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Sunday, 7 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 07 Sep 2014

 CRPF suspends 17 men for inaction during Naxal ambush

New Delhi, September 6
The CRPF has suspended 17 of its troops, including four junior officers, for “inaction” after an inquiry found that they deserted their martyred colleagues during a Naxal ambush earlier this year in Chhattisgarh which claimed 16 lives.

A Court of Inquiry instituted immediately after the March 11 incident in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district found that these personnel, part of the squad that was trapped in the ambush in a narrow field, displayed “lack of action and did not show satisfactory counter action” to save their fellow troops as they ran for their safety. —PTI
 Gen Singh hits back at AFT verdict in Sukna land scam

New Delhi, September 6
Former Army chief and Union Minister General VK Singh, against whom the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) had commented in the Sukna land scam, today questioned the findings against him and said the government should challenge it in a higher court.

Lt Gen PK Rath, who was given a clean chit by the tribunal, said he felt vindicated by the judgment. Reacting to the verdict, Singh said: “In the tribunal’s judgment, instead of reacting to issues, personal attack has been made. Perhaps, we hardly get to see such a judgment. It was a clear issue where corruption could have been prevented. After such a judgment, people will no more be scared of corruption.”

He was commenting on the tribunal’s virtual indictment of his actions as Army Chief in the court martial of former 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen PK Rath, who was given a clean chit by the tribunal in the Sukna land scam.

“They also don’t tell anybody that institution was to be constructed on this land and not just a school. Through this judgment, the morale of corrupt people will go up,” he said.

“You say that in view of security perspective, an NOC cannot be given on land. But, when new person comes, it is then said that there was no security concern and you don’t tell anybody about anything in this regard, which suggests wrongdoing,” he said.

Gen Singh said: “I have nothing to comment on the decision. The tribunal has an honourable judge who is advised by the retired armed forces officers. He goes by their advice because he does not know anything about armed forces.” — PTI
IAF evacuates 600 persons from flood-hit areas of J-K
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
Responding to distress calls from stranded civilians in the flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir, the IAF today evacuated more than 600 persons from different parts of the state.

Helicopters are operating from Srinagar, Udhampur, Jammu and Pathankot. Helicopters were used to evacuate 401 personnel, flying 13 sorties over inundated areas, negotiating marginal weather. Twenty-nine BSF and five Army personnel were among those rescued today.

Distress calls from stranded civilians and security personnel came from Kulgam, Rajouri, Poonch, Kishanpur, Gagral, Bachalta, Thani, Baramula, Anantnag, Akhnoor, Ganduchak, Hamirpur, Jammu and Border Observation Posts along the International Border and the LOC.

In the past 48 hours, the IAF mounted IL-76 sorties and pressed into action two AN-32 aircraft to airlift National Disaster Response Force teams and equipment from Bathinda to Srinagar and Jammu Air Force bases as part of the ongoing flood relief operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

The IAF has assigned aircraft from its bases at Agra, Chandigarh, Suratgarh and Sarsawa in addition to aircraft and helicopters already deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for the relief operations.

The IL-76 aircraft airlifted 32 tonnes of equipment and relief material and 162 NDRF personnel to Srinagar, while two AN-32s carried 25 NDRF personnel and a relief load of four Tonnes to Jammu.
Pakistan’s turbulent coming of age
While Pakistanis wait with bated breath for an end to the prolonged political turmoil, many positives have been thrown up.  Nasim Zehra
Pakistan’s democracy is going through unprecedented convulsions. The acute turbulence promises birth of new content of politics where those in Parliament will no longer be able to ignore peoples’ issues but equally and paradoxically this turbulence is also lending robustness to Pakistan’s democratic set-up.

