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Monday, 6 July 2015

From Today's Papers - 06 Jul 2015

BSF man held for 123 kg heroin haul
Fazilka, July 5
The police today arrested a BSF constable, Harpartap Singh, for allegedly facilitating for a month the smuggling of 123 kg of heroin from Pakistan. Four more arrests have been made in what is being described by the police as the “Pakistan-Mumbai smuggling network”.

Speaking to the media, Paramraj Singh Umranangal, IG, Bathinda Range, and Fazilka SSP Swapan Sharma said 5 kg of heroin, two cars and a Pakistani SIM card had been seized.

A resident of Jasraon village in Amrtisar, Harpartap was posted at SS Wala in Fazilka. Others arrested are Harbir Singh of Naushehra Dhalla, Nachhatar Singh alias Satta of Hashimpura (both villages in Amritsar) and Buta Singh and Gurbachan Singh alias Bittu of Sidhwan village in Tarn Taran.

Umranangal said the alleged smuggling gang was formed in April when Harpartap had visited his village. The BSF constable reportedly met Nachhatar, a member of a smuggling module operated by one Kulwinder Singh. 

The IG said Harpartap was allegedly given the task of collecting heroin from Pakistani smugglers at his place of posting, which was surrounded by thick forests. In turn, he was reportedly promised Rs 70,000 for every kg of heroin smuggled.

Umranangal said Harpartap allegedly contacted a Pakistani smuggler, Bhola, who provided him three heroin consignments of 123 kg. While 28 kg was received on May 22, two consignments of 26 kg and 69 kg were smuggled on May 28 and June 12, the IG said.

BSF Deputy Inspector General HS Garcha said Harpartap had been placed under suspension.  — OC
IAF combats lowest fighter strength
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 5
Continuous warnings over the past decade as regards the alleged tardy pace of induction of new fighter jets into the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the resultant loss of “combative edge” are now ringing true.

By the end of this year, the IAF would be at its lowest combat strength in more than a decade, a source said.

The government is aware of the gravity of the situation and the plans are afoot to tackle the situation. The country is now faced with the reality of projections on IAF fighter fleet made separately over the past 10 years by the Indian Air Force, strategic thinkers, successive reports of parliamentary committees on defence and the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

A senior official admitted “yes we will be down to 32 squadrons by the end of this year and are in the middle of the predicted shortage”. In simple words, the IAF with 576 fighter jets will be well short of the 750-strong fighter jet fleet mandated by a government sanction to wage a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China.

Three squadrons of the vintage single-engine Soviet Union origin MiG-21 and MiG-27 are being phased out as planned this year.

Of the 32 squadrons, the vintage MiG-21 and MiG-27 will form 11 squadrons. The Sukhoi 30-MKI populates 10 squadrons, the 1970’s design British Jaguar forms six squadrons, followed by French Mirage 2000 and Soviet Union’s MiG 29 in two and three squadrons, respectively. The last three are being upgraded with better missiles and avionics.

It is the replacements that bother the IAF. The force is trying to raise a squadron of the twin-engine Russian-origin Sukhoi-30-MKI this year, but much depends on the speed of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which is licensed to produce it in India. HAL, a Ministry of Defence (MoD)-owned public sector undertaking, was mandated by the Cabinet Committee on Security in March 2006 to produce 16 planes annually and deliver 180 by 2017, in phases. The project is three years behind schedule. Till 2011, HAL had the capacity to produce just eight Sukhoi-30 jets annually, said a report of the CAG in 2014.

“The present production (around 14 jets at HAL) has also to cater to shortages occurring due to long-term overhauls of older Sukhoi-30 planes, besides replacing the phased-out fleets of other jets,” a source said. The Sukhoi’s had been ordered in phases since 1997. The IAF wants 272 of these in its fleet by 2020 and HAL still has to deliver around 70 planes. Some delay was caused by Russia during the early period of the contract. The IAF has 10 squadron of the Sukhoi, besides trainers. It plans to have 13 of these.

