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Sunday, 26 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 Jan 2014

Pakistan reaches the tipping point
There are indications the government may have finally made up its mind to hit back at terror. The latest wave of attacks, which has prompted people to ask what is the State doing to protect them, seems to have caused that.
Nasim Zehra
Everyone seems to be asking the obvious question now: Will this ever end? Who will protect us? Who will stop this? The terrorists’ dark and deadly scorecard in Pakistan has suddenly shot up.

The year 2014 has had a gruesome start. The rapidly widening net of suicide attacks and bombs set off by terrorist groups ranging from the TTP to the LeJ is devouring citizens at a frightening speed. By now far more than the often quoted figures of 40,000 civilians and 5,000 security personnel have been killed.
The government has failed to address Pakistan’s most critical problem. Its repeated failure, even after announcing dates, in formulating a National Security Policy, speaks to the government’s inability to even understand the problem. At best, the government has focused on lecturing people on the virtues of dialogue with the TTP, made contradictory statements on what steps have been taken to initiate the dialogue, sought help from opposition leader Imran Khan in that, issued condemnations of terrorist attacks, or announced compensation for those killed in the attacks.

In contrast, the terrorist groups have not lacked in confidence, capacity or clarity of objective. They have remained on the offensive and conducted suicide bombings, jailbreaks, targeted killings, intimidation.

With the latest wave of attacks that has claimed the lives of 22 pilgrims die in Mastung (including two schoolchildren), three TV people, members of a Tableeghi Jamat in Peshawer, a woman administering polio drops to babies in Karachi, and soldiers near the GHQ among others, Pakistanis have had enough.

Even as the fear of mounting terrorist attacks spreads, so does anger and frustration. People remember with awe and respect how the 15-year-old student Aitezaz Hasan died in Hangu performing the service he assigned himself. Hasan was blown up by a suicide bomber who he tackled to stop from entering his school that had a thousand-plus students inside. Many are outraged at why a 15-year-old had to die like this. In Quetta the Hazara community, which is regularly targeted by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, repeated their unique, if heart-wrenching, form of protest after their pilgrims were killed in Mastung. In the freezing cold, they sat in the streets with the bodies and refused to bury them until the killers were found.

For the people, the tipping point has been reached. Where is the State, why can’t it protect its citizens, they ask. They recall with fear and admiration Chaudhry Aslam, one of Pakistan’s bravest, if controversial, police officers who was killed by a car bomb in Karachi. A determined demolisher of the TTP networks, Aslam inspired peoples’ confidence in an environment where terrorist groups have ransacked their lives at will. Terrorists have now begun openly threatening and killing members of the Pakistani media.

Potentially in such an environment, sections within society can begin to surrender before terrorists. In Pakistan, however, people have demonstrated the ability to resist and fight back, especially when the threat becomes clear and present.

Of the mainstream political parties, the MQM and ANP have been the most vocal critics of terrorist groups yet over the past few years. On four different occasions almost all parties have passed consensus resolutions, calling for dialogue with these groups. Equally they have attacked the illegal unilateral drone attacks by the US. On tackling terrorism, most parties have spoken with a forked tongue, with multiple meanings to multiple audiences.

In recent weeks, however, the PPP’s young chairman Bilawal Bhutto, who has launched a twitter offensive against terrorists, has promised to support the government’s decision to go against all terrorist groups. Bhutto strongly opposed dialogue with those who neither accept Pakistan’s Constitution nor live by the law.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a realisation within sections of the government that this collective vacillation on how to tackle the unending curse is now proving too costly. Some action against terrorists is already underway in North Waziristan, Panjgur, Karachi and Islamabad.

Political parties, including the MQM, ANP and PPP, are willing to support military force against the terrorists. The army, which has long been the prime target of TTP attacks, has also conducted raids in North Waziristan. The demand that terrorist hubs in North Waziristan be attacked is gaining broader support. Even Imran Khan, the lead proponent of dialogue, has asked that the Prime Minister call political leaders so that he and the army chief may brief them on the security situation. The PTI leader has said in a recent interview that if the army conducts an operation his party will support the army.

Early indicators are that the government too has finally reached the tipping point. The latest wave of terrorism seems to have caused that. We may soon witness the end of the government’s ad hoc and confused response to tackling terrorism.

But with that clarity will come the real test of Pakistan’s entire political leadership. The battle against terrorism will be long, hard and gruesome. Will the leadership be able to ready the people of Pakistan for that?
No N-deal but boost for Indo-Japan defence ties
8 pacts on tourism, science & tech, energy inked
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 25
Amid increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region, India and Japan on Saturday decided to intensify defence and maritime cooperation, but made little headway in wrapping up the much-anticipated civil nuclear deal.

As part of growing trade and economic links, Japan announced a loan of $2 billion for the expansion of the Delhi Metro project. The two countries also announced the expansion of the bilateral currency swap arrangement from $15 billion to $50 billion.

