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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

From Today's Papers - 26 Aug 2014

3 hurt as Pak pounds 40 Indian posts
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Ramgarh/RS Pura, August 25
At least three civilians were injured, one of them critically, and another injured as Pakistan dragged Kanachak and Ramgarh sub-sectors in the bloody gunbattle, pounding 40 Indian posts and nearly 30 villages in RS Pura, Arnia, Kanachak and Ramgarh sub-sectors overnight on the 198-km international border.

The spate of skirmishes between BSF and Rangers, which started around 10 pm Sunday night, lasted till 7 am today.

“Pakistan overnight shelled 40 Indian posts with long-range high trajectory area weapons in RS Pura, Arnia, Kanachak and Ramgarh sectors of Jammu and Samba districts,” said a senior BSF officer. They resorted to heavy mortar shelling and the HMG fire in Arnia, RS Pura, Kanachak and Ramgarh sub-sectors. The BSF initially exercised restraint but then retaliated firmly, he added.

The officer quoted Pakistan media reports claiming that a man was injured seriously and 65 houses were either destroyed or damaged in BSF’s retaliatory fire.

Three injured Indian villagers have been identified as Roshan Lal (46) and Usha Devi (30) of Flora village in RS Pura and Omkar Chand (35) of Kathar Village in Arnia.

One buffalo was killed while another injured in Trewa Village in Arnia. Recounting horror unleashed by Pakistan last night, Roshan Lal’s elder brother Saudagar Mal said, “It was for the first time that our village, which is two kms from Zero Line, was targeted by Pakistan. Around 15 mortars of 82 mm were rained on this village. One exploded on our house, seriously injuring my brother and killing a buffalo.”

Jasvir Singh of same village said that nobody from the administration alerted them to shift to safer areas.

“My house, which is at the other end of the village, also came under attack for the first time. Two heavy mortars exploded near my shops and in my field. My house is situated three kms from Roshan’s house from where Zero Line is two kms. So, it is clear that Pakistan has started using long-range heavy mortars,” he said.

On Saturday, two persons — a man and his minor son -— were killed and five others, including a BSF jawan, were injured in Pakistan shelling. Duing the present flare up since July 16, Pakistan, for the first time, has dragged Kanachak and Ramgarh sub-sectors.

“Though there were no civilian casualties or injuries, Pakistan opened heavy fire on the 15-km stretch of the Kanachak sub-sector, drawing BSF into an exchange of fire. They started fire around 11 pm last night and the exchanges continued till 5.30 am,” said Kanachak SHO, Rakesh Kumar.
Vietnam seeks India’s help for safety
Ashok Tuteja in Hanoi

Vietnam, which is involved in a bitter feud with Beijing over the South China Sea, sought India’s cooperation in ensuring safety, security and freedom of navigation in the disputed sea on Monday.

“The development and integration of ASEAN and India lie in the East Sea (the South China Sea) and the Indian Ocean. Territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982,” Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said in his keynote address at the third roundtable on ASEAN-India network of think tanks.

Inaugurating the meeting, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is on a three-day visit to Hanoi, reassured Vietnam and other ASEAN countries about India’s commitment to strengthen economic and trade links and connectivity with the vibrant region.

Earlier, Swaraj and the Vietnamese minister held talks on bilateral issues, in which the South China issue is understood to have figured prominently, apart from defence, economic, education and culture-related matters. More than a dozen Indian Heads of Missions (HoMs) of the countries in the region who are here for a meeting with Swaraj were briefed separately by Vietnamese officials on the latest developments in the China-Vietnam dispute over the South China Sea.

Briefing the media, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddinsaid Swaraj told her Vietnamese counterpart that ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) was looking at the five more blocks offered by Hanoi to India in November last year for oil exploration in the South China Sea in terms of their feasibility. This was in addition to the two oil blocks in which India has been involved for the last four years, ignoring China’s objections. The lease of these two blocks was recently extended by Vietnam for another one year.

Swaraj is learnt to have reiterated New Delhi’s stand while India was not a party to the South China dispute, it favoured a peaceful resolution in accordance with international laws. Pending a final settlement, there should be no impediment to freedom of navigation in the sea.

Though the MEA spokesperson did not confirm, there were indications that the two countries could sign an agreement on defence cooperation when President Pranab Mukherjee visits Vietnam in mid-September. The accord could entail increasing the slots for Vietnamese defence personnel in Indian defence training institutes. In the economic field, the two countries set an ambitious target of achieving the 15 billion dollar mark in bilateral trade by 2020. In the field of culture, India announced its decision to set up a cultural centre in Hanoi.
 India-Russia Air Force exercise starts

New Delhi, August 25
India and Russia today commenced their first-ever exercise between their Air Forces. The exercise that will last till September 5 is being conducted in Astrakhan region located north of the Caspian Sea.

