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Thursday, 4 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 04 Dec 2014

Borders can’t be redrawn, Jaitley to Pak
M Aamir Khan

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 3
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said time was ripe to form a ‘national mainstream’ government in J&K as the people of the state wished to live in a peaceful atmosphere. He also reiterated the party stand that J&K was an integral part of India and all, including Pakistan, had to understand that boundaries cannot be redrawn.

“I want to make it clear that every citizen has to realize that J&K is an integral part of the country…the neighbouring country (Pakistan) has to understand that it cannot get any part of this country…time has changed, boundaries cannot be rewritten now… Time has come to form national mainstream government. If we remain entangled in past issues, the future generation will not forgive us,” Jaitley said during a first-of-its-kind interactive session by a senior BJP leader with the civil society here.

Even as the BJP top brass had been holding a series of media and public meetings in the recent past with the aim of building party base in the Valley, Jaitley suggested that more Central leaders should regularly hold interactive sessions with the public.

He said during his regular visits here, he had met a cross-section of people that had brought a ‘change in our mindset’.

He said those who had taken up guns had to understand that they cannot succeed in their endeavour through violence.

He said the main aim was to establish peace and prosperity and create a conducive atmosphere for economic development.

Jaitley promised that the BJP government would ensure that justice was done. He pointed to the apology and swift action taken by the Centre following the killing of two innocent youth by the Army at Chattergam in Budgam district.

He also complimented the people for voting in large numbers despite the boycott call and cold weather conditions.

Like other BJP leaders have done in the past to connect with the people, Jaitley also invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s famous statement where he had promised to resolve the Kashmir issue within the ambit of humanity (insaniyat ke dayire main).
Navy’s tempo at peak to match Act East policy: Dhowan
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
Navy Chief Admiral RK Dhowan today expressed concern at the possibility of a Pakistan Navy warship being hijacked by jihadis while assuring that the Navy was at its peak “operational tempo” to match the “Act East policy” advocated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At a press conference today, Dhowan said: “We have shown our operational footprint as far East as the Hawaii islands in the Pacific while transiting through various aspects of South China Sea. Our primary area of interest is Indian ocean.”

Since September this year, India has added depth to its military ties with Japan, Vietnam and Australia – all to India’s East. Beijing has separate territorial disputes with India, Vietnam and Japan and has reacted sharply to the recent Indian moves in these two countries. New Delhi has interests in oil in the hydrocarbon-rich South China Sea.

“We have shown our readiness (to match) the Act East policy. Responsibility of the Indian Navy is to ensure that our maritime interest with relation to economics is unhindered in peace and war,” Dhowan said.

He described militants’ unsuccessful attempt to hijack a Pakistani frigate “PNS Zulfiqar” in Karachi in September as a "very very serious situation" of which the Indian Navy had taken serious note. Reports had said the plan of the militants was to use the hijacked ship to attack an American or an Indian vessel.

Asked if the Navy takes into account the possibility that there might be a jihadi group on board when it encounters a Pakistani warship, he said: “We are taking that aspect into account.”

He said: “Normally, we would wish each other good morning when sailing in international waters. Now, we have to rethink. We may not wish him good morning but actually carry out surveillance and figure out who he is.” He said certain aspects of terrorism in maritime domain were increasing. “These are taken into account in our security apparatus,” Dhowan said.

The Admiral said the operational footprint of the Navy was expanding and in a single year it had covered Vladivostok (in the Russian far East) to the Persian gulf and east coast of Africa to Australia, which was unprecedented.

The load of sea-going patrol has gone up 75 per cent and the Navy is at peak efficiency and surveillance is up. Coordinated patrols have been done with Myanmar, Thailand and Philippines. A lot of progress has been taken place since 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, including synergy among various agencies.

On the explosion on board submarine INS Sindhurakshak, the Admiral said human error besides other factors could have led to the tragedy. Eighteen people had died when the Russian-origin submarine exploded in Mumbai in August last year. “When procedures don’t get followed, there is a room for error. And whenever there is a room for error, accidents take place,” he added.
CRPF officer dead in Pulwama grenade attack
Majid Jahangir/Farooz Ahmad

Tribune News Service

Srinagar/Pulwama, December 3
A CRPF officer was killed and seven others injured after suspected militants lobbed a hand grenade on a patrol team in Pulwama district of south Kashmir this evening.

This comes hours after an encounter, which began yesterday between the Army and militants in Kupwara district along the Line of Control, ended this morning with the killing of a militant. In all, seven persons, including a Junior Commissioned Officer and six militants, were killed in the encounter.

