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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

From Today's Papers - 13 Nov 2013

For meaningful talks, respect India’s views: Khurshid to Pak
Says LoC peace a precondition for taking ties forward
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

Gurgaon, November 12
Amid continued tension, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today met Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and firmly told him that Islamabad must respect India’s sentiments, points of view and sensitivities if it was serious about a meaningful dialogue between the two countries.

Recent events, particularly Aziz’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi on Sunday, would obviously be counter-productive for normalisation of ties, he told the Pakistani leader at the meeting here on the margins of the ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) ministerial conclave.

“This is not a dialogue that happens in isolation...this is a dialogue that is contextual and needs public support and, we think, we have done a great deal to help the Pakistan Government get the public support that it needs to be able to have a fair and transparent dialogue. Conducive conditions have to be created by both sides and not by one side alone,” Khurshid said during the half-an-hour meeting. Aziz later also met National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon. However, he has not been given an audience by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Khurshid made it unambiguously clear to Aziz that peace and tranquility along the LoC was a precondition for movement forward in India-Pakistan relations.

MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said both agreed that the DGMOs of the two countries must meet at an early date to take forward the process of ensuring peace along the LoC. The spokesman pointed out that the two DGMOs were in touch to work out the modalities for an early face-to-face meeting. “Our understanding is that the 2003 ceasefire should hold. Peace and tranquility on the LoC is one of the most important CBMs both for India and Pakistan and if that holds and the DGMOs concur with that we will proceed further on that,'' the spokesman said.

Asked why the two DGMOs had not met so far when they were directed to do so following a meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in September, the spokesman said: “What happens on the border could only be answered by them...they are the sentinels of the border.”

Khurshid also regretted that Pakistan had so far done little to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack.

On Aziz meeting separatists

    Recent events, particularly Aziz’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists in New Delhi on Sunday, would obviously be counter-productive for normalisation of ties, Khurshid told the Pakistani leader at the meeting
    Khurshid said: “This is not a dialogue that happens in isolation...this is a dialogue that is contextual and needs public support, and we think, we have done a great deal to help the Pakistan Government get the public support that it needs to be able to have a fair and transparent dialogue
J-K firing range row: Army open to alternative site
Majid Jahangir/TNS

Srinagar, November 12
While controversy rages over the proposed extension of lease of the Tosamaidan Field Firing Range in Kashmir, the Army today agreed to consider alternative sites if offered by the state government.

The Army has already applied for the re-notification of over 11,000 kanals in Tosamaidan (king of meadows) in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on lease for its firing range and the state government has sought a “no objection certificate” from various departments before forwarding the case to the state Home Department.

Local residents have resented the move to extend the lease of the firing range by 20 years. Residents of 16 villages surrounding Tosamaidan have formed a committee - Tosamaidan Bachao Front - to oppose the grant of extension and press for the shifting of the firing range to another place.

“Most field firing ranges, required for operational capability building of troops, are due for notification. While we have shifted our firing points to meet the needs of the local population, we are willing to look at alternative sites if these are offered to us,” said General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, General Sanjiv Chachra during a Civil-Military Liaison Conference held at Nagrota, Jammu.

The conference was chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and attended by Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand besides senior Army and civil officials.

The Army and the state government (the Northern Army Commander and the Chief Minister) agreed to set up a joint panel to be headed by the state Chief Secretary to explore the possibilities and come up with certain recommendations, he said.

The Chief Minister later constituted a committee headed by the Chief Secretary to look into various land-related cases. “In case of the Tosamaidan range, it was decided that a committee chaired by the Chief Secretary will look into all aspects and suggest various viable options,” said an official spokesperson.

Local residents claim Tosamaidan has proved to be a death trap for them ever since its establishment in 1965. “In spite of its scenic landscape, Tosamaidan has proved to be a death trap for many people due to the firing range. We do not want the government to extend its lease to the Army,” said Bashir Ahmed, a member of the Tosamaidan Bachao Front.

“We will do everything to prevent the government from extending the lease, which ends in April,” he said.
 Civil-Military Liaison Conference at Nagrota
Now, J-K to give ex gratia to soldiers killed on LoC
Earlier relief was restricted to counter-terror operations in state
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 12
In an appreciable move for the men in olive green, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today agreed to extend ex gratia relief to soldiers who lay down their lives while guarding the 744-km-long Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. The soldiers belonging to J&K, who attain martyrdom in other parts of the country while performing their duties in the service of the nation, would also be entitled for the ex gratia from the state government.

