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Thursday, 23 April 2015

From Today's Papers - 23 Apr 2015

Japan’s Abe, China’s Xi meet in a sign of easing tensions
Seek to repair ties hit by territorial rows, bitter wartime legacy
Tokyo/Jakarta, April 22
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit in Indonesia on Wednesday, the latest sign of a thaw between the Asian rivals that came despite an awkward diplomatic backdrop.

Abe told reporters after the meeting that the two leaders agreed to work for better relations and contribute to regional stability by promoting “mutually beneficial strategic ties”.

Noting that Sino-Japanese ties had begun to improve when he met Xi late last year, Abe said: “We want to make the improving trend in the bilateral relations solid.”

The meeting took place despite a speech at the Asian-African summit by Abe in which he warned powerful nations against imposing on the weak, an implicit reference to China. He also made an allusion to Tokyo’s remorse in the past over World War Two without issuing a fresh apology.

Earlier on Wednesday, lawmakers from Abe’s ruling party and the opposition visited a Japanese war shrine in Tokyo that is seen in China as a symbol of Tokyo’s past militarism.

Nevertheless, the two leaders met for about half an hour, signalling the desire of both nations to mend frayed ties and promote a cautious rapprochement.

“The confrontation between China and Japan has eased and China and Japan have restored their diplomatic dialogue,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations in Beijing.

Tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies have flared in recent years due to feuds over wartime history, as well as territorial rows and regional rivalry.

Abe urged Xi at their meeting to work together to ease tensions in the East China Sea, where they have rival claims to tiny Japanese-controlled islets, Kyodo news agency reported.

Memories of Japan’s past military aggression run deep in China and Beijing has repeatedly urged Japan to face up to history.

In a sign that the past still rankles, Xi was quoted by state-run China National Radio as telling Abe that he “hopes the Japanese side takes seriously the concerns of its Asian neighbours and issues a positive message of facing squarely up to history”. — Reuters

Asian rivals meet in Jakarta

    China is locked in territorial rows with several smaller countries in the South China Sea while Japan has a separate feud over islets in the East China Sea.
    Abe often warns against the use of force to change the status quo and says the rule of law should prevail, both seen as implicit criticism of China's assertiveness
Terror threat: Afghan Taliban to launch spring offensive tomorrow
Kabul, April 22
The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday announced the start of its annual spring offensive, warning it would ramp up attacks on foreign embassies and government officials, as well as military targets, starting on Friday.

The Islamist militant group has been fighting the Afghan government and its foreign backers since it was ousted from power by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001.

“If the foreign occupiers really want to relieve themselves from this nuisance of fighting, they should immediately withdraw,” the Taliban said in a statement.

The Taliban typically steps up its military efforts when warmer weather facilitates the transit of fighters and weapons.

This year’s offensive has been dubbed “Azm” or “Resolution”, similar to the name chosen for the NATO-led coalition’s two year “Resolute Support” mission that started in January.

An Afghan defence ministry spokesman dismissed the Taliban announcement, saying the armed forces were ready to battle any insurgent offensive.

“Our enemies don’t have the capability to collapse any province or district,” said Brigadier General Dawlat Waziri. The Taliban made no mention of the much discussed peace process, which the Afghan president said was close to restarting several months ago.

Afghan and foreign officials have said recently that hopes for talks have flickered out and many expect the coming fighting season to be the most violent yet.

Last year was the worst for civilians since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured in the conflict in 2014. — Reuters
Air Force Hero Jumbo Majumdar's Medals May Never Return to India
New Delhi:  In about one month from now, the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and war medals of the World War-II veteran Wing Commander Jumbo Majumdar will slip away from Indian hands for the second time in six months.

NDTV has learnt that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has failed to pay the UK-based auction house Morton and Eden 30,000 pounds (approximately Rs. 28 lakh) despite entering into a binding contract for which an invoice was issued but no settlement reached.

Morton and Eden have now told the Indian Air Force's Air Attache in London that they intend to negotiate the sale of Jumbo's treasures elsewhere if the IAF is to miss the May 26 deadline.

In November last year, the Indian Air Force belatedly entered an agreement with Morton and Eden after an auction for the medals fell below the reserve price and they couldn't be sold. Following this, the IAF entered into an agreement with the auction house that it would internally raise the funds, something which it has been unable to do. NDTV has also learnt that the file on Jumbo Majumdar has moved from IAF Headquarters to the Ministry of Defence and then on to the Ministry of Culture which may well have a decisive say on the true worth of the medals, surprising since the IAF itself has no doubts on their true worth. It is also unclear at this stage if the IAF Chief will use discretionary funds available to him to acquire the medals. Air Marshal (retired) Anil Chopra who once commanded 1 Squadron, Jumbo's old squadron had also gone on record on NDTV's The Buck Stops Here (on NDTV 24x7) offering to buy the medals from his pension fund but was told by the IAF to stand down since they intended to raise the funds themselves.

In a statement to NDTV, the Indian Air Force had said, "Jumbo ... worked relentlessly to lay the foundation of the IAF. His spirt shall live as long as there are young men to take up the challenge of his legacy and the trail of glory will be remembered and cherished by the IAF forever."

The sad story of the medals first came to light when Sailen Majumdar, Jumbo's UK-based son, decided to auction them in a move strongly criticised by his sister Anjali Lobo who says she never consented to the medals being auctioned.

Anjali Lobo today told NDTV, "I feel really sad about it. What else can I say. My father died for the IAF. He would be very sad at this impasse. These are my father's medals and they have become an object of commerce and it is shocking."
Karun Krishna 'Jumbo' Majumdar was the ultimate flier, a hero in the truest sense of the word. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Royal Air Force not once, but twice, for bravery during the Second World War where he flew over both the Burma front and in Europe.

The auction documents state, "Jumbo Majumdar's seeming disregard for his own safety on solo bombing raids and leading others against what appeared to be insurmountable odds made him a legendary figure both in the Royal Air Force and among his own countrymen. It is generally agreed that had he lived, his example and vision for Indian air power would have seen him rise to the highest level in the post-Independence Indian Air Force."

In 1942, Jumbo commanded a squadron flying Lysanders in Burma where he led two unescorted attacks to enemy airfields in Thailand and conducted attacks in support of the army in Tennasserim. He also led invaluable reconnaissance missions over the Rangoon region. On one occasion, he had to crash land in the jungle where he was eventually rescued after four days by Shan tribesmen.

Deployed in England in March 1944, Jumbo went on to fly 65 sorties in 100 days operating in densely defended airspace. His efforts were not unnoticed.

In January 1945, when he was awarded a second (Bar) to his DFC, the London Gazette wrote, "His keenness for operational work and his skill on difficult and dangerous missions has always been outstanding. Before the advance northwards in France, he completed exceptionally valuable photographic reconnaissances of the Seine bridges, in the face of heavy ground defences. He has also participated in long tactical reconnaissances on which he was several times intercepted by superior formations of enemy aircraft. His skill and courage have always been outstanding."
'Jumbo' Majumdar was killed on February 17, 1945 in Lyallpur (in Faisalabad, Pakistan) in an air crash when the Hurricane fighter he was flying during an aerobatic display developed problems - one of the undercarriage legs deployed mid-flight upsetting the balance of the fighter as it was being put through tight turns. True to form, Jumbo had gone ahead with the display despite knowing that this particular Hurricane had a series of mechanical problems. He was killed instantly in the crash. The display was meant to raise public awareness to improve recruitment prospects to the Indian Air Force.

The inability to acquire the medals comes at a time when the government has stated its interest in preserving the memory of the thousands of Indians killed in the First and Second World War. Arun Jaitley, as Finance Minister, had ordered a consolidated history of the Indian Armed Forces to be commissioned and the Prime Minister honoured Indian soldiers killed in Neuve Chappell at a memorial during his recent visit to France. In Delhi, the Indian Army had set up a large display at its Manekshaw centre on the centenary of the First World War.

