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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 24 Sep 2014

 Explore all options to bring back PoWs from Pak, SC tells Centre
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 23
The Supreme Court today asked the Centre to explore all options to secure the release of prisoners of war (PoWs) languishing in Pakistani jail for more than 40 years since the 1971 war and bring them back to India.

“Don’t presume that Pakistan has a negative attitude and will not respond,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha told senior advocate K Radhakrishnan who appeared for the Centre which has challenged the Gujarat High Court verdict directing the government to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the issue.

“Since the matter is serious, sensitive and grave, all options should be explored, meritorious or otherwise,” the Bench, which included Justices Kurian Joseph and RF Nariman, remarked.

The SC acknowledged the Centre’s logic behind challenging the HC verdict by stating that the judiciary had little role in matters involving two nations. “Leave aside legal and constitutional issues. Tell us, how will you take the issue forward? Our soldiers are in enemy custody for more than 40 years,” the Bench asked. Radhakrishnan said consistent efforts being made by the government through different channels had not yielded any positive results. Approaching the ICJ was fraught with the risk of similar step by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

“We understand the seriousness. But our options are limited. We want to adopt a reasonable approach,” he said. At this, the Bench said the scope for judicial intervention in such matters was limited. “It is for you to weigh the pros and cons.”
 At Chumar, Army holds ground with more aggression
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, September 23
With China getting increasingly aggressive on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Chumar, Indian troops are holding forth with renewed vigour and determination.

“Against the backdrop of China’s aggressive posture in Chumar sector, 15 battalions of the Army’s Fire and Fury Corps and eight battalions of the ITBP have been put on an alert all along the LAC,” said a top Army source.

After 13-day face-off in Eastern sector of Ladakh, the Army is calling the latest step of increasing the number of troops along the border as more than “tit-for-tat” response to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

As a result, the 804-km LAC, which includes the international border with China, in otherwise vast and silent land of Ladakh has turned “active”.

Refusing to go soft this time, a source said: “While an infantry battalion has a total strength of 836, we go by an average of 500 men and there are more than 15 battalions of the Army in Ladakh as of today. The Army has deployed nearly 1,500 troops in Chumar, while the PLA has around 900 soldiers.”

China’s ‘bonhomie’ exhibited by its President Xi Jinping in his recent visit to Delhi has certainly not matched the deeds of the PLA and back home Jinping reportedly asked the PLA to remain prepared for a regional conflict.

The PLA has not backed off as yet. “Efforts at the diplomatic level might be on but we have been told to hold the ground,” a source said.

Sources said this time the Army’s response was ‘more than adequate’. “Our troops are also aggressive and committed to their task,” said a senior Army source.

“The Army is closely monitoring the situation. Reinforcements and relocation of troops are indispensable part of any military force,” the source said.

The source, however, didn’t agree that Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag had to cancel his Bhutan visit due to Chumar stand-off. “There could have been some diplomatic compulsions to it.”
A misadventure on the border
Lieut Gen Baljit Singh (retd)
When I read Chinese President Xi Jinping's statement permitting Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar to transit from Nathu La and through the Chumbi Valley, my thoughts drifted to a hilarious trespass in the early 1980s. Once the Chinese Government had embarked on assimilating Tibet into the Middle Kingdom in 1950, the Chumbi Valley was firmly shuttered down to the outside world. The PLA had created a sizeable presence in the Valley and axiomatically, so did the Indian Army in near vicinity. Both sides believed that not a bird could fly undetected, across the eastern ridge of the Valley separating the two sovereign nations. However, that complacency was shattered one misty day.

It was customary in those days that the newly inducted soldiers in Sikkim would be sent on terrain familiarisation missions, within and on the flanks of their assigned segments. They were expected to attain proficiency to reach a given landmark blind-folded, so to say. As it happens at times, SOPs get ignored and in one case a group of soldiers lost orientation and could not be traced despite extensive, weeklong ground and aerial searches. Ultimately, word came from the PLA that they had foiled an attempted "intrusion" by Indian soldiers but would gladly hand them over. As may be imagined, not only did that create a diplomatic embarrassment but also severely dented the pride of the particular outfit.

The story which unfolded before a Court of Inquiry was that 20 soldiers led by a smart Captain had set out on a routine four-day patrol. As briefed, on the first day they went due North, keeping a thousand metres from the International border along the Chumbi-Sikkim crest. However, the weather changed and mist soon turned into fog so dense that no soldier in the lead was discernable to his comrade ten paces behind. By the afternoon, they had expected to reach a rock cliff-face at about 15,000 ft ASL (and indeed they did get to one) from where they were to go due West for an hour, before bedding for the night. The Captain had accordingly locked his prismatic compass pointing West but unfortunately he stumbled, had a fall and unbeknown to him, the compass got damaged.

