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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 27 May 2015

Parrikar all praise for Bofors, but mum on President’s take
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 26
Three decades after the Bofors artillery gun purchase for the Indian Army, the gun continues to “boom” — literally in the corridors of power.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today described the quality of Swedish Bofors guns as “good” but refused to comment on remarks attributed to President Pranab Mukherjee that no court had so far given a verdict in the gun acquisition case.

“I can only certify that Bofors guns are good. I do not make any statement on President’s statement. If you ask me about the quality of Bofors guns, then they are good,” Parrikar told mediapersons on the sidelines of a Navy Commanders’ conference.

Talking about the Bofors case, Mukherjee was quoted by Swedish daily Dagens Nyhetter as saying: “First of all, it is yet to be to be established that there was a scandal. No Indian court has established it.”

During the Congress regime in 1986, the Swiss arms manufacturer had landed a Rs 1,500-crore contract to supply 155 mm Howitzer guns to India. The Swedish media reported that the company had paid massive kickbacks to Indian politicians and defence officials. The case cost then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi the general election in 1989 and haunted the party for decades.

Militarily, no new artillery gun has been purchased ever since and the tender has been cancelled six times in the past 12 years. The gun is still serving and was Army’s frontline weapon during the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Mukherjee had said: “I was the Defence Minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my Generals certified that this was one of the best guns. The Indian Army is still using it.”

On whether he believed the Bofors case was just a media scandal, Mukerjee said: “I do not know. I’m not describing it, you’re putting that word. Don’t put that word. What I am saying is in media it was publicised. But up to now, no Indian court has given any decisive verdict about the alleged scandal.”

The ruling BJP has refused to comment. “I will not comment on the President’s statement,” party president Amit Shah said at a press conference today.
Caught India by the throat?
I have not been able to make out why Gen Pervez Musharraf, who is under house arrest on the charge of treason, has made a public speech on the Kargil war which I watched on a television channel. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must be under pressure from the army to allow Musharraf to propagate an account which is not factually correct.

Surely, Nawaz Sharif remembers how he was removed through a coup staged by General Musharraf. Yet, the Pakistan Prime Minister sought US President Bill Clinton's intervention on July 4, the US Independence Day, when Clinton was too occupied, for the safe passage of the Pakistani soldiers. They had been hopelessly surrounded by the Indian forces at the Kargil heights. President Clinton telephoned the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to request him to let the Pakistani soldiers go without any reprisal.

In fact, President Clinton in his book, “My Life”, recorded the event in these words: “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan called and asked if he could come to Washington on July 4 to discuss the dangerous standoff with India that had begun several weeks earlier when Pakistani forces under the command of General Pervez Musharraf had crossed the LoC which had been the recognised and generally observed boundary between India and Pakistan in Kashmir since 1972. Sharif was concerned that the situation Pakistan had created was getting out of control and he hoped to use my good offices to resolve the crisis.”

The President also recalled in the book that “Sharif’s moves were perplexing because that February, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had travelled to Lahore to promote bilateral talks aimed at resolving the Kashmir problem and other differences. By crossing the LoC, Pakistan had wrecked the talks.”

Still, Musharraf has the audacity to say that Pakistan had “caught India by the throat” at Kargil. He claimed to have raised a “second force.” This is the first time that Musharraf has admitted to the “second force,” the motley section of non-state actors, including terrorists and infiltrators.

This has been New Delhi’s allegation all along. But Islamabad was denying it. Musharraf’s speech is meant for the Pakistani audience to rehabilitate himself in his own country which blames him for the debacle in 1999. His claim that he had got India “by the throat” is without any evidence. The Indian commanders of those days have vehemently denied Musharraf’s claim. His purpose is to deny the facts and put the blame on the Pakistani politicians to assert that they have converted a military victory into a defeat.

The fact is that Muharraf’s antics made Pakistan face a humiliating defeat. True, he was able to station the infiltrators on top of the Kargil heights. But the Indian forces, after heavy losses, turned the tide and captured not only the Kargil heights but also thousands of Pakistani soldiers.

Yes, it did take us much too long to gear up to it. The plan on the offensive by our Army was not ready till America had mooted a proposal for the withdrawal of the intruders. Although at a disadvantage, the Indian forces showed grit and fought bravely. The air force coordinated well. India had cleared two-thirds of the occupied territory when Pakistan asked the intruders to return home. There was a miscalculation on the part of Pakistan's top brass that it could demarcate another LoC to its advantage.

