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Sunday, 21 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 21 Sep 2014

On incursions, MEA following process started by PM; awaiting results
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
India today said it was carefully following the process initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after raising the issue of incursions in Ladakh with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A day after both sides issued a joint statement recognising early resolution to the border issue as a strategic objective, official sources said nearly 35 People’s Liberation Army men returned to Chumar in northeast Ladakh and were perched on a hillock claiming the area to be part of China, while 300 soldiers were maintaining presence close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Responding to a question on the unchanged ground situation, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin called for patience to see the results, stating: “Diplomacy is not an instant coffee. It works in ways that it is difficult for people who are not engaged with it to perceive and understand what is happening. You are aware that India at the highest level has taken it up and also what our public statements are...Therefore, allow this process to function. I assure you that the process that was initiated by the Prime Minister is being carefully followed and we are awaiting an outcome.

At the end of the bilateral meeting with President Xi, Modi had said he expressed serious concern over repeated incursions. Modi further said both he and Xi agreed that peace and tranquility in the border region were essential for mutual trust and confidence.

Noting that border-related agreements and confidence-building measures have worked well, India, he said, asked China to resume the stalled process and settle the boundary issue early.
 Jawan wins 12-yr battle for pension
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 20
With a bullet lodged in his spine since 1992 as a result of injuries sustained while fighting terrorists in Punjab, a paramilitary jawan, who was compelled to seek voluntary retirement after being posted to a high-altitude area, has won a 12-year-old legal battle for his entitled pension.

A Bench of the Delhi High Court has ordered the Centre to grant Surender Singh, who was decorated for gallantry, liberalised pension along with arrears and 9% interest from the date of his discharge from service. The High Court stated that his disability of 60% should be rounded-off to 75% and he should be paid all his dues within eight weeks.

In February 1992, Surender received a bullet injury to his spinal cord. His doctor advised that if the bullet was removed from the spinal cord, it could either result in permanent disablement or death. He preferred to get himself medically treated without getting the bullet removed. After his treatment, the level of his disability was assessed at 60% by Safdarjung Hospital.

In spite of his disability, he was posted to a high-altitude area without the considering the fact that he was not in a condition to perform his duties at such location. The petitioner said out of frustration over posting, he took voluntary retirement.

Consequently, he was discharged from his service on October 31, 2002, and thereafter only granted ordinary service pension. He said he was entitled to liberalised pension under Clause ‘D’ of the CCS Rules as he took discharge from service because he had received a serious bullet injury to his spine while fighting the terrorists and not just out of his own choice and volition.

Earlier, his appeal to the authorities for liberalised pension had been rejected on the grounds that there was no provision for liberalised pension.

Observing that the petitioner had has placed on record the photo copy of his investiture ceremony picture which clearly showed that he was being assisted by other officers even to stand properly, the Bench said, “We are appalled by the attitude of the respondents in treating the members of the forces in such a despicable and inhumane manner.”

“Clause ‘D’ of the CCS Rules clearly envisages that if the disability is attributable to acts of violence by terrorists or anti-social elements then the officer is entitled to liberalised pension and the rule has been ignored by the respondents,” the Bench observed.
How India should deal with new Chinese duality
Modi can be both deft and firm on foreign policy issues. He seems aware that engaging with China helps him get a better deal with the US and Japan even while he puts pressure on Xi when he shakes hands with Obama and Abe.
Raj Chengappa
India had never quite seen a Chinese President like Xi Jinping in the recent past. On his just concluded three-day visit to India, his first as China’s boss man, Xi was a far cry from the stern, stiff and Mao-jacketed leaders. With his charming wife, Peng Liyuan, in tow, Xi wore a Khadi jacket gifted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spouted verses from Rabindranath Tagore, sat in Vajrasana to try his hand on a model of Gandhi’s charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram and swung his legs like a little boy on a decorated swing. Then his wife, who is a famed Chinese folksinger and could give Michelle Obama a run for popularity, pulled off a surprise by singing the Chinese version of the Hindi classic Awara Hun.