Multiple battlefronts have been opened while new alliances too have been formed. The principals in this battle are Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s federal government, pitted against Pakistan’s third force, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI). The cricketing hero is now positioned on a container since August 14 and has declared nothing less than the Prime Minister’s resignation is acceptable. Sharif, according to the PTI allegations, is corrupt, has wealth stacked outside Pakistan, has family members in key posts, resists pro-people changes, and rejects merit in appointments. Khan holds Sharif and all “dacoits in Parliament” responsible for a range of problems —unemployment, inflation, energy crisis, lack of education, under development. The PTI began its protests against the Sharif government in May, accusing it of resisting investigation of alleged rigging in the 2013 elections that brought Sharif to power. Siding with Imran Khan is the religious scholar Dr Tahirul Qadri who enjoys dual control over Minhaj ul Quran, a religious seminary and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), a political party.

Interestingly, the various parties have not surprisingly dragged the army into the fray, which has largely settled in its Constitutional role. The army remains the ace that most political players like to pull out when confronting each other. Most surprising has been the September 5 assertion by former caretaker Prime Minister and PAT ally, Chaudary Shujaat Hussain, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. He accused former army chief General Parvez Kayani of being involved in a grand rigging plan! Shujaat, a politician who had provided political cover to General Parvez Musharraf, insisted Kayani and a former Chief Justice of Pakistan were both involved
in rigging the 2013 election.
 The situation appears brittle with no immediate resolution in sight, but with multiple tracks of negotiations between the PTI, government, Opposition and PAT, everyone is convinced that a resolution will be found. The prolonged sense of siege in Islamabad has spread across the nation since all television channels broadcast nationwide Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri’s multiple speeches daily. The psychological and economic costs are colossal. Pakistan’s economic standing has slipped in the Moody’s ratings and its rupee has slipped Rs 5 to the dollar.

While Pakistanis wait with bated breath for an end to this prolonged period of acute, even if Islamabad-specific, political turbulence, many identify the positives it is throwing up. Five are noteworthy.

One, Pakistan’s conventional politics has been challenged. Politicians no longer will be able to put peoples’ rights enshrined in Articles 1 to 40 of the Constitution on the back burner.

Two, Nawaz Sharif’s government has received a well-deserved hit, a rude wake-up call. While in the last 14 months it has focused on development projects, there are major issues of bad governance, nepotism, incompetence, ignoring Parliament, mishandling of civil-military relations.

Three, street power has been effectively used as a tool of democratic agitation. It was the government’s lack of political engagement on the issue of rigging and also Imran Khan’s impatience that pushed him to the road. The prolonged protests forced the government to subsequently agree through constitutional methods on electoral reforms, probe into the rigging, and reconstitution of the Election Commission. All these are critical steps needed to ensure that Pakistan’s future elections are fair and transparent.

Four, through street agitation finally the legal step of instituting an FIR against the suspects involved in the June 17 killings in Model Town, Lahore, has been taken. The police were seen killing PAT supporters. The Chief Minister of Punjab, brother of the Prime Minister, resisted calls that he quit office to ensure a fair inquiry.

Five, a joint parliamentary session called earlier this week demonstrated unprecedented unity among parliamentarians in resisting any unconstitutional demand made by the PAT or PTI. Equally, the parliamentarians have vowed to resist any military intervention. Many parliamentarians recalled military interventions and the role parties played as the military’s B team in the past to subvert elected governments. In the current crisis the military factor was raised by the PTI’s elected president Javed Hashemi. He has resigned from the party complaining that Imran Khan’s politics could damage democracy and blamed Imran for seeking military support in his present agitation. Imran Khan and the military have rejected Hashemi’s assertions.

The crisis may fizzle out but it will have left a deep and positive impact on Pakistani politics. It has jolted all political players out of their complacency. It has also held the non-political players accountable. Democracy will have been left more mature after this turmoil.
Modi stays the course on nuclear goals
Amidst a setback with Japan and a major success with Australia on nuclear deals, the good thing is that Modi has maintained continuity in India’s nuclear weapons doctrine and given impetus to power generation.
Raj Chengappa
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s widely watched telecast to millions of school students, when one of them asked what kind of a person he was in real life, he turned philosophical. Modi talked of the spiritual quest of understanding ‘Who am I?’ and ended humbly admitting: “I am yet to fully discover myself. I have not been able to know who I am.”

