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Friday, 18 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 18 Oct 2013

Five injured as Pak shells forward posts in Jammu
* Three children among hurt * Two Pak Rangers killed
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria/TNS

Jammu, October 17
Pakistan troops today opened heavy fire on at least five Indian forward posts and villages in RS Pura and Pargwal sectors along the 191.5-km-long international border, injuring at least five villagers, including a woman and three children.

The injured sustained splinter injuries caused by 82 mm mortars. Two Pak Rangers were killed in RS Pura sector in retaliatory fire by the BSF.

“Around 9 am, Pak Rangers opened unprovoked fire using 82 mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenades on Allah Mai De Kothe (AMK) and Kharkola posts of the BSF in RS Pura sector. Initially, they used small arms, but soon switched over to mortars and RPGs,” said a senior BSF officer.

“We retaliated with equal-calibre weapons in which two Rangers were eliminated,” he added. The heavy exchange of fire continued till 11 am, while intermittent firing went up to 1.30 pm, he said.

The Rangers opened heavy fire, using 82 mm mortars, on at least three BSF posts —Maljoda, Matkula and Najwal — in Pargwal sector of Chicken Neck area in Akhnoor sub-division around 1 pm.

In Najwal village, Rangers used 82 mm mortars to target villagers working in their fields. “Five villagers, including a woman and three children, sustained splinter injuries caused by mortar explosions. They were taken to the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Jammu,” he said.

Their condition was stated to be out of danger, he added.

In Pargwal sector, the exchange of fire went on till 4.30 pm. “We strongly retaliated to their unprovoked fire in this sector as well,” the officer added.

Housing Minister Raman Bhalla, Jammu Divisional Commissioner Shantmanu and Jammu Deputy Commissioner AK Sahu visited the injured at the GMCH, Jammu, and handed over Rs 10,000 each to them for medical expenditure.
Artillery gun hopes go up in smoke
* UK vendor shuts production * Decision to hit mountain strike corps efficacy
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
In what could be a major blow to the Indian Army’s artillery purchase programme and also the efficacy of its newly created specialised mountain strike corps, the gun maker, contracted to supply the specialised light weight artillery guns, has announced that it was shutting its production line in the UK, albeit after waiting for the Ministry of Defence to decide on the matter.

The ultra light howitzer (ULH) M777 are of 155 mm -- the same as Bofors but much lighter. These can be transported by helicopters and placed on mountain ridges quickly. This was supposed to be purchased by India from the US through the foreign military sales route. The gun maker, BaE systems, produces the gun at its plant in the UK. Since the controversy over the purchase of the Bofors erupted in late 1980s, no new artillery gun has been procured by the Army for its artillery.

The discussions for the gun were going on for the past three years. These were at a final stage months before India announced its new mountain strike corps in July.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had raised serious objections to the purchase of 145 ULHs from the US under an inter-governmental agreement, costing nearly $ 647 million (Rs 3,000 crore approx at today’s dollar valuation).

Besides equipping the upcoming mountain strike corps, the guns were planned to be stationed in the existing seven corps which India has in the Himalayas facing China and Pakistan.

BaE Systems, India, confirmed the stoppage of the ULH production line.

Dean McCumiskey, Managing Director and Chief Executive, BAE Systems in India, said: “We recognise that the discussions between the US Government and the Government of India for purchase of howitzers have not concluded within the extended offer expiry date of October 15”. The company is ready to support consultations between the US and India, he said. October 15 was the final deadline set by the US congressional notification.

The company’s existing orders are nearing completion and it has said it can no longer continue to maintain the same level of staffing meaning thereby it was stalling production.

The delay had been caused after Defence Minister AK Antony ordered a probe to look into an alleged irregularity in conduct of trials of the gun. A technical panel has been tasked with examining all the complaints relating to the procurement.

Lighter than Bofors

* The ultra light howitzer (ULH) M777s are of 155 mm -- the same as Bofors (see pic) but much lighter.

* These can be transported by helicopters and quickly placed on mountain ridges.

* The guns were planned to be stationed in all the seven corps in the Himalayas facing China and Pakistan.
 Cabinet defers decision on easing visa norms for Chinese

New Delhi, October 17
The government today deferred a decision on liberalisation of visa norms for Chinese nationals, which was expected to be on the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Beijing next week.

Sources said the Cabinet today deferred a decision on easing visa norms for Chinese nationals, especially those travelling for business purposes.

The Cabinet proposal sought to liberalise the policy due to expansion in trade between the two countries and subsequent increase in visits by Chinese businessmen. These visitors belong mainly to the Information Technology (IT) and infrastructure sectors.

The government intends to revisit the 2003 protocol in the wake of a substantial increase in visits by Chinese nationals, which has led to jump in FDI inflows and involvement of that country in infrastructure projects here.

Manmohan Singh will reach Beijing on October 22 and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China on this issue was supposed to be on his agenda.

The Cabinet was expected to consider this proposal in the meeting today. The present policy requires a mandatory two-month gap between exit and re-entry for tourist visas. Government had plans to change this rule as well.

However, the long term business visa will be available to regular visitors for only a three month stay in the first instance. — PTI
 Foreign training for NSG to improve preparedness
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung/TNS

New Delhi, October 17
To improve its operational preparedness in counter-terrorism and anti-hijacking situations, India’s National Security Guard (NSG) is modernising its force with the latest surveillance and communication equipments and is also training its commandos with the Special Forces of different countries, said the NSG Director-General.

The developments were shared on the sidelines of the NSG’s 29th Raising Day yesterday. Force’s Director-General, Arvind Ranjan, also said that in view of the increasing number of IED blasts occurring across the country, the NSG’s experts are guiding and advising the instructors of the bomb disposal squads of different states in IED management. These instructors would then further train their own bomb squads.

