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Saturday, 26 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 Jul 2014

26/11 trial delay: India summons Pak diplomat
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 25
India today lodged a protest with Pakistan over the repeated adjournments and prolonged delay in taking the Mumbai terror attack case trial to its logical conclusion.

Rudrendra Tandon, Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, summoned Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner Mansoor A Khan to the foreign office and told him that New Delhi attached the highest importance to bringing to justice those responsible in Pakistan for the terror attack in the metropolis on November 26, 2008, in which 166 people were killed. A similar protest was lodged by India’s Deputy High Commissioner Gopal Baglay with Rifat Masood, Director General (South Asia) in the Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad.

It is learnt that the Indian side sought regular briefings by Islamabad on the progress of the trial and the investigations being conducted by the Pakistani authorities. This is perhaps the first time that New Delhi has sought regular briefings on the trial.

New Delhi’s protest came after a Pakistani anti-terrorism court trying the seven accused in the case adjourned the hearing on Wednesday for the seventh time in a row. The last two hearings in the trial could not take place as the presiding judge was on leave.
War or peace, Army has learnt its tough lessons
Azhar Qadri

Dras (Kargil), July 25
At the icy height of 10,760 ft, Dras welcomes its few visitors with a rusting, faded signboard: second coldest inhabited place in the world (temp: -60C on 09 Jan ’95). It is a place caught in a time warp which is slowly getting introduced to modern civilisation. The freezing winter, with mercury nose-diving to minus 45 degrees Celsius this year, is not the only highlight of “The Gateway to Ladakh”.
The Dras valley, which starts eastwards from the base of Zoji La and located 150 km from Srinagar city, was the epicentre of the 1999 Kargil war. Lost in the wilderness of its rugged surroundings , Dras is a tough place to live and a hard-to-imagine site of India's fourth war with Pakistan when a massive military mobilisation of infantry and artillery units snaked over an arduous mountainous track, crawling to an altitude of 11,649 feet to cross the Zoji La — a pass of blizzards.

The people here —believed to be of Central Asian ancestry who speak Balti and Dardi — live a simple life, which has remained unchanged with the changing times.

The fight is for survival, to live through a winter which cuts off this region from the entire world and restricts its residents to their thick-walled mud and stone houses.

The place is now witnessing the first glimpses of development. It has got macadam roads, a poor cellular network provided by only one service-provider and some slow speed Internet cafes frequented mostly by tourists.

Dras has become a transit point for bikers on way to Leh and its handful of motels and eateries serve visitors very basic cuisines.

There’s a tourist reception centre with no one at the counter. The only noticeable feature in the town is a signpost which points towards Tiger Hill, the famed souvenir of Kargil war, and eight minarets of four mosques.

Nearly 12 km from Dras town is Mushkoh - a narrow valley of wild yellow flowers with a strong enchanting fragrance. Mushkoh valley, also a battle site during the 1999 war, is less than a km wide and nearly 20 km long before the road ends at a forward artillery camp and becomes a no-go zone for civilians.

Pak’s attempt to ‘do a Siachen’ on India

In the summer of 1999, when the snow had started to melt throwing open the Zoji La, mountainous tracks and a few roads, including the highway to Leh district, an army patrol which was dispatched towards a remote post in Kaksar sector of Kargil district went missing. Soon, the extent of the Pakistani intrusion was revealed and it resulted into the outbreak of the Kargil war.

It was Pakistan’s attempt to “do a Siachen” on India by severing the link between Kashmir and Ladakh and forcing a withdrawal from Siachen. India had in 1984 with Operation Meghdhoot wrested control of the glacier.

Pakistan had code-named the intrusion by its paramilitary Northern Light Infantry and irregulars into sub-sectors of Kargil district as Operation Badr while India code-named its offensive to retake its lost posts and prestige as Operation Vijay.

An intense combat erupted in the high altitude mountainous terrain posing tactical and logistical problem for the Indian Army, which had launched its operations from “a position of distinct disadvantage”. The war, however, ended with the defeat for Pakistan on all fronts: military as well as diplomatic.

Fighting a new battle

In a parallel world within Dras exists a disciplined and rigorous life of soldiers, who have to acclimatise on several stages before getting stationed on their bases and forward posts. The altitude acclimatisation is the process of allowing the body to get adjusted to low oxygen levels.

The soldiers are stationed everywhere in Dras and up to Kargil and further ahead to Batalik to prevent a repeat of 1999, when they had abandoned some forward posts during winter to find them occupied by Pakistani soldiers and irregulars in the summer.

Stationed round-the-year on the frozen frontier, the soldiers have to fight extreme weather and inhospitable terrain.

“The (major) challenge is surviving and performing in minus 30 to 40 (degrees Celsius),” said a young artillery officer from central India, where winters are hotter than the summers of Dras.

