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Monday, 21 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 21 Sep 2015

Indo-Pak flag meeting today
Army officers to focus on truce violations; last flag meet took place 20 months ago
Amir Karim Tantray

Tribune News Service

Jammu, September 20
Amid the increasing hostility between India and Pakistan, brigade commanders on both sides will hold a flag meeting at Chakan da Bagh crossing on the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch tomorrow, more than a year-and-a-half after the previous meeting.

Field officers last met on January 14, 2014, and discussed the prevailing situation. Since then, they were trading bullets and shells.

Now, when hostility has reached its peak and people on both side are facing the heat, India and Pakistan decided to hold a flag meeting 20 months after the last meeting. The meeting will focus on ceasefire violations on the LoC and its fallout.

Udhampur-based defence spokesperson SD Goswami said field commanders would discuss modalities to defuse the tense situation. “Ceasefire violations escalated in the last few days and resulted in a large number of civilian casualties and collateral damage to property,” he said.

Relations between the two countries are on the decline and both sides have been accusing each other of violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement. Due to truce violations on the LoC, six civilians and a Border Security Force (BSF) assistant sub-inspector have been killed. Scores of people have received injuries and there has been extensive damage to property as well.

Pakistan has violated the truce agreement 267 times so far this year. Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing 57 times in August alone.

Even after holding talks between Directors General of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers in New Delhi on September 9, there was no let-up in shelling and firing on the LoC.

Though the BSF and Rangers are mainly looking after defence on the international border, it was expected that the meeting could have an impact on the LoC as well. But firing and shelling continued on the LoC.

Now, all eyes are on the scheduled flag meeting at the Chakan da Bagh to bring some respite to people living on both sides of the LoC.
New MoD rules set to benefit cantt civilians
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
More than 20 lakh civilians residing for decades on land owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are set to have better living conditions with the ministry working new guidelines for Cantonment Boards.

Currently there are 62 cantonments in the country located in 19 states and fall under the jurisdiction of five Army Commands. Ambala, Jalandhar, Kasauli, Ferozepore, Meerut, Dehradun, Fardidkot and Mamum ( near Pathankot) are some of the major cantonments in north India.

The total area covered by the cantonments is 1,86, lakh acres with a population of 20.91 lakh (as per 2011 Census).

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar while addressing the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his ministry said: “The government is committed to resolving the problems faced in cantonment areas.” This would include weeding out archaic provisions and replacing these with more realistic rules. The meeting was held in Goa today.

A number of representations have been made to the MoD about the difficulties faced by civilian residents of cantonments.

These relate to closure of roads in cantonments, problems connected with the works of Defence Act, 1903, inordinate delay in transfer and mutation of properties held on old grant or lease, sub-division and change of purpose, resumption of properties held on old grant, renewal of expired leases, conversion of old grant or leasehold sites in civil areas of the cantonments into freehold and restriction on construction of building and revision of building bye-law.

The establishment of cantonments started during the British period with the need for quartering the troops. Housing was the core objective.

Taking part in the discussion, Members of Parliament have suggested that the government should endeavour to build “Smart Cantonments” on the line of Smart Cities.

MoD spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said: “Some MPs felt that MoD should take immediate steps to improve the living conditions of civilian populace in cantonment areas.”

One suggestion was to allow existing owners to carry out repair and restoration work of the buildings and automatic extension of leasehold of property, Kar said.

The MPs were later shown the shore-based test facilities of the Navy. Members of Parliament who attended the meeting included Raj Kumar Singh, Anil Shirole, Prof Saugata Roy, VP Singh Badnore, Dr Mahendra Prasad, TK Rangarajan and M Patil Vijaysinh Shankarrao.
12 years on, Brigadier gets war injury pension
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 20
Around 12 years after he retired, a Brigadier has finally won a battle for grant of war injury pension for wounds that were sustained while serving in an operational area in 1998.

