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Friday, 16 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 16 Jan 2015

Pak terrorists may target J&K ahead of Obama visit: Parrikar
Ajay Banerjee/

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service
New Delhi/Nagrota (J&K), Jan 15

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and an Army Corps commander have expressed apprehension that “Pakistan-backed terrorists” may attack “soft targets” in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit here this month.

Addressing mediapersons on the sidelines of the Army Chief’s “at home” function to mark Army Day, Parrikar said: “They (terrorists) may try to do something to create news. But we are well prepared.” He ruled out any immediate talks with Pakistan.

Lt Gen KH Singh, General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps, said the Indian Army had inputs that Pakistani terrorists might carry out Peshawar-like terror attacks on soft targets such as schools, places of worship, civilian areas and convoys where the security forces were not present in the militancy-hit J&K.

Lt Gen Singh said Pakistan had set up 36 war rooms in as many launch pads to engineer terror attacks. “I will call them modules — an amalgam of Pakistan Army’s Special Forces, SSG, local formation commanders and terror groups — which are being led by the ISI. They may try and carry out attacks on soft targets. They may try to enter the state via the Nepal route,” he said.

He said schools under the Indian Army and paramilitary forces were being taken care of. “There have been instances when such attacks took place during eminent leaders’ visit to the country in the past,” he said.

Parrikar said Pakistan would have to turn words into action for bilateral talks to begin. “Let things cool down at the border also. If things are quiet now, it is not because of the Pakistan Army, but because we reacted in a certain way when they fired first,” he said.

Lt Gen Singh said: “The internal situation in Pakistan is complicated now. It is facing a lot of threat from its home-grown terror but there are possibilities that it may try to deflect some fringe elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to our side in the garb of assistance to the so-called Kashmir freedom fighters.”

On the US-led NATO forces drawdown in Afghanistan, he said the US had decided to keep some troops there but again the possibility of terrorists coming to J&K could not be ruled out.

Lt Gen Singh said 44 terror camps remained intact in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “There are nearly 200 terrorists in 15 such camps on the other side of the LoC opposite the 16 Corps zone area in Jammu,” he added.
18 Army officers held for attacks on police

Nashik, January 15
At least 18 Army officers involved in attacks on police personnel and a police station here have been arrested, the police said today.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Hemraj Singh Rajput said all those involved in the two incidents were officers in the rank of lieutenants from the nearby Deolali Camp’s School of Artillery.

Late on Tuesday, a lieutenant, Ashish Bagul, who was on leave, and his relative Jayant Narad had attacked some policemen over a parking row, the police said. —IANS
Security concerns of India, Bhutan indivisible: Prez
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15

President Pranab Mukherjee conveyed India’s continued commitment to Bhutan remains undiluted and that New Delhi is ready to extend every cooperation underscoring that the security concerns of both countries are both “indivisible and intertwined”.

Welcoming the Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, the President remarked that the Siliguri corridor is a lifeline for both the countries which should continue their close cooperation on issues of mutual concern.

“Historical and cultural linkages as well as civilizational bonds between the two countries make them natural friends and partners. Shared strategic perceptions, trust, transparency and sensitivity to each other’s concerns are the hallmarks of the relationship,” the President told the visiting dignitary, a Rashtrapati Bhawan release said.

The Bhutanese Prime Minister, who came to India last week, called on the President on Wednesday. Welcoming the Bhutanese Prime Minister, the President said the year 2014 has been a year of consolidation and intensification of relations between India and Bhutan.

The Prime Ministers of both countries visited each other’s countries on their first visits abroad. There was also his first State Visit to the country in November 2014. This reflects the highest importance that India accords to Bhutan, which is a neighbour and steadfast partner. The President thanked the Bhutanese Prime Minister for the warmth of the reception and hospitality accorded to him during his visit to Bhutan. He also conveyed his thanks to the King of Bhutan for his message of concern and good wishes when he was unwell.

