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Monday, 26 May 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 May 2014

Sharif not to meet Kashmiri separatists
Azhar Qadri
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 25
In an unusual break from the tradition, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will skip any meeting with Kashmiri separatists during his visit to the country tomorrow.

Sharif, who will visit New Delhi to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Indian Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi, has not invited any Kashmiri separatist for a meeting, which is rare in recent decades. Separatist leaders from various factions and groups here confirmed to The Tribune that no invitation has been sent to them for a meeting with Sharif.

One separatist leader said Sharif's decision to visit India was taken in a 'haste'. "That is why there might have been no time to schedule meetings (with separatists)," he said. Separatists remained restricted in their views about the impact of the decision. One member of hardline faction said it may have been done to avoiding controversy.

Usually, senior Pakistani leaders, during their visits to India, have ensured meetings with Kashmiri separatist leaders. In December last year, Sharif’s top adviser Sartaj Aziz met Kashmiri separatists, which had created furore with the then-Opposition BJP terming such a meeting a "diplomatic blunder" by the UPA government. The relations between the Pakistani government and region's separatists have gone cold in the recent years. The drift began in 2002 when the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf changed his country’s Kashmir policy.

While the moderate separatists welcomed Musharraf’s new policy and supported his four-point formula to find a solution to the Kashmir issue, the hardliners remained miffed on account of Pakistan's changed stance.

A break from past

    Pak PM has not invited any Kashmiri separatist for a meeting which is rare in recent decades.
    Separatist leaders from various factions confirmed that they had not received any invitation to meet Sharif.
    One separatist leader said the reason could be that Sharif's decision to visit India was taken in a 'haste'.
    One member of hardline faction said it may have been done to avoiding controversy.
 Sharif’s visit to India could give peace a chance: Pak media

Islamabad, May 25
Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif’s decision to attend the swearing-in ceremony of PM-elect Narendra Modi is a step in the right direction to give peace a chance, media here said today.

By agreeing to accept India’s invitation, Sharif and all those who matter have thankfully taken a huge step in what appears to be a marathon strewn with multiple, possibly perilous pitfalls. The take-off, however, appears to be in the right direction, The Express Tribune said in an article.

A final decision from Sharif came five days after India sent an official invitation on May 21, giving the Prime Minister here enough time to consult his aides, cabinet members and the Foreign Office, The News International said in its report.

The decision was taken after a meeting between Sharif’s troubleshooter Shahbaz Sharif and Army chief General Raheel Sharif in Lahore so that all stakeholders were on board.

“Luckily, hawks like Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar were kept at arm’s length,” it said. Sharif was keen that instead of just crossing over the eastern border for a photo-op, an opportunity should be there for a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister-elect to make a fresh beginning, the newspaper said. Sharif is scheduled to have his maiden bilateral meeting with Modi on Tuesday. The Prime Minister will also call on President Pranab Mukherjee before returning home.

Sharif’s aides have been cautioning that no big announcements are expected after the meeting. — PTI

When Sharif lands in New Delhi, his hands will be strengthened as he will have the backing of not only the people of Pakistan, but all the major political parties and the security establishment which controls ties with India.

The News International

By agreeing to accept India’s invitation, Sharif and all those who matter have thankfully taken a huge step in what appears to be a marathon strewn with multiple, possibly perilous pitfalls. The take-off, however, appears to be in the right direction
Widows allowed to join as officers

New Delhi, May 25
In a special gesture towards families of its personnel who died in recent mishaps, the Navy has allowed widows of five of them to apply for becoming officers in the maritime force and one of them has already cleared the process.

The Navy lost 21 of its personnel in mishaps involving two submarine accidents and 17 families had sought help from the Navy to get jobs.

“Based on the educational qualifications, five of the widows of officers and sailors have been given relaxations in several categories to appear for the selection procedure to become officers in the force,” a senior Navy officer told PTI.

“The wife of Commander Kuntal Wadhwa, who lost his life in a mishap on the under-construction warship INS Kolkata in Mumbai, has cleared the Service Selection Board (SSB) and medical examination and would soon be joining the force,” he said.

Navy Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan has directed officials in the Naval Headquarters and the respective commands to help out the families in fast-track mode to give them their dues.

The officer said the ladies would be allowed to become officers only after they clear the mandatory tests and the SSB selection process for selecting officers in the armed forces.

The families of the officers and sailors, who were not eligible to become officers, are being given jobs as civilian employees in Group B and Group C posts, the officer said.