For many in the Armed Forces, it would be a sad day if the medals of one of its finest sons were to be purchased by a foreign collector instead of being showcased in India at an Air Force museum.
SC asks Centre whether it approved Army's new promotion policy
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to file its response as to whether it had approved the Army's "command exit promotion" policy, which has been quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, meant for officers of the rank of Colonel and above from January, 2009.

"Had the Defence Ministry filed an affidavit before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) that it has approved the 'command exit promotion policy'?" a bench of justices T S Thakur and R Banumathi said.

It asked the Defence Secretary or a person authorised by him to file an affidavit within a week stating "whether the government had accepted the recommendations of the AV Singh Committee (AVSC) with regard to the 'command exit promotion policy'".

The bench also said that the response of the government should contain details about the promotion policy being followed and if the AVSC report was not approved then whether the Ministry had taken up the issue with the Army or not.

The bench is hearing the appeal of the Defence Ministry against AFT's decision to quash Army's "command exit promotion" policy on the ground that it is violative of Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.

The apex court had on March 25 stayed the March 2 decision of AFT to quash Army's promotion policy.

Some army officers had claimed that the new promotion policy had adversely affected them as it is "arbitrary" and highly skewed in favour of Infantry and Artillery, as compared to other branches of the Army.

Earlier, the court had asked the Defence Ministry to file its rejoinder to the response of the officers on whose plea AFT had passed the order.

Advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for several officers, had submitted that all ranks of personnel from Colonel and above would be affected due to the "biased" promotion policy.

She was appearing for the main petitioners including Lt Col P K Choudhary on whose plea AFT had said that the 2009 promotion policy had resulted in preferential promotions to officers of select branches of Army and hence should be scrapped.
China agrees to host Indian Northern Army Commander ahead of PM Modi's visit
NEW DELHI: Moving beyond its earlier emphasis on Jammu & Kashmir being a "disputed" area, China has agreed to host India's Northern Army Commander this year, a visit that went on hold five years ago after Beijing insisted on issuing stapled visa to the officer because J&K came under his command.

This understanding was reached at the recently concluded defence dialogue between both the countries, which took place just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China next m ..

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Delhi High Court seeks response from Ministry of Defence on replacement of INSAS rifles
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on a petition seeking replacement of the INSAS rifles with modern firearm in active service in military and the para-military.

A bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw asked the MoD to take instructions on a PIL, filed by Lt Col (retd) Deepak Malhotra, alleging that because of "bureaucratic red tape" soldiers are made to use "clearly inferior weapon" at the "risk of losing their lives".

"You (Ministry of Defence) get instruction and place your report before us without failure before July 8," the court said. The court also said that, "You (MoD) introduce new fighter plane time and again and why are you not thinking on this aspect (removal of INSAS)?"
It also said, "You (MoD) should do something for these people (military and para-military personnel using INSAS)."

The petition was filed in the wake of recent deaths of several jawans of the BSF in an ambush at Dantewara district, Chattisgarh, alleging that the indigenous made defective INSAS (an abbreviation of Indian Small System) led to the loss of lives.

"The defect in these rifles has been known to authorities since long but because of bureaucratic red tape the jawans are made to make do with a clearly inferior weapon at the risk of losing their life," the petition said.

Besides seeking direction to the MoD to withdraw the INSAS rifles from active service and replace with suitably modern firearm in a time bound manner, the petition also urged the high court to issue directions to the MoD to produce the records pertaining to the long pending decision to replace "defective" INSAS rifles.

"This is a case of typical bureaucratic red tapism which has repeatedly resulted in death and injury to the brave jawans of the Indian Army and para-military services," the PIL said, adding that despite knowing for several years that INSAS rifles are of defective design and metallurgy and bureaucratic system has delayed their replacement.

INSAS is a family of infantry arms consisting of an assault rifle and a light machine gun (LMG).

The petition claimed that the "elite army units" have rejected INSAS and said that plans to replace them are pending in the desks of the Ministries of the Home and Defence Ministries.

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