The President expressed happiness that the Bhutanese Prime Minister will be carrying a sapling from the Maha Bodhi tree to be planted at Punakha in Bhutan. He said it will further strengthen the historic bonds between the two countries. Reciprocating his sentiments, the Bhutanese PM said the President’s visit to Bhutan left behind a lasting impression in the minds of the people of Bhutan.
MoD may bifurcate DRDO chief, Scientific Adviser

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15

The Ministry of Defence is considering splitting the work handled by the DRDO chief into two verticals.

The new system can be implemented when the government appoints a successor to just-ousted DRDO chief Dr Avinash Chander. The government had removed him on January 13, 15 months before his contract was to end.

The DRDO Director General also holds two other posts, that of Secretary, Defence Research and Development, and also the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.

Sources said now the Ministry was considering that two persons could be appointed — one as DG DRDO and another as Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister with the former holding the higher rank. The matter is at a discussion stage and the Scientific Adviser may not necessarily be from within the DRDO that comprises nearly 750 scientists. On January 31, when Dr Chander relinquishes charges, the senior-most (Dr K Tamilmani, Director General, Aeronautical Systems (Aero) is expected to take charge.
India set for bigger role in Sri Lanka
Harsh V. Pant
The government of Rajapaksa had disregarded Indian concerns
Last week, in a stunning blow to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan voters opted for his former colleague Maithripala Sirisena to end a decade-long regime that has been increasingly marked by allegations of nepotism, corruption and authoritarianism. Rajapaksa, after having defeated the LTTE, won an overwhelming mandate for himself and his party in the 2010 elections. When the war ended in 2009, there was an opportunity for the ethnic communities to reconcile and the government was expected to implement measures to address the problems faced by the country’s minorities, particularly by Tamils. That did not happen.

It was Rajapaksa who had called for elections in January, a full 16 months ahead of schedule. His confidence stemmed from the fact that it was under his leadership, the civil war ended in 2009, the term limits for the presidency were removed in 2010, a wave of infrastructure investment poured in and the country's economy has experienced a still rising peace dividend. The Sri Lankan economy has seen robust annual growth at 6.4 per cent from 2003 to 2012, well above its regional peers.  Following the end of the civil conflict in May 2009, growth rose initially to 8 per cent, largely reflecting a 'peace dividend', and underpinned by strong private consumption and investment. While growth was mostly private sector driven, public investment in infrastructure, including post-war reconstruction efforts in the northern and eastern provinces, also contributed. Growth was around 7 per cent in 2013, driven by a rebound in the service sector which accounts for 60 per cent of GDP.

Economic prosperity has been broadly shared with Sri Lanka experiencing a big decline in poverty between 2002 and 2009 — from 23 per cent to 9 per cent of the population. There is anticipation that the Sri Lanka per capita income will increase sufficiently in the next two to three years and it may be defined by the World Bank as a middle-income country.

And yet despite an end to the violent conflict with the LTTE in 2009, social tensions have persisted in Sri Lanka. A predominantly militarised development process imposes a top-down strategy at the expense of incorporating local voices and ideas. Though more discrete than was previously the case, forces are involved at all levels of civilian administration in the North, and development projects must be military-approved. The International Crisis Group has argued that 'instead of giving way to a process of inclusive, accountable development, the military is increasing its economic role, controlling land and seemingly establishing itself as a permanent, occupying presence.'   Sri Lanka has also been witnessing religious tensions between the Sinhala Buddhists and the Muslims. The anti-Muslim campaign has been triggered by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) over the abolition of the Halaal certification process and banning of the niqab. The Bodu Bala Sena, meaning 'Buddhist Power Force’, was formed in July 2012. It has taken up various anti- Muslim activities, for example, asking people not to shop from Muslim shops.  Not surprising, therefore, that the minority Tamils and Muslims appeared to have voted heavily against Rajapaksa.

As a new era begins in Sri Lanka, both China and India will be looking closely at how the new regime will change its priorities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promptly reached out to Sirisena to congratulate him on his victory and assured him of India's continued solidarity and support to the country’s peace and development. President Sirisena will travel to New Delhi next month on his first State visit abroad. It is being speculated in New Delhi that the ouster of Rajapaksa would mean a greater role for India in the island. The government of Rajapaksa had become ever more confident of disregarding Indian concerns. India has been emphasising the need for urgent steps to resettle the internally displaced persons and has urged the Sri Lankan authorities to expedite the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. India has underlined the need for a meaningful devolution package, building on the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution that would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. However, the Rajapaksa government was largely non-committal on most of India's demands.