Earlier, the state government had been giving ex gratia only to the soldiers who were sacrificing their lives in counter-terrorist operations in the restive state.

“Chairing a civil-military liaison conference (CMLC) at Nagrota, near here, today, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah graciously agreed to extend the ex gratia relief to soldiers (of any state) who lay down their lives on the LoC and to J&K domicile soldiers who lay down their lives in the line of duty in operations in other states of the country,” said Defence Ministry’s Northern Command spokesperson Lt Col Rajesh Kalia.

The spokesperson disclosed that hitherto the ex gratia was confined to soldiers attaining martyrdom in counter-insurgency operations.

“He (CM) also agreed to remove the distinction in ex gratia amount for soldiers belonging to J&K and those belonging to other states. The Chief Minister also agreed to the Army's proposal of providing financial assistance to all World War-II veterans and their widows at the scale of Rs 3,000 a month,” said Kalia.

Earlier, Northern Command chief Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, in his welcome address, mentioned that while the formal conference was being held after four years, the state government had always been very responsive to requirements of the armed forces.

“The volatile internal security scenario has been effectively controlled due to the proactive and concerted efforts of all security forces and the civil administration,” he said.

General Chachra requested the Chief Minister to address the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen on priority and help the serving soldiers, veterans and “veer naris” in finding a speedy solution to their problems.

While speaking about the participative contribution of the armed forces, General Chachra said he had passed directions that as far as possible the Army’s requirements for food and supplies, construction material and contractual requirement for infrastructure would be sourced from within the state to boost the economy and generate growth.

He said the Army would be happy to assist the state administration in fields of education, health and sanitation. “Our future social projects have been reoriented to look at small-scale projects to meet aspirations of the people residing around our bases,” General Chachra said.

He said he would like to place on record the Army’s deep appreciation for the Chief Minister for being positive and alive to the issues concerning the armed forces personnel in J&K.

In his address, the CM mentioned that very few states in the country had the kind of close relationship that the civil administration and the Army shared in J&K.

He mentioned that he had been closely interacting with colleagues in uniform, and the civil administration would continue to provide support and assistance to nurture this important relationship.

Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand highlighted the problems of farmers, whose agricultural land had been affected on account of minefields.

The Army agreed to process the compensation to the landmine casualties and people displaced by the construction of the LoC fence in the border areas. Both the Army and the civil administration acknowledged the need for working together towards the welfare of the people and security of the state.

Aid for J-K soldiers

The soldiers belonging to Jammu and Kashmir, who attain martyrdom in other parts of the country while performing their duties in the service of the nation, would also be entitled for ex gratia from the state government

Army vacates 12 buildings

Jammu: Northern Command chief Lt General Sanjiv Chachra, addressing the civil-military liaison conference, said he had ordered a comprehensive audit of the Army’s land holdings and requirement in the entire state so that only essentially required land was retained. In the process, 12 buildings had recently been vacated by the Army and another eight buildings would be vacated very shortly.

Out of the 66 field firing ranges of the Army in the entire country, 12 are located in J&K
 Meeting held after 4-yr gap

Jammu, November 12
With the state gearing up for the forthcoming general elections and the Assembly polls, the administration and the Army organised the civil-military liaison conference today after a gap of four years. The conference, supposed to be held every year, had been “gradually forgotten” over the years.

“The last civil-military liaison conference took place in September 2009 in Jammu at the residence of the Chief Minister and now it happened today after more than four years in a state, which is militancy infested and which is not peaceful at all,” an official source said.

“If the Unified Headquarters meeting can take place frequently for security reviews, what prevented the people at helm to hold civil-military liaison conference in the last four years and what prompted them to hold it now?” he asked.

The official added that if J&K is not a peaceful state and if the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a necessity, how come civil-military liaison conference remained a casualty for so long. More than four lakh ex-servicemen and their families in the state have time and again expressed that the meeting should be held every year.

