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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

From Today's Papers - 08 Dec 2015
Sushma heads to Pak today amid signs of thaw in ties
May meet Sharif, Aziz as she attends conference on Afghanistan
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 7
After days of speculation, the government today said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would travel to Pakistan on Tuesday to attend the Heart of Asia conference. She is likely to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif besides Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistan PM on Foreign Affairs.

Edit: An unusual thaw in Bangkok

This comes a day after the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of the two countries — Ajit Doval and Naseer Khan Janjua, respectively — met in Bangkok accompanied by the two foreign secretaries. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will accompany the minister to Islamabad.

“External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to lead Indian delegation for ‘Heart of Asia’ 5th ministerial meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

The fact that India has decided to send Swaraj is a clear signal that India is willing to return to dialogue with Pakistan. This will also be the first significant interaction between the leadership of the two countries since July, when the two prime ministers met in Ufa, Russia.

While Ufa was seen as a breakthrough in the bilateral relationship, the bonhomie did not last long with Pakistan struggling to satisfy its domestic audience following the absence of Kashmir from the joint statement. The meeting of the two NSAs in Bangkok was the first concrete step forward, since Ufa. The two held discussions on terror and Kashmir, among other bilateral issues. The talks lasted four hours and followed directly, according to sources, from the brief meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif in Paris.

The talks between the National Security Advisers yesterday covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control), said a joint statement issued after the Bangkok meeting.

The talks between Doval and Janjua were held “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”, the statement added.

It is also after a hiatus of three years that the External Affairs Minister will travel to Pakistan. In 2012, SM Krishna had visited Pakistan for talks.

Swaraj’s visit, even though it is to attend a multilateral conference on Afghanistan, is significant from the point of view of the bilateral relationship. Her visit and the government’s willingness to step down from its demand that no talks with Pakistan are possible unless terror from across the border ceases is an indication that the government realises diplomacy and politics need to be separated.

The fact that Kashmir is back on the agenda, as evident from the joint statement issued in Bangkok after the NSAs’ meeting is another indication that the establishment here realises that while India wants to raise terror, they will have to let Pakistan raise Kashmir.

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Swaraj would brief both Houses of Parliament on the present status of Indo-Pak relations upon return.

“Sushma Swaraj will visit Pakistan tomorrow and once she returns, she will give a detailed statement about the discussions with Pakistan over issues, including terrorism. The government is fully prepared to give an updated status of Indo-Pak talks and this has been communicated to both Houses,” said Rudy outside Parliament.
7 CRPF men, civilian injured as ultras target convoy in Anantnag
Militants, in army fatigues, manage to escape unhurt after attack
Suhail A Shah

Bijbehara, December 7
Seven CRPF men and a civilian were injured after unidentified militants, wearing army fatigues, attacked a paramilitary convoy along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Bijbehara town of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, 45 km south of Srinagar city.

“All injured are being treated at different hospitals in Srinagar and are now out of danger,” said Anantnag SSP Abdul Jabbar.

He said the attack took place about 9:55 am on Monday when militant’s ambushed buses that were part of the Srinagar-bound CRPF convoy.

The injured CRPF personnel told mediapersons at the hospital that the attackers were in army fatigues. The attackers managed to flee unhurt after carrying out the attack. The injured CRPF personnel were admitted to the sub-district hospital in Bijbehara and later referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialised treatment.

“We treated eight CRPF men here. Seven had bullet injuries and one of them had some other injury apparently due to a fall at the site of the attack,” Dr GS Mehta, Medical Superintendent at sub-district hospital in Bijbehara.

He said the injured were in a stable condition but needed further medical attention.

The injured are from 53 Battalion and 189 Battalion of the CRPF. They have been identified as Sub Inspector Raja Ram and constables Sanjay Kumar, Om Prakash, S Gopinath, Shoban Nayak, Gurdeep Singh and Devinder Singh.

The injured civilian, Rayeed Ahmad Dar of Pulwama district, was evacuated to Srinagar with a bullet injury in his head.

Dar is being treated at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar, where one of his attendants told the media that he was sitting in a private bus just behind the attacked CRPF bus. “Doctors say that he is stable now,” the attendant added.

CRPF spokesperson Ashish Kumar Jha told The Tribune that the attack was a moment of grief for the force but praised his men for putting up a brave front.

“The driver of the attacked bus, despite getting injured, took the bus to safety. It is commendable how our men retaliated despite being taken by surprise,” said Jha.

