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Thursday, 30 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 30 Jan 2014

Pathribal case: J-K Govt to seek retrial in civilian court
Rules out re-investigation, says CBI has done its job
Ishfaq Tantry
Tribune news Service
 Srinagar, January 29
The Jammu and Kashmir Government on Wednesday ruled out re-investigation of the Pathribal case, but decided to file a write petition in the high court to seek a retrial before a civilian court. The decision has been taken as there is no provision of appeal against court martial proceedings.

The Army had on January 23 closed the Pathribal encounter case after giving a clean chit to five Rashtriya Rifles officers saying the evidence recorded could not establish prime facie charges against them. In the 2000 encounter in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, five alleged civilians were killed on the ground that they were foreign militants and the case was handed over to the CBI.

“We will file a writ petition before the high court to challenge the Army’s decision (to close the case), as there is no provision for appeal against the court martial proceedings,” J&K law Secretary Mohammad Ashraf said. He said the government will not reinvestigate the case as the CBI had already completed its probe and presented its chargesheet before the Srinagar Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) in 2006.

The CBI had charged the five Army officers with the “abduction” and “cold-blooded murder” of five civilians. The Army took over the Pathribal case from the Srinagar CJM in 2012 after deciding to try the accused Army officers before a court martial.

The Law Department has shot off a reminder to the J&K Home Department for procuring the Pathribal records, which includes the CBI investigation findings and other evidence, for scrutiny. The Law Department had written to the Home Department for procuring Pathribal records after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted his disappointment over the Army’s decision to close the case.

After the incident came to the fore in 2000, the Army said those killed were foreign terrorists involved in the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora some days earlier.
 India looks at Central Asia for expanding defence ties
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on radar
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
Keeping in view the twin realities of a fast-changing scenario in Afghanistan and China’s rapid expansion in Central Asian countries, India is extending its outreach in military ties with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan border Afghanistan to its north while Kyrgyzstan borders China. India has now posted defence attaches to these three countries and is looking to conduct joint military exercises with these countries.

Already an Indian military hospital functions in Tajikistan which also shares a border with Afghanistan while India has a schedule of military exercises with Kazakhstan, the oil-rich former Soviet Republic and a neighbour of China.

The move into Central Asia is more of a precautionary step, as so far Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US that would allow international forces in a supportive role of training and counselling after forces starts withdrawing in June 2014. During the days of the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Massoud, pro-India ‘Taliban-free’ leader in Northern Afghanistan, was treated once at the Tajikistan hospital. A similar footprint in other former Soviet republics is needed, a source said while underlining the need to ramp up ties.

Sources said New Delhi is looking at all three countries as part of its outreach at the military level and the focus would be on capacity building, border patrolling tips and training in counter-terrorism skills. In resource-rich Turkmenistan, New Delhi is looking to build a 70 km rail link connecting Gorgan in Iran with Turkmenistan. This will bring mineral wealth of these countries directly to Chabahar port in Iran for onward transportation to India through the sea route. India has interests in the US-backed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

India has been slow in moving into this area. China has already laid out its oil pipeline in Kazakhstan while India had no access to transporting gas or oil from that country. Beijing dominates the markets in these countries with goods transported over open land borders.

The other focus of New Delhi military outreach is Kyrgyzstan that lies west of China. This would mean that India would now have some kind military relations with another country bordering China. Kyrgyzstan is crucial for Beijing as it does not allow any safe sanctuary to restive elements from Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province of China.

Already New Delhi has conducted good number of rounds of military exercises with the Mongolia, lying north of China and is looking to deepen its existing exchanges with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Sikh LI adjudged best marching contingent at R-Day parade
 The spit and polish of close order drill of the Indian infantry soldier once again came to the fore at Rajpath when, after a gap of several years, an army contingent was adjudged as the best marching contingent among the services during the Republic Day parade this year. The honour was bagged by the Sikh Light Infantry (LI). In the preceding three years, the IAF contingent had consistently bagged this award, though last year it was shared with the Navy. The Sikh LI traces its origins to the Sikh Pioneers raised in 1857 and deployed for various military campaigns in India and abroad. The regiment comprises troops recruited from the Mazhabi and Ramdasia elements amongst the Sikhs, who have a deep-rooted martial tradition. Interestingly, the Sikh LI contingent was drawn, not from the regular Army, but the Territorial Army (TA), also known as the “Citizen’s Army.”

