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Sunday, 29 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 29 Dec 2013













http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20131229/main5.htm
India, Pak to send back stray border crossers

Lahore, December 28
India and Pakistan today agreed that people who inadvertently cross the frontier would be immediately returned to their respective countries. The decision was made during a five-day biannual meeting of officials of the Pakistan Rangers and India's Border Security Force here.

A statement issued after the talks said the two sides decided to continue efforts to ensure peace and tranquility on the international border.

The two border guard forces agreed that people who inadvertently cross the frontier would be immediately returned to their respective countries. The two sides reached consensus on using communication channels more effectively to control violations on the frontier. They also agreed on “zero tolerance” for smuggling. Consensus was reached stopping illegal construction‚ removal of wild growth and maintenance of boundary pillars. — PTI

Peace talks

    The decision has been taken during a five-day biannual meeting of officials of the BSF and Pak Rangers
    The two sides have decided to continue efforts to ensure peace and tranquility on the international border
    Consensus has also been reached on stopping illegal construction‚ removal of wild growth and maintenance of boundary pillars



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2013/20131229/ground.htm
2014 to bring new dawn on Indo-Pak relations?
With leadership transition in the major power centres in Pakistan going smoothly, Nawaz after being 200 days in power has finally begun to look like he is in control. For India this is welcome news, and may provide a glimmer of hope in the New Year.
Raj Chengappa
The joke doing the rounds is that Nawaz Sharif is formally taking over as Prime Minister of Pakistan on January 1, 2014. That’s because ever since he was elected Prime Minister in June this year, he has had to work towards taking control and consolidating his hold over the various centres of power and has only now succeeded in demonstrating that he is firmly in the saddle.

He crossed the first hurdle when in September Asif Ali Zardari stepped down as President without too much fuss at the end of his term. Nawaz’s handpicked nominee Mamnoon Hussain, a low-profile party acolyte, succeeded Zardari, ensuring that at least one possible centre of power wouldn’t bother Nawaz too much.

In November, Nawaz had to do a tightrope walk to choose a chief of the army staff to succeed General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was to retire at the end of the month. It was apparent that there was some resistance building in the army as Sharif announced his successor only two days before Kayani laid down office. By appointing Raheel Sharif, who was third in the line of seniority, Nawaz had sought to establish control over the country’s key power centre. In his previous tenures Nawaz has had a bad run with the army chiefs he appointed and it is to be seen whether his namesake will behave differently.
Then early this month Sharif heaved a sigh of relief when Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had often been charged with judicial overreach, retired. Chaudhry had emerged as a third power centre in Pakistan when he took on Zardari and even forced Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to resign for being in contempt of the nation’s highest court for not acting on its orders. Chaudhry’s successor, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, is known as “the gentleman’s judge” and is not expected to adopt an activist approach while dealing with Nawaz’s government.

With leadership transition in the major power centres in Pakistan going smoothly, Nawaz after being 200 days in power has finally begun to look like he is in control — hence the joke. For India this is welcome news. Nawaz had promised better relations with Delhi when he came to power. But he soon belied all expectations when the Pakistan Army stepped up violations of the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control.

When he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN in New York in September, Nawaz agreed that the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two armies should meet soon to sort out issues on the LoC. That meeting took place only last week at the Wagah border, making it obvious that Nawaz was waiting for the new army chief to take charge before he made any peace overtures to India.

Prior to announcing the DGMO’s meeting, he sent Shahbaz Sharif, his younger brother and Chief Minister of Pakistan Punjab, ostensibly to be chief guest at the World Cup Kabaddi final in Ludhiana but more to pacify the UPA and gauge the political mood in India. Shahbaz made the right noises and talked of moving forward on trade issues, including granting India the Most Favoured Nation Status (MFN) by changing the nomenclature.

The change in terminology was being suggested partly because MFN, when translated into Urdu, would read ‘Sabse Chaheta Mulk’ or ‘Sabse Pasandeeda Mulk’ — something that may not go down well with the fundamentalists in Pakistan. So Shahbaz said they were now proposing to call it a ‘Non-Discriminatory Trade Agreement’ that would have the same import as granting India’s MFN status.