Suspected militants targeted a joint patrol of the CRPF and J&K Police at Pohoo village on the Srinagar-Pulwama road around 5.20 pm, killing Assistant Sub-Inspector Shamsher Singh of CRPF’s 183 Battalion.

Seven others, including two CRPF men, two J&K Police personnel and three civilians, were injured in the attack. They are: Uttam Chand and Iqbal Mohammad (CRPF); Manzoor Ahmad and Mohammad Zakir (both of the J&K Police); and Zahoor Ahmad, Gulzar Ahmad and Waseem Ahmad (all civilians).

Four constituencies of Pulwama district are going to the polls in the phase III of the Assembly elections on December 9.
The Kupwara encounter ended with the Army gunning down a militant today. The dead included Junior Commissioned Officer Subedar Ajay Vardhan and six militants. Four Army men, including a Major, were injured.

The encounter started on Tuesday morning, when troops foiled an infiltration bid by militants along the LoC.

Six AK rifles, one pistol and a large quantity of warlike stores were recovered from the slain militants.

The battle was fought in snow-bound Shamshabari range of Tut Mari Gali as militants tried to infiltrate in the Nowgam sector, 120 km from Srinagar.

“The likely aim of the militants was to disrupt the ongoing Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir,” a Defence official said.

“The encounter began early on Tuesday before polling began in five Assembly constituencies of Kupwara. Three militants were killed when they were challenged by troops in the area. Two more militants and a JCO were killed in the encounter that continued through the day.”

Defence spokesperson for 15 Corps Lt Colonel NN Joshi said: “The Army personnel braved tough conditions to eliminate the terrorists.”

“Subedar Vardhan was the first to detect the movement of terrorists and took immediate action by leading a small team and engaging the terrorists. The JCO was grievously wounded as he charged and eliminated terrorists under heavy gunfire,” the spokesperson said.
After making his mark as a deft foreign policy driver, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

Putin will be the second top-rung world leader to be received by the six-month-old Modi dispensation, which managed a diplomatic coup of sorts by rolling out a red carpet welcome to Chinese President Xi Jinping, overcoming a tide of unease caused by an unsettled boundary question and anxiety over Beijing’s aggressiveness.

How Modi handles the mercurial Putin will be yet another test of his diplomatic skills.

A series of developments ahead of Putin's journey to India has caused considerable discomfort in India. Almost cocking a snook at New Delhi, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu travelled to Islamabad last month, and signed a landmark military cooperation pact allowing the sale of arms and equipment to Pakistan.

Shoigu was the first Russian defence minister to visit Pakistan in more than four decades. This was not a sudden development, as groundwork for opening up of military transactions between Islamabad and Moscow had started 10 years ago when Pervez Musharraf had broken the ice.

Earlier this year, Russia had announced a lifting of the arms embargo on Pakistan, paving the way for the supply of attack helicopters. The Pakistan Army already flies Russian Mi17 transport helicopters.

Russia had always refrained from dealing with Pakistan, but as New Delhi drifted away to other countries like the US and Israel to meet its military hardware requirements, a realignment was in the offing.

Russia remains a crucial player in sustaining the Indian armed forces, but the fact on the ground is that the situation is rapidly changing. The Indo-Russian military ties are facing the test of times.

Russia is miffed that it has not won a single new big-ticket Indian military contract, as they have gone to the US, Israel or France.

Even those projects which would ensure a long term commitment have hit the doldrums. A case in point is the ongoing negotiation for joint cooperation in developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft, or the FGFA, project.

As reported by Mail Today earlier, India is deeply worried that the ambitious programme may go the same way as admiral Gorshkov, the aircraft carrier that joined the navy as INS Vikramaditya, after an agonising delay and escalated costs.

There is clearly a communication gap as the Indian side is perturbed over the way Russia has kept it on the periphery of the FGFA programme despite it being an equal financial partner.

Frantic efforts are underway to resurrect the FGFA programme, but it underlines the growing fissures between the two sides.

However, when Putin comes calling, defence talks will occupy a small portion on his plate. The real talks may resume when the Russian defence minister makes a trip to India next month.

INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy’s most prized possession, is now a year old in the fleet. The aircraft carrier was handed over to the Indian Navy by the Russian shipyard Shevmesh last year around this time.

The ship's high moment came when Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed on it in June during a day at sea, off Goa.

The first year of the ship has gone in the integration exercise.

Marrying the carrier, the largest ship in the inventory, with the fleet has been a challenge. The navy is now preparing hard to ensure Vikramaditya is fully ready in operational role when the next round of Tropex, the large scale annual battle drill, is held in February 2015.