The Navy took the requisite permissions from the Defence Ministry to give relaxation to these women in several categories including age and marital status.

After the Kargil war in 1999, the Defence Ministry started allowing widows of officers and jawans to join the services if they met the educational and other requirements for joining the forces.

The Navy had earlier given this relaxation to the families of its personnel who died in an air crash over INS Hansa air base in Goa involving the Ilyushin-38 maritime surveillance aircraft. — PTI

The initiative

    Navy Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan has directed officials to help out the families in fast-track mode to give them their dues
    The widows will be allowed to become officers only after they clear the mandatory tests and the SSB selection process for selecting officers in the armed forces
    Based on the educational qualifications, five widows of officers and sailors have been given relaxation in several categories to appear for the selection procedure
Assessing the K-solution
Progress possible if the pre-conditions are met
Gen VP Malik
A few days ago, S. K. Lambah, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Af-Pak Special Envoy, addressed a seminar organised by the University of Kashmir. He spoke about a seven-point (some media reports have condensed them into five points) J&K solution (K-solution) on which New Delhi and Islamabad have been working 'quietly' for many years. These points, according to him, are (1) No redrawing of the current territorial disposition in J&K (2) Free movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC) (3) Progressive removal of trade barriers in specified locally produced goods (4) End to hostility, violence and terrorism (5) Minimum deployment of military on both sides of the LoC (6) Self-governance on both sides, and (7) Respect for human rights and reintegration of militants into society.

The seven-point K-solution has not come as a surprise to India's strategic community. But since negotiations on this subject have been kept under wraps and have not been shared in political circles, the timing and place of its articulation, when the UPA-2 government was about to exit, surprised many. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had once stated that he was close to an ‘important breakthrough’ in the talks with Musharraf. Lambah’s repeated assertion that he was speaking in his personal capacity, therefore, convinced no one.

I heard about such a proposal nearly a decade ago when an academic friend, part of the Prime Minister's inner circle on Kashmir, had unofficially asked my opinion on such a K-solution. Despite experience of the Kargil war and considerable cross-border violence in J&K and outside, I did not reject it outright. I do believe that it is the prerogative of statesmen to find solutions to complex political problems, sometimes out of the box. However, these solutions, in my opinion, are possible only when the opportunity and timings are right, or made right. My response was that both India and Pakistan will find it extremely difficult to pave the way towards such a solution. I pointed out that although Musharraf had assured Prime Minister Vajpayee in January 2004 that he would ‘not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner’, his assurance had remained only on paper. I also expressed doubt if the Pakistan Army in its self-interest would let people in Pakistan forget the two-nation theory, or allow long-term peace with India.

In his Srinagar address, the Af-Pak Special Envoy said that 'the efforts to seek a bi-lateral K-solution have gathered momentum' and 'the process has survived and sustained itself despite brutal and high visibility assaults'. This claim requires analysis and justification.

Let us start with Pakistan. Despite decade-long discussions on this proposed K-solution, its most important premise and pre-condition on ending violence and terrorism across the border has never been met. Every year has seen acts of violence and terrorism, both in and outside Kashmir. Among the prominent ones have been the Mumbai train bombing in 2006, bomb blasts in Ahmedabad and Delhi and the 26/11 Mumbai incident in 2008, the Pune blast in 2010, and the Hyderabad, Srinagar blasts and the Samba terror attack in 2013. Ever since 2005, about 5,400 people have died in terror incidents in J&K and 825 people outside J&K (and Northeast) due to Islamist extremism. The trend of a sustained decline in terrorism-related fatalities since 2001 got reversed in 2013, with J&K recording 181 fatalities as compared to 117 in 2012. The LoC ceasefire too has become fragile on account of head hunting and retaliation.

In July 2009 at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Manmohan Singh’s government made a surprise shift in its Pakistan policy by foregoing terrorism linkage with the composite dialogue. Instead of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Baluchistan was recorded in the bilateral document. Soon after a second electoral mandate, the Prime Minister appeared over keen to befriend Pakistan to be able to make history in India-Pakistan relations. As the K-word was not mentioned in the joint document, many strategists wondered if this significant climb down was to promote the end-solution on J&K.

The change of baton from Musharraf’s military dictatorship to elected governments in Pakistan has permitted no progress on the K-solution endeavour except to continue the movement of some local goods and passenger buses across the LoC. In fact, soon after Musharraf’s exit, the Pakistan Army under Ashfaq Pervez Kayani lost no time in disassociating itself with the K-solution proposal. In 2008, the proxy war against India was extended to the Indian establishments in Kabul.

