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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 23 Sep 2014

Army chief cancels Bhutan visit amid stand-off with China
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 22
As India’s stand-off with China at Chumar in southeast Ladakh continues, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag has called off his four-day visit to Bhutan scheduled to start on Monday. He is expected to visit the neighbouring country later.

Meanwhile, the Army numerically dominates almost all positions at Chumar where it is locked in a face-off with Chinese People's Liberation Army since September 10.

New Delhi decided to ramp up its troop presence in the disputed area on September 19, asking the force to stay put till the PLA withdraws into areas held by it in Chepzi (Zhipuqi-Quebusi). China may retaliate by increasing the number of soldiers there, say sources.

In Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended a meeting of Chiefs of Staff of the PLA today. The Chinese Defence Ministry website quoted Jinping as saying: "Headquarters of all PLA forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology."

As both sides blame the other for violating the sanctity of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the 2005 protocol that bars any troop build-up or construction in disputed areas, sources say a final resolution to the stand-off depends on "who blinks first".

A final decision to end the face-off will have to come from New Delhi and Beijing as the local military commanders have exhausted all options. The two sides will have to agree to a formula that seems workable for both. The events are being closely watched in Washington, Moscow, Tokyo and Islamabad. During the April-May 2013 stand-off at Depsang Plains, China had agreed to withdraw after India decided to remove some sheds it had erected at Chumar. Depsang and Chumar are separated by 650 km.

Posturing at play

    New Delhi decided to ramp up its troop presence in the disputed site on September 19, asking the force to stay put till the PLA withdraws into its area
    Between 1,800 and 2,000 Indian soldiers are currently positioned in the disputed sections as against an estimated 800 PLA soldiers on its side
    Armed soldiers are strung across on an east-to-west axis in a 2 km-wide arch, maintaining a distance of 700m to 1.5 km, depending upon the terrain.
Making war, talking peace
China maintains the ambiguous position on the border issue
B.G. Verghese

IT has been a turbulent week of war and peace. The Chinese President's visit was the highlight with peace being talked even as a mini-war was being waged in Ladakh, eyeball to eyeball, following Chinese objections to the construction of a small irrigation work near Demchok. Twelve trade and investment agreements were signed and the Chinese offered $20 bn worth of investment in five years to correct the present trade imbalance. Yet, the Ahmedabad Mirror reported that Northeasterers on the staff of the Hyatt Hotel were kept out of sight so as not to offend the Chinese guests. If true, this would be a sad self-goal and a rude slap in the face our Northeastern citizens.
Prime Minister Modi, however, did well to tell President Xi that while trade and other exchanges were most desirable, no real progress and lasting friendship was possible without speedy settlement of the boundary issue. Three specific issues were mentioned: defining the LAC to ensure peace, with demarcation to follow; avoidance of stapled visas, and water sharing. Water-sharing is not a real issue as China's ability to divert waters from India is modest. The real water issue lies in managing climate change, which was apparently not discussed. Both sides have much to gain from such cooperation.

As far as the border is concerned, the Chinese have since 1954 maintained the ambiguous position that matters will be settled when the time is ripe. Thus even when a section of the LAC is mutually determined, the Chinese are unwilling to demarcate it and exchange maps. India must insist on firm ground rules here.

Mr Modi did not address the media during or after the visit. He has studiously avoided speaking to the media since taking office. But all of a sudden he has come alive in a “world exclusive” interview with CNN on the eve of his US-UN visit. This seems more an exercise in self-publicity than in communication, in which he blandly suggests that Muslims in India are absolutely safe even while the BJP and the Parivar have tirelessly indulged in an unrestrained campaign of slander, lies, dire threats and the most infamous calumny against them. This will not wash unless and until he takes action against some of his leading lights for criminal incitement, hate-mongering and propagating downright lies.

The recent by-election results in which the BJP lost 13 of the 23 seats spread over 33 constituencies in nine states is indicative of growing public disenchantment with the blatant electoral politics of hate and polarisation that the BJP banked upon. It suffered in UP and Rajasthan in particular.

