Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Thursday, 13 March 2014

From Today's Papers - 13 Mar 2014

Two soldiers among 11 dead in Kashmir snow fury, avalanches
Azhar Qadri
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, March 12
At least 11 persons, including two soldiers and two children, were killed while over 80 others were evacuated as unprecedented snowfall in March triggered avalanches and damaged houses in several parts of the Kashmir region.

The snowfall - one of the heaviest in recent years - continued incessantly for nearly 60 hours since Sunday evening before stopping on Wednesday morning, snapping road and air links.

“It was one of the heaviest spells of uninterrupted snow. We recorded 159.4 mm of snowfall in three days. This much snow has not been recorded since March 1998,” Meteorological Department, Director in-charge, Farooq Ahmad Khan said. The 294-km Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only road link between Kashmir and rest of the country, was closed to traffic for the third consecutive day.
Though Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted eight persons were killed in the region, including two soldiers, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Shailender Kumar put the casualties at 10. The state police said seven persons had been killed. The 11 deaths were reported from Kargil, Shopian, Kulgam and Budgam districts. Two soldiers and three Nepali labourers working for the Army were killed in an avalanche in Kargil district of the remote Ladakh region, the Chief Minister said. However, officials in the civil administration and police said two soldiers and three labourers died in two separate avalanches in Kargil's Drass and Kaksar sectors. A police spokesman said an avalanche hit Batra Camp of 82 Field Regiment at Drass resulting in the death of soldiers Vijay Prasad and Darminder Singh. Their bodies have been recovered.

Three civilians, including two boys aged 12 and 14, died when an avalanche swept a part of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Eight others were also injured. A 48-year-old woman died in a separate incident in Kulgam district, the police said.

Another woman was killed when a shed collapsed in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. In Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, a woman died following when a shed collapsed due to heavy snow, the Deputy Commissioner said. Nearly 600 houses and 300 other structures were damaged in the district. Police said it had rescued 80 civilians in Kulgam and Shopian district and moved them to safer places.

The heavy snow also disrupted communication services and caused widespread electricity outages. “This kind of snow with heavy water content has caused extensive damage to power infrastructure including high tension network and low tension lines,” the Chief Minister said, as outages in some areas continued for nearly two days.

Mobile phone services, including Internet, were also suspended. An official of the state Meteorological Department that had warned of heavy snowfall said the Western Disturbance that caused the inclement weather had weakened.

Avalanche kills 4 Pak soldiers

Islamabad: Four Pakistani army soldiers were killed in an avalanche in the mountainous northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Tuesday night. The military's media wing said 26 soldiers were hit by the avalanche and only 22 could be evacuated. In 2012, an avalanche on the Pakistan-occupied side of the Siachen glacier had killed 140 people, including 129 soldiers. — PTI
 Over 12,000 killed in Naxal violence in 20 years

New Delhi, March 12
Over 12,000 persons, including security force personnel, have been killed by Naxals in nine Left Wing Extremism-hit states in the past 20 years. Of the total 12,183 persons killed, 9,471 were civilians and 2,712 Central and state security force personnel, the Home Ministry said in reply to an RTI query. The killings were reported in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

About 468 people were killed by Naxals in 1993, 376 in 1994, 396 in 1995, 541 in 1996, 583 in 1997, 489 in 1998, 595 in 1999, 548 in 2000, 564 in 2001, 481 in 2002 and 515 in 2003 in these nine states, it said.

As many as 565 people lost their lives due to Naxal violence in 2004, 659 in 2005, 678 in 2006, 691 in 2007, 717 in 2008, 908 in 2009 and a huge 1,005 during 2010, the Home Ministry said.

Besides, 608 people (466 civilians and 142 security force personnel), were killed in the nine states by Naxals in 2011, 415 (301 civilians and 114 security force personnel) in 2012 and 381 (267 civilians and 114 security force personnel) between January and December 15, last year, it said.

Maoists had yesterday ambushed a security patrol killing 16 persons, including 11 CRPF personnel, in Naxal-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.

The attack was carried out barely 5 km from the area where top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh were killed in a Maoist attack in May last year.