One of the foremost challenges is having a pool of pilots trained for complex day and night carrier operations.

At the moment, the navy has only half a dozen pilots who can land even in dark nights on the carrier. The night blindness is expected to be over soon as a pool of 20 pilots is being created.

A sufficient number of MiG-29Ks have been inducted. The navy hopes a naval version of the light combat aircraft under development will provide added muscle to its air combat arm.

A prototype of the naval LCA is being moved to Goa for trials on the onshore facility replicating carrier operations.

Navy chief R.K Dhowan has laid an emphasis on ensuring combat readiness of the naval fleet.
Government trying to attract youth to armed forces: Manohar Parrikar

There is a shortage of 7,989 officers and 26,928 other ranks in the Army, 1,499 officers and 11,631 sailors in the Navy and 357 officers and 2,951 airmen in the Air Force said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The figures do not include the shortage in medical and dental branches.

"Government has taken a number of measures to encourage the youth to join the armed forces, including sustained image projection, participation in career fairs and exhibitions, media campaign etc," Parrikar said.

"Government has taken various steps to make armed forces jobs attractive, these include implementation of recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission with improved pay structure, additional family accommodation through Married Accommodation Project (MAP) and improvement in promotion prospects in the armed forces," he said.

    Ashton Carter likely to be next US Defence Secretary:-Ashton Carter, credited with launching a path-breaking initiative to enhance defence ties with India, is likely to be President Barack Obama's pick for the next US Defence Secretary....
    'US to assist India in military modernisation':-The US is committed to abroad defence trade and technology relationship with India to assist it in military modernisation efforts, a top Pentagon official said, noting that expanding bilateral security partnership is crucial for security and stability in Asia....
    Japan launches rocket carrying asteroid probe:-Japan on Wednesday launched a rocket carrying a space probe destined for a distant asteroid, just weeks after a European spacecraft's historic landing on a comet....
    India, France to resolve issues; to fast-rack Rafale deal:-India and France have agreed to iron out contentious issues like pricing and a guarantee clause for French firm Dassault to fast-track the estimated USD 15 billion deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets....
    Ashton Carter likely to be next US Defence Secretary:-Ashton Carter, credited with launching a path-breaking initiative to enhance defence ties with India, is likely to be President Barack Obama's pick for the next US Defence Secretary....
    'US to assist India in military modernisation':-The US is committed to abroad defence trade and technology relationship with India to assist it in military modernisation efforts, a top Pentagon official said, noting that expanding bilateral security partnership is crucial for security and stability in Asia....
    Japan launches rocket carrying asteroid probe:-Japan on Wednesday launched a rocket carrying a space probe destined for a distant asteroid, just weeks after a European spacecraft's historic landing on a comet....
    India, France to resolve issues; to fast-rack Rafale deal:-India and France have agreed to iron out contentious issues like pricing and a guarantee clause for French firm Dassault to fast-track the estimated USD 15 billion deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets....

India "seriously looking" to co-produce weapon systems with US
WASHINGTON (PTI): India has shortlisted five of the 17 hi-tech items of military hardware offered by the US for co-production and co-development under a one-of-its kind American offer to boost bilateral defence cooperation.

These items are believed to be - naval guns, mine scattering anti-tank vehicles, unmanned aerial surveillance system, Javelin missiles, and aircraft landing system for carriers, informed defence sources familiar with the development between the two countries, told PTI.

The five are "currently being looked at more seriously" by India's DRDO and Defence Ministry.

It was more than a year ago that the US in consultation with its private sector had offered India a list of 17 hi-tech defence items for co-production and co-development.

The one-of-its kind offer was made under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) launched under the previous UPA government.

The list of 17 American defence items, which remains classified and has not been made public, was reviewed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Ministry of Defence.

According to informed sources, these five projects are now being reviewed by the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, following which the Indian Government would convey its decision to the Pentagon about the projects that it is interested in for co-production and co-development.

Despite India opting for the Israeli "Spike" anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the US-made Javelin has not been ruled out, sources said.

The US has offered to co-produce the third-generation Javelin ATGMs, and co-develop its fourth-generation version.

It is believed that India had pre-informed the US about its decision to opt for the Israeli missile to meet its immediate and short-term needs.

"We respect the Indian decision making process on this. It is a sovereign decision that India has to make. Obviously we think that American products and American systems have a lot to offer. We would have liked to win that (Javelin) competition.

"But there is a huge amount of possibility, and a number of spheres we want to talk to India about," US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Puneet Talwar said on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.
WW1 anniversary is strong reminder of Indian-European defence ties
Speaking at an event held in Brussels in October, to recognise the involvement of Indian soldiers in WW1, Puri said, "The contribution made a hundred years ago, when 130,000 Indian troops served on the western front in Europe […] was a determination to help the allies in their hour of need."

For the ambassador, however, the commemoration also represented an important reminder of "our defence cooperation with Europe and the EU, which continues today".

Puri cited the current EU lead in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia as a successful example of current European security cooperation, where Indian battleships are part of the EU-Navfor force. "This partnership with the EU has resulted in a huge decline in piracy off the coast of Somalia."

The diplomat also highlighted how Indian soldiers regularly worked with Belgian and other European soldiers as part of UN peacekeeping operations. For Puri, "this has been of great pride for us, and an honour to contribute towards the global world order."

As recognition of India's contribution in WW1, Puri pointed out that it was the only colony of the British empire to be "invited to be one of the founding members of the League of Nations in 1920" - the predecessor of the current UN, of which in 1945 India was also a founding member.
Puri said this reflects "a continuum of what happened a hundred years ago where India played its part, of which I am very proud, and still continues to contribute today as a leading player in a multilateral system of global governance."

India's involvement in WW1 was not only vital but also immense. According to the commonwealth war graves commission, out of the one million plus men who served in WW1 from 1914-1918, 60,000 were killed in battle.

Indians fought across the globe, from the trenches in western Europe, to Palestine, Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), Russia and as far as China. Over 9200 military awards were earned, including 11 Victoria Crosses (VCs), the highest recognition for bravery given by the British army.

In addition, thousands of men from all over the Indian sub-continent came to work in Europe behind the battle front, as vitally needed labourers, to maintain the provision of supplies and equipment.

According to Indian military historian Rana Chhina, who also spoke at the event, one of the key reasons so many Indians volunteered was that by proving their loyalty, and showing their bravery in battle, Britain would be pressurised to "feel a moral obligation to give India dominion status, similar to Australia and Canada."

Even leading Indian freedom fighter and pacifist Mahatma Ghandi, at the start of the war encouraged men to enlist and to offer their help to Britain, "in her time of need".

Dominiek Dendooven, curator of the In Flanders Museum in northern Belgium, told guests that almost from the beginning of the war in October 1914 Indian soldiers played a crucial role in saving the allies from early defeat, by repelling attacking German soldiers in the first battle of Ypres.

In April 1915, Indian troops along with French African soldiers again saved the day, when they were rushed in to defend the line in Ypres, when allied forces retreated due to poison gas attacks launched by Germany. Dendooven pointed out that along with Indian soldiers, troops from 60 other non-European countries served and died on the western front.
However, despite their motivation, bravery and strong military prowess nothing could have prepared the Indian soldier for the carnage and horrors of industrialised trench warfare in Europe.

Brigadier Jodha of the Indian army, whose grandfather Thakur Aman Singh Jodha fought in WW1 serving with the Jodhpur Lancers, admitted his grandfather found "the conditions in the trenches truly terrible, absolutely terrible."

Jodha added, "The regiment was lucky because they had a little bit of a special privilege." As cavalry soldiers, although they did their fair share of fighting in the trenches, they were saved from some of the bloodiest battles. It was only when the regiment were redeployed to Palestine in 1918, that they were able to use their horses in military action. Though Indian soldiers fought in Ypres, they served mostly in France in Neuve Chappelle.

However Chinna felt that, despite India's massive contribution in WW1, since the end of the war "it had now slipped into anonymity […] with most historical accounts of the war ignorant of this enormous contribution" or it was a "mere historical footnote".

Dendooven wanted more European historians to recognise the crucial role soldiers from India and the former European colonies played "as a debt of honour […] to those who came over to fight and die in Europe". As such, for him the centenary commemorations should be inclusive and not "merely national, or European but truly global," in their recognition.

Also Dendooven said recognising the role of non-white troops, in particular Muslim soldiers, was useful in counteracting the propaganda of terrorist Islamic groups who recruited young Muslim people who did not feel they had any attachment to Europe.

The Belgian felt it was vital to educate students on the bravery and contribution of soldiers such as the first Indian and Muslim to be awarded the VC, Khudadad Khan, to develop "a common shared history, and identity".

But Chinna stressed that as a historian he wanted to not only highlight the sacrifice of those who fell in battle, but also "the futility of war and the value of everlasting peace", adding that the centenary events "should not glorify war but instead condemn it".
Army is Seeing More Suicides.
Even as he attempts to bring speed and transparency to the arms procurement process, he has rightly identified the welfare of troops as one of his top most priorities. Over the weekend, he told reporters in Goa that in his view "the man behind the machine is more important". He was perhaps responding to recent reports that there have been 449 suicides across the three services since 2011. "This is a man management issue which needs to be resolved in different ways, including counselling, quick redressal mechanism and more tribunals to hear the cases," the Defence Minister reportedly said.

Last week, Parrikar shared these details with parliament:  that the Indian Army had reported the highest number - 362 suicides and 10 incidents of fratricide - between 2011 and 2014. In the Air Force, there were 76 suicides and in the Navy 11, in the same period. Taken collectively, these numbers do appear large but they are in keeping with the average number of suicides over the past decade. Except for 2007 and 2008 when suicides in the Army were 142 and 150 respectively, on an average, about 100 jawans have taken their own life every year since 2003.

Given that India has an 11-lakh strong army, these numbers may not be huge but for a force that prides itself on its standards of training and discipline, it is certainly a matter of concern, if not alarm. One can also point out the fact that of late, in the American army, the rate of suicide was one-a-day. That's hardly a consolation.

So is the Indian Army feeling the heat of being in perpetual operations? Are our soldiers' stress levels peaking dangerously?

If you ask the top brass, most tend to brush aside the incidents as aberrations.

But there is indeed a problem, and it is an outcome of a combination of factors: erosion in the status of  soldiers in society, prolonged deployment in lengthy and thankless counter-insurgency jobs, a crippling shortage of officers' in combat units and, ironically, easier communication between families and soldiers - which makes it harder to be away from home for long stretches since soldiers now know exactly what they're missing.

There is no denying the fact that come summer, winter or rain, soldiers continue their daily patrols along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Every day and night, at least 1,000 foot patrols spread out in Jammu and Kashmir to try and corner terrorists. The job is risky and can even get monotonous. A bullet can come from anywhere any time. So one has to always be alert. But the chase is mostly futile. Nine out of ten times, the patrols return empty-handed.

After a quarter century of counter-terrorism in Kashmir, the army has got used to the apparent hardship of uninterrupted operations. The fear of the enemy is nominal, claims each man that I have talked to. "We have no tension in this respect (counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency), we had joined the army precisely for this kind of work," is the constant refrain from soldiers.

Operating in a tension-ridden counter-insurgency environment does lead to certain stress among the jawans, but that is only one of the factors.

The main worry are the problems back home - land disputes, tensions within the family; then there's rising aspirations, a lack of good pay and allowances, and also the falling standards of supervision from officers.

Company commanders who lead field units in counter-insurgency situations also believe that tensions at home transmit themselves much quicker today thanks to the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Since almost 80 per cent of India's foot soldiers come from rural and semi-urban areas, most of them have strong links with the land. For the ordinary soldier, the smallest patch of land back home is the most precious property. Very often land gets encroached in his native village, or there is a dispute over even the smallest of property. "There is always a tension. The police don't listen to us. My parents feel helpless, I become tense every time I go back home," I remember a soldier telling me in the Kashmir Valley.

One more common thread among soldiers from Rajasthan to UP, from Tamil Nadu to Haryana, was how little respect they seem to command today in a society which devalues their work. Very often, insensitive civil administrations create tensions.

Senior officers point out that most suicide and fratricide cases take place after soldiers return from a spot of leave. The feeling of frustration can bring in helplessness, which in turn leads to suicides and fratricide; it creates an impression that no one listens to the army. It is the system that sends the man in uniform into a depression.

An acute shortage of officers at the cutting-edge level is a  big factor contributing to an increasing gap between soldiers and officers. Against an authorised strength of over 22 officers for a combat battalion, there are at best 8 or 9 officers available to a Commanding Officer these days.

Very often, young officers with less than two years of service are commanding companies! Even in the battalion headquarters, one officer ends up doing the job of three, given the shortage. There is no time to interact with soldiers. In the old days, a game of football or hockey was the best way to get to know each other. Not any longer.

Moreover, soldiers no longer accept a wrong or unjustified command blindly. The old attitudes among some of the COs (Commanding Officers), of lording over ORs (Other Ranks) and expecting them not to protest/revolt must change.

If Manohar Parrikar is serious about the welfare of troops, he needs to start with sensitising the civil administration at the lowest level. Fresh recruits into the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) need to be oriented about the issues soldiers often face in the civil environment. He also needs to direct the  Defence Ministry to withdraw litigation initiated against our disabled soldiers related to the subject of their benefits at the earliest, and ensure that officers serving in the Ministry of Defence in general, and Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in particular, are sensitized towards the needs and requirements of the military community and realize that it is their first obligation to serve soldiers, veterans and their families with due respect and dignity which they deserve.

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