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Saturday, 17 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 17 Jan 2015

Obama visit: Unified HQ to review security in J-K
Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 16
The Unified Headquarters – a joint command structure of security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir – will meet next week to discuss the situation in the state ahead of the US president Barack Obama’s visit to the country.
Governor NN Vohra is scheduled to chair the high-level meeting on Tuesday next week, in which top officers of the security forces and intelligence agencies will brief him about the prevailing security scenario in the state, sources said. Intelligence agencies have already warned about the possibility of an attack coinciding with Obama’s visit.
A series of warnings and the past pattern of terror attacks coinciding with such high-profile visits is keeping the security grid in the state on an alert.
The alarm was signalled by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and 16 Corp commander Lt Gen KH Singh, both of whom had yesterday expressed concern about the possibility of an attack coinciding with Obama’s visit to the country later this month. “They (terrorists) may try to do something to create news. But we are well prepared,” the Defence Minister had said yesterday.
Lt Gen Singh, who is the General Officer Commanding of the Nagrota-based 16 Corps, yesterday hinted at the track record of past attacks but also said that the Army had inputs that militants might strike in the region. “There have been instances when such attacks took place during eminent leaders’ visit to the country in the past,” he said.
Even as the number of militants significantly declined in the recent years, they have succeeded in carrying out several high-profile attacks killing several security forces personnel. Sources in the security agencies believe that the militants have an underground presence in parts of north and south Kashmir and near Srinagar.
The latest threat perception is rooted in the history of several deadly attacks, some of which were aimed at soft targets, which have taken place in the region when a dignitary visited the state or the country. One of the deadliest attacks took place in March 2000 when the then US president Bill Clinton was on a visit to the country and 36 Sikhs were killed in south Kashmir’s Chattisinghpora village. The attack targeting civilians overshadowed Clinton’s visit and was suspected to have been carried out by militants belonging to the Pakistan-based LeT.
The attacks coinciding with high-profile visits have also taken place when Prime Ministers have toured the state in recent years and their recurrence has increased in past two years. In June 2013, two militants carried out an ambush on Srinagar’s outskirts killing at least 13 soldiers when the then PM Manmohan Singh was in the city.
In November 2014, militants launched a fidayeen raid and killed civilians and soldiers in the Arnia sector when PM Narendra Modi was scheduled to address a rally the next day in a nearby district and a month later militants stormed an artillery unit in north Kashmir three days ahead of Modi’s visit to Srinagar.
Obama’s R-Day visit: IAF not to cancel flypast over Rajpath
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
In what could have robbed the Republic Day parade of much-watched and appreciated flypast, US President Barack Obama’s security detail wanted a “no-fly zone” that would have meant cancelling the flypast of fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance planes over Rajpath in New Delhi.

Sources have confirmed that the US security teams were in talks with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and wanted a 5-km “no-fly zone” around Obama when he will sit at Rajpath watching the Republic Day parade.

This is first time that a US President is attending the Republic Day parade on January 26.

The matter reached the Indian Air Force headquarters which intervened and told the DGCA and the US security teams that a “no-fly-zone” would mean “no flypast” and cancelling this was not possible.

Sources said yes there was a request from the US, but agreeing to this was not possible. “The flypast will be conducted and as per earlier decided protocol only twin engine planes and copters will be flying,” a source said.

The civilian flights at Delhi will be affected for a period of some 90 minutes but that happens on each Republic Day when the flypast is taking place. This is done as the IAF and Navy planes will fly in from various airbases and rendezvous just West outside Delhi to fly in over President’s House Rajpath. Hence, any interference with civilian flying can be dangerous.

Besides the flypast on Republic Day, there is round-the-clock “no-fly zone” over Lutyens Delhi that houses the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s office and residence, besides the offices of the three services and the Ministries. On Republic Day, this ‘no-fly-zone’ is relaxed to ensure that pilots fly in over Rashtrapati Bhawan and down the Rajpath.

The IAF and Navy flypast will include the Sukhoi-30MKI, the Mi-17 helicopters and US-made special operations plane, the C-130-J Super Hercules, the heavy lift plane, the C-17 Globemaster-III and the naval maritime plane Boeing P-8I.

A pair of Russian-origin naval MiG-29K Naval fighters will also make their maiden appearance, the first for Naval fighters over Rajpath since the Sea Harriers hovered at the “Beating Retreat” on January 29, 1985.
China needs to be handled carefully, says diplomat

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 16
Stating that India has to carefully manage its relationship with China from a position of relative strength as South Asia must remain an essentially Indian preserve, noted diplomat Nalin Surie said the jury was still out whether China would exercise its growing power and influence in a responsible manner.

Speaking on “The Evolving Dynamics in the India – Pacific” at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development here today, Surie said, “Though indicators suggest that China may be rethinking its policy of being overaggressive in the region, there is no sign that it is redefining or willing to compromise on its core interests that cover defence of state sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, political system and development interests.

Surie, who has served as Ambassador to China, Poland and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, said defence modernisation was an integral part of China’s modernisation and was enhancing its maritime, cybersphere, space and nuclear triad capabilities. As geopolitical and geo-economic environment evolves, China’s jockeying for a pole position in the India-Pacific region has intensified.

On the issue of Pakistan being able to sustain itself, he said, “India has to be prepared for all eventualities.” While being hard-headed yet generous when necessary, he says India will have to manage and guard against terrorist activities emerging from Pakistan.

The other areas of immediate concern in the region for India, he said, include the future of Afghanistan, the situation in Iraq and the challenge posed by the ISIS and the reunification of the two Korea. “Of the top 10 conflict prevention priorities listed by the US, six fall in the India-Pacific region. Global economic and financial crisis, energy security, terrorism, navigation along sea routes of trade, cyber security and climate change are the factors that have a direct impact on the region,” Surie said.
Terror Threat for Obama Visit? Defence Minister Parrikar Says 'We Are Well Prepared'
Amid reports that terrorists may try to attack soft targets in India, including schools, ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said, "We are well prepared."

