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Saturday, 21 March 2015

From Today's Papers - 21 Mar 2015

7 die in Kathua police station attack
Terror strike: Two CRPF men, cop among those killed, two militants also gunned down
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Rajbagh (Kathua), March 20
At least seven persons, including two CRPF personnel and a policeman, were killed and 10 others injured after two suicide attackers in Army fatigues stormed the Rajbagh police station on the Jammu-Pathankot national highway this morning.

The two terrorists, believed to be members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, were also eliminated in a fierce four-hour gun battle with  securit forces. The injured mostly included CRPF men, policemen and a civilian, besides Deputy SP, Border, Diwakar Singh.

The Army had to deploy its quick-reaction teams and Special Forces troops to wrap up the operation. Among the dead was the driver of a Mahindra load carrier, who was returning to Punjab after delivering a consignment of oranges at Dayalachak fruit Mandi and a 32-year-old mobike rider, whose body with a slit throat was found this evening from a forest nursery in the Haria Chak area close to the international border. While Mahindra driver hailed from Kangra in Himachal, the mobike rider belonged to Punjab.

The attack comes a few days after Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed chaired a meeting of the Unified Headquarters in Jammu on March 12. Mufti and his party, the PDP, had been talking about the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from “peaceful” areas of the state.

“The militants surfaced at Haria Chak forest nursery and hijacked a bike from a man after slitting his throat. Later, they hijacked another vehicle at Dayalachak before storming the police station,” said a police officer.

It seemed the militants crossed the border on the intervening night of March 19 and 20. They surfaced at Haria Chak nursery and snatched the bike of Joginder Singh of Punjab after slitting his throat. They reached Chapakian, near Chadwal, around 5.30 am and boarded the auto-rickshaw of a local, Bharat Bhushan.

They asked Bhushan to take them to an Army camp towards the Samba side. Noticing their soiled shoes and Army fatigues with carry bags on their shoulders, the driver took the plea that his auto-rickshaw had run out of fuel, sources said.

By then, the auto-rickshaw had reached Dayalachak on the highway. The terrorists then crossed to the other side of the highway and stopped a Mahindra load carrier, which was returning to Punjab after delivering a consignment of oranges.

“The militants boarded that vehicle and reached near the Rajbagh police station,” they added. It seemed the two militants had hijacked the Mahindra vehicle along with its driver. Near the police station, they stopped another Mahindra vehicle and asked its driver and another occupant to come out, said Danish Rana, IGP, Jammu zone. The two vehicles bore registration numbers HP38C/8366 and HP38C/0538.

The militants then took the three men to the gate of the police station. They told the sentry posted there that the trio were caught doing some illegal activity and that they wanted to hand them over to the police, Rana said.

After entering the police station, they lobbed a grenade and opened fire from automatic weapons, killing the sentry and the driver of the hijacked Mahindra vehicle, Rana said. “The militants attacked the police station around 6.15 am,” he added.
Parrikar: Will take 8-10 yrs to fill officer shortfalls in Army
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20
The shortage of officers in the Indian Army will take another eight to ten years to overcome, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted in Parliament this morning.

At present there are 11,116 vacancies of officers in the three armed forces. The Army has the biggest shortfall of 9,642 officers and the Navy and the Indian Air Force follow at 1,322 and 152 vacancies, respectively.

“The major vacancies appear to be of the officers in the Army, which is short by 9,642. The Ministry of Defence has made efforts since 2012 to reduce this,” Parrikar said in the Lok Sabha answering queries from MPs.

The vacancies were 10,100 in 2012 and 9,590 in 2013. In 2014, it came down to 8,455. “Currently it was actually 7,642, down by 1,000 (over the previous year) but it got increased to 9,642 as approximately 2,000 positions are created afresh,” the minister explained. He said each year approximately 2,000 Army officers were inducted for training every year whereas around 1,000 retire.

“We are filling in the gaps and in the next eight to ten years the gap will be filled”, he said of the vacancies in the Army. Though he did not say why new positions have been created, it’s expected that these posts are for the upcoming Mountain Strike Corps.

He listed out the reasons for the gradual filling of vacancies. There are two restrictions to increase this number. First, we had training facilities available for about 2,200 personnel, of which we had to give some slots to foreign countries. About 2,000 personnel werebeing trained on our own, he said.

Second, if we took one bunch, there will be problem of their placement and promotion when they are due for it, the minister said. Filling the vacancies in gradual manner would help, Parrikar said while answering questions in the Lok Sabha.

The Navy which is expanding fast to match the country’s expectations has an intake of around 800 and retirement is about 250. “In next three to four years, the officer shortage will also be taken care off,” Parrikar said.
India: UNSC undermining Gen Assembly

United Nations, March 20
India has criticised the UN Security Council for undermining the authority of the General Assembly, saying the body should “stop its frequent attempts” to redefine its competence through interpretations of threats to international peace and security.

“Over the years, it has been amply demonstrated that the prerogatives of the General Assembly have been undermined by the Security Council,” said Devesh Uttam, First Secretary at the Indian Mission to the UN. — PTI
Why INS Viraat's Decommissioning is a Worrying News for India
New Delhi:  INS Viraat, perhaps one of the longest serving warships in the world, will be decommissioned next year, after 57 years in service.

INS Viraat has gone through five refits and mid-life upgrades since 1987. Yet another major refit and upgrade to extend its life will not be "cost effective" and hence it has been decided to decommission the ship, a senior Ministry of Defence official told NDTV.

The British-built aircraft carrier was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1957. It was inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987. Between 1987 and 1995, the warship served alongside INS Vikrant - India's first aircraft carrier which is now in a junkyard after efforts to keep it afloat as a museum failed.

For at least two years - from 2016 to 2018 -  the Indian Navy will have to depend only on the 44,000 ton refurbished Russian Admiral Gorshkov, which has been rechristened INS Vikramaditya and the MiG-29K that fly of its deck to project power in the Indian Ocean Region.

The first indigenously built aircraft carrier that will be named INS Vikrant is expected to join the Indian Navy only in 2018-19. It is being built at the Cochin Shipyard. The warship was scheduled to join the Navy by 2012 but has been delayed. One of the key reasons being procuring warship grade specialised steel. After failing to procure it globally, Steel Authority of India - a Public Sector Unit - came to the Navy's rescue.

The construction of INS Vikrant started in 2008. "We expect INS Vikrant to go for trials by end of 2016. First the ships will be tested after which it will be aviation complex that will undergo tests," a senior Naval officer told NDTV.

Meanwhile, India's neighbour China, after inducting its first 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier Liaoning in September 2012, has started constructing a second one. And it plans to build two more to bolster its expanding maritime power. Aircraft carriers, with their accompanying flotilla warships and aircraft, are considered to be the ultimate symbols of projection of power.
Armed forces face shortage of over 52,000 personnel

Indian armed forces are faced with a shortage of over 52,000 personnel, including 11,000 officers, as measures like improved pay structure were being put in place to check attrition, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday.

Army is grappling with the maximum shortage of 33,998 personnel, including 9,642 officers.

There are 24,356 vacancies in other ranks (ORs) of the Army, excluding those in the medical and dental research, he told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.

However, he noted that 66,502 people were undergoing training as against shortages in the ORs, as on January 1.

Parrikar said the Navy had a shortage of 1,322 officers  and 11,257 sailors as on January 31.

In the case of Air Force, there were 152 vacancies as on February 1 and shortage of 5,540 airmen at the end of March 1.

Currently, 6,159 recruits for airmen posts were being trained, Parrikar added.

The number of officer-level vacancies in the Army rose to 9,642 as 2,000 fresh positions were created. Efforts are being made since 2012 to fill up the shortage in Army, he said.

On the overall shortage in the three services, the Minister exuded confidence that the issue would be completely addressed in 8-10 years.

Parrikar said the government has taken a number of steps to encourage the youth to join the armed forces, including “sustained image projection”, participation in career fairs and exhibitions and publicity campaign to create awareness.

The major reasons for armed forces personnel seeking premature retirement from defense services include compassionate and medical grounds, among others, he noted.

To check attrition rate in the defence forces, Parrikar said various steps were being taken, including improved pay structure and additional family accommodation through Married Accommodation Project.

“The government has taken various measures to create appropriate environment for defense personnel, so that they can perform their duty without any mental stress,” he noted.

Such measures include liberalized leave policy, conduct of yoga and meditation as part of unit routine, provision for better infrastructure and facilities, he added.

To a query on family members of martyrs and others facing problems in getting compensation, Parrikar said the government was working on establishing an  institutional mechanism to address the issues.
Government Signs 83 Contracts to Procure Defence Hardware

NEW DELHI: Giving major thrust to country’s defence preparedness, the BJP-led NDA Government has signed 83 contracts for capital procurement of defence equipment for the three services during 2014-15.

