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Monday, 9 March 2015

From Today's Papers - 09 Mar 2015

Border row with India ‘contained’, says China
Beijing, March 8
China today said the border dispute with India has been “contained” as it sought stronger ties for the resolution of the vexed issue, likening it with climbing a mountain that gets “tougher” towards the summit.

Addressing his annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Indian elephant and Chinese dragon should “do more” to strengthen bilateral cooperation to clinch a final settlement of the boundary issue.

“As for China-India boundary question, it is a legacy of history. We have worked on it for many years and made some progress in the boundary negotiations,” Wang said here in a nationally-televised address.

“It is like climbing a mountain...the going is tough because we are on the way up. This is all the more reason that we do more to strengthen China-India cooperation so that we can enable and facilitate the settlement of the boundary question,” he said answering a question from PTI about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected visit and the chances of a breakthrough in boundary talks that have dragged on for years.

“The dispute has been contained. At the moment, the boundary negotiation is in the process of building up small positive developments,” Wang said in an elaborate comment on the issue ahead of the forthcoming 18th round of border talks.

He also said that a warm welcome awaited Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he makes his first visit to China later this year.

“Last September, President Xi Jinping made an historic visit to India. Picture of the two leaders working at a spinning wheel in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister, has spread far and wide in China.

“Chinese people believe in reciprocating the courtesy of others. I am sure when Prime Minister Modi visits China later this year, he will be warmly welcomed by the Chinese government and people,” he said.

Modi is expected to visit China before May 6, around the time when his government completes one year in office. The talks to be held later this month will be the first round after the NDA took over power last year. They are taking place amid clamour on both sides that a concerted effort should be made for a final solution considering that the two countries have strong governments. — PTI
WW-I expo to bring subcontinent together; opens in Delhi tomorrow
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
The centenary commemorations of World War-I (1914-18) will showcase the subcontinental heritage of what was once British India -- now divided into countries, separated in some cases by hostile borders. A five-day exhibition to mark 100 years of the war opens at the Manekshaw Convention Centre in Delhi Cantonment on March 10.

It will showcase the role of men from the subcontinent -- India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh -- in fighting the war in faraway Europe, Africa and West Asia. Organised by the Indian Army, the commemoration will be a mark of respect to all those who died, irrespective of which modern-day country their progeny now live in.

On March 9, a day before the exhibition opens, an event will create a history of sorts. President Pranab Mukherjee will lay a wreath at the India Gate.

Joining him in honouring the martyrs will be diplomats from  Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, UK and  France.

 It will be probably for the first time in recent decades that a Pakistani diplomat has been invited to an Indian military function at the iconic India Gate.

 On March 10, the exhibition will open. It will have busts of all the 11 Victoria Cross winners (gallantry awardees), including the three who went to Pakistan in 1947 and two others who hailed from Nepal.  “In 1914, there was no Pakistan. We had fought alongside the British. It makes sense to have the busts of even those who became Pakistani nationals after the creation of two separate countries,” a senior officer explained.

The opening day of the exhibition coincides with the ‘Battle of Neuve Chapelle’ marking the British offensive in the Artois region of France in which the Garhwal Brigade and  Meerut Division of the British Indian Corps participated. About 15 lakh Indian soldiers fought in the war and over 74,000 died.

The President will inaugurate the exhibition that will be open to the general public on three days -- March 11 to 13 -- with special permission being given to school and college students.

The exhibition  will  highlight how the ‘Great War’ was fought and won, its impact on the lives of Indian soldiers on the frontline and at home. It will showcase 13 campaigns, wartime weapons and equipment, memorabilia and various artifacts.

A ‘Corner of Remembrance’ in the exhibition will have old letters; an old home in neglect with the belongings of soldiers, giving a feeling of anxiousness of the families waiting for their sons to return home.

 The ‘Sacrifice Hall’ will include replicas of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, Indian memorials, busts and paintings of Victoria Cross winners in India and abroad.

The outdoor exhibits will give a glimpse of the dress, equipment, bunkers, guns and a replica of Brighton Hospital.

The miniature Brighton Hospital will depict the treatment and the trauma that the Indian soldiers went through.

A dynamic band display by the Indian Army brass and pipe bands will also be conducted as part of the mega event.

On the opening day, Chief of the Indian Army General Dalbir Singh Suhag will briefly highlight the role and sacrifices of the Indian soldiers during the great war.  The President will release a commemorative first day cover and hand over the first day cover to the Army Chief.

The same day, the Vice-Chief of the Indian Army, Lt Gen Philip Campose, will flag off a veterans' run.

