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Monday, 17 August 2015

From Today's Papers - 17 Aug 2015

India protests as 6 die in Pak shelling
Delhi summons envoy Basit, asks Islamabad to stop targeting civilians in J-K
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria & Shyam Sood

Tribune News Service

Jammu/Rajouri/New Delhi, August 16
A Poonch woman was killed today as Pakistan intensified shelling on border posts and civilian areas along the Line of Control in continued ceasefire violations that have left six persons dead since Saturday afternoon and invited sharp reactions from India.

New Delhi lodged a strong protest with Islamabad over the unprovoked firing and the systematic targeting of its civilian population since August 8 with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit being summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) by Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East). He said the Pakistan government needed to take necessary steps to ensure its military did not undermine peace and tranquility along the border, an MEA release said in Delhi. More than 20 villagers have been injured, seven of them critically, as Pakistani troops extended their arc of shelling in Poonch and Rajouri districts.

“(The woman) Nusrat Kausar (38) of Behrote village in Balakote sector was killed instantly when a 120-mm mortar shell landed and exploded inside her kitchen where she was preparing breakfast,” said JS Johar, Poonch Senior Superintendent of Police. The incident occurred around 6 am. Among those killed yesterday was a 10-year-old boy, Moin Khan, who along with three others died after a shell hit their car in Mendhar sector.

“The shelling is on in Sabzian, Mandi, Balakote and Mankote sectors. The Pakistani soldiers are using 82 mm and 120 mm mortars (with a range of 5-8 km). We are retaliating effectively,” said an Army spokesperson.

An intelligence official said Pakistan resorted to firing even yesterday when the people were busy with Independence Day celebrations. He said Balakote and Sabzian sectors in Poonch were the worst-affected.

Several houses had been damaged and the shelling had caused considerable loss to livestock too, he said. “Pakistani troops were already targeting the 30-km stretch from Mankote to Bhimber Gali, but today they opened another front at Manjakote in Rajouri,” he said.

Poonch Deputy Commissioner Nasir Ahmed Wani said hospitals in the district had been alerted for emergency care and victims in critical cases were being airlifted in Army helicopters to Jammu. “We are also evacuating people to safer places,” he said.

India said the issue of continued unprovoked firing had been raised on several occasions at the level of Directors General of Military Operations. “Assurances were also received from the Pakistan military authorities that the firings would stop and their troops would be instructed accordingly. But the firings have continued until today,” the MEA release said.

The continued firing comes a week ahead of the scheduled talks between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Pakistan National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz in New Delhi. The talks, as decided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif at Ufa, Russia, would focus on terrorism-related issues.
Suicide bombers kill Pak Punjab minister
DSP among 19 others killed in attack
Afzal Khan in Islamabad
A minister in Pakistan’s Punjab province known for his tough anti-Taliban stance was assassinated on Sunday by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at his ancestral home, killing at least 19 persons in the brazen attack.

Shuja Khanzada (71), Home Minister of Punjab Province, and a DSP were among the 19 persons killed when the suicide bombers attacked his political office at his native Shadi Khan village in Attock district, rescue and administration officials said.

At least 17 people were also injured in the blast. The condition of three injured persons is stated to be critical.

The suicide bombers entered the building disguised as visitors and blew themselves up. As a result of the blast, roof of the house caved in burying the minister and about 30 other people.

Inspector General (IG) Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera said two suicide attackers carried out the attack.

Saeed Elahi, adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, confirmed the death of Khanzada. “Punjab Home Minister has died in the suicide bombing,” Elahi said. Khanzada’s body has been shifted to District Headquarters Hospital Attock.

“Some 40 to 50 persons were present at the dera (out house) of Col Shuja when a suicide bomber managed to enter the house,” Commissioner Rawalpindi Zahid Saeed said. Khanzada, a retired colonel, was holding a jirga (reconciliatory meeting with his area people) at his house, some 100 km from capital city of Islamabad, when the attack took place.

Saeed said Deputy Superintendent of Police Shaukat Shah was also among those who died in the blast. The army said special search and rescue team equipped with high-tech machinery to retrieve the people trapped under the rubble of the roof which collapsed due to the bombing.  PM Nawaz Sharif has condemned the suicide attack and reiterated his resolve to eliminate terrorism. Army Chief General Raheel Sharif described Shuja a brave officer and said his sacrifice would not go waste.
France rejects offset clause, agrees to ‘Make in India’
New Delhi, August 16
The French Government has rejected Indian negotiators’ demand for a 50 per cent offset clause citing sharp cost escalation but offered to participate in ‘Make in India’ projects to carry forward the talks for 36 Rafale fighter jets that have hit turbulence.

Defence sources said India’s insistence on the offset clause, tweaking of weaponry technology and plans to set up two bases for Rafale fighter jets would lead to cost escalation.

Offset policy was first introduced as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), 2005, under which a foreign company has to invest back a portion of the deal into India.

“The 50 per cent offset clause was part of the original tender that was floated for 126 fighter jets. The French President and Indian Prime Minister have now decided to go in for a direct purchase of 36 Rafale jets. So, how can 50 per cent offset clause be asked when the French are offering the fighters at the same rate at which its Air Force is buying,” defence sources said.

They added the French have instead offered to undertake ‘Make in India’ initiatives. “The French can look at the option for making Falcon business jets in India or even the Rafales for future besides other projects,” the sources said, adding the French government has made it clear that their companies would like to be part of ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The sources said the offset clause will simply drive up the cost of each aircraft.

It is not just the offset clause that the French are worried about. Indian Air Force wants to integrate an Israeli helmet mounted display with the Rafale fighter jets besides tweaking the weaponry technology so that the aircraft can fire a missile other than what the Rafales carry. The missile, sources said is of American make.

“The changes asked for are not like changing tyres in cars. It takes time, effort and money, all of which will again drive up the cost,” the sources said.

Also, India wants to set up two bases for the 36 Rafale jets. This means twice the planned machinery, testing facilities besides others which would again jack up the prices, the sources said.

Both Qatar and Egypt, which have struck similar deals with the French government, have gone in for one base only. “Can understand that India’s strategic needs might be different but generally two bases are needed when one has more than just two squadrons of a particular aircraft. Setting up of two bases will also cost more,” the sources said.

“The benchmark for the prices is already there since the deals with Egypt and Qatar have been struck. The price of the aircraft to India cannot be less than what the other two countries have bought it for,” the sources said.

They added that no talks have been held between the two sides in the recent past, indicating a likely stalemate. — PTI
Letdown on OROP
PM keeps ex-servicemen guessing
Ex-servicemen’s expectations of a positive announcement on one rank, one pension(OROP) were belied as Prime Minister Modi did not go beyond assurances in his Independence Day speech. This further angered the agitating ex-soldiers after the Delhi Police had tried to evict them from New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. That the military pensioners had been forced to adopt a path of agitation to press their demand for OROP was bad enough, but the highhanded way the police treated them made it worse. 

Earlier, to step up pressure on the government, four former service chiefs had written to the President of India to take up their cause. Apart from pointing out “grave implications for national security” resulting from the delay in accepting the OROP demand, the former chiefs -- Admiral Arun Prakash, Admiral L Ramdas, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and General SF Rodrigues – spoke about a “steady decline in status of the military” and attempts to make the military subservient to the bureaucracy by bringing it on a par with the police and para-military forces. There is an attempt to counter the OROP demand by linking it with the para-miliatry forces. The key justification for the OROP demand for the military pensioners is their early retirement – 85 per cent of them are forced to leave service before they turn 40. This does not happen in the case of the CRPF and BSF personnel.

Military pensions are raised by pay commissions appointed every ten years and the raise is not given retrospectively. As a result, the gap between the old and new pensions keeps widening. The ex-servicemen have been fighting for one rank, one pension since the early eighties. Successive governments have accepted the reasoning behind the demand but failed to implement it. The ex-soldiers blame the bureaucracy for the delay. The UPA government had announced that the OROP scheme would take effect from April, 2014.  Prime Minister Modi could have either announced a time frame for its implementation or shared reasons for the delay.
Delhi Police action on ex-servicemen decried
Tribune News Service

Mandi, August 16
Ex-servicemen have strongly condemned the crackdown by the Delhi police on former defence personnel sitting on a relay hunger strike on the eve of Independence Day at Jantar Mantar on Delhi.

Brig Khushal Thakur, state president, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, (IESM), said the action was an insult to their years of selfless service and devotion to the country.

He said the ex-servicemen community was deeply hurt, angered and anguished over the insensitivity and disrespect shown to the aged veterans who fought for the country and now being hackled and humiliated by the police.

