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Saturday, 26 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 Apr 2014

Indian contribution to WW-I remembered

New Delhi, April 25
Australians and New Zealanders today remembered their servicemen and Indian soldiers who served their nation in World War-I. At a dawn ceremony here at the historic Delhi War Cemetery, Australian and New Zealand communities in India paid tribute to war veterans and those who have laid down their lives in the service of their nation.

April 25 each year is termed as Anzac Day. Among those who attended the service included official representatives from a range of nations and from the three Indian Military Services. Buglers from the Indian Army played “The Last Post” and “Reveille” at the service.

“Anzac Day commemorates the landing of thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops on the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, beginning a long hard-fought campaign,” said Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Patrick Suckling. — TNS
Pak troops violate LoC truce in Poonch
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, April 25
The Pakistan Army violated the mutually brokered truce deal by opening heavy fire, including 82 mm mortars, on at least four Indian forward posts in the Shahpur area along the 744 km-long Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district today. The firing was in retaliation to the Indian Army foiling an intrusion bid by a group of armed militants.

The Army that responded in equal measure described the Pakistani action a first “serious” violation of the ceasefire agreement in the Poonch sector this year.

“The firing started around 9.30 am after we foiled an intrusion attempt by a group of four militants, who were trying to sneak in. Consequently, the Pakistani Army provided them cover fire and in the process targeted our forward posts,” said an Army source.

“It was an infiltration bid that turned into a ceasefire violation as Pakistani troops fired at our posts drawing us to respond in equal measure,” he added. The Pakistani troops initially used small arms fire but switched to automatic weapons and 82 mm mortars. “It was a serious violation as they used 82 mm mortars. But we are well prepared,” he said. The source said a few days ago, the Army received an intelligence input about intrusion attempts from the Sawjian and Doda Battalion area. “The gun-battle lasted over two hours. There were no casualties or injuries on our side,” the source said.

Jammu-based Defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said: “The ceasefire violation started around 9.15 am in which the Pakistan Army used small arms and automatic weapons prompting our troops to use similar-calibre weapons. The firing ceased at 12.30 pm.”

An intelligence source said Pakistan troops targeted PP 1, Sher Shakti, Jungle 3 and Doda Pir posts of the Indian Army. These are guarded by 3 Garhwal Rifles in the Shahpur area, also called the Doda Battalion area.

Pakistan had initially opened fire from their Mochi Mora and Jora posts, he added. “Pakistan troops used LMG, MMG and mortars, inviting equal response from the Indian Army,” said the official. In December, New Delhi and Islamabad had pledged to uphold the 2003 LoC ceasefire agreement, which had been left in tatters after repeated violations by Pakistan in Poonch sector and then all along the 198 km-long International Border. The directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries had agreed to a number of steps to keep the ceasefire accord intact. The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by de facto border of LoC.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) - Pakistan Army’s official website - blamed the Indian troops for the latest skirmish.

Didn’t target India posts: Pak

Pakistan on Friday denied its troops violated the ceasefire by targeting Indian posts in Poonch. Pakistan’s DGMO telephoned his Indian counterpart in the morning and proposed a sector-level flag meeting between the two armies.

Major killed in Shopian gunfight

Two Army men, including a Major, and two Hizb militants were killed in a gunfight in south Kashmir's Shopian district on Friday. The officer has been identified as Major Mukund Vardarajan. P8
Army major killed in 6-hour-long gun-battle with militants in Jammu and Kashmir
An Army Major was killed today in a six-hour-long gun-battle with three militants in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian on Friday.

Two of the militants have been killed in the encounter, while one still remains holed up in the house which has been surrounded by security forces.

The three militants were holed up in a house in Karewa Malino village, 55 km from Srinagar. The militants were asked to surrender but they resorted to firing, triggering the gunfight.

"The operation has been suspended for the night but we are maintaining a tight vigil over the cordoned area to ensure no one gets away," the officer said.

Shopian is part of the Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency and the encounter took place a day after militants carried out an attack on a polling party escorted by police and CRPF in the district at the end of the voting resulting in the death of a polling official and injuries to five others including three securitymen.
Pakistan fires at Indian posts, violates ceasefire
After nearly four months long lull along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing on Shahpur area of Poonch district on the Indian side this morning.

A Defence Ministry spokesman here confirmed ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops, saying that they were using small arms and automatic weapons. The Indian army was also retaliating with small arms fire, he said, adding that the exchange of fire between them was continuing.

Meanwhile, sources said that the trouble started after Pakistan resorted to unprovoked mortar  shelling from across the LoC around 9 am. The Indian army also retaliated and a fierce exchange of fire between them was in progress.
The latest incident of ceasefire violation by Pakistan in the area came after nearly four months as there had been calm along the LoC since January 29 last when they had resorted to unprovoked firing in Balakote sector on the Indian side.

Only in December last, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both India and Pakistan had met after nearly 13 years at Wagah near Amritsar and decided to uphold the 2003 ceasefire agreement between them. During the meeting which lasted for nearly half an hour, the Indian side accused Pakistan of violating ceasefire agreement for over 250 times during 2013 alone.

However, both sides finally decided to strengthen the existing border mechanisms and hold flag meetings between brigade commanders along the LoC in Poonch and Uri sectors so as to defuse situation whenever there is escalation between the two sides in future. But nearly a month after that meeting, the Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing along the LoC in Uri sector on January 26 and in Balakote sector of Poonch on January 29 this year.
US military suicides fall 15% but army national guard and reservists a concern

Suicides across the US military dropped by more than 15% last year, but new detailed data reveals an increase in the number of army national guard and reserve soldiers who took their own lives.