Judging by his performance last week it was apparent who ‘Modi Sir’ really was: An omnipresent and omnipotent Prime Minister. If Modi the campaigner loomed large over TV screens and 3D holograms, Modi the PM is now no less visible, whether imparting fatherly advice to students or playing the drums and the flute in Japan, revealing in the process a kinder, gentler facet to his personality.

On the world stage, while he got on famously with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and struck some important deals, particularly with regard to investment in Indian infrastructure, there was disappointment on the nuclear front. India was keen on entering into a civilian nuclear deal with Japan that would permit Delhi among other things to import reactor technology that is among the world’s best.

Abe though faced stiff political resistance as there has been a major rethink in the country over its dependence on nuclear power after the Fukushima reactor meltdown in the wake of the 2011 tsunami. Also there remains a large lobby that is against selling nuclear technology to a country like India that has steadfastly refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), conducted six nuclear tests and boasts of being a nuclear weapons state. Japan, the world’s only victim of a nuclear strike, remains resolute on its policy of not encouraging nations that remain outside the NPT orbit. Japanese negotiators adopted a tough stance demanding stringent inspection and safeguards of nuclear power plants that India is unwilling to accept.
The visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot though came to the rescue of Modi soon after with a landmark nuclear handshake. When India and Australia inked the deal on Friday, it was the first time that Canberra was signing an agreement to supply uranium to a non-signatory of NPT. Though the Australian nuclear deal had been in the works for years, stiff domestic political resistance had prevented it from being signed earlier. Two major factors were responsible for Australia’s change of heart. With uranium a major source of revenue for Australian provinces and the need to boost economic growth, the government was able to persuade naysayers that India had an impeccable track record with regard to nuclear non-proliferation and had enough safeguards to ensure that there was no diversion of uranium for military use. Also given Australia’s growing strategic stakes in the Asia Pacific region, good relations with India was a must.

For India’s nuclear programme, the Australian deal is welcome news. With Australia having the world’s largest uranium reserves accounting for 31 per cent of the total, the deal provides India with a reliable and continuous supply of fuel for its nuclear power reactors. Currently, the 20 nuclear plants in operation generate around 5,000 MW of power or 2 per cent of India’s total power requirement. Of these, 50 per cent of the fuel used is from imported sources, mainly from Russia, France and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, India is expected to double its nuclear power plant production by 2020. With Indian uranium reserves being limited, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr R.K. Sinha told me that the Australian deal would lead to greater “stability and sustainability” for India’s nuclear fuel requirements both for current use and the future.

To achieve its full potential of civilian nuclear power apart from constructing indigenously built reactors, India also needs to import reactor technology from giants like France, Russia, US and Japan. While the 2008 Indo-US nuclear deal ended India’s pariah status and facilitated civilian nuclear trade with other countries, India’s stringent nuclear liability law passed recently has been a major damper for foreign companies. While Russia and France have reluctantly worked a way around it, US companies have been chafing at the bit and want the law suitably amended. The US is also upset that after expending so much political capital to help India, it has not received much in return.

When Modi makes his maiden Prime Ministerial visit to the US, the civilian nuclear deal would again be in focus at his summit with President Barack Obama. There is added interest because the nuclear plants earmarked for US companies are to come up in Gujarat. With domestic Indian power companies also complaining about the “stifling” liability laws, the Indian nuclear establishment is trying its best to work out a via media that would meet the requirements of law but also make it viable for them to invest. If it fructifies this may remove the roadblock for US companies too and Modi could come back with significant forward movement on this vexatious issue.