A flame ‘Heritage Torch’ will be carried from the Commonwealth War Cemetery, Brar Square, to Manekshaw Centre, Delhi Cantt.  The last veteran runner will be Honorary Captain Bana Singh (retd), a Param Vir Chakra (PVC) awardee. He will hand over the ‘Heritage Torch’ to the President for lighting the symbolic ‘Flame of Remembrance’.
Indian Budget Casts Doubt on Rafale Deal
India may not have the FUNDS to seal the deal with Dassault Aviation to purchase $12 billion Rafale fighter planes, according to an Air Force source.

While India plans to boost hike defense spending by almost 8 percent, defense analysts and military officers say it falls short of expectations and isn’t enough to buy fresh weaponry.

India will spend US $40.4 billion on defense in the April 1 2015-March 31 2016 FINANCIAL year, according to the Feb. 28 proposal to Parliament.

That’s an increase of 7.74 percent over the previous year. The previous year’s budget went up 12.4 percent.

FINANCE Minister Arun Jaitley gave no additional funds in the “Capital Account Head” of the budget proposals, which is earmarked to buy fresh weapons. The budget included the same amount as last year: $15.5 billion.

“With the stagnation in capital expenditure, I believe there is very little left in the budget to cater to new contracts,” said Laxman Behera, research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses think tank in New Delhi.

Amit Cowshish, retired Defence Ministry FINANCE adviser and defense analyst, said: “It is unlikely that the allocation [under Capital Account] would cater for only committed liabilities.”

Said an Air Force officer: “With no fresh MONEY it is unlikely if we can contract the $12 billion Rafale fighter deal with Dassault Aviation of France, nor buy additional aircraft in the next financial year.”

The contract is to be paid in installments, with 15 percent due at the signing of the deal.

At best, a $2.5 billion deal finalized two years ago to purchase attack and heavy lift helicopters from Boeing could be inked as the US company has threatened to hike the price if the deal is delayed, the official added.

“The budget allocation may not be sufficient even for contracted projects as they are carry over from the 2014-15 budget on capital account,” said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promised during that election to modernize defense and meet weapons requirements, said defense analyst Nitin Mehta. “The first full budget of the new government announced Feb. 28 is a let down on expectations,” he said.

“There are serious concerns over government’s commitment to fully budget India’s defense and security needs despite statements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on modernization of the armed forces,” he said.

Said Mehta: “Sadly, the budget reflects continuation of the policies of the previous government. For structural changes there has to be greater synergy between the Ministry of Defence and Finance.”

Behera said security needs to have support from both the government and lawmakers.

“However, such security needs are to be satisfied within the overall resource availability,” he said. “The defense budget 2015-16 has been subject to resource crunch arising out of slowdown in revenue mobilization and greater devolution of resources to the state government.”

However, Cowshish said defense still constitutes around 13.88 percent of India’s total budget and as such is a major chunk of allocation.

“Defense budget is the second largest single item of expenditure in the non-plan segment of the union budget. One has to keep these facts in view while forming an opinion on whether the allocation is in sync with the promise or not,” Cowshish said.

With such a tight defense budget, it remains to be seen which of the ongoing programs will be inked. Nearly $20 billion worth weapons purchase projects are in the mix, including:

    $12 billion to purchase medium multirole fighter jets
    $1.2 billion for six Airbus A330 tankers
    $1.1 billion for 22 Boeing Apache attack helicopters
    $1 billion for 197 light utility helicopters,
    $833 million for 15 Boeing Chinook heavy lift helicopters,
    $600 million for light howitzer guns from BAE Systems
    $200 million for 98 Black Shark torpedoes from WASS
    $350 million for 1,418 Israeli-made thermal imaging sights for T-72 tanks
    $250 million for 262 Barak missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries
European Commission chief Juncker calls for EU army
BERLIN: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday called for the creation of an EU army in the wake of rising tensions with Russia.

Juncker said the force could help counter new threats beyond the bloc's borders and defend European "values", in an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"You would not create a European army to use it immediately," he was quoted as saying.

"But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union."

He said a joint EU force would also lead to more efficient spending on military equipment and drive further integration of the bloc's 28 member states.

"Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security policy," the former Luxembourg prime minister said, but added that the force should not challenge Nato's defence role.

"Europe's image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don't seem to be taken entirely seriously."

The proposal is likely to rile opponents of deeper EU integration such as Britain but won some support from Germany.

Welt am Sonntag quoted the head of the German parliament's foreign policy committee, Norbert Roettgen, as saying that an EU army "is a European vision whose time has come".

Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that "our future as Europeans will one day be a European army" although she added "not in the short term".

She said such a move would "strengthen Europe's security" and "strengthen a European pillar in the transatlantic alliance".

The newspaper said that former Nato secretary general Javier Solana would present a report on Monday in Brussels entitled "More Union in European Defence" calling for a new European security strategy including military capability to intervene beyond EU borders.

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