There was no fog the next morning, so their spirits buoyed and they soon hit the track which by about 3 PM would take them to a tributary of the Teesta river. Once there, they would turn left and in an hour hit the bridge on the Teesta near a township. But, in reality, all this while they were walking due East because the locked compass was pointing West! Shortly they even hit a tributary as they had expected, so turned left and soon heard cheering and laughter. Surely, that was the Border Roads detachment at the Teesta bridge making merry? Yes, they were having a volleyball match and the patrol marched past them smartly, heading for rendezvous with vehicles to return to the base.

As the last Indian soldier went past, the referee gathered his wits, blew the whistle and gesticulating excitedly terminated the game. The volleyball ground was in fact the PLA helipad at Yatung in the Chumbi Valley. And the India troops were marching nonchalantly on the road to Lhasa!
LAC stand-off on as fresh meet makes no headway
India, China stick to their guns
Backchannel negotiations continue
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 23
A meeting between India and China to end the 13-day-long stand-off at Chumar in southeastern Ladakh proved inconclusive today as both sides failed to agree on terms to de-escalate tension and pull back their respective soldiers from the area. Background diplomacy is, however, under way, sources said.

China has hardened its stance and is in no mood to climb down from its objective of building a road south of “30-R” post. The two sides had agreed not to allow construction in disputed sections of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India is opposed to the construction of the road, which falls in the disputed areas. Both sides have made serious backchannel talks to defuse tension along the LAC. Sources said India’s opinion was to have a gradual time-bound reduction in the number of troops to de-escalate the situation. But Beijing did not commit to the suggestion.

Background meetings were, however, taking place to end the impasse. Under a mechanism available, both sides can pull back from stated positions without ceding ground to the other. The two sides will have to agree to a formula that seems workable for both. The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been asked to hold ground till the People’s Liberation Army of China withdraws.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju today said India was firm on its position. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was likely to be briefed tomorrow.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the situation at the border was best handled by those positioned there.

He said since the meeting between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in New Delhi, “we (MEA) have been following up the issue and engaged at different levels and at different places. Quiet diplomacy is at work and we are addressing it expeditiously”.

Beijing hardens stand

A meeting between the two sides remained inconclusive on Tuesday. India wanted to have a gradual reduction in the number of troops, but Beijing did not commit to the suggestion, said sources

China has hardened its stance and is unwilling to climb down from its target of building a road south of “30-R” post. India is opposed to the construction of the road, which falls in the disputed areas of Chumar

Reports on Xi’s remarks ‘wild guess’

China on Tuesday termed as “wild guess” reports that President Xi Jinping’s comments asking the PLA to improve its ability to win a ‘regional war’ were made in the context of the border stand-off with India. The leadership of the two countries had reached a consensus to solve the boundary dispute through friendly consultations, said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying. PTI

    We (MEA) have been following up the issue, and engaged at different levels and at different places. Quiet diplomacy is at work and we are addressing it expeditiously — Syed Akbaruddin, mea spokesperson
US, Arab allies bomb IS terror targets in Syria
Ashish Kumar Sen in Washington DC

The US and five Arab allies began bombing the Islamic State inside Syria for the first time early on Tuesday, significantly expanding the war being waged against the terrorists in neighbouring Iraq.

US President Barack Obama, acknowledging the airstrikes, said the US and its allies would do “what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.” Obama has ruled out deploying US combat troops to take part in a ground war against the IS, but he wants to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to do the job instead. Last week, the US Congress approved the President’s plan.

Amid skepticism about the ability of airstrikes alone to destroy IS, Obama said the “overall effort will take time” and acknowledged that there will be “challenges ahead.”

Obama spoke at the White House before departing for New York where he will urge the United Nations to take steps to prevent foreign fighters from enlisting with terrorist groups fighting in Syria. The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple IS targets in the provinces of Ar-Raqqa, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and the eastern Syrian city of Abu Kamal. The targets included IS fighters, training camps, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance centre, supply trucks and armoured vehicles, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

A mix of fighters, bombers, drones and Tomahawk land attack missiles were used to conduct 14 strikes against IS targets. The US fired 47 Tomahawk land attack missiles from two US navy ships.

Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also participated in or supported the airstrikes, CENTCOM said. “All aircraft safely exited the strike areas,” it added.