The two countries signed eight agreements in various fields after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the annual India-Japan Summit here this evening. Abe, who is keen to forge a strong relationship with India in view of the threat China poses to Japan, will be the chief guest at Sunday’s Republic Day parade.

“Japan is at the heart of India’s Look East Policy. It is also a key partner in our economic development and in our quest for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Asia and the world,’’ Manmohan Singh said in a statement after the talks.

The visiting leader noted there had been steady progress in the strategic and global partnership between the two countries. He emphasised that cooperation between the defence forces of the two countries would contribute to the region’s peace and security. He also promised India his country’s full support in becoming a member of the four international export control regimes -- the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said India had invited the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force for the next edition of the ‘Malabar’ maritime exercise conducted annually by Indian and US forces. In 2007, India had invited Australia, Singapore and also Japan for the exercise. Japan’s participation had angered Beijing no end.

India and Japan also agreed to launch consultations between the Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat of Japan and Indian’s National Security Advisor. This is considered significant as the dialogue will provide the two countries an opportunity to discuss strategic issues of importance as well as regional threats.

New Delhi also lent its support to Tokyo in its ongoing tussle with Beijing over China’s controversial decision to set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea that requires its neighbours to give advance notice while overflying the territory.

“The two Prime Ministers underscored the importance of freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with recognised principles of international law and relevant standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO),’’ the joint statement said.

However, it was quite clear that the two countries were still not able to resolve their differences over civil nuclear cooperation despite marathon talks over nearly four years. The joint statement said the Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over the progress in talks and directed officials to exert further efforts towards early conclusion of the agreement. Abe stressed the importance of bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force at an early date while Manmohan Singh reiterated India’s commitment to unilateral moratorium on further nuclear testing.

The eight agreements signed between the nations are in the areas of tourism, science and technology, harmonising standards and enhancing energy efficiency in telecom towers.

NPT, liability law main hurdles

    A section of Japanese policymakers wants India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
    India wants to have a deal with Japan on the basis of its existing strong anti-proliferation credentials
    Japan wants India to clarify its nuclear liability law that prevents suppliers from making themselves immune to compensation claims in the event of an accident. The two sides had held three rounds of talks before the 2011 Fukushima N-plant disaster
Longest serving PRO in the defence forces receives Bar to Vishist Seva Medal
KOLKATA: He was commissioned into the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a pilot. Later, he handled VIP flights in various parts of the country. But the love for documentary making got the better of him. Today, Gp Capt Tarun Kumar Singha is one of the longest serving public relations officers in the Indian armed forces and will receive a Bar to his Vishist Seva Medal (VSM) on the occasion of the country's Republic Day on Sunday. Singha is presently the chief public relations officer of the Ministry of Defence in Kolkata. Sources in the IAF said that though nearly 1,250 VSMs have been awarded to the IAF till date, only about nine Bars have been awarded.

In the past, Singha received commendations from the IAF and Army chiefs, the AOC-in-C, South Western Air Command, the FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command and the COMCG, West. In 2006, he received his first VSM for excellence in public relations.

A Manipuri settled in Assam, Singha joined the Directorate of Public Relations, Ministry of Defence in 2009. He then raised a new PR set-up in the South Western Air Command. Over the next couple of years, he made several documentaries on the defence services, including the Coast Guard. He then took over as public relations officer of the IAF before moving to Kolkata in 2011.

In Kolkata, Singha succeeded in highlighting the achievements of organizations like the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), NCC, Navy, Coast Guard and DRDO in this region. He also ensured that the humanitarian assistance provided by the defence forces during natural calamities like the Sikkim earthquake and Phailin cyclone were highlighted. Even organizations within the defence forces like the Army Postal Service (APS) and the Army Medical Corps (AMC) received his attention.
A turf war, from Shivaji Park to Marine Drive
The state government’s decision to shift the Republic Day parade venue from Shivaji Park and give it a backdrop of the city’s sea-scape at Marine Drive saw at least three security agencies disagreeing on finer details, from security to parade protocol, till the final dress rehearsal Friday.

The new location, a brainchild of protocol minister Suresh Shetty, was chosen to raise the level of Republic Day celebrations in the city and give Mumbaikars the feel of the grand parade at Rajpath in New Delhi. Hitherto, RD parades in Mumbai have always been held at Shivaji Park.

The first impediment in shifting the venue came when the Mumbai police, citing terror threat, gave an adverse report. It took Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to intervene and convince his NCP colleague and Home Minister RR Patil to finally agree to the change in venue.

The Maharashtra Police, on its part, was irked by the fact that the parade would be led by the Army, which refused to even let a police officer be the second-in-command for the parade.

To make matters worse, the Ministry of Defence rejected the state government’s request to let the Air Force perform for the event. Sources said the request was later routed through the office of the Governor, who also spoke to Defence Minister A K Anthony, but the defence ministry bureaucracy did not budge. Many calls were made to aviation heads and logistics moved to accommodate the request. Choppers, Dorniers and fighters to thunder in the skies at three increasing height levels was the state’s proposal, all of which were shot down by MoD.