The other choice for the IAF is to wait for the final operational clearance (FOC) for light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, which was okayed with 20 permanent and 33 temporary waivers. “(It) limits the operational efficiency and survivability of the aircraft,” the CAG said in its report on May 8 this year. The temporary waivers have to be ironed out before giving the FOC, which is scheduled for December this year, but is unlikely.
AFSPA in J&K will remain a bone of contention
On July 5, this year, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) completed 25 years in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a silver jubilee that is not worth celebrating.
The Armed Forces Special   Powers Act, (AFSPA) providing special powers to the armed forces, was first invoked on July 5, 1990, when the entire law-and- order machinery collapsed  and normal laws were found inadequate to deal with the rising  graph of  armed militancy. At that time, the writ of the government had become virtually non-existent and the terrorists  operating as “mujahideen” (warriors)  had hijacked the  system.

The AFSPA came to J&K in two stages  — on July 5, 1990 and on August 11, 2001. Its continuation is bad news for the state as well as for the image of the country. Many questions are associated  with the AFSPA: Have the Army and other wings of the security forces really turned around the situation  in Kashmir?  If the answer is “yes” , then why is this extraordinary law needed in extraordinary situations still there? The answer is that this is to avert the recurrence of militancy. How long will the situation continue  like this and how long will this law continue to be operative in Jammu and Kashmir? The answer is a euphemistic one:  “Until the situation becomes  favourable .” It is pretty much like Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, in which Godot never comes.   

A number of vested interests, including politicians who ruled the state ruthlessly, militants by their shooting-and-bombing campaign and sections of media, security forces have played see-saw in Kashmir to keep the Disturbed Area Act and the AFSPA alive for 25 years. All these years, political rulers never attempted to occupy the constituency of  peace the security forces helped to create. They institutionalised corruption, decimated democratic institutions and created a huge divide between the rulers and the ruled.  As a result, the situation never passed  through the touchstone where these laws could go. These laws have not only resulted in the killings, disappearances, sexual assaults but the daily privacy of the masses in Kashmir too has been a casualty.

The Army has a plausible justification to continue with the Act for the maintenance of national security. As far as national security is concerned, it is a bitter fact that the credentials of  all political leaders in Kashmir are suspect. They have always shown people how across the border, the pasture is greener and life more attractive. The semantics and strategies to blackmail the Centre have a great potential to impact the national security in Kashmir. Soldiers are taking advantage of the failures of the political leadership.

Ambiguity reigns
Ambiguity  shrouds the status of the AFSPA.  The claim is that the “situation has improved” and is improving further. This is backed by statistics. If in 1990, there were 30,000 militants, now the number is less than 300. The AFSPA has been elevated to the status of a holy book, the protective cover of which is needed all the time. That’s a misperception. The political class should understand that unless they deliver, the laws  would stay there.

Since 1989, Pakistan has been bleeding Kashmir by pushing infiltrators from across the LoC or Line of Control  that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, and the International Border.  There was a decline in infiltration, but it never came down to zero even after the November 26, 2003 ceasefire. So the Army has to channel its resources to prevent infiltration. Internally, politicians have fuelled the alienation of youth and this is provoking them to get attracted toward militancy.  Politicians’ failures and their tendency to tie the hands of security forces have complicated the situation for the Army even in the hinterland.

Larger canvas for militants
The new crop of militants wants to operate on a larger canvas. Their symbols have come up with Isis flags and campaigns on social media.  Alongside, a pertinent point to be noted is that the AFSPA has neither helped security forces in bringing complete peace to the Valley nor in averting future threats. The reliance or over reliance on special powers has caused a serious dent in the operational capacity of the Army in tackling infiltration and armed militancy in the hinterland.  The Army has reached a stage  where it cannot think of its role in protecting the national security without the AFSPA. The failure of the politicians to deliver and instead whip up passions against the Army has brought the two institutions in a confrontational mode. In this clash of perceptions , the real assessment of the need for AFSPA is lost.