The participation of Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, is significant as US officials are determined not to have operations against the IS be portrayed as a Western war against Muslims.

Training camps, command facilities destroyed

The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple IS targets in the provinces of Ar-Raqqa, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah and the eastern Syrian city of Abu Kamal

The targets included IS fighters, training camps, headquarters and command and control facilities, supply trucks and armoured vehicles

A mix of fighters, bombers, drones and Tomahawk land attack missiles were used to conduct 14 strikes against IS targets

All aircraft safely exited the strike areas, US central command said
After Days of India-China Stand-Off at Border, Signs of a Solution
Almost two weeks after the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Chumur in Ladakh at the border, there are signs of a resolution after China's People's Liberation Army on Tuesday asked for another flag meeting at Chushul with Indian commanders.

"Diplomacy is at work quietly. We are confident that border security is in good hands," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said today.

For over a week, 1000 Chinese and 1500 Indian soldiers have been ranged against each other on Indian territory, but since last night some reduction has taken place on the Chinese side, sources said.

India has decided to take its time before agreeing to meet the Chinese. Top sources say India is likely to respond only after a meeting tomorrow called by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, with Army Chief General Dalbir Suhag, representatives of the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, ITBP and other stakeholders.

Two previous meetings held before Chinese President Xi Jinping's India visit had failed to break the deadlock.

The row at Chumur is a result of Chinese attempts to build a road, which India strongly objected to. Chinese soldiers entered Indian territory with heavy construction equipment and a large labour force.

India then sent its forces to the area, resulting in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the incursions twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Though President Xi assured that he had asked his soldiers to back down, there was no visible change.

China has dismissed speculation linking a statement by President Xi on Sunday urging Chinese armed forces to be ready for a "regional war" to India, saying it was a "wild guess".

The Chinese president was quoted by the Xinhua news agency as saying, "Headquarters of all People's Liberation Army forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology."
India China border stand off: PLA blinks, wants flag meeting
New Delhi: In an indication that China may blink first, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Tuesday asked for a flag meeting with the Indian Army, even as the stand-off at Chumar in Ladakh between the Chinese PLA and the Indian Army continued, defence sources said.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA), meanwhile said “quiet diplomacy’ is underway between the two countries after the recent meeting in New Delhi between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Defence sources said the Chinese request for the flag meeting is under the consideration of the Indian Army which has decided that there will be no backdown from Chumar till the Chinese PLA returns to their pre-September 10 locations. Indian forces, including the Army and the paramilitary ITBP, have built up their strength at the two military stand off points in Chumar.

Sources said the Indian troops are outnumbering the Chinese troops by a ratio of 3:1 in strength. The security brass in New Delhi believe that there is no breakdown of communication between the PLA and the Chinese political leadership and the PLA is acting at the behest of the political leadership.
Is Xi Jinping's combat-ready order to PLA a bid to win over India's strategic advantage in Chunar?

NEW DELHI: The intransigence by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to stay put in Chumar (Ladakh region) across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), despite assurance of withdrawal by none other President Xi Jinping last week, is being viewed as part of its strategy to win over Indian Army's strategic advantage in the area.

It is now clear that PLA troopers did not withdraw from the Chumar area on Thursday night after talks between Xi and Narendra Modi and reports reaching Delhi to that ..
India pores over Xi ‘loyalty’ line to army

New Delhi, Sept. 22: As the face-off in Ladakh’s Chumar between the Indian and Chinese armies continued for the 12th day today, military experts in New Delhi are trying to gauge why the Chinese troops were making an aggressive move where they do not have positional advantage.

Among the possibilities is one that is being looked into after Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to the commanders of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army in Beijing today.

News agency Xinhua reported that Xi stressed on the loyalty of the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at a meeting with PLA chiefs of staff.

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, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).

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, he added.

The PLA chiefs of staff met in Beijing on Sunday, discussing how to improve the efficiency of military command under new circumstances. Fang Fenghui, chief of the PLA general staff, attended the meeting.

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

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

At Sunday’s meeting, the 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 issued afterwards.

All PLA forces should follow the instructions of President Xi and update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC, the statement said.

In India, officials said President Xi is clearly a strong leader and what he had been conveyed on the border face-off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi might take a few more days to play out. But there is speculation, especially after today’s remarks by Xi, that elements in the PLA might have acted on their own. That is uncharacteristic of it, officials added.

At Chumar, Indian troops stopped the Chinese from building a road right up to the International Boundary. The Indian troops hold the dominating height at a point called 30R in south Ladakh.

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