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Thursday, 1 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 01 Oct 2015

Pak terrorist gets life term for ’95 Jammu blasts
R Sedhuraman

Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 30
The Supreme Court today sentenced Pakistani terrorist Ghulam Nabi Guide to life imprisonment for his role in three powerful explosion at Jammu’s Maulana Azad Memorial Stadium in 1995 while the then Governor, General KV Krishna Rao, was addressing a gathering of about 40,000 persons on Republic Day.

Eight persons were killed and 18 injured in the explosions. The Governor, however, escaped the assassination bid. One of the bombs was planted near the dais. A Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and UU Lalit held 76-year-old Guide guilty on three counts—Section 302 of the Ranbir Penal Code for the murders and Sections 3 and 4 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) for acts of terror and harbouring terrorists.

The Bench, however, clarified that all three life sentences would run concurrently. The state government produced Guide in the court today, as directed by the Bench that had reversed his acquittal on July 1.

The Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist from Sialkot has served around 15 years in jail so far.

The state government pleaded that the sentences should run consecutively, but the Bench rejected the plea as it was a case of acquittal-turned-conviction. A designated trial court set up under TADA 1987 on March 2, 2009, had acquitted Guide on technical grounds and his co-accused Wasim Ahmed Malik for want of evidence. The third accused, Mohammed Irfan, could not be tried as he had escaped from the jail.

The trial court found fault with the recording of Guide’s confessional statement in Hindi, instead of his mother tongue (Urdu), by a CBI officer who normally used English for official work. The Jammu and Kashmir Government had come to the SC, challenging the acquittals.

According to the CBI, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had trained both Guide and Malik at its Sialkot office for planting bombs at the MAM stadium.

The SC had ruled on July 1 that there was nothing wrong in recording Guide’s confessional statement in Hindi and as such it was sufficient to convict the accused under TADA without any corroboration by other evidence.
Missile destroyer INS Kochi joins fleet
Navy has chalked out indigenisation plan for next 15 years, says Parrikar
Shiv Kumar

Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 30
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar commissioned naval warship INS Kochi, a stealth guided missile destroyer, here today.

After commissioning the warship, Parrikar said the Indian government was well on its way to build a strong naval force that would dominate the region.

“India is fully committed to building a real blue water Navy which will dominate the Indian Ocean region, but will be friendly to neighbouring countries,” Parrikar said.

“The Navy has chalked out an indigenisation plan for the next 15 years. There is renewed enthusiasm in the defence production units, PSUs and the private sector,” he told mediapersons on board the warship at Naval Dockyard here.

He said the Indian Navy had proved its mettle in the past year when it carried out a humanitarian operation to transport drinking water to Maldives after the country’s only water treatment plant suffered a major damage.

“While we have achieved significant indigenisation in the ‘Float’ component of warships, we are lacking in the indigenisation of the high-end ‘fight’ components,” Parrikar noted. He added that the Central government was working towards making the defence industry more self-reliant.

Naval Chief Admiral RK Dhowan said commissioning of INS Kochi was a milestone in the self-reliance programme of the Navy.

“Induction of INS Kochi, with her multi-dimensional combat capability, adds more teeth to the sword arm of the Indian Navy in discharging her duties of safeguarding national maritime interests,” he said.

INS Kochi is the second of the three Kolkata-class (Project 15-A) guided missile destroyers. It has been designed by the Directorate of Naval Design and built at the Mazagon Docks in Mumbai.

According to information from the Indian Navy, the Kolkata-class destroyers have advanced stealth features that allow it to pass undetected by enemy radar.

INS Kochi is equipped with advanced missile systems such as Brahmos Supersonic Cruise missile and long range surface-to-air missiles. It will also have a multi-function radar system.

Other weapons on its arsenal include four AK-630 rapid-fire guns and a medium-range gun for close-range defence capability, indigenously developed twin-tube torpedo launchers and anti-submarine rocket launchers.