The BJP leader in Bihar openly declared that if Yogi Adityanath spoke in Bihar as he did in U.P. he would have been promptly contradicted. Adityanath’s rants apart, recall what some others said. Amit Shah, the BJP president declared that if Patel, not Nehru, had been “in charge” of Kashmir, the entire state would have come to India and there would have been no need for Article 370. This combines a high order of constitutional ignorance with historical illiteracy and a false pitting of Patel against Nehru in a new game of personality polarisation. Sakshi Maharaj, BJP MP, next alleged that madrasas are imparting instruction in terror and love-jihads. They do not hoist the national flag and Muslim MPs avoid functions where the national anthem is sung. The BJP disowned these outrageous statements as the personal views of the MP who, however, remains in good standing.

Then it was left to Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Women and Child Development, to claim that profits made from animal (read cow) slaughter are going to fund terrorism. This again is sheer rubbish and also betrays ignorance of the trade. The plain fact is that the bulk of cattle sold for slaughter are non-milch buffaloes and are disposed of by Hindus who cannot afford to keep dry and decrepit animals. Mechanisation of tillage and haulage has also reduced the demand for draft animals. Rather than acknowledge the facts and permit culling and rendering of animals and sales of processed beef, people are driven to illicit sales of cattle across the border to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Most gaushalas are rackets of bogus piety and serve no purpose. That apart, millions of "holy cows" roam the streets and forests and do much damage to the ecology.

In Madhya Pradesh, a BJP MLA, Usha Thakur, asked her followers to keep Muslims out of the Garba festival to prevent Hindu girls from being trapped in love jihad. These are demented minds that would convert beautiful national festivals that bind our diversity into occasions to preach hatred and divide communities.

No wonder the National Minorities Commission has written to the Home Minister “to restrain people in responsible positions from making irresponsible statements”. An earlier resolution by the commission was ignored. Modi sarkar does not care and has said or done nothing for months to stop this monstrous Hindutva hate jihad. And is this the man who is telling the world in an “exclusive interview” with CNN that Muslims need have no worry? Statesmanship or humbug!

Were this not enough, we have witnessed the arrogance of power in play. Ajit Singh, a former minister, has refused to vacate his bungalow despite repeated reminders, like several other defiant ministers, MPs and bureaucrats. He wants the bungalow converted into a memorial commemorating his father, Charan Singh. The Nehru-Gandhi example of endless land-grab for family memorials has created a terrible example. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Culture and Art in the prime heart of Delhi represents the acme of land grab and the most extravagant use of space that it must disgorge to accommodate other cultural institutions.

The answer to Ajit Sigh and all similar defaulters is that their household goods should be dumped on the road and auctioned and all arrears and costs be met therefore. Protest should be met with arrest and a month's imprisonment. Do this just once under the law and the nonsense will end.

Then there is Hema Malini telling the tragic widows of Brindavan, mostly from Bengal and Bihar, not to crowd the place but remain in their home states. What impertinence from a woman who embraced Islam temporarily to marry after her partner-to-be secured talaq. What has she or the Parivar done to end the terrible plight of widows who are as yet unable to break the cruel taboo against widow remarriage, though abolished by law. These medieval bigots are the dregs of Hindu society.

Meanshile, we have Yasin Malik forcibly stealing a boat-load of rations for Srinagar’s flood affected to divert to his partisans in order to claim credit for looking after their welfare even while protesting the state's alleged indifference and incompetence in rescue and relief operations. These separatist scoundrels have thrown stones at Army and Air Force rescue teams. They deserve to be horse-whipped and locked away.
Amid Border Stand-Off With China, Army Chief Postpones Visit to Bhutan
Army Chief General Dalbir Suhag has postponed a four-day official trip to Bhutan which was to begin from today, in the wake of the stand-off with the Chinese troops at the border. The Army has deployed about 2000 soldiers at Chumur in South Eastern Ladakh where they are locked in a face-off with around 1000 soldiers from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). Troops from either side are strung across in an east-to-west axis in a two-kilometre wide arch.

Senior officials told NDTV that apart from the deployment, the Army also destroyed a road being constructed by the Chinese PLA in Chumur.

The construction activity, which India has objected to for long, was detected on September 13. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Army, which rushed reinforcements to Chumur, "dug-up" the under-construction road and seized road building equipment of the Chinese PLA a day before President Xi Jinping reached India.

