Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Friday, 30 May 2014

From Today's Papers - 30 May 2014

I have a plan for North-East, says VK Singh
Tribune News Service
 New Delhi, May 29
Enhancing infrastructure, providing job opportunities to youths and boosting economic growth in the North Eastern states will be top priority of General VK Singh (Retd), who assumed charge as Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) today.

Singh said the government would focus on improving road infrastructure in the North East, including border areas, besides trying to ensure robust economic growth in the region.

“I have a plan for overall development of the North East. We will try our best to address all the problems being faced by the region. There is tremendous amount of work to be done for the region,” the minister with independent charges said.

The 63-year-old former Army chief said he had a fair idea about the region and would make sincere efforts to ensure that it progresses on a par with rest of the country.

Singh has the experience of serving in the North East in different capacities as an Army officer. He was also the GoC-in-C of the Eastern Command looking after the Eastern and entire North Eastern region.

Singh said he would try to find a solution to complaints of harassment of people from North East in the Delhi and would also focus on addressing the sense of alienation among people in the region.
 Anonymous complaints delaying defence procurement: Rao
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29
Newly appointed Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh today said how defence procurement cases were stuck on the basis of anonymous complaints.

Rao, who was the MoS for Defence between 2006 and 2009, said the process of needlessly pursuing anonymous complaints would be reworked. The government, he said, would take steps to tackle issues where defence deals were stuck after the losing rivals sent complaints against the winning bidder in defence contracts. All this, he said, delayed acquisition for the armed forces which needed equipment urgently.

Asked if the government was holding discussions in this regard, the minister said he was talking on the issue based on his previous experience in the Defence Ministry where military deals used to get stuck on basis of complaints. Rao said: “Procurement cases should be stopped only after charges are proved against the firms.”

Rao, who took charge of the ministry today, will be handling Defence production a portfolio he held during his previous tenure in the ministry and famously pushed for indigenisation and openly backed the production of Arjun tanks.
 Pinaka rockets test-fired successfully

Balasore (Odisha), May 29
Indigenously developed Pinaka rockets, capable of destroying enemy positions at 40 km with rapid salvos, were today successfully test-fired thrice from a multi-barrel launcher at an armament base in Chandipur-on-sea, near Balasore.

The rockets, which have undergone several tough tests since 1995, have been already inducted into the armed forces and the present trials were conducted with some improvements in the weapon system, defence sources said, adding some more tests are likely to be held. “Three rounds of Pinaka rockets were successfully tested from the proof and experimental establishment today at Chandipur,” about 15 km from here, they said.

The rocket system is meant to neutralise large areas with rapid salvos. The system can fire 12 rockets in 44 seconds and neutralise a target area of 3.9 sq km. — PTI
 AFT grants benefits to soldiers on career scheme

Chandigarh, May 29
In a judgment that would benefit many Defence personnel in all three services, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ruled that the Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) scheme recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission (SPC) would be implemented from January 2006 and not from September 2008. This implies that the affected personnel would get benefits for over two and a half years of service.

The SPC had recommended that MACP would be granted to Defence personnel on supersession after 8, 16 and 24 years of service and to offset stagnation, the affected personnel would be granted the next higher pay scale.

The gazette notification for implementation of the scheme was issued by the central government on August 30, 2008 and the scheme came into effect from September 1, 2008. This was challenged by affected personnel on the grounds that since all other benefits relating to pay and allowances were applicable from January 2006, the date of implementation of the SPC, the same should also be applicable to MACP.

The Bench comprising Justice VK Ahuja and Lt Gen DS Sidhu upheld the contentions of the petitioner and quashed the artificial cut-off date fixed by the government. — TNS
China remains priority for India, Modi tells Premier Li
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29
Three days after the BJP-led NDA government assumed office, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang dialled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him while US Secretary of State John Kerry had a telephonic conversation with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

This was the first telephonic conversation Modi had with any foreign head of government since assuming office on Monday. The call was at the Chinese leader’s initiative. For Swaraj too, it was the first call she received from a foreign dignitary after she was allocated the coveted portfolio.

Premier Li congratulated Modi on his victory in the elections and conveyed Beijing’s desire to establish robust partnership with New Delhi.

Thanking Li, Modi noted that China had always been a priority in India’s foreign policy and underlined his government’s resolve to utilise full potential of the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries.

According to the External Affairs Ministry, Modi expressed his keenness to work closely with the Chinese leadership to deal with any outstanding issues in bilateral ties. He also welcomed greater economic engagement between the two countries. The two leaders agreed to maintain frequent high-level exchanges and communication.

Prime Minister Modi extended through Premier Li an invitation to Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit India later this year. The Chinese President, who supports strong trade and commercial ties between the two countries, has expressed his keenness to visit India and meet representatives of the government.

In his conversation with Sushma, the US Secretary of State said Washington looked forward to re-energise ties with India. The Indian minister told him that India attached importance on the strategic partnership between the two countries. They discussed the prospects of enhancing bilateral trade and hoped it could be raised from $ 100 billion to $ 500 billion.

Sushma also briefed Kerry about the meetings that the Indian Prime Minister had with Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders who were here for the swearing-in ceremony of the new government.

Chinese FM to arrive on June 8

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit New Delhi on June 8

Wang Yi is arriving as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, who is expected to visit India in the second half of the year

n Wang Yi will meet PM Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and key officials during the visit

As Gujarat CM, Modi had enjoyed a special relationship with China. Beijing has made huge investment in Gujarat
The new Indian government and parleys with Pakistan
As it became increasingly apparent that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was expected to form the new government, it simultaneously gave rise to fears and hopes in Pakistan. While fears arose from a nationalist hardliner image attached to the BJP, the fact that the incoming government would not be constrained by the dictates of a coalition politics, gave rise to hope that the leadership of the two countries would be able to take relations forward. An opportunity for realisation of such hopes presented itself sooner that anyone expected. That Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted Narendra Modi’s invitation to his swearing-in ceremony and arrived in India in spite of numerous domestic constraints underscores his own positive intentions with regard to relations between the two countries.

