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Saturday, 31 October 2015

From Today's Papers - 31 Oct 2015

Skirmishes can start war, China warns US
Asks Washington to stop its dangerous and provocative acts in South China Sea
China's Naval Commander told his US counterpart that a minor incident could spark off a war in the South China Sea, if the United States did not stop its “provocative acts” in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday.

Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement.

The two officers held talks after a US warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago on Tuesday.

China has rebuked Washington over the patrol, the most significant US challenge yet to territorial limits China effectively claims around its seven artificial islands in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.

"If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war," the statement paraphrased Wu as saying.

"(I) hope the US side cherishes the good situation between the Chinese and U.S. navies that has not come easily and avoids these kinds of incidents from happening again," Wu said. Speaking earlier, a US official said the naval chiefs agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes.

Scheduled port visits by US and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior U.S. Navy officers remained on track, the official said.

"None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been cancelled," said the official.

Both officers agreed on the need to stick to protocols established under the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

"They agreed that it's very important that both sides continue to use the protocols under the CUES agreement when they're operating close to keep the chances for misunderstanding and any kind of provocation from occurring," the U.S. official said.

Indeed, Wu said he believed the Chinese and U.S. navies had plenty of scope for cooperation and should both "play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea".

A U.S. Navy spokesman stressed Washington's position that U.S. freedom of navigation operations were meant to "protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law". Chinese warships followed the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, as it moved through the Spratlys on Tuesday. The U.S.

Navy is operating in a maritime domain bristling with Chinese ships. While the U.S. Navy is expected to keep its technological edge in Asia for decades, China's potential trump card is sheer weight of numbers, with dozens of naval and coastguard vessels routinely deployed in the South China Sea, security experts say.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. — Reuters
India, Russia to restart talks on fighter jets
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 30
Despite India and Russia still having ‘serious’ differences over the joint development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), the two-sides are set to immediately re-commence the stalled negotiation process on the plane. Talks have been stalled for the past two years.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will take up the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu at the annual meeting of the two ministers in Moscow, sources have indicated. Senior Indian Air Force (IAF) officers will be part of Parrikar’s delegation.

Parrikar has left for Russia and will be meeting the Russian minister on November 2.

Before that, he will visit St Petersburg on the north-west coast of Russia. He will be visiting the Admiralty shipyard that makes submarines and also runs a state-run research centre. Though the IAF had a demand of some 127 FGFAs, it has halved its demand to have just three squadrons (around 18 planes in each). It was first reported in The Tribune in its edition dated August 11.

There are two parts to the FGFA project. One is the research and development (R&D) contract for $11 billion for long-term development of the jet. It has been pending ratification since 2013. The second is the actual joint-production or manufacturing of the plane. The preliminary design stage of the FGFA programme was completed in June 2013 and India has so far spent Rs 1,483.15 crore on it.

As a result, the T-50 fighter jet has been built for the Russians under its PAK-FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) programme for the FGFA. The jet is already test-flying and is slated to be inducted into the Russian air force in 2016.

New Delhi wants a more powerful engine; a greater share in the joint-production and is looking to get some of the planes in an off-the-shelf deal and not wait longer as its fighter-jet fleet is dwindling.

New Delhi is likely to suggest to Moscow that the T-50 fighter jet could be supplied to the IAF while the research to improve upon the aircraft could be carried on simultaneously.
Top Chinese army general to visit India, Pakistan
China's highest ranking defence officer will visit India next month, the first in a decade as the PLA seeks to expand relations with the Indian military and increase mutual trust along the border amid a series of incursions by Chinese soldiers. General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the China's Military Commission, will visit India and Pakistan in the middle of November, Chinese defence spokesman, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun said at a media briefing here today.

These visits are regarded as part of Chinese military's efforts to expand ties with its Indian counterpart and solidify close defence cooperation with close ally Pakistan's armed forces. The purpose of the visit is to implement the consensus reached between the political leadership of the two countries and enhance friendship and mutual cooperation between China and the two countries, Yang said. While Fan's visit to Pakistan is seen as an attempt to solidify relations in the backdrop of China's USD 46 billion investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, his visit to India comes at a time when New Delhi and Beijing have made efforts to improve defence ties. Fan is the highest uniformed official whose rank is above that of the Defence Minister in China's military hierarchy.