India claims that China is constructing a road from Chepzi into Chumur, violating the border 2005 protocol that prevents either side from constructing in the disputed areas.

Even as current round of face-off at Demchok and Chumur entered the 12th day, the end of the stand-off now appears to be beyond the resolution through flag meetings between Indian and Chinese military commanders as laid down in the border management protocol by the two countries in 2013. "A resolution to face-off now lies at a political level," a senior army official told NDTV. The two sides will have to agree to a formula that seems workable for both.

In the April-May 2013 stand-off at Depsang plains which continued for about three weeks, China withdrew only after India agreed to remove tin sheds and stopped constructing bunkers at Chumur. Depsang and Chumar are about 650 kilometres apart.

According to reports reaching New Delhi, the Chinese are facing difficulties keeping its troops supplied and are using helicopters to air drop supplies. India is at an advantage in Chumur, unlike other disputed areas at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India troops are being supplied through a paved 90-kilometre-long road connecting from Karzok (on the Leh-Manali Highway) to Chumur.

In a related development, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, attended a meeting of Chiefs of Staff of the PLA in Beijing. In a statement released after the meeting, the Chinese Defence Ministry said President Xi had directed that: "Headquarters of all PLA forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology".
Alarming pattern: People’s Liberation Army transgresses border before every India-China high-level meeting
 NEW DELHI: A worrisome pattern is emerging before every India-China high-level meeting since April 2013 with PLA troops transgressing borders, particularly into the Chumar sector of the Ladakh region, aiming to compel India to dismantle its military infrastructure in the area viewed as detrimental to Beijing's security interests.

It was with this goal that 400 troopers of the People's Liberation Army (according to some figures 1,000 soldiers) entered into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control just four days ahead of President Xi Jinping's arrival, as per officials well-versed with the developments. The idea was to bring the issue to table during the Xi-Modi meeting and negotiate hard, asking India to dismantle the listening post and bunker that Delhi is building in Chumar area, official sources told ET.

Chumar, located over 300 km northeast of Leh and bordering Himachal Pradesh, has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, with the Chinese making several attempts to end India's dominance in the area in the last 2-3 years. India is strategically at a vantage position in this area and its defence structure is a matter of discomfort for China. It is one of the very few places along the LAC where access to the border areas is easier from the Indian side. The PLA has been making repeated bids to claim Chumar as part of Chinese territory, but has been thwarted every time by the Indian Army, sources in the Ministry of Defence told ET.

The reason was same when PLA troops entered into Depsang area (Ladakh) in April 2013 after India refused to dismantle its infrastructure in Chumar ahead of Premier Li Keqiang's India visit a month after. It resulted in a three-week standoff following which Chinese troops withdrew.

It was Li's maiden trip to India as China's premier and was initiated at his behest. Thereafter reports of transgressions emerged ahead of maiden meeting between Xi and Modi on the sidelines of BRICS Summit in Brazil last July.

It is for no reason that the PM made unresolved boundary and need for peace as the central theme of his dialogue with Xi. "The message was loud and clear from the top Indian leadership, with Modi referring to settlement of boundary dispute during the meeting with Xi and again in the Joint Statement," a source said.

Interestingly, PLA troopers who transgressed into the Chumar sector of the Ladakh region across the LAC decided to withdraw hours after President Xi Jinping got a tough message from PM Modi on boundary dispute and repeated transgressions.

It may be noted here that Xi is not only the President of China but also Chairman of the Central Military Commission and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and therefore all-powerful to be aware of all developments. "There were hard negotiations when Xi met Modi on the issue. While transgressions from the Chinese side are frequent in this area along the LAC, the sheer number of troops deployed entering Chumar this time is alarming. Earlier far less number of troops were involved in transgression from across the border," China expert Srikanth Kondapalli said.
15 battalions of Indian Army on high alert in Ladakh: Reports
The Indian Army has put 15 of its battalions on high alert in eastern Ladakh keeping in view the incidents of incursions there, reports suggested on Sunday.

The Army is also keeping its 'reserve units' units on alert.

As per reports in a leading daily, the move is aimed to counter the incursions of China's People's Liberation Army in the high-altitude region.