Army Service Corps gets new chief

Lt Gen RP Rai is the new Director General Supplies and Transport at Army Headquarters. Prior to this, he had been serving as the Commandant of the Army Service Corps (ASC) Centre and School at Bangalore since November 2012. Lt Gen Rai, who is also the Senior Colonel Commandant of the ASC, assumed his new appointment in mid-January, taking over from Lt Gen AK Malhotra who had retired in November 2013. There are two vacancies of the rank of Lt Gen in ASC, one being the DGST and the other as the Center Commandant. Sources revealed that Maj Gen BS Sandhu, presently posted at Headquarters South-Western Command, has been approved for promotion in the ‘staff stream’, implying that he will have to be posted on staff or administrative duties outside the ASC. Sources add that since it is unlikely that a third vacancy of Lieutenant General would be given to the ASC, a Major General would have to officiate as the Centre Commandant.

Emotional moment for Lt Gen Suhag

It was an emotional moment for Vice-Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag when he learnt that a young energetic boy from Nagaland whom he had personally known was no more. The boy lost his life while saving his friends. While meeting children who were given national bravery awards in New Delhi, he came face to face with an old man holding the picture of his grandson, Manio Cha-Chai, a former NCC cadet who wanted to join the Army. The Vice-Chief, who has had four posting in the North-East, had met the boy several times due to Army’s intense interaction with the local populace in Nagaland. After seeing the picture, General Suhag asked the old man about his grandson, only to be told that Cha-Chai had died saving two of his friends from drowning.

IAF hero’s course mates to hold reunion

The memory of Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, the only recipient of the Param Vir Chakra from the Indian Air Force, would come alive when his course mates from across the country get together for a reunion at Chandigarh on February 15. He was from the 97th GD (Pilot) course that passed out together with the 36th Navigators’ Course in June 1967. Hailing from Ludhiana, Sekhon, then deployed with 18 Squadron at Srinagar, was decorated posthumously with the nation’s highest gallantry award for engaging six Pakistani Sabre aircraft in aerial combat during the 1971 war. The 97th course produced two Air Marshals -- AD Joshi who served as AOC-in-C Eastern Air Command and later as Commander-in-Chief, strategic Forces Command. He was the first pilot to land a MIG-23 at Leh in May 1984 during Op Meghdoot. The other was Air Marshal AK Singh, who retired as AOC-in-C Western Air Command in January 2007.
Tatas to bag Rs 1k cr Army contract to supply heavy duty trucks, Tatra trucks’ monopoly to end

NEW DELHI: Tata MotorsBSE -1.24 % is in the final stages of concluding a Rs 1,000 crore contract with the Ministry of Defence for the supply of 1,239 heavy duty trucks, in a move that will herald the end of a decades-long monopoly Czech-made Tatra trucks enjoyed in supplying the military's high-end vehicles.

The deal for the so-called six-wheel-drive high mobility vehicles (HMV), fitted with material handling cranes, has the option of a follow-on order for 600 more units, a senior co ..
India close to buying Japan-made military aircraft
India is set to become the first country since World War Two to buy a military aircraft from Japan, helping Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismantle a ban on weapons exports that has kept his country's defence contractors out of foreign markets.

The two countries are in broad agreement on a deal for the ShinMaywa Industries (7224.T) amphibious aircraft, which could amount to as much as $1.65 billion, Indian officials said on Tuesday.

However, several details need to be worked out and negotiations will resume in March on joint production of the plane in India and other issues.

New Delhi is likely to buy at least 15 of the planes, which are priced at about $110 million each, the officials said.

"Its a strategic imperative for both sides, and it has been cleared at the highest levels of the two governments," said an Indian military source.

For the moment, a stripped-down civilian version of the US-2i plane is being offered to India, to get around Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports. A friend or foe identification system will be removed from the aircraft, another defence official said.