Traffic on the national highway remained disrupted for about 40 minutes as the police and the CRPF cordoned off the affected stretch of the highway. A manhunt was launched immediately after the attack as the police, Army and the CRPF carried out extensive searches in the area.
Largest Destroyer Built for US Navy Headed to Sea for Tests
Bath, Maine:  The largest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy headed out to sea for the first time Monday, departing from shipbuilder Bath Iron Works and carefully navigating the winding Kennebec River before reaching the open ocean where the ship will undergo sea trials.

More than 200 shipbuilders, sailors and residents gathered to watch as the futuristic 600-foot (183-meter), 15,000-ton (13,600-metric ton) USS Zumwalt glided past Fort Popham, accompanied by tugboats.

Kelley Campana, a Bath Iron Works employee, said she had goose bumps and tears in her eyes.

"This is pretty exciting. It's a great day to be a shipbuilder and to be an American," she said. "It's the first in its class. There's never been anything like it. It looks like the future."

Bath Iron Works will be testing the ship's performance and making tweaks this winter. The goal is to deliver it to the Navy sometime next year.

The ship has electric propulsion, new radar and sonar, powerful missiles and guns, and a stealthy design to reduce its radar signature. Advanced automation will allow the warship to operate with a much smaller crew size than current destroyers.

All of that innovation has led to construction delays and a growing price tag. The Zumwalt, the first of three ships in the class, will cost at least $4.4 billion.

The ship looks like nothing ever built at Bath Iron Works.

The inverse bow juts forward to slice through the waves. Sharp angles deflect enemy radar signals. Radar and antennas are hidden in a composite deckhouse.

The builder sea trials will answer any questions of seaworthiness for a ship that utilizes a type of hull associated with pre-dreadnought battleships from a century ago.

Critics say the "tumblehome" hull's sloping shape makes it less stable than conventional hulls, but it contributes to the ship's stealth and the Navy is confident in the design.

Eric Wertheim, author and editor of the U.S. Naval Institute's "Guide to Combat Fleets of the World," said there's no question the integration of so many new systems from the electric drive to the tumblehome hull carries some level of risk.

Operational concerns, growing costs and fleet makeup led the Navy to truncate the 32-ship program to three ships, he said. With only three ships, the class of destroyers could become something of a technology demonstration project, he said.
ISI may have sold information about eastern theatre to the Chinese
KOLKATA: Did Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) arrange to sell information about Indian troop movement in the eastern sector to China? According to defence sources, Fareed Khan, an Indian Army personnel accused of espionage may have passed on some vital information about deployment of troops in the eastern and northeastern states over the last eight months. This information may not be too important for Pakistan but could be extremely crucial for China, now that India has strengthened defences along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"It is a known fact that the ISI is in regular touch with China. Recently, the ISI was instrumental in brokering a deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. This happened in China. There has been a lot of development in India'seastern and northeastern sector in the last few years. The Army's 33 Corps, based at Sukna in north Bengal, is of great strategic importance and is in charge of defences in Sikkim. Khan was posted to the 33 Corps after his deployment in Kashmir. It is likely that he collected vital information and sent it back to his handlers," an official said.

The defence ministry is certainly not taking any chances. The Army has recently raised a Mountain Strike Corps to bolster defences along the LAC. This Corps will be headquartered at Panagarh. A lot of new equipment have also been procured. Air Force Station Panagarh has also been upgraded and will get C-130J Super Hercules aircraft with strategic capabilities. China would certainly want to get more information on these developments. Air bases under the Eastern Air Command are also being upgraded.

"It is difficult for the Chinese to infiltrate the Indian system by themselves. The ISI, on the other hand, already has assets in India and can exploit weaknesses in the system quite easily. Both Pakistan and China can mutually benefit from any information ISI agents gather about the Indian armed forces. Pakistan can use this information as a bargaining chip. We have increased vigil at all military installations in north Bengal and the Northeast. This is no mean task as there are several bases spread across north Bengal. We are also carrying out special checks at strategic air bases like Hasimara and Tezpur. These bases are getting new assets like aircraft and missiles. Moles at such locations can do a lot of damage," the official added.

With India paying more attention to defence procurement now, China may not be as confident as in the past of its capabilities to steamroll across defences along the LAC. One of the greatest worries for China is the capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) which now has several more force multipliers than ever before. In the east and northeast, the Army and the IAF is also preparing to work in tandem to counter any attempt to breach the LAC. Only timely information about deployment and plans can give China that much needed edge in a short but sharp skirmish if it comes to that, a senior Army officer said.

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