“Avia Indra-2014” is the first exercise of its kind between the two Air Forces and is seen as a major milestone in military relations, IAF spokesperson Group Captain Gerard Galway said.

This involves participation of fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, missile combat crew and engineers from the Indian Air Force along with their counterparts from Russia. — TNS
 LoC firing: India, Pak DGMOs to meet today
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
Amid intermittent cross-border exchange of fire between India and Pakistan, the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of either side are slated to speak to each other over phone tomorrow morning.

Indian DGMO is expected to take up the issue of ‘unprovoked’ firing by Pakistan from across the 749-km Line of Control (LoC) and the 198-long international boundary (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan had, on August 23, asked India to convene a formal meeting of the DGMOs to sort out the recent spurt in firings for which it blames India.

The last time the DGMOs met was at the Attari-Wagah land crossing on December 24 last year when Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (since retired) had met his counterpart Maj General Amir Riaz for a three-hour meeting.

Pakistan’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has said the DGMOs of both countries should meet immediately and discuss ways to stop the current spate in firing. The conversation tomorrow is scheduled to take place over the hotline installed between the Indian Army headquarters at South Block here and the Pakistan Army HQ at Rawalpindi.

Lt Gen PR Kumar is the Indian DGMO while Maj Gen Amir Riaz is the Pakistan DGMO. The Additional DGMOs on either side are expected to talk to each other on behalf of their respective bosses and convey their opinions.

Sources said there was spurt in firing targeting Indian civilians, especially along the IB section, guarded by the BSF. The BSF commanders at the local level had sought a flag meeting with his Pakistani counterpart but the Pakistan side has not accepted the proposal.
War of attrition
Israel broadens targets, more die

The destruction of two multi-storeyed buildings in Gaza by Israeli air strikes on Saturday signalled further escalation in the prevailing conflict. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) did send out its warnings — through leaflets, text messages and automated phone calls, in response to which residents evacuated the target buildings. However, a number of residents were injured, and they all lost their homes.

The targeting of the entire building, not just a Hamas operations room that is said to have been there, and the destruction of 44 apartments leaves the IDF open to the charge of being heavy-handed and worse. Battlefield weapons are, by their very nature, imprecise, and thus not designed to be used in densely populated areas. The use of heavy weapons in Gaza has been condemned by the United Nations. Israel is finding itself increasingly isolated in international fora by continuing on this course. While the Israeli population faces numerous rocket attacks on a regular basis, the casualties are limited, largely due to the ineffectiveness of the weapons as well as the state-of-the-art Israeli anti-rocket defences. Casualties in Gaza, on the other hand, have been heavy, and there were instances of schools and other public places being targeted by Israel.

Peace brokered by the Egyptian government has found some response, but has not held out, something that both sides must share the blame for. Israel must realise that it is simply counter-productive to continue what has become a war of attrition in Gaza. Hamas has not been degraded to the extent that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers may have hoped for. After withdrawing its land forces, Israel is now using its total dominance in the air to strike targets in Gaza at will. Many of these targets are houses and institutions where civilians live and work. It hardly needs to be reiterated that killing civilians is wrong. Civilian deaths in Gaza have been far, far, more than those of Hamas and other militants. By continuing with actions that put civilian lives in such danger, Israel does itself no service.
To lift AFSPA totally in areas subject to militancy may be unwise
B.G. Verghese
The Northeast has been in the news for all the wrong reasons: continuing assaults on the person and dignity of persons from that region in Delhi and elsewhere, which is an absolute national disgrace, continuing controversy over AFSPA, and killings along the disputed Assam-Nagaland border. The Bezboruah Committee has reported on the first issue. But over and above its recommendations, there must be swift and condign punishment of those indulging in and encouraging hooliganism. Also, it is necessary to propagate nationally, and especially in universities, booklets and film clips on the Northeast to educate local barbarians about their own country and countrymen in place of the totally useless official “Northeast Newsletter” produced today.

Irom Sharmila's release from detention after being forced-fed through 14 years of hunger strike in protest against the imposition AFSPA was short lived as she insisted on continuing her fast. A hunger strike is a weapon of blackmail. Recalling Gandhiji's fasts under alien rule is wilfully mistaken. Moreover, a fast-unto-death is tantamount to suicide, a penal offence. If Irom were to perish fasting, the situation could spin out of control and the government would be flayed by its current critics.

