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Saturday, 27 September 2014

From Today's Papers - 27 Sep 2014

Sharif rakes up Kashmir at UN

United Nations, September 26
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today raked up the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly and blamed India for “another missed opportunity” to address outstanding issues by cancelling the Foreign Secretary-level talks.

Asserting that a "veil" cannot be drawn over the "core" issue of Kashmir, he said Pakistan was ready to work for resolution of this problem through negotiations.

“Our support and advocacy of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is our historic commitment and a duty, as a party to the Kashmir dispute,” he said while addressing the annual UN General Assembly session. Needling India, Sharif said more than six decades ago, the UN had passed resolutions to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir are still waiting for the fulfilment of that promise,” he said.

“Many generations of Kashmiris have lived their lives under occupation, accompanied by violence and abuse of their fundamental rights. Kashmiri women, in particular, have undergone immense suffering and humiliation,” he said. For decades, attempts have been made, both under UN auspices and bilaterally in the spirit of the Lahore Declaration, to resolve this dispute, he said.

“The core issue of J&K has to be resolved. This is the responsibility of the international community. We cannot draw a veil on the issue of Kashmir, until it is addressed in accordance with the wishes of the people of J&K,” he told the gathering. Sharif said there was no need to add new permanent seats to the UN Security Council, saying the UN body should reflect the interests of all members and not the "ambitions of a few". — PTI
Chinese troops start withdrawing from Chumar

New Delhi, September 26
After a fortnight of incursions, Chinese troops today started withdrawing from India's Chumar area in Ladakh following talks between the two armies.

The pullback by around 750 PLA troops began after the issue was resolved at the third flag meeting between the two sides, Army sources said here.

After a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in New York, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced that the two countries have resolved the stand-off at the Ladakh border and withdrawal of troops will begin today and be completed by September 30. Swaraj said that the two sides have also decided on a timeline for the withdrawal of troops.

As per the understanding between the two sides at a Brigadier-level flag meeting, it is learnt that the Indian side agreed to dismantle its observation posts in the area while the Chinese agreed to stop the construction of a road there.

This exercise appeared to be a re-run of last year's Depsang Plains stand-off where the Chinese had demanded the dismantling of Indian positions in Chumar in return for withdrawing its troops from the Indian territory and succeeded in getting their demands accepted before leaving. — PTI
Challenges before new ISI chief
There may not be any major shift in his approach
D. Suba Chandran

Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar has been appointed the new Director General of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), replacing Lt Gen Zaheer ul Islam, who will retire in November. Given the ongoing political struggle in Islamabad and stories of conspiracy within the establishment against Nawaz Sharif, the appointment of a new ISI chief is likely to elicit interest and questions not only within Pakistan, but also in India.

Will the new ISI chief work with the Prime Minister, as he is constitutionally required to, or remain an extension of the GHQ? More than an analysis of his background - military, ethnic and others -- what needs to be addressed are the enormous challenges facing him, and the institution he will take over.

Unlike Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, there has been no extension for General Islam. General Pasha in effect got two extensions. Though for Gen Raheel Sharif, this is the first "appointment" of his ISI chief, for Nawaz, it is not the case. In fact, his earlier appointment of Gen Ziauddin Butt in 1999 ended up as a disaster for both. Following the coup led by Musharraf, both ended up in jail.

This time, from the way it has happened, one could surmise that Nawaz Sharif did not want to intervene in selecting the new ISI chief. Though technically, ISI chiefs are appointed by the Prime Minister, the latter seldom has a choice. It has always been the recommendation, to be precise, choice of the Army Chief. In this case, instead of sending a panel of three names, Gen Raheel Sharif gave only one name, thereby not providing any space for the Prime Minister to choose. That the announcement of the appointment came from the ISI public relations, rather than the Prime Minister's Office, also underlines the point.