In these conferences the state government and the Army share their views and concerns and work cohesively to find a solution to them, said an ex-serviceman. The meeting takes up a host of issues, including those pertaining to land acquisition, welfare of soldiers, ex-servicemen, veer naris (wives of Army jawans) and families of martyrs.

“Earlier, these conferences used to take place every year, but the practise somehow ceased and has been gradually forgotten,” said a retired Brigadier, who insisted anonymity. — TNS
 Coastal security still a ‘work in progress’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 12
Five years after the November 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, the elaborate plans on putting in place foolproof coastal security remain on paper only. Defence Minister AK Antony was told at a review meeting today that only four coastal states had moved to set up their own maritime boards that would coordinate with the Navy, which was made overall in charge of coastal security in February 2009.

Fishing boats less than 20 m in size still don’t carry automated identification system transponders. These transponders relay a coded signal that can be identified by shore-based controllers and Indian warships. Bharat Electricals Limited and ISRO are developing a low-cost transponder.

Various issues relating to coastal security were discussed at a meeting headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth on September 8 and then during a meeting of the National Security Council (headed by the PM) on November 1.

Under the overall coastal security plan, all fishermen were to have biometric card containing all information about the person. All security agencies, including the shore-based marine police stations, were to have handheld car readers. Nothing has happened on that front so far.

Sources said only Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Puducherry and Daman and Diu (UT) have set up maritime boards. These coordinate day-to-day affairs with the Navy and the coast guard-a force under the Ministry of Defence.

One of the positives that have emerged is that 46 coastal radars have been installed so far and 38 more are being in the process of being installed. So are the 87 shore-based receivers that detect coded signals emitted by boats fitted with IAS transponders.
 Pay-off remarks: VK Singh does U-turn

New Delhi, November 12
Under intense attack and criticism, former Army Chief Gen V K Singh today did a U-turn on his claim that ministers and MLAs in Jammu and Kashmir are getting payments from the army, saying no such thing happens.

He sought to wriggle out of the controversy by claiming that he had cited purported comments attributed to former US Ambassador to India David Mulford when he said "certain ministers" of J-K were being paid by the Army for stability.

"I have never said that they (ministers and MLAs) are paid money under Sadbhavna (civic action schemes undertaken by the Army). I have just said that certain projects are taken up which help in stabilising. This can be a bridge or a transformer," VK Singh told PTI in an interview.

The former Army Chief was asked to explain the remarks made by him that the Army was paying money to MLAs and ministers in the trouble-torn state to bring stability and this had been going on since Independence. When pressed on the issue, he again said, "I have never said that in the book. I have not even said that in the interview." He was referring to his recently-released book 'Courage and Conviction'. It was pointed out to him that he had said so in an interview some months back. He replied: "I have said that they may have been paid but David Mulford has said that in 2011. — PTI
 INS Vikramaditya to be based in Karwar

Kochi, November 12
The country’s second aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, being commissioned in Russia on November 16, will be stationed at the Karwar Naval base in Karnataka, a top Navy officer today said.

The 44,570-tonne warship, formerly known as Admiral Gorskhov, will take a month to reach India. — PTI
China to develop Army, national defence
The Communist Party of China (CPC) will strive to clear obstacles hindering the developmental trajectory of national defence and the Army, said a communique released after a key meeting on reform.

The party's goal is an army that "obeys the party's command, is capable of winning battles and has a sound work style", Xinhua reported citing a communique released after the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, which ended here Tuesday.

"Great effort should be put to solving outstanding conflicts and problems that hinder development of national defence and the Army," said the communique.

The communique urged innovation and development of military theories, strengthening of strategy guidance, improving military strategies and policies in the new era, and building a modern military with Chinese characteristics.

The document urged deepening reform of army establishments, pushing forward army policy adjustments and harmony between the army and civilians.
Frustration for armed forces as vital defence deals are put on hold again

A crucial meeting on Monday of the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony failed to make any headway on two urgently needed weapon systems.

The Army will have to wait longer for the anti-tank guided missiles it needs, as will the Navy, which has been waiting a long time for Barak missiles to defend its warships.

The contracts were left entangled in procedure even as the defence ministry decided to hear AgustaWestland's version on the corruption charges in the VVIP helicopter contract.