If the Chinese President was on a charm offensive, Modi was not found wanting. The Prime Minister broke protocol by receiving Xi at Ahmedabad on his birthday, watched the sunset with the Chinese First Couple on the riverfront and then treated them to a lavish Gujarati meal. On the sidelines the two leaders found time to do business, which included signing two agreements that established a provincial partnership between Gujarat and Guangdong province and sister-city relationships between Mumbai and Shanghai and Ahmedabad and Guangzhou.
Both Xi and Modi exuded a rare self-confidence that portended well for relations between the two countries. Barely two years into his tenure, Xi has emerged as the most powerful Chinese leaders since Deng Xiaoping and some say even Mao. He has consolidated his hold on all major levers of power, including the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), enunciated his version of the Chinese dream that called for deepening of economic reforms and loosening of state control, flexed his muscles at other nations over China’s core national interests, including territorial claims, and carried out an unprecedented anti-corruption drive against some of China’s top leaders.

So the expectations were high when Xi and Modi met. Yet even as the two leaders partied together in Ahmedabad, Chinese intrusions in Chumar and Demchok in Ladakh on the eve of Xi’s arrival cast a long shadow over the visit. If Xi had desired to open a whole new chapter on Indo-China relations, why was the powerful PLA staging another confrontation that was certain to have his host rankled?

As significant was the fact that despite the bonhomie, officials on both sides were unable to defuse the tension and the confrontation on the border continues. Yet on India’s concerns about the unfavourable trade balance with China, Xi was accommodative, announcing $20 billion Chinese investments in the next five years on infrastructure projects – an amount that roughly equalled the current deficit between the two countries.

China watchers see Xi’s moves in India as being in consonance with his country’s growing duality in foreign policy. While the quest for international economic engagement to fuel its domestic growth remains strong, there is growing assertiveness, even muscular approach, to protect what Xi calls China’s core national interests. In China a major internal debate rages over dumping Deng’s maxim of “Coolly observe, calmly deal with things, hold your position, hide your strength, bide your time, accomplish things where possible.” With China’s global power surging, there is a demand, particularly among the PLA, to be more assertive about its territorial concerns, whether Taiwan, Tibet, maritime disputes in the South China Sea or boundary differences with India.

Modi did the right thing by doing some plain-speaking on the border intrusion with China even while ensuring that it did not affect the growing economic engagement. Xi too held his own, outlining China’s new thrust in engaging with India’s neighbours, including what he called the “One Belt and One Road” proposal for interconnectivity with South Asia along the traditional land and maritime Silk Roads. Yet he assured India that China’s intentions were not hegemonic, that it had a long way to go before its 1.3 billion people could live well and that “only by sticking to a peaceful development path can China realise its development goals.”

Modi and Xi agreed that there was a need to have an early settlement of the boundary question and to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border. But these were anodyne statements and it is important that India continues to talk and act tough on the border while keeping China engaged on the economic front. Modi has already established good relations with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and by month-end he will strengthen ties with the US when he has a summit with President Barack Obama.

Fresh into the job as PM, Modi is already showing that he can be both deft and firm on foreign policy issues. He seems aware that engaging with China is not a zero-sum game — it helps him get a better deal with the US and Japan even while he puts pressure on Xi when he shakes hands with Obama and Abe. Quoting a Chinese saying, Xi told an Indian audience in Delhi: “Don’t do to others what you do not want to be done to yourself.” Modi could remind Xi when he meets him next that “Actions speak louder than words.”
Face-off worsens in Ladakh as more troops arrive
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
The ongoing face-off between India and China at Chumar in south-eastern Ladakh has intensified with the addition of more gun-toting troops, which are now strung across 2 km on an east-to-west axis on either side of the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC).

As per the agreement arrived at, the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China have been maintaining a minimum distance some 400 to 600 metres since Wednesday. This is to avoid any untoward incident as troops on either side are carrying weapons.

As of now, there are two face-off points, one in Chumar and another 70 km east to it in Demchok. Earlier, PLA troops were in two locations at Chumar, but with the addition of more men the arch of PLA troops-held positions has widened and merged the locations. The Indian Army has matched the deployment and extended its own arch of troops to stall the Chinese.