The NSG, also known as ‘The Black Cats’, is a federal contingency force raised in 1985 to tackle terrorist attacks in the country. Enhancing the skills of its commandos, the NSG sent 17 of them to train with the Special Forces of different countries, including the United States, France and Israel, according to the DG.

The force will also conduct ‘personality profiling tests’ of its commandos. “In this test we will study the profiles of each commando. We will see what they are good at. Some may be good at firing, while others will be skilled in efficiently rappelling down from a hovering chopper. And using the test we will place commandos having varied skills in all our hits (teams of commandos). So that the hits are balanced,” said Arvind Ranjan. A hit comprises six commandos.

The NSG is also in the process of procuring high-tech surveillance and communication equipments. The force will also have ‘tactical extraction platforms’, which are nets hanging from the rear end of helicopters. At a time, 10 commandos can hang on such a net and be evacuated from high-rise buildings and hostile environments, according to Ranjan.

“We are focusing on improving the operational preparedness of our commandos. We are not just procuring the latest equipments and gadgets. But we are also training our commandos,” said the DG.

Modernising force

    The NSG has sent 17 commandos to train with the Special Forces of different countries, including the United States, France and Israel
    The NSG is in the process of procuring high-tech surveillance and communication equipment
    The force will also conduct 'personality profiling tests' of its commandos
India, China to Sign Border Defence Agreement
India and China will sign a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit next week under which no tailing of each other's patrols and no shooting at each other under any conditions by troops have been provided.

The BDCA was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security today as part of further CBMs to avoid incidents along the Line of Actual Control which has seen many intrusions from the Chinese side, especially the long face-off during summer in Depsang Valley of Ladakh.

The BDCA also provides for setting up of a hotline between the DGMOs of the two countries on the lines of the mechanism India has with Pakistan.

The sources said the issue is yet to be formalised with Beijing which has maintained that China does not have the institution of Director General of Military Operations.

"We are trying to do it. We hope we will do (the agreement on) three and four," official sources said on the likelihood of signing an agreement in regard to the two new reactors being set up in the Russian-aided project during Singh's visit.

On the China visit, the sources said Beijing wants a stable, strong and mutually beneficial relationship with India and both want peace and tranquillity on the border.

The prime minister will be hosted a dinner by the new President Xi Jinpeng, a rare gesture being made probably for the first time after what was offered to the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954.

Singh will have a meeting with his counter Li Keqiang when India is likely to talk about steps for additional Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in place to maintain peace on the border.

"We want People's Liberation Army (PLA) to be involved in the process," the sources said.

On the boundary question, the two countries have agreed on a framework agreement which is a three-step progress. "We have made some progress on the framework agreement."

Over time, India has agreed with China that respect of Line of Actual Control, status quo and mutually and equal security should govern the bilateral relations.

On water dispute, India believes that China was not impounding water in the Brahmaputra.

On the signing of the BDCA during the visit, the sources said "we are trying to get the agreement signed."

India and China have held several discussions on the BDCA in the past but after the intrusion by Chinese troops in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in April, movement on the proposed pact gathered steam.

During Defence Minister AK Antony's recent visit to China, the two sides had agreed to conclude negotiations on the pact at an early date.
Following Antony's talks with Chinese leaders, the two sides agreed on a slew of confidence building measures, including having greater frequency of meetings along the border and increased exchange of visits of both young and senior armed forces officials.

India and China have also agreed to hold their Army-to- Army exercise next month in China's Chengdu military region.

The two countries have also agreed to further strengthen the existing agreements and protocols and emphasised the importance of enhancing mutual trust and understanding between the two militaries for maintaining peace and tranquillity along the border.
J&K: 6th ceasefire violation in 48 hours, firing on in RS Pura sector

Read more at:
Jammu: Another ceasefire violation by Pakistan took place on Thursday in the RS Pura sector in Jammu. Heavy firing is currently on between BSF and Pakistan Rangers. This is the 6th violation in 48 hours. Earlier on Tuesday, an Army jawan was killed when Pakistani troops opened fire at Indian forward posts in Balakote sub-sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district. Indian troops retaliated and heavy exchange of fire continued several hours after the firing that started at 5:30 PM from across the border, a Defence spokesman said on Tuesday. The jawan, who died after being hit by a mortar shell at a Forward Defence Location, was identified as Lance Naik MS Khan of 15 Bihar regiment, the spokesman said.

Pakistani Army had resorted to shelling of mortars besides automatic and small arms firing in forward areas along LoC in Hamirpur and Bhimbher Gali (BG) sub-sectors of Poonch district from 06:30 am on Tuesday. Indian troops guarding the border took positions and retaliated strongly with equal calibre weapons, triggering exchanges which continued intermittently, he said. "There was no loss of life or injury to anyone in the firing and shelling by Pakistan along LoC on this side," he added. Pakistani troops resorted to firing from 10:25 pm late on Monday night, the spokesman said, adding, Indian troops gave an equal calibrated retaliation triggering exchanges till 11:35 pm. "There was no loss of life or injury to anyone in Pak firing on this side", the spokesman said. Border Security Force (BSF) jawan, Constable M Basu was injured when Pakistani troops resorted to firing on Katav Border Out Post (BoP) along the International Border (IB) in Samba district on Monday. On October 12, Pakistani Army troops resorted to firing of mortar shells, automatic and small arms firing in forward areas along LoC in Bharasingha and Mendhar battalion forward areas in Krishna Gati and Bhimber Gali sub-sector of Poonch. On 11 October, Pakistani Army troops resorted to shelling of 82 mm mortars besides automatic and small arms firing in forward areas along LoC in Barasingha, Mendhar and Hamirpur sub-sectors of Poonch district forcing Indian troops to retaliate.

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