In 1990, the government was nowhere.  The then Governor, G.C. Saxena, invoked the AFSPA  on July 5. The entire Kashmir Valley and areas within 20-km radius, from the LoC in Rajouri and Poonch districts of the Jammu region  were notified  as Disturbed Areas,  and security forces were given the shield of special powers under the AFSPA. The Act provides a protective shield against any legal prosecution for the acts of omission and commission during the anti-terrorist operations.“This law was needed the most at that time. The Police Act was of no use. The Army could not operate under normal laws. Soldiers and paramilitary forces needed  a protective shield, so this Act was invoked,”  Saxena had told this author, explaining the logic behind invoking the law, which is now termed as “draconian”  by the very same people who had got it into the statue book of the state in July 1990.  It was extended (since August 2001) to the whole of the state, barring two districts of Ladakh. A spate of attacks on vital installations, temples and massacre of minority community members in the state — Jammu and Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in the country — made the  Farooq Abdullah government, under the pressure of then NDA government, particularly the then Home Minister L K Advani, to extend it to the entire state. There was no need to extend the AFSPA in 2001, but Farooq did so to keep the NDA government in good humour.

Politicisation of AFSPA
Kashmiri separatists, especially  Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and his colleagues in the Hurriyat Conference, were the first ones to ask for the recall of the “black laws” in their meetings with LK Advani on January  22 and in March 18, 2004. They repeated their demand in a meeting with Prime Minister   Manmohan Singh   on  September 5,   2005 and May  3, 2006. 

This was later picked up as a swan song  of the PDP and the NC as the two parties, indulging in competitive politics, played  upon  the sentiments of the people. In early 2007, when the PDP  made the recall of the Disturbed Area Act, AFSPA and demilitarisation as an issue to corner its ally the Congress and Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad,  NC’s Omar Abdullah said that the demilitarisation could be  thought of only when there is a return of pre-1989 situation —a cut-off  year  when Kashmir  was peaceful.  Once he felt the heat of politics, Omar also ratcheted-up the  rhetoric.

Withdrawing the Act
A sound argument is that there is no harm in withdrawing  this law from the  militancy-free areas. The counter-argument is what if the militants take “safe haven in  DA free districts”. Once the Army goes back to barracks, how can that be brought back to the operational duty if militancy resurfaces? 

The answer to this is:  The law can be reintroduced. But the experience of dismantling of  the counter-insurgency grid  in 1999 summer during the Kargil war and also during what came to be known as “ Ramzan ceasefire” (November 28, 2000 to May 31, 2001), is  that the security forces had  to fight hard to regain control and restore peace in the state.

Does this mean that the AFSPA should be there permanently?  The Army and the state  should  assess  the situation realistically. The AFSPA is a must for seven border districts  in the state . For the rest, the politicians and the Army should  take a joint call. Some step has to be taken to get rid of this law. Otherwise, the question remains, what has been achieved in all these 25 years by way of the AFSPA .The  Act  is  a display of hard power.  There is a need  to replace it with soft power generated by democracy.  That’s   not visible on the horizon.

AFSPA, 1990: The “brief & compact” Act

The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 was introduced in parts of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, following the beginning of an armed separatist movement for “independence” in  Kashmir.

Under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, the state of Jammu and Kashmir (with the exceptions of Leh and Ladakh districts) is classified as a “disturbed area.” Section 4 of this act gives special powers to the Armed Forces, under which all security forces operating in “disturbed areas” of J&K are given “unrestricted and unaccounted” power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed under Section 3 of the AFSPA, 1990.

Powers to shoot dead
Even a non-commissioned officer or a commissioned officer or a warrant officer or the officer equivalent to these ranks in other armed forces, is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order, in an area declared Disturbed”

It is the Section 4 of the AFSPA which empowers officers (both commissioned and non-commissioned) in a “disturbed area” to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death” not only in cases of self-defence, but against any person contravening laws or orders prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons.