The CMC is the over arching body of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), headed by President Xi Jinping who also heads the military and the ruling Communist Party of China (CMC). Indian officials say that in his three-day visit, Fan will hold talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and other top defence officials. A host of issues will be discussed including efforts by both sides to improve relations between the troops deployed along the disputed border in the backdrop of a number of tense standoffs.

The Chinese general's visit to India comes in the immediate backdrop of a meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) which since 2012 is focusing on resolving the tense standoffs arising out of Chinese troops' incursions into areas on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The standoffs began before the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to India as his first overseas destination soon after he took over the post in 2013 as a goodwill gesture.

The standoff in which Chinese troops pitched tents in Depsang area in Ladakh continued for several days before they withdrew.
Army to create 140 colonel posts for ‘support arm units’
NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, the defence ministry on Thursday admitted before the Supreme Court that it had made a mistake by distributing all 1,484 colonel posts among Army's combat units under the post-Kargil war 'command-and-exit' formula to lower the battalion commanding officer's age.

Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told a bench of Justices T S Thakur and Kurian Joseph that the allocation of colonel posts to just the combat units of Army was wrong and said defence minister Manohar Parrikar, in consultation with the Army top brass, had decided to create 140 more such posts to provide better promotion opportunities to lieutenant colonels in Army's support arm units - air defence, corps of engineers and corps of signals.
Of these 1,484 posts, 700-odd were distributed on pro-rata basis among different units. However, the manner of distribution of the second tranche of 700-odd colonel posts in 2009 during UPA regime was challenged in the Armed Forces Tribunal, which had ordered pro-rata distribution. This order was challenged in the SC by the defence ministry.

For months, the defence ministry kept defending the decision to confine the additional posts of colonels to combat units on the basis of the recommendations an expert committee headed by A V Singh, which had found the Indian Army's initial response to incursions by Pakistan regulars and infiltrators during Kargil war to be sluggish.

"The committee found that age of colonels, who command a battalion comprising 800-odd soldiers, was a little over 40 years while the same for Pakistan and Chinese armies was 37 years. The committee had recommended a command-and-exit policy by which colonels would serve as battalion commanders for two to three years and exit to a non-command post by the time they reach the age of 40. To bring down the age to 37 years, an additional 1,484 post colonels were created," the ministry had said.

However, after the bench headed by Justice Thakur made it clear that it was unfair to support arm units, the defence minister and the Army top brass reviewed the situation and offered to create 140 more posts of colonels for air defence, corps of engineers and corps of signals.

In a combative articulation of the fresh decision, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh informed the court that the government wanted to be fair to all sections of the armed forces and this made the bench call the ASG "General Singh". However, the ASG clarified that the normal promotional avenues would be available to Army Services Corps, EME and other non-combat units.

The bench termed the decision as "very fair" and told the ministry to ensure that these additional 140 posts were given to the meritorious among the support arm units on the basis of merit list drawn by earlier promotion boards. It asked the ASG to submit by November 19 the time-frame within which these 140 promotions to colonel posts would be effected.

Lead petitioner Lt Colonel P K Choudhary argued in person and alleged that the Army Service Corps was being discriminated against in promotion to colonel posts. But the bench brushed aside the charge saying he had chosen ASC wing on his own volition.

"Persons who want to get faster promotion in Army always choose a combat unit rather than a non-comabt unit like ASC. When the infantry is facing bullets, ASC men have a comparatively cushy job, their role being limited to supplying ration. We are not going to change the policy decision framed as per the report given by expert committee headed by A V Singh," the bench said.
Beef ban: Defence Ministry asks Indian army to stop buffalo slaughter ritual
The Defence Ministry of the Modi government under Manohar Parrikar has asked the Indian army to stop buffalo slaughter, reports an English daily.

The ministry has asked the army to ensure that none of its units indulge in the ritual slaughtering of buffaloes, which is an age-old tradition. Instructions have been issued to put an end to the practice of certain army units to behead a male buffalo during Dussehra, that is attributed mostly to Gurkha tradition.

The ministry accepted that the practice was traditional but said that 'laws have now changed', reports the daily. Interestingly, the government is using the 'animal cruelty' angle combined with the fact that buffalo slaughter is illegal by law, to push for this ban.

"It is understood that there may be some who wish to carry out this tradition but rules should not be bent. If there is such a need, rules can be followed and the animal can be taken to government authorized slaughter houses as per the law," said a top defence ministry source to the English daily.

The reaction to this diktat has been mixed. While some in the army welcomed the order, others have opposed the move.

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