Despite the mixed bag on the nuclear front, the good thing is that Modi has demonstrated keenness to maintain continuity in India’s nuclear weapons doctrine as well as give impetus to its civilian nuclear power ambitions.
Pakistan Army, ISI targeting India to hit Nawaz Sharif: Bruce Riedel
WASHINGTON: Pakistan's powerful army and the ISI are using "terrorist brinkmanship" to threaten India and undermine their own Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to secure domestic gains against their civilian leaders, a former CIA analyst has said.

"Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence directorate is using terrorist brinkmanship to threaten India and undermine Nawaz Sharif," Bruce Riedel, now director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution, said.

Army Court Embarrassment for Former Army Chief VK Singh
In what could turn out to be an embarrassment for the Narendra Modi government, the Armed Forced Tribunal has held that Lt General PK Rath, court martialled in the Sukna land scam case, is not guilty.

It is embarrassing because former Army Chief General (Retd.) VK Singh - now a minister in the Modi government - had initiated an inquiry, leading to a General Court Martial and conviction of Gen Rath. Acquitting Lt Gen Rath, the principal bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal - equivalent to a High Court - turned down a plea for appeal against the order. It said, "This is not a fit case to grant leave to appeal before the Hon'ble Supreme Court as it does not involve any question of public importance. As such the prayer is declined." The court also said that Lt Gen Rath "had suffered undue harassment and loss of reputation by act of the respondents."

Lt Gen Rath had, in his plea, said that the Government and General VK Singh had wrongly accused and convicted him. In his petition, he had said the entire issue - investigation and court martial proceedings were actually linked to the age row of Gen (Retd.) VK Singh. (Indicted General Leaked Documents About Army Chief's Age)

The Tribunal said the conviction of Lt Gen Rath "if not compensated would be travesty of justice. Therefore, as an optional compensation for the harassment and loss of honour and name caused to the petitioner, a cost of RS 100,000 is to be paid by the respondents within 12 weeks from the issue of these orders."

The case goes back to 2008-09 when Lt Gen Rath was commanding the Sukna-based 33 Corps of the Indian Army. As Commander of Corps, he had allegedly given a No- Objection Certificate (NOC) to a private builder to construct an educational institution near the 33 Corps. Lt Gen Rath was accused and found guilty by the General Court Martial for favouring the builder when giving the NoC. (Sukna land scam: Army Court Martial orders 2-year seniority loss for Lt General P K Rath)

Letting Lt Gen Rath go, the Tribunal took note of the fact that some officers who were part of the initial decision-making of granting the NoC, although found guilty in the Court Martial, were given "lighter sentences". The Tribunal even observed that some of these officers "were even promoted by the Chief of Army Staff" General VK Singh but only "after statements were recorded by General Court Martial after setting aside their sentences."

The Tribunal also rejected the contention that although the Indian Army wanted to acquire the land, Lt Gen Rath had allowed a private builder to construct an educational institution.

It said no grounds were cited which justified the contention and observed that Lt Gen Rath had done nothing wrong. It also said that the charge against Lt Gen Rath that he had not followed the legal process correctly is "incorrect." The court also held that charges against Lt Gen Rath - of not informing the higher authorities, a major charge in the Court Martial - to be incorrect. On the contrary, it said, "Nothing has been brought before us to show that such a decision could not have been taken by Lt Gen Rath."

Speaking to NDTV earlier today, Gen (Retd.) VK Singh said, "I don't think the court has gone into the validity of the action of General Rath at all... it is more concentrated on an individual which is me, which sounds very awkward." He also said the Ministry of Defence should appeal against the order.

On the other hand, Lt Gen Rath told NDTV that he felt vindicated. He said the "redressal process in the military needs to be fine-tuned so that no innocent suffers."

All eyes are on the Ministry of Defence headed by Arun Jaitley, arguably one of the best legal brains, and whether or not it actually challenges the order of the Tribunal.

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