While INS Kolkata was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year, the third in the series, INS Chennai, is under production. The INS Kolkata class stealth destroyers were first approved in 2000.
Sharif rakes up Kashmir at UN, proposes 4-point peace plan
United Nations, September 30
Raking up Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said the non-resolution of the issue reflected failure of the UN and proposed a 4-point "peace initiative" which includes demilitarisation of Kashmir and unconditional withdrawal of forces from Siachen.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, he also proposed restraint by both countries from "use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances" and formalisation of the 2003 border ceasefire as part of the formula to ensure peaceful ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

"Cooperation, not confrontation, should define our relationship," Sharif said while underlining the "primacy and urgency" of addressing the issues of Kashmir and peace and security between India and Pakistan.

At the same time, he insisted that "consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute, are essential to evolving a peaceful solution."

Contending that normalisation of relations with India has been his priority since he came to office, the Pakistan PM said the two countries "should address and resolve the causes of tension" and take all possible measures to avert further escalation.

"That is why I want to use the opportunity today to propose a new peace initiative with India, starting with measures that are the simplest to implement:      "One, we propose that Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir. For this purpose, we call for UNMOGIP's expansion to monitor the observance of the ceasefire. Two, we propose, that Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances. This is a central element of the UN Charter.

"Three, steps be taken to demilitarise Kashmir. Four, agree to an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battleground," he said.

While proposing the 4-point formula, Sharif said: "An easing of threat perceptions through such peace efforts will make it possible for Pakistan and India to agree on a broad range of measures to address the peril posed by offensive and advanced weapons systems."

He said: "Our people need peace to prosper. Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement."

"Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression. This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations," he said. — PTI
Punjab role in '65 war underplayed
Villagers provided moral and material support to the Army
September this year has been remarkable for numerous reasons. India marked the Golden Jubilee of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, which ended at midnight September 22/23 in a UN-brokered cease-fire. Prime Minister Modi left on September 22 on a six-day foreign tour that took him to Ireland and New York on the 70th anniversary of the UN, founded on June 26, 1945. The PM then headed to the Silicon Valley in California - an economic and technology power house, having a GDP of over $2.4 trillion, out-ranking India. It is also where Indian immigration commenced, the first Sikh settlers arriving in 1899. All three have relevance for Punjab.

The 1965 India-Pakistan war's 50th anniversary compelled the nation to pause and remember the martyrs, though perhaps not its strategic significance. Two events in Delhi need recounting. A former Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Aide de Camp to Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, the then Army Commander for the Western Command, released his book "The Monsoon War", co-authored by Lt Gen T. Shergill. A glossy volume, it is an authoritative account of major battles and operations supported by maps. Two days later, a function was held at the Sri Teg Bahadur Khalsa College, chaired by Union minister Harsimrat K. Badal, in the absence of her husband, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir S. Badal. Gen J.J. Singh, a former Army Chief, was the chief guest and I delivered the keynote speech. To my knowledge, no function of equal prominence was held in Punjab, though the war was critical to the fate of Punjab, as indeed India.

The 1965 war was the last credible opportunity for Pakistan to alter the status quo in Kashmir by force. While India was demoralised post 1962 drubbing by China and slowly re-equipping its army, Pakistan having convinced the US of its utility as an ally against communism, had been generously armed by the US with latest weapons since 1954. Also since the theft of Prophet Muhammad's hair in Srinagar in December 1963, the valley had been in turmoil. Sheikh Abdullah was released from house arrest in April, 1964, and allowed to travel to Pakistan on a peace mission. While driving to Muzaffarabad in occupied Kashmir he heard of PM J. Nehru's demise on May 27, 1964. Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded Nehru but few even in India thought he filled the vacated shoes.

In April, 1965, Pakistan tested its new weaponry and firepower in a limited fight in Kutch that soon ended in a cease-fire. In May 1965 Sheikh Abdullah was re-arrested when he met Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The valley was again disturbed. Meanwhile, US President Lyndon Johnson began to deepen military commitment in Vietnam, commencing US embroilment. President Ayub Khan, instead of assisting the US, as demanded by the US in view of their alliance, visited Beijing and Moscow in the summer of 1965. Pakistan had finalised Operation Gibraltar, so named after the entry point of the Moorish invasion of Europe in 711, to induct a mix of soldiers in civvies, tribesmen and volunteers, numbering around 3000 into the valley for sabotage and inciting insurrection. Even BBC reported on August 25 that such an operation was underway.

