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Saturday, 29 August 2015

From Today's Papers - 29 Aug 2015

3 die, 17 hurt as Pak pounds Jammu villages
Islamabad claims 6 civilians killed, 47 injured in BSF firing | Summons Indian envoy, lodges protest
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

RS Pura/Arnia, August 28
Three civilians, including two women, were killed and 17 others injured as Pakistan today targeted at least 20 villages and 18 Border Security Force (BSF) posts with mortars and automatic weapons along the 198-km International Border in Arnia and RS Pura sub-sectors of Jammu district.

Islamabad summoned Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan and lodged a protest over “unprovoked” ceasefire violations after the Pakistan Army claimed at least six civilians were killed and 47 others injured in firing by the BSF in the Charwa sector near the Sialkot working boundary.

Pakistan Rangers went full throttle early today using mortars and automatic weapons to target villages, including Kishanpur, Jeora Form, Jugnu Chak, Nawapind, Harna, Sia, Jabowal, Kot Kubba, Sai Khurd, Sai Kalan, Gharana, Gharani, Abdullian, Korotan Khurd and Chandu Chak.

Those killed were: Pawan Kumar Choudhary of Abdullian, Bimla Devi, aka Banso Devi, and Kanta Devi, both sisters-in-law, of Sai Khurd.

Bloodstains on the floors and walls, shattered windowpanes and dead cattle reflected a sordid tale of death and destruction unleashed by Pakistan.

The latest ceasefire violation comes days after six civilians were killed and 20 others injured in 11-day-long shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch.

The Director General-level talks between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers are scheduled from September 9 to 13 in New Delhi.

“Around 11.45 pm on Thursday, Pakistan troops fired at a BSF patrol team from its Thathi post near Aik Nullah in Arnia. They again targeted other ambush teams,” said Inspector General (BSF Jammu) RK Sharma.

“Despite provocation, our personnel didn’t retaliate but after some time they opened machine gun fire at one of our posts in the area.

We retaliated with restraint,” he said. Around 12.30 am, Pakistan Rangers fired 82 mm mortars at the post as well as Nawapind and Gharana villages, said Sharma.

“By 2 am, Pakistan spread the arc of fire and shelling to 18 posts and 20 villages. Around 4 am, the volume of fire increased and remained intense till 6.30 am. We didn’t initiate first fire but gave them a stinging response,” said the officer. The nine-hour duel ended around 9 am.

Pakistan Army and Rangers have stepped up unprovoked firing along the LoC and the international border after PM Narendra Modi met his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif at Ufa. The death toll in Pakistan shelling this month has risen to nine, including six in Poonch on August 15 and 16.

20 villages, 18 BSF posts targeted

    Pakistan Rangers targeted 20 villages and 18 BSF posts with mortars and automatic weapons for nine hours in Arnia and RS Pura of Jammu district
    The Jammu administration has opened makeshift shelters for villagers to take refuge from shelling in the RS Pura sector
    The death toll in Pakistan shelling this month has risen to nine, including six in Poonch on August 15 and 16
After ray of hope, OROP talks slip back into deadlock
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 28
Talks between the government and ex-servicemen on the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) today showed signs of a breakthrough only to later return to their original stance in the evening.

Retired soldiers sitting on a dharna at Jantar Mantar agreed to a “concession” this morning and offered a mid-way path to accept revision of pensions. After getting no response from the government till late in the evening, the “concession” was withdrawn.

In the talks between the government and the ex-servicemen, the government had proposed that the hike in pensions — to make them equal for same rank and same length of service — would be done once in five years.

Earlier during the day, Major General Satbir Singh (retd) of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) had said: “We have agreed to accept a biennial (once in two years) equalising of pensions instead of an annual equalising as per the demand.”

But, as the government did not respond till late in the evening, the offer was withdrawn. “We have withdrawn the offer for concession,” Major General Satbir Singh said.

The system of equalising the pension is crucial as the OROP entails same pension for all those who retired in the same rank with equal length of service. It means if the OROP is announced and implemented in 2015, a Colonel, who retired in 1985 and a Colonel who retired in 2014, will get equal pension. But once the period of regular equalisation is approved, their hikes will depend on it. Thus meaning the next revision would come two years later.
Indo-Pakistan imbroglio
Time for a new Indian strategy
INDO-PAKISTAN relations have two dimensions: the legacy of the bloody Partition of the subcontinent and the troubled political evolution of Pakistan in which the army acts as the state and the specific issues that interrupt the dialogue between the two countries for shorter or longer periods. Neither should come as a surprise because they are recurring themes which have a distinct resonance in the two very different domestic constituencies.

The Narendra Modi government started on the right note with Mr Modi inviting his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony, an invitation the latter accepted. But the promising beginning was marred by the abrupt cancellation of a first meeting of the two countries’ delegations last year by New Delhi’s objection to the Pakistanis’ meeting with Kashmir’s Hurriyat representatives before the formal talks.