Mahendra Karma, who started anti-Naxal movement Salwa Judum, Nand Kumar Patel, Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee chief and his son Dinesh were among 25 others who were killed in the attack carried out by Naxals on May 25, 2013 in Darbha Valley of the state. Veteran Congress leader Vidya Charan Shukla, who was also injured in the attack, later succumbed to his injuries in a Gurgaon hospital.

As many as 75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh Police official were killed in a Naxal attack in Dantewada district on April 6, 2010.

A total of 90 battalions (90,000 men) of central security force personnel and one Indian Reserve Naga Battalion (1,000 personnel) have been deployed for anti-Naxal operations in the nine Naxal-hit states, the reply said.

States such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal have constituted a unified command to carry out anti-Naxal operations. — PTI

Fighting red terror

    Nine states are affected by Left Wing Extremism: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal
    As many as 90 battalions (90,000 men) of Central security force and one Indian Reserve Naga Battalion (1,000 personnel) deployed for these operations in nine states
    States such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal have constituted a unified command to carry out anti-Naxal operations.
 Short of policemen, Chhattisgarh looks at Army to combat Maoists
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 12
Chhattisgarh, hit by Maoist violence, is short of policemen and has limited training slots for its fast-rising numbers of the state armed force. The state has requested the Indian Army to send just-retired officers or soon-to-be-retiring officers on contract basis and add the number of training slots at its training institutions.

Communication between the Army and Chhattisgarh police shows that the Army has agreed to give the option of joining the Chhattisgarh police to its retiring officers. On the 15th of each month, the Military Secretary (MS) branch has been asked to inform the superannuating officers about the offer of the Chhattisgarh police.

The MS branch advises the officers on preparing their bio-data. The bio-data’s are to be routed through the Director General Military Training (DGMT), who will forward the completed list to the Chhattisgarh police.

The state police have sent in a format for making applications. The Army is now evolving a policy at this as its various wings have varied strengths. For example, a Signal intelligence man will be top-notch in decoding radio messages and interceptions, however, in fighting skills he cannot match the man who has been in the Infantry and seen close quarter battles in counter insurgency areas. So, the Chhattisgarh police will be advised on optimum utilisation of men.

The state police had made the request in January. The offer is open not just to officers but to other ranks also.

Meanwhile, the Chhattisgarh police want the Army to train their men at the police training academies. Some 1,000 of new recruits for the Chhattisgarh Armed Force will be ready for training but there are not enough slots in its own existing academies.

The request

    Chhattisgarh has requested the Army to send its retiring officers on a contract basis to the state and add the number of training slots at its training institutions
    The Army has agreed to give the option of joining the Chhattisgarh police to its retiring officers.
2 IAF units come out with flying ‘Colours’
Two IAF units, 112 Helicopter Unit and No. 4 Base Repair Depot, were presented the Standards and the Colours, respectively, by President Pranab Mukherjee, at a special function organised in Lucknow this week.

Raised on August 1, 1963, 112 Helicopter Unit is a premier training establishment and has been consistently training pilots, flight engineers and flight gunners, while 4 BRD was raised on December 1, 1965, and has since been involved in repairing and overhauling turbo-jet aero engines.

The Commanding Officer of 112 Helicopter Unit, Wing Commander Manish Sharma, received the Standards while the Commanding Officer of 4 BRD, Gp Capt S Shrinivas, received the Colours. A host of civilian dignitaries as well as top Air Force officers were present on the occasion.

Fourth Gorkha Rifles observes Regimental Day

One of India’s older Gorkha regiments, the Fourth Gorkha Rifles (4GR), observed its Regimental Day on March 11. It jointly commemorates the action of 4GR’s 1st Battalion in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in France as part of the Sirhind Brigade of the Indian Expeditionary Force, and the 2nd Battalion’s entry into Baghdad during the World War I.

Raisedon August 6, 1857 at Pithoragarh as part of the British Indian Army, 4 GR comprises five infantry battalions and a Rashtriya Rifles battalion, and has earned 35 Battle and Theatre Honours, besides other awards and citations, for its actions in various wars around the world.

It shares its Regimental Centre with the First Gorkha Rifles at Sabathu in the foothills of the Himalayas near Shimla. Various events like a memorial service, barakhana, inter-company sports competitions are held by battalions at their individual locations. A regimental luncheon for serving and retired 4 GR officers is scheduled to be held at New Delhi on March 15, where the Colonel of the Regiment, Lt Gen CA Krishnan, is also expected to be present.