The plan was brilliant, but rested on three false assumptions. The first was that India lacked a decisive political leadership. The next that the Indian Army was equipped with Second World War weapons and still demoralised after the Sino-Indian war and thus would collapse. Finally, it was assumed that the Kashmir valley would rise in revolt. India, on discovering the seriousness of the incursions, attacked Pakistani posts commanding access to the valley. Once India captured the Haji Pir Pass on August 29, signalling the collapse of Operation Gibraltar, Pakistan on September 1 in desperation commenced an actual military attack called Operation Grand Slam in the Jammu sector to capture Akhnoor, thereby cutting off Indian access to the valley. There were hours when the outgunned Indian troops were on their last legs. But PM Shastri showed mettle, allowing the Army to counter-attack across the international border with a pincer move on Kasur, Lahore and Sialkot on Septmber 6. The war had come to Punjab.

The inflexion point for Punjab was when the Army Chief in panic, seeing Pakistan's superior and massed armour, asked Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh to withdraw behind the Beas river, which he refused merely on oral instructions. By next morning the same armour had been trapped and decimated. Why the role of Punjab, where villagers provided moral and material support to the Army, has not been adequately highlighted in saving the nation is a pity.

Turning to PM Modi's attendance of the UN Special Session on Sustainable Development on Sept 25-26, there are 17 goals for achievement by 2030, which follow the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000, for which the deadline ended this year. Fast-growing economies, particularly of the emerging nations, allowed many MDGs met in time or earlier. For instance, extreme poverty, calculated as income of $1.25 per day, was cut five years early. Others like diminishing female mortality were met 75 per cent.

The new 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) are more diverse but relevant for Punjab i.e. at number 15 is sustainable use of land. Punjab today faces a dropping water table in some areas and water-logging in others, increased use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides degrading the quality of water and crops like paddy, making water resources unsustainable. Punjab as India's bread basket must lead, not merely as a producer but a pioneer of sustainable practices. The Israeli Ambassador told me about a low water requiring rice variety under development. Similarly, while the Silicon Valley is important as a technology partner, Punjab needs the California model of sustainable and high-yield fruit, grape and nuts-based agro-industry. It is a pity PM Modi did not carry an agro-industry team with him or visit Yuba City, the Mecca of Punjabi farmers in that state.

The 1965 war re-confirmed Punjab as the sword arm of India, which decades of Khalistani militancy subsequently sullied. Similarly Punjab, though still India's granary, is stuck with an unsustainable agricultural model that is destroying its aquifers and impoverishing its peasantry. Only when elections are fought and won on such issues will real change be ushered, hopefully before the UN mandated 2030.
Of Manekshaw and Kenneth Keating
It was on July 11, 1976, when the late Prem Kumar, Special Correspondent of The Statesman, and I, then a Special Correspondent of National Herald, met the then Defence Minister, the late Bansi Lal, during his Chandigarh visit. He narrated to us two fascinating anecdotes.  One was about Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, a hero of the December 1971 war with Pakistan, and the other was about what had transpired between him and the new US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Keating, in 1969 when he was the Haryana Chief Minister.

Bansi Lal recounted: "When India won the 1971 war against Pakistan, I went to Manekshaw's house to congratulate him. Sam was having a drink. Knowing well that I did not consume liquor, he offered me a drink, saying: 'You are at the house of a victorious General. The victory is not celebrated over tea. You will not get tea today'. For over an hour I was there. But I was not offered tea!"

Bansi Lal next related what had happened during his meeting in 1969 with Kenneth Keating. The US Ambassador, accompanied by a US Embassy representative, called upon the Chief Minister during his Chandigarh visit. "The first question Keating fired at me was: 'When is Khalistan going to be formed?' I paused for two-three minutes during which time the Ambassador asked some other questions about political issues." Outspoken and blunt as he was, Bansi Lal told the Ambassador that "Punjab and Haryana are brethren. Till yesterday they were one and have to remain a part of the country. Punjab's intelligence tells me how money is being thrown around by the US in Punjab. I hope this will unburden the US of its surplus cash". He added: "I intently watched the reaction on their faces which showed that my poser had unnerved the Ambassador and his companion. The Ambassador soon left the room with his cup of tea half finished".       