The civilian government has been having differences with the military on a number of accounts. First, the onus of finding a face saving way of extricating Gen Musharraf from the clutches of law, lies on the government and the government has been dragging its feet over removing Musharraf’s name from the exit control list, putting the responsibility on the Supreme Court. Second, the ISI was implicated in the attack on well known journalist Hamid Mir, anchor of Geo TV, and it was believed that the civilian government was backing the channel against the ISI and subsequent events led to Geo TV being forced to go off the air. Third, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continues to create mayhem within the country. While the army would like to take on the TTP militarily, the Sharif government has been putting emphasis on talks with them. Though reservations remain over the key demands of the TTP, the ceasefire by the TTP has not been extended and the army has recently conducted operations against militants in North Waziristan as a retaliatory measure. This has given rise to unease that the militants could up the ante by resorting to suicide attacks in various parts of the country.

In the backdrop of such problems, the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Army Chief Raheel Sharif in Lahore and discussed the possibility of Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India, in a bid to build consensus on the issue. In an attempt to create a positive atmosphere before his visit, Sharif announced the release of 151 Indian fishermen and 57 fishing boats in Pakistan’s custody. Further, in a departure from past tradition wherein meetings were fixed between visiting dignitaries from Pakistan and leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, nothing was scheduled by the Pakistan High Commission this time.

The talks between the two leaders were supposed to be of short duration but lasted longer than scheduled and served the purpose of breaking the ice, given the suspension of talks with Pakistan since early 2013 in the aftermath two Indian soldiers being killed by Pakistani troops along the LoC. As it is, the two sides had only been able to resume talks in 2011 after the disruption due to the Mumbai attacks. As expected terrorism and trade were two important issues talked about. The Indian side expressed their concerns regarding terrorism emanating from Pakistan, and impressed upon the Pakistani side the importance of abiding by its earlier commitment of not allowing its territory to be used as a base of terrorism. It underscored the importance of taking steps for the speedy trial of those suspected to be involved in the Mumbai blasts. It was agreed that the two countries could move forward on trade as per the roadmap envisaged in September 2012, and as a first step the Wagah-Attari border is to be opened up for full trade. The recent attack on the Indian consulate in Herat also came up for discussion. It was also decided that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would meet to discuss the way forward. Nawaz Sharif expressed hopes that things could be picked up from where they were during his engagement with Prime Minister Vajpayee in 1999 and expressed his willingness to discuss all issues.

Despite the good intentions of the two Prime Ministers’ it was perhaps not possible to agree on anything more substantial at this juncture. The most obvious question is whether the resumption of dialogue between the two countries can take place within the framework of what is called the composite dialogue, comprising eight basic issues. There has been considerable debate on both sides whether this framework would be workable in the future. Therefore, the discussion has centred on the need to evolve a new architecture which will take into account the most critical concerns of the two countries and enable speedy progress towards normalisation. In this context the question of the efficacy of back channel diplomacy is raised from time to time. There are different opinions about whether the back-channel route has delivered any worthwhile results in the past, but the volatility of relations between the two countries does point to the importance of back channel diplomacy away from the media speculation.

There are, however, certain obstacles which will impede the relationship to move forward especially on how much Nawaz Sharif is able to deliver on terrorism. He still has to battle with the religious right constituency within the country. Jamaat-ud-Dawa Chief Hafeez Saeed was overtly critical of Sharif’s decision to go to India and questioned his commitment to the Kashmir cause. Sharif’s own manoeuvrability with regard to such elements is in question given the fact that Pakistan’s Punjab province government has over the last few years been allocating considerable funds in their annual budget for the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Before Sharif’s visit, Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Liaqat Baloch while speaking to hardliners in Lahore, warned against any hastiness and said: “These Hindus are not anyone’s friends.”

Even while the army in recent years has articulated that the number one security threat to Pakistan lies within, they have not stopped looking at India as an enemy state. Speaking during a ceremony to mark Martyrs Day at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi recently, the Army Chief Raheel Sharif referred to Kashmir as the jugular vein of Pakistan and called the issue an international dispute. Pakistan continues to target Indian interests in Afghanistan as is evident by the most recent attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, which President Karzai attributed to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is worried that the withdrawal of US troops may give India space to expand its influence in Afghanistan which remains inimical to Pakistan’s interests. There remain in Pakistan many players making normalisation of ties between the two countries difficult. At the same time the complexities in the domestic security situation give little room for manoeuvre. Maulana Fazlullah, the head of the TTP in a video released recently asked the Pakistani government and the military to surrender to “Allah’s writ” and stated that fighting would continue till Islamic law was enforced throughout the country. This reiteration comes at a time when there is infighting in the Mehsud tribe which is complicating efforts by the Pakistani government to continue with peace talks. While some commanders favour talks, others do not, and divisions have been created within the ranks of the TTP over leadership issues.

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was careful not to publicly bring up the Kashmir issue in his statement to the media after the talks, it does not necessarily portend any change in policy. Abdul Basit Khan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India recently suggested doing away with pre-conditions for talks, and holding discussions on Kashmir as per the composite dialogue. While atmospherics have taken the talks forward the strategic intentions of the Pakistani establishment remain suspect. It remains to be seen whether Nawaz Sharif will be able to cash in on the conciliatory gesture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and assert his own priority of improving relations with India vis-a-vis the hostile elements within his country.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal