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Thursday, 17 July 2014

17 Jul 2014

BSF man dies as Pak violates truce
Tribune News Service
Jammu, July 16
In another ceasefire violation, Pakistani Rangers on Wednesday opened heavy fire at Indian border outposts along the International Border in the Arnia area of the RS Pura sector in Jammu district, killing a BSF jawan and leaving three other BSF personnel injured.

Four civilians were also injured in the firing. The condition of one of the injured BSF guard is stated to be critical. This was the first casualty of any BSF jawan in Pak firing along the International Border in the Jammu region since Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister on May 26 this year. On June 12, a soldier was killed and a Major among seven other troopers were injured in two IED blasts in the Tarkundi area along the LoC in Poonch district. The IEDs were planted by Pak Army in tandem with 'rogue elements'. Caught off-guard by Pak firing, farmers sowing paddy in the fields had to run for cover.

In a retaliatory fire, the BSF says it has either killed or seriously injured a Pak Ranger. “Trouble started around 11.30 am when constable Som Raj on an observation tower in the Arnia area was hit by a sniper shot from across the border, probably fired by the Rangers. He sustained injuries on his right shoulder,” BSF Jammu Frontier DIG Dharmender Pareekh said. When two other BSF personnel — ASI Madan Lal and constable Sanjay Dhar went to evacuate constable Som Raj, the Rangers again opened fire injuring Lal and Dhar, the DIG said. Dhar, who was hit in the stomach, later died at Government Medical College and Hospital here. He belonged to West Bengal. Condition of Som Raj is stated to be critical, the DIG said. “We retaliated effectively and in the exchange of gunfire, we either killed or seriously injured a Ranger as we did saw him falling and then being carried away by his colleagues,” he said.

In the exchange of fire that continued till 1 pm, another BSF jawan and four civilians, including three migrant labourers from Bihar, and a local were injured, he said. The DIG said the Rangers used small arms and HMG fire. “We gave them a calibrated response. The situation is tense and we are on an alert,” he said.

Soon after the skirmish, BSF’s Jammu Frontier IG SS Tomar along with Pareekh and other senior officers rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Pak firing comes a day after the two sides held a flag meeting at the Chamliyal border outpost in the Ramgarh area of the Samba sector yesterday to discuss removal of wild bushes along the Zero Line and adjoining areas to improve visibility during patrolling. This is the third ceasefire violation by Pakistan in July. An Intelligence source said: “Pak Rangers opened fire from their South Jarba and adjoining posts post on Pittal post of the BSF being manned by 192 battalion close to Pindi post around 11.15 am.” “There was a sudden burst of fire from across the border at 11.30 am and everything happened in a few seconds. My colleagues and I were hit,” said injured constable Som Raj (23).
Russia says no to technology transfer for Smerch rockets
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 16
The Army faces a peculiar situation in strengthening its offensive weaponry. While the Russians have backed out of providing technology transfer for rockets used in the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), the Finance Ministry has refused to import the same rockets.

As of now, the Army is left with Smerch rockets for less than half-a-day in a battle. The Smrech, an effective domination weapon, is tasked with the three Strike Corps - head quartered at Ambala, Mathura and Bhopal, respectively. The Army has 62 such launchers, which move in squadrons with Strike Crops and have the capacity to hit targets at 70-80 km away, allowing the Infantry and tanks to move forward in case of an assault. These rockets can neutralise enemy troop concentrations, command posts, artillery and missile locations.

Sources said Russia had expressed reservation to meet Indian conditions to indigenise the production of rockets, allowing the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to produce them here. In August 2012, an MoU was signed between the OFB and Russian companies — Rosoboronexport and Splav "SPA" to manufacture five versions of Smerch Rockets.

The Russian side has expressed reservations on allowing technology transfer. The worried Army moved a fresh case through the Ministry of Defence to import rockets. The Finance Ministry turned it down, saying that the original permission was given for local production and a fresh permission has to be sought for importing the rockets.

Sources said a fresh case had been taken up, but till then the Army had to wait for the rockets.

Each year, India displays the Smerch in the Republic Day parade to showcase its might. These have been acquired at a cost of Rs 2,600 crore. So far, rockets for the launchers are purchased from Russia.

India is so dependent on Russia that international think tank — the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)-— observed in its report in March 2014 that the major supplier of arms to India between 2009-13 was Russia — accounting for 75 per cent of Indian imports.
China makes two incursion attempts in Ladakh
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 16
The difference in perception of Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the absence of any delineation of the border results in face-offs between the armies of the two countries in cold desert.

Chinese troops reportedly made two incursion attempts in Demchok and the Chumar areas of Ladakh yesterday and on July 13 and were pushed back into their territory following the use of banner drill and other modes.

“We are not alarmed by these reported Chinese incursions. They are a sort of every day routine for us here in Ladakh in the absence of delineation of the LAC,” said a senior civil administration source.

“The border here in this vast region is not fenced like in the RS Pura sector of the Jammu region. The land is open and whenever Chinese troops enter our territory or our troops go into their territory because of difference in perception of the LAC, the situation is handled via banner drills,” he said.
Dealing with ‘expansionist’ China
Trade relations won't make China soften its border claims
G Parthasarathy
Addressing an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh on February 22, Mr Narendra Modi called on China to shed its “mindset of expansionism”. He averred: “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and will remain so. No power can snatch it from us. I swear in the name of this soil that I would never allow this state to disappear, break down, or bow down. China should shed its expansionist mindset and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both nations”. China made the predictable noises, with Prime Minister Li Keqiang congratulating Mr. Modi on his appointment and President Xi Jinping sending his Foreign Minister Wang Yi with a personal message of greetings.

Did these gestures signal any substantive change in China’s policies, either on its outrageous territorial claims on Arunachal Pradesh or the continuing intrusion of its troops across the Line of Actual Control? The answer is clearly in the negative. Just on the eve of Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the Middle Kingdom, China published yet another official map depicting Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. While the UPA government had claimed that new “mechanisms” had been agreed upon to curb cross-border intrusions, the intrusions continued.

Any talk of a more robust military response to Chinese adventurism is ill-advised. The NDA government has inherited a situation where our armed forces are inadequately equipped and lacking in numbers. It would take a minimum of five years before the armed forces are adequately equipped and manned to be able to present a more self-confident response to Chinese adventurism. New Delhi should, however, now reorient its diplomacy by taking note of the fact that Chinese assertiveness is directed not only against India, but also towards all its maritime neighbours with unilateral declarations on delineation of its maritime boundaries.

Just as China's claims on Arunachal Pradesh have no legal or historical basis, its claims on its maritime boundaries with all its maritime neighbours are in violation of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Seas. China has used force to seize disputed islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam and to explore for offshore oil and gas. Tensions with Japan are escalating because of China’s claims to Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan since 1894. China's unilateral declaration of an “Air Defence Identification Zone” beyond its borders has been rejected by South Korea and Japan. Its territorial claims on its maritime borders face challenges from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Yet another major source of concern is the Chinese policy of “strategic containment” of India, primarily based on enhancing Pakistan's nuclear weapons, missile, maritime, air power and army capabilities. This is an issue which India, rarely, if ever, highlights either bilaterally, or internationally. This policy of “strategic containment” through Pakistan has been reinforced by China's readiness to provide weapons and liberal economic assistance to all of India’s SAARC neighbours. Worse still, bending to Chinese pressure, India has periodically avoided joint military exercises with Japan and the US.

A measured response to Chinese “containment” will be for India to step up military cooperation with Vietnam, including the supply of Brahmos cruise missiles, which can enable Vietnam to counter Chinese maritime bullying. This would be an appropriate answer to China's unrestrained military relationship with Pakistan. Given the fact that Russia is a major arms supplier to Vietnam, President Putin’s concurrence can surely be obtained for such missile supplies to Vietnam. Russia has, after all, given its concurrence to China’s supply of Russian-designed advanced RD 93 fighter aircraft engines to Pakistan.

Will growing trade relations with China soften its border claims, or its “strategic containment” of India? Bilateral trade with China today amounts to around $66 billion, with India facing a growing trade deficit, currently of around $29 billion. China’s annual bilateral trade with Japan amounts to $314 billion and that with South Korea $235 billion. China is also the largest trade and investment partner of Vietnam. Both Japan and South Korea have substantial investment ties with China. Despite this, China has remained unyielding in its territorial claims on these countries. It has not hesitated to use force and threatened to cut its investment ties with Vietnam after recent tensions. To believe that China will embark on a path of reason on border issues because it sells a few bullet trains and invests in infrastructure in India would be, to put it mildly, na├»ve. On the contrary, India needs to ensure that unrestricted, duty-free access to Chinese products in areas like energy and electronics, does not adversely affect indigenous development and production, or undermine energy, communications and cyber security.

While dialogue and economic cooperation and interaction with China in forums like BRICS and G20 are mutually beneficial, we should review our approach to border issues with China. China has no intention of exchanging maps specifying its definition of the Line of Actual Control, either in Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh. India should now insist that the border issue has to be resolved in accordance with the “guiding principles” agreed to in 2005. The boundary has to be along “well defined and easily identifiable natural geographic features”. Secondly, any border settlement should "safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas".

Proceeding according to these “guiding principles” enables India to reinforce its claims that the border lies along the Karakoram Range in Ladakh and McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh. Given China’s agreement to safeguard the “interests of settled populations,” its claims to Arunachal Pradesh are untenable. Moreover, with the Dalai Lama now clarifying he no longer seeks an independent Tibet, India should not hesitate to state that it hopes the Tibetan issue is settled in accordance with the 17-point 1951 agreement between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama. This agreement acknowledges Chinese “sovereignty” in Tibet, while respecting the freedom of religion and the “established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama”.
Faster green nod for Army infrastructure close to China border
NEW DELHI: After giving green approval to all road projects within 100 km of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the India-China border, the government has decided to grant similar clearance to other strategic infrastructure including Army stations and ammunition depots in the area. All these projects are crucial for troop movements and related activities near the border.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said this on Tuesday while announcing other key decisions of his ministry which will fast-track road construction and laying of electricity lines in Naxal-affected areas.

Many road projects have been pending in 117 Maoist-affected districts due to denial of permission to divert forest land beyond five hectares. State authorities will now be able to divert more forest land for "two lane public roads", irrespective of the area of forest land involved in such projects.

The approval for diversion of forest land for transmission lines will allow power companies to install lines up to the capacity of 1200 KV without getting into the nitty-gritty of the Forest (Conservation) Act. At present, power companies can set up transmission lines only up to 220 KV.

Both decisions will be beneficial for seven Naxal-affected states including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Referring to his ministry's earlier decision for border road projects along Indo-China border, Javadekar said, "Grant of similar general approval for diversion of forest land required for setting up of Army stations, ammunition depots, training centers and other support infrastructure within 100 km aerial distance from the LAC is also under consideration."

Such infrastructure also include schools, hospitals and residential quarters for defence personnel.

Though the minister did not disclose details of other projects, he emphasized that the decisions would address "the security and strategic interests of the nation". He also referred to the massive development activities on infrastructural front across the border.

The 'general' approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is a kind of 'advance' approval, allowing the defence ministry to go ahead with such projects without approaching the environment ministry.

"The defence ministry can go ahead after getting basic ground clearance from the respective state governments under the general approval", said an official, adding the move will fast-track those projects along the 4,057 km LAC with China.

China has at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which makes it possible for it to swiftly move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC.

As far as fast-tracking road projects are concerned, the ministry has extended the provision of diversion forest land for construction of all categories of public roads in 117 Maoist-affected districts beyond existing five hectares. The move will allow construction of two lane public roads in these districts, irrespective of the area of forest land involved in such projects.

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