Given the recent political crises, controversies and conspiracies, Nawaz Sharif is less likely to assert himself. The ongoing political crisis led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri and the "container" protest in Islamabad have weakened Sharif. He was much more confident and in a better political position after his election in 2013 and when he selected General Sharif as the COAS to succeed General Kayani in November 2013. In fact, Nawaz then was confident enough to "choose" Gen Raheel Sharif, superseding two senior Generals - Lt Gen Haroon Aslam and Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood. The former had to resign, while the latter was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Also, there have been reports about a conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif within the establishment, where senior Generals were believed to have pressured General Sharif to take over. True or exaggerated, such reports have already caused panic within the PML-N; the latter is also believed to have succumbed to a deal with the military, abrogating decision-making powers on crucial issues.

Hence, the first challenge for the new ISI chief will be to create an impression that he is apolitical and is willing to work with the government, and not against it. The recent record of the ISI-civilian government relationship should be a concern to both. During the tenure of Prime Minister Gilani, there was a short-lived but adventurous effort to bring the ISI under the effective control of the elected government. The much-debated "Memogate" incident also highlights the efforts by the previous government to curb the influence of the ISI. But the ISI and the military have thwarted any such attempts so far.

The second challenge for the new ISI chief is to handle relations with the Taliban and related entities - Al-Qaida, TTP, Punjabi Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Toiba etc. The ongoing military strikes against the TTP demand that the ISI work against neutralising the Pakistani Taliban. However, the long-term interests in Afghanistan, as defined by the establishment, will require that the ISI work closely with the Afghan Taliban. Even many within Pakistan criticise this duplicity and perceive it as the primary source of their contemporary ills. Will the new chief strike a balance?

In the Indo-Pakistan context, one is less likely to see any major shift in the ISI's approach and its linkages with Lashkar-e-Toiba. They will remain the same, irrespective of the new ISI chief.

The third challenge for the new ISI chief is to repair the image of the ISI within Pakistan. From the killing of Syed Shahzad in 2011 to the attack on Hamid Mir early this year, there has been a steady decline of the ISI's stature within Pakistan. What started as a muted criticism after the killing of Shahzad, got blown up after the attempted assassination of Hamid Mir, a senior TV anchor with Geo News. Both Mir and his employer, Geo News, directly and indirectly blamed the ISI for the attempt. In fact, the entire media in Pakistan got divided on the issue and also brought to the fore linkages between journalists and the ISI.

What was once seen as a holy cow and beyond criticism or considered sacrosanct has been discussed in public. Never in its history has the ISI faced such a critique by civilians. The new chief will have to protect this space and keep the ISI above public debate.

The primary issue is not whether the new ISI chief is a professional solider, or an appointee of the COAS or the Prime Minister. Nor is the issue whether he is from a particular ethnic background, or has commanded a particular Corps, or attended a particular course. Both the COAS and the DG-ISI will have to take care of the interests and core demands of their respective institutions; hence they may not be able to completely change the outlook and objectives. Institutions all over the world have a mind of their own; leaders, however apolitical they remain, may not be able to completely change the institutional expectations and pathways. Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar is also likely to be led by the institution that he has been appointed to lead. The institution will guide its driver to navigate. Unlike Parliament and political parties, institutions are more important than individuals as far as the ISI and the military are concerned. That is why the latter is strong and the former is weak.
India and China Step Back From Standoff in Kashmir
NEW DELHI — India and China have agreed to defuse the nearly three-week-old standoff between troops in the disputed border region of Ladakh, Kashmir, the Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, told reporters on Friday after meeting in New York with her Chinese counterpart.

The two sides agreed to begin withdrawing troops immediately to the positions they occupied on Sept. 1, Ms. Swaraj said.

India and China have sparred for decades over their border, but the recent face-off was unusually long and tense, coming just before a landmark meeting between President Xi Jinping of China and India‘s new prime minister, Narendra Modi. At times the confrontation overshadowed the two leaders’ discussion about deepening trade relations.

India and China fought a war in the high-altitude border region in 1962, and for years India has been urging China to agree to a formal demarcation of the boundary. Many areas remain in dispute, with each country pressing its claim by building up infrastructure like roads, telephone lines and airstrips and by sending troops on regular patrols.

The present dispute began when workers on the Indian side began constructing a canal at the “line of actual control” in the village of Demchok. Chinese civilians began to protest, carrying flags and banners and shouting slogans, and the People’s Liberation Army supported them. Simrandeep Singh, Ladakh’s top civil servant, insisted that the canal was meant for civilian purposes, but construction was halted.