But the biggest challenge for Shetty was to get the police on board for shifting the parade venue to Marine Drive. According to a senior police official, Shivaji Park, which has played host for Republic Day parade for two decades, has a proper security protocol in place, which has been fine-tuned with time and experience. Further, unlike Shivaji Park, which is a closed space and offers better threat hindrances with its tree foliage, several buildings of uneven levels and several exits, Marine Drive is open and exposed.

After the police raised an issue over security, Shetty sought Ajit Pawar’s help to bring Home Minister Patil on board. When everything looked settled between the protocol office and the state police, the issue of leading the parade cropped up. While Navy has been commanding the parade at Shivaji Park, the Army staked its claim this time.

In several meetings to decide on the parade march, the Navy kept asserting that the parade would be commanded by a Naval officer even as the Army stood its ground saying they always commanded the parade. The Army also argued that since their armoured vehicles and mounted columns were to be part of the parade, they would not want any other service to lead them. They even insisted that the second-in-command in the parade would also be an Army officer, much to the ire of police which told the state government that the Marine Drive parade was not a defence programme, but a state programme.

“We work for the state of Maharashtra and its people 365 days a year. It is unfair that we were not even given the status of second-in-command in the parade,” said a police officer.
Army 'opens up' to a slew of measures for women officers in permanent commission, makes a presentation to Antony

The Indian Army in a presentation made before the Defence Minister AK Antony, has put forward a renewed proposal towards permanent commission for Women Officers (WOs). This proposal, which is awaiting the final signature from the Defence Minister AK Antony, looks at expanding the scope for women in newer sectors.

According to sources in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the presentation to the Defence Minister was made on January 17. It entails making the Short Service Commission (SSC) 'more attractive', opening up for WOs branches like Works in the Corps of Engineers as well as Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Army Aviation. The presentation also spoke about the 'considering limited scope for permanent commission for selected SSC WOs.' In his annual Army Day press conference, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bikram Singh had spoken about inducting WOs in artillery.

However, on contentious issues like combat role for women in the armed forces or even flying of fighter aircraft, there was no change offered implying that these would remain out of bound for women officers.   

This was a part of the army's 'thought process' emanating out of a study conducted last year by the General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C) of the South Western Command of the Indian Army. Performance of the WOs in arms already allowed to them has been found to be satisfactory.

However, there are still questions pertaining to their role. A source said, "While welcoming this change, we need to be cautious. Giving them permanent commission and role in combat arms has to be thought through. It also needs to be evaluated whether women could even be recruited in the rank and file, why only in the officer role?"

As of now, WOs in the army perform tasks in Army Education Corps (AEC), Judge Advocate General (JAG), flying helicopters and transport planes in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and handle positions in the education, law and logistics branches of the Indian Navy. That apart, WOs have been participating in the Armed Forces medical Services arm as well with recruitment of women in Military Nursing Services (MNS) dating back to 1927 and Medical Officer cadre since 1943.

In 2008, Antony gave the go-ahead for Women Officers to get permanent commission in select branches of the armed forces like Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps, Accounts Branch in the armed forces apart from medical services, based on a 2006 tri-service committee report. However it also recommended that Women Officers be kept out of close combat arms where the possibility of physical contact with the enemy was possible.
Shaurya Chakra for Lieutenant Colonel, posthumously
CHANDIGARH: City-based army officer Lieutenant Colonel Bikramjit Singh, who was killed in the terrorist attack on the camp of 16 Light Cavalry in Samba near Jammu in September last year, was conferred with Shaurya Chakra (posthumously).

As per the citation released by the ministry of defence (MOD), Lt Col Bikramjit Singh was awarded "Shaurya Chakra (posthumous) for his speedy, tactically sound actions, courageous and bold leadership in the face of mortal danger and for acting swiftly without waiting for a weapon or protective gear, acting well beyond the call of duty, in the highest traditions of the Indian army in counter terrorist operations in Samba".

An MOD spokesperson said on September 26, 2013, around 7.1 am, Lt Col Bikramjit Singh, on hearing the sound of weapons near the Officers' Mess Complex of his unit in Samba, rushed to the site. He spotted a terrorist hiding in a nallah, firing and attempting to move towards the adjacent family accommodation. "Despite presence of armed terrorists, the officer moved from one position to another, shouting instructions and directing action. His prompt and fearless action dislodged the terrorist from an effective firing position, forcing the terrorist to seek cover in a room, leading to his eventual elimination," the spokesperson added. He said the officer prevented the terrorists from going towards Officers' Married Accommodation Complex.

Lt Col Bikramjit Singh, who joined the Armoured Corps after passing out from the Indian Military Academy in 1998, was survived by his wife and an eight-year-old daughter. He was the only son of Major Paramjeet Singh (retd) and Luvpreet Kaur, residents of Sector 18, Chandigarh.

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