There are legal and constitutional means to battle what one considers unjust laws. The Jeevan Reddy Committee recommended a workable compromise a decade back. This was to remove redundant provisions from AFSPA and incorporate some others in existing laws. AFSPA causes psychological hurt.

Further, since AFSPA can only be invoked in areas declared “disturbed”, public pressure can be applied on the authorities concerned to revoke “disturbed area” proclamations. There has been a wrongful use of AFSPA. These cases have invoked speedy investigation and punishment in many cases. But to lift AFSPA totally in areas subject to militancy, cross-border mischief and terror may be unwise. Militancy often occurs in remote uninhabited areas where city-based magistrates are not at hand to issue the necessary warrants of search, seizure and firing. Hence investiture of such powers in the armed forces is necessary. Ground gained at a great cost over time can be lost in an hour. It might be desirable for the DA Act and AFSPA to be withdrawn in phases in limited areas. But let the armed forces decide on the scope and tempo of such initiatives in collaboration with the local government, whether in the NE or in J&K.

The Assam-Nagaland border dispute has been allowed to drag on for too long. Similar disputes exist between Assam and the new states of Arunachal, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland carved out of it. This stems from the discrepancy between the so-called administrative “Inner Line”, initially drawn in Assam a century ago to safeguard the settled areas with their tea gardens, oil fields and coal mines, and subsequent revenue lines delineated by the Raj to mark out additional forest working areas as valuable sources of raw material and revenue. So when Assam was reorganised, the question arose as to which Line should be the border. Sadly, inter-state disputes have reduced these areas to no-man's lands and havens for illegal activities.

Central policy has been muddled. In the Assam-Nagaland case, the Sundaram commission recommended a joint survey. Nagaland unreasonably refused and there the matter has rested with periodic conflict. The answer, as this writer has long recommended, is that these disputed border strips be declared Trusteeship Zones, with the two contending states and the Centre as partners for, say, 50 years, and placed under a Centrally-directed joint administration to be developed as rail and road heads, infrastructure, communication and training hubs and special economic zones that attract industry and investment, using cheap NE hydro- power. Higher and technical education and health facilities could be located here. Revenues could be shared. But who is listening?

The same lack of imagination drives the fatuous debate on ways to attract back Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley from where they were driven out under jihadi pressure 25 years ago. Few remember that 50,000 and more Kashmiri Muslims also fled the state - traders to end routine extortion and worse, youth for education and training, and girls to escape forced marriage to jihadi brutes.

The Pandits lost their jobs and homes. If they return they will have to make a new beginning. Where? How? Building new ghettoes is no answer. With the Katra-Bannihal- Qazigund railway likely to be operational within two years, and maybe the planned lower-altitude, all-weather Bannihal tunnel as well, trans-Pir Panjal movement will become shorter, quicker and cheaper. With Srinagar becoming an active international airport and an additional 1000 MW of hydro-power coming on stream during this same period, a Baramulla-Srinagar-Qazigund-Bannihal-Katra-Jammu industrial-transport corridor, with a fibre optic transmission line and technical training facilities to boot, could come into being. One can conceive of a series of SEZ hubs along this corridor, specialising in agro-processing, herbal-based pharma, floriculture and IT-enabled services.

J&K residents, be it the Pandit, emigrant Muslim or others, would gladly seize the rich opportunities that beckon. And non-State subjects should be welcome if they bring investment together with technical, managerial and marketing skills. Pettifogging arguments by little bigots crying wolf about “outsider” land grab and demographic change must be slapped down for the nonsense they are. Nor can J&K be condemned to be governed by the idiocy of people who ask why the State should not have a Hindu Chief Minister or by the diktats of Pakistan’s Hurriyat stooges. Umar Farooq dare not even own up to who assassinated his father in 1990 and joins in celebrating the late Mir Waiz’s martyrdom” by his assassins.

Sadly, a section of the Pandits have allowed themselves to become pawns in the hands of the Hindu Right, which is as fanatical as the separatists. Pilgrimages are planned and opposed as insidious efforts to divide and mobilise communities and disturb communal harmony.