Thupstan Chhewang, a legislator from Ladakh, said that India “asserted its position much more effectively by outnumbering Chinese troops.” Though the agreement to withdraw to previous positions appeared to have defused the situation, he said, “this is not a long-term solution.”

“The long term solution is to lay down the border properly” Mr. Chhewang said.

The Chinese foreign ministry posted a statement after the meeting in New York, saying that China and India should “maintain high-level interactions, increase mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, intensify friendly exchanges between the two peoples, work in concert to build a more closely-knit partnership of development and carry out bilateral strategic partnership in every aspect of life.”
U.S., Indian Soldiers train together
CHAUBATTIA, India (Sept. 25, 2014) -- Watching the sunrise above the Himalayas while practicing yoga, rock climbing and rappelling as monkeys jump through the trees overhead; it sounds like an adventure vacation but for more than 75 U.S. Soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, it's an opportunity to work with the soldiers of the Indian Army to enhance the cooperation and coordination necessary during peacekeeping operations.

"I never thought I'd be rock climbing in the Himalayas, even with joining the Army," said 2nd Lt. Dan Mayer, a platoon leader with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, after completing the rock climbing course.

In the 10 years since exercise Yudh Abhyas began, it has grown from platoon-level operations to brigade-and battalion-level operations. This year the training is focused on combined training events within three key elements; a command post exercise, a field training exercise and expert academic exchanges. Soldiers from 5-1 Cavalry, and the Indian army's 2nd Battalion, 9th Gurkha Rifles, are participating in the field training exercise. Soldiers with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, are taking part in the command post exercise.

"Just seeing how another army works, seeing how a completely different culture in an army works, is great," said Mayer.

The field training exercise places Soldiers from a battalion of Soldiers from the 5-1 Cavalry, and an Indian army battalion with the 2/9 Gurkhas, side-by-side in field training events, including a jungle live-fire rifle range, a reflexive-fire range, a ropes confidence course, an obstacle course and rock climbing. Soldiers from both armies have conducted classes and demonstrations on peacekeeping operations, ranging from crowd control to cordon and search, providing an opportunity to see familiar tasks done in a different way.

"They have different ways to do things than we do which is good; they can teach us and we can teach them as well," said Staff Sgt. Brianna Warren, a team leader with 5-1 Cavalry who calls Racine, Wisconsin, home.

Warren said she will return to Alaska, with a new respect for the Indian Army and how their experiences differ from hers.

For many of the U.S. Soldiers, working with another nation's military is a new experience with many benefits.

"The Soldiers are really benefiting from seeing the discipline of the 2/9 Gurhkas; I think it's seen both ways as well," said Mayer.

"We're training off of each other, we're learning how we function," said Sgt. Michael Higgenbottham, a cavalry scout with 5-1 Cavalry. "They have a unique experience that I think anybody would be able to appreciate."

While the Soldiers may be focused on training, they are sharing experiences and building relationships.

"Now we're finally starting to mesh with the platoon we've been lined up with and we're finally starting to build that relationship that we're looking to create while we're here," said Mayer.

Exercise Yudh Abhyas 14 is being held in the area of Ranikhet Cantonment, Utterakhand, India, approximately 200 miles northeast of Delhi and is scheduled to take place Sept. 17-30 and is focused on low-intensity, counter-insurgent actions in order to improve the ability of all forces involved to respond to a wide range of contingencies related to U.N. missions.
India nears $2.5 billion deal for Boeing military helicopters
New Delhi: India has decided to acquire Boeing's Chinook and Apache helicopters, a defence ministry official said on Saturday, in a deal valued at $2.5 billion that could ease strained ties between New Delhi and Washington.

The new nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has grand plans to vastly strengthen India's military capability, in order to play its role as a regional power and meet challenges posed by a rising China and arch rival Pakistan.

"The defence acquisition council has cleared the last hurdle for signing of the contract with the USA in respect of Apache and Chinook," the official told Reuters, while declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
The deal topped the agenda during a visit by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel in August and is likely to help mend ties frayed by years of trade and diplomatic disputes. Modi is due to visit the United States next month.