Just as New Delhi never gave out how much territory it lost, Islamabad too did not tell about its reverses. The Tiger Hill had been recaptured by India when Pakistan briefed the media that the mujahedeen control on the Tiger Hill was intact. Had the Pakistanis been kept informed on the reverses, their feeling of humiliation would not have been as deep as it is today.

The problem with Musharraf is how to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of Pakistanis. They know how he embarrassed the army with the ignoble defeat at Kargil. And they have not forgiven him. Thank God, the Pakistan media has not been taken in by his claim. He continues to be in the dog house and his latest diatribe has been noted without any comment of support.

But this is not the dominant discussion in Pakistan today. The denial of passport to Syed Shah Geelani, a separatist leader, is catching up all the attention. It is being argued that he should not be forced to spell out his nationality because he is a subject of Jammu and Kashmir, a “disputed territory.”

Geelani has changed in the last few years. Earlier, he felt little hesitation in pronouncing his nationality as Indian. Some years ago when I used to meet him regularly, he never raised the issue. Even though he belongs to Jamiat-i-Islamia, he wore his nationalist credentials on his sleeve. Why has he tilted towards Pakistan is something that requires a deeper study. He is generally not a person who is swayed by emotions.

What India has to look into is the reason for his tilt. Maybe, there are many Geelanis in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Why have they not changed in the last 70 years when Kashmir acceded to India? Is it religion? If this were so, the Kashmiri Muslims would not have been greatly upset when there was a proposal to have a separate colony for the Kashmiri pundits.

“They are part of us,” the Kashmir Muslims would say and they would “live in our midst” as they used to do earlier. Kashmiriyat is a product of Sufiism, which is a synthesis of religious values of Islam and Hinduism. Maybe, after the accession, India has forgotten those values. The need is to refurbish them, not to get lost in parochial ideology.
India, Germany agree to deepen bilateral defence ties

NEW DELHI: India and Germany tonight decided to deepen their bilateral defence ties, especially in the wake of the 'Make in India' initiative.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar held talks with his visiting German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen here till late evening.

"The talks focussed on deepening bilateral defence ties. Germany is an important partner for us when it comes to the Make in India initiative," defence sources here said.

The visiting German minister ..

Read more at:
PM silent on One Rank One Pension, upset defence veterans plan nation-wide agitation

The veterans community of defence services has been sorely disappointed by the absence of any announcement regarding implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) by the union government after the completion of an year in office and discussions have begun on whether this is the right time to hold a nation-wide agitation to press for the same.

Throughout the day yesterday, there was a buzz of excitement on social media groups as the veterans got the impression that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make an announcement regarding OROP at his rally in Bareilly. However, no such announcement was made causing consternation among the veterans ranks.

Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd), a well known strategic expert tweeted, “All Veterans and those who support them are requested to retweet please… #OROP Prime Minister we are disappointed”. Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), member of Armed Forces Tribunal tweeted, “ OROP overtakes DDLJ as the longest running reality show”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Brig KS Kahlon (retd), President, All Indian Defence Brotherhood, said that non implementation of OROP has caused great amount of resentment among the veterans and they are gearing themselves up for a prolonged agitation to ensure that the government delivers on its promise.

Prime Minister Modi made repeated assurances at many places, and while addressing the troops at the highest battlefield of the world, Siachin, on the eve of Diwali last year, he stated that the order of implementation of OROP had been issued. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar repeatedly assured the veterans that the NDA government will implement OROP before the government completes a year in office. Unfortunately the government hasn’t lived up to its promise,” said Brig Kahlon.

The veterans had conducted a mass movement during the tenure of the UPA government wherein they had returned their medals to the President and held rallies at Jantar Mantar to force the government to accept their demand of OPRP. According to Lt Col SS Sohi (retd), President of Ex-Servicemen Grievances Cell, the time has come when another such mass agitation may have to be held all over the country again.

We are still willing to wait for a few days more for an announcement in this regard. If by the end of this month if they do not do anything we will go for an agitational approach. There have been several meetings with the defence minister and several promises made but each time the veterans community has been let down. We must take recourse to a more tough approach if we have to force the government to concede to our legitimate demands,” said Lt Col Sohi.

However, Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd), a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of Indian Ex-Serviceman Movement was of the view that the hype over the expected announcement by PM was largely “self created”. “We were hoping that the PM would make the announcement but I am of the view that there is no need as yet to hold an agitation. We have waited for 33 years and we should wait for some more time,” he said.

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