The proposed Indo-Pakistan talks are off, thanks to the Pakistani High Commissioner's boorish insistence on meeting Hurriyat leaders on the eve of the Foreign Secretary-level talks, despite being warned against doing so. To argue that Pakistani VIPs have consistently met the Hurriyat over many years does not constitute an extra-territorial right. The parallel would not be Indian dignitaries meeting Baloch and Sindhi separatists on the eve of talks on J&K with Pakistan, but of defiantly meeting Gilgit-Baltistan opposition leaders such as Amanullah Khan of the JK Liberation Front and others in Islamabad if they have not been incarcerated or forced to seek refuge in distant shores. These critics have no place in Pakistan’s tightly-controlled Kashmir colonies ruled by the constitutional ideology of swearing by “the ideology of accession to Pakistan”.

Anyhow, Nawaz Sharif is currently embattled in Islamabad with Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, a cleric from Canada, seeking to topple him. This has enabled the Army more obviously to assume control over a weakened premier whose efforts to expand trade with India and try Musharraf for treason are not to the liking of the military as evidenced by spoiling fire across the LOC.

Meanwhile, at home, the BJP in particular continues to debase democratic standards and push for a “Hindu nation”. Mr Modi is in danger of becoming India’s Nawaz Sharif, playing second fiddle to the RSS “army”.
Defence minister briefed on upcoming military station in Murshidabad
KOLKATA: Defence minister Arun Jaitley, who was on a visit to West Bengal, was briefed on the upcoming military station at Nabagram near Behrampore in Murshidabad by Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh on Sunday. Jaitley, who toured Murshidabad during the day also visited the campsite in Nabagram where work is on to set up an Army Air Defence unit. He was accompanied by Gen Singh and Lt Gen MMS Rai, general officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Command.

"Foundation stone for the Behrampore Military Station was laid by President Pranab Mukherjee in February this year. On Sunday, the defence minister spent about 30 minutes at the site and was told how important the military station will be for the country's defences. Located about midway between Kolkata and Siliguri, the military station will monitor any attempts by foreign military aircraft to violate Indian airspace from across north Bengal and Sikkim. It is ideally located to neutralize any threat on the thin corridor that connects north Bengal and the rest of the India to the north eastern states of the country. It is also close to the tri-junction and Chumbi Valley across Bhutan where the Chinese have engaged in military maneuvers in the recent past," an official said.

It has been learnt that the Behrampore Military Station will be armed with missiles not only to bring down enemy aircraft but also intercept long-range missiles aimed at major cities in India, including Kolkata. It will require Rs 600 crore to set up the camp on a 250-acre plot. The military camp will have an eco-friendly model that will be replicated in similar projects in the future. The camp will integrate the existing topography, natural features and water bodies among other things. It will also help in overall socio-economic development of the area which is one of the most underdeveloped in the district, Jaitley was told.

Gen Singh arrived at the Eastern Command headquarters of Fort William in Kolkata on Saturday and was briefed on the operational preparedness of the forces under the Eastern Army. He left for Behrampore on Sunday morning from where he visited the Panagarh Military Station to take stock of the ongoing preparations for raising the latest Mountain Strike Corps. This Corps will be headquartered at Panagarh. From Panagarh, the general left for a two-day visit to forward areas in the eastern sector.
Top general ‘unsuitable’ for key army post

A top general is being passed over for appointment to the post of director general of ordnance services (DGOS) due to alleged questionable conduct and accusations of impropriety against him, a source said.

This is the second time in less than a year that a three-star officer has been found ‘unsuitable’ for a key post and the responsibility will be given to a junior.

The government is set to overlook Lieutenant General AS Rawat and name his junior Lieutenant General Amit Sarin as the next DGOS.

Rawat is the senior-most officer in the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) — a body responsible for supplying weapons, ammunition, equipment and clothing to 1.18 million soldiers.

Commissioned in the army in December 1977, Sarin is 18 months junior to Rawat.

The source said an officer’s “suitability” for a sensitive post was just as significant as his seniority, and if the force was ignoring seniority, it had good reason to do so.

The army is understood to have chosen Sarin over Rawat after carrying out detailed background checks. The position of DGOS has not been filled since Lieutenant General Gautam Moorthy retired nearly three months ago, as the army was thoroughly examining the dossiers of top officers.

The army had last year overlooked Lieutenant General GS Bisht and named Lieutenant General Nitin Kohli — who was six months junior to the former — as the signal officer-in-chief.

Bisht had challenged the appointment in the armed forces tribunal.

However, Rawat has no plans to seek legal recourse. Asked to comment on the matter and the allegations against him, Rawat told HT, “The defence ministry and the army have to take a decision. I don’t intend to go to court and I will not discuss this issue at all with media.”

Rawat is currently the commandant of Jabalpur-based College of Materials Management, while Sarin heads the army’s information technology wing.

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