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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 06 Jan 2015

Pak Army was directing ‘terror’ boat: Parrikar
Footage of vessel’s suspicious activity to be released soon
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Backing the Indian Coast Guard’s action in tackling a suspicious boat off Gujarat coast on January 1, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today blamed Pakistan’s official agencies, including its Army, for having been in touch with boat occupants and directing them.
On being challenged by the Coast Guard, a wing of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the boat’s four occupants had set it afire and it sank around 197 nautical miles (365 km) south-west of Porbandar in Gujarat.
“People will see the evidence,” Parrikar said while refuting claims that smugglers and not terrorists were aboard the boat. “We have tracked the boat and there are intercepts that it was in constant touch with various authorities in Pakistan and its maritime security agency and Pakistani Army in Thailand,” Parrikar said while addressing mediapersons on the sidelines of a Defence manufacturing industry function today.
The conversation was intercepted before the Coast Guard ship pinned the boat, around 11 pm on December 31. Parrikar said: “I don’t want to speculate what was on the boat but its occupants had devious designs. If they were smugglers why would they be at the same spot for 16 hours and the place where it was found is not a normal fishing lane. Smugglers choose busy shipping lanes but this boat was spotted at an isolated spot.”
There was another boat that was away from the spot and in international waters. The exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of a country extends to 200 nautical miles from shore. “These people (the four occupants) did not surrender, indicating a motivation. Ordinary smugglers would have dumped the cargo at sea and surrendered,” the Minister said, adding that the very fact that they opted to commit “hara-kiri” (suicide) showed that they had some motivation to act.
“Why would a smuggler commit suicide and why would smugglers be in touch with Pakistani authorities,” Parrikar asked. He said the complete footage of the boat and its suspicious activities would be released after a detailed analysis in three-four days. Parrikar did not respond when asked if India would lodge a formal protest with Pakistan.  Earlier during the day at a separate function, the Defence Minister said he classified the boat occupants as probable or suspected terrorists because they committed suicide.
Parrikar said: “The Coast Guard could not have done any better because the operating instructions are very clear. It was dark and if it (the boat) was laden with explosives, which appears to be partly correct, it could have induced damages to Coast Guard ship.”
He said: “Intelligence inputs were very clear on the exact location of the boat, which was stationary. It was just doing a sort of roundabout around that zone. Circumstantial evidences indicated a suspected terrorist.”
In the communications intercepted by intelligence agencies, the conversation was about passing on cargo and delivering it successfully and some talk about family members of some of the boat occupants.

Uneasy questions stay: Cong

Defending its right to know what happened at the high seas in the “Pakistani” vessel off the Porbandar coast on December 31, the Congress today said everyone asking uneasy questions was not a Pakistani.
“The BJP likes to dub everyone asking uncomfortable questions as a Pakistani. It is not so. We have a genuine right to know what happened that night in the alien vessel," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
He said the party wanted to know whether that boat was laden with explosives and manned by terrorists or was carrying smugglers and narcotics; whether it was blown up, as stated by the spokespersons of the BJP, by the Coast Guard or by its own occupants as stated by the Defence Ministry; why NTRO on the one hand and the IB, RAW and Military Intelligence on the other at odds over whether the vessel was being handled by Pakistani agents.
BSF man killed in heavy Pak shelling
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 5
A BSF jawan was killed and three cattle perished as Pakistan Rangers, after a day-long lull, started raining 82 mm mortars on 13 forward posts and several villages along the International Border in Kathua and Samba districts this afternoon.

The shelling has triggered fresh migration of panic-stricken villagers, mostly women, children and elderly to relief camps in the twin border districts.

The slain jawan has been identified as Constable Devendra Singh of BSF’s 9 Battalion, a native of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

The BSF has stated that it has been responding in equal measure. The state administration has pressed into service more vehicles to ferry villagers to relief camps.

“After opening small arms fire last night, Pakistan resorted to heavy fire, including mortars. Firing started at 2 pm today on our forward posts in Samba sector. One jawan died in the firing,” Inspector-General of BSF Jammu Frontier RK Sharma told The Tribune.

“They (Pak Rangers) are targeting all our forward posts and civilian areas in Samba sector but we are also retaliating strongly”, he added. BSF calls entire border in Kathua and Samba districts as Samba sector.

Kathua Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said last evening Pakistan had opened small arms fire in Pansar and Bobiyan but there was no shelling.

