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Monday, 1 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 01 Sep 2014

 Indian Army officer goes missing in Europe
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 30
A young Indian Army officer is missing in a European country. The Army has started an in-house investigation to locate the officer while the Indian Embassy in two countries is trying to trace him.

The officer, who is from the elite Bangalore-based 2 Para Special Force, had gone on leave to participate in adventure activities. The officer, who is in the rank of Captain, was in Spain as part of a six-day international para-jumping festival and later at another spot in Norway. That was his last known destination.

He has not contacted anybody since August 15 and is not in touch over phone and using his facebook account.

His leave has ended and that raised the issue with the Army headquarters. The Army contacted the officer’s father, who is also as unaware of the whereabouts, sources said.

Sources said possibilities of officer critically injuring himself and him opting to stay on in the European country had been ruled out for now. The possibility that he is at a location that does not have a communication network is not ruled out. For this a track of his phone and Facebook account will reveal his last known spot.
 Armyman killed in Kupwara gun battle
Majid Jahangir
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 30
An Army jawan was killed and another injured in an encounter close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district of J&K. The Army has been carrying out massive combing operations for the past one week to flush out a large group of militants believed to have infiltrated recently. The death toll in these operations has reached to 10 — six militants and four troopers.

Saturday’s encounter took place at Baron Gali, Kalaroos, 125 km from here, when troops were passing through the area.

“A contact with militants was reestablished at 1 am resulting in one soldier of 28 RR Chaman Yadu attaining martyrdom and another getting injured. The injured soldier was evacuated to Drugmulla field hospital. The operation is in progress,” a defence official said.

The exchange of firing continued till this morning and, sources said, two-three militants were caught in the cordon.
49-year fight for Army pension
NADIA: Former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had granted special pension to Shukla Chowdhury, the widow of an Army officer, forty nine years ago, but she is yet to receive her dues. The country has celebrated 49 Independence Days, had 11 Presidents and 12 Prime Ministers since then, but Shukla's travails have not changed despite repeated pleas to the high offices.

In the latest letter to President Pranab Mukherjee in July 2014, Shukla, the widow of Major Hemanta Kumar Chowdhury, requested him to arrange for speedy action on her pension that has been due for about nearly half a century.

"I want the entire amount to be disbursed so that I live the twilight years of my life with dignity and not on others' charity," said Shukla, who is now 79.

Hemanta Kumar Chowdhury of Ranchi had joined Indian Air Force in 1943. In 1950, he joined the Territorial Army and was posted in Cuttack in the Bihar Regiment. In 1962, he joined Heavy Engineering Corporation as its chief security officer but was recalled by the Army during the Chinese aggression in 1962. After the war, he was in charge of the Army's prisoner exchange programme. He took soldiers to a camp in Bhubaneswar, but died the following day of cardiac arrest.

Following her husband's death, Shukla wrote to President Radhakrishnan, recounting her financial trouble. The President had ordered that she be paid a special pension that also covered her children's education.

Subsequently, the Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), informed her on February 17, 1965: "The President has since decided the cause of death of your husband as aggravated by his military service, an audit report for the grant of special family pension and children allowance is being rendered to Government of India, ministry of defence, New Delhi." Shukla was granted a special pension Rs 180 per month and Rs 360 per year as a children allowance.

After about half a century of struggle, Shukla is now frustrated with the pension issue. "At times, I feel ashamed to tell people that my husband was a major in the Army. My experience to get the dues has been bitter. I pray that others don't suffer like me," she said.
India nears $2.5 billion deal for Boeing military helicopters
(Reuters) - India has decided to acquire Boeing's Chinook and Apache helicopters, a defence ministry official said on Saturday, in a deal valued at $2.5 billion that could ease strained ties between New Delhi and Washington.

The new nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has grand plans to vastly strengthen India's military capability, in order to play its role as a regional power and meet challenges posed by a rising China and arch rival Pakistan.

"The defence aquisition council has cleared the last hurdle for signing of the contract with the USA in respect of Apache and Chinook," the official told Reuters, while declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

The deal topped the agenda during a visit by U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel in August and is likely to help mend ties frayed by years of trade and diplomatic disputes. Modi is due to visit the United States next month.

At a meeting on Friday, the government also approved the Indian Navy's proposal to purchase 16 multi-role helicopters, the official said. The deal could potentially benefit Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp and European joint venture NHIndustries.

Jaitley, however, cancelled a $991.65 million tender to buy 197 light-utility helicopters from foreign vendors and asked local manufacturers to produce them at home, the official said.

Eurocopter, a unit of aerospace and defense company EADS, and Russian Kamov had been participating in the tender.

The government also deferred a decision on a $2.5 billion proposal to acquire Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missiles.

Analysts estimate that India, the world's largest arms importer, will spend $250 billion in the next decade to upgrade its Soviet-era military equipment and narrow the gap with China, which spends $120 billion a year on defence.

India's military modernization plan includes a renewed push to develop a domestic weapons industry. India insists on "offsets" from foreign vendors to ensure technology is transferred or some of the deal's value remains in the country.

The decision to scrap the troubled light helicopter tender comes weeks after Modi loosened the limit on foreign ownership in defence manufacturing to 49 percent from 26 percent to make "buy Indian" the default option for defence purchases.

"It has also been decided that the Indian Industry would be given the responsibility to produce nearly 400 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) as per the requirement of the Indian Army and Air Force," said the official.

A slew of kickback allegations, procurement delays and a recent spate of operational accidents have marred efforts to upgrade India's armed forces.

A decision on the acquisition of light reconnaissance helicopters was deferred last year and tenders re-examined after Italian prosecutors alleged defence group Finmeccanica had paid bribes to Indian officials to win a separate $750 million deal to supply luxury helicopters for political VIPs.

New Delhi partially banned Finmeccanica this week from bidding for future contracts. Finmeccanica denies any wrongdoing.

Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland unit has a 32 percent stake in NHIndustries, which is 62.5 percent owned by EADS' helicopter unit Eurocopter, and Stork Fokker owns 5.5 percent.
Army cautions Sharif: Avoid force
Battleground Islamabad: 4 killed, 500 injured as protesters clash with security forces
Afzal Khan in Islamabad & PTI

Pakistan's powerful Army said on Sunday any further use of force to resolve an escalating political crisis would only worsen the situation, after weeks of protests demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation turned violent.

Night-long clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters left four persons dead and nearly 500 others injured in the federal capital.

The top brass of the Army headed by General Raheel Sharif held an urgent meeting in the garrison city of Rawalpindi to discuss the crisis, prompting speculation that the military could take decisive action to end the crisis in a nation where power has usually changed hands via coups rather than elections.

The police battled throngs of protesters led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chief Dr Tahir ul-Qadri.

The clashes broke out late last night when the demonstrators who have laid a siege to the heart of the Pakistani establishment, housing the Presidency, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister's Office, sought to storm PM Nawaz Sharif's residence nearby after breaking through the police barricade.

The demonstrators —demanding Sharif's resignation over alleged rigging during last year's elections — were held back with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets outside the PM's house.

After a night of clashes, protesters regrouped on Sunday and repeatedly clashed with the heavy deployment of security forces. In a brief statement, the Army reaffirmed its commitment to democracy and said the crisis had to be solved politically.

"Further use of force will only aggravate the problem. It was once again reiterated that the situation should be resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means," it said.

A security official said the meeting called by General Sharif was initially planned for tomorrow but it was rescheduled due to "deteriorating internal security situation". Amid turmoil, PM Sharif also cut short his weekend stay in Lahore to return to the Capital and was immediately closeted in consultation with top aides. Amid fluid situation emerging from series of developments, media reports said the government has withdrawn the police from the 'red zone' of sensitive official buildings leaving their security to the Army troops deployed earlier on its request.

Cricketer-turned-politician Khan vowed to fight till the last breath and asked Pakistanis to rebel against the "illegal" regime while Qadri alleged seven of his supporters were killed by security forces which could not be confirmed.

A high-level meeting chaired by the Prime Minister decided to summon the joint session of Parliament to discuss prevailing crisis in the country and is expected to adopt another resolution for upholding the Constitution and supremacy of Parliament.
Army moots tunnels to facilitate all-weather road link to Ladakh
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 31
In what promises to change the lives of people of Ladakh and add to India’s military preparedness, the Army has proposed construction of two tunnels to facilitate all-weather road connectivity to the cold desert.

Army teams have completed a survey of alternative routes to Ladakh and have recommended two fresh alignments. The move comes as the two existing roads -— one from Srinagar and other from Manali — have many strategically sensitive spots and remain closed for seven months of the year, between October and April, due to heavy snowfall in the higher passes.

The first option is to use the existing 80-km trekking route between Karzok in southern Ladakh and Kaza in Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh and convert it into a full-fledged road. The existing track leading to north of Karzok towards Leh is an all-weather road. The road that runs south of Kaza is also all-weather and passes through Pooh-Rampur-Shimla-Chandigarh. The 18,300-foot-high Parang La (pass) is obstructing the road connectivity between Karzok and Kaza.

To overcome the hindrance, the Army has suggested to construct a tunnel under the pass to open a 24x7 route. Secondly, the Army has proposed to connect Padum in Zanskar, Ladakh, with the existing road (70 km away from it) in Himachal Pradesh, separated by high mountains. The Army has suggested that the existing jeep track from Padum to the base of the 16,700-foot-high Shingo-La on the Zanskar side be metalled and a tunnel be made under the pass that will open near Chikka village in Lahaul Spiti.

Not far from this spot is the existing road meandering down from Keylong to Chamba towards Pathankot.

The proposed move, if it materialises, will be a boon for the remote Zanskar region besides providing an alternative shorter route to Kargil, which is already connected with Padum.

The new routes have lesser snow and roads are at lower altitudes. In Ladakh, which used to have prolonged winters, Army equipment and men can only be moved onboard the daily flights of IL-76 from Chandigarh and in case of a war-like scenario, the air effort will be the only option. One of the existing routes is Jammu-Srinagar-Sonamarg-Dras-Kargil-Leh — dotted by the Zojila pass and the ‘Z-Morh’— receives heavy snowfall. Both the passes require tunnelling. The other route, Manali-Keylong-Leh, is dotted with one of the highest motorable passes which are open only for four months or so, that too with engineering efforts.

Two routes proposed

    Army teams have surveyed alternative routes to Ladakh and recommended two fresh alignments
    The first option is to use the existing 80-km trekking route between Karzok in southern Ladakh and Kaza in Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh and convert it into a full-fledged road
    The Army has also suggested that the existing jeep track from Padum to the base of the 16,700-foot-high Shingo-La Zanskar, Ladakh, be metalled and a tunnel be made under the pass that will open near Chikka village in Lahaul Spiti
7% DA hike for Central Govt staff likely

New Delhi, August 31
The government is likely to approve a hike in dearness allowance (DA) to 107% from the existing 100%, benefiting around 30 lakh Central employees and 50 lakh pensioners, including dependents.

"The average rate of retail inflation for industrial workers from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 works out to be 7.25%. Thus the Central Government will hike dearness allowance for it employees by 7%," an official said.

He said the Finance Ministry will now put a Cabinet proposal for approval of 7% DA hike from July 1 this year as the revised Consumer Price Index-Industrial Workers data for June was released by the Labour Ministry on Saturday.

With increase in DA, the pensioners will also gain as the benefit provided to them as dearness relief will be hiked to 107% of the basic pay.

The previous UPA government had increased DA to 100% from 90% with effect from January 1, 2014, on February 28. — PTI
 Modi, Abe set to take defence ties to new high
Likely to launch security consultative framework at crucial summit talks in Tokyo today

Tokyo, August 31
India and Japan are
likely to launch a "two-plus-two" security consultative framework involving their foreign and defence ministers during crucial summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe here tomorrow.

Modi flew to Tokyo this evening after an overnight stay in the historic city of Kyoto where he visited two ancient Buddhist temples with Abe accompanying him in a significant gesture.

During his hectic schedule in Kyoto on the second day of his five-day visit to Japan, Modi also sought Japanese help to fight the deadly sickle cell anemia commonly found among tribals in India when he went to the stem cell research facility of Kyoto University and got a positive response.

Modi (63) and Abe (59), who share cordial relations and hit it off well in Kyoto, will have a substantive summit agenda. Setting the tone for their formal Summit tomorrow, Modi and Abe last night met at a dinner hosted by the latter and spoke about a "strong and robust future" for the bilateral ties.

A new chapter is expected to be opened in India-Japan ties when the two leaders will focus on enhancing cooperation in the fields of defence and infrastructure, besides boosting trade and investment.

The two sides are expected to agree to launch a security consultative framework involving their foreign and defence ministers and sign an agreement to jointly produce rare earths that could be exported to Japan, while discussing ways to elevate the strategic and global partnership to a new level.

Japan already has a security consultative framework with the US, Australia, Russia and France.

"In the field of defence and security, I feel time has come for us to upgrade our relations. I see in the recent changes in Japan's defence export policies and regulations a possibility to engage in a new era of cooperation in high-end defence technology and equipment," Modi had said in an interview to Japanese media ahead of the visit.

On the economic front, Abe is expected to push for use of Japan's shinkansen bullet train technology as India plans to build a train network between Mumbai and Ahmadabad.

Discussions are also expected to focus on civil nuclear cooperation and help by Japan in improving India's infrastructure, particularly the railways, and cleaning of river Ganga.

On the second day of his visit, Modi, clad in all-white kurta pyjama, sleeveless jacket and white sandals, offered prayers at the two prominent Buddhist temples in Kyoto - Toji and Kinkakuji.

He first went to Toji Temple, which is inspired by the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh of Hindu philosophy and is a World Heritage site. Modi was at the temple complex for about half-an-hour during which he enquired about the history of the eighth-century Buddhist pagoda.

While leaving the complex, Modi thanked Abe for accompanying him to the temple and spending time with him. Abe, on his part, told Modi that this was only the second time that he had visited Toji temple, the last being during his student days.

Abe had specially come to Kyoto from Tokyo to meet Modi and be with him. The Japanese Prime Minister rarely greets a foreign leader outside the national capital. In Kinkakuji, Modi mingled with tourists, pulled ears of a child and posed for photographs with people. — PTI
Lt Gen Mathews new GOC of 12 Corps Jodhpur
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 31
Lieutenant General Bobby Mathews today took over as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Jodhpur-based 12 Corps of the Army. General Mathews is from the 2 Kumaon Regiment of the Army. During his career, he served on the Northern, Eastern and Western fronts.

As a Major General, he commanded a division in Sikkim and was responsible for coordinating relief and reconstruction work after the 2011 September earthquake.

He had the privilege of serving in the Army’s training institutions — twice at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, as a Captain and later as a Major General; as the Deputy Commandant and as a Lieutenant Colonel at the Infantry School, Mhow; as a Colonel at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, and later at Officers Training Academy, Chennai.

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