Immunity against prosecution
Section 7 of the Act grants almost “absolute impunity” to the armed forces against prosecution in any offence committed by them in accordance with the Act. Under this Section, no prosecution, suit or legal proceeding shall be instituted against the armed forces, except with the previous sanction of the Central government. — Compiled by Ishfaq Tantray
Lessons from ‘Black Friday’
Focus on ‘target hardening’ to make it tough for terrorists
THREE deadly strikes on the same day — Friday, June 27 — in three different continents,  without any strong evidence of a central command and direction, should be demoralising to all those working to strike a decisive blow at international terrorism.

Coupled with the successful thrust of elements affiliated to the ISIS in the Sinai region of Egypt that immediately followed, there is everything to suggest that we are in for major catastrophes, not merely in the Middle East but across the globe, in the near future. The woeful lack of advance intelligence, especially at the micro level, to quell those striving to destroy peace all over the world in the name of religion is a great worry. Recent trends make the scene murkier and more dangerous than before.

The abhorrent violence that we saw in the Middle East and elsewhere recently has economic implications too, because it should put off the avid European tourist who simply loves the sunny Mediterranean beaches, and must have been scared out of his wits by what took place at the Sousse beach in Tunisia on the fateful day. Tourist attractions the world over, which are widely known as favourites of the West, are difficult to protect, and should be easy targets for more attacks at periodic intervals.

Together with what happened in Kuwait City (attack on a Shia mosque) and Lyon (beheading of a transport manager) on that day, the triple happenings are a reconfirmation — if one were needed at all — that we are not likely to witness any soon the end of the battle against a psychic aberration that has gained firm control over the minds of a large number of Muslim youths across the globe.

In the Tunisian outrage, the gunman, Seifeddine Rezgui (23), was confronted at the spot and shot dead. In the other two incidents, speculation is they were ISIS-inspired. The latter has actually claimed responsibility for the Kuwait mosque attack. Any further debate over this seems pointless, because, unlike when the monstrous Al-Qaeda (AQ) was holding sway until a few years ago, terrorism of the current variety is far from centrally directed. Its perpetrators are dispersed geographically and belong to several groups, chief of which is the ISIS, whose phenomenal influence built over just two years, portends serious trouble. The ISIS displays no visible hierarchy that has taken charge or directs operations. It is this characteristic of the organisation that makes counter-terrorism now so much different from the AQ variety.

Fundamentally, the ISIS is deadlier than the AQ, especially because barbaric acts, such as beheading of hostages (including women) and vandalism of historic monuments seem to come naturally to it. No pangs of conscience on the part of its leadership has till now been reported. What is of greater concern is its rapidly expanding sway. The impression that is gathering ground points to a dexterous strategy that would take the jihadists beyond Iraq and Syria. Groups from at least 20 nations have pledged support to the policy of violence that masquerades as a religious diktat to clean up a defiled world and establish a caliphate across the globe. A report speaks of one-third of Muslim students in Britain lending support to the foggy concept that conceals more than what it reveals.

The ISIS leadership seems to have been successful in its planning, as reports point to recruits flowing in sizeable numbers into the Syria-Iraq region from many parts of the world. There are frequent reports of whole families arriving in Syria via Istanbul to join the jihad. (India has certainly contributed to this dubious traffic, although exact numbers are still in the realm of guesswork.) This development fits in with the belief that the ISIS is itching for a major confrontation with the West so that, as in the case of AQ, the former's appeal to the Muslim population goes very much beyond the Middle East. In a way, the ISIS is a recreation of the AQ under a different label.

Two recent reports, in particular, are interesting and significant. They highlight the growing female fascination for the ISIS. Militant Leadership Monitor, a periodical brought out by the Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC, refers to a Syrian revolutionary poetess Ahlam al-Nadr, who has arrived in Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. Married to a prominent jihadist propagandist Muhammad Mahmoud, she has been lyrical in spreading the message in favour of the caliphate. The couple's appeal to Islamic families across the globe cannot be underestimated. One should not be surprised if more and more women and married couples jump into the fray. There are already reports of whole families disappearing from the UK into Turkey, and therefrom to Syria or Iraq.

Then there is the case of Alex, a 23-year-old schoolteacher and baby sitter of the US, who shared with The New York Times vignettes of her life, involving encounters with jihadists. She confessed  having succumbed to online religious propaganda by people whom she had only met in cyberspace and converting herself to Islam. She leads a double life, teaching at a church and interacting with an online jihadist group. She is under pressure to recruit candidates to the ISIS cause, and has been unable to extricate herself from a dangerous engagement that could sooner or later attract law enforcement interest.

What is most striking in all this is that the average terrorist no longer seems to need huge physical resources or a well-knit organisation for a successful assault. The 'lone wolf' who acts on his own is also very much a reality. It is therefore pointless to quibble on who was responsible for each of the three recent attacks. Prudence demands that we concentrate on 'target hardening', whereby the aggressor has to strive harder to succeed in his diabolical plans. The endeavour should be to protect as many public congregations (like the Tunisian beach) as possible to deny soft targets. India should take particular notice, because, as a nation, we thrive on large assemblies, which are part and parcel of our major religions. Guarding them from terrorism is simple on paper, but extremely problematic in execution. Nevertheless, the effort to contain terrorism can never be given up, if posterity should enjoy peace and tranquility.

There is a widespread feeling that Islamic religious leaders the world over have done precious little to contain terrorism. The criticism may not be wholly correct. But then such leaders will have to be more demonstrative in their denunciation of violence, If only to make a difference to the rapidly deteriorating situation. Sadly, this has not happened. The parents of Rezgui, the Tunisian attacker, have professed ignorance of their sons's activities in support of jihadism. The same is the case of many other parents, including a few from India. This is a rather painful reflection of a major shortcoming of the scene that has contributed heavily to perpetuate youth infatuation with jihad. The permissive ambience within the modern family is a great aid to terrorism. Unless this situation is reversed, we may not see any major change in the galloping power and influence of fanaticism of the Islamic variety.
Pakistan Violates Ceasefire, Indian Soldier Killed in Firing in Kashmir's Nowgam
Srinagar/Jammu:  A BSF jawan was killed on Sunday in firing in a ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control in Nowgam sector of Kashmir valley.

"Pakistani troops opened unprovoked firing towards our positions in Nowgam sector of north Kashmir at around 3.50 pm today," a BSF spokesman said in Srinagar.

One of our constables was killed in firing by Pakistani troops, he added.
In Jammu, Pakistan Rangers also resorted to repeated ceasefire violations and targeted Border Out Posts (BoPs) along the Indo-Pak border in the district, prompting BSF troops to retaliate.

Pakistani Rangers resorted to small arms firing on BoPs along the International Border (IB) in Arnia sector of Jammu district at 18:52 hours and 19:15 hours today, a BSF officer said in Jammu.

"They fired 25 to 30 rounds at BSF posts, he said, adding that BSF troops guarding the borderline with Pakistan took position and retaliated. The firing stopped at 18:55 hours. The firing by Pakistani Rangers resumed at 19:15 hours and the exchange between Pakistani Rangers and BSF troops continued for over 80 minutes and stopped at 20:35, he said, adding that there was no loss of life or injury to anyone in the firing.

Firing again erupted and was continuing intermittently till last reports came in from the area, the officer said. Earlier, Pakistani Rangers violated the ceasefire and fired at two BoPs along IB in R S Pura sector of Jammu district on June 22.
Kurukshetra boy dropped defence services options for civil services
Before ranking 102nd in the India civil services this year, Sandeep Malik of Kurukshetra had withdrawn from two lucrative professions of army and commercial pilot, only in the hope of getting selected for the IAS.