The defence ministry was expecting the reply of Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland on the notice sent for termination of the contract for sale of 12 AW101 helicopters on charges of corruption.

The deadline for a reply was Monday, but the company has been given an extension till November 26.

AgustaWestland officials have also been given a hearing on November 20 to explain their position on why the contract should not be cancelled.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting saw the deadline for inviting bids for replacement of Avro aircraft for the IAF extended by three months.

The defence ministry also decided to review the proposal in wake of objections raised by Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel against the exclusion of public sector behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from the contract.

The purchase of Barak missiles for the Navy was suspended as it was decided to get the proposal examined by an independent group within the defence ministry.

The purchase of Israeli Barak missiles had been hanging for some time because of allegations of corruption by the company in 2006. The issue was referred to the attorney general, who advised the defence ministry to take its own call.

The Navy's need for these missiles is urgent and pressing. The issue is expected to come up at the next DAC meeting.

There was no decision either on the purchase of Israeli anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) for the Army's infantry battalions. The project was estimated to be worth around Rs 15,000 crore. The US is also pushing for the sale of its Javelin ATGMs to the Army.
India Halts VSHORAD Contest To Weigh Stinger Offer
India has halted the procurement process for a very-short-range air defense (VSHORAD) system while the Defence Ministry considers a Raytheon proposal to sell the Stinger on a government-to-government basis, an Indian Army source said.

The original VSHORAD tender of 2010 has not been shelved, added the source, but if the Raytheon proposal is accepted, it could be canceled.

Saab, MBDA and Rosoboronexport are competing in response to the tender and are awaiting the downselect since completing the requisite trials nearly a year ago. Army sources said Saab is the frontrunner after the trials.

Raytheon’s proposal to supply the Stinger system was received nearly three months ago, the source said, and the Defence Ministry began seriously considering it after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Washington in September, the source said.

While no Raytheon executive here would comment whether the Stinger offer has been made, the source said Raytheon has even proposed a possible joint development of the Stinger VSHORAD system with India’s state-owned Bharat Dynamics.

The Stinger would also form part of the package for the 22 Apache attack helicopters the Air Force selected. Boeing’s Apache edged out Russia’s Mi-28 for the US $1.2 billion Air Force contract last year.

India is also considering mounting Stinger missiles on the 210 Mi-17 helicopters the Air Force has contracted with Russia, the source said.

Under the government’s existing proposal, the Army plans to buy 5,175 VSHORAD systems with technology transfer expected. Out of these, 2,300 systems would be acquired fully built, 1,260 in a partially constructed condition, and the remaining will be license-produced in India.

The VSHORAD system must be able to engage aerial targets day and night, have an effective range of 6 kilometers and be able to strike targets at an altitude greater than 3,000 meters. The Army wants to replace its aging Russian-made Igla air defense systems and wants a manportable VSHORAD weighing less than 25 kilograms.

An executive with one of the competitors claimed that its system far exceeded the Staff Qualitative Requirements, adding that they are awaiting the results of the downselect after the trials.
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Omar Abdullah appreciates Indian Army's role in protecting country

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday could not take any decision on extending a lease deed to army firing range of Tosha Maidain in Budgan district of Kashmir Valley. Just to pacify the agitating people, he constituted a high level committee headed by the chief secretary to look into various land related cases including Tosha Maidain firing range in Badgam district of Kashmir, it was decided that a committee under the chairmanship of the chief secretary will look into all the aspects of the matter and suggest various viable options.

It may be recalled that various social organisations including Tosha Maidain Bachav Front, J&K RTI Movement and Jammu and Kashmir Rural Voice of Kashmir Valley on Monday staged protests in Srinagar urging the state government not to extend lease deed to army for Tosha Maidain firing range in central Kashmir and army is seeking further extension of lease deed from the state government.

The local population has alleged that civilians residing in Tosha Maidain area have been adversely affected by explosions and it is effecting on their health, environment and education of their children and they are demanding that this area should be declared as tourist spot.

Omar Abdullah on Tuesday appreciated and commended the role of Indian Army in protecting the country and safeguarding the people from external and internal threats as also rendering invaluable service during the calamities and other challenges.

Chairing the Civil-Military Liaison Conference at Nagrota in Jammu, the chief minister emphasised the need for further strengthening the Civil-Military liaison to address the issues concerning the two, speedily and amicably. This meeting was held after four years to sort out issues of army and the state government.

