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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 14 Jan 2014

Revoking AFSPA will not help Kashmir: Army Chief
Talks tough on infiltration and ceasefire violations by Pakistan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Monday warned against revoking or diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir and said he was positive that recent talks with Pakistan and China would ensure peace along the border.

"There are inputs of a possible terrorist spillover into the Valley after the US drawdown in Afghanistan. We need to look at developments in Afghanistan in 2014 before we can look at perhaps tampering with or diluting the Disturbed Areas Act,” the General said while addressing the media ahead of the Army Day (Jan 15). It would be prudent to wait and watch for a while before taking a call on AFSPA, he said.

On recent talks between the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan, the Army Chief said: “The meeting was very positive. The Indian side has taken up with Pakistan all issues pertaining to the peace and tranquility at the Line of Control (LoC).”

“The talks are a step in right direction and will help in maintaining the ceasefire agreement. Peace is conducive for development and helps in addressing aspirations of people along the LoC.

He, however, warned any infiltration attempt from across the border would elicit a strong response. "We will give a befitting reply if an infiltration attempt is made,” the General said. The Army Chief said the idea is not to escalate tension along the LoC but to give a professional response. “If rules are broken (by Pakistan), we cannot follow rules... then rules will be broken”, he said. To a query whether the Army gave an adequate response to Pakistan following last year’s gruesome beheadings or not, the General said: “This assertion that the Army has not taken action is not correct”.

"Let me assure you that action has been taken. I invite the attention to a Geo TV (Pakistan news channel) report on December 23 which talked about their officer and nine jawans being killed and over 12 wounded. This has happened due to firing of your soldiers on the ground. They have done their bit," the Army Chief told reporters.

He pinned hopes on the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed in October 2013 for maintaining peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Asked about India’s response to frequent incursions by Chinese troops in Ladakh, the General said: “We have increased patrolling in disputed areas. There has been an improvement in the situation along the LAC. Attempts are on to ensure that the agreements are adhered to.”

The General said the Army was boosting the combat enhancement and operational readiness of the troops. A Quick Reaction Force is being formed, he said. Also, 40 acquisition programmes worth Rs 24,000 crore would be cleared this fiscal. On women officers, the General said the Army was looking at having more avenues for women officers. On a mysterious video purportedly showing the head of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was beheaded by Pakistan Army last year, he said the force was verifying the authenticity of the footage and if it is correct, it would be taken up at an appropriate level.’

What the General said

    There were inputs of a possible terrorist spillover into the Valley after the US drawdown in Afghanistan
    The DGMO-level talks are a step in the right direction and will help in maintaining the ceasefire agreement
    Any infiltration attempt from across the border would elicit a strong response
    The Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed with China in October 2013 vital for maintaining peace along the LAC
84 secret: India sought UK help in Army action at Golden Temple
Papers reveal UK sent special forces officer to assist Delhi in evicting ‘dissidents’
Shyam Bhatia in London

The UK authorities collaborated with the Indian Government in planning Operation Bluestar — the controversial 1984 Golden Temple operation authorised by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This has been revealed by some newly released documents in London.

Secret correspondence from the British national archives shows how a UK special forces expert visited New Delhi and advised the Indian authorities on how to retake the Golden Temple, despite acknowledging that any military action could “exacerbate the communal violence in the Punjab.”

The name of the Special Air Service (SAS) officer and details of his hush-hush visit have not been made public, but a top secret letter written on February 23, 1984 by BJP Fall , Principal Private Secretary to the British Foreign Secretary, states, “The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Foreign Office decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, an SAD (SAS) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly.”

Fall’s letter to his opposite number in the British Home Office was written at a time when the UK was negotiating arms sales with India. His letter continues, “An operation by the Indian authorities at the Golden Temple could, in the first instance, exacerbate the communal tension in the Punjab. It might also, therefore, increase tension in the Indian community here, particularly if knowledge of the SAS involvement were to become public. We have impressed upon the Indians the need for security; and knowledge of the SAS officer’s visit and of his plan has been tightly held both in India and in London.”

