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Friday, 21 August 2015

From Today's Papers - 21 Aug 2015

Pak won’t host Commonwealth meet
Venue shifted to New York as Islamabad insists won’t invite J-K Speaker
Afzal Khan in Islamabad
Pakistan on Thursday announced that it would not host the next month’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Union (CPU) meeting amid a row with India over its refusal to invite the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker for the conference.

India had threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference to be held here from September 30 to October 8 after Islamabad refused to invite J-K Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta for the event. The conference was to bring together speakers of Commonwealth nations in Islamabad.

“We have clarified to the London Secretariat of the Commonwealth that Kashmir is a disputed territory and now it is impossible for the Commonwealth conference to be held in Pakistan,” National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said on Thursday.  He said the event would now be held in New York.

“A detailed letter will be written to the CPU countries over the Kashmir issue, which will be raised on every forum of the Commonwealth,” Sadiq said. The Kashmir issue could not be overlooked at any cost, he stressed.

“The decision to hold the event in Pakistan was made on the basis that the Kashmir Assembly Speaker would not be invited to the Conference,” he said. India had threatened to boycott the meeting with Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan saying, “A meeting of Speakers of all states unanimously decided that India will boycott the meeting of the CPU if the Speaker of the J-K Assembly is not invited.”                  

‘Phantom’ banned in Pak
A Pakistan court on Thursday banned the release of Bollywood movie "Phantom" in the country on a plea by Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed that the film set on post-26/11 Mumbai terror attacks contains "filthy propaganda" against him and his outfit. The Saif Ali Khan-starrer film is scheduled to release on August 28.

Rangers targetSamba post
The Pakistan Rangers used small arms to target the Chalyari post of the BSF along the international border in Samba district on Wednesday night. The BSF did not retaliate and exercised restraint.
Separatists detained briefly ahead of NSA talks
Ishfaq Tantry

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 20
The PDP-BJP state government today briefly detained top Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir ahead of their proposed meeting with Pakistan National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz in New Delhi later this week.

The state police in an early morning crackdown put hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani under house arrest and restricted the movement of other separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Molvi Abbas Ansari, Shabbir Shah, Showkat Bakshi and Ayaz Akbar. Hours later, the detained leaders, barring Geelani, were set free.

The detention came on a day when J&K Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed along with senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh visited Aman Setu (peace bridge at the Line of Control in Uri) to give a “message of peace”. India had cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan in August last year after its envoy invited Kashmiri separatist leaders for consultations ahead of the meeting in Islamabad.

Most separatist leaders termed their brief detention “unfortunate” and wondered who had ordered it. “It (house arrest) is unfortunate. I don’t know why they are doing it,” the Mirwaiz told The Tribune after he was set free this afternoon. He said his meeting with Aziz was scheduled on Sunday evening after the NSA-level talks. The Mirwaiz, who along with his colleagues will travel to New Delhi on August 23, said the Hurriyat wanted to strengthen the dialogue process between the two countries, not scuttle it.

“I don’t know why the Indian Government is making such a hue and cry about Hurriyat leaders meeting the Pakistan NSA.” Hardline Hurriyat spokes-person Ayaz Akbar said they hoped Geelani, too, would be allowed to travel to Delhi on Monday to meet Aziz.

Akbar said the meeting between Geelani and Aziz was scheduled for Monday morning after the NSA meeting. “It is unfortunate. I don’t know why they did it. But it (brief arrest) shows their (government’s) frustration,” he said, wondering at whose behest the house arrests were ordered.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, who was arrested and taken to the Kothi Bagh police station, told The Tribune he was detained for 50 minutes before being released. “While taking me to the police station, the officer concerned told me that I would be detained up to August 25,” claimed Malik, who has authorised a JKLF delegation to travel to New Delhi on August 23.

The J&K Government remained tightlipped about the brief detention of separatists. Government spokesman Naeem Akhter refused to come on record despite repeated requests. At Kaman Post in Uri, Mufti, who also heads the home department, too, avoided a question on the house arrests.
Keep Indo-Pak talks afloat
The Hurriyat spanner can be evaded
The emergence of the Hurriyat factor is the latest test of resolve for India and Pakistan as they struggle to keep afloat this Sunday's talks between their National Security Advisers (NSAs). The two governments have so far not allowed localised but highly provocative incidents such as cross-border firing, the Gurdaspur siege and the Udhampur ambush to influence the holding of Indo-Pak dialogue. They now have another spanner with Hurriyat leaders planning to meet Sartaj Aziz when he arrives here for the talks. Exactly a year ago, India had cancelled the planned Foreign Secretary-level talks after the Pakistani envoy in Delhi had invited Kashmiri separatist leaders for consultations ahead of the meeting in Islamabad.

Unlike the last time, the Prime Minister's Office has reacted to the Pakistan’s invite to the Hurriyat leaders with a few days to spare. This has given it the margin to take corrective measures. The first was the now abandoned attempt to put Hurriyat leaders under house arrest. A meeting with Hurriyat leaders is crucial for Sartaz Aziz. Even if nothing substantial is discussed, the images of Hurriyat leaders with Aziz will help Nawaz Sharif counterbalance his critics for not explicitly mentioning Kashmir in his joint statement with Narendra Modi in Russia.

The publicity from the house arrest seems to have partly helped Sharif achieve this purpose. But Islamabad still retains the excuse to walk out of the talks if the Hurriyat meeting does not take place. New Delhi has little scope for maneuvering because one year ago, it had called off talks between the Foreign Secretaries on the same grounds. This calls for some innovative solutions. For instance, Pakistan cannot complain if the Hurriyat leaders meet Aziz after he has held talks with Ajit Doval. After all, it describes the NSA talks as an ice-breaker or the beginning of a series of meetings. It can always act on Hurriyat’s counsel at subsequent interactions. India will also have no complaints about this format. And if the hardliners in Hurriyat boycott an interaction with the Pakistanis after the NSA talks, they would be further marginalising themselves.
Pak Rangers go slow on DG-level meet
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
With the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of India and Pakistan slated to meet soon, Islamabad is going slow on deciding the agenda of the Director-General level talks between the Pakistan Rangers and the Border Security Force.