The overall totals provided by the army, navy, air force and marine corps give some hope that prevention programmes and increased efforts to identify troops at risk may be taking hold after several years of escalating suicides. But the increase among army national guard and reserve members raises questions about whether those programmes are getting to the citizen soldiers who may not have the same access to support networks and help that their active duty comrades receive.

Not only did the army national guard and reserve suicides increase from 140 in 2012 to 152 last year, but the 2013 total exceeded the number of active duty soldiers who took their own lives, according to the army. There were 151 active duty soldier suicides last year, compared with 185 in 2012, army officials said.

The Pentagon plans to release a report on Friday on military suicides. But the numbers in that report differ slightly from the totals provided by the services because of complicated accounting changes in how the department counts suicides by reservists. Some of the Pentagon numbers were finalised a year ago, while the services have more recently updated totals that reflect the results of some death investigations.

According to the four military services, there were 289 suicides among active duty troops in 2013, down from 343 in 2012. The vast majority were in the army, the nation's largest military service. The navy saw a 25% decline, from 59 in 2012 to 44 in 2013. The marines went from 48 to 45, while the air force went from 51 to 49.

Due to the accounting changes and other updates, the Pentagon numbers are generally a little lower and reflect a larger decline in overall active duty suicides of about 18% from 2012 to 2013. In some cases, the services count guard and reserve members who have been called to active duty as part of the active duty total, while the Pentagon did not.

Both sets of numbers, however, show the same trends: fewer active duty suicides across all four services and slightly more deaths among the army national guard and reserve.

Military leaders say it is too soon to declare success in the battle against suicides, but they say that some programmes appear to be working.

"I think we've changed the cultural mindset – that it's OK for a sailor or a soldier or an airman or marine to come forward and ask for help," said Rear Admiral Sean Buck, the navy's officer in charge of suicide prevention and resilience programmes. "We're trying to reduce the stigma that used to exist."

Buck said the navy has focused on providing more programmes designed to reduce stress, including teaching sailors coping mechanisms and stress management tools.

As an example, he said navy leaders noticed a spike in suicides by medical specialists, including doctors and nurses, reaching a total of 22 for 2011 and 2012 combined. The navy surgeon general started a programme that found that there seemed to be a lot of transitions during that time involving the sailors' jobs or base locations.

Buck said that due to the frequent moves, sailors could sometimes find themselves unconnected to their family or unit or higher command. "In many instances, if you find yourself in time of need and you're not in a permanent command, you may not know who to turn to," he said.

In response, navy leaders were told to reach out and communicate with their medical specialists on a daily basis, checking with them to see how they were doing and if there were any problems. Last year, Buck said, there was a sharp decline in suicides among the medical community, with six in 2013.

Lack of consistent contact with leaders or units could also be a factor for reservists.

Scattered across the United States, often in small or remote rural communities, many members of the army national guard and reserve report for training about one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. And they often do not have quick access to military medical or mental health services that may be on bases far from their homes. That means the outreach effort by the armed services to address the increase in suicides may not always get to reservists in need – particularly those who do not actively seek help.

According to the army data, more than half of the reservists who committed suicide in 2012 and 2013 had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials, however, have not been able to establish a strong link between military service on the warfront and suicide.

Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Sunset Belinsky said the army set up several programmes to deal with the problem, including a 24-hour suicide prevention phone line. The army reserve set up six Army Strong community centres in New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Connecticut and Michigan.
Swamy protests against new Army Chief's appointment, writes letter to President
New Delhi: Seeking stay on the appointment of a new Army chief, senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Friday wrote a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Swamy said the timing of the appointment of new Army Chief will demoralise forces.

In a letter to the President, he said, "The timing of this proposed announcement will, inter alia, ensure that the COAS office is politicised and the armed forces demoralised."

Swamy said, "The present government's endeavour to announce the next COAS is in direct contravention to the established convention, both in terms of timeframe and also with regards to certain ongoing investigations that are currently before the judicial system."

The opposition BJP has said the outgoing government should not appoint the new Army Chief and should leave it to the next government that is expected to take over towards the end of next month. The party has even petitioned the Election Commission to halt the process.

Notwithstanding objections by the BJP, the Defence Ministry is going ahead with the process of appointing the new Army Chief and has recommended the name of Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag to the Prime Minister's Office.

The recommendation of the Defence Ministry will have to be approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, official sources said.

As per tradition, the government announces the name of services chiefs-designate two months before the retirement of the incumbent.

Sticking to that, it is expected to announce the name of the new Army chief by May 01, three months prior to the date of retirement of Gen Bikram Singh.

The appointment of incumbent Chief Gen Singh was also done three months prior to the retirement of his predecessor Gen VK Singh, who had a turbulent relationship with the Defence Ministry and even dragged the government to the Supreme Court over his age controversy.

General (retd) VK Singh, who is now a BJP member and contesting for Lok Sabha from Ghaziabad constituency in Uttar Pradesh, has said the UPA government "should not be in a hurry" to appoint the new Army Chief.

"I don't understand why the UPA is in a hurry to make the present chief ineffective by announcing his successor's name," he has said.

Significantly, during the last days of his tenure as Army Chief, VK Singh had put a 'discipline and vigilance ban' on Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag, then 3 Corps Commander, for the "failure of command and control" as an intelligence unit under him had allegedly carried out dacoity in Jorhat in Assam outside the jurisdiction of the Corps.

The ban was lifted soon after Bikram Singh took over as Army chief and appointed Suhag as the Eastern Army Commander.

General Bikram Singh will retire on July 31 after completing a 26-month tenure in office.

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