He said an elderly jawan of 82 years of age who fought wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971 wearing medals was pushed and shoved and his medals pulled off his chest.

“No other country in the world would ever treat its soldiers with such a shameful insensitivity and disrespect,” he said and added that soldiers’ self esteem, honour and pride had been hurt.

The Delhi Police action was unacceptable and unpardonable and guilty must be punished, he said.

As regard to one-rank, one-pension demand of the ex-servicemen, he said: “It is about pride, dignity and it is about honour. It is the benchmark value of anything and everything associated with military tradition and ethos in our country.”

On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had once again assured the ex-servicemen that the government was committed to implementing the one-rank, one-pension scheme and was in the final stages of making a declaration.

Brig Thakur said a number of political parties in the past had assured one-rank, one-pension scheme for the ex-servicemen in their election manifestoes but had fallen short of implementing it.

He said the ex-servicemen had no doubts about the intention of the Prime Minister in fulfilling his promise but were sceptical about the intentions of bureaucrats who had always scuttled the implementation.

Capt Jagdish Chand Verma, president, Honorary Commissioned Officers’ Welfare Association of Himachal Pradesh, said it was the most unfortunate and shocking that those who spent their lives for _the safety and security of the motherland had now become a threat to the _government on the Independence Day.

The eviction and manhandling of peacefully protesting ex-servicemen was a sordid episode. He said that the defence community was badly hurt _by the use of force by the Delhi Police.
Pakistan Using Heavy Shells - a First Since Ceasefire Agreement: Sources
Srinagar:  Over 100 heavy mortar shells have landed in Jammu and Kashmir's border village Balakote since Saturday afternoon. This was the first time since the 2003 ceasefire agreement that Pakistan has used heavy shells -- 120 mm - which explains the high civilian casualties, army sources told NDTV.

Since Saturday, six people have died and nine have been injured - the highest single-day casualty in a long time.

Among the dead was Karamatullah Khan - the head of the Balakote village - who was trying to evacuate villagers to safety. A 17-year-old who tried to save him died too. The shell had landed on the car which was carrying a group of villagers.

"There was very heavy shelling from Pakistan - one shell hit the vehicle in which the sarpanch and six others were travelling," Rasheed Ahmad, one of the injured from Balakote village, had told NDTV.

Indian forces have been retaliating. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "We are giving them (Pakistan) a befitting reply. Our response is double-triple (in intensity)," he said.

But unlike in other border areas, the government has not constructed underground bunkers in Poonch -- the locals say this is why they have become sitting ducks for shelling from across the border.

Among yesterday's casualties were a 12-year-old child and a 40-year-old woman.

Three villages -- Shahpur, Mandhar and Kerni -- bore the brunt of the shelling, but the administration has asked people of all border villages to stay indoors. The administration has ruled out evacuating people till the shelling stops.

The ceasefire violations began in Poonch and Rajouri sectors yesterday even as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent his greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day and called for amicable relations between the two countries.
India is Giving a Befitting Reply to Pakistani Firing: Manohar Parrikar
Bilaspur:  India is giving a "befitting" reply to Pakistan, which is engaged in continuous ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Poonch and Rajouri of Jammu and Kashmir, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Bilaspur today.

"Hum unhe muhtod jawab de rahen hai. Hamara response dugna-tiguna hai... (We are giving them (Pakistan) a befitting reply. Our response is double-triple (in intensity)," the Defence minister said.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event organised by the 'Vanvasi Vikas Samiti'- a Sangh Pariwar-backed organisation.

There were ceasefire violations by Pakistan in various sectors along the LoC in Poonch district for the eighth consecutive day. The intensified shelling on border posts and civilian area in Poonch and Rajouri have claimed six lives in last two days, drawing strong protest from India.

Responding to a query on rising infiltration bids by insurgents along the International Border with Pakistan, Mr Parrikar said the government was putting up all measures to thwart such incidents.

"Owing to security reasons, I cannot furnish details on the issue but would surely like to tell that we are taking all the measures to foil infiltration bids," he said.

On the last month's terrorist attack in Punjab, wherein Pakistani terrorists had entered India by crossing Ravi river, he said that "It's a bit difficult to do fencing along Ravi river. But keeping in view the security there, several electronic measures are being adopted (to guard the international border)."

Eight persons, including a Superintendent of Police, were killed, in the strike launched by three terrorists before they were gunned down.

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