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Sunday, 23 August 2015

From Today's Papers - 23 Aug 2015

Pakistan calls off NSA-level talks
Move comes after India’s warning over Aziz’s talks with Hurriyat
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

Pakistan on Saturday night set afire the script torn by India after New Delhi rejected Islamabad’s move to expand the National Security Adviser-level dialogue from terror to Jammu and Kashmir and viewed Islamabad-proposed meeting with Hurriyat leadership as third party intervention.

While neither side officially wanted to take the onus of calling off the first-ever NSA-level talks scheduled for Monday, the gloves were off after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asserted that the August 23-24 visit of Pakistan National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz talks with Indian NSA Ajit Doval will have just one central theme – terror, and Pakistan cannot expand the agenda. The categorical spurn had its impact.

The Pakistan Foreign Ministry responded much before the midnight deadline India set for Pakistan to respond interpreting it as preconditions: “Pakistan, therefore, reiterates that the scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India”.

On her part, Swaraj asserted India is not running away from dialogue and reminded Islamabad to respect the spirit of the 1972 Simla Agreement and July 2015 Ufa understanding between the two countries.

"We want to create an atmosphere free of terror and violence which is impeding progress...we want to discuss all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir...we are not imposing any preconditions but reminding Pakistan of Simla agreement and Ufa,” Swaraj said at a media conference shortly after Aziz said he was willing to travel to New Delhi without any preconditions. Any formal resumption of dialogue on all agreed outstanding issues can happen only when there is an atmosphere free of terror and violence, she said, countering Aziz's remark that the three-point agenda proposed by Pakistan was fully in line with the Ufa statement.

The Simla agreement clearly stipulates that there are only two parties to the dialogue — India and Pakistan.

For the past four days, both sides refrained from officially calling off the talks between the two NSAs, with each waiting for the other side to blink. This, despite New Delhi viewing as provocative Islamabad's move to invite separatist Jammu and Kashmir leaders meet Aziz when he arrives here tomorrow.

Swaraj emphasised that unlike Indian leadership which withstood intense domestic pressure not to go ahead with the talks following recent cross-border firings, terror attacks at Dinanagar and Udhampur, Pakistan made up its mind to wriggle out of the three-point course. She said since Ufa, there have been 91 recorded ceasefire violations.

"The talks (between NSAs, followed by Directors General of Border Security Force-Pakistan Rangers, and Directors General of Military Operations) are more relevant...we have placed no preconditions but there will be no other issue other than terrorism. These are talks about terror, while talks and terrorism cannot go together,” she said.

Pakistan, she said, took 22 days to respond to Indian invitation for NSA-level talks sent on July 23, agreed for DG BSF-Rangers meeting on September 6 and still had not got back on the dates for DGMOs’ dialogue.

About Aziz's claim that he had three dossiers to share with Doval on India’s involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan, the External Affairs Minister ridiculed the claim saying such papers were serious matters and not waved at a press conference or handed over in the corridors in New York.

If Pakistan is planning to submit dossiers to India, “we will give live evidence...that is why they are running away. Come and sit for talks and we will give evidence of State-sponsored terrorism,” she said.

Taking a philosophical view, she said the path that both countries seek to traverse is full of potholes resulting in frequent breakdowns.
Delhi’s terms not acceptable, says Islamabad
Afzal Khan in Islamabad
Pakistan late Saturday night rejected what it described as India’s preconditions to the NSA-level talks in New Delhi (scheduled for August 24) and announced its Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz would not go to India.

“It is evident that India wants to impose conditions that are not acceptable to us,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalil said after prolonged consultations in response to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's news conference. “Under the circumstances, we feel there is no use to go to New Delhi for talks,” he added.

Earlier, the uncertainty over the scheduled NSA-level talks had thickened in the wake of much-awaited statements from both sides.

Addressing a press conference, Pakistan's Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said he was willing to go to New Delhi tomorrow (Sunday), but insisted there should be no preconditions. He termed as unacceptable India's “advice” not to invite Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders to the reception to be hosted in his honour by the Pakistan High Commission on Sunday.

A few hours later, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “If Pakistan feels Indian positions are preconditions, then there will be no talks.” She said Pakistan could inform till midnight whether Aziz was coming or not. She reaffirmed that the talks would focus on terrorism only. Without naming Hurriyat, she said: “There is no room for a third party in the bilateral dialogue as per the spirit of the Simla agreement.”

