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Saturday, 2 January 2016

From Today's Papers - 02 Jan 2016
Two intruders reported killed; policemen were kidnapped yesterday; NSG flown in
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, January 2
The Air Force station at Pathankot was attacked by terrorists in the wee hours this morning. Two Air Force personnel were reported killed at the station gate, while two of the assailants were shot dead in the exchange of fire that was triggered. In all there were four or five attackers at the site, though more were suspected to have infiltrated from Pakistan.

Even as the National Security Guard was being mobilised, the terrorists were believed to have been contained in the domestic area of Pathankot Air Force Station; technical area of the airbase was safe. No damage to Air Force assets was reported thus far. The exchange of fire is still going on.

The attack comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unscheduled visit to Pakistan.

The intruders wearing Army uniforms were suspected to have entered the Air Force premises near the Chakki river in an official vehicle.

Helicopters were also dispatched to the area for assistance in the operation, DIG (Border) Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh told ANI.

A security alert was sounded in the area earlier on Friday when an SP-rank officer reported that five militants in Army fatigues and armed with rifles and grenades had abducted him and two of his acquaintances from a Pathankot village near the international border. He said he was set free an hour later, 35 km away.

The recovery of the body of a 24-year-old, Ikagar Singh, from the kidnapping site had deepened the mystery.

Former Gurdaspur SP (Headquarters) Salwinder Singh, who was transferred two days ago as Assistant Commandant, 75th Battalion, PAP complex, Jalandhar, told investigators that he, Gurdaspur-based jeweller Rajesh Verma and his cook Mohan Lal were on their way to a religious place in his car when they were kidnapped in Kolian village, that is covered by the Narot Jaimal Singh police station.

He said that the kidnappers threw him off the vehicle and slit Verma’s throat. Verma is recuperating at a hospital in Pathankot. The other two were pushed out likewise and the car, with a blue beacon, was abandoned near Tajpur village, he said.

Stunned, Additional DGP (Law and Order) HS Dhillon, IG (Border) Lok Nath Angra, DIG Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh and Gurdaspur and Pathankot SSPs Gurpreet Singh Toor and RK Bakshi rushed to Pathankot.

“In the light of the Dinanagar attacks, we are taking extra caution. The officer’s claims are being verified,” said a senior officer.

After the incident, the BSF and neighbouring police districts were put on high alert. Dhanpreet Kaur, Hoshiarpur SSP, set up base at Mukerian, 30 km from Pathankot.

Gurdaspur and Pathankot police teams had begun search operations. Salwinder Singh wass already facing charges for breach of discipline. The Pathankot SSP said on receiving a call at 2.30 am that militants had kidnapped an SP-rank officer in the Narot Jaimal Singh area, he, DSP Kuldeep Singh and the Narot SHO started a search operation.

“At, 3.15 am, the control room received another call that the SP and his car had been spotted near Tajpur village following which we took the officer to Pathankot,” he said.

In a very similar attack on July 27, 2015, three terrorists had sprayed bullets on a bus and stormed a police station in Dinanagar town in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, killing seven persons, including an SP, before they were gunned down during a daylong operation.
A brief stopover may lead to lasting peace
The constant but elusive factor in any India-Pakistan accident-prone Track I dialogue is how to insulate the process from spoilers and make it outcome-oriented.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's drop-by diplomacy in Lahore has set a new paradigm in summitry: doing away with sherpas. It is designed to catalyse the peace process, grounded over ego and who sets the agenda. The argument over terrorism or Kashmir first is not a new one, though this is the first time any Indian  Government took a stand on terrorism first. No one, though, has explained adequately how the India-Pakistan dialogue process, stalled since the beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC in January 2013, was revived in a matter of six days following the three-minute meeting between Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the Climate Change summit at Paris on November 30.