At the same time, Chinese footprint had been expanding in Sri Lanka. Chinese military supplies to Sri Lanka are estimated at US $100 million a year, with China supporting the Sri Lankan defence forces in boosting its capabilities for high-technology aerial warfare, and restructuring and reorienting the military. China emerged as the largest foreign finance partner of Sri Lanka in 2010, overtaking India and Japan, and its third largest trading partner in 2012. Sri Lanka is also committed to join the Maritime Silk Road initiative of Beijing which is a vital strategic project for China in the Indian Ocean. For China, Sri Lanka is a gateway port up the western coast of India and further west to Iran, an important oil exporter to China.

China's support was crucial for Sri Lanka during the last phase of the war against the LTTE. Chinese support has also been invaluable for Sri Lanka to confront the US-backed resolutions at the UNHRC. As a result, the two nations now have a declared 'strategic co-operation partnership'. For China, its ties with Sri Lanka give it a foothold near crucial sea-lanes in the Indian Ocean, as well as entry into what India considers its sphere of influence. China is financing more than 85 per cent of the Hambantota Development Zone, to be completed over the next decade. This will include an international container port, a bunkering system, an oil refinery and an international airport.

Indian policymakers will be mistaken if they think that a change of regime in Colombo will lead to a dampening of Sino-Sri Lanka ties. China's role is now firmly embedded in Sri Lanka - economically as well as geopolitically. India will have to up its game if it wants to retain its leverage in Colombo. Rajapaksa or Sirisena, China's role is only going to grow in the island nation. After all, the stakes are just too high in the great game that is being played in the Indian Ocean.
PM awards young innovators in the Indian Army, on the occasion of Army Day
In a unique initiative aimed at recognizing and awarding innovation among youth, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today presented Certificates of Excellence to eight young innovative officers of the Indian Army. The certificates were presented to the officers for unique innovations done by these officers, in areas such as reconnaissance, monitoring and greater facilitation for soldiers in combat conditions.

The certificates were presented by the Prime Minister, to these innovators during the "at-home function" at the residence of the Chief of Army Staff, on the occasion of Army Day. The Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar was also present.

The innovators also explained their work to the Prime Minister, through working models and exhibits, in the presence of the Chief of Army Staff.

This is the first time that such efforts on the part of Army officers have been recognized at this highest level.

While presenting the DRDO awards in August 2014, the Prime Minister had called for involving youth in defence research related activities in a big way, to ensure that India remained abreast of global technological advancements in the field. The Prime Minister had also encouraged DRDO to connect with the ultimate end-user of its products - the soldier. He had said the soldier can suggest many practical innovations in defence technology.

Prime Minister has also observed that occasions like the Annual Day of the three Services (Air Force Day, Army Day and Navy Day) should be occasions not merely to celebrate the service of our Armed Forces in the defence and security of our nation, but also to organize events to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Armed Forces. Such events could include recognition of members of the Services who have made innovative contributions in areas like defence management, estate management, environment, finance and expenditure, design of defence equipment, papers on defence strategies etc.
We are well prepared: Defence Minister on reports of militant attacks ahead of Obama’s visit
New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said India is "well prepared" to thwart any possible terror attack in the backdrop of intelligence inputs that strikes could be carried out on "soft targets" in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit here this month.

"They (terrorists) may try to do something to create news. But we are well prepared," Parrikar said.

He was replying to a question about the statement by a top army officer that there were inputs about possibility of attacks on "soft targets" by Pakistan-based terror groups such as schools, religious places, military convoys and civilian areas in the militancy-hit state ahead of Obama's visit.

