ask General Singh to reveal more names. Payoff controversy should be probed and should not be put into cold storage,” Kar said.


Asserting that Singh did a ‘huge damage’ by his remarks, Mr Kar said he should have showed maturity by keeping silent.


“It would have been good for him to keep mum even after the report was leaked. The speaker of legislative assembly did a marvellous job. Singh should be made accountable in the floor of the house,” Kar said.

Matters military

It is interesting as an Indian to read that the all-powerful Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has made it clear that he will retire on November 29 and his future now rests in the hands of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who might or might not re-employ him in another post. And that the last is prompted not by the army, but by the US and the Pakistan government’s shared concerns about relieving General Kayani at this stage.


General Kayani has managed to get the respect of his people by one, allowing the elections and the democratic process to continue without interference; and two, by announcing that he will retire as scheduled. He has remained a soldiers’ soldier, refusing to dabble in politics almost like an Indian Army chief, although not quite there, as the Indian Army has remained completely out of politics. But there is a similarity. It is interesting to note that both countries have created overarching military institutions without allowing these to assume intended powers. General Kayani will hold the additional charge of chairman joint chiefs of staff committee until the government appoints the successor to General Khalid Shameem Wynne who has just retired. This was clearly intended to be a central defence body but remained a ceremonial office. The Express Tribune has reported the possibility of Kayani being appointed to the post, but only after the Nawaz Sharif government has revamped it with more powers and authority. It remains to be seen if this will be done and whether the civilian government will actually allow full military powers to be vested in one single authority. A General Kayani in such a post would probably inspire trust and confidence, but whether the same will hold true in the future would definitely create some nervousness in the civilian citadels of power.


One says this because India, too, has gone around the bush creating a structure but not appointing the key chief of defence staff (CDS) to operate it. Differences between the three defence services over the appointment of a CDS, seen as an overreaching authority, has stalled the implementation of the decision for years now. The Indian government tried to compensate by setting up the Integrated Defence Staff seen by the military as a ‘watered down CDS’. This has not succeeded in reducing the military’s isolation for nuclear policy planning that remains in the control of civilians in the ministry of defence. Experts point towards the strong inter-service competition for a larger share of India’s nuclear arsenal and the resources for developing it, with a unified approach eluding decision-makers. The CDS was to have been the central authority to harmonise these efforts but seems to have been relegated to the background now. Political concerns about setting up a supra-military body with overarching powers are also a major reason for the indecision.


Given the fact that India, where the military is totally subordinate to the political will, has hesitated to appoint a CDS, it will be interesting to see whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, bloodied in the past through a military coup, will actually revamp the existing joint chiefs of staffs committee as is being mentioned in the Pakistan media as a nuclear command authority and the last word in military decisions. No wonder that despite US pressure, the Pakistani prime minister has sought time to take a decision.


It is imperative for all nations with democratic aspirations to ensure full political control over their armies. Fortunately, the founding fathers of India ensured that this became the rule, as a result of which, the defence services emerge from the barracks only when the politicians order them to. A lack of political courage makes the army appear stronger than it is at times, but even so, the checks and balances are sufficient to compensate for a weak executive.


Pakistan is clearly still struggling to establish civilian control over its defence forces and more importantly, the military industry as it were and all the ‘assets’ that have come to be associated with it. Prime Minister Sharif has made some independent noises and it remains to be seen how he follows through, particularly as for him it remains a tough job given the divisions within about the ‘all civilian’ approach.


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