Veterans approach CEO over voting rights

With elections round the corner and the issue of soldiers’ right to vote being debated upon in the highest court of the land, ex-servicemen are also taking up the matter with the election authorities.

In a representation submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, Chandigarh-based All India Veterans Core Group has asked him to call a meeting of the commanders of military stations and intimate them the right of soldiers to be registered at the place of their posting where they are subjected to all local laws and taxes.

While giving out the legal position and the background to the issue of soldiers’ right, the representation claims that the Supreme Court has earlier ruled that options like postal ballot cannot take away right to be registered at their place of posting. Veterans also contend that not registering armed forces personnel at their place of posting amounts to rigging of elections and tyranny.

Without the flag

On a normal working day two distinct military ensigns can generally be seen fluttering from the facade of South Block adjoining the Rashtrapati Bhawan. One is the Army flag and the other is the Navy flag, signifying the presence of the respective service Chief. But protocol demands that either flag is unfurled only when the Chief of the service is in station. Since Admiral DK Joshi resigned on February 26, the Naval flag has been missing. Almost two weeks into the resignation, the file to appoint a successor is still shuffling between the Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister’s Office. Vice-Chief of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Robin Dhowan is the “interim Chief.”
Does India have the army it needs?
Donald Rumsfeld, who was America’s defense secretary during the Iraq war, pointed out that you fight with the army you have rather than the one you want. This truism underscores the basic responsibility of a defense minister: to maintain and hone during periods of peace the army that will be needed during times of conflict.

Every war is different. Armies train to fight the next battles rather than repeat previous ones. The set-piece formations of military engagement now seem what they are, history. The enemy no longer necessarily wears a uniform, creating a dysfunctional battlefield. It fights as a disparate militia, in bands that slip through populations like Mao Zedong’s famous fish in water. But Mao’s guerrilla fish were all red, and obeyed the command structure of a Communist party. These bands answer only to their frenzied imaginations.
    The fighting units of a loose transnational conglomeration like the Taliban and its partners hit when they can, and rest when they cannot. It is a war of attrition. They do not have artillery or an air force, but they have numbers, motivation, firepower, objectives and that invaluable resource called time. These methods have seen off the Soviet Union as well as America-led NATO from Afghanistan, which is a significant military achievement. Politically, they are leading the crusade to turn Afghanistan and Pakistan into a theocracy that will spread out and engulf adjacent regions where Muslims live, like Kashmir in India, Xinjiang in China and of course the many “stans” of Central Asia which still believe in a non-theocratic state.

    It is easy to be gulled by seeming contradictions. Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba might, in their confrontation with India, serve as terrorist ancillaries of a larger and older war, even as they pursue their dream of changing the nature of the Pak and Afghan state. But for them these are two sides of the same ideological coin. They have the freedom to expand strategies with impunity.

    Newspapers are already giving us a glimpse of what the withdrawal of NATO from south and central Asia will mean. There is a visible sense of triumph as theocratic forces pause and regroup in their long march towards the “liberation” of “Muslim lands”. They do not accept the concept of a secular state; for them Muslims, whether in India or Pakistan or China, who believe in secular societies are enemies twice over.

    We know only too well how difficult it was for the Indian army to restore peace in Kashmir after the onslaught that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan two decades ago. Today, China is also on their radar, as are southern Russia and Central Asia.

    Just a few days ago, China was shocked by an unprecedented terrorist attack, when men dressed in black and armed with knives suddenly descended on commuters at a railway station, spreading mayhem.

    Terrorism has escalated sharply in China’s only Muslim-majority province, Xinjiang. Beijing prefers to mask its worries, but this mask has begun to peel. At some point, China will have to reassess the cost-benefit ratio of its relations with Islamabad if terrorists continue to use Pakistan as their fortress.

    The question before Delhi is simple: are we prepared for a multi-dimensional conflict where the struggle against terrorists could conflate with conventional war if provocation multiplies?

    The answer is pessimistic. One of the great casualties of indecisive government in the last five years has been India’s defense preparedness.
    Under the inert, comatose and debilitating leadership of Defense Minister A.K. Antony, India’s security capability has weakened, even while tensions have risen. Our equipment is degraded; essential purchases have been neglected. The collapse of morale in our navy is only one symptom of a prevailing disease that is gradually immobilizing the nerve centers of our defense. There has been no political accountability. The enemy is at the door, and Antony is in a stupor.