An earlier February 3 letter to Mr Fall sent by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Principal Private Secretary, FER Butler, acknowledges receiving New Delhi’s request for “advice on plans for the removal of dissident Sikhs from the Golden Temple.”

Butler’s letter continues, “The Prime Minister is content that the Foreign Secretary should proceed as he proposes. She will look forward to receiving a report on the adviser’s visit and notes that the Home secretary would be informed if the Indians seemed likely to proceed with their plans.”

Commenting on the documents Opposition Labour MP Tom Watson says, “The claim that the British Government colluded with the Government of India over Operation Bluestar will cause huge upset and offence to many British Sikhs.

“I’ve only seen the documents this morning and am told there are others that have been withheld.

This is not good enough. It is not unreasonable to ask for an explanation about the extent of British military collusion with the government of Indira Gandhi.

“In the year when Sikhs commemorate their role in the centenary of World War-I and mourn for loved ones lost in the events of 1984, this latest revelation will be deeply felt.

“I am writing to the Foreign Secretary about this matter and will raise it in the House of Commons. I expect a full explanation.” In a separate radio interview Watson commented on Monday, “It appears that documents have been released by the government under the 30-year rule and it shows top secret papers from Mrs Thatcher authorising the SAS to collude with the Indian Government on the planning of the raid on the Golden Temple….

“I was genuinely surprised and ..on behalf of my constituents l was also upset and deeply offended that we would be involved with what turned out to be a raid that caused huge loss of life and political tensions ever since…”

Asked to comment on the documents, a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told The Tribune: "We are waiting for verification."

SAS is UK's Special Forces

The SAS is the acronym for Special Air Service, the elite special forces of the United Kingdom, which is primarily tasked with counter-terrorism operations in peacetime and special operations in wartime. There are three regiments of the force, which has taken part in a number of military operations the world over, including in the Falklands, Afghanistan and Iraq. A number of special forces of different countries have been modelled on the SAS, which goes by the motto "Who Dares Wins".
IAF Chief reviews preparedness in Leh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
As Ladakh shivers at -15 °C, the Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha, today visited Leh to check out winter preparedness and see if the winter supply sorties of the IL-76 and the C-17 Globemaster flying from the base in Chandigarh were adequate.

Supplies for Army troops during the winter, when road passes close in the Himalayas, are sent through IAF’s transport planes. There are full-fledged paved landing strips in Leh, Kargil and Thoise to meet the needs of troops. The IAF Chief visited operations bases in the Leh and Ladakh sector, the IAF said tonight. The IAF has already made public its plans of having a full-fledged fighter air base at Nyoma in south-eastern Ladakh.

This is his first visit to base after having taken over as Air Force Chief on December 31, 2013. On arrival he was briefed on the prevailing situation in the region by Army’s 14 Corps Commander Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma. Raha interacted with Army personnel.

AOC Air Commodore R Isser updated the IAF Chief on the progress of significant infrastructure projects in the Leh and Ladakh sector.

“Our air warriors are performing exceptionally well under very harsh geographical conditions but are committed to ensure that supplies to forward areas are not affected adversely,” he said.
Copter deal: CBI to quiz IAF ex-chief’s cousins again

New Delhi, January 13
After questioning of alleged middleman Guido Haschke in Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal, the CBI will soon begin a fresh round of questioning of cousins of former IAF chief SP Tyagi to find out the end use of money paid to them.

Haschke had told the CBI that money was given to Tyagi brothers for the engineering works and meeting other administrative requirements in India, official sources said.

Haschke had denied that he had ever met the former IAF Chief or handed over any money to him to clear the VVIP helicopter deal in favour of AgustaWestland. Tyagi refused to comment on the development, saying, "I do not wish to say anything on this issue." — PTI
Indian army chief’s claim of ceasefire breach rejected

ISLAMABAD: Responding to the Indian army chief's statement Monday regarding ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC), Pakistan Army’s spokesman said that it is contrary to the facts on the ground.

Pakistan Army respects the ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit, said an ISPR press release quoting Major General Asim Bajwa as saying.

