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Sunday, 22 June 2014

From Today's Papers - 22 Jun 2014

China invokes Panchsheel for better ties with India

Beijing, June 21
Expressing its readiness to work with the new Indian government to promote bilateral ties, China today invoked Panchsheel to improve relations with neighbours to settle disputes peacefully while firmly holding on to its core interests.

“China is ready to work with the new government in India in promoting continued progress of China-India relations,” State Councillor Yang Jiechi said while speaking at the World Peace Forum organised by Tsinghua University.

Yang, who is also China’s Special Representative for Sino-India boundary dispute, is the highest ranking diplomat in Chinese hierarchy, placed higher than the Foreign Minister.

As the two countries along with Myanmar poised to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Panchsheel next week, Yang said Beijing will pursue ties with neighbours based on the five principles of peaceful co-existence as a guide.

“China is committed to deepening cooperation with others on the basis of five principles of coexistence,” he said, adding that Beijing actively champions and implements the five principles and enhance cooperation with ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation).

“Adhering to a neighborhood diplomacy concept featuring amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, China wants to cooperate with its neighbours,” he said.

“China is committed to settling disputes through peaceful means but is firm in upholding its sovereignty. We will not trade with our core interests or swallow the bitter fruit that undermines our sovereignty, security and development interests,” Yang said referring to China’s tensions with Japan and as well Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea.

The Panchsheel commemorative events will be held in Beijing on June 28 and 29 in which Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Myanmar President U Thein Sein and Chinese President Xi Jinping will take part. Ansari will begin his four-day visit to China on June 27. — PTI
 Navy to discuss assistance to island nations

New Delhi, June 21
Top Indian Navy Commanders will focus on increasing the engagement of the Navy with islands in the Indian Ocean, when they brainstorm over three days in the national capital.

The islands hold strategic value for India. The Naval Commanders Conference, a bi-annual event, will be held from June 24 to 26, late by almost two months as the Navy did not have a regular chief. The UPA government appointed Admiral Robin Dhowan as the Navy chief at the fag end of its tenure in April and the BJP government followed it up by appointing a new vice-chief and three Naval Commanders. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is scheduled to address and interact with senior commanders on June 24. — TNS
‘Dhanush’ Ready after Final Trials in Pokhran

NEW DELHI: After a three-decade long wait, the Army will soon get to add a 155-mm artillery gun, with the Ordnance Factory-built ‘Dhanush’ successfully clearing its final trials on Friday at Khetolai in Pokhran close to the border along Pakistan in Rajasthan’s desert.

Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, who is also in charge of the Ordnance Factory, was present when the final tests were carried out. Several senior Army officers from the headquarters presided over the trials, defence sources told Express.

Singh was briefed on the weapon at the test site. Now the gun will go through a set of summer trials at the Pokhran firing ranges.

‘Dhanush’ is the first made-in-India version of the Swedish Bofors gun, bought in the late 1980s.

The 45-calibre gun went through winter trials in the high altitudes of Sikkim last year.  The towed artillery gun is based on the design and manufacturing technology provided by Bofors in the late 1980s.

After Friday’s Pokhran trials, its makers will get the final clearance to manufacture the local, but improved version of the original 39-calibre Bofors gun and fill a critical gap in Army’s artillery inventory.

‘Dhanush’, with its electronic sighting and laying system for aiming at the target, is said to be a major improvement over the Bofors gun’s manual system.

More importantly, it is likely to be priced at `14 crore a piece, less than half the price of a similar gun made abroad. The Bofors gun has a maximum effective range of 27 km, but sources said ‘Dhanush’ can fire a salvo up to 38 km in the plains.

For more than 15 years, the Army’s plan to modernise its weapons has been mired in delays and allegations of corruption.

At least two foreign manufacturers of artillery guns have been blacklisted during the 10-year UPA regime, leaving not many firms with artillery guns production capability that could sell weapons to India. The Army needs more than 1,500 towed artillery guns at an estimated cost of over `10,000 crore, but not a single gun has been inducted since the alleged Bofors gun scam.

The Army has ordered 116 guns from the Defence Ministry-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and could increase the order to 416 pieces of artillery weapon in the future. “If the trials go smoothly, the factory plans to double its manufacturing capacity from the current 18 guns a year,” a source said.
Why the Iraqi army can't defeat ISIS
The math seems so simple. The Iraqi army has 250,000 troops; its enemies, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), somewhere around 7,000. The Iraqi army has tanks, planes, and American training. ISIS has never fielded a tank or a plane and its troops didn't get formal training from an advanced military. Yet ISIS is demolishing the Iraqi army on the battlefield, seizing a massive swath of the country's northwest. Why?