Omar Abdullah said that working closely with each other would mean addressing issues and forging way ahead despite differences in positions of the Army and Civil Administration on various issues. He added that working in tandem acts as a catalyst to find out workable solutions.

The meeting discussed various issues pertaining to human welfare, ex-gratia relief, de-mining of areas, construction of roads, land acquisition, infrastructure development and other subjects concerning grant of tax relief and enhancement of financial assistance to ex-servicemen who have participated in World War-II.

Omar Abdullah said that Civil-Military Liaison Conference is the right forum to work out measures and strategies to address all the issues between the civil and military administration. He gave nod to enhancing financial assistance from Rs.1,500 to Rs.3,000 per month in favour of participants and widows of those who had taken part in World War-II.

The chief minister gave directions for providing hassle-free and equal compensation by the Army to the affected civilian.

The chief minister also constituted a committee headed by the chief secretary to look into various land related cases. In case of Tosha Maidain firing range, it was decided that a committee under the chairmanship of the chief secretary will look into all the aspects of the matter and suggest various viable options.

The conference was attended by Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, Chief Secretary, Mohammad Iqbal Khandey, Financial Commissioner Revenue, Dr. Arun Kumar, Director General of Police, J&K, Ashok Prasad, Principal Secretary Planning and Develoment, B.R. Sharma, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, B.B. Vyas, Principal Secretary Home, Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary Power Development Department, Arun Kumar Mehta, Principal Secretary Tourism, Atal Dulloo, Chief Wild Life Warden, A.K. Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Abhay Kumar, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Shantmanu, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Shalendra Kumar, Commissioner Secretarys and Administrative Secretaries of different departments.

From the Army side the Conference was attended by GOC-in-C Northern Command, Lt. Gen. Sanjiv Chachra, Chief of Staff Northern Command, Lt. Gen. HJS Sachdev, GOC 16 Corps Lt. Gen D.S. Hooda, GOC 15 Corps Lt. Gurmeet Singh, GOC 14 Corps Lt. Gen. Rakesh Sharma, GOC 9 Corps Lt. Gen. Parveen Bakshi, Air Vice Marshal Anil Khosla and other Army Officers.
Top Israeli general in India to discuss military ties
NEW DELHI: India and Israel continue to silently expand their already extensive ties in the fields of defence and homeland security, with Israeli chief of land forces major general Guy Zur now in New Delhi on a four-day visit.

Maj-Gen Zur on Tuesday held talks with defence minister A K Antony, Army chief General Bikram Singh, Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi and IAF chief Air chief marshal N A K Browne, among others, to discuss measures to bolster bilateral defence cooperation.

While regional and global security situation figured in the talks, the focus was on bilateral defence training programmes, exchanges, R&D projects and armament deals. "The two countries, which share similar challenges of terrorism, have strong military and defence trade ties," said an officer.

The Israeli general will also be visiting the Para establishment in Agra and the Army's Southwestern Command in Jaipur during his visit here. "He has invited Gen Bikram Singh to visit Israel," he said.

Israel is India's second largest defence supplier, second only to Russia, but the ties are largely kept under wraps due to political sensitivities. Tel Aviv records military sales worth around $1 billion to New Delhi every year, ranging from Heron and Searcher UAVs, Harpy and Harop "killer" drones to Green Pine radars, Python and Derby air-to-air missiles.

Two major joint projects, however, are running way behind schedule. The first one is the development of the long-range SAM (LR-SAM) project, sanctioned in December 2005 at a cost of Rs 2,606 crore, to arm Indian warships. The second is the even bigger Rs 10,076 crore medium-range SAM (MR-SAM) project, sanctioned in February 2009, for air defence squadrons of IAF.

Both the SAM systems, being developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) in collaboration with DRDO, have the same missile with an interception range of 70-km. They are to be produced in bulk by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics (BDL) to plug the existing gaping holes in India's air defence cover.

India is also interested in ordering another two advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) aircraft, capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threats far before ground-based radars, but the huge cost escalation has slowed down things. The first three Phalcon AWACS were inducted by IAF in 2009-2010 under the $1.1 billion tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia.

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