Responding a question in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that capital expenditure of `69,269.75 crore has been incurred in the  2014-15 financial year (upto February 2015), of which `56,776.47 crore is on capital acquisition.

“A cut of `12,622.71 crore under capital head, has been imposed by the Ministry of Finance in the Revised Estimate 2014-15 over Budget Estimate provision of `94,587.95 crore,” the minister informed Parliament.

Besides signing 83 contracts for military hardware, the Ministry of Defence has also approved projects worth over 1.5 lakh crore for the armed forces in several defence acquisition council meetings headed by the minister. However, to encourage competitive bidding, the government has also retracted 27 Request for Proposal(RFP), Parrikar said. “27 Requests for Proposal (RFP) were retracted during this period due to various reasons such as single vendor situation, noncompliance to Staff Qualitative Requirements (SQR), non-extension of Bid validity by vendor etc.,” Parrikar further said. Meanwhile, the production plan for indigenously-built Light Combat Helicopters have been made from 2017-18 onwards, the government said on Friday, adding that they are not a replacement for the ageing fleets of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.

Spate of crashes involving vintage Cheetah and Chetak helicopters has been a major cause of concern for the government. Last week, a delegation of women comprising wives of Army officers met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and urged him to stop the use of “outdated” Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh informed in a written reply that the light combat helicopters are being developed by HAL to fulfil the requirement of the Army and the Air Force for a combat helicopter. He said the LCH is not a replacement for ageing fleets of Cheetah and Chetak utility helicopters as the combat helicopter is a 5.5 tonne class twin engine armed aircraft.
‘India’s well-timed diversification of army helped democracy’
India’s well-timed decision post independence to control and diversify its army helped preserve its democracy, or it could have ended up like Pakistan which has seen three army coups post independence.

Yale university professor Steven I. Wilkinson, in his book “Army and Nation: How India’s Founders Made its Army Safe for Democracy” – writes that while the Indian Army at the time of independence was dominated by few martial groups, diversification and modifications in its structure helped the country.

“If you inherit an imbalanced army, chances of a coup are high,” Wilkinson said speaking about his book at the India International Center Thursday evening.

The author said in 1929, the army had overwhelmingly warriors from Sikh and Gorkha communities, both martial groups.

“In 1947, the army was still dominated by certain martial groups who made 95 percent of the troops. It was still an imbalanced army, as the British recruited troops from martial roots. These officers were also a closely knit community creating more trouble for politicians,” he said.

He however added that India was still in a better position in what it inherited, compared to Pakistan, which had 72 percent of its army from Punjab alone, while thereere only 155 officers from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

“The most represented and the least represented (in army) – Punjab and Bengal – were together in Pakistan,” he said.

India on the contrary had 32 percent Sikh soldiers, 18 percent from Uttar Pradesh, and 10 percent from erstwhile Bombay province, which he said was more diversified comparatively, while still imbalanced.

The author said, however, India dealt with the issue better than Pakistan.

“India dealt with it better. Pakistan either did not try or did it too late. They could have done a lot in the 1950s,” he said.

“India’s political leadership felt the army needed immediate attention. (Jawaharlal) Nehru and (Vallabhbhai) Patel were thinking about it as an issue. In Pakistan there was very little thinking about it,” he said.

He highlighted that at the time of independence, both Indian and Pakistani armies had a similar background, adding that the Indian Army could have reacted in a similar way as happened in Pakistan had there been political instability here.

“They were trained in the same way, and they kept ties even after partition. Had India slipped into political chaos, they (Indian Army) could have acted similar,” he said.

The author also pointed out that despite of the fact that army was dominated by people from Punjab, it was not untill 1961 that the army got its first chief from the Punjab regiment – General Pran Nath Thapar.

Pakistan, since partition, has seen three military coups and several unsuccessful attempts.

It began in 1958, when the first Pakistani president, Iskander Mirza, who had retired as a major general, dismissed parliament and prime minister Feroz Khan Noon, appointing the army chief, General Ayub Khan, as the chief martial law administrator. Thirteen days later, Mirza himself was deposed by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself the president and raised himself to field marshal.

In 1977, Pakistani Army chief General Zia-ul-Haq overthrew prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was later hanged.

In 1999, General Pervez Musharraf overthrew prime minister Nawaz Sharif and and evnetually became the president.

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