The two countries are discussing assembling the aircraft in India, giving India access to Japanese military technology, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

The plane has a range of over 4,500 km (2,800 miles), which will give it reach far into Southeast Asia from the base where the aircraft are likely to be located, in the Andaman and Nicobar island chain that is near the western tip of Indonesia.

The navy plans to use the Japanese-built plane to support ships on long range missions, the military source said, a role that is increasing as it steps up its profile across the Indian Ocean to counter rival China.

"You are sailing further and further away, and ships break down at sea. You can either wait for reinforcements to arrive by sea or bring in an amphibian right next to the stricken ship," the source said.

The two governments have set up a joint working group that will meet in March to consider plans to either set up a plant in India to assemble it under licence by an Indian state manufacturer.

The plan is to deliver two aircraft and then assemble the rest of the planes with an Indian partner, the military source said.

The deal lays the ground for a broader Japanese thrust into India, the world's biggest arms market dominated for long by Russia but now also buying hardware from Israel and the United States.

"There is a whole amount of defence-related cooperation, between India and Japan," said Gautam Bambawale, an Indian foreign ministry official responsible for East Asia.

"We want Japanese technology, we want Japanese capital investment into India."

India's navy is also interested in Japanese patrol vessels and electronic warfare equipment as Tokyo moves further along in easing its ban on military exports, the Indian officials said.

Abe discussed the aircraft deal with Singh during a trip to New Delhi last weekend as ties rapidly warm between the two nations at a time when both are embroiled in territorial disputes with China.

"Our Joint Working Group on US-2 amphibian aircraft has met to explore the modalities of cooperation on its use and co-production in India. More broadly, we are working towards increasing our cooperation in the area of advanced technologies," Singh said.

Abe is seeking a more assertive military and national security posture for Japan, whose post-war constitution, written by U.S.-led occupation forces, renounces war and a standing army.

Abe's government vows to review Japan's ban on weapons exports, a move that could reinvigorate struggling defence contractors like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd (7012.T).

Mitsubishi Heavy is in advanced talks to supply parts for the F-35 stealth fighter to Britain's BAE Systems (BAES.L), in what would be the first involvement of a Japanese manufacturer in a global weapons programme, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

India is a top market for defence hardware, buying some $12.7 billion in arms during 2007-2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), everything from basic military goods to an aircraft carrier.

New Delhi been trying to build up a domestic manufacturing industry and has leaned on foreign suppliers to consider transfer of technology or joint production as a condition for placing orders.
Battle of the heights

For days the Indian Army pickets stationed at Bilafond La, almost 20,000 feet high and overlooking the frozen wastes of the Siachen glacier, were expecting the Pakistani troops below to attack. Through their binoculars they had watched with consternation as the Pakistanis brought in more men and arms than ever before. The Indian commanders even informally sent word to their counterparts, warning them not to launch an offensive.

But the Pakistani soldiers paid no heed and around noon on September 23 started shelling the Indian pickets with mortar shells. Said a senior Indian officer just back from the fighting: "They came to us from all fronts, firing mortar shells. shooting long-range missiles hoping to inflict heavy casualties. But we were ready for them." The Indians were well prepared and pounded the ridges below with medium range gun-fire and mortars inflicting heavy casualties.

The battle raged well into the night and the Pakistani raiders were beaten back but continued their attacks for the next two nights. On September 25 after the Pakistanis finally withdrew, the Indians claimed that they had killed at least 150 of them, injuring an equal number.

While Defence Ministry sources said that only around 20 Indians were killed others put the toll at roughly 50. It was easily the biggest offensive by Pakistan since India first established its pickets at strategic points near Siachen in 1984. Said a senior Indian Army officer: "It seemed a do or die attack by Pakistan and for them it ended in a die and not a do."

While Indian Defence Ministry officials announced the successful repulsion of the attack, Pakistan disputed it immediately. Rana Naeem Mahmood, Pakistan's minister of state for defence, said: "Reports of the encounter as disseminated by the Indian side are highly exaggerated and the casualties reported on the Pakistan side are preposterous."