Bansi Lal emphasised that his attempt was to let the Ambassador know that, irrespective of their differences, Indians were conscious of attempts being made by some foreign countries to divide them.

I believed that Kenneth Keating, being new to India, was not aware of the Punjab situation and the issues the state faced when he confronted Bansi Lal with the question about Khalistan. Several years later, I had to change my view as I felt that the US Ambassador's question, advertently or inadvertently, was giving away the secret plans of the Richard Nixon Administration about encouraging the separatist movement in Punjab. 

 A PTI report published in newspapers in July 2007 carried excerpts from "The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane" written by B. Raman, who had retired as Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, providing information about the CIA-ISI plans.

The report said the Nixon Administration had initiated a "covert action plan" in collusion with General Yahya Khan's government in 1971 to "encourage a separatist movement among the Sikhs for an independent state to be called Khalistan...In 1971, one saw the beginning of a joint covert operation by the US Intelligence community and Pakistan's ISI to create difficulties for India in Punjab…..The US interest in Punjab militancy continued for a little more than a decade and tapered off after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two Sikh security guarded on 31 October 1984".
Umbrella body not to back paramilitary OROP protest
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 30
The decision of the associations of retired paramilitary personnel to stage a protest demanding one rank, one pension (OROP) from November 2 in Delhi hit a hurdle today. The National Coordination Committee (NCC), the umbrella body of these associations, has stated that it would not support the agitation.

VPS Panwar, chairman of the committee known as the NCC of Ex-Central Paramilitary Forces Personnel Welfare Associations, said, “We want to clarify that as the National Coordination Committee, we have not approved the protest for OROP, nor are we supporting and participating in it because we feel that it is untimely and premature.

“Our point of view is different...that we should project this kind of demand at the right time. The demand of the defence forces for this has not been notified. We are trying to convince the other associations that this is not the correct time for you to project this demand.”

The National Coordination Committee is an apex body of all the ex-paramilitary force associations -- about 50 -- in India. Its main function is to raise their demands with the government.

The committee was set up in January after the Ministry of Home Affairs had requested the associations to create an umbrella organisation which would consolidate their requirements and project it to the government.

In a letter to all the retired paramilitary associations, dated September 19 this year, PS Nair, the national general secretary of the All-India Central Paramilitary Forces Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association, wrote that he had suggested to the National Coordination Committee to start a dharna to demand OROP, better pension and other benefits, but the committee had rejected the demand.
IAF revives aerobatics team after four years
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 30

The Indian Air Force has revived its daredevil aerobatic team Surya Kiran.

The team shall perform after a gap of four years on Air Force Day, October 8, at the Hindon airbase located east of Delhi.

Another aerobatic team riding the newly acquired Pilatus-PC 7 trainer aircraft will make its debut that day.

The Surya Kiran team will be flying the British-origin ‘Hawk’, a trainer jet produced by BAE systems, and not the ones used earlier – the Kiran MK-2.

The size of the team has been reduced from nine aircraft to four planes. The team was disbanded four years ago after the Kiran Mk-2 trainer jets used by the Surya Kiran team were diverted for training rookie pilots in the IAF.

The Kiran Mk 2 is used for intermediate training of pilots. However, after the grounding of the HPT 32 basic trainers, the IAF was forced to train pilots onboard Kiran Mk 2 that were actually meant for the second stage of training.

“The new SKAT (Surya Kiran aerobatic team) comprising four Hawk aircraft will make its maiden appearance at the Air Force Day parade. This will be followed by an aerobatic display by Pilatus,” said Group Captain Sundeep Mehta, spokesperson of IAF’s Western Air Command.

IAF pilots had been preparing onboard the Hawk for the past eight months as the top speed of the Hawk (1,028 km per hour) is much more than the 695 km per hour possible on the Kiran Mk 2.
NATO forces join Afghan troops to reclaim Kunduz
Kunduz, September 30
NATO said today its special forces are supporting Afghan troops in Kunduz after Taliban insurgents seized the city, fought off a counter-attack and advanced on the airport to shore up their biggest victory in 14 years.

Heavy fighting was underway near the northern city’s airport where government forces retreated, highlighting the potent challenge the militants pose after their lightning capture of Kunduz.