Better preparedness

In the years of consolidation that have followed the Kargil war, when there was little infrastructure available to support the large deployment of troops, the Army has enhanced its operational capability in the entire area.

“We are now better prepared in terms of our surveillance and firepower capabilities. We are better prepared in our training, habitat and reaction capabilities. To sum it all, we have progressed a lot since 1999 and are ready to face any eventuality,” Brigadier Gurbir Pal Singh, a Special Forces officer who is commanding the 56 (Dras) Brigade, told The Tribune.

The Army has acquired terrain and task specific weapons and material to meet its “operational requirements” and enhanced the training manual of its soldiers.

“A soldier is trained in mountain craft and ice craft. He also gets some special and advanced skills training, primarily to meet all operational requirements which we foresee or which he needs for deployment in this area,” the Brigadier said.

After the Kargil war ended, soldiers have remained housed in the forward posts – located at steep ridges of mountains where they face freezing cold, blizzards and a lengthy winter - with no physical linkup with their bases and no contact with the world. The ration and ammunition remains stocked in these posts to survive up to nine months - six months of routine winter and nine in case of a worst case scenario of a more lengthy winter or the outbreak of violent hostilities.

“Last winter was severe in terms of the heavy snowfall, but because of our preparedness things went off well. We are preparing for the next winter now,” said the Brigadier.

Modernise infantry

As part of the measures to prevent a recurrence of 1999 intrusion, the Army has deployed two divisions - 8 Mountain and 3 Infantry - in Kargil region and raised a new “task and terrain specific” Corps to look after the entire Ladakh region. The two divisions, constituting an approximate number of 30,000-35,000 troops and officers, guard the LoC in Kargil forming a multi-tier defensive grid which can be optimised into offensive formation in case of a need – another war.

The Army has also positioned artillery batteries along the LoC at camps located strategically in the shade of mountains — a natural wall of protection from any incoming fire. It has also done massive acquisition of equipment meant for intelligence gathering and operational requirements, the two lacunas that led to the
1999 intrusion.

The new armoury of intelligence and operational machinery, brought in after the 1999 war, includes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, motion sensors, medium and heavy range artillery guns, night vision devices, and special clothing in which a soldier can survive the deadly winters.

Lt Gen (retired) BS Jaswal, who was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Army’s Northern Command from October 2009 to December 2010, told The Tribune that more needs to be done to modernise the infantry.

“We have progressed quite a bit (after Kargil war), but the procedures are so bureaucratic that to induct any equipment it takes at least three years. By the time we get the new equipment, it becomes obsolete,” he said.

“There is an urgent need to modernise the infantry and equip it as per the requirement. We must simplify procedures. We want something, we must get it, and that, too, fast,” he said.

‘Truce is temporary here’

Somewhere along the highway between Kaksar and Kargil, river Shingu meanders gushingly to north towards Pakistan. A dirt path, 45 minutes of wobbling drive from this bend, ends at an Indian forward post where Pakistani troops are stationed in their bunkers 50 meters away.

The details about the exact location and layout are embargoed and so is any reference to the insignia of the infantry company that is stationed at this post complex and the faces and voices of soldiers and officers here.

The posts here are the highlight of six-decades of hostility between India and Pakistan as the two armies face each other in an eye-ball to eye-ball position, along the ridgelines of two mountains that meet at the base. The Army captured this point during 1971 war when they were advancing towards Olthing Thang village and had to stop here after the two countries agreed to ceasefire after the fall of Dhaka.

In many ways, this post is the close up of the enmity between India and Pakistan. The drive to the post complex, where only authorised personnel are allowed, is a tiring journey. A terse note is written on the first of several sentry posts which is a warning that has become a part of life of this place: “Post ## is on the LoC (Line of Control) and not on the IB (International Border), the ceasefire is temporary and situation may change at any point of time”.

Deceptive calm

At the LoC, the old Indo-Pak enmity appears more real. There is a ghost village behind the Pakistani posts and its houses are pockmarked with bullet holes, roofs shelled out with no sign of life around. An infantry officer told The Tribune that the Army had allowed to let the civilians live in this village across the LoC as a CBM - Confidence Building Measure. However, none appears to have agreed to settle down.

A deceptive calm prevails here. As a reminder to the continued existence of a war that never ended, Pakistani soldiers waved a red flag — an agreed sign of objection at anything unusual happening at the forward post following which the soldiers can open fire — when reporters were visiting this post. “It was a sign of disapproval and a warning to open fire,” a Captain said.

The two armies also intercept each other’s communication on the frontier posts. "We hear them talking sometimes that someone is ill and send medicines immediately. Being in the Army you can figure out that they are talking in codes," the officer said.

