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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 10 Sep 2014

 Air Force giving priority to tourists stranded in Valley
Amit Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, September 9
After waiting for rescue teams for two days, several people were today airlifted from Srinagar by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The rescued started arriving at the Jammu Airport since morning today. Most of the people who have been rescued are in trauma due to the situation they found themselves after floodwaters entered residential areas in Srinagar.

The Valley, which is cut off from rest of the country, is only accessible by air. The IAF planes and civilian aircraft are carrying people between Srinagar and other parts of the country. The planes are also carrying relief material for the affected people of Kashmir.

With the flood situation improving a bit in the Valley, the IAF is giving priority to passengers and tourists from various parts of the country, stranded in the Valley since September 3.

Most of the people who had to take their flights could not make it to the airport in Srinagar today. The city is waterlogged and hundreds of tourists and employees are trying to get out of the marooned city.

Five flights which operate between Srinagar and Jammu were fully booked but each flight had about 20 to 30 passengers on board, said an airline official.

An official at the IndiGo airlines counter at the Jammu Airport said most of the people had missed their flights as they couldn’t reach the Srinagar Airport on time. “We are also delaying the flights for the passengers to reach the Srinagar Airport but only a few people could reach there,” the official said.

“We can’t even contact our ground staff in Srinagar as there is no phone connectivity. They are making manual boarding passes and we can’t even check how many passengers have boarded the aircraft until the flight lands here,” she said.

Shabir Ahmed, a student from Kralapora in Srinagar, who reached Jammu this afternoon, said: “Most of the places are submerged in Srinagar city. The water level has reached up to the first floor of the houses and people are stranded on the second and thirds floor of their houses.”

Most of the passengers who reached Jammu today were students, studying in various parts of the country.

The Jammu Airport witnessed a heavy rush of passengers today who wanted to travel to Srinagar as their families are stuck there and there is no communication.
Military appears to be the only unifying factor in Pakistan
Kuldip Nayar
THERE was a time when people in Pakistan came to the streets to defend their democratic system from the onslaught by the military which wanted its say in the country's affairs. Today, the same people want the military to intervene to save whatever is left of the democratic structure in their country.

This was visibly seen when the popularly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif, to request him to assist. Nawaz Sharif thought that he could get away quietly with a civilian Prime Minister seeking military help. But the army has issued an official press release to state that the Prime Minister made the request which the army chief did not accept. The army's explanation was that traditionally its role in a democratic setup was to defend the country, not to run it.

In fact, Prime Minister Sharif has brought this misery upon himself. His mis-governance has alienated the people. They want him and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, to quit and hold mid-term polls. Instead, Nawaz Sharif had a resolution passed by parliament to back him. It does not help the situation because both of his opponents, Imran Khan of Tehreek-i-Insaaf and Qadiri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), are from the civil.

Some leaders opposed to Nawaz Sharif have demanded mid-term polls. Their thinking is that people must once again decide whether they want Nawaz Sharif, who has lost lustre or someone else should run the government.

Whether fresh elections would throw up any other leader who is acceptable to Sindh, North Western Province and Baluchistan, apart from Punjab, is in the realm of conjecture. Yet the once-hated military would get sanction from the people to run the administration if polls were to be held. Whether or not world opinion accepts it, the military appears to be the only unifying factor. However, it is reluctant to intervene as the meeting of army commanders has revealed.

Still what has happened in Pakistan is a soft coup. The army is at the centre of whatever is happening in the country. The mood of the people was to see the back of the army. But in the current situation, the question being asked is what is the way out. Pakistan has faced such a situation many a time before. Willingly or unwillingly, the military has ruled the country for 37 years, half of the period since Independence.

No democratic country wants the army to rule it. A few opposition leaders were candid enough to say that the army should have a role in the country's governance. However, leading political parties are not prepared for it. Still the question that confronts Pakistan is the type of polity it should have to have all on board, including the military.

Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who did the greatest harm to Pakistan’s democratic system as a martial law administrator, said that probably a Turkey-like model which recognises a military role in governance would strengthen the Pakistan system. The Turkish constitution lays down that the army can intervene if and when democracy is derailed. But it was rejected by the popular elected leaders.

Today, the army is acting as a go-between to convey the viewpoint from one political faction to another. It is considered a neutral party. There is enough evidence of this in Islamabad as the popular cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is calling the shots. He has declared that his men-who are protesting in the streets of the capital itself-will not leave until Nawaz Sharif has submitted his resignation. PAT's Qadri, a fundamentalist, too has joined the chorus to get rid of Nawaz Sharif.

