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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

From Today's Papers - 22 Jul 2015

All eyes on NSA-level talks
CAN we trust them? This is the burden of comments both in India and Pakistan after the meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. The reaction is not a reflection on the effort the two are making to break the ice. However, it shows that even after 70 years of the Partition, enmity between the two countries remains as entrenched as before. Any step taken to lessen the distance between the two is viewed with doubt and suspicion.

Not many people in the two countries dare to cross the line, apart from the border, which has come to be drawn between the two over the years. Both live under the fear of hostilities, because of the threat one perceives from the other. Yet, there is no getting away from the fact that unless the two countries develop mutual trust, they cannot reduce the defence outlay, which leaves very little for education, health or old-age care.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's demand for territorial division, however justified, was fraught with dangers. The two-nation theory was bound to create a gulf between Hindus and Muslims. And it did. Even today, the people on both sides are paying the price for it. However secular in intent, the polity in India is run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is parochial in ideology.

True, after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah said the people in the subcontinent were either Indians or Pakistanis and would cease to be Hindus and Muslims, not in a religious sense, but otherwise. However, he had not realised that the sense of nationality based on religion had got so entrenched that his advice not to mix religion with politics would go awry.

The fallout is that enmity has got instilled. India and Pakistan are at daggers drawn. Even a small friction gets built-up into a war-like situation. So much so, the Muslims in India bear the brunt of bias against them. At the time of tension with Pakistan, the Muslims in India are not considered part of the mainstream.

Take the case of the voice sample of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who masterminded the terrorist attack on Mumbai. The joint statement issued by Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif, who met at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit meeting at Ufa (Russia), was meant to prepare the people on both sides for a d├ętente. But Sharif’s offer of sharing the voice sample with India misfired.

The Pakistan establishment reacted strongly against this gesture. That no court is willing to pursue Lakhvi’s case is apparent. It has become a prestige issue. When sentiment comes in the way of proving who is more powerful, peace becomes the first casualty.

No doubt, the Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz’s sabre-rattling was in bad taste. Yet, the Modi government does realise that after its unilateral cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad last August, calling off the proposed talks again, even before these are yet to begin, would be diplomatically unwise. More so, because the Ufa summit between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart had taken place at India’s initiative.

Even otherwise, the quick reaction of the US-led international community in welcoming the India-Pakistan summit in Ufa has further made it difficult for both India and Pakistan to wriggle out of the agreed roadmap. US Vice-President Joe Biden was quoted last week as saying at a function in Washington that the Ufa talks would lead to more such dialogues in future. “The US strongly encourages both sides to build on this strategic avenue for peace,” Biden said.

One could assume for the present that the Ufa joint statement is cast in stone as far as the Modi government is concerned, and India will go ahead with not only the National Security Adviser-level talks in New Delhi sometime later this month, but also the two other reach-out sessions planned with Pakistan at the level of BSF-Pakistan Rangers chiefs and Directors General of Military Operation. Thus all eyes will now be on the proposed talks between Indian NSA Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz, and possibly after these talks, the time and the venue of the other two meetings would be decided.

Unfortunately, Sartaj Aziz has said Kashmir is on top of the agenda. Understandably, the Modi government’s spin doctors have made light of Aziz’s remarks, which they feel are  meant for Pakistan’s domestic consumption. They rejected the notion of Pakistan making a departure from the Ufa joint statement, maintaining that there was no question of Pakistan making a U-turn when the neighbour has not taken even the first turn. They used a cricket analogy to drive the point home, saying that it was unfair to speculate about the slog-overs of the India-Pakistan match when the match had not even begun.

The India-Pakistan summit at Ufa is aimed at a long-term engagement as Modi has accepted Sharif’s invitation to attend the next SAARC summit in Pakistan, scheduled for next year. For this reason, the political stakes are high for both sides. New Delhi downplaying hawkish statements from Pakistani officials is thus understandable.

I wish the slate could be wiped clean. One million people of both communities were killed during the Partition. Punjabis were the victims. They did not contribute to the two-nation theory. Yet, they suffered the worst. Theirs is an example to falsify that the nationality is not based on religion. Very aptly, they have argued that if someone among them changes the religion, he or she does not become a separate nation overnight.

Yet, this argument has not gone home. People in both India and Pakistan continue to react to one another on the basis of religion. This is the biggest hurdle in rapprochement between the two countries.
Alarm bells in Kashmir
Not more than 50-odd cases have been reported from Kashmir of young men packing their bags and heading for Syria to join the IS cause. It would be a terrible mistake to view this in isolation or as the revival of the cult of picking up guns of the 1990s to fight for the “liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation”. It is part of a much larger and extremely dangerous process at work in Europe, America and Arab nations where youngsters head for Syria to be part of the “jihad” or launching lone-wolf attacks.

A cause for worry, indeed. Some of the traditional and natural reasons for this phenomenon have been read out loudly i.e. alienation arising out of lack of opportunities and indifference of the government of the day pushing educated men to militancy. Yet it is obvious that there are  more dangerous elements  motivating them to  pick up the gun  and  seek glorification through  pictures and videos on the social media, which play a crucial role in  diverting them  from   books and pens to guns . The attraction to violent extremism has been just a click away for them.

Seen in the global milieu, this invitation to extremism is dominating the mental space. This space cannot be recaptured by a military offensive or debriefing sessions if at all some of them are arrested at some stage. A firewall has to be created between their minds and extremist violence that has already wreaked havoc in several parts of the world, particularly Iraq and Syria. The new recruits may not pack  their bags  and go to Syria or Iraq to fight alongside the  foot soldiers of the IS  who are  undeterred by  the ground operations and air strikes against them,  but they can script a  new doctrine of militancy  through their  exploits on the social media. The political leadership of all hues, even the separatists who profess to be opposed to this brand of militancy, should find a way out before it is too late. The alarm bells are ringing ceaselessly.
In case of graft, don’t ban equipment: MoD panel
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 21
A high-level expert committee tasked to suggest changes in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has made recommendations to attract investment, build local confidence and allow “Make in India”.

It has spoken against banning any equipment for misdeeds of company employees, wants an ombudsman to remove subjectivity in deals and talks about having a panel of experts on cost negotiations to prevent delays.

Headed by former Union Home Secretary Dhirendra Kumar, the committee wants the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to do pre-audit of deals rather than raise objections later. A report submitted to the Ministry of Defence also lays down the level of indigenisation and the method of calculating the local content in each defence equipment.

Globally, India is the largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all such international imports, said a report by Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March this year.

The committee has interacted with the Defence Minister, the Defence Secretary, the Vice Chiefs of the three services, officials in the MoD’s finance wing, top industry people, representatives of the foreign companies in India and even officials of long-term suppliers such as Russia.

After talking suggestions, the committee in its report says the misdeeds of an entity or its employees should not be visited on the equipment or system. In other words, it’s a suggestion that there is no need to block the supply of equipment in case some bribery charge emerges.

The MoD banned the Bofors artillery gun in the late 1980s and since then there has been no artillery gun purchase. Recently, the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters was stopped mid-way. In both cases, suspected bribery charges emerged.

It says minimum indigenous content threshold for categories “buy Indian” and “buy & make Indian” should be revised to 40 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. A committee should be empowered to give specific recommendations for lower or higher indigenous content. A lower threshold could be considered by Defence Acquisition Council, based on technology and its availability.

It talks about the need to create adequate expertise in defence production so that provisions of indigenous content are outlined and can be effectively assessed, monitored as well as enforced during execution of contracts for defence procurements.

On having agents/ marketing intermediaries, it suggests no provision should be prone to differing interpretations.

Making it clear that the local industry should be kept in the loop, the committee suggested a list of long-term projects be shared with the industry.
BEL, Punj Lloyd gain on reports of likely defence order win

Bharat Electronics and Punj Lloyd rose by 0.56% to 10.94% at 13:03 IST on BSE on reports the Indian Army shortlisted the two firms for a $100-million project to upgrade its ageing Zu 23 2B air defence guns.