No meaningful effort has been made by the elected governments to prosecute the 26/11 perpetrators or to check ‘hate-India’ rhetoric of the extremist ideologues. In fact, Nawaz Sharif, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan, had last year described Kashmir as a ‘flashpoint’that could lead to the ‘fourth India-Pakistan’ war.

Lately, the proliferation and increased influence of Taliban and other extremist groups in the Af-Pak region and the possible spillover of militants into Kashmir has created further impediments for the K-solution proposal. Many analysts believe that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan this year, a major ISI-backed Taliban may be expected in the region.

Yet another development affecting the K-solution is from China — Pakistan's strategic partner and ally. Already in occupation of the Shaqsgam valley and having PLA presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Kashmir, China seems to be challenging India's sovereignty over J&K. It has positioned itself as the third party in the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir.

In India, Parliament's unanimously adopted resolution of February 22, 1994 emphasising that 'the state of J&K has been, is, and shall remain an integral part of India' makes it mandatory for a government to take all political parties into its confidence before any K-solution can be formalised. Now we have a new government, which according to sources, is willing to engage and make peace with Pakistan, but with a clear policy that the continuing use of proxy war and terrorist violence against India will entail a significant cost. Many political leaders in the new establishment are known to be averse to accepting the unilateral status quo. But considering the overall interest of the people of J&K, they may not be so averse if the pre-conditions mentioned in the K-solution are met in letter and spirit. That, at present, appears very far away.

The K-solution proposal in the India-Pakistan dialogue reminds me of a quote from Thomas Kempis who once wrote, “Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing”.
Getting aggressive on defence
While the new government will have its hands full dealing with socio-economic and governance issues, one of its key priorities will be to manage India’s multiple external and internal security threats and challenges better than the UPA 2, whose performance in this regard was often sub-optimal and given to knee-jerk reactions.
The management of border violations on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan was marked by the lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination. Long-term defence planning failed to get the attention it deserves. The defence budget fell to its lowest level since the 1962 debacle. Military modernisation stagnated as major procurement projects were delayed due to bureaucratic red tape and the blacklisting of almost a dozen defence MNCs.

The first and foremost item on the new government’s defence and national security reforms agenda should be the formulation of a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS), including that for internal security. The NSS should be formulated after carrying out an inter-departmental, inter-agency, multi-disciplinary strategic defence review. Such a review must take the public into confidence and not be conducted behind closed doors.

The armed forces are now in the third year of the 12th Defence Plan (2012-17), and it has not yet been formally approved with full financial backing by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). The CCS has also not formally approved the long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP 2007-22) formulated by HQ Integrated Defence Staff.

Without these essential approvals, defence procurement is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans, rather than being based on duly prioritised long-term plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. These are serious lacunae as effective defence planning cannot be undertaken in a policy void. For this to happen, the dormant National Security Council must be revived.

The inability to speedily conclude major defence contracts to enhance national security preparedness, in the face of growing threats and challenges, exemplifies the government’s difficulties in grappling with systemic flaws in the procurement procedures and processes. Despite having formulated the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and the Defence Production Policy (DPrP), the government has been unable to reduce bureaucratic red tape and defence modernisation continues to stagnate.

It is difficult to understand why the budgetary allocations earmarked on the capital account for the modernisation of the armed forces should continue to be surrendered year after year with complete lack of accountability. It was only during the year 2010-11 that the ministry of defence (MoD) managed to fully utilise all the funds allocated on the capital account.
While internal security challenges are gradually gaining prominence, preparations for conventional conflict must not be neglected. Major defence procurement decisions must be made quickly. The army is still without towed and self-propelled 155mm howitzers for the plains and the
 mountains and urgently needs new utility helicopters, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) as also weapons and equipment for counter-insurgency operations.

The navy waited for long for the INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) aircraft carrier, refurbished in a Russian shipyard at an exorbitant cost and with operationally unacceptable time overruns. Construction of the indigenous air defence ship has also been delayed.

The air force’s plans of acquiring 126 multi-mission, medium-range combat aircraft (MMRCA), in order to maintain its edge over the regional air forces, are stuck in the procurement quagmire, even as the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) project continues to lag inordinately behind schedule. All three services need a large number of light and medium lift helicopters. India’s nuclear forces require the Agni-IV and V missiles and nuclear-powered submarines with suitable ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to acquire genuine deterrent capability, particularly against China.

The armed forces do not have a truly integrated C4I2SR (command and control) system for network-centric warfare, which will allow them to synergise their combat capabilities and defend against cyber-attacks. The approach followed is still a platform-centric one, despite the demonstrated advantages of switching to a network-centric approach.

All of these high-priority acquisitions will require extensive budgetary support. With the defence budget languishing at less than 2 per cent of India’s GDP — the interim budget for 2014-15 is pegged at 1.74 per cent of the projected GDP — it will not be possible for the armed forces to undertake any meaningful modernisation.
The funds available on the capital account at present will not suffice even for the replacement of obsolete weapons systems and obsolescent equipment, in service well beyond their useful life cycles. The Central armed police and para-military forces (CAPFs) also need to be modernised and better trained, as they are facing increasingly greater threats while continuing to be equipped with obsolescent weapons.

Though UPA 2 had appointed the Naresh Chandra Committee to take forward the process of long overdue defence reforms, it was unable to implement any of the recommendations of the committee. The incoming government must immediately appoint a chief of defence staff (CDS) to provide single-point advice to the CCS on military matters and to synergise operational plans as well as capital acquisitions.

The logical next step would be to constitute tri-service integrated theatre commands to synergise the capabilities of individual services. It is also necessary to sanction the raising of the aerospace, cyber and special forces commands to deal with emerging challenges.

Any further dithering on these key structural reforms in higher defence management on the grounds of a lack of political consensus and the inability of the armed forces to agree on the issue will be extremely detrimental to India’s national security interests in the light of the dangerous developments taking place in its neighbourhood. International experience shows that such reform has to be imposed from the top down and can never work if the government keeps waiting for it to come about from the bottom up.
India Turns to Domestic Sources for New Air Defense Guns
After failing since 2007 to buy replacements for its Swedish-made L-70 air defense guns through global tenders, the Indian Ministry of Defence has decided to procure the guns only from domestic sources, in the Buy and Make (Indian) category.

Under that category, only domestic companies or their joint venture with overseas companies will be allowed to compete, provided 50 percent of the system’s components are indigenous.

While the move fits with a new policy designed to encourage domestic production, defense analysts and serving military officers are apprehensive about whether domestic sources will be able to meet the weapon requirements.

The Defence Ministry has sent a request for information (RFI) to domestic defense companies, including private sector Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd, Bharat Forge, and state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Bharat Earth Movers, seeking information about their willingness and ability to compete for the tender, worth US $1.7 billion.

Global tenders for the guns attempted in 2007 and 2009 were canceled because of single-vendor situations: Rosoboronexport in 2009 and Rheinmetall in partnership with OFB in 2007.

Both tenders sought to procure 428 air defense guns, and required transfer of technology to OFB.

Several defense analysts fault the procurement process for the failed attempts to buy the air defense guns.

“The story is all too familiar even in this case; lack of foresight, poor planning, inadequate homework and no accountability in the MoD as well as the armed forces has led to the crisis in modernization of air defense in the Indian Army. There is limited appreciation of potential vendors who can qualify and their ability to subscribe to the tenders,” said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

Rajinder Bhatia, CEO of private sector major Bharat Forge, cites the blacklisting of overseas defense firms as the larger issue.

“It is not the problem with the acquisition system but due to the fact that the best technology for this gun is owned by Rheinmetall Air Defense and a very large number of countries are using that technology. Rheinmetall Air Defense is, however, banned from business in India. And hence the problem.”

The domestic defense companies will need to tie up with overseas defense firms to manufacture the guns because none of the domestic firms has experience in selling the weapons, an MoD official said.

An Indian Army official said he is not sure if the domestic companies will be able to forge tie ups with overseas firms.

“We are already behind scheduled in buying several priority purchase for the defense forces, and we need to buy from the overseas market immediately and later rely on the domestic sector,” the official added.

Amit Cowshish, retired MoD official and defense analyst, favors giving a push to the domestic industry.

“The Indian industry does not have the capability and experience to make all the systems that the armed forces need, but if that is the deciding factor we will have to continue to buy from foreign sources. If we want to promote Indian industry, such measures are unavoidable. The ball is now in the court of the Indian industry, which must rise to the challenge by getting into tie-ups with the foreign original equipment manufacturer, investing in research and development and creating capacities within the country

“When procured, the air defense guns will be employed for providing air defense to selected locations in plains, deserts and mountain terrain and should be capable of being towed by an in-service gun-towing vehicle.”

The Army requires guns of a caliber greater than 30mm, and capable of engaging air targets day and night using fire control radars as well as electro-optical fire control systems independently.

The Indian Army has about 1,200 L-70 guns bought in the 1960s from Sweden.
Suhag as Army Chief May Still Remain a Dream
Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag’s elevation as Army chief faces the possibility of being tripped even at this stage. Despite the clearance from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet under outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, just three days before the UPA government was voted out, Suhag’s celebration on May 13 for being promoted as next Army chief seems only premature.

Sources with knowledge of the appointment issues pointed out to The Sunday Standard that there are at least three issues that could come in the way of Suhag occupying the exalted office on July 31 when incumbent Army chief General Bikram Singh retires.

At least two of these issues have not come out before and with the Narendra Modi government set to take office on Monday, these issues could play spoilsport for Suhag and the new government may review the outgoing UPA government's hurried decision.

Suhag’s appointment is yet to get President Pranab Mukherjee’s nod even 10 days after the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, with then Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde as members, approved his name for the post of Army chief.

Sources have pointed out the “possibility” that the new government may “not put up the file” before the President for approval and may decide on another officer as the Army chief.

The reasoning being given is that 59-year-old Suhag, who prefers to call himself as Dalbir Singh, was not qualified to be promoted as Army commander in the first place. He was under a Discipline and Vigilance ban, which prevents his promotion to the next rank, on May 31, 2012.

More importantly, he did not possess the mandatory two Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) required as the Dimapur-based 3 Corps commander before he can even be considered for promotion as Army commander. Sources say for any Corps commander to be promoted as Army commander, he  needed to possess at least two ACRs during his 11 to 13 months tenure as Corps Commander.

“Suhag did not possess the mandatory two ACRs. This fact was overlooked. He should have had an ACR from his immediate superior of the time, then Eastern Commander General V K Singh. He had only one ACR,” a source said.

“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which takes a call on promotion to Army commander, ignored this mandatory rule, which is also a convention. Suhag’s was the only case where this mandatory rule was given a go-by. His case was considered based on extraneous factors of keeping a succession plan in the Army going. Also, he was under a Discipline and Vigilance ban on the day. He should not have been promoted and even considered for promotion as Army commander,” he added.

The source noted that the Discipline and Vigilance ban is not imposed on an officer without reasonable evidence available to court-martial him. General Bikram Singh vacated the ban on Suhag 15 days after General V K Singh retired. General Bikram Singh had succeeded General V K Singh as Army chief.

Suhag had been placed under the ban by General V K Singh during the last days of his tenure as Army chief. This was seen by some as vendetta over the denial of 10 more months of Singh’s tenure as Army chief.

“The ban imposed was based on investigation by the Discipline and Vigilance branch of the Army headquarters and a court of inquiry into a botched-up intelligence operation in the Northeast and illegal killings. There were 15 other Army personnel court-martialed in the illegal killings case and one of them was dismissed while 14 others were delivered severe displeasure as punishment. Suhag too should have been court-martialed. He did not act on complaints of illegal killings that took place in 2010,” the source said.
“The charge against Suhag is not reporting up the chain on the illegal killings and not taking any action against the accused personnel, despite a proper complaint,” the source added.

In fact, a case in the Supreme Court is now pending over the promotion given to Suhag in June 2012, after keeping the post of Army commander “reserved” for him by General Bikram Singh. The case has been filed by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, who was then the next senior most Lt Gen in the Army and was eligible to be promoted as Army commander against the vacancy that was filled up with retrospective effect by Suhag.

Moreover, Suhag’s name had figured in a procurement scam when he was the commander of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), a specialist unit with Tibetans as its personnel to keep a watch along Chinese borders. Allegations flew thick and fast that kick-backs were paid in the purchase of parachutes for the SFF personnel. Suhag was a Major General when he headed the SFF.

The complaint with regard to the scam submitted by the then Trinamool

Congress MP Ambika Banerjee was sent to the CBI by General V K Singh for investigation. This procurement scam too was not investigated adequately and the CBI case against Suhag was ignored when he was promoted as Army commander in 2012.

The spanner in the works for Suhag’s appointment as Army chief had come in the run-up to the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls when opposition BJP and General V K Singh, now the party’s Ghaziabad MP, raised questions over the “legitimacy” of Suhag being named as next Army chief just three days before UPA-II was voted out of power.

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