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Thursday, 20 August 2015

From Today's Papers - 20 Aug 2015

India guarded as Pak provokes again
Ahead of NSA talks, Islamabad invites hawks to meet Sartaj; raises Kashmir at UNSC
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
India today found itself at the crossroad in regard to resuming talks with Pakistan after Islamabad invited Hurriyat leaders to meet its National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz when he arrives here on August 23 for a scheduled meeting with India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

New Delhi remains guarded suggesting South Block’s reluctance to call off the talks as it monitors the evolving situation and views the current development in the context of a series of events.

These include heavy mortar shelling on civilians, terror attacks in Dinanagar and Udhampur, raising Kashmir at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and invitations to Hurriyat leaders, including separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, interpreting the sequence as provocation to force India's hand.

A similar development last year in August led to cancellation of the scheduled talks between the Foreign Secretaries and the dialogue process remained frozen till Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif picked up the pieces this July at Ufa, Russia, deciding incremental engagement beginning with the NSA-level talks. “The invitation should be seen as latest provocative move in that direction... we are monitoring the situation [as it emerges]. The government will respond appropriately,” a source said.

Adding to the discomfort was the step by Pakistan to rake up Kashmir at the UN Security Council. Besides seeking UNSC mediation, Islamabad also suggested that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could play a role in resolving it. India has always rejected any third-party mediation in resolving outstanding issues with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir.

Reporting from the UN, PTI said Pakistan’s permanent representative to UN Maleeha Lodhi said during an open debate on regional organisations and contemporary global security challenges on Tuesday: “Collectively, and in cooperation with the UN, it [57-member OIC] has the capabilities to address and overcome these challenges, including Palestine and other Middle East conflicts, as well as the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.” “The UN should actively promote cooperation with the OIC in areas such as mediation and conciliation of disputes; peacekeeping and peace building; humanitarian assistance, especially to refugees and displaced people; and in addressing the root causes of conflicts and extremism,” she told the 15-member UN Security Council.

Her remarks came hours after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “serious concern” over the recent escalation of violence along the Line of Control and hoped the talks between the NSAs of India and Pakistan will result in a “positive outcome”.

Opposition Congress today said the Modi government had “no roadmap” on how to engage with Pakistan.
Ex-servicemen may meet PM next week over OROP
New Delhi, August 19
Representatives of ex-servicemen, who have been protesting for the implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme for the past 66 days, are likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week.

“The dates have not been fixed yet. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet Modi on August 23-24 and then we will be informed about our meeting with the PM,” Major General Satbir Singh (retd), chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), said.

Colonel Anil Kaul (retd), media adviser to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, said the meeting with Modi was on the cards. “No dates have been fixed so far. It could be between August 24-26,” he said.

Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag had spoken to both Major General Satbir and IESM president Lt General Balbir Singh (retd) over the issue.

To pacify agitating ex-servicemen, the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday held talks with representatives of the protesters who have agreed not to escalate their agitation for the next 10 days.

The meeting with Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra at the PMO came on a day when a third veteran joined the fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar, where the ex-servicemen have been protesting demanding early implementation of the OROP.

In a statement issued today, the ex-servicemen said Major General Satbir and Lt General Balbir told Misra that if the government was serious about the interest of ex-servicemen, it would have initiated action on the two other promises made in the BJP manifesto — martyrs memorial and establishment of veterans’ commission to be chaired and manned by ex-servicemen.

“Misra was surprised and immediately called the MOD Secretary and asked to be briefed soon on both issues. The meeting ended without any assurance from both sides,” the statement added. — PTI
Firing on LoC: Pakistan’s grand design
The subversive design of the Pakistani generals is to create disaffection in the border districts. Persistent firing on the LoC and the collateral damage have grave implications for national security. It will be virtually impossible for India to ignore the Kashmir question in the NSA-level talks.
What are the Pakistan Army’s generals up to?  Why have they converted the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan into a war zone?  The conventional argument would be that the generals want to derail the National Security Adviser-level talks scheduled for August 23.

Pakistan Army generals are into  a long-term game. They need to provoke India so that they can talk of threats from its neighbours, propagating and perpetuating a thesis — their divine right  to defend the nation. Pakistan was looking for a reaction to its  action on the LoC and that it has achieved to some extent. When India responds robustly, all sections of Kashmiri leaders, mainstream, semi-mainstream and  recognised separatists,  call in one voice for cessation of hostilities on borders, holding both India and Pakistan equally responsible for the killing of the civilians — women, children included, along the LoC. No such voices were or are heard from many of them, when Pakistani mortar shells target the areas around the international border in  the Jammu plains. There is a difference  and this needs to be told.   The nearly  200-km-long international border, which Pakistan calls as “working boundary.”  as it propagates that even this  border in Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled, runs through the  plains of Jammu.   Approximately, 225 km out of the 744 km of LoC rises from the Chicken’s neck area — the confluence  of  rivers Chenab  and  Tawi  in Jammu to the heights of Pir Panjal in south of Kashmir. The remianing is in the Valley  and Ladakh division is in the hills. The demography is different. As most of the population  living along the LoC  is Muslim,  Pakistan guns are targeting their houses and fields to unsettle them. This is a larger design that Pakistan   has reinvoked  and made separatists talk loudly about it. This will make the people living  in the south of Pir Panjal to  look toward these secessionist groups. For them, the ISI's former and current generals are “friends of Kashmir.”  Syed Ali Shah Geelani paid a tribute to the former ISI chief   Lt- Gen. Hamid Gul  as “a true  friend of  oppressed Kashmiris".  Hamid Gul was the architect of the armed rebellion in Kashmir in the late 1980s. The real challenge on the LoC today is not only how to save the  border population from the mortar shelling  from across the LoC but also to keep their nationalist psyche intact. Pakistan  has been able to make a point that it can target the civilian areas and no amount of heavy response by the Indian army to its  mortar shelling and heavy machinegun fire can silence its guns.  This military  language has  ominous portents. Walter C Ladwig  of the Department  of War Studies, King's College London, UK,  has  added a note of caution about the strength of the two armies.  He has underlined that, “a host of factors, including terrain, the favourable deployment of Pakistani forces, and a lack of strategic surprise in the most likely conflict scenarios, will mitigate whatever advantages  India may be gaining through  military modernisation. Despite a growing technological edge  in some areas, Indian policy makers cannot be confident  that even a limited  resort to military force would achieve a rapid result , which is  an essential pre-condition for deterrence failure.”