The Taliban’s occupation — now in its third day — raises troubling questions about the capabilities of Afghan forces as they battle the militants largely on their own after NATO’s combat mission ended last December.

The Afghan army was supposed to be bolstered by its own reinforcements for the campaign to retake Kunduz, but attacks on convoys making their way to the city meant that back-up troops were only trickling in.

“The Taliban have laid landmines and booby traps around Kunduz, slowing the movement of convoys of Afghan army reinforcements driving to the city,” an Afghan security official told AFP.

NATO said the foreign special forces had reached Kunduz and US forces conducted three air strikes around the city since Tuesday to support the Afghan troops. The forces comprised of US, British and German troops, a Western military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, without specifying the number. — Agencies
Army's elite counter-insurgency unit Rashtriya Rifles turns 25 tom

NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Rifles, Army's elite counter-insurgency unit which has neutralised over 16,300 terrorists, will celebrate its silver jubilee tomorrow.

The unit, which operates in militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir, was raised on October 1, 1990 by the then Army chief Gen V N Sharma with Lt Gen P C Monkotia as its first Director General.

Three of the six Rashtriya Rifles battalions initially raised, were deployed in Punjab and three in Jammu and Kashmir.

Impetus ..

Read more at:
SC seeks details of casualties suffered by Army in last 3 wars
The Supreme Court today asked the government to apprise it of the percentage of casualties suffered by various branches like the Armoured Corps, Engineering, Infantry and Artillery in last three wars fought by the nation.

The court, while hearing the appeal of the Defence Ministry against the Armed Forces Tribunal's decision to quash Army's 'command exit promotion' policy on the ground that it violated Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution, also sought a response on the issue of "batch parity" in promotion of army officers of the rank of Colonel and above belonging to various branches.

“You (Centre) give us the percentage of casualties suffered by various branches of Army in last three wars," the bench comprising Justices TS Thakur and Kurian Joseph said.

The direction came in wake of claim and counter-claim that Infantry and Artillery suffered more casualties compared to other wings like Engineering in conflict situations.

The court has now fixed the matter for further hearing on October 13 after senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for some Army officers, concluded his arguments alleging that the present promotion policy in Army provided an edge to officers of the Infantry and discriminated against officers belonging to other divisions.

Earlier, Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for some Army officers, had claimed the 2009 promotion policy was faulty.

The Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Centre, had opposed the submission saying that the existing policy gives "combat edge" to Army officers of some branches and it was never disputed in past.

Lekhi had said the position in the army was not like UPSC where promotions of IAS, IPS and other cadres are based on rankings. The successful candidates of NDA and CDS in the army were considered as a group and cannot be discriminated in promotions, she had contended.

The court had asked the Centre to file a response as to whether it had approved the Army's 'command exit promotion' policy which was quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) meant for officers of the rank of Colonel and above from January 2009.

The bench is hearing the appeal of the Defence Ministry against AFT's decision to quash Army's 'command exit promotion' policy on the ground that it violated Article 14 (right to equality) of the Constitution.

The apex court had on March 25 stayed the March 2 decision of AFT to quash Army's promotion policy.

Some army officers had claimed that the new promotion policy had adversely affected them as it was "arbitrary" and "highly skewed" in favour of Infantry and Artillery, as compared to other branches of the Army.

Lekhi is appearing for the main petitioners including Lt Col PK Choudhary on whose plea AFT had said that the 2009 promotion policy had resulted in preferential promotions to officers of select branches of Army and hence should be scrapped.

Some of the army officers had said that personnel of all combative divisions except Infantry and Artillery have joined the fight against the 2009 promotion policy.

In its appeal, the government had justified the promotion policy, saying the Army, being the employer, has a right to have its promotion policy and AFT should not have interfered in the "policy decision".

It further said the age profile of unit commanders in Pakistan and Chinese armies was 35 and 40 years respectively and hence the age limit of battalion commanders in Indian Army also needed to be less.

The government had in 2001 asked the Chief of Army Staff to refer the recommendations of AV Singh Committee (AVSC) on restructuring of the officer cadre of the Army. The AVSC report was aimed at reducing the age of battalion commanders. — PTI

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