General Officer Commanding (GOC), 16 Corps, Lt Gen K H Singh said that 200 heavily armed militants were waiting in 36 launching pads across the Line of Control (LoC) on the other side of Pir Panjal range and there is every possibility that Pakistan might try to divert the fringe elements of the home-grown terrorist outfits on this side of the border.

"There are general inputs that terrorists might try to attack soft targets, including schools, religions places, army convoys and other civilian areas," he told reporters in Nagrota.

Asked if the killing of five hardcore militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) in a fierce gunbattle in Shopian district of south Kashmir today was related to Obama visit, he said, "No, that (encounter) is a different thing."

He said the encounter showed the success of information gathering by the security forces.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a reception hosted by Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh on occasion of Army Day, Parrikar said Pakistan will have to put words into action for bilateral dialogue process to begin.

"Let things cool down at the borders also. If things are quite now, it is not because of Pakistan Army. It is because we reacted in a certain way when they fired first," he said, when asked about media reports from Pakistan that it's government plans to ban 10 terror outfits, including 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed-led Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).
Of silver chariots, obsolete weapons and DRDO — the sacking of Avinash Chander
NEW DELHI: When soldiers are confronted with empty shells to feed their tanks, hesitated for night operations and complained of obsolete air-defence mechanisms, the key organization responsible to keep India’s defence forces abreast with enough supply and technology, was busy developing a fancy battery-operated silver-chariot for a temple in Maharashtra.

The organization in contention –the Defence Research and Development Organisation, (DRDO) a government agency which proudly states ‘’dedicatedly working towards enhancing self-reliance in Defence Systems and undertakes design & development leading to production of world class weapon systems and equipment in accordance with the expressed needs and the qualitative requirements laid down by the three services,’’ had a rude shock. Its chief, 65-year-old Avinash Chander who joined the outfit in 1972, had been sacked by the government without a warning.

The government seems to be in the right track as the move is in tandem with the rapidly growing geo-political uncertainty weighing on India. The organization, administered by the Ministry of Defence, was headed by Chander, known for being the architect of India’s Agni missile series. He was re-employed in November for 18 months to continue as its head, in New Delhi.

The Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi “approved the termination” of the contract of Avinash Chander with effect from January 31, an official notification said.

Chander had been formally appointed as DRDO head in May 2013 and had promised to take the organization to the next level, including developing the latest versions of the Agni missile, with a range of over 6,000 kilometers would be inducted in the armed forces’ arsenal by 2015.

The move did not come as a surprise to many. Consider these recent developments.

India’s former army chief, Gen V K Singh has gone on record to say that its tanks do not have enough ammo to fire, its ill-equipped land forces cannot fight at night and air-defenses are utterly obsolete. The army chief had accused the government of neglecting the country’s security.

If that was not enough, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pointed out recently of the ‘’laid back’’ attitude of the DRDO with projects falling behind schedule. The private sector had also been complaining that many of its permits for manufacturing had been mired in red tap thanks to the DRDO.

As if to seal the fate of the DRDO chief, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was quick to point out: “I recommended this. We need someone young and didn’t want somebody on contract to be in such a senior post… the proposal went from my side to appoint new person as head of DRDO. I have not yet decided who will head the organisation.”

Coping up with hardly any indigenously developed military hardware, India shopped aggressively for weapons over the recent years. A Swedish research group said that between 2007 and 2011, the country had emerged as the world’s largest weapons importer.

There are other arguments doing the rounds that Chander could have fallen foul  of the government on account of the accusation that the country’s top defence equipment research organization was scuttling talent due to a rigid hierarchy that allowed some scientists to keep getting extensions.

Chander had to face PM’s ire also because of the mess in the DRDO facing losses worth around Rs 29,000 crore due to time and cost overruns in acquisitions/developmental projects. For example, the indigenous Aircraft Carrier will now cost Rs 19,341 crore from its original cost of Rs 3,241 crore. Similarly, in case of the Stealth Guided Missile Destroyer, the cost has been revised from Rs 3,850 crore to Rs 11,662 crore and timelines have been revised from 2010-11 to 2015-16.

Chander should have realized, before it became too late, that the country’s army need much more than silver chariots to fight the wars of the next generation.

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