Pakistan said such meetings were part of normal practice — in fact, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led coalition government had allowed Gen Pervez Musharraf to meet Hurriyat representatives during the Agra summit. And although the Indian contention that resolving Indo-Pakistan issues were a two-party exercise has some merit, Pakistanis were loath to give up the privilege they had acquired of meeting Kashmiri separatists, instead of the state’s elected representatives. And Mr Sharif has asserted that the Hurriyat is not a “third party”, as India suggests, but an intrinsic part of talks between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Against this backdrop, the Modi government acted clumsily in the lead up to the national security advisers’ talks that broke down. Indeed, the publicised outcome of the Ufa meeting between the two prime ministers did not mention the “K” word, an omission for which Mr Sharif had to face music at home. It is all very well for the External Affairs Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, to make the point that the scheduled talks were restricted to discussing terrorism issues, instead of the wider Kashmir ambit, but it is difficult to separate the two in practice.

Pakistan’s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz has suggested that talks between border security and military aides foreshadowed by the Ufa meeting can proceed nonetheless. If they do indeed take place, they can act as a speed breaker in the name-calling that inevitably follows a hiccup in the two countries’ relations. But India needs to focus on a hoary problem that does not go away. The “no-nonsense” approach the Modi government is so keen to convey to Pakistan must be underpinned by a strategy that makes sense in a situation described to me by a former Indian foreign service official in the Indian idiom, “You can never straighten the dog’s tail”.

It is well understood by the world community that Pakistan will continue to encourage infiltration into India in Kashmir and elsewhere and indulge in periodical firing across the Line of Control and the international border to keep the pot simmering. Nor is it surprising that Islamabad routinely denies infiltration attempts if a Pakistani infiltrator gets caught and makes haste to deny his nationality.

If any history lessons are to be drawn from the past, it is revealing that the closest India and Pakistan came to resolving major issues was during the regime of General Musharraf before his decline and fall frustrated hopes. The general, unlike his civilian predecessors and successors, did not have to look over his shoulder to seek the approval of Rawalpindi, headquarters of the Pakistan army. Second, he realised that a reasonable compromise meant concessions by both sides.

Mr Sharif is, therefore, far from unique in having to listen to the army’s “advice” on dealings with India. Unless the army is convinced that it gains more from seeking peace with India than in pursuing its policy of needling its larger and stronger neighbour through big and small pinpricks, it will continue to follow its present trajectory. And the Pakistan army’s hands are full in seeking to punish anti-Pakistan extremists at home while ensuring to preserve its influence in Afghanistan to consider relaxing tensions with India.

Yet there is no alternative to seeking a dialogue with Pakistan, however difficult the journey ahead. Judging by the assertion of Mr Aziz to an Indian television channel, Islamabad’s attempt is to mollify international, particularly the US, opinion on its intentions is as important to it as it is in India’s interest to project an attitude of reasonableness. In this respect, Ms Swaraj needs to do more homework to put her government’s policies across to the world.

For one thing, the two sides must finesse the Hurriyat issue, which cannot be converted into a permanent roadblock. There are ways Pakistan can seek Hurriyat’s views without a staged camaraderie in Pakistan high commissioner’s Delhi residence. For another, Islamabad should concentrate on substance, rather than symbolism, in promoting negotiations. Whether the Pakistan army will permit a meaningful dialogue to take place in future remains to be tested. The usefulness of back channel negotiations has been proved time and again by how close New Delhi and Islamabad came to a negotiated deal because such a procedure is carried out in the shadows. Meeting outside the subcontinent is an immediate option but can only be a short-term measure — for instance on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Modi government’s dilemma is that it is seeking a working relationship with Pakistan without damaging its cultivated macho image. Nothing energises the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rank and file supporters as much as a good spat with Islamabad. The Indian Prime Minister is conscious of the fact that foreign policy cannot be conducted on sentiment and has proved it in reaching out to the US, despite it denying him a visa for years after the 2002 Gujarat riots, that he is very conscious of Washington’s international clout, despite its supposed decline. New Delhi needs to go back to the drawing board to frame a new strategy in tackling a knotty relationship with an eye on what is practicable.
Indian army veterans boycott 1965 war carnival over pension reforms

While Indian leaders in New Delhi marked the anniversary of the 1965 war, retired personnel of the Indian army have boycotted the government’s ‘carnival’ over the failure to break the deadlock of the one rank one pension (OROP) issue, Hindustan Times reported on Friday.

Talks between the Indian government and its military veterans ended inconclusively on Thursday night, with a group of retired armed forces personnel walking out of a meeting held to decide a new pension package.

Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh had also held a meeting with the representatives of the veterans who have been protesting since the past 75 days demanding the implementation of the one rank one pension (OROP), but no significant development could take place.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee kicked off government celebrations of the 1965 war anniversary in New Delhi, paying tribute to soldiers who had lost their lives at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, a memorial at India Gate in central New Delhi.

In a tweet, Modi said: “As we mark the 50th anniversary of 1965 war, I bow to all brave soldiers who fought for our motherland in the war.”Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Thursday that, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mentioned about OROP in his speech on August 15. He will take a decision and will announce as and when time comes.”

The protesting retired military men who had served in the 1965 war said they would gather at Jantar Mantar to observe the golden jubilee and boycott the official function as the government has not yet implemented OROP.

The OROP scheme will ensure the same pension is paid to veteran of the same rank, regardless of when they retired. It is expected to benefit nearly 3 million defence pensioners and 600,000 widows.

The deadlock between the government and the veterans over the implementation of OROP remains over the increase in pensions as the veterans are demanded an annual increase while the Indian government has suggested an increment every five years.

Decorated veterans have in the past returned medals and signed petitions in blood to draw the government’s attention to the issue.

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