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Friday, 16 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 16 Oct 2015

Lt Col Mithali to remain in service
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 15

The Supreme Court today directed the Army not to retire Lt Col Mithali Madhumita, the first woman officer to get gallantry award, from service till the disposal of her plea for permanent commission (PC).

A Bench comprising Justices TS Thakur and Kurian Joseph clarified that Lt Col Mithali would be entitled to salaries and other benefits, but not to pension, which would depend on her winning the case.

Mithali was slated to retire on November 14 and go on terminal leave from October 17. But this would not happen now.

Mithali’s counsel Aishwarya Bhati pleaded that the Army had denied her PC despite her distinguished service for 17 years and posting in strife-torn Afghanistan. She was the first female officer to win a gallantry award. She saved several lives following the February 26, 2010, Taliban attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Two SPOs-turned-militants killed in Doda encounter
Ranjit Thakur

Doda, October 15
Two special police officers (SPOs), who had deserted the police force last month in Doda to rejoin militancy, have been killed in an encounter with security forces in Gadi Nallah near Doda today.

Acting on a tip-off, a search operation was launched at Gadi Nallah by joint teams of the J&K Police and 10 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion last night.

A contact was established with militants around 3 am on Thursday. After being challenged, the terrorists fired indiscriminately on the security personnel. In the ensuing gun battle, two militants were killed at 4:30 am. An AK-47 gun and an Insas rifle were recovered from them. It is after four years that an encounter has taken place in Doda district, which has been almost free from the presence of militants, the police said.

The militants killed in the encounter have been identified as Ghulam Nabi Mangnoo, alias Maulvi, and Raiz Ahmed. The duo had fled from the police lines in Doda on September 7 night with an AK-47 and an Insas rifle with 60 and 70 rounds of ammunition, and joined the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.

Maulvi had surrendered as the district commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in 2010 and joined as an SPO while Raiz had surrendered as a Hizb terrorist in 2010. Maulvi had joined LeT in 2005 and Raiz had gone with Hizb in 1999.

Deputy Inspector General, Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban range, Nissar Ahmed said: “The duo had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit and were in constant touch with their masters through phones. They were killed in a joint operation by the police and the Army today. Militant outfits are trying to revive militancy in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts, but we are fully prepared to give them a befitting reply as we are aware of their activities.”

“We have maintained a strict vigil on the activities of surrendered militants and those working as special police officers with us as we have got the information that militant outfits are trying to contact them,” he added. The bodies of the slain militants have been handed over to their family for last rites.
Obama slows pace of US troop withdrawal
Washington, October 15
Reversing policy on Afghanistan, President Barack Obama announced on Thursday he would prolong the 14-year-old US military engagement there, effectively handing off the task of pulling out troops to his successor.

Calling it a "modest but meaningful" adjustment to winding down the American presence in Afghanistan, Obama said the United States will maintain a force of 9,800 through most of 2016.

Obama had previously aimed to withdraw all but a small US-embassy based force in the capital, Kabul, before he leaves office in January 2017. Under the new plan, troops will be drawn down to 5,500 starting sometime in 2017 and will be based at four locations — Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar.

Afghanistan's stability is vital to the United States and Afghan troops who are now in charge of security are not yet as strong as they need to be, Obama said, adding, "If they were to fail, it would endanger the security of us all."

Asked by a reporter if he was disappointed in having to make the decision, Obama said he was not and added, "This isn't the first time those adjustments have been made. This probably won't be the last." "I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next president," he said.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission after 13 years of war at the end of 2014, and Afghan troops have since been in charge of the country's security, with help from U.S. and NATO troops.

But Afghan forces have struggled in assaults from Taliban militants, who briefly took over the northern city of Kunduz.

Obama acknowledged militants are still capable of launching deadly attacks on cities including Kabul. US troops will remain out of combat roles, training and advising Afghan forces, and ensuring that any al Qaeda remnants do not pose a threat to US security, Obama said.

Obama has faced steady criticism from Republicans on security issues as he has pursued a policy of winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that he inherited when he first took office in 2009. — Reuters
Syrian army, Russian jets target rebel-held towns
Beirut/Amman, Oct 15
Syrian troops and their allies, backed by Russian jets, attacked rebel-held towns north of the city of Homs on Thursday, targeting a long-held and strategic enclave of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

The offensive that began before dawn builds on over a week of ground attacks launched with Russian air support in areas of western Syria that are crucial to Assad’s survival and held by rebel groups other than Islamic State.