    If nothing else, at least the coming elections will ensure that India has a new defense minister by June. But the amount of repair and reconstruction needed is enormous, and time is very short. The scenario in the region is changing rapidly, and not for the better. We are facing a decade of high risk. This will demand a new approach in our foreign policy as well. An enemy’s enemy does not automatically become a friend, but he can become an associate on the battlefield. India and China may need each other more than they suspect. Russia will not need persuasion for it understands the danger to Central Asia. Ideally, Pakistan should be equally wary of gun-toting theocrats, but perhaps it will take a deeper crisis to bring such clarity.

    What China and Pakistan do is for them to decide. India must fight its own battles. But battles are fought by armies. Do we still have the one we need?
Sino-Indian border: Face to face

The hostile Himalayan wastes of Arunachal Pradesh hardly make the ideal country for bird-watching. But as the cruel winter sets in, soldiers of the Chinese and Indian armies have their eyes peeled for unoccupied spots of land even if there are no avian flocks to guide them.

The result is a cold war of sorts and as the de facto line of control is drawn for the snowbound months, both sides are inching as far along the uninhabited borderlands as possible. Army sources in Calcutta confirm that the Chinese have moved in several new brigades of troops closer to the eastern Arunachal border.

The Chinese unit based at Wang dung in Sumdurong Chu valley, which now consists of nearly 200 men, is building permanent shelters, defences and stocking up food, fuel and ammunition for the winter. There has been a flurry of sorties by the US-supplied Sikorsky helicopters to Wang dung. The buildup is complete.

Even the Chinese Government, normally reticent about military activity along the borders, makes no secret of what it is up to along the Arunachal Pradesh-Tibet border. Some time ago, Xinhua reported that the Chinese Air Force had modified one of its locally-built Yun-8 transport aircraft to ferry the large Sikorsky helicopters into Tibet. "The implication is obvious," says an Indian diplomat. "This winter they are going to maintain posts in areas no one ever bothered about in the past."

This belies the earlier optimism that with the onset of winter, the Chinese would return from Wangdung leaving the place unoccupied, as the case has been in all the past winters. In fact, former external affairs minister P. Shiv Shankar had informed his Chinese counterpart at the United Nations in September that if the Chinese withdrew for the winter, India would not reoccupy it next summer. The Chinese have obviously refused to accept that assurance and the implicit offer of conciliation.

On both sides, patrols are more aggressive and enterprising than they have been for more than 15 years. "The Chinese intrusion in the Wang dung area of Sumdurong Chu valley has jolted us. The last thing we want is another Chinese patrol holing up at yet another unoccupied hill feature that we consider ours," says an Indian army officer.

Army sources say the troops have moved close to Wang dung and have taken over positions on ridges giving a commanding view of the Chinese settlement. "In clear weather, we can see them with binoculars," says an Indian army officer.

Even Chinese sources confirm this new eyeball-to-eyeball situation. A Chinese Foreign Ministry official told India Today in Beijing: "We are taking care there is no confusion any more. But there is no hostility on the border and no fighting."

But even if there is no bloodshed, tension is palpable. "Unless the tension is defused early, it has the makings of a 1962 kind of situation where both sides go on stretching their lines of control to mutually unacceptable limits," says a veteran western diplomat in Beijing. Sources in the Eastern Army Command at Fort William in Calcutta, however, confirm that the troops have been told to ensure there are no more intrusions without really getting into a firelight.

There is also reason to believe that the Chinese activity on the border is part of a greater design to pressure India. "We took some time putting two and two together but it was no coincidence that Nagas staged three ambushes killing 11 of our jawans just when Sumdurong Chu was making the headlines," says an army officer.

Nagaland has had a spate of bank robberies, the last one on November 12 this year, resulting in the loss of Rs.1.7 crore and the death of an eight-man police escort of the State Bank of India vehicle carrying cash from Kohima to the border town of Phek.

The guerrilla leaders have also been telling their supporters that the time is not far when the route to Yunnan will open again. The rebel traffic across the Tirap corridor in Arunachal Pradesh, the Nagas' favourite access route to Burma, has also increased.