At a meeting on Friday, the government also approved the Indian Navy's proposal to purchase 16 multi-role helicopters, the official said. The deal could potentially benefit Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp and European joint venture NHIndustries.

Jaitley, however, cancelled a $991.65 million tender to buy 197 light-utility helicopters from foreign vendors and asked local manufacturers to produce them at home, the official said.

Eurocopter, a unit of aerospace and defense company EADS, and Russian Kamov had been participating in the tender.

The government also deferred a decision on a $2.5 billion proposal to acquire Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missiles.

Analysts estimate that India, the world's largest arms importer, will spend $250 billion in the next decade to upgrade its Soviet-era military equipment and narrow the gap with China, which spends $120 billion a year on defence.

India's military modernization plan includes a renewed push to develop a domestic weapons industry. India insists on "offsets" from foreign vendors to ensure technology is transferred or some of the deal's value remains in the country.

The decision to scrap the troubled light helicopter tender comes weeks after Modi loosened the limit on foreign ownership in defence manufacturing to 49 per cent from 26 per cent to make "buy Indian" the default option for defence purchases.

"It has also been decided that the Indian Industry would be given the responsibility to produce nearly 400 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) as per the requirement of the Indian Army and Air Force," said the official.

A slew of kickback allegations, procurement delays and a recent spate of operational accidents have marred efforts to upgrade India's armed forces.

A decision on the acquisition of light reconnaissance helicopters was deferred last year and tenders re-examined after Italian prosecutors alleged defence group Finmeccanica had paid bribes to Indian officials to win a separate $750 million deal to supply luxury helicopters for political VIPs.

New Delhi partially banned Finmeccanica this week from bidding for future contracts. Finmeccanica denies any wrongdoing.

Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland unit has a 32 per cent stake in NHIndustries, which is 62.5 per cent owned by EADS' helicopter unit Eurocopter, and Stork Fokker owns 5.5 per cent.
India, China begin hectic parleys to resolve Ladakh standoff
BEIJING: India and China held hectic parleys to resolve the standoff at the Ladakh border area even as the Chinese military on Thursday played it down, saying such incidents are "sometimes inevitable" but the situation is under "effective control" with the joint efforts of the two sides.

Indian ambassador Ashok K Kantha, who returned from New Delhi where he coordinated President Xi Jinping's visit last week, held talks with officials of the Chinese foreign and defence ministries to find a way out to end the standoff which overshadowed the gains made during the Xi's maiden visit.
Indian officials said the talks are still continuing but they remained silent about any time line though they were hopeful that the standdoff would be resolved soon.

On its part, the Chinese military came out with a lengthy explanation of its stand on the standoff, saying that it will be solved as soon as possible.

"Through the joint efforts of both sides it (standoff) is under effective control and I hope that with the continued efforts of both sides it can be solved as soon as possible and peace and stability will be maintained at the China-India border," Defence spokesman Col Geng Yansheng told reporters.
"I would like to emphasise again that because the China- India border is not demarcated, it is sometimes inevitable that incidents happen. What is important is for both sides to implement agreements signed by both sides to boost mutual understanding and mutual trust and make joint efforts to maintain peace stability in the India-China border region," he said, replying to a number of questions from PTI on why such incidents are taking place at the border.

The spokesman said while it is quite natural for some incidents to happen along the border, "this kind of incidents will not change the overall situation of good neighbourliness and friendship between China and India".
He skipped questions on why the incursion takes place coinciding with the visit of top Chinese leaders to India.

While Chinese troops entered the Depsang Valley in Ladakh region last year during Premier Li Keqiang's visit, the two armies were engaged in a stand-off at Chumar region in Ladakh coinciding with the first visit of President Xi Jinping.
It was reiterated during President Xi's visit that before the final settlement of the border issue, the two sides will jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border region, Geng said.

For the incidents at the China-India border region, there are channels of communication that are functioning quite well, he said.
"The problems can be solved through dialogue and consultation. Both sides should manage the situation and maintain peace and stability in the area. In the recent incident both sides communicated with each other through the existing channels. The situation is currently under effective control and China and India border is peaceful," he added.

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