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Saturday, 14 June 2014

From Today's Papers - 14 Jun 2014

Pak violates truce as Modi talks peace
Shelling in Poonch LoC calm a must for talks: India
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 13
Pakistani troops today violated ceasefire by targeting Indian posts along the LoC in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif promising to work with the latter in an atmosphere "free from confrontation and violence" to chart a new course in bilateral ties.
This is the first major ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops since the new government assumed office in Delhi last month. It came a day ahead of Defence Minister Arun Jaitley's visit to the state to review the security situation.

J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah later tweeted: "Significant ceasefire violation in Rajouri & Poonch with reports of some shells having landed in civilian areas." He wondered if it was just a coincidence that the ceasefire violation took place a day before Jaitley's visit.

Delhi made it clear to Islamabad that peace along the LoC was a pre-condition for normal relations between the two countries.

"Peace along the border is one of the most important confidence building measures (CBMs) between the two countries. That remains and will remain the case,'' Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters.

Reports received here said Pakistani troops fired 81-mm mortar shells and directed automatic and small arms fire at Indian posts along the LoC in the Mendhar-Bhimber Gali-Keri forward areas of Poonch district around 7.30 am. No casualty or damage has been reported on this side of the LoC due to the firing.

Indian troops guarding the border effectively replied with similar calibre weapons. Exchanges occurred in three forward areas.

In his letter to Sharif, Modi spoke about improving bilateral ties between India and Pakistan and also condemned the attack on the Karachi airport.

"I was particularly delighted and honoured by your participation in the swearing-in ceremony of the new government. Your presence and that of other leaders from our region not only added a special sheen to the event, but also a celebration of the strength of democracy in our region and a reflection of our collective hopes and shared destinies," the letter said.

Modi said he was also encouraged by discussions on bilateral relations and convergence in their views, especially that a relationship between India and Pakistan defined by peace, friendship and cooperation would unleash enormous opportunities for the youth, secure a prosperous future for the two and accelerate progress across the region. Modi said he looked forward to work closely with Sharif and his government in an atmosphere free from confrontation and violence in order to chart a new course in bilateral ties.

However, there was no mention of the revival of the stalled dialogue between the two countries, which was suspended in January last year following the beheading of an Indian soldier and the killing of another by Pakistani troops on the LoC. Islamabad has been pressing for the resumption of dialogue since then.
 Army Chief briefs PM on security preparedness
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 13
Army Chief General Bikram Singh and the military top brass today briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the needs and challenges India is facing along the Pakistan and China borders.

This was the Army Chief’s first substantial meeting with the PM that lasted nearly two hours. Besides the PM, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval were present at the briefing conducted in the Military Operations room at South Block here today. It is in this room that all military contingency plans are discussed.

Sources said the Army listed its priorities on equipment, infrastructure and explained why particular issues would need emergent attention and what all could form the short-term goals. The PM was briefed on operational readiness and challenges India could face on the western front and from China across the Himalayas. India’s assessment is that handling a two-front simultaneous war with Pakistan and China would be very tough.

The Army needs artillery guns, rifles for infantry need to be replaced, air defence system of Soviet Union-era is 30 years old, Army aviation helicopters of the Cheetah need immediate replacement.

Meets his predecessor VK Singh

Army Chief General Bikram Singh paid a courtesy visit to General VK Singh (retd), now Minister of State for North East affairs. The meeting lasted 25 minutes at VK Singh's office in Delhi and was part of the visit any Chief would pay to important ministers. General Bikram Singh had succeeded General VK Singh after the latter's term ended on an acrimonious note over his date of birth.
 Ahead of Jaitley’s J&K visit, Pak pounds forward posts
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, June 13
Just a day before Defence Minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir beginning tomorrow, the Pakistani Army today pounded Indian forward posts and half-a-dozen villages with mortar shells and automatic weapons on the north and south of Bhimber Gali (BG) sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch and Rajouri districts.

The gun fight then spread to Mendhar, Hamirpur and Gambhir forward areas along the LoC in the two border districts.