The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Force Tribunal comprising Justice Prakash Krishna and Air Marshal SC Mukul observed that the petitioner, Brig Vir Pal Singh’s case was covered not only by government policy on the subject but also by interpretation of the said rules by the court, including the Supreme Court.

The officer, while commanding an infantry brigade, had been directed to carry out an operational recce under Operation Rakshak in the Rajouri sector of Jammu and Kashmir in 1998, when he met with an accident and sustained injuries in his spine and knee.

The incident was classified as a battle casualty by a duly constituted court of inquiry, but on retirement he was granted only normal disability pension and not war injury pension as was admissible. The release medical board also recorded that his disability was incurred in field area under Operation Rakshak.

He contended the Government of India’s letter issued in 2001 entitles all cases of injuries and accidents taking place in areas where operations are notified to war injury pension on disability.

A special Army order of 1985 clearly provides that injuries sustained during maintenance of internal security or aid to covil authorities are classified as battle casualties for financial purposes. Despite these rules, the petitioned pointed out that his claim for war injury was rejected by the government on the pretext that his injury was not covered under the regulations.
Showcasing India's Win in 1965 War, 'Shauryanjali' Exhibition Opens
New Delhi:  A six-day exhibition, "Shauryanjali" showcasing major battle scenes and captured tanks of the Pakistani Army during the 1965 war, started at central Delhi's Rajpath today, as a part of golden jubilee celebrations of the war.

The exhibition will give the public a chance to view captured Pakistani Patton and Sherman tanks as well as the milestone reading "Lahore 13 km" that was brought back by the Indian Army, showcasing how deep the troops had entered into Pakistan.

At the opening ceremony, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said, "I feel that the 1965 war was the first major war that India won. Some people raise the question whether India won or was there a stalemate. Even as a nine-year-old kid, I was of the firm opinion that India won hands down."

For finance minister, Arun Jaitley, it was a walk down memory lane. He said, "I remember as a young school boy, when our armed forces were defending our borders, the whole country used to be tuned into the radio, supporting the armed forces emotionally and materially."

The six-day event will also see manoeuvre by fighter jets and stunts by para troopers.

Spread over 700 metres at Rajpath, 28 exhibition halls recreate the role of Army, Navy, Air Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Media, Prasar Bharti, International Red Cross and others.

Mr Jaitley released a commemorative coin while Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad released three commemorative stamps.

Mr Prasad said that the soldiers had brought back the prestige of the country in 1965 after the loss in the 1962 war against China.

India had captured 1,920 kilometres of Pakistani land while Pakistan had taken control over 540 kilometres of Indian territory in the 1965 war. In total, 2,862 soldiers gave up their life protecting the motherland and 211 of them were given gallantry awards.

