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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

From Today's Papers - 27 May 2014

151 fishermen handed over by Pak at Wagah border
Tribune News Service

Attari, May 26
Hours before the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi today, 151 Indian fishermen were released by the Pakistan authorities.
They crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah land route. They were released as a goodwill gesture by the Pakistan Government on the orders of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony.

Of the 151 fishermen, 59 were released from Karahi Malir Jail and the remaining from prisons in Hyderabad, Sindh. They were brought to Wagah on buses and then handed over to the BSF personnel at the Wagah joint checkpost.

Usmail, a resident of Gujarat, who served an 18-month sentence in Karachi, said at least 30 fishermen were in poor in the jail while around five fishermen had died in recent past due to ill health. He said there were at least 229 fishermen languishing in Pak jails and 780 boats lying with Pak authorities.

Jadesh, another fisherman opined that the country has ushered in a new era with Narendra Modi, former CM Gujarat had been elected as Prime Minister. He said as the Gurjarat has emerged on the world map the whole country would witness huge development in the coming future. He hoped that in future both countries would take lenient view of the fishermen who unknowingly entered in the water territory of the neighbouring country.

Answering media queries, Dheeru, a native of Gujarat who was arrested by the Pakistani Navy around nine months ago, said people there do talk about Narendra Modi. He said the Indian government should also respond in a positive way and release fishermen languishing in the jails here as a goodwill gesture. This is for the first time that the Pakistan government has decided to release the fishing boats. Fifty-seven boats would be released from Pakistan and modalities for this are being made in consultation with the Indian authorities.
ITBP officers leave for Afghanistan

New Delhi, May 26
A team of senior ITBP officers, led by force chief Subhas Goswami, has left for Afghanistan to take stock of security preparedness at all Indian missions in the war-torn country in the backdrop of the recent attack on the Consulate in Herat.

Officials said Director General Goswami and his officers, drawn from the operations and intelligence wings, will tour the Indian Embassy in Kabul and its four Consulates in Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat and they are expected to meet the Indian Ambassador and local Afghan police and administrative authorities.

“The team will take stock of security arrangements at all Indian missions, which include the Kabul Embassy and other Consulates which are under the security cover of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Afghanistan,” official sources said.

The team will prepare an assessment report after their return from the country, they said.

ITBP troops had repulsed an audacious attack on the Consulate in Herat on May 23 when four heavily armed terrorists tried to breach the security of the mission.

The force had in April bolstered the security of not only the Herat mission but also other Consulates and the Embassy in Kabul by deploying a fresh squad of 79 commandos who were distributed equally amongst all the five locations.

The touring team will also look into the requirements of additional logistical and operational gadgets of the paramilitary troops deployed at these installations.

The force has beefed up security at all these locations and a high alert has been sounded in the wake of the latest incident. — PTI
 Thailand after the coup
Peace and stability not at the cost of democracy

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha did what anti-government protesters had not been able to do for the last six months — he ousted the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which had been bogged down by a political deadlock and daily confrontations that resulted in hundreds that were injured and a number of deaths. An army coup is not an uncommon event in Thailand. The deposed Prime Minister’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, too was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thailand’s new military leader has received King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s endorsement, even as he faces small protests from citizens in Bangkok and other places. International condemnation for replacing an elected government has been swift with the US cancelling joint military exercises and threatening to cut off aid. Some other nations have followed suit, whereas others have not reacted sharply. On the other hand, the army has moved swiftly to consolidate its position and ordered politicians, scholars and journalists to present themselves at military offices. They are being held incommunicado and it is believed that negotiations about their future role are taking place. It has also dissolved the Senate, and thus assumed direct control over governance, something it had desisted from doing in the 2006 coup.

The King’s proclamation said that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha had been made head of the National Council of Peace and Order to run the country and to “restore peace and order in the country and for sake of unity.” Indeed for a country that had been scarred by frequent protests over the past many months, restoring normalcy was necessary. However, the deep political divide between the rural poor which supports Thaksin and the urban middle class that is opposed to him, makes the return to normalcy difficult, as the past many months of confrontations between the two sides have shown. The Thai economy has already taken a beating and people are discontented. The army must clearly enunciate the path to restoring democratic institutions even as it delivers on the promises of stability and peace.
New Indian Regime Expected To Rejuvenate Defense Sector
NEW DELHI — Indian military officers and defense analysts are pinning their hopes on the newly elected National Democratic Alliance government to speed stalled weapons and equipment buys.

They also hope Narendra Modi’s administration will reform the defense production sector and reduce New Delhi’s reliance on imports, which constitute nearly 70 percent of military purchases.

A Defence Ministry official said the administration is expected to increase the nation’s caps on foreign direct investment (FDI) from 26 percent to 49 percent.

“They [the new government] are inheriting a dysfunctional MoD and a huge backlog of big ticket items,” said Anil Jai Singh, a retired Navy commodore and defense analyst. “The first thing the new defense minister should do is review the programs that are long overdue and which have a critical bearing on our defense preparedness and, in consultation with the services, prioritize the requirements and ensure that the MoD bureaucracy and the service headquarters work together in adhering to timelines. That in itself would be a positive start and send a strong message that accountability will be fixed in case of delay.”

A senior Indian Army official said officers want quick decisions in the MoD on defense preparedness. “The past seven years have seen an extremely overcautious approach to purchases, especially in the open competition, which has resulted in cancellation of tenders worth over $7 billion resulting in stalling of essential weapon purchases,” the official said.

Modi, who becomes prime minister May 26, is expected to “hit the ground running,” the MoD official said. A rightist on economic issues, Modi announced in his campaign that he believes in “little government and more governance” — indicating he will cut red tape and speed decision-making.

The National Democratic Alliance government is led by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which had promised to boost defense production. “BJP will encourage private-sector participa­tion and investment, including FDI in selected defense industries,” according to its manifesto.

Names floated to become the new defense minister include: BJP President Rajnath Singh; former Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh, who was critical of the outgoing Congress-led government; and Murli Manohar Joshi, who had worked as home minister, human resource development minister and science and technology minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Whoever comes in as the next defense minister, Modi’s commitment for greater governance will be honored, said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.

“There is no magic bullet with the new government for indigenization,” added Rahul Bhonsle, retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst. “Dependence on imports is likely to continue in the decade ahead as there are structural deficiencies in the system which require to be systematically addressed. Dependence on imports can be lessened if the thrust is on knowledge creation, research, increase of [the] FDI limit, tax incentives for indigenous production and increased indigenous content in defense goods.”

Analysts are unanimous in their view on cutting imports, but say efforts have to be made to boost the defense industrial sector.

“For India to emerge as a major international power, or acquire a regional military edge, it must reduce its dependence on imports. Besides sophisticated systems, India is today importing even basic defense items such as assault rifles and carbines,” said Venkataraman Mahalingam, retired Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

Mehta said expectations that the new government will prepare its forces for the Pakistan and China threats will require increasing defense funding, making structural changes in the defense sector and accelerating the pace of decision-making
Thai coup leader to get royal endorsement, address nation
Bangkok: Thai coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha will receive the endorsement of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Monday as head of a ruling military council and the general will then give his first address to the nation since seizing power last week.

The royal command ceremony, a significant formality in a country where the monarchy is the most important institution, will begin at 10:49 a.m. (0349 GMT), the army said. It gave no reason for that time but it is likely it is deemed auspicious.

Prayuth's address is likely to be viewed with conflicting attitudes in a country polarised by nearly a decade of rivalry between the royalist establishment, of which Prayuth is a member, and a populist politician who broke the political mould.

Prayuth will outline steps he intends to take, including the proclamation of an interim constitution and the setting up of a legislative council, the military said. It did not elaborate.

The military said it seized power last Thursday to end six months of sometimes violent protests against the populist government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

But it has taken over with a heavy hand, detaining perhaps scores of people, most allied with Yingluck's government, throwing out the constitution, dissolving the Senate and censoring media. Anyone who insults the monarchy or violates the military's orders will be tried in a military court.

Despite warnings, small crowds of people voicing opposition to the May 22 coup have been gathering in Bangkok as well as in the north and northeast, strongholds of the ousted government.

About 1,000 people thronged around Victory Monument, a central Bangkok hub, on Sunday, occasionally confronting lines of soldiers with riot shields, but there have been no clashes.

In what will be seen as a hopeful sign, the military has relaxed restrictions on Yingluck, allowing her to go home although she is under military supervision.

"She is free to come and go as she pleases but will have to inform us as a sign of mutual respect and we will have soldiers guarding her home," a senior military official who declined to be identified said on Sunday.

But the easing on Yingluck will do little to dispel concern among her supporters that the military is intent on a crackdown for reasons beyond restoring order and ending antagonism between protesters backed by the establishment and the real power behind her government, her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.


Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup after big-spending policies had won him the passionate support, and votes, of the poor but the animosity of the establishment, who saw him as a corrupt, authoritarian opportunist and a threat to the old order.

Thaksin was also accused of being disrespectful to the monarchy and even a closet republican, which he denied.

The former leader has said on Twitter he was saddened by the latest events, and called on the army to treat everyone fairly. Thaksin has lived in self-exile since a 2008 graft conviction.

The crisis between the establishment and Thaksin comes amid anxiety over the issue of royal succession. The king, the world's longest-reigning monarch, is 86 and spent the years from 2009 to 2013 in hospital.

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn does not command the same devotion as his father, but some Thaksin supporters have recently been making a point of showing their loyalty to the prince.

Meanwhile, one Thaksin ally, ousted Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, said he expected the military to implement steps aimed at sidelining once and for all Thaksin, his family and his allies, and blocking forever his formidable political machine, which has won every election since 2001.

"Any election after that would be meaningless," Chaturon told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location on Sunday, referring to changes he expects the military to implement.

"The system will be designed so no matter which party people vote for, it won't be able to form a government."

For now, the military is focusing on getting the economy back on track and ending dissent. It has summoned outspoken Thai journalists and academics and detained some of them.

It has called in another 38 people on Monday, including politicians allied with Thaksin and several big-business allies of the former telecommunications tycoon.
V K Singh, a former Army Chief now a Minister
Controversial former Army Chief Gen V K Singh, who was made the Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Narendra Modi government, has somewhat of chequered past with one episode being a long unsuccessful battle with the UPA government over his age issue.

Singh, 63, lost the legal battle over his age issue with the Defence Ministry in 2012 and joined Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption agitation against the UPA Government before joining the BJP just before the elections.

In the Lok Sabha elections, Singh defeated Raj Babbar of Congress from Ghaziabad seat by 5.67 lakh votes, which was second biggest margin in this election after Modi, who trounced his Congress rival Madhusudan Mistry by over 5.70 lakh votes in Vadodara.

A newcomer to politics, Singh has been in the eye of the storm over one issue or the other in recent times.

Soon after he took over as the Army chief, he started an anti-corruption tirade in the Army which saw several Lt Gens including former Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash facing court martial for his role in the Sukna land scam.

The majority of his tenure as Army chief was overshadowed by his battle with the Government over his age issue as he claimed it to be May 10, 1951 whereas the Government said it was May 10, 1950.

The issue saw Singh become the first service chief in the country to drag the Government to court and later, the Supreme Court decided in favour of the Government.

In his last days in office, Singh stirred controversy when he stated that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a file related to the procurement of 600 Tatra trucks for the Army.

The issue snowballed into a big controversy and an embarrassed Defence Ministry under AK Antony had to order a CBI probe to investigate the issue.

Singh’s secret military intelligence unit Technical Support Division (TSD) was also charged with being involved in snooping into telephone conversations of senior defence ministry officials at the height of his age controversy.

Post retirement, he came under fire from the Army headquarters which blamed the TSD created by him for carrying out unauthorised and illegal operations and trying to destabilise the state government in Jammu and Kashmir.

In his autobiography, Singh blamed unnamed officials in the Prime Minister’s Office including a coterie of bureaucrats and journalists for making attempts to destabilise him during his tenure as the Army chief.
Apart from the controversies surrounding him, Singh is known to be a tough taskmaster and a hands-on person.

He initiated the transformation studies in the Army to make it more efficient and improving its capability for waging a two-front war.

A top-notch Commando from the US Army Ranger school, he is credited for accomplishing the tasks assigned to him by the higher authorities.

He commanded the Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command before taking over as the Army Chief in 2010.
Apart from the controversies surrounding him, Singh is known to be a tough taskmaster and a hands-on person.

He initiated the transformation studies in the Army to make it more efficient and improving its capability for waging a two-front war.

A top-notch Commando from the US Army Ranger school, he is credited for accomplishing the tasks assigned to him by the higher authorities.

He commanded the Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command before taking over as the Army Chief in 2010.
Apart from the controversies surrounding him, Singh is known to be a tough taskmaster and a hands-on person.

He initiated the transformation studies in the Army to make it more efficient and improving its capability for waging a two-front war.

A top-notch Commando from the US Army Ranger school, he is credited for accomplishing the tasks assigned to him by the higher authorities.

He commanded the Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps and the Kolkata-based Eastern Command before taking over as the Army Chief in 2010.

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