“Pakistan started raining mortars and small arms fire around 2 pm on BSF posts and civilian areas in Maniyari, Bobiyan, Paharpur, Chakra, Chhan Lal Din, Londi and Pansar forward areas,” said Choudhary. Three cattle also died in the shelling, he said.

Choudhary informed that Pakistan Rangers resorted to heavier mortar fire around 6.30 pm. “At least 57 forward villages have been affected now as Pakistan has increased range and intensity of their mortar fire, which is still on. Shells have exploded in some villages, which are within four km radius from Zero Line,” he said.

He said as a result, 500 more villagers have been evacuated to camps, particularly from Chakra, Sherpur and Londi. “All the eight posts of the BSF are being targeted by the Rangers,” he added.

Samba Deputy Commissioner Mubarak Singh said “Pakistan started firing 82 mm mortars on the forward posts and villages in Rajpura and Samba sub-sectors around 3 pm.”

He informed that Pakistan later increased the intensity of the firing in forward villages of his district as well. “At present, 15 to 20 villages are being affected by Pakistan shelling”, he said. Manguchak village in Rajpura sub-sector, where a 45-year-old woman was killed on January 3 in Pakistan shelling, and Bain and Glar villages in Samba sub-sector were again being targeted by the Rangers, he said. “Thankfully, there are no reports of any casualties or injuries but people have started moving to camps. More vehicles are being pressed into service to ferry them to camps,” said Singh.
Last night Pakistan had fired two rounds of small arms fire on Ballard post in Ramgarh sub-sector of Samba. Yesterday, there were around 1,400 people in four relief camps in Samba district. The number is likely to go up because of fresh shelling, he added. The administration has made arrangements of bedding, tarpaulin, ration, drinking water and medicines at these relief camps.
On January 3, two Army troops and a woman were killed in the firing. On the New Year eve, firing by Pakistan had left two persons,  dead and while five Pakistani Rangers were killed in the BSF’s retaliatory fire.
Army launches relief ops for border residents
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 5
The Army has launched a humanitarian venture, codenamed Operation Hausle Buland to help people of Samba, Hiranagar and Kathua sectors of Jammu and Kashmir who have been affected by recent firing by Pakistan.

The Army’s Gurj Division from the Yol-based Rising Star Corps is providing them relief material in terms of ration, drinking water, toiletries, warm clothing and heating arrangements, according to a statement issued here today.

Army bomb disposal squads have also been pressed into service to defuse unexploded mortar shells and bombs in the border villages and towns. Army medical teams are visiting various relief camps to provide basic medical assistance to the needy.

Continuous unprovoked cross border firing by Pakistan over the past two days in these civilian areas has rendered the people of border areas insecure and homeless. The civilian administration too has swung into action, and has established relief camps to provide necessary assistance to the people migrating to safer areas from the border villages.
DRDO develops mobile lab to screen troops in nuclear scenario
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 5
With threat perception of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction increasing, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a mobile truck mounted laboratory to screen troops in the field from the after effects of radiation and initiate remedial measures.

The chamber, termed as Mobile Whole Body Counter (MWBC) will do away with the necessity and the logistic impediment of evacuating soldiers from operational areas to rear echelons.

According to a bulletin issued by DRDO’s Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), in case of radiological and nuclear accidents, some radio-nuclides are released, which contaminate the environment for extended periods of time due to their long life. Stating that terrorists are fast graduating towards chemical, biological radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism and since Indian forces are constantly engaged in anti-terrorist and internal security duties in Jammu and Kashmir, the North-East and Maoist affected areas, the bulletin claims that the chances of use of radiation dispersal devices (RDD) by terrorists on Army installations are high.

Consequently, in order to keep soldiers fighting fit in the event of use of RDDs by terrorist outfits, each soldier suspected of being affected by radiation will be required to screen for radioactive contamination. This would help mitigate any panic in the unit concerned as well monitor therapeutic response.
After Finmeccanica, ban on Tatra partially lifted; New defence policy to legalise agents
New Delhi: The government is open to reviewing all cases of blacklisted defence firms on merit and has partially lifted a ban on Tatra trucks as it prepares a new policy that will allow foreign defence firms to legally hire agents, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said.
The new Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), that will lay thrust on development of domestic defence industry and faster acquisition process, will be issued in another month and a half.

Asked about the new government's policy on blacklisted firms, Parrikar said, the "debarment principle" is also being worked out and pointed out the basic principle is in the interest of the armed forces.

"So if I have to deal with a firm which does have some earlier colour on it, it will based on merit," Parrikar said in an interaction with journalists late Wednesday night in New Delhi.

He added that based on merit and necessity, the government can "consider after proper verification, lifting the ban or restriction to a reasonable level".

Explaining the process, he said the state-run BEML has been allowed to supply spare parts for the Tatra trucks as long as it does not deal with the British subsidiary of the company, which was banned by the UPA following a scandal.

"We have lifted the restricted ban for technical and purchases of spares from the original company provided they have nothing to do with the people who have been blacklisted," he said.

Parrikar pointed out that one should not just go by the name Tatra as there are 3-4 companies which make the trucks.

"The company which has been banned is Tatra UK and we have permitted BEML to deal with the original company which is owned by different people now," he said, adding the condition is that they should not have relations with "questionable individuals".

"A restricted Non Objection Certificate has been granted to BEML, because we do need for defence purpose Tatra vehicles. It has become critical for certain applications," he said.

Heavy vehicle maker Tatra was banned in March 2012 after the then Army Chief General (retd) VK Singh's allegations that he was offered bribe to clear "sub-standard trucks" supplied by the company to the Indian Army.

Parrikar said that a draft of the changed policy is ready and a final draft will be ready in another 8-10 days. It will then go through further procedures before going to the Union Cabinet.

"The process shall be completed in another one and a half months," he said.

Defence Ministry sources said a blanket ban on defence firms has proved to be detrimental to the interests of the armed forces as it cripples the procurement process.

"The thinking is that there cannot be a blanket ban on defence firms. Measured steps can be taken and the policy will outline what steps would be taken for various offences, if committed," the sources said.

Under UPA Defence Minister AK Antony, a number of companies were blacklisted due to alleged cases of corruption. The last major one was that of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica in a Rs 3,600 crore deal on VVIP helicopters.

However, the Modi government had in August this year allowed Finmeccanica and its subsidiary Agusta Westland to do business with India but in a limited capacity. It has been banned from participating in future tenders but allowed to carry out ongoing contracts with the group.

Talking about the role of agents, Parrikar said he would prefer to call them representatives or technical consultants. "It exists in DPP but is not clarified. It should be explained clearly so that bonuses, success fees and commissions are debarred," he said.

Any other activity like technical information,attending meetings and others can be permitted to registered representatives. "Naturally, they can't be who have been blacklisted or debarred from defence deals."

To repeated questions, the Minister said he will permit "agents" to be allowed with debarment on any payment which is related to business.

"That means you cannot get a bonus out of an order, you cannot get success fees out of order, you cannot get percentage out of this...You can definitely appoint a person for certain fees provided you disclose it to the department in advance," he said. While agents have an option to register themselves with the Defence Ministry under the existing DPP, only a handful have done so.

Industry sources say that this is because there is not much clarity and also because one immediately comes under the scanner of all regulatory and security agencies in the country.

Talking about the government's thrust on "Make in India Policy", Parrikar said they are considering financing 100 per cent of the cost with some conditions, up from the 80 per cent now.

Explaining this, he said, "You identify a product which needs to be developed in India. You find out a company which is best suited for doing that exercise and then finance it.

"As of now it is mentioned at 80 per cent but we are considering financing up to 100 per cent provided there is at least 20 per cent component of small scale or medium scale industries in that development," Parrikar said.

He said defence is probably one place where we look for foreign acquisition, lock stock and barrel.

Parrikar said the government wants to simplify the make procedure and deregulating certain aspects of export conditions.

"There are too many export bottlenecks," he said, adding the government was working on allowing defence products to be exported as long as it is to the country which is not in negative list or product which is not sensitive.

Parrikar said he would also like to reduce the time from the date of identifying the product or requirement to the completion of process, which currently stands at about six years. He said that by March 2016, the production capacity of defence PSUs and ordinance factories would be raised by 30 to 40 per cent.

The Minister stressed that there will be zero tolerance to mishaps in the armed forces, saying strict action would be taken.

He also promised to resolve issues relating to defence personnel saying, "Ultimately, whatever weapons you give, it is the hands, mind and heart behind that weapon which actually performs".

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