Three flag meetings between local military commanders in the recent past failed to make any headway to de-escalate the tension at the border imbroglio at both Chumar and Demchok.

The standoff in Chumar region in Ladakh worsened on Saturday after a second intrusion by Chinese army personnel in two days was reported at another point after they had withdrawn from the same area.

Around 50 personnel of PLA arrived in nine vehicles at Point 30R and they were in addition to the 35-odd personnel who were already camping at a hillock in the Chumar area itself, official sources said, as per PTI.

Chumar is located 300 km Northeast of Ladakh.

The Chinese soldiers immediately alighted from the vehicles and positioned themselves barely 100 metres away from the Indian Army, which had decided not to withdraw completely from the region even after the Chinese PLA had returned on their own to their side on Thursday night, the sources said.

The 30-R post in Chumar has been frequented by PLA often as Indian Army has kept an observation post which dominates the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and gives advantage to India in keeping a vigil on the Chinese activity deep across the border.

The Chinese helicopters were air dropping food packets for its soldiers but had not violated the air space till now, the sources said.

The Army, which had started scaling down operations from the area following the Chinese withdrawal Thursday night, put a halt and again started pitching their tents bracing themselves for a possible stand-off, the sources said.

The tension in this area erupted on Sunday when some of the Chinese workers, who were constructing road on their side, started entering into the Indian side and also claimed that they had orders to build road upto Tible, five km deep into the Indian territory.

The Indian army asked the Chinese workers to leave as otherwise they would face prosecution under Indian laws for entering the country illegally.

As per reports, around 1,000 PLA troops were still occupying six to seven tactical positions in the Chumar sector till Sunday evening.

Over 1,000 Indian troops, too, are maintaining their forward deployment in the Chumar region.

Meanwhile, even though the standoff is limited to the southern part of eastern Ladakh as of now, the Army-ITBP together have reportedly stepped up patrols from Daulat Beg Oldi in the north to Chumar near the Himachal border.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the border issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the latter was on a visit to India recently.

He had said that solving the boundary issue between the two countries was important for growing economic cooperation and had added that a clarification on the LAC was important.

On his part Jinping had said that both India and China were capable of managing the border situation effectively and had added that it should be dealt in a way that it did not have an impact on ties.
Amid border row with India, Xi Jinping orders Chinese Army to respect chain of command
Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday demanded "absolute loyalty" from PLA's top brass, asking them to repose "firm faith" in the ruling Communist Party, guarantee a smooth chain of command and make sure all decisions are implemented.

"Headquarters of PLA forces must have absolute loyalty and firm faith in the Communist Party of China, guarantee a smooth chain of command and make sure all decisions from the central leadership are fully implemented," said Xi, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

"Headquarters of all People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology," Xi, who returned from India last week after a three-day visit, was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
All PLA forces should follow the instructions of President Xi and update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC, an official statement said.

It is not yet clear why the emphasis was made on absolute loyalty and to follow the orders to ensure smooth chain of command.

Xi's directives come in the midst of a standoff between the PLA and Indian troops in Chumar area in Ladakh region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The standoff took a new turn yesterday with the PLA pitching seven tents well within the Indian territory and showing no signs of withdrawing from the territory.

Xi, 61, acquired the image of China's most powerful leader after Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao, as he headed the Presidency, the CPC and the military from day one of coming to power unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao.

Since then, Xi has reshuffled the military postings of the generals loyal to him at the top and removed and prosecuted some top PLA generals for corruption.

Yesterday, General Fang Fenghui, PLA chief, said in a statement that all PLA forces follow the instructions of President Xi who is also the chairman of the CMC, which is the overall high command of the Chinese military.

Fang said the forces should update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC.

Meanwhile, the PLA chiefs of staff met in Beijing to discuss how to improve the efficiency of military command under new circumstances. Fang attended the meeting.

Military commanders should have a better understanding of international and domestic security situations as well as the latest military development, Xi said.

They should also strictly discipline themselves and the armies as well as contribute to the reform of national defence, he said.

At Sunday's meeting, PLA chiefs of staff focused on streamlining the operational headquarters of all PLA forces with information technology and revised several important protocols, according to a statement.

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