It comes down to two things: training and professionalism. ISIS learned how to fight, while the Iraqi army has long been a weak fighting force. All the weapons in the world won't matter if you don't know how to wield them. And ISIS's victories, not to mention the Iraqi army's repeated failures, tell you a lot about the country's larger crisis.
The Iraqi army has never been disciplined

In Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city, about 800 ISIS fighters invaded and sent 30,000 Iraqi army troops running. That's been portrayed as a sudden collapse of the Iraqi army, but that's not quite right. "The Iraqi army has been collapsing for months now," Yasser Abbas told me.

Abbas, originally from Baghdad, is an analyst at the private research and consulting firm Caerus Associates. Before that, he served as a linguist in for the military in Iraq from 2005 to 2009. "At the end of 2006, I was involved in training the Iraqi national police in Baghdad," he said. "The amount of corruption and under-training was [astounding] ... insubordination became widespread."
So, for Abbas, the military's collapse "didn't happen at once. It's been happening for a very long time." For instance, the governor of Mosul ordered the military units in the area to go to a particular town, and "the battalion commander said no, it was too dangerous." It's the same insubordination problem the army has had for years.

And even when they do fight, many units aren't all that effective. "They'll stand up with a PKM [machine gun] and blast off 250 rounds" says Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland. "What is that doing?"

This isn't true of all Iraqi units, some of which, particularly around Baghdad, are quite well-trained. But many of the ones in the northern, Sunni-held regions of Iraq where ISIS made such large gains were some of the worst.
How did the Iraqi army get this bad? One explanation is sectarianism: the Iraqi government is dominated by Shia Muslims, whereas ISIS and its allies are Sunnis. Perhaps Sunni soldiers in the mostly-Sunni northwest simply ran because they didn't want to fight for a Shia government.

There's some truth to this theory, but "it's been overblown," according to Abbas. Two other things stand out. First, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki significantly weakened the army. He replaced effective Sunni officers with Shia ones and well-trained generals with loyalists. As Slate's Joshua Keating explains quite well, this was an attempt to protect his own political position. A strong, independent army could launch a coup d'etat. An army filled with your cronies is safer.

But, as the decade-long history of Iraqi army failures suggest, it's not just about Maliki. Rather, it's that the modern Iraqi army simply has never been a particularly strong institution. From the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s to the Gulf War to the 2003 American-led invasion, Iraqi units have performed pretty poorly. When the US military tried to rebuild the Iraqi army essentially from scratch after disbanding it in 2003, it just didn't have a lot of raw material to work with.
ISIS advantages: training and experience

ISIS wasn't always strong enough to take real advantage of the Iraqi military's intrinsic weakness. "When the US fought ISIS in 2007, they were very weak," Abbas explained. "North of Baghdad, it took less than 24 hours for the whole organization to collapse in the face of a few soldiers and tribal militias."

But between 2007 and now, something changed. "When you like at the [ISIS] training videos from the mid 2000s, and compare them to ones from 2010, they're moving from terrorist tactics like how do you create an IED to things that include operations, strategy tactics," Nathaniel Rosenblatt, the head of Caerus' Middle East division, says.
Rosenblatt and Abbas say there's been an influx of skilled Saddam-era military leaders and soldiers into ISIS' ranks. "When you look at some of the reports about the leadership under [ISIS commander Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi," Rosenblatt said,  "those second-in-command guys have very strong ties to Saddam's army." Acquiring lots of weapons, money, and experience over the course of the Syrian war allowed them to translate that new training into real military effectiveness.

It's hard to overstate how much of advantage this training and professionalism gives the Islamist group. "ISIS knows how to use smaller units" effectively against larger forces, says Smyth. They're "very efficient, and you have to deal with that."

This matters greatly. An undisciplined force, one whose movements aren't well coordinated or can't deploy proper tactics for taking city blocks, can be beaten by a much smaller opponent that knows what it's doing.
Superior training and motivation can also give defenders an extra edge. Smyth points to the World War II Battle of Wake Island as an example, where US troops held off a much larger Japanese force by digging in and creatively using their environment and dwindling resources. The Iraqi army has had a similarly tough time making progress in ISIS-held territory.

This leaves the conflict locked in a violent stasis. The Iraqi army will press ISIS-held territory, and possibly push them back on the margins, but it isn't strong enough to roll back ISIS all the way. "Bottom line: I think ISIS will be able to hold Mosul for some time," Rosenblatt says. "Unless Maliki is really pushed, I don't think he's going to be able to march all the way to Mosul with a Shia force. The political aspects are too sensitive."

