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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

From Today's Papers - 19 Nov 2014

AFT upholds jawan's conviction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 18
The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal today upheld the conviction of an army jawan who was dismissed from service and awarded five years rigorous imprisonment for allegedly misbehaving with a fellow soldier's minor daughter.

A General Court Martial had in April this year tried Vikas Mesker under Section 69 of the Army Act read in conjunction with Section 10 and 12 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act (PCSO) and held him guility of sexual misconduct with an eight-year-old girl.

The said offence had taken place in the unit of the accused that was part of Ferozepur-based 7 Infantry Division. The sentence was promulgated after confirmation in August 2014 and he was moved to Central Jail, Hoshangabad (Madhya Pardesh).

Mesker had challenged his conviction before the Tribunal, contending that a general court martial did not have the jurisdiction to try a person who is subject to the Army Act under PCSO. He had also claimed that the relevant Army rules and regulations were not fully complied with during the proceedings against him and he was not given adequate opportunity for his defence.
Delhi should face the facts
Powers given to the Army to kill on suspicion are sweeping
Kuldip Nayar
TWO boys have been killed in Kashmir. The incident itself is bizarre. A white car is mistaken for the one which used to carry terrorists back and forth. As many as 115 bullets were fired at the car in one go. The only surviving passenger, a boy, emphasised how the incessant fury did not stop even after the car hit a tree to come to a halt.

The Army has accepted the mistake. The agility with which it has done so indicates that the gun crazy among them was spotted immediately. A full inquiry, already ordered, may serve the truth. Yet it would not go beyond telling who killed whom. The bigger picture may still not come out. The truth is that New Delhi does not want to face the facts.

Two things emerge from the incident. One is the continuous use of the armed forces for internal security and, two, the cursory manner in which cases are handled. The alienation of the valley is loud and clear. But this is nothing new. Nor is the laxity of the administration. However, what is new is that the hard or soft administration has made little difference. The malady is deeper.

One development is that people are confused over the status of the Army in their midst. They have hated it as if it was a sort of an occupational army. Its support to the bumbling administration has been a point of contempt. Yet the manner in which the Army helped the people during the unprecedented floods has won their hearts.

The Army not only rescued them and saved their belongings but also gave medical aid to thousands of those affected by the floods. It even fed them for weeks and reached the cut-off areas to rescue hundreds of people from their sequestered places.

Their picture of being tyrant has, no doubt, receded a bit. But their presence is a point of criticism. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is, indeed, trying to strengthen the state police to cope with the internal law and order problem. Yet, whenever the Army is used to curb an unruly situation, New Delhi gets a bad name and much is made about it.

Both Srinagar and New Delhi have depended for too long on the Army to suppress a situation of a larger proportion. They will have to ensure that the Army is used for protection of the border, not for untoward incidents within the state. This is a negation of democracy which we should be ashamed of. The Constitution, which rules the country, provides equality to all citizens without recognising identity, caste or creed.

The still uglier situation is that scores of young people are not traceable. Terrorists can be blamed for picking up some for the purpose of brainwashing or exacting ransom. But the number is said to be limited. The people’s perception is that there is New Delhi’s hand behind the disappearance of these young people. This impression gets deepened when the cases relating to disappearance are not convincingly explained, when the overall supervision is the responsibility of the Central government.

All these require transparency, particularly when there are cases which never came to light or were half-heartedly pursued in law courts. Had there been the institution of Lokpal, which is non-existent because of political manoeuvres, the matter would have found some attention. We now have to depend on the sensitivity of political parties for action. In fact, they are the ones who have their representatives in Parliament, the ultimate authority.

Alas, that is very much missing. Engaged as they are in political manoeuvering, the parties have forgotten the immediate requirement of the country. The lower half needs to be brought into the mainstream so that it would feel that the country as much belongs to them as to the upper half. A betterment without distinction was promised during the Independence struggle.

I recall it was said from the rooftops that Independence would bring food, shelter and employment to all the people in the country. Mahatma Gandhi had said that the rich would only be the custodians of the wealth meant for all. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, another icon of the freedom struggle, talked of socialism.

Nehru, who ruled the country for 17 years, promised that the public sector undertakings would attain the commanding heights so that the small-scale industries in the country got a fillip. But all these have remained only on paper with the bungling bureaucrats and greedy politicians making a mess of the whole concept.

The subsequent governments, whether belonging to the Congress-led front or the BJP, promised a lot but delivered very little. The plight of the common man did not improve. And the same result emerged: the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also assured a lot to the people during his election campaign. With 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, an absolute majority, he should be able to take some steps to transform the country. His spell is receding but people are still hoping against hope that he would do something. Changes requiring legislation may be a bit late to come. But the administrative measures can be taken straightaway so that there is some difference in governance.

Understandably, Kashmir will take time. But at least the Modi administration can convey that there is a change in the offing. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act requires reconsideration. The powers given to the armed forces to kill on suspicion are too sweeping for a democratic country. The killing of two boys should at least goad the government to have another look at the act.
Warship Deal to be Cancelled For 'Make In India' Option
 India will opt out of an agreement to buy small warships from Korea - mine-sweepers - because a middleman was allegedly involved in the contract which was signed three years ago. Indian laws forbid the payment of commissions and use of agents for defence deals.