Among those martyrs was the celebrated Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, a soldier in the 4th Battalion of The Grenadiers of the Indian Army. He was the posthumous recipient of India's highest military decoration, the Param Vir Chakra.
Has GoI conceded Daulat Beg Oldie?
In April 2013, reported incursions of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in Daulat Beg Oldie in the cold desert region of Ladakh made mainstream Indian media hysterical but last month PLA hosted Indian Army at the same location.
Does it imply that the Government of India (GoI) has given up its claim on Daulat Beg Oldie?
PRO Army, Lt Col Manish Kumar said Indian Army and the PLA differ in perception regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which divides the territories between India and China.
The 4056-km long LAC passes through Jammu Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Lt Col Kumar said there was a mechanism in place for border post management and the two armies were holding border post meetings at different locations.
Defence sources said earlier the Indian Army only held border post meetings with the Chinese Army at Spanggur, Nathu La and Bumla but now the two armies have added two more sectors at Daulat Beg Oldiee and Kibithu.
Daulat Beg Oldie comes under the domain of 14 Corps.
PRO Defence Northern Command, Col S D Goswami said LAC is matter of perception and if the PLA ventures into the Indian territory, Indian Army ventures into Chinese territory.
“If they come here, we also go there,” he said.
Col Goswami said the two armies conduct patrolling of the areas as per their perception.
However, he said one thing was sure that Daulat Beg Oldie was not on the Chinese side.
“Daulat Beg Oldie for sure is on our side,” Col Goswami said.
In April 2013, Daulat Beg Oldie region, a historic spot on the famed Silk Route, was in news over reports of Chinese incursion.
The confrontation between the two armies had reached to such a level that the Indian Air Force (AIF) landed its biggest war plane C 130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft at the world’s highest Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip, which is located at 16,614 feet in the Aksai Chin.
An airstrip in Daulat Beg Oldie was built during the Indo-China War in 1962 and came into prominence when packet aircraft of the IAF operated between 1962 and 1965.
After the 1962 war, India claimed that China was occupying about 33,000 sq km of its territory in the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh.
In response, China alleged that India was occupying 90,000 square km and even went on saying that Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is actually part of its territory.
Both New Delhi and Beijing have tried to mend their relations over the decades.
However, China's oft repeated claim for Arunachal Pradesh and Beijing’s proximity with Islamabad is not going well with New Delhi.
Likewise, India’s posture on Tibet initially and providing asylum to Dalai Lama was taken seriously by China.
Each side has been improving its military and logistics capabilities in the region and reinforcing their capabilities in the area, despite showing interest in negotiations.
The airbases that India of late has started reconstructing were built for troop movement prior to 1962 war but abandoned by the Indian Army in 1966.
However, the situation along LAC has been relatively peaceful since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China earlier this year but whether or not the peace is a result of GoI having given up Daulat Beg Oldie remains to be seen.
India set to buy Apache, Chinook helicopters; Advancement in M777 gun deal ahead of Modi's US visit
In a move that might further strengthen Indo-US defence ties, India has reportedly approved the much-delayed deal to buy 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook helicopters from the US.

The Indian Finance Ministry has given green signals to the deal, which has been pending approval for the last three years. The new development comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US where he will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York and also meet US President Barack Obama.

The deal will be taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in its meeting on Tuesday and is expected to be cleared, as the Defence Ministry had cleared the proposal back in April 2015.

"We have conveyed our no objections to the deal being considered by the CCS," Hindustan Times quoted a senior Finance Ministry official.

The deal has survived 13 price extensions from US defence major, Boeing, that manufactures the copters. Though the deal will cost India $3.1 billion, it will be worth every penny since India still uses vintage Soviet Union/Russian attack and heavy-lift choppers.

The 22 Apache AH 64D Longbow helicopters are the world's most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, featuring all-weather and night fighting features, ability to track up to 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16, stealth characteristics, glass cockpit, advanced sensors and beyond visual range missiles. India will also be acquiring Hellfire missiles and around 8,000 rockets.

Apache AH 64D Longbow was chosen after Indian armed forces pitted it against Russia's Mi-28 following the withdrawal of Eurocopter's Tiger and AgustaWestland's A129 Mangusta from the competition.

The 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift copters with tandem rotors will add an edge to Indian air-lift capabilities. The Chinook choppers are multi-role, with its primary mission being transport of troops, artillery, equipment, and fuel.

The Indian Air Force will be greatly benefited by its acquisition as they will also be used for inserting troops in high altitude areas. They can also carry M777 howitzers via slings. The Chinooks were pitted against Russian Mi-26. The deal will also have the option of purchasing another six.
CH-47 'Chinook' helicopter
India will acquire 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift from US.Reuters

Meanwhile, IHS Jane's has reported about the fast-tracking of the delayed acquisition of 145 BAE Systems M777 155 mm/39 calibre lightweight howitzers for the Indian Army. The deal is being done through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and both the countries are working together drafting the letter of acceptance (LoA), which is being worked out by consultations between the Defence Ministry and the Pentagon.

Delivery schedules, guarantees, after-sales technical service, materiel, and spares support are all included in the LoA. The deal will be worth $700 million.

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