But Pakistani newspapers were unconvinced and alleged that the Indians had even captured an area which the Pakistani prime minister had visited recently. Naeem Mahmood quickly refuted the doubts saying that not only was Pakistan in control of that area but claimed "we have something more than that". To which a senior Defence Ministry official retorted: "If they have gained something why haven't they disclosed the area? Why keep quiet? The truth is we repulsed them time and time again."

The truth also is that Siachen, for all its freezing climate and uninhabitable vastness, has become a major military prestige issue on both sides. Ever since Indian troops moved in to occupy the mountains overlooking the Siachen glacier, Pakistan has been at a disadvantage and made every effort to dislodge them. In what must be the highest battlefield in the world, one Indian Army officer pointed out that "more soldiers die falling into crevasses or from frostbite than from actual gun-fire".

Conditions are hostile with temperatures dropping to minus 40 degrees Celsius in winter and remaining below freezing point in summer. The skirmishes have been frequent with the attacks corning mostly in September and October when the snow melts and there is sunshine.

The Siachen glacier has become a bone of contention between the two countries only recently. Both in 1949 and 1972 when the two countries reached agreements over the actual line of control of the disputed Kashmir heights, the vast watershed was left as "no man's land" because of its inaccessibility and hostile conditions. But both countries soon realised that whoever controlled the Siachen glacier would become the "dominant power'' in the region. By 1984 the Indians made some daring helicopter landings and established their superiority over the region.

The key question is why did Pakistan choose to launch its biggest offensive to date at this particular moment? One answer is that it has been timed when India is busy dealing with Sri Lanka, and serious trouble is brewing on her northern border in Tibet. Also, President General Zia-ul-Haq has been under pressure from the Opposition to establish Pakistan's claim over the region.

Although both countries have vowed not to use force and to sort out any dispute in the Siachen region amicably. this has been continuously flouted. Indicative of this breakdown is that despite there being a hot line between the directors of operations on both sides, there was no communication. Pakistan, in fact, tried another abortive attack on Indian posts in the first week of October. This has been repulsed too.

The Indian Army is confident of defending their posts in the region and a senior officer said: "We are on top of them now and I mean that literally. We are in full control of the region. If Pakistan wants to dispute it they would have to do so with casualties and they would have to pay for it dearly." But that is hardly going to deter Pakistan from trying again.
Pathribal encounter: Omar says Army's goodwill at stake
Srinagar: In his first reaction on the 2000 Pathribal encounter case, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has flayed the Indian Army, saying that it needs to be "a lot more accommodating".

The Army had on Friday closed its probe in the case, acquitting the five accused soldiers, saying the evidence recorded could not establish prime facie charges against any of them.

Abdullah said, "The Army has said that they don't have enough to proceed with the court martial. I hope the Government of India recognises the decision of the Army has not gone down well. This is a matter which is currently in front of the Supreme Court as well. The AFSPA argument will come up again. The CBI has found evidence, how can the army say that they cannot accept this?"

The CBI had in 2006 indicted the five accused Army personnel - Brig Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brahendra Pratap Singh, Maj Saurabh Sharma, Maj Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan - stating that they were involved in the gunning down of five villagers and dubbing them as foreign militants before the media.

The investigative agency, in its chargesheet, stated that the killing of the innocents was a result of "tremendous psychological pressure" on the Army to show results after the massacre of 36 Sikhs in Chittisinghpura in the valley on the eve of the visit of then US President Bill Clinton to India.

"One Macchil doesn't make everything else fair. All the goodwill the Army has earned has been undone by a Pathribal decision. This is one of the few test cases," the 43-year-old said, referring to the 2010 Macchil fake encounter case for which the Army court-martialed six of its officers.

The young Chief Minister also ruled out Arvind Kejriwal-style protests to press for his demands.

"Arvind Kejriwal did a dharna outside the Rail Bhawan. What did he end up with? Two policemen go on paid leave? We have to give logic to the government of India. How would you react if any Chief Minister sat outside the Ministry of Defence on the AFSPA? Would you be open to that thought?" he asked.

Abdullah also said that the National Conference's alliance with the Congress was "under discussion". "There are reservations in our party. Sections in the Congress too would like to do it alone," he said.

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