The Army has also built a tunnel, with an elaborate network of ammunition bays, bunkers for rest and machine gun pickets, at this forward post which currently serves defensive purpose. In case the hostilities turn violent, the infantry officer said, the tunnel can be instantly switched to an offensive mode.

The lost people

Away from the military installations that dot the landscape of Kargil district, lives a population caught in the quagmire of time and space. Mohammad Hussain and his wife Zahra fled from their village Goshan to a safer Kargil town in 1999. “When we returned, much of the village was damaged, all the cattle had died,” Hussain, now in mid-sixties, told The Tribune.

Like many in Dras, Hussain and his family of six had escaped the horrors of the war before it unfolded in full fury and fire. But unlike others, the war would come to haunt this family again.

In 2003, a few months before Indian and Pakistani ceased trading fire and mortars along the LoC, a shell landed in Goshan, the village near Dras town. It killed Zakir, the 21-year-old son of Hussain.

“What can anger do now,” Zahra, Zakir’s mother, said on being asked if she felt angry at the tragedy.

The people here have resigned to their fate and occasionally complain about the four-hour power supply they get in the evening. Electricity and mobile phones are the most modern human inventions these people know. It takes a while for these people to think and list their grievances even as children walk several kilometres to school and men and women wait for hours to get a lift from one village to another, which may be separated by one, 10 or 20 km.

Fifteen years later, the young men of Dras have no memories of the war and the old vaguely remember it. In a place like this, memories of a war fade away faster as people are busy fighting a battle to survive in the hostile terrain. They, however, are thankful that no more shells land on their houses and disturb their lives.
7 IAF men die in UP copter crash
Sitapur (UP)/New Delhi, July 25
Seven IAF personnel, including two officers, were killed today when an advanced light helicopter (ALH) Dhruv helicopter, in which they were flying from Bareilly to Allahabad, crashed in Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh. The pilot of the chopper had given a ‘May Day call’ (emergency call) before the crash and lost radio and radar contact after that, IAF spokesperson said in Delhi.

The IAF aircraft had on board two pilots and five air warriors. There are no survivors, he said.

The chopper had taken off from Bareilly at 1553 hours and crashed around 1657 hours, the spokesman said.

The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry and teams have been rushed to the crash site in Sitapur.

A Wing Commander, Squadron Leader, Junior Warrant Officer, Sergeant and an LAC along with two Corporals were killed in the crash.

Sidhauli Sub Divisional Magistrate AK Srivastava said the chopper was engulfed in fire as it crashed in Manipurwa in Ataria area.

Sitapur District Magistrate JP Singh said the helicopter was heading towards Allahabad when it crashed.

Sitapur is nearly 160 km from Bareilly and over 90 km from Lucknow. — PTI
 China told to stop meddling in PoK: Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today informed Parliament that China had been asked to cease all activities in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Beijing had been told that cartographic expression of showing Arunachal Pradesh or parts of Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory were not correct.

Jaitley said the government paid “close attention” to Chinese activities in PoK. “The government has conveyed its concerns to China and has asked them to cease such activities,” he informed Parliament in a written reply on the issue of Chinese activities in PoK.

Jaitley said issues were discussed by the government at meetings with Chinese counterparts and "entire gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues were discussed”.

The presence of Chinese Army troops had been first witnessed in 2010 as there were reports of presence of about 11,000 Chinese troops in Jammu and Kashmir's Gilgit-Baltistan region held by Pakistan, but Beijing said there was no wrong-doing.

As of now, their number was estimated to be around 5,000 by the Indian Army. In 2011, New Delhi had conveyed its concerns to China over the presence of its troops in PoK and its activities in that region.

In May 2011, India’s leading strategic affairs think-tank, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) warned if the current pace of Chinese penetration was sustained, the Dragon may completely take over Gilgit-Baltistan (in PoK) by 2020.

On China having shown Arunachal Pradesh and parts of J&K as its own territory, Jaitley said: “The fact that Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir are integral and inalienable parts of India has been clearly conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level.”

China disputes the international boundary between India and China. In the Eastern Sector, China claims approximately 90,000 square kilometre of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh. Indian territory under the occupation of China in Jammu & Kashmir is approximately 38,000 square kilometre. Pakistan illegally ceded 5,180 square kilometres of Indian territory in PoK to China.
 Army Chief pays tribute to martyrs
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, July 25
Army Chief General Bikram Singh today said the force was fully capable of safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity as he visited Drass sector of Kargil district to pay homage to martyrs of the 1999 war.

The Army Chief was received by General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Army’s Northern Command Lieutenant General DS Hooda and General Officer Commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps Lieutenant General BS Negi.

Addressing mediapersons, General Singh said: “The present government is committed towards ensuring that aspirations of our soldiers are met.”