It was the first major ceasefire violation by Pakistan troops since the BJP-led NDA regime came to power in May. “Heavy shelling that started around 7 am soon spread to nearly 25-km stretch to the north and south of Bhimber Gali (BG). Most of the Indian posts gave a fitting reply to the unwarranted and unprovoked act of Pakistan Army,” said a senior Army officer.

Today’s incident comes a day after two “IED blasts” in Tarkundi area of Poonch district left a soldier dead and seven others, including a Major, wounded.

Since January 1, there have been 28 truce violations by the Pakistan Army on the LoC to the south of the Pir Panjal range, in the two districts. “Besides automatic weapons and small arms, Pakistan Army troops fired 81 mm mortars, a battalion level area weapon at our posts drawing a similar response from our troops. Some of their mortars might have exploded close to our forward villages,” he said.

However, there were no casualties or injuries to our troops or civilians, he added.

“Heavy shelling by Pakistan caused panic among the people at Rahallian, Lanjiote, Parote and Sandot villages in Mendhar and Balakote areas. There were reports of loss of cattle in some villages,” said an Intelligence source.

Source said in the retaliatory fire by Indian troops, two Pakistan soldiers, a woman and a child were injured in Nakyal sector of PoK opposite Tarkundi area, the place where two blasts had occurred yesterday killing an Indian jawan, besides injuring seven others, including a Major.
 Army to procure 9mm pistols for Infantry
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 13
After using the same pistol for decades, the Army is planning to procure a new sidearm for the troops. In a request for information issued a few days ago, the Directorate General of Infantry at Army Headquarters has invited global bids for a 9 mm pistol.

The handgun would be used as a secondary weapon both during conventional and sub-conventional operations.

While the quantity of pistols to be procured has not been disclosed so far, sources estimate that the Army’s requirement could be around 50,000 pieces.

In the Indian Army, pistols are primarily used by officers. Apart from Special Forces, the Military Police and a few select outfits, other ranks are not issued pistols with rifles and sub machine guns being their standard personal weapons.

The Army’’s intention of using it as a secondary weapon could imply that it may be revamping its tables of equipment and authorisation of personal weapons.

At present, the Army’’s primary sidearm is 9mm 1A semi-automatic pistol that is being licence manufactured by Ordnance Factory since 1977. This pistol has a magazine capacity of 13 rounds and a range of about 50 meters.

Nearly five years ago, the Army had started procurement of new pistols for Special Forces, replacing the 1A with Austrian Glock 17 and Swiss SIG P226 handguns.

The Army wants the new handguns to be lightweight, modular and have the ability to fix military grade add-on devices like silencer, laser aimer and tactical lights. The weapon should also have ambidextrous handling along with cocking and un-cocking functions, besides being ergonomic in usage, comfortable during carriage when inside the holster and smooth to draw from holster when bringing it into use for an operation.

50,000 pieces on shopping list

    While the quantity of pistols to be procured has not been disclosed so far, sources estimate that the Army's requirement could be around 50,000 pieces
    In the Indian Army, pistols are primarily used by officers. Apart from Special Forces, the Military Police and a few select outfits, other ranks are not issued pistols with rifles and sub machine guns being their standard personal weapons
    The Army''s intention of using it as a secondary weapon could imply that it may be revamping its tables of equipment and authorisation of personal weapons
 Maintain sanctity of LoC: Omar

Jammu, June 13
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said sanctity of the Line of Control (LoC) should be maintained at any cost.

Interacting with mediapersons here, the Chief Minister observed that ceasefire was one of the biggest confidence-building measures that has been given to people of the J&K by governments of both India and Pakistan.

“Ceasefire should be maintained for the peace in this region,” he said. — TNS
PM Narendra Modi to Witness Navy's Prowess Aboard INS Vikramaditya
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today embark on India's largest warship, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, in what will be his first defence outing.

The Prime Minister, who will travel for the first time outside Delhi since taking oath on May 26, will land in Goa around 10 am. On his arrival, Mr Modi will be received at INS Hansa (naval air station in Goa) by Navy Chief Admiral RK Dhowan and will be given a ceremonial guard of honour. He will then fly out to the 44,500-tonne aircraft carrier sailing off the Goa coast in the Arabian Sea along with other ships of the Western Naval fleet including the other aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

During his "day at seat" with the Western Naval Command fleet, Mr Modi will witness air power demonstration by various naval aircraft, including MiG 29K, Sea Harriers, P-8I long-range maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, TU 142M, IL 38 SD, Dorniers, Kamov and Sea King helicopters.