India was forced into taking the initiative for restoring the dialogue process having cancelled twice in full media glare, scheduled meetings first between Foreign Secretaries and then the National Security Advisers (NSAs). The hurried ice-breaker at Bangkok was imperative for enabling External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's passage to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan on December 8 and 9. It was vital that  Swaraj attend the conference as Pakistan has invariably questioned New Delhi's legitimacy as a stakeholder, saying it is not even a neighbour of Afghanistan. The Pakistan army has apparently relented so long as New Delhi confines its activities to economic and development programmes.

The security situation has plummeted so rapidly in Afghanistan after the strategic debacle at Konduz that US, in order to make a clean exit, is relying entirely on Pakistan to restore the reconciliation process between Kabul and the Taliban. On the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference, US, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan discussed the urgency of restoring the failed Murree talks of last July. India has regularly pointed to the anomalies of the reconciliation process, most significantly making it Pakistan-led and Pakistan-owned whereas it should be Kabul-led and Kabul-owned. The emerging geostrategic battleground is Afghanistan, where both US and China are clearly batting for Pakistan's primacy not just in the reconciliation dialogue but also in a post-conflict scenario. As Afghanistan is India's western strategic anchor, it has to hang in and ensure the transformation process is not hogged by Islamabad. At the Heart of Asia conference, Swaraj announced that India (after a decade of dithering) had decided to strengthen Afghanistan's defence capabilities. Recent events in Afghanistan, along with Narendra Modi's first visit to Kabul on Christmas Day, his historic speech in Afghanistan's new Parliament built by India in which he said we will not compete with Pakistan and   his touchdown at Lahore will help in accelerating the revival of the India-Pakistan peace process.

Regardless of the ungenerous remarks by sections of the media and government about Track II institutions, it can be affirmed that these have played a substantive and positive role in shaping decisions on normalisation of relations. They have by and large kept pace with  policy outcomes and in the case of CBMs been way ahead of governments. Take the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-sponsored India-Pakistan dialogue: “How to Transform the Process,” held at Bangkok in October 2015. This  dialogue started after the attack on Parliament and has continued uninterrupted. The constant but elusive factor in any India-Pakistan accident-prone Track I dialogue is how to insulate the process from spoilers and make it outcome-oriented. No mechanism exists at Track I to ensure this. Between 2004 and 2008, four-and-a-half rounds of the Composite Dialogue were held, with the fifth round slated in Pakistan when 26/11 happened and dialogue was stopped. In 2010, talks restarted as Resumed Dialogue and two-and-a-half rounds were held till the beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC in January 2013 again stopped the dialogue.

At the Bangkok Track II dialogue, both sides focussed on the central issue of breaking the stalemate over sequencing of talks and assuaging each country's core concerns over terrorism and Kashmir and India's insistence on discussing terrorism first. The Bangkok statement called for both core concerns to be discussed simultaneously, even if optically they were sequential. While the dialogue process required a changed narrative to transform the process, some of it should be back channelled, it was recommended.

Following the Track I at Bangkok on  December 6, the transformed dialogue process is named Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. It followed the principle of simultaneity and segregation and was back channel. While terrorism is in a standalone basket overseen by NSAs, Kashmir and other old and new issues are in the second basket, handled by Foreign Secretaries and relevant government officials.

So far, it is a win-win situation, resulting from one of the fastest transformative processes in the history of India-Pakistan dialogue process.  It is a pity that Afghanistan, which is currently the pivotal issue which India had long sought to be added as the ninth item on the Composite Dialogue, has not found a place in the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. New Delhi must try to have it included at the Foreign Secretary talks on January 15-16, 2016 at Islamabad even if it requires to be  bracketed with Balochistan.

One reason for optimism on the transformed dialogue process is that the Pakistan army is believed to be on board. Almost no one in Pakistan is contradicting this assumption which makes strategic sense, though Inter-Services Public Relations is silent on the new arrangement. The appointment of Lt Gen (retired) Nasir Khan Janjua, known to be General Raheel Sharif's man, as the new NSA is offered as evidence that the army will not rock the boat. Red lines if any marked by him will not be known anytime soon.