In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" campaign, the ships will now be built  over the next seven years by the state-run Goa Shipyards using technology acquired from a foreign manufacturer.

Mine-sweepers are used to locate and destroy underwater mines planted by the enemy; they are crucial in keeping sea lanes open and safe for trade and security.

In 2011, after years of negotiations, the government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh signed the deal which included the purchase of two mine-sweepers from Korea for 2,700 crores; another six would be manufactured in India with the Korean firm sharing its technology for an additional 6,000 crores.

The government's top lawyer, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, recently red-flagged the deal which was signed with South Korean manufacturer Kanganam. The company allegedly hired a middleman during the negotiations, but said this was to help with language difficulties. Because the firm made the disclosure and since no bribes were paid, it has not been blacklisted.

So the state-run Goa Ship Yard has been asked to acquire technology from the same Korean company and build the seven mine-sweepers. The first is expected to be ready in 2019.

The country has 14 ports which handle about 90 percent of the total volume of trade, but  only seven  operational mine-sweepers for the east and west coasts.

The new government has raised the foreign investment limit in the domestic defence industry to 49 percent from 26 percent, hoping to draw greater interest from its main arms suppliers.
India Removes IMI From Blacklist
 India has quietly lifted a ban on Israeli Military Industries (IMI), paving the way for negotiating new defense projects with the Israeli company, a Defence Ministry source said.

The MoD has not publicly announced the lifting of the ban, imposed in 2009, but communicated its decision to IMI in September, the source said.

No Indian MoD official would confirm the lifting of the ban, nor would any diplomat of the Israeli Embassy comment. IMI officials in Israel declined to comment on the report.

The former Indian United Progressive Alliance government imposed the ban after alleged corruption charges, but India’s anti-fraud agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), could not prove the charges against IMI, the source added.

IMI was accused of bribing officials from the government-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to win a deal for producing 155mm ammunition at OFB’s Nalanda factory.

With the ban removed, the MoD intends to explore new defense projects with the Israeli company, the MoD source said. These could include partnership in the design and development of the proposed homemade future main battle tank and setting up a facility to jointly manufacture a variety of ammunition, especially for 155mm guns, the MoD source said.

IMI had been a frontrunner in the tank design project.

Amid charges of alleged corruption, MoD canceled the $350 million tender IMI had won to manufacture a bi-modular charge system for 155mm guns to be built by the OFB.

However, the blacklisting of IMI led to a shortage of ammunition for the 155mm guns. Retired Gen. V.K. Singh, former Indian Army chief and now minister of state for external affairs in the Narendra Modi government, informed former Defence Minister A.K. Antony in a letter of “critical shortages” of a variety of ammunition.

The OFB is not able to meet all the Army’s ammunition requirements, and India is dependent on Russia to supply many kinds of ammunition.

In addition to IMI, in 2009 India blacklisted Singapore Technologies, Rheinmetall Air Defense and Corporation Defence of Russia on charges of corruption.

In August, the Modi government lifted a ban on Denel after India’s CBI failed to prove charges of corruption against the South African company, nine years after the ban was imposed in 2005. Denel was accused of paying kickbacks to secure a deal with the Indian Army in 2002 to supply 1,000 anti-material rifles and ammunition.

The blacklisting of Denel stalled several Army projects, including the purchase of 155mm/52-caliber artillery guns as Denel was the front runner in the program, which was canceled immediately after the blacklisting in 2005.
Aust, India move to boost defence ties
Australia and India will boost defence ties with a far-reaching agreement to enhance bilateral co-operation.

That covers counter-terrorism, cyber policy, disarmament and non-proliferation and maritime security.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi have revealed the new Framework for Security Co-operation to guide closer bilateral collaboration in security.

That also covers research, development and industry engagement.

Australia and India will conduct regular meetings at defence minister level, regular maritime exercises and convene regular navy-to-navy, air force-to-air force and army-to-army staff talks.

With the centenary of World War I approaching, Australia and India, whose troops both fought on the Gallipoli Peninsular, will strengthen efforts to commemorate the shared military history.

Australia and India share many institutions and values but mostly operate in largely separate strategic spheres.

That's changing, with the first visit to Australia by an Indian defence minister last year.

At Australia's invitation, India dispatched its warship INS Sahyadri to the International Fleet Review in Sydney in October last year.

There's growing naval co-operation, with bilateral maritime exercises set to start next year.

The last time Australian and Indian warships engaged operationally was during the US-India Exercise Malabar in 2007.

Mr Abbott and Mr Modi said the two countries were working more closely to build a safe and prosperous region, including through key regional forums such as the East Asia Summit.

They are committed to building up the Indian Ocean Rim Association and support regional efforts to create stronger humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities, they said in a joint statement.

Australia and India also signed agreements on prisoner transfer and on police co-operation to counter the narcotics trade.

The prisoner agreement will enable Australians in Indian jails to apply to serve the remaining part of their sentence in Australia and vice versa for Indian prisoners.

Australian Federal Police and India's Narcotics Control Bureau will co-operate in training personnel and exchanging specialists and experts in narcotics control.

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