Contact with the people is the basic requirement of democracy. And Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has maintained it through public meetings. His stance is that whatever they are doing tantamounts to defending the institutions to sustain democratic and constitutional machinery in Pakistan.

Not long ago, Nawaz Sharif was pulled down by the army from prime ministership. His call on the army chief now to intervene is a full turnabout. But he does not realise that the army will have no hesitation in staging a coup as and when it feels or whenever the situation demands. That is the reason why Nawaz Sharif brings in parliamentary democracy in his statements to underline that the role of the army can, at best, be only temporary.

Even then the intervention by the armed forces is becoming too frequent in Pakistan. The people are getting used to it and associating stability with the military's governance. This feeling is anti-democratic in content because the discipline of soldiers tantamount to authoritarianism in contrast to the people's participation in a democratic society.

One feels sorry over the spectacle in Pakistan. People there are no different from those in India. But mis-governance at the top made the army to walk in once. Gen Ayub Khan, the then army chief, took advantage and imposed the martial law. His rule lasted eight years. And once the army took over, its influence stayed even after the troops went back to the barracks.

Since then the situation in Pakistan has remained in flux. In fact, the strong methods used by the army were responsible for East Pakistan's secession, giving birth to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, both Pakistan and Bangladesh, however democratic in declaration, are essentially at the receiving end of a telephone call from the military headquarters. Still whatever has been retained in the form of elections gives democracy a flicker of hope.

A retired military army official has predicted that Nawaz Sharif would come back with a reduced strength if mid-term polls were to be held. Nonetheless, it would be a sad end to the people's rule because a democratically elected Prime Minister is being asked to step down by people like Imran Khan, who has only 38 seats in a House of 342 members, including 60 reserved seats. But how long it would take for elections to be held or what shape they assume is anybody’s guess. Until then, the democratic setup in Pakistan is under siege.
Indian Navy May Walk Away From French Missile Deal
The Indian Defence Ministry has sent a global request for information for short-range, surface-to-air missiles (SRSAMs), throwing into question an existing deal with the French for the same weapon for the Indian Navy.

The $5 billion Maitri missile deal was conceived eight years ago and is a joint project between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and France’s MBDA. The missiles are to have a 25-kilometer range and were supposed to be used by Indian defense forces.

Originally, the Army, Air Force and Navy had a requirement for the missile, but the first two services have since found other solutions, leaving the Navy without a SRSAM unless the Maitri or another solution appears.

“Maitri seems to be heading for a dead end,” a senior Indian Navy official said.

A Defence Ministry source said six years of protracted negotiations between DRDO and MBDA have yielded a finalized work-share agreement, adding that the deal awaits only final clearance by New Delhi.

“The government of the day will have to decide whether to go ahead with the project or not,” the source added.

The French have been waiting for the clearance of the Maitri project, which has ascended to the highest diplomatic levels between India and France, a diplomat at the French Embassy said.

No official from MBDA was available for comment.

The Indian Navy was to use the Maitri to arm its three Project 16A Brahmaputra-class frigates and anti-submarine warfare corvettes, the MoD source said.

The Army requirement was for truck-mounted SRSAMs to replace the existing Russian-made Strella surface-to-air missiles. The Indian Air Force was to use the truck-mounted SRSAMs to replace Russian-made OSA-AKM surface-to-air missiles.

Rather than waiting for the Maitri, the Army and Air Force have since inducted the Akash, developed by DRDO. DRDO scientists claim the Akash is roughly equivalent to the US Patriot system, with a range of 25 kilometers. However, DRDO was unable to develop a naval version.

The Air Force further supplemented its inventory in 2008 by agreeing to purchase 18 Spyder low-level quick-reaction missile (LLQRM) systems made by Rafael of Israel, which was competing against MBDA.

Due to the uncertainty over the Maitri, the Navy opted to float the global request for information, another Navy official said.

India and France agreed to build the Maitri after India’s indigenous Trishul LLQRM was abandoned in 2003 following technical problems in the guidance systems.
Request a Non-starter

The Navy’s global request for information does not specify whether the purchase would be in the “Buy and Make Global” category or “Buy and Make India” category, so the response from overseas defense companies is likely to be very poor, said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.

The request for information was sent to domestic and global defense companies.

The request was sent to Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd, Ashok Leyland and state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited and Ordnance Factory Board.

The foreign companies include MBDA, Nexter and Thales of France, Saab of Sweden, KBP Tula of Russia and Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries of Israel, and Doosan Group and Samsung of South Korea.

While the request did not specify the number of SRSAM systems it will purchase, Navy sources said there is a requirement of around 30 systems worth more than $2 billion.

The indecision on Maitri could kill the program, affecting Indo-French defense ties, Mehta said.
Kashmir Floods: Defence forces' heroics expose separatists, 'intellectuals'
New Delhi: The defence and security forces have emerged as the saviours of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, who are facing the worst flood of the century. These security forces' heroic efforts have saved tens of thousands of lives in the last three-four days. The much 'hated' Indian Army is doing a commendable job across the flood-hit Kashmir Valley. It has reached even the remote corners of the state with rescue equipment's and other essential goods to save people facing death.

In the worst hit state capital Srinagar, the Army, Indian Air Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Navy and other paramilitary forces have been rescuing thousands of marooned civilians and some stranded tourists. These brave men have been risking their own lives to save the people, fully knowing that the same people whom they saved might throw stones and hand grenades at them once the situation returns to normal.

The rest of India is hoping that the heroic, humanitarian efforts of our defence forces will change the perception of the local Kashmiris about our military, which is demonized by various vested interests.
The defence personnel have carried plane loads of medicine, food, clothes and other essential materials to different parts of Srinagar and other affected areas. They are still trying to rescue people from the rooftops and other flooded houses.

Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag has made a statement that his men will not return to their barracks till the last person is rescued.

According to local people, the inability and indifference of the Omar Abdullah government is mainly responsible for the loss of lives and flood. The government failed to gauge the situation and prevent the flooding. Despite several warnings and requests, the state government actually did nothing to prevent the catastrophe.

The All Party Hurriyat Conference, the umbrella body of the Kashmiri separatists, which thinks that it is the sole representative of Kashmiri people, is missing from the action. Not a single leader of the Hurriyat has so far come out to help the agencies in relief and rescue operations. According to some locals these separatists are hiding at their flood proof comfortable homes.

A few Kashmiris are trying to do something. But their effort is limited only to the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

There have been inhuman tweets by some local Kashmiris about the Army even during the crisis. Some are rejoicing the death of some Army personnel and loss to their Army establishments due to flood.

Many people feel that even though the ordinary people of Kashmir are happy with the efforts of the Army, vested interests like Hurriyat and others who survive and thrive by abusing Indian government and the people, don't want to admit that. They fear that it will end their free run.

People in rest of India hope that the ordinary Kashmiris will realise that their one and the only saviour is Indian government, not the separatists and fly by night 'intellectuals'.
Russian, Indian armies to conduct urban anti-terror drills
The army wing of the Indra-2014 military exercises will focus on fighting terrorism in cities. A special residential district is being set up for the drills.
The Russian and Indian armies will conduct anti-terrorism drills in a simulated urban environment in the Volgograd Region as a part of the Indra-2014 tactical exercises.

A ‘residential’ district is being constructed on a training ground in for the joint exercises that begin on September 23. The ground with moving vehicles of “the enemy” and mobile targets of “terrorists” will be used to train troops to fight under urban conditions, a spokesman for Russia’s Southern Military District told Itar-Tass.

The area will have three streets, 50 residential buildings and 16 targets - vehicles and about 30 moving figures of ‘members of illegal armed groups’ inside buildings.
Troops are also supposed to neutralize groups of gunmen in a forest, set ambushes and observation posts under conditions of the enemy’s use of sabotage groups and establish cooperation to guard important installations and convoys.

Participants in the manoeuvres will be Russian and Indian motorized infantry units.

Indra is a joint military exercise conducted by India and Russia that began in 2003. The exercise is tasked with boosting cooperation and interoperability between the Russian and Indian navies. It was later extended to the armies as well.

In July 2014, Russia and India conducted the joint naval exercise off Vladivostok. The Indian fleet included the INS Ranvijay destroyer, the INS Shivalik frigate and INS Shakti fleet tanker. Russia deployed the Varyag guided-missile cruiser, the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer and the Peresvet large landing ship.

Over the last fortnight, the air forces of the countries held their first joint exercises. Aerial manoeuvres were held in Voronezh at the Pogonovo range and in Astrakhan Region at the Ashuluk training range
Last year the Russia and Indian armies held the Indra exercises in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. A joint command carried out an anti-terrorist operation, involving the destruction of illegal armed formations. Russian troops used Indian military equipment, including the T-72 and BMP-2, which were made ​​in Russia.

Military cooperation is set to rise between Russia and India and the countries have also pondered over the possibility of including other members of BRICS in joint exercises, although the grouping denies any plans of a military alliance. The Indo-Russian supersonic missile BrahMos is being seen as a model project for joint production with BRICS.

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