Meanwhile, ISIS doesn't have the strength to challenge the more effective Iraqi army units defending Baghdad and the other largely Shia areas.  "Technically, they do [want to take Baghdad]," Smyth says. "But I don't think they're stupid. They won't jump into the open jaws of the crocodile."
Three things could transform the conflict

There are three critical factors that could break this bloody status quo.

First, a collapse in ISIS' popular support. ISIS has a long history of brutal treatment of civilians, and every analyst I spoke to agreed that a loss in Sunni civilian support would be a back-breaker for ISIS. "Insurgencies can make do with passive support from the bulk of the population, but if an ideology is too radical, it risks sparking a backlash," said Jason Lyall, an expert on counterinsurgency at Yale University. "Given the size of the outflow of people from Mosul, it is apparent that ISIS' ideology may find little support among the civilian populace."
Second, either side's allies could alter the military balance dramatically. ISIS fights with a broad range of Islamist, tribal, and Saddam-loyalist groups; if those groups turn on ISIS, which they very well might, it could break the group's hold on the territory.

On the flip side, the Iraqi army is backed by Iran and several Shia militias. It's also recruited thousands of Shia volunteers — about 200,000, by All Iraq News Agency's count — for impromptu anti-ISIS militias. According to Abbas, this "massive Shia recruitment" could potentially shift the balance of power dramatically.
Third, an unexpected military intervention by a third party. The semi-autonomous Kurdish area in northwest Iraq is adjacent to ISIS' stronghold. Their powerful military, which has already had small clashes with ISIS-aligned forces, could challenge ISIS. And who knows what effect large-scale a American air campaign against ISIS would have on the balance of power.

You may have noticed that all three of these scenarios trend badly for ISIS. That's true, and it's because ISIS has put itself in a precarious political position. It doesn't have any real reliable friends, and it's challenging a government that represents the Iraqi religious majority that also has backing from the United States and Iran.

But it's far, far too early to count ISIS out on the basis of hypothetical scenarios. Their military record in Iraq proves that they can outperform expectations.
Army demotes Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair two ranks for sexual misconduct
The Army has demoted Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair two levels in rank for sexual misconduct following his guilty pleas at a court-martial earlier this year, the Army secretary announced Friday.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Sinclair, once a rising star in the Army, will be forced to retire as a lieutenant colonel. Sinclair, who pleaded guilty to adultery, improper relationships with female officers and other crimes, was fined $20,000 at his court-martial in March but avoided jail.

In tumultuous proceedings at Ft. Bragg, N.C., that embarrassed both Sinclair and the Army, the general admitted an illegal three-year affair with a junior female officer and engaging in inappropriate relationships with two others. He also pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming an officer, possessing pornography, and misusing a government charge card.

The 27-year veteran of five combat tours had faced up to life in prison if convicted of the original charges against him.
Sinclair was allowed to retire and retain benefits, rather than being dismissed from the service for his behavior.

McHugh said it was the first time in a decade that the Army has reduced a retiring general officer two ranks. The demotion will slash Sinclair’s retirement pay.

"Sinclair displayed a pattern of inappropriate and at times illegal behavior both while serving as a brigadier general and a colonel," McHugh said in a statement. "I therefore decided there was sufficient evidence and cause to deny him those benefits."
McHugh said he was prevented by law from taking further action and did what was "legally sustainable."

McHugh noted that Sinclair, 51, was entitled to a pension despite being convicted of crimes. He suggest that Congress consider changing the law "to allow greater flexibility and accountability."

The government's case against Sinclair was undercut by allegations that Sinclair’s accuser, an Army captain, had lied on the stand. And the military judge concluded that the case may have been tainted by political considerations.
Under terms of a plea deal, the government dropped charges that Sinclair threatened to kill his lover and her family if she reported the affair; forced her to perform oral sex; and engaged in "open and notorious" sex with the captain.

In a statement Friday, Sinclair’s civilian lawyer, Richard Scheff, said that until Sinclair retires in several weeks, he remains a one-star general. He said Sinclair has taken responsibility for his mistakes and agreed to a reduction in retirement benefits.

"He is a highly decorated war hero ... and it’s right that he be permitted to retire honorably," Scheff said.  "Other senior military leaders who committed the same indiscretions, and worse, have faced far fewer consequences."

Sinclair’s sentencing in March was criticized as too lenient by some members of Congress and by advocacy groups that have accused the military of protecting senior commanders accused of sexual misconduct.

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