The stand-off is over the control of access to a 14,600-ft-high mountain pass named ‘30-R’ post in Chumar. India holds the pass on its side. The PLA is a few kilometres short and has been building a road but struggling due to the terrain. India has protested saying the road falls in disputed areas of the LAC where both sides have agreed not to build any structures till the boundary dispute is resolved.

India’s control over ‘30-R’ means the Army can maintain a vigil on any Chinese activity. Both sides claim the area as their own. Eastern Ladakh abuts Tibet and the boundaries are not demarcated despite attempts, first made by the British in 1846 and followed up with periodic ones till 1914. In the past decade, Special Representatives of India and China have been discussing the matters.

Sources said the dispute at the LAC was raising doubts in New Delhi as Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had given out a figure of some 400 intrusions by the Indian Army into China, when Modi and his team raised the matter during the talks.

The Army’s Kiari-based 70 Brigade, manning Chumar and Demchok, has been advised by the New Delhi-based Army headquarters to hold its existing positions on the pass and around it till the PLA does not withdraw from its positions across the LAC in its own areas of Chepzi (Zhipuqi-Quebusi).

Xi points out 400 intrusions by India

    The LAC dispute is ‘raising doubts’ in Delhi as Chinese President Xi Jinping has given out a figure of 400 intrusions by the Indian Army into China, when PM Narendra Modi raised the incursion issue
    As the arch of PLA-held positions has widened at Chumar, India has matched the deployment to stall the Chinese
Chandigarh: Air Force Plane Crash Lands, Passengers Safe
An Indian Air Force AN-32 transport aircraft with 11 people on board crash landed at the Chandigarh airport on Saturday evening, airport sources said.

The aircraft caught fire as it crash-landed but the blaze was doused by fire tenders inside the airport premises.

A few people on board the aircraft suffered minor burn injuries.
India’s Artillery Procurement Saga
Napoleon once said, “God fights on the side with the best artillery.” There is little doubt that the Indian Army’s artillery is in urgent need of modernization. That much was clear after the Kargil War, where artillery played a decisive factor. But delays in procurement are hindering the process. Take 155 mm towed howitzers, a key element of India’s artillery. India hasn’t purchased a new system since the Bofors in 1980s. Senior Indian army officials have also raised concerns over shortages of modern artillery systems, which they believe would be a crucial drawback in any future conflict. Even though the Bofors proved its utility in the Kargil War, the Army has been notably lackadaisical when it comes to acquiring these types of guns, with tenders cancelled in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

So in 2012, with then Indian Army Chief, General V.K Singh warning of gaps existing in India’s military preparedness, the Ministry of Defence cleared a $647 million deal to acquire 145 M777 155-mm 38-caliber howitzers under Washington’s Foreign Military Sales program, after the Army conducted a “series of rigorous trials” of the gun.

In October 2013, however, it was reported that British multinational BAE Systems would be closing the U.S. factory that manufactures the gun, due the “absence of any order or commitment from New Delhi.” If New Delhi wants the guns, it will have to pay to reopen the line, raising the price to as much as $885 million. A recent strengthening of the U.S. dollar makes the deal even more expensive. Washington points out that if India had been able to move more quickly, it could have had the guns at the lower price.

This battle-tested M777 has been called the world’s “largest sniper rifle” due to its range and accuracy, which enables it to “hit windows from 25 miles away.” With a digital fire control system, the M777 has the ability to fire five rounds per minute.

This gun was used by the U.S. military during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. The M777 guns possessed both tactical and strategic mobility that enhanced their survivability and enabled them to be used for both point and area defense. The low thermal and radar signature and low silhouette further enhance survivability, reducing reaction time for the enemy. Because they are easily concealed compared to the Bofors, the M777 could be useful in warfare in both desert and mountain terrains.

Although the M777 is light artillery, its firepower matches that of heavier towed howitzers. Its light weight is achieved by the use of titanium and aluminum alloy. That makes the M777 an ideal weapon for mountain warfare, since it can be readily moved by helicopter and transport aircraft like the Indian Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules or IL-76. With that feature, the M777 was meant to be part of the Indian Army’s new Mountain Strike Corps, for use in high altitude regions like Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The failure of the deal could well undermine the military capabilities of this corps. Mountain warfare is complicated by the non-linear terrain, which calls for light, maneuverable and accurate artillery. Yet the Army still lacks such a system.