Intelligence officials say it is significant that in a recent interview, Thungalin Muivah, leader of the pro-Beijing Naga rebels, talked in terms of a concerted campaign with other similar movements in the country including Sikh terrorists. Intelligence services believe that he is being instigated by the Chinese. Alongside, has come the rash of strikes by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a group loyal to Muivah.

With trouble brewing in Tripura as well, the Eastern Command does indeed have a few things to worry about in the months ahead. The direct consequence of this is a flurry of aggressive Indian patrols to establish posts wherever possible to watch the entry points into the vast region.

There have recently been reports of Chinese patrols moving perilously close to the no-man's land near Yong Gyalpa in the Debang valley in eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Intelligence sources confirm that the Chinese have moved at least three new brigades in the area next to Yong Gyalpa.

Besides, several Arunachal legislators representing border constituencies have been reporting that local tribals are complaining of increasing harassment from Chinese patrols. Last month the North-eastern units of the Bharatiya Janata Party sent a team to investigate. Bansi Lai Soni, who led the team, claims that rumours of intrusions in several places are true.

The army sources, however, say that these are truly borderline cases. "The border is not demarcated at all in the whole region and the local tribals are last to know where McMahon line lies on the map." says an Indian officer.

Despite this kind of one-upmanship along the border, army sources assert that there is no great cause for panic. They point out that while there is no real threat of a large-scale Chinese attack or intrusion, their presence at Sumdurong Chu is now a fait accompli.

Says an officer: "It is not just a question of removing the Chinese from Wang dung. We command the heights there and can do it any day. But are we prepared for the political fall-out?"

Politically, so far South Block's policy has been to ignore Wang dung after the initial publicity blitz. There is a realisation now that perhaps the Indian Government took the Chinese bait by playing up the intrusion on the eve of the July talks.

Says Giri Deshingkar of the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies: "I just did not see the sense in playing it up when we were in no position to do anything about it. It only gave the Government's critics something to talk about."

It is by now widely accepted in diplomatic circles that the Chinese created the incident to tell India that the two sides at the border talks were not equals. Their point was buttressed later by the Soviet silence on the intrusion. And as the gravity of the new geo-political situation was being understood in New Delhi, the Chinese had begun to send patronising signals of conciliation. They even went to the extent of commenting on articles in Indian newspapers about the intrusion.

In a rejoinder to an editorial page article written by S.P. Singh in The Hindustan Times demanding a sterner Indian attitude towards a "hegemonistic" China, Renmin Ribao (The People's Daily) stated: "China has no need for a trial of strength with India, and still less does it want to see India in a low position". It further asserted that "there is not such a madman in the world today who would think of ensuring control over such a large country as India".

The Chinese approach shows up even in the utterances of the normally tight-lipped Beijing bureaucrats and academics. Their message clearly is that a settlement on the Sino-Indian border should not be rushed and that the border problem should be separated from the process of normalisation in other spheres.

The Renmin Ribao has repeatedly said that the border problem has been "left over from history caused neither by Indians nor by Chinese". A Beijing academic goes farther, saying: "Before the political aspect is touched let us at least get our cartography right. Map-making techniques have changed a great deal from 1914 when the McMahon line was drawn. Let us at least have a joint aerial and satellite mapping of the border so that we know where we exactly stand."

There is an increasing feeling among diplomatic circles that the Chinese are stalling the reconciliation process to first see how their own reconciliation with the Soviet Union proceeds. "What happens there could shape their attitude vis-a-vis India," says an Indian diplomat. In South Block too, there is a strong feeling now that a certain degree of ambiguity has come in the Soviet attitude to the Sino-Indian problem.

Says Hong Kong University academic Claire Hollingsworth who is credited with access to the top Chinese military and political hierarchy: "I don't foresee China and Russia becoming friends in the next 50 years. But if there is any normalisation it would be at the cost of India and Vietnam."

Thus, if the current excitement at the borders passes without further incidents and the diplomatic process is revived, there would still be hope that the next round of talks, when scheduled, may lead to more than just cartographic and historical filibustry.

But a border agreement would still be just a remote and distant possibility wrapped in the thick, almost impermeable haze of mutual distrust, hostility and nationalistic pride tempered ove r25 years of confrontation.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal