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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 16 Jul 2014

 India protested airspace violation by China: Jaitley

New Delhi, July 15
The Narendra Modi-led NDA government had protested against violation of the Indian airspace in Uttarakhand by Chinese helicopters.

This was informed in the Rajya Sabha by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today. The minister said two Chinese helicopters transgressed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 30 and June 13 this year in Uttarakhand.

“Protests were lodged regarding the transgressions with China during the Flag Meetings on May 5 and June 23,” Jaitley told the House. India and China have three Flag Meeting points at Spanggur Gap (Ladakh), Nathu La (Sikkim) and Bum La (Arunachal Pradesh).

The information was tabled in the House when in Brazil, PM Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed various issues, including the need to resolve boundary issues in an amicable manner. — TNS
CBI chargesheets Lt Gen Tejinder Singh
New Delhi, July 15
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today filed a chargesheet against Lt General Tejinder Singh (retd) for allegedly offering Rs 14 crore in bribe to the then Army Chief VK Singh in connection with the Tatra truck deal.

The chargesheet filed under Section 12 (offering bribe to a public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act named the retired Lieutenant General for having allegedly offered the bribe on behalf of Tatra trucks suppliers who provided the all-terrain vehicles to the Indian Army. A spokesperson for the CBI said the investigation agency filed a chargesheet today against a retired Lieutenant General in the court of Special Judge, Patiala House Courts, after conducting a thorough investigation.

Sources in the CBI said the chargesheet was based on circumstantial evidence, which includes Tejinder Singh’s meeting with the then Army Chief and putting on hold the order for supply of trucks from Tatra.

Expressing surprise over the move, Tejinder Singh said media reports last year suggested no proof was found in the case and that it was heading for a closure. These reports were obviously based from information from the CBI, he claimed.

“My interaction with the agency clearly indicated that there was no credible evidence in the case. Now with the change of the government, there seems to be a change of heart in the probe agency and therefore, the filing of chargesheet is abuse of power by the people concerned and politically motivated,” he said. — PTI
Army not to vacate Agra Fort after all?
AGRA: The ASI's effort to get the Army out of the Agra Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site, has hit a roadblock with the defence ministry putting forth a counter proposal, seeking to know how military personnel living in the monument's premises can facilitate tourist visits.

Citizens' groups, which have been demanding the Army's vacation from the fort, have denounced the defence ministry's move and said due to the presence of troops within its premises, several norms for its conservation are being violated.

Secretary of ministry of culture and tourism, Ravindra Singh, said, "We had requested the defence ministry to hand over the fort to ASI, but we received a counter proposal from them. Now, the ASI has been asked to conduct a study and we will wait for the report before deciding the further course of action."

When reminded that the defence ministry had earlier agreed to hand over a portion of the Fort, not in use by the Army, to ASI, Singh said, "Union minister of state for culture and tourism Shripad Naik will take up the matter with his counterpart in the defence ministry about areas of the fort which can be vacated by the army."

The Archaeological Survey of India and various citizen groups of Agra have been demanding that the army give up its occupation of the Agra Fort, similar to how Delhi's Red Fort was vacated in 2003.

K C Jain, secretary of Agra development foundation, said, "How will Army help tourists? Their presence is coming in the way of the fort's conservation work. This is just an eyewash and a move to scuttle any efforts to move them out. We will continue with our demand for full vacation of the fort."

He said the Agra Fort was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO, but due to the presence of troops in its premises, several norms for its conservation are being violated. "Diesel vehicles of the armed forces enter the occupied area of the fort and the military personnel cook their food and have their toilet facilities in the premises. All these activities are contrary to the norms to be followed for protected monuments," he claimed.

The fort is spread over an area of about 94 acres and over 20 protected monuments are situated in its premises. British troops were stationed there and the Indian Army took over after independence.
Chinese choppers entered India twice in recent months
 Chinese choppers entered Indian territory in Uttarakhand twice in April and June, due to "differing perception of the LAC", Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said Tuesday.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said a protest was lodged with the Chinese side by the Indian Army.

"Two Chinese helicopters transgressed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on April 30 and June 13, 2014, in Uttarakhand," Jaitley told the house.

"Due to differing perception of the LAC by both India and China, transgressions do occur," he said.

The minister added such issues are taken up with the Chinese army at different platforms.

"Incidents of such transgressions are taken up with the Chinese side through established mechanisms such as flag meetings, border personnel meetings and normal diplomatic channels like Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, etc.," he said.

"Protests were lodged regarding the above transgressions with the Chinese side in the flag meetings held May 5 and June 23, 2014, respectively," he said.

The LAC is a demarcation line that separates Indian-ruled lands from Chinese-held territory. It is the effective border between the two countries.
Iraq army launches Tikrit offensive, politicians elect speaker
BAGHDAD: Iraq's army and Shia militia forces launched an assault on Tuesday to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamist militants as parliamentarians in Baghdad prepared to vote for a new speaker, a possible step towards breaking months of political deadlock.

The defence ministry said ground troops backed by air support began their offensive at dawn against insurgents, led by the al-Qaida offshoot the Islamic State, who have held Tikrit since mid-June.

If the army and its militia allies retake Tikrit, hometown of Saddam Hussein, it would be the first insurgent-held city to switch back to government control since Iraq's latest crisis erupted last month.

The offensive took place as Iraq's deeply divided parliament met for a third session aimed at forming a new government to tackle the insurgency, three months after the country held a parliamentary election.

Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose State of Law group is the largest individual bloc in parliament, is seeking a third term but faces opposition from Sunnis and Kurds who say he has ruled for the Shia majority at the expense of minority communities. Even rival Shia parties want to unseat him.

Acting speaker Mehdi al-Hafidh called on deputies to cast their votes for a new speaker, the first of three leadership posts which need to be decided. Moderate Sunni Islamist politician Salim Jabouri is front runner for the speaker's role.

The other posts to be decided are the presidency followed by the prime minister, but it was not immediately clear whether the planned vote for a new speaker was part of a wider deal to break the prolonged deadlock.

The political impasse has been given added urgency by the Islamist-led insurgency which swept through Sunni provinces of northern Iraq last month, encouraging Maliki's opponents to try to force his departure.

Army and militia

Sunni grievances against Maliki have helped the insurgency win support in the predominantly Sunni provinces to the north and west of Baghdad where the Islamic State and other militant groups have taken over.

Government forces retreated when Sunni insurgents overran Mosul on June 10 and swept south to seize Tikrit, 100 miles (160 km) north of Baghdad, two days later. The city is a stronghold of Saddam loyalists and ex-army officers who joined forces with the Islamic State assault.

An officer taking part in Tuesday's attack said uniformed volunteer fighters and militia forces, including the Shia Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, were fighting alongside the army, but following orders from their own militia and volunteer commanders.

The assault was launched from the village of Awja, some 8 km (5 miles) south of the city. The army retook Awja, the birthplace of Saddam, on the night of July 3, and has been trying to push north since.

The initial fighting on Tuesday focused around the Shishin district of south Tikrit, the officer and another soldier said, adding that the army was also heading towards Saddam's former presidential palace compounds, where Islamic State fighters had held captives and run their Islamic court trials.

Soldiers were also fighting to take Tikrit hospital which lies on a strategic area of high ground in the city.

Across the Tigris River to the east, the army landed paratroopers in Albu Ajeel where Iraqiya state television said some of the insurgents had fled. One army officer in the fighting said they were surprised the resistance they experienced was less fierce than expected.
Futile secrecy
 The reasons given not to make public Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 Indo-China war weren’t convincing — not then, not even now

It is understandable that Arun Jaitley, BJP leader before the 2014 elections, was a different man from Arun Jaitley, the current Union defence minister. As BJP leader he had argued in his blog to make public the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 India-China war. At that time he was keen to prove that the 1962 war was Nehru’s folly. But as defence minister he seems to have realised that what the report contained was not merely “Nehru’s folly” but that of India, and it could seriously affect India-China relations at a time the two Asian giants are keen to move forward. Or, he must have felt that the ongoing and long drawn out border demarcation talks would be seriously affected if the report is made public. Of course, Jaitley would not be able to give the reasons for keeping the report under wraps for at least another 50 years because then he would be giving hints of what he is trying to keep a secret. He has to take shelter behind the “reasons of State”, that classic alibi for keeping State secrets.

The question, however, goes beyond the accepted norms of traditional diplomacy that governs relations between States. It is about truth, not in the romantic or moral sense, but in the historical sense. India-China relations would be placed on a better footing if the Brooks report is revealed because then it will be possible to know where the problem lies. If India had been wrong, then it would be beneficial for India to come to terms with its mistakes. A senior army officer was of the firm view that the mistakes that came to light in the K Subramaniam report on the Kargil conflict in 1999, could have been avoided if the Brooks report was made public. It seems to be the case that at least the top brass of the armed forces and some of the defence ministers are aware of the contents of the Brooks report, and the decision to withhold it from being made public is made on the assessment of the “sensitive” contents.

The fact is India has come to terms with its shortcomings, especially those shortcomings pertaining to national security and international relations. The Brooks report is about the operational aspects of the war, and it could be a withering exposure of the generals, of the intelligence staff, of then defence minister VK Krishna Menon and of Nehru. Many people forget that Nehru was under attack from the Congress Party in 1962 and he even faced the prospect of losing his job. The report can do no more harm to Nehru’s reputation than what had been done in 1962. He will remain a great leader in spite of his many failings. Jaitley’s refusal to make public the report then is not about protecting Nehru’s reputation. It must be concerning the Indian army, and the right-wing BJP is very sensitive about the army’s reputation because it equates national reputation with that of the army. India is a mature democracy and it will accept that the army is not infallible. The political class, including the BJP, must shed this adolescent admiration of the army.
Overhaul Defence Policy
There is a new government in power and there are expectations that it will be able to give India’s moribund defence policy a new direction. These hopes have been heightened by some of the right noises the prime minister and defence minister have been making since assuming office. The focus on defence in this year’s budget is a welcome change from the perfunctory increases in the allocations over the last several years. It underscores that this government remains committed to military modernisation which was losing traction under A K Antony, without doubt the worst defence minister India has ever had. The attempt to do away with anomalies in pensions to ex-servicemen under the One Rank One Pension policy and the announcement of the construction of a war memorial and a museum is heartening and should go a long way in assuaging the concerns of the community.