Syrian state television, quoting a military source, said the army had begun a military operation in the area after heavy air strikes and artillery barrages early on Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group which monitors Syria’s four-year-old civil war, said at least five civilians and six insurgents had been killed in Teir Malla, about 3 miles (5 km) north of Homs city. A resident said at least 25 people were killed including, Rawad al Aksah, a commander of insurgent group Liwaa al-Tawhid. — Reuters
1 hurt in Pak firing at Indian fishing boats
Ahmedabad, October 15
At least one fisherman from Gujarat was injured in firing today by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (MSA), which captured 24 fishermen in all and seized four of their boats near International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) off Gujarat coast.

According to the Secretary of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) Manish Lodhari, the incident took place this afternoon off Jakhau coast in Gujarat.

“We learnt from other fishermen that MSA personnel came on a boat and opened fire on some fishing boats near IMBL this afternoon. One fisherman has been injured in the firing. MSA also captured 24 fishermen including the one injured and also seized four of their boats and took them to Karachi port,” said Lodhari.

“We are not aware about the status of the injured fisherman. More details would emerge after other fishermen arrive at the coast,” he added.

This is the second incident of firing on Gujarat fishermen within one month. Earlier on September 18, one fisherman from Okha port was killed in the firing near IMBL. — PTI
Army may rehabilitate, not euthanise, retired animals it deems ‘unfit’N
Shaurya K Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 15
The Army is contemplating to send its animals to serum institutes for vaccines to be tested on them, until it formulates a rehabilitation policy for the brethren in arms of soldiers, instead of euthanising them.

The Defence Service Regulations (DSR) states that horses which suffer from birth abnormalities, such as an abnormal gait, and are dangerous for riders, can be sent to a serum institute. In 2012, the Army had sent four horses to the Serum Institute of India in Pune.

“At these institutes, an antigen is injected into a horse. Its body produces antibodies, which is extracted to produce vaccines. In other cases, vaccines such as tetanus toxoid for tetanus, a bacterial disease and anti-snake venom are tested on the horses. It is inhumane,” said sources.

The Army is mooting a proposal to set up nodal rehabilitation centres at each command zone to keep retired animals, mainly horses and dogs, which are in the category of “old and worn out cases”, for the rest of their lives.

“There will be vets to check them for injuries and diseases. The rehabilitation should be within the Army’s resources rather than involving NGOs,” said sources.

An Army vet said the reason for the policy of euthanising such animals is, “The Army looks after its animals very well. Lakhs of rupees are spent on their ration and welfare. If they are sent to a civil environment, it may be subject to abuse, like it could be used to pull tongas and lift weights. To avoid the abuse, we euthanise the animals.”

The Army vets give an overdose of anaesthesia to euthanise such animals. In another category called “incurable veterinary cases”, animals which are incurably injured, are also put to sleep in a similar manner. Under the DSR, in the “old and worn out cases” category, if a horse is 18 years old and above and a dog eight years old and above and are considered unfit then they will be euthanised.
Top-ranking Chinese general to visit India next month 'to boost military ties'

The top-ranking General of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will visit India next month, in what is being billed as the highest-level visit by the Chinese Army to India in over a decade.

General Fan Changlong, the vice-chairman of the PLA’s Central Military Commission (CMC), will travel to India next month to boost military ties, sources told Mail Today.

The visit is being seen by Beijing as the most significant military visit from China to India in a decade

The CMC is the most powerful decision-making body of the Chinese military. While it is chaired by President Xi Jinping, the two vice-chairmen are the highest-ranking PLA Generals. The other vice-chairman is General Xu Qiliang, a former PLA Air Force Commander.

The last visit by a CMC vice-chairman was in 2004, when General Cao Gangchuan, who was also the defence minister, travelled to India. Since then, visits by top PLA generals have become rare, underlining the wariness in high-level military exchanges.

In 2006 and 2008, the PLA’s Air Force and Navy chiefs paid visits, while in 2012 Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie, who was then a member of the CMC but not a vice-chairman, had travelled to India.

The visit by General Fan is being seen in Beijing as a significant step towards taking defence ties forward. His visit will follow a number of recent moves to expand confidence-building measures (CBMs) and ensure stability on the border.

Last week, both sides reviewed existing CBMs as a border consultation and coordination mechanism met in Beijing and reviewed steps to expand border personnel meeting points and direct lines of communication between military commands.

The idea is to prevent a recurrence of stand-off incidents, which have recently cast a shadow on defence ties.

In August, both sides held a first personnel meeting at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the newest and fifth border personnel meeting point along the border, and the second in the Western sector.

The four other meeting points are in Ladakh, Sikkim and two in Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern sector.

This week, India and China are also holding the fifth round of annual defence exercises in Yunnan, in south-western China, which will involve 10 days of counter-terrorism joint operation drills.

Both sides are keen to upgrade the exercises, which will conclude on October 22.

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