Shahbaz wanted the Commerce Secretaries to meet soon to sort out pending issues to move forward. But was careful not to make any commitments on the sequential roadmap that had been worked out by the two countries in September 2012, in which the first step was Pakistan removing all restrictions on trade by the Wagah-Attari land route. Shahbaz also wanted the National Security Advisers of the two countries to meet and cooperate on fighting terror. This is viewed as a way of addressing India’s prime concern by making it more visible rather than using the backchannel to negotiate.

All these were positive signals but India has rightly reacted cautiously to the fresh moves by the Sharif brothers to normalise relations. In the DGMO talks held at Wagah – the first such meeting in 15 years — Pakistan did harp on its old theme of a UN monitored ceasefire on the LoC but got down to practicalities of maintaining tranquillity, including re-energising the existing mechanisms like hotlines to do so. With the Pakistan Army’s prestige on the line, India is waiting to see whether it would keep its word and bring down tensions on the border. In January, more overtures are expected to be made by Pakistan, particularly by demonstrating progress in the trial to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to book. The meeting of the two NSAs is likely to be held soon and if the climate improves then the two commerce secretaries may meet to move forward on trade issues.

As yet no one is talking of Manmohan Singh visiting Pakistan just before he completes his second term. But the recent thaw does provide a glimmer and the New Year may well bring a new dawn on relations between the two countries. But keep your fingers firmly crossed, lest it proves to be a false one again.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-US-ink-1billion-deal-for-six-Super-Hercules-aircraft/articleshow/28025763.cms
India, US ink $1billion deal for six Super Hercules aircraft
NEW DELHI: The ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle over the Devyani Khobragade episode is no hurdle as far defence deals with the US are concerned. India and the US have inked another mega contract, the $1.01 billion one for six additional C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft, while some others are being finalized.

Defence ministry sources said the "letter of offer and acceptance" for the six new four-engine C-130Js, which will be delivered within three years, was signed on Friday under the US government's "foreign military sales" (FMS) programme.

IAF already has six C-130Js tactical airlift aircraft, ordered for $962 million in 2007, which are based at the Hindon airbase on the outskirts of Delhi. The six new C-130Js, also configured for "special operations" as the first six, will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal.

Panagarh will also house the headquarters of the new mountain strike corps, christened XVII Corps with a total of over 80,000 soldiers, being raised by the Army in a project worth around Rs 90,000 crore. This new corps will plug operational gaps along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as give "some serious ground offensive capabilities" against China for the first time.

The rugged C-130J, as also the bigger C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft acquired from the US, can even land at a small forward airbase on a semi-prepared runway. Crucial to counter China's massive build-up of border infrastructure, this capability was amply demonstrated when IAF landed a C-130J on the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in eastern Ladakh, at an altitude of 16,614-feet just seven-km from the LAC, in August this year.

The US has already bagged deals close to $10 billion over the last decade in the lucrative Indian defence market. The other deals on the anvil are the ones for 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, together worth another $4 billion or so.
The US has already bagged deals close to $10 billion over the last decade in the lucrative Indian defence market. The other deals on the anvil are the ones for 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, together worth another $4 billion or so.

"The CNC (contract negotiation committee) for the Chinooks has completed its work, while the one for the Apaches is on the verge of finalization. The M-777 howitzers' contract was stuck on the offsets proposal but is now being sorted out," said a MoD source.

That's not all. The US is also in the contention for the over Rs 15,000 crore project to equip the 355 infantry battalions of the Indian Army with third-generation, shoulder-fired anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

After the US initially created roadblocks in the transfer of technology (ToT) for its "Javelin" ATGMs, India had turned to the Israeli "Spike" ATGMs for the project, which will involve an initial import of the tank-killing missiles followed by ToT to defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for indigenous manufacture.

But the A K Antony-led Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) last month put on hold a decision on clearing the Israeli case after the US offered a joint project to manufacture the next-generation of ATGMs. "The MoD will consider both the American and Israeli projects now and choose the one which suits India better," said the source.

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