Sushma asked Pakistan to follow the Ufa agreement and stick to talks on terror. Earlier, Sartaj Aziz told mediapersons that Pakistan had sent a three-point agenda for the talks, including discussion on “all outstanding issues”.
Capturing the crucial Hajipir Pass
A young adjutant of 1 Para recalls the heroic achievement of the Special Forces in securing the vital heights from the control of the Pakistan army
I joined the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) in June of 1963 at Agra. In November, the Battalion, commanded by Lt Col GA Wright, moved to Jammu and Kashmir as part of 161 Mountain Brigade under 19 Division in the Uri sector. The battalion was given the task of manning nine picquets from Seb, opposite Pakistan picquet Sank, to the Kaman Bridge on the Uri-Muzaffarabad road along the Jhelum river. The Battalion Headquarters was at Uri.

At that time I was second-in-command of ‘C’ company, occupying picquets Chakus and Chabuk-Kaman Bridge. In April of 1965, I took over as Adjutant of 1 Para (SF). The Uri sector was quiet then. On July 15, Lt Col Prabhjinder Singh took over command of 1 Para and Major (later Lt Gen) RS Dyal was second-in-command.

By mid-July, it had become clear that the Pakistani offensive, code-named “Operation Gibraltar”, had been launched wherein heavily-armed civilian guerillas (mujahids) backed by regulars in civilian disguise were infiltrating into Indian Kashmir at various points along the 470-mile ceasefire line. The regular Pakistan Army also began to get involved and Indian positions on the ceasefire line in the Uri sector were shelled. The Uri garrison was also shelled. 1 Para retaliated with small arms and heavy and medium gunfire.

One of the entry points of infiltration, causing so much mischief in Indian Kashmir, was the Hajipir Pass situated at an altitude of 8,652 feet. It lay south of Uri on the Uri-Poonch Road, 5 miles from the ceasefire line in the Pakistan-occupied zone of Kashmir. The eastern route from Uri to Hajipir is dominated by the steep and formidable Badori feature (12,360 feet). The western route from Uri to Hajipir Pass is dominated by Sank (9,498 feet) and Led Wali Gali (10,302 feet). These heights were physically held by Pakistani regulars. In order to seal off the above infiltration route, Hajipir Pass had to be captured.

The task of capturing Hajipir was assigned to 68 Mountain Brigade. It was commanded by Brig Zoru Bakshi. The following units were placed under command of the brigade: 1 Para, 19 Punjab, 4 Rajput, 6 Dogra and 6 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. The brigade, along with the units, concentrated at Uri by August 24.

The 68 Brigade planned to capture Hajipir Pass by a two-pronged attack. The first phase was an attack along the right (western) flank by 1 Para to capture Sank and exploit up to Led Wali Gali up to Point 1003. On the left front (eastern) flank, 19 Punjab was to capture Badori and exploit up to Kuthnar Di Gali. The second phase called for 4 Rajput to roll down to Hajipir Pass.

Pakistan knew the importance of Sank. Therefore, it was held in strength and supported by medium machine guns and 3-inch mortars. The task of capturing Sank was given to ‘A’ and ‘C’ companies of 1 Para under the overall command of Maj Dyal. On August 25, at 8 pm, the ‘C’ company secured the Ring Contour, which was the forming-up-area for the frontal and silent assault on Sank.

At 10 pm, ‘A’ company led by Maj Dyal started climbing towards Sank. Due to heavy rain, visibility was very poor. The enemy also started firing from the top of Sank on advancing troops. At first light, it became clear that a frontal attack would not be possible and therefore it was abandoned with two dead and 20 injured. On the left-front flank, 19 Punjab could not proceed further and the attack was called off.

Sank had to be captured at any cost, therefore 1 Para was again tasked to capture Sank on August 26/27. ‘B’ and ‘D’ companies were assigned to capture Sank under the overall command of Maj Dyal. The second attack was preceded by very heavy shelling on Sank by 164 Field Regiment. Capt MD Naidu, the forward observation officer, gave very accurate covering fire to the assaulting troops. The enemy was totally shaken by the very heavy artillery fire.

With Maj Dyal personally leading the assault, 1 Para captured Sank by 4.30 am on August 27. The enemy withdrew, leaving behind their dead and wounded.

Expecting an early counter-attack, Maj Dyal quickly re-organised the defences. Maj Baicher, who was commanding ‘D’ company, was ordered to proceed to Led Wali Gali and occupy it. In the meantime, the enemy opened small arms fire from Sawan Patri. Capt MMPS Dhillon quickly moved with his platoon towards Sawan Patri and in a quick and gallant action occupied it. By 11 am, Sank up to Led Wali Gali was captured. On the eastern flank, 19 Punjab was still short of Badori.

By 2 pm on August 27, it was clear to the brigade and division HQ that the capture of Hajipir Pass from Badori was not possible. Therefore, as suggested by the commanding officer of 1 Para, Maj Dyal was assigned to proceed to Hajipir Pass with ‘A’ and ‘D’ companies via Hader Nala. I was ordered to move the battalion HQ from Seb to Sank.