The Pakistani army  seems to be taking advantage of this.  It is killing Indian Muslims, their women and children on this side of the LoC  to instill fear among them. One of the fundamental strategies  of  terrorism is the infusion  of fear  in the life of the border residents. The firing from across the LoC is  doing that to the men and women in the border areas.  This is the big picture, but we are looking at the  small steps that Pakistan is taking in this direction.

Now, the immediate context, Kashmir is not in the joint statement of India and Pakistan issued after the meeting of Prime  Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif  at Ufa, Russia.  But Pakistan's Army and the ISI have taken small but deadly steps since then to rectify the balance. Pakistan's  NSA Sartaj Aziz, a veteran in diplomacy and security affairs, tried to address the constituency of the  disgruntled elements, saying that Kashmir issue would be “discussed through back channels.” What he meant was that the  route of  quiet  politics and diplomacy — the phrase coined by former Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram  in resolving the K issue — should  be taken first . That is what All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman  Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also agreed to. It was  immediately after  Sartaj Aziz's  press conference  on July 13 that “no bilateral talks would be held without Kashmir being on the agenda of talks.” The Mirwaiz  told this columnist, “The Prime Minister-level summits or, for that matter, the  meetings of foreign ministers  or senior functionaries, raise expectations and when those expectations fail to materialise,  disappointment breeds  anger and the whole process explodes. There should be a process before straightway running toward the goalpost.”  That sounded   sensible. But the hawks in Kashmir and those who were in direct contact with Pakistan's ISI, made a lot of hue and cry  and joined the Pakistani military’s chorus, “Kashmir first.”

 Looking at the events chronologically, what happened is  very clear. It is how Islamabad used its state and non-state actors — there is really no  difference between the two despite the fact that Pakistan itself is becoming a victim of its home-grown terror groups — to bring “K” into the agenda. Before India offered August 23 and 24  as dates for talks at the NSA-level on August 1, a major terror strike  breaking a lull of almost 15 years, took place in Dinanagar, Gurdaspur district. What followed was the August 5 attack in Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir.

When India talks of terror attacks, Kashmir will  automatically figure on the agenda. A similar thing would happen  when ceasefire violations and the resultant  civilian casualties are discussed. Intensity of the gunfire, mortar shelling and the  number of the casualties would  make India discuss Kashmir because the LoC is the  dividing line running through Jammu and Kashmir. By doing so, Pakistan is simultaneously proving another point that its larger plans are underway to spread disaffection  from north to south of Pir Panjal in the Himalayan state.
House panel wants adequate funds for Army modernisation
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
A Parliamentary standing committee has slammed budgetary cuts in allocations made to the Indian Army and questioned the imposition of “ceiling” on funds by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance. It has suggested “adequate allocation” for new projects and development of infrastructure.

The committee headed by Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd), now an elected BJP, MP from Uttarakhand, _has asked the MoD to bring its recommendations to the notice of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and also Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In its report submitted in Parliament on Thursday, the committee said it was not happy with the MoD’s stand that cuts were imposed as “it is bound by the overall budgetary ceiling provided by Ministry of Finance”.

There was no logic behind the imposition of a budgetary ceiling by the Ministry of Finance at the highest level and MoD for accepting the same, the committee said.

It also criticised the use of the term “genuine requirements of the Army” to lay down budget ceilings.

“(It) gives an impression that few of other demands of the Army are not genuine and the budget provided to the Army can be curtailed as per the wishes of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defence”.

There are strong needs for modernisation of Army, said the committee, adding “it is the earnest desire of the committee that adequate allocation should be provided to the Army for launching of new projects and development of infrastructure”.

The committee said: “It seems the ministry has not planned the expenditure of funds before making demands for allocation a certain amount.”

The MoD should not set arbitrary targets which cannot be achieved because of less allocation by Ministry of Finance, said the report.

The committee also referred to the seven most critical procurements schemes identified by the Army and flagged them as priority items. The budgetary estimate for 2015-16, ending March 31, 2016, is Rs 22,054.50 crore.

The gaps between budgetary allocation and actual spending arise due to contract issues such as delayed supplies.

Progress of ongoing procurements are affected by reasons such as insufficient and limited vendor (supplier) base, non-conformity of the condutions offers to the Request for Proposal (RFP) conditions, long field trials, complexities in contract negotiations, stakeholder consultations and long lead time for indigenisation, etc.
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Indo-Pak NSA talks: India cautious on Pak move to involve Army in controlling ceasefire violations

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Indian Army to start 'online application based' recruitment rally

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