He will also watch high-speed manoeuvres by the western fleet ships, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, Delhi-class destroyers and Talwar-class frigates.

The PM will also witness take-off and arrestor wire landing operations and high-speed low-level operations of MiG 29K integral fighters on board the flight deck of INS Vikramaditya.

INS Vikramaditya, procured from Russia, is one of the newest acquisitions of the Indian Navy and the most powerful symbol of its military reach. It was commissioned last November by then defence minister AK Antony at Russia's Sevmash shipyard.

INS Vikramaditya has an overall length of 284 metres and a beam of 60 metres, stretching as much as three football fields put together. Standing about 20 storeys tall from keel to the highest point, the vessel has 22 decks.

With over 1,600 personnel on board, Vikramaditya is literally a floating city. Linked to the personnel on board is mammoth logistics requirement - nearly 100,000 eggs, 20,000 litres of milk and 16 tonnes of rice, to name just a few, per month.

The warship has the ability to carry 30 aircraft, including an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, and Dhruv and Chetak helicopters.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to Visit Jammu and Kashmir Today to Review Security Situation
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley will review the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir along with top Army commanders during his two-day visit to Srinagar starting on Saturday.

In his first visit to the state after taking over as Defence Minister, he is also expected to discuss the possibilities and ways of ensuring the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir valley.

He will be briefed about the militancy situation in the state by the Northern Army Commander and the three Corps Commanders under him looking after the security of the international borders, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, Defence Ministry officials said.

Army chief Gen Bikram Singh will be present on the occasion and he is likely to be accompanied by Army Chief- Designate Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag during the briefings, they said.

Mr Jaitley may also hold meetings with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the Governor.

The Kashmir valley has not witnessed any major incident of violence in the recent past but the Army terms the situation as "absence of violence" and is taking all possible steps to curb infiltration and violence there.

More Trouble for Army's Light Utility Chopper Deal

NEW DELHI: The Armed Forces’ bid to replenish its fast-depleting fleet of Chetak and Cheetah light utility helicopters is again getting into trouble, this time due to expiry of offers from two helicopter manufacturers in a Rs 500-crore tender for 197 choppers.

European consortium Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter) and Russia’s  Kamov are in the race for the contract that is not going to be restricted to the first lot of 197 choppers, of which the Army will get 133 and the Air Force 64.

According to sources in the Ministry of Defence, the commercial offers submitted by the two companies in 2008 are once again slated to expire by the end of this month.

The commercial offers from Airbus Helicopters, which changed its brand name from Eurocopter earlier this year, and Kamov have previously been extended half-a-dozen times since 2008.

The Airbus Helicopters have pitched its AS 550 C3 Fennec helicopter and Kamov its Ka-226T Sergei as their offering in the tender.

Interestingly, the present tender issued in 2008 is the second attempt to procure a suitable light utility helicopter to augment the already depleting fleet of 140 Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.

The Chetak and Cheetah, which are several decades old and have attained critical levels of obsolescence, carry supplies for military personnel posted in the inhospitable Siachen Glacier and unreachable spots in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.

The present tender, issued after the first one issued in 2003 was cancelled after Eurocopter was selected winner in 2007, after complaints over the discrepancies in the procurement procedure adopted at the winning firm’s end landed with then Defence Minister A K Antony.

This tender is now already stuck for two years over procedural delays. Last year, the procurement process got stalled for no fault of the two firms.

It was emerged in the middle of 2013 that Italian investigators probing allegations of corruption in defence major Finmeccanica stumbled upon a letter written by an arms middleman that a serving Indian Army Brigadier had sought a Rs 25-crore bribe from officials of its subsidiary AgustaWestland to ensure favourable results in the technical evaluation done on their helicopter on offer.

Though AgustaWestland got eliminated at the evaluation stage itself, the supposed allegation of bribery demand from a serving Army officer, who was part of the team that tested the helicopters, led to the Ministry of Defence under Antony putting the procurement process on hold and ordering a CBI probe into the matter.

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