The five-day meeting will be held from September 9-13 in New Delhi. However, the agenda hasn’t been decided yet. Today the Pakistan side, for second time in five days, sought more time in exchanging agenda points. Before the DG-level meeting, the two sides exchange agenda points, which is necessary for either side to know the issues to be discussed.

The agenda points were to be originally exchanged on August 17, but at the request of Pakistan it was changed to August 20, that is today. The exchange was slated at the Attari-Wagah border check post. Today a senior BSF officer reached the check post to give the BSF’s agenda points, but the Pak Rangers said it couldn’t exchange them today as they had operational commitments for the next two to three days, sources said.

The Indian side is assessing that this could only mean that Pak rangers are awaiting the result of the NSA-level talks slated for August 23 and then plan its DG-level meeting thereafter.

The BSF had wanted the meeting to take place in August, just a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met at Ufa, Russia. The Pakistan Rangers wanted the meeting in September. The last meeting between the two sides was in December 2013.

The BSF’s agenda for the meeting includes the 250 cross-border firing incidents at the IB this year, inadvertent border crossers, infiltration attempts at the IB in Jammu and objections on the Pakistan defence structures near the IB, which are bunkers and bundhs that can change the course of water bodies. Another point of discussion may be on Pakistani Unmanned Aerial Vehicles on the Indian side of the IB.

An important agenda point is the need for more channels of communication, including telephonically, at the local commander level. Currently, the staff officer of the DG BSF and staff officers of the DGs of the Pakistan Rangers are in contact with each other telephonically. There are also periodic meetings between the local commanders of the two forces. “Another form of communication is that either side shows a flag, which is the demand for a flag meeting, but this can’t happen at night,” said sources.
Report expresses ‘shock’, ‘dismay’: Why Committee of Parliament is upset with the state of Defence - See more at:
The Standing Committee on Defence, which presented its report to Parliament on the last day of the Monsoon Session, has highlighted several shortcomings that need immediate attention. Key recommendations:

Wheeled guns
The Defence Ministry, in its reply to the Standing Committee, had said that “arms and ammunitions” were “by and large available” with the Army. The Committee, headed by Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri, has said “it fails to understand what does ‘by and large’ mean”. The Ministry’s response, the Committee has said, gives “false hope” that ammunition levels in the Army are as per the authorised strategic Artillery Profile 2027. The Committee has asked the Ministry to provide details of the programme, and to step up efforts to adhere to timelines.

The Army has been facing a major shortage of vehicles to carry missiles. This has affected the deployment of missiles at strategic locations. Replying to the Committee’s recommendations that the private sector be engaged to make missile-carrying vans, the Defence Ministry had said that the Defence PSU, Bharat Earth Movers Limited, was in a position to supply the vehicles. “The planning process of Army should not be hampered due to non-availability of missile carrying vehicles,” the Committee has said.
- See more at:
The Committee expressed “dismay” that DRDO “started working on INSAS Rifle way back in 1982 but surprisingly it took 14 years in its development… But just after 3 years, the quality of rifle tested in Operation Vijay revealed that product was not up to the mark… The Committee find[s] it shocking that even years of expertise has not evolved DRDO to develop a world class basic product like rifle”. Lacunae in the weapon were revealed by the 1999 Kargil conflict, but DRDO has not been able to provide a good rifle to the Army. The Committee has asked why rifles were not being procured from elsewhere.

As revealed by replies in Parliament and disclosures made to the Standing Committee, the Armed Forces face a major shortage of officers, especially in junior ranks. According to the Committee’s report, the Army is short of 9,642 officers — 40,095 against the stipulated strength of 49,737. The Navy is 1,561 officers short, and the IAF 659. Attempts are being made to address the situation by making short service commission more attractive. It is hoped that attractive perks and recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission would be able to attract youngsters to the profession of arms. The Committee has asked the Ministry to explore the reasons behind younger people no longer looking at the armed forces as a career.

Lack of Funds
The Defence Ministry has noted the lack of funds as one of the reasons behind porous pockets along the India-Myanmar border. The Ministry, in its reply to the Standing Committee, has said that “non-allotment of funds” to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) resulted in only 4.5 km of the proposed 15.73 km fence along the border being completed. The Defence Ministry’s disclosure is significant in the backdrop of the recent killing of 18 Armymen by insurgents in Manipur along the India-Myanmar border. The Army had carried out a cross border raid subsequent to the attack. “It is astonishing to find that as many as 78 insurgent active groups have been earmarked in one state of the North East. Our neighbouring countries are espousing a form of perennial and subtle war in which a substantial amount of operational preparedness is absolutely essential,” the Standing Committee has noted.

Assam Rifles is mandated to guard the 1,631 km India-Myanmar border. All Assam Rifles units and formations operate under the command of the Army. 15 battalions of Assam Rifles with 77 Company Operating Bases are deployed along the strategic border. Seven of these battalions are in Manipur.

IAF Trainer
The Intermediate Jet Trainer project by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has run into troubled waters. The project that started in 1999 has made no headway, the Committee has noted. The non-induction of IJT Sitara has compelled the IAF to extend the life of the Kiran trainers. “By not taking effective steps to procure trainer, the government is jeopardising the lives of our pilots,” the Committee has noted. Experts have blamed the absence of trainers for the spate of MiG-21 crashes.

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