Bharat Electronics (BEL) (up 0.56%) and Punj Lloyd (up 10.94%), edged higher.

The S&P BSE Sensex was up 24.35 points, or 0.09% at 28,470.47.

According to reports, after several rounds of trials in different weather conditions and terrain, the $100-million contract has been progressed beyond the technical evaluation stage, with commercial bids likely to be opened within the next six months.

Ashok Wadhawan, president (manufacturing) at Punj Lloyd, was quoted by media as saying that the company is confident of its ability to execute the contract and is looking forward to the final round of commercial bid opening that would determine the winner of the contract.

Punj Lloyd has gained considerable experience on the project and also have a modern 30 millimetre air defence gun ready for requirements of the Indian Army, Wadhawan said. BEL also has considerable experience in upgrading of air defence guns and is currently involved in a major project to modernise the L 70 series of guns with the Army, Wadhawan reportedly added.
Army logisticians wary of commercial orientation of railways, Air India - See more at:
The Army top brass from the logistics branches fear that increasing commercial orientation of the Indian Railways and Air India could push the military logistics on a lower priority. Speaking at a National Seminar of Military Logistics, army logisticians called for a reorientation of these entities towards national defence.

Army faces issues of infrastructure, inventory and maintenance with the railways for its movement and supply chain management.

Inadequate railway infrastructure and assets, especially at locations needed by the army, lack of technical staff at detraining stations, delay in providing ODC clearance, undue delay in availability and mustering of stocks, unfulfilled requirements of land to stable stocks, and increasing cost & time overruns and delays are some of the major problems faced by the army.

Army currently has 3,500 railways wagons of its own, which are mostly lying idle. Designing and procuring wagons that can be used both by the army and railways will solve this problem, experts at the seminar felt.

While dealing with Air India and private airlines, army feels that poor availability of air assets, lack of pallets for loading new generation aircraft, non-availability of material handling equipment at airfields, poor coordination between the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Defence and the Indian Air Force have often acted as roadblocks.

Military logisticians also felt that the army has never practised full mobilisation after the 2001 Operation Parakram which followed the attack by Pakistan-based terrorists on Parliament.

The issues faced in peace time could be overcome during a war like scenario. But there is a need to have a permanent national organisation to coordinate these issues and iron out problems.

During the recent Operation Maitri in Nepal, private truckers hired by the army were delayed in carrying relief material to Nepal as they were struggling with insurance and custom clearance.

A centralised agency at the apex level would have overcome this problem quickly.
Indian Army to commemorate Kargil martyrs in Drass
The Indian Army will hold a series of events to commemorate the martyrs of the Kargil War of 1999 and its victory over Pakistani troops, an official statement said on Tuesday.

The main event of a solemn wreath-laying ceremony would be held at the Kargil War Memorial in Jammu and Kashmir on July 26, the statement added.

In a run-up to the main event to mark the 16th anniversary of the war with Pakistan troops, a large number of competitions and events are planned for the local populace, including marathon, painting, archery, tent-pegging competitions and cultural shows, from Tuesday to Thursday.

On Friday, a tattoo show and prize distribution function would be held.

On July 25, army bands will perform at the Kargil War Memorial in Drass in Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir, followed by a solemn memorial service.

On July 26, senior officers of the army, war heroes, families of martyrs, political dignitaries and civil officials will participate in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Kargil War Memorial located at the base of the Tololing feature, the scene of one of the fiercest battles.

“The event is a purposeful attempt by the army every year to remember its martyrs and solemnly honour their memories and to remind the nation of the constant sacrifices men and women in uniform make for the citizens of India,” an official statement said.

The Kargil war was fought in the summer of 1999 to evict Pakistani regular forces who had intruded and occupied vacated posts on the Indian side of the Line of Control. The operation cost the Indian Army hundreds of soldiers, in whose memory the commemorative function is held every year.

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