He said that after the meeting between Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) of both South Asian neighbours on Dec 24 last year, the situation along LOC has improved considerably.

Such accusations and provocative statements are regrettable and counterproductive, the spokesman added.

Warning Pakistan against border violations, Indian Army Chief General Bikram Singh had said that India was not bound to follow the rules if Pakistan was up to breaking them.

“If rules are followed by our neighbours, we follow them too. If rules are broken, we won’t sit on it, we will break them too,” Indian media quoted him as saying.

Gen Singh, however, noted that frequency of ceasefire violations have come down remarkably ever since the meeting of the DGMOs of the two countries in December last year.

“Attempts are on to ensure ceasefire agreements are adhered to by both sides. It is our endeavour to control it, not escalate it,” he said.
India won’t sit quietly if Pakistan breaks rules: Army Chief
In a warning to Pakistan, Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh Monday said India will respond in equal measure if Pakistan breaks any rules as he revealed that 10 Pakistani soldiers had been killed in a recent military action.
Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Monday cautioned that a “wait and watch” approach should be followed for the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir as there are concerns about a spillover effect from Afghanistan due to the drawdown this year, even as he asserted that a strong reply has been given to last year’s cross-border raids by Pakistan, referring to reports that 10 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in India action across the Line of Control (LoC).

Singh, who sought to reject notions that India’s response to the Pakistani raids last year that left seven soldiers dead (one of them beheaded) were soft, referred to reports from Pakistan last month that said 10 soldiers, including an officer had been killed in firing by India and 12-13 had been injured. On being asked what retaliatory action has been taken, the Army Chief said that soldiers “have reacted well as required” and that there is an endeavour “not to escalate the situation into operational or strategic arena”. He also said that India has been trying to follow the rules of engagement on the border, but if they are broken by Pakistan, retaliation has to happen.

“It depends, if rules are followed by our neighbours, we follow the rules. If rules are broken, then obviously we cannot stick to the rules. Even we are going to break the rules,” said Singh said ahead of the Army Day celebrations on Wednesday. Singh also made a case for no dilution yet of the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that the drawdown of international security forces from Afghanistan can have a spillover effect.

“We need to look at developments in Afghanistan in 2014 before we can look at perhaps tampering with or diluting the Disturbed Areas (Act)… the situation prevailing in the Valley, I think we should wait for a while to see whether the situation remains the same, worsens or improves. Based on that we should take action,” said Singh. “There are certain inputs alluding to this already. And therefore, we need to be on guard,” he added. On incidents on the China border, Singh said that while there has been a certain spike in incursions in some sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), there has been an equal response from the Indian side as well. Referring to the Depsang incident last year and reports of frequent transgressions, he said, “Let me be frank, somehow two incidents got hyped up last year. Even Indian soldiers are patrolling up to our perceived LAC.”

Giving details on the creation of the new Mountain Strike Corps, Singh said the headquarters was formally raised on January 1 and the process of creating 22 major and minor units was started on December 1. He said the strike corps was not a war-waging instrument but a war-prevention instrument as well.
Japan, India agree to strengthen defense ties
NEW DELHI (Jiji Press)—Japan and India have agreed to strengthen onshore and aerial defense cooperation between their countries on top of their existing efforts to reinforce maritime cooperation.

Japan apparently aims to check China’s maritime ambitions by promoting defense cooperation with India.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony also agreed Monday that the two nations will hold their third joint maritime exercise in Japan this year and regularly conduct such exercises in the future. Onodera became the first Japanese defense chief to visit India in four years.

Onodera and Antony confirmed a plan to start exchanges between the Ground Self-Defense Force and the Indian Army in the areas of humanitarian aid, disaster relief and counterterrorism. The two countries will also promote exchanges between the Air Self-Defense Force and the Indian Air Force.

At a meeting in the Indian capital, Onodera explained Japan’s new national security strategy and its commitment to “proactive contributions to peace,” Japanese officials said.

Antony was quoted as saying he is closely watching China’s newly declared air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

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