Five terrorists were killed today in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian after a 10-hour operation by the army and the police, who had been tipped off about the presence of heavily armed militants in dense forests.

"There are terrorists who may try to do something before the Obama visit to create news but we are well prepared for it," Mr Parrikar said, referring to the operation in Kashmir. 

A top army commander had earlier said that 200 militants are waiting to cross over to India and strikes are being planned in terror "war rooms" in Pakistan led by the ISI.

"The structure of the war rooms is that they are led by the ISI and have representatives of local commanders of the army and the terrorist groups and then they decide which operations to conduct, when and where to conduct - there are inputs that militants can hit soft targets like schools," said Lt General KH Singh, a senior army officer posted in Jammu and Kashmir.

"There is every possibility that Pakistan will try to divert some of the fringe elements of home-grown terrorist outfits to India," he added.

Intelligence agencies had warned last month that the terror group Lashkar-e Taiba might plan an attack in India to coincide with President Obama's visit and a security alert has been issued.

President Obama will arrive in India on January 25 for a three-day visit, sources have told NDTV. He will be accompanied by his wife Michelle.

A final security and protocol meeting on the president's visit will be held tomorrow.
Balochistan separatists have Indian passports: Pakistan Defence Minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, said that indiscriminate military operation is in progress in North Waziristan. Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that the persons belonging to separatist organizations in Balochistan have Indian passports which show that they go to India and they have contacts with India.

He said that today government, army and the all stakeholders are on the same page due to last eight years democratic process, saying that , at present, civil-military relations are just like as they should be.

He said that the trust of United States (US) on Pakistan is increasing day by day. He said that Pakistan army is carrying out military operation indiscriminately, saying that US has admitted it and even the France has also admitted it.

He said that if Afghans are satisfied with military operation of Pakistan then it is evident that its positive effects will reach everywhere, saying that Pakistan and Afghanistan both the countries have important coordination in the entire matter.

Khawaja Asif said the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry was satisfactory and dialogues were made with him in pleasant atmosphere. He said that it is based on fact that India uses the Afghan land against Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan has a lot of sacrifices in the war against terrorism while the entire world is taking advantage of these sacrifices.

He further said that increasing tension on the line of control by India is not without any reason, saying that India wants to divert the attention of Pakistan. Defence minister said that Pakistan has strong defence but Pakistan wants peace.

Khawaja Asif said that it has been proved that the incident of Samjota Express was pre-planned and the Indian colonel was found to be involved in the incident, saying that India is leveling baseless allegations against Pakistan.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif was expressing these views in an interview with a private TV channel
Defence purchases to be hit as funds go for overheads

The finance ministry has cut around Rs13,000 crore out of the Rs 94,588 crore allocated to the defence ministry in the Union Budget last July.

A defence ministry official, who has knowledge of the revised budgetary allocation which was finalised in December last, told the FE, “We are re-appropriating Rs 13,000 crore from the armed forces’ capital outlays towards revenue expenditure.”

What this means is that the finance ministry has decided to take away some funds meant for buying weapons and equipment to pay off the salaries and recurring maintenance expenses, which has grown beyond manageable limits. In July, finance minister Arun Jaitley had allocated Rs 1,34,412 crore towards revenue expenditure of the defence ministry.

The capital budget for the Indian Navy and the Air Force have been cut between Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore, which means that no new defence acquisition contract may be signed this fiscal, including the much-awaited deal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) ‘Rafale’ from the French firm Dassault Aviation. Also, sources revealed that the Indian Navy which is currently in talks with the US-based Sikorsky for 16 helicopters has been asked to go slow as there are no funds for new acquisitions.

Even the Indian Army is faced with a nearly Rs 4,000- crore cut in its capital budget this fiscal, forcing it to bring down its more than 100 proposals for weapons and equipment acquisition to 20 important ones, of which seven critical ones are being fast-tracked by the government.

The Chief of Army General Dalbir Singh, at his annual press conference earlier this week, said the force has “over 100 projects for weapons and equipment, but has identified 20 important ones, of which seven critical ones are being fast-tracked.”

The army chief listed seven critical acquisitions, including the already-cleared mounted-guns systems, which would be the first that India would buy if this procurement goes through. Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar has given the nod for the purchase of 814 mounted artillery guns at a cost of Rs 15,700 crore.

The others on the list, all of which have already been approved by the government, are the 8,000-odd Spike third-generation anti-tank guided missiles to be bought from Israel; 131 light utility helicopters that will be a ‘Make in India’ project now; upgradation of the entire fleet of battle tanks and infantry combat vehicles; assault rifles for the infantrymen; bullet-proof jackets and helmets, again for infantrymen; and night-vision devices for the mechanised forces and the infantry.

A December 2014 report on the Budgetary Demands for Grants for 2014-15, submitted by the parliamentary standing committee on defence, noted that “growth in the budget is not sufficient for the projects and modernization” of the forces. The committee was headed by BJP MP Maj Gen (retd) BC Khanduri.

“The committee perceives it to be a grim and unacceptable situation, which is affecting all the services of defence forces considerably. The committee desires that the ministry should raise the bar and gradually increase defence expenditure to the level of three per cent of the GDP so that modernization of the armed forces can become a reality and not remain a mirage,” the report said.

It also noted that as money for high-value acquisitions like the MMRCA is not available under the current allocation, additional funds will be sought. It has to be seen if the defence ministry makes the additional demand this fiscal or in the next, beginning April 2015.

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