By 4 pm, the force commanded by Maj Dyal started moving towards Hajipir Pass. The task involved moving down to Hyderabad Nala and then climbing up 4,000 feet to Hajipir Pass. The force was moving with the help of a compass. The terrain was very rugged and slippery and to add to the discomfort, it started raining heavily. By 4.30 pm, the force reached the base of Hajipir Pass. As the troops had been on the march for 48 hours, Maj Dyal gave them a break. At 5 am, the force again started climbing towards the pass. In an hour, it was just short of the objective.

Maj Dyal deployed the leading platoon on the ground with orders to engage the enemy if it opened fire from the pass, and himself with the remaining troops quickly climbed the right shoulder, unseen, and rolled down to the pass. At 7 am, Maj Dyal informed me on the radio set that Hajipir Pass had been captured.

I informed the Commanding Officer and Brigade HQ. By 11 am, Hajipir Pass was fully secured. The battalion commander was already proceeding towards Hajipir Pass; I also started moving the Battalion HQ towards Hajipir Pass and reached there by 4 pm. The complete battalion concentrated on Hajipir Pass by last light on August 28.

At 7 pm the same day, an enemy patrol moving towards Hajipir was intercepted. The patrol leader, Capt Maqsood, and nine other ranks were taken prisoner.

In the next 72 hours, the ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies captured the adjoining heights. In these mopping-up operations, Maj JCM Rao, commanding ‘C’ company, and Maj AS Bindra, commanding ‘D’ company, were critically wounded. Capt TB Gurung and Subedar Arjun and 10 other soldiers died.

While Maj Dyal was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, Hav Umrao and Capt MD Naidu were awarded Vir Chakra. Capt MMPS Dhillon and Sub Arjun Singh were conferred with the Sena Medal.

1 Para was awarded Battle Honour Hajipir and Theatre Honour Jammu and Kashmir (1965).

The huge success of 1 Para in capturing Hajipir Pass can be attributed to two factors: bold leadership qualities displayed by the commanders at every level, and the physical fitness of all ranks in the unit.
OROP: Veterans to hold own ‘homage’ ceremony for ’65 war
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 22
The “one rank, one pension” (OROP) imbroglio has taken a new turn—one that can embarrass the ruling BJP-led combine in the coming weeks.

Retired veterans of the forces have decided to hold their own “remembrance ceremony” to mark 50 years of the 1965 India-Pakistan war. They have also announced to boycott a slew of functions to be organised by the government from August 28 onwards.

A decision to this effect was announced by ex-servicemen during their ongoing dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi last night. A candle march will be organised during the “remembrance ceremony” at India Gate on August 23 evening. Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz will land in Delhi around the same time for talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

Keeping in mind the impending international diplomacy, the veterans have advised all those coming for the candle march to keep in mind that this is a “homage ceremony”, and not a protest.

“Most of those participating in the ongoing dharna at Jantar Mantar have participated in the 1965 war,” said Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd) of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).

The veterans will first organise a march at Jantar Mantar and then reassemble at India Gate. They will then queue up for the “homage ceremony”. “We have the permission of the Delhi Police to hold a candle march at India Gate,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd) said.
Pak militant Naved taken to LoC to identify infiltration route
Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 22
Pakistani militant Mohammad Naved, alias Usman, who is being interrogated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) following his arrest after the Udhampur attack, was taken to the Gulmarg sector in north Kashmir to identify the route through which he had sneaked into Kashmir.

Sources said Naved was taken to the Gulmarg sector by the NIA on Friday and he had reported to have shown the route through which he sneaked into the Valley. However, Defence sources, privy to the development, said there was still a “doubt” on Naved’s claim.

Naved had told his interrogators that he sneaked into the Valley along with three other Pakistani militants of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) — Aqasha, Mohammad Bhai and Noman. They crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in the Gulmarg sector from the Noori post in early June.

While Noman was killed in Udhampur, his accomplice Naved was captured alive by civilians while his other two accomplices are absconding. The NIA has already announced a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh each for the capture of the duo.

“Naved was taken to the Gulmarg sector, but there are still many inconsistencies in his claims,” the Defence sources said. “We are, however, investigating and looking at his claims,” they added.

The Army’s topmost officer in Kashmir Lt Gen Subrata Saha told The Tribune in an interview on August 18 that there was no successful infiltration in the region this year. “The terrorist has changed his statement three or four times. Before naming Baramulla and Kupwara, he had initially given names of other places through which he sneaked. Since he is changing his statements, we will have to wait as to what is the outcome of investigation before drawing any inference,” Lt General Saha had said.

The sources said Director General of the NIA Sharad Kumar, who was in Srinagar on Thursday, had also met General Officer Commanding of the 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha and the senior Army officer was told about Naved’s claim about the route through which he had sneaked in.

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