He said the Army was “fully capable of safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The visit was marked by a wreath laying ceremony at the Kargil War Memorial, built in the foothills of the Tololing hill which was the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the 1999 war, said a defence spokesman.

General Singh also interacted with the next of the kin of the slain soldiers, officers, war widows and gallantry award winners.

“The event and venue is of a special significance to the General who has not only been the Corps Commander of the Corps at Srinagar but was also the official spokesmen of the Army during the Kargil war,” the defence spokesman said.
The sacrifices of our brave soldiers must not go waste

Today marks the day when exactly 15 years ago the two-month-long Kargil war with Pakistan ended. The war was forced on India after surreptitious Pakistani Army intrusions on the Indian side of the Line of Control were first detected across a 160-km stretch in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir in early May 1999, taking the Army and intelligence agencies by surprise. The detection led to the Army and the Indian Air Force mounting a major uphill offensive to get the intrusions vacated. In the process, the Army lost over 500 soldiers with over 1,350 wounded.

The war was significant for a number of reasons. It occurred at a time when both countries had overtly declared themselves to be nuclear-weapon states and despite the two countries reaching a bilateral agreement aimed at confidence building barely three months earlier. It exposed the untrustworthiness of a military-dominated Pakistan and the dismal performance of the intelligence agencies. It exposed the carelessness of a section of the Army that was entrusted with guarding the frontiers. Then again, during the war, both the Army and the IAF were exposed for their lack of preparedness. Yet, the armed forces were equally quick to innovate and fight under the severely constraining directive of not crossing the Line of Control.

Today is a day to reflect. The nation must forever remain grateful to the young officers and soldiers under their command who braved all odds and launched what were virtually suicide missions to wrest control of India's lost territory and honour. Neither must we ever forget the lessons that the war has taught us. Alas, little seems to have changed on the ground. The armed forces continue to remain ill-equipped and ill-prepared and there has been little effective restructuring at the higher defence management level. There is much wisdom in the adage 'those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it'. Kargil was a serious wake-up call. It must always be remembered.
India expands defence wing in China

BEIJING: India has expanded the strength of its defence attaches in China by adding Navy and Air Force officials in addition to a senior officer from the Army to step up engagement between the armed forces of the two sides.

Captain Sushant Dam of the Indian Navy and Group Captain Ashish Srivastava of the Air Force took charge at the mission.

They will be in addition to Col. Iqbal Samyal from the Army who is the Defence attache at the Indian mission here.
50 soldiers died in Siachen in last 3 years: Govt
New Delhi: Fifty soldiers lost their lives in Siachen Glacier due to climatic conditions and avalanches in the last three years while 16 soldiers died while serving in UN peacekeeping operations during that period, Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.

In written replies, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said the government was aware of the "strategic importance" of Siachen Glacier and requisite forces have been deployed in that area on basis of the "threat perception, ground situation and other operational needs".

50 soldiers were killed in the last three years upto July 20 in Siachen Glacier owing to landslides, floods and avalanches and climatic conditions, he said.

Siachen was once the world's highest battlefield where Indian and Pakistani troops were constantly engaged in skirmishes till 2003 when ceasefire was declared.

India maintains more than 3,000 troops on the glacier where Indian posts have been built at altitudes upto 23,000 feet.

Jaitley said India has deployed 7,148 troops in UN peacekeeping operations. "16 troops have died there in the last three years."

The Indian contingents are deployed in Congo, Lebanon, South Sudan, Golan Heights, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Iraq, East Timor and New York. Six Indian soldiers were killed in Congo, two in Lebanon and eight in South Sudan.

To another query, the minister said the government has ordered a study into the stress level encountered by young officers of the Army and has also asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop methods to mitigate it.

"A lab of DRDO undertook a study on 'Factors Causing Distress among Young Officers of Indian Army' with objectives to study the level of distress prevailing among the young officers; the casual factors that create distress among young officers and deplete their resources to cope with it and to suggest remedial measures to manage stress among young officers," he said.

The minister said the report was submitted in April 2014 and the DRDO lab has already developed 'Suicide Risk Assessment Test' to identify at-risk personnel which has already been handed over to the Army.
No infiltration bid by militants in Poonch: Army
Army and police today said there has been no infiltration bid by heavily armed militants along the LoC in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.

"There was no infiltration bid by heavily armed militants or any ceasefire violation by Pak troops along LoC in Balakote belt yesterday or Turkundi before that," PRO (Defence), Lt Col Manish Mehta, said today.

Asked about media reports of infiltration bids, Mehta said, "They are totally wrong reports. We have already sent rebuttals."

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Rajouri-Poonch Range, A K Atri also said, "There is no such information in this regard.

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