Since the infamous Bofors scandal of the mid 1980s,  the Indian Army has been unable to procure any 155 mm howitzers. Controversies surrounding Denel and Singapore Technology Kinetics have also prevented India from considering these companies as potential suppliers. In the meantime, the role of artillery in challenging terrain grows more important. As Brig. (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal points out, “of all the combat arms of the Indian Army, artillery will be the battle winning factor on future battlefields.” Regular contributor to The Diplomat, Nitin Gokhale has argued that the Army needs more than 1,500 towed artillery guns.

Despite the Army recognizing the importance of the M777 system, the defense establishment is of a different mind, believing that India could acquire less costly alternatives. In June 2014, the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB)-made Dhanush, considered to be the desi version of the Bofors, was reported to have entered production phase. This 45-caliber gun is claimed to be “20-25% better” than the Bofors, and will apparently feature an electronic sighting and laying system that would indeed represent a major enhancement. It can also apparently hit targets up to 38 km distant on plains. Moreover, the Dhanush would be far cheaper than the Bofors.

It is reported that the OFB has received orders for 114 howitzers. Meanwhile, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is partnering with the private sector in developing modern 155 mm howitzers of 52 caliber under the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Project. Private companies like Tata Group and Bharat Forge are also working on systems. Clearly, the failure to strike the M777 deal has opened the door for Indian private firms.
200 heavily armed militants waiting across LoC: Army
 Around 200 heavily armed militants were waiting across the Line of Control to infiltrate into the Indian side even as the security forces foiled several attempts by the ultras to sneak into Kashmir Valley following the recent floods.

“There are around 200 heavily armed terrorists across the Line of Control waiting to infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley,” Lt. Gen Subrata Saha, the General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, told PTI.

He said that infiltrators from across the border tried to take advantage of the recent floods in the Kashmir Valley, but the army foiled their attempts.

He said that around 200 militants were still active in the entire Valley and the security grid of the army was in place to “neutralise” them.

“Even though we too suffered damage in the recent floods as more than 50 per cent of the cantonment area was inundated but we never allowed the security grid to weaken,” he said.

He said that it was because of the ‘robust’ counter terrorism and counter insurgency grid in place that dreaded foreign militant Umar Bhat was recently killed in the Rajwar forest area of the Kupwara district.

Lt. Gen Saha said that in the past ten days, several-cross border infiltration attempts were made, but the army foiled them in which five infiltrators were gunned down.

“Three infiltrators were killed in the Keran Sector and two were killed in the Machil sector in the last ten days,” Lt. Gen Saha said.

Jammu and Kashmir has been hit by the worst-ever floods which have wreaked havoc in several districts and left 280 people dead.

Terming as “baseless” the allegations by “anti social elements” that priority was given to the VVIP’s and outsiders during the rescue operations undertaken by the army after the floods hit Srinagar city, Lt. Gen Saha said, “There was no way we could have distinguished an outsider or a local. our priority was to save maximum number of human lives.

“We had to first save the people who were caught in the farthest points. We adopted a logical sequence of evacuation and first helped the people who were at a greater risk.”

He said that people involved in stone pelting on soldiers deployed in the relief and rescue operations had come from the unaffected areas to create trouble.

“The people who were marooned in the floods wanted to be saved and we saved them. The people who pelted stones on the army personnel deployed in the rescue operations were the ones who had come to create mischief from the area that were the least affected with the floods,” he said.

Lt. Gen Saha said, that the ammunition depots were not affected by the recent floods, but “some relocation had to be made“.

“Some of our units suffered some damage in the floods, but the arms and ammunitions are safe,” he said.

To carry out the emergency relief and rescue operations in the civilian areas, a makeshift helipad was made operational inside the cantonment area, as the floodwater had rendered two main helipads inside the cantonment defunct.

“Our main helipads were submerged and to carry out the emergency relief and rescue work we had to make a makeshift helipad operational and within hours of the catastrophe the relief and rescue work began from here” he said.

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