Malik, originally hails from Songal village in Kaithal district that later settled at Sector 5, Kurukshetra. “I was selected in the army in 2008 and joined Indian Military Academy (IMA) training. But within days, I realized that the profession of army did not suit my temperament. So, I quit the IMA training after 21 days. Despite belonging to a family of army officers, everyone supported my decision to look for right career option,” Malik told HT over the phone from Pune on Sunday.

His elder brother is a major in the Indian army and currently posted in Pune. His sister is also married to an army officer. His father too serves in the army.

Malik said that after quitting IMA, he was selected at Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy (IGRUA) at Fursatganj in Raebareli in 2008. But again, he withdrew his plan to become a commercial pilot due to instability in the aviation industry at that time.

Malik said that being surrounded by defense personnel, he was not much aware about any other profession.

“Joining army was an obvious choice but I honestly felt that I will never be able to do justice to it. It was only after enrolling at BSc (computer science) course at University College in Kurukshetra, I learnt about civil services and started preparing to crack it. On two previous occasions, I cleared mains but could not make it for the interview,” he said.

His father lt col Malik said that he always supported career decision of his son and hoped that Sandeep would excel in the chosen profession.
PMO Denies it Got Army's Rs 100cr for J and K Floods

NEW DELHI: It has now been confirmed that the much-publicised event where Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag handed over a donation cheque (of amount equivalent to one day’s salary of all ranks) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Jammu and Kashmir flood relief was nothing more than a photo-op. In reply to an RTI query, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has confirmed that it has not received the donation till date.

 On the occasion of the 67th Army Day on January 15, Gen Suhag had presented a cheque titled “one day’s pay of all ranks of Indian Army” to the PM in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. “Donation is yet to be received in the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF),” B K Roy, Under Secretary and Central Public Information Officer, PMO, said in reply to a RTI query on June 24.

This revelation comes as a huge embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence, which was in news recently for raising a bill of Rs 500 crore before the Centre for the service it rendered during J&K floods. The Indian Army had played a major role in the rescue-and-relief operations during the last year’s floods.

It was first reported by The Sunday Standard on January 18 that many Army officers were upset with the ‘arbitrary’ decision taken by Army Chief to donate a day’s pay to contribute Rs 100 crore to the PM’s relief fund to help flood-affected people in Jammu and Kashmir.

In fact, annoyed with the decision taken without their consent, over 2,000 Army men wrote to the office of the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA), which handles the salaries of Indian Army personnel, giving their disapproval for any deduction from their salary. Some said they will take legal action if any deduction was made.

Realising the discontent among officers, the Army HQ had no other option then but to approach the office of the CDA, which eventually advised them that it would require a consent letter from each soldier for deduction of their salary for implementation of the Army Chief’s order to avoid any legal action or controversy.

But nearly six months later, the Army has failed to meet its commitment to the PMNRF. When contacted, the Army HQ said, “It is in the process, as everyone has to sign willingly.”

 According to sources, the Army HQ initiated the process of collecting the money nearly two months after the Army Day, on March 12. The letter issued by the Adjutant General branch with the headline “Voluntary Contribution of One Day’s salary by Indian Army personnel to PM’s National Relief Fund for floods in J&K” was signed by an officer of the rank of Brigadier. This letter lists the procedure to be followed for making the voluntary contribution and says the list of contributors should be dispatched “latest by May”.

“If the Army has not been able to take consent of its men even after six months, then how did Army Chief hand over a donation cheque of Rs 100 to the PM. I simply asked PMO about the status of the donation, which was committed by the Army Chief himself,” says Dehradun-based RTI activist Prabhu Dandriyal, who had filed the RTI.

Earlier in May, CPIO Lt Col Rajiv Guleria, on behalf of the Army HQ in reply to the RTI filed by the same activist, had said: “It has been intimated by the agency concerned that no amount on account of contributions from salary of any Army personnel has yet been donated to the PM’s Relief Fund. The matter is under consideration.”

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