 New Delhi has racked its brains over opening a legitimate and democratic line to the Pakistan army. Whether this is a good enough mechanism to help understand the thinking of the Pakistan army, only time will tell. General Raheel Sharif is the ultimate arbiter of India-Pakistan relations and after subduing terrorism in Pakistan, a hugely popular man. 'Thank you Raheel Sharif' posters adorn army cantonments. His veiled criticism of the government failing to follow up with civilian sector reforms after the success of his counter-terrorism drive drew this response: "The military must remain within the ambit of the constitution". As an afterthought, ISPR added: “General Sharif supports democracy unwaveringly”. Narendra Modi's spectacular personal diplomacy has at once silenced the critics of his flawed Pakistan policy. By his bold, courageous and impromptu Confidence-building measure (CBM) at Lahore, he has raised expectations about his neighbourhood-first policy, adding a local flavour: "Ab to yahaan aana jaana rahega". He has taken a big risk that could go either way. Still 20 months were lost pursuing an illusory muscular policy.
A trimmed R-Day Parade this year
Celebrations cut short by 25 mins to break monotony, address security concerns
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
This year’s Republic Day Parade will be shorter by 25 minutes to address security concerns and break the monotony of witnessing repetitive marching contingents of uniformed personnel.

The parade, which marks the country’s annual show of military might and cultural diversity, will be 90 minutes long, down from 116 minutes in 2015. Even “Beating the Retreat” on January 29 to mark the end of the Republic Day celebrations will see new “fusion” music instead of the long tradition of only military music.

The march-past — conducted down the Rajpath, New Delhi’s central vista at the India Gate — has been trimmed in terms of number of marching contingents. The parade is organised by the Ministry of Defence.

Officials said the decision had been taken at the “highest level”. After a review of last year’s parade, in which US President Barack Obama was the chief guest, it was felt the march-past was too long, said senior officials today.

The authorities also took into view the monotony of witnessing almost-identical marching contingents and the security risk surrounding VVIPs, who remained seated for longer periods out in the open.

Unlike previous R-Day celebrations, all tableaux and music bands will be showcased for three days — till January 29 — at the Red Fort. The bands will play at regular intervals. Sources said the number of Army marching contingents had been reduced from eight to six. Marching contingents of the Navy had also been reduced. The IAF will put up a single marching contingent.

Unlike previous years, veterans will also not march past the Rajpath this year. Instead, they will ride in a truck-mounted tableau.

The six central paramilitary forces will put up only three marching contingents instead of one each. The flypast by the IAF, however, has been retained.

The Navy will showcase its “Make in India” efforts by putting up models of under-production indigenously made aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and submarine INS Kalvari.

The IAF will showcase its “Humanitarian and Disaster Relief” activity during the year. The force had last year rescued 14,000 people in different operations in Yemen, Nepal and Chennai.

The Army will go out with its theme “Marching ahead with Incredible India”. The bullet proof enclosure this year will have a roof, unlike last year when dignitaries sat through pouring rain. French President Francois Hollande will be the chief guest this year.
Two Army men arrested for extortion in Kulgam
Suhail A Shah

Anantnag, January 1
Four persons, including two Army men, have been arrested in Kulgam district of south Kashmir for allegedly extorting money on gun point while posing as Hizbul Mujahideen militants.

The Army men have been found involved in more than one case of extortion, the police said.

The police were investigating an extortion complaint by a doctor from Khrewan village of the district when the role of the two Army men came under scrutiny.

The accused soldiers have been identified as Muhammad Yousuf Teli and Muhammad Rafiq Khanday of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. They are presently posted with the 19 Rashtriya Rifles camp in the Larkipora area of Kulgam district.

The police said the accused Army men were the residents of the district.

According to police report, an FIR (303-2015) under sections 34, 386 and 452 of the Ranbir Penal Code was registered against the accused after an extortion complaint by Dr Bila Beigh from the Khrewan Malpora area.

Dr Beigh told the Tribune that two armed men, posing as Hizb militants, had held his family hostage on Sunday evening and ransacked their house, before decamping with Rs 32,000 and some electronic gadgets.

“I was in Delhi when the incident took place. My sister and her husband were at my place and they were in deep shock,” Dr Beigh said.

Station House Officer (SHO), Qazigund, Parvez Ahmad said it was Dr Beigh’s sister who had spotted one of the accused at the Emergency Hospital in Qazigund, where she works as a senior dental technician.

“The police swung into action and arrested the identified man, who led us to his accomplice,” the SHO said.

The two were identified Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat and Nisar Ahmad, he said.

While the police were interrogating the arrested duo, one of Dr Beigh’s neighbours Muhammad Yousuf Teeli approached him and confessed to have provided weapons to the accused duo.

“He pleaded for forgiveness and was worried that he will be thrown out of the Army,” Dr Beigh said. “I, however, informed the police regarding the incident and they picked up the threads from there,” he said. The police questioned Teeli and subsequently secured a confession from him of being involved in multiple extortion cases. “He also led us to one of his accomplices. Both have been produced in court and sent to remand,” the SHO said.

The police officer said the Army men have also confessed to having carried out similar extortions across Kulgam and in neighbouring Anantnag district.
Govt not to hand over bodies of foreign militants to locals
Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 1
To prevent people from attending funerals of foreign militants, the state government has changed the policy of handing over their bodies to locals and is instead burying them in secrecy in a sparsely populated town near the Line of Control.

Two foreign militants killed in December in south Kashmir were buried at a faraway graveyard in a thinly populated frontier Uri town of north Kashmir as the police feared breakdown of “law and order” at the funerals of the militants if their bodies were handed over to locals.

A police officer in Pulwama district, where a foreign militant was killed in an encounter this week, said the body had been buried near Uri town. The officer said the militant was not a local and handing over his body to locals would have caused a “law and order problem”.

However, the body of the second militant, a resident of Pulwama, was handed over to his family and his funeral was attended by hundreds of locals. It was the second case in the past month of a foreign militant being buried at the Uri graveyard.

Inspector General of Police for Kashmir zone SJM Gillani said the bodies of the foreign militants would no longer be handed over to locals of the district where they are killed.

“It is a decision taken to ensure that there is peace in the area,” said Gillani.

The change in the policy comes at a time when hundreds of residents — both men and women — attend the funerals of local and foreign militants, which later turn into anti-India rallies.

In October, hundreds had attended the funeral of Abu Qasim, a foreigner who headed the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Kashmir and was one of the most-wanted militants in the region. He was killed in a gunfight in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Qasim’s funeral was one of the largest in the region in recent years.

The large attendance of locals at the funerals of foreign militants has shown signs of a growing sympathy for their cause in the region. Most districts, where a militant has died in the past years, have also observed spontaneous shutdowns, which, in some cases, continued for four days —- a traditional period of mourning.

There have also been instances in recent years where villagers have forcibly taken possession of bodies of foreign militants.
Mulayam Singh Yadav says India and Pakistan should not spend funds on their armies
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday said that massive funds being spent on the armies of India and Pakistan could be used to improve the living standards of people in both the countries.

"Massive funds are being spent on the armies of India and Pakistan. This money can be utilised for enhancing the living standards of the people in these two nations," he said while addressing workers at the party headquarters in Lucknow.

"Renowned socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia favoured world unity," he said.

"If humanity is given importance in the world, there will be no atrocity or boundary dispute and progress will get a new momentum," Yadav said.

Asking party workers to take a resolve to ensure party's victory in the 2017 Assembly polls, Yadav said the new year is important for the party and the government.

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