The increase in FDI cap to 49% from the present 29%, though welcome, is unlikely to be a game changer. It is a welcome first step but hopefully this will be complemented by other moves to make the defence PSUs in India more accountable. And ultimately, it all comes down to setting a strategic direction for Indian defence. That’s where the focus should be from now on. The prime minister can start by promptly appointing a full-time defence minister, allowing Arun Jaitley to focus solely on finance.

Traditionally, it’s the glamorous issue of resources that tends to hog the limelight. But the Indian defence sector suffers from some fundamental vulnerabilities and unless they are rectified, no amount of resources will make a difference. For a nation that has been one of the major defence spenders over the last few years, having embarked on an ambitious plan to modernise its largely Soviet-era arms since the late 1990s, and is acknowledged as the fourth-largest military power, it was striking when after the Mumbai terror attacks it came to light that one of the reasons why India did not dare use the military option vis-à-vis Pakistan was the reluctance of Indian Army’s leadership to go to war with an inadequate and obsolete arsenal. This lack of any credible military option against Pakistan has brought into sharp relief the fundamental weaknesses of Indian defence policy.

The then Indian prime minister had declared in his address to the nation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks that his government “will go after these individuals and organisations and make sure that every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price”. He also suggested he would “take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks” will not be tolerated and that “there will be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them”. By doing so, he raised the stakes without realising that he doesn’t have very strong cards to play. The nuclear aspect is important because it is part of the reason that elements within the Pakistani security establishment have become more adventurous. Realising India will be reluctant to escalate the conflict because of the threat of it reaching the nuclear level, sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence have pushed the envelope on the sub-conventional front, using terror groups to launch assaults on India. For India, it presents a structural conundrum: nuclear weapons have made a major conventional conflict with Pakistan unrealistic, yet it needs to find a way to launch limited military action against Pakistan without crossing the nuclear threshold. Nuclear weapons have allowed Pakistan to shield itself from full-scale Indian retaliation as well as to attract international attention on the disputes in the subcontinent.

The Kargil conflict of 1999 first exposed Indian vulnerabilities as Pakistan realised India doesn’t have the capability for quick and effective retribution. The then Indian Army Chief had famously commented that the forces would fight with whatever they had got underlining the frustration in the armed forces regarding their inability to procure the arms they needed. Only because the conflict remained largely confined to the 150km front of the Kargil sector did India manage to gain an upper hand by throwing the Pakistanis out of its side of the LoC. Then came the stand-off between the two armies across the LoC after the Indian parliament was attacked in 2001 and again India lacked the ability to impose any significant cost on Pakistan quickly and decisively because of the unavailability of suitable weaponry and night vision equipment needed to carry out swift surgical strikes.

These crises forced the government to act and India saw a rise in its defence acquisitions briefly. Soon the old mindset took over and political compulsions overshadowed defence requirements. When the UPA came to power, it ordered investigations into several arms acquisition deals of the previous government. A series of procurement scandals since the late ’80s have also made the bureaucracy risk-averse, delaying acquisition. India’s defence expenditure as a percentage of the GDP had been declining and large part of the sum was being surrendered by the forces every year given their inability to spend due to labyrinthine bureaucratic procedures in the procurement process. Pakistan has rapidly acquired US technology over the past eight years under the garb of fighting the “war on terror” while the modernisation of the Indian army has slipped behind a decade.

Given the outcry after 26/11, the government did take some short-term measures. But the underlying vulnerabilities of the Indian defence policy remain. Unless effective institutions are put in place to impart long-term strategic thinking to defence and security issues, India will continue to face similar problems that it had in the past. It was hardly any surprise, thus, that after the terror attacks in Mumbai—as grave a national security failure as some of the previous crises like the Kargil fiasco—the Indian strategic elites returned to the same old debates about what kind of institutional reforms are needed to prevent such tragedies. Yet, consensus continues to elude India though as is the case after every crisis, some tinkering with the existing institutions and laws has been resorted to. Besides, the temptation after every crisis is to have new structures, if only to demonstrate that “action” is being taken, but the existing national security organisations remain under-funded and understaffed. It’s not clear if the new ones will be any more effective in the lack of an overarching institutional overhaul.

The Modi government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It should seize the moment and redefine the contours of Indian defence policy.

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