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Thursday, 3 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 03 Mar 2016

Action on terror more important: India to Pak
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
India today made it clear that action against terror by Pakistan would take priority over any diplomatic activity with it in the aftermath of the Pathankot airbase attack.

This was stated today by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar at the Raisina Dialogue in response to a question. “In the aftermath of a terror attack, if you ask me what do you give priority to, a terrorist attack or a diplomatic dialogue, I think the answer should be obvious,” he said.

He said India had been saying for a while now that both India and Pakistan continued to be in touch, especially through the National Security Advisers (NSAs) since the Pathankot terror attack.

India has blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) for the Pathankot strike and has handed over evidence to Pakistan to prove its case. It is also demanding action against the JeM leader Masood Azar. Pakistan has formed an SIT and promised action, but not much has happened in terms of real action on the ground.

On the context of improving ties with Pakistan, he said India was for a “much more modern relationship” with Islamabad. “I think there was a need to have change in attitude towards a number of issues of which terrorism is a central one,” he said.

“It takes two hands to clap and that India would like to have same kind of ties with Islamabad like with other neighbours. We need to remove obstacles which are coming in between India and Pakistan. Most people in this country want to treat Pakistan as a normal neighbour,” Jaishankar said.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, Sartaj Aziz, the foreign policy adviser to PM Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan was “anxiously awaiting” the FS talks between the two countries to take place.
To pave way for govt, state wants Army to vacate land
Asks Home Secy to speed up return of several pockets occupied by Army
Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, March 2
In a significant development, the state government has decided to expedite the process of vacating of land by the Army. This is an indication to parties to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir, which is under Governor’s rule at present.

Highly placed sources said the state government had directed Home Secretary RK Goyal to expedite the process of return of certain pockets in possession of the Army, which was agreed upon in the Civil-Military Liaison (CML) conference that was held in Srinagar on September 29 last year.

“The Governor, who recently addressed the Union Defence Minister regarding enhancement in rental compensation for land under the Army’s occupation, would shortly review the return of certain pockets of land, with the Army at present,” a Raj Bhawan spokesperson said here today.

The government, administered by the Governor, had taken all possible measures to restore people’s confidence in the administrative set-up as it vigorously followed decisions taken by the previous political dispensation headed by late Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died on January 7.

The Governor’s resolve to review the return of certain pockets of land, in possession of the Army at present, was a sequel to the decision taken during the first CML conference of the previous PDP-BJP government held last year.

The follow-up of major policy decisions was a part of the Governor’s efforts for early restoration of a popular elected government in the state. So far, he had sought the response of the PDP

and BJP, the two largest political parties, on government formation twice.

Referring to the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ of the PDP-BJP government during the CML conference, Mufti had asked the Army to expedite vacating of Tattoo Ground at Batmaloo in the heart of Srinagar. He had said, “It will enable the government to develop basic facilities at Tattoo Ground in the interest of the public.”

On November 3 last year, the then Chief Minister laid the foundation stone of a citizens’ park at Tattoo Ground. It was for the first time that the Army had agreed to part with a chunk of land for development of a citizens’ park.

Issues pertaining to vacating of land by the Army in Gulmarg, High Ground in Anantnag, Tattoo Ground in Srinagar, Lower Khurbathang in Kargil, Jammu airport and Jammu University campus in a time-bound manner were discussed.

The ‘Agenda of Alliance’, which was the framework for governance of the PDP-BJP government, stated, “All land other than that given to security forces on the basis of lease, licence and acquisition under the provision of the Land Acquisition Act shall be returned to rightful legal owners, except in a situation where retaining the land is absolutely imperative in view of a specific security requirement. In any case, monetary remuneration, be it in the form of rent or compensation, should be made fairly at market rates.”

The state government constituted a high-level panel on January 29 to oversee the process of taking possession of land from the Army and security forces.
Lieut Gen Balwant Negi visits Roorkee, Raiwala formations
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, March 2
Lieut Gen Balwant Singh Negi, Army Commander, Central Command, visited formations of Central Command at Roorkee and Raiwala today and witnessed combat engineering training undertaken by Surya Combat Sapper Formation at Purkazi.

Lieut Gen Negi reviewed the collective training wherein all combat Sapper specialist units train together to hone their skills by physical execution on ground. He witnessed the complete range of multi-faceted training of mechanical mine breaching using trawl tanks, mechanical dry launch and wet bridging capable of sustained tank traffic and associated myriad activities.

Lieut Gen Negi stressed the need to maintain the highest standards of operational preparedness. He commended the Sappers for their ‘josh’ and ‘hard work’ and exhorted them to uphold the glory of the Indian Army.

At Roorkee, Lieut Gen Negi visited the Bengal Engineer Group and Centre where he was briefed about training activities, welfare measures for veterans and coordination and liaison of the centre with the civil authorities for internal security duty, including flood relief and response to anti-national elements. He held a windshield tour of the centre and saw the training infrastructure. He appreciated the modern infrastructure of the Hajipir Auditorium, Sainik Institute and the automated cook house for recruits at the centre.

At the Raiwala military station, Lieut Gen Negi visited the Army formation. He was briefed on all aspects of operational readiness, training and welfare. He appreciated the cleanliness drive undertaken as part of the ‘Swachh Bharat campaign, yoga training for Army personnel in cooperation with Dev Sanskriti University and the efforts of the formation towards welfare of the veterans and veer naris in the region.

Lieut Gen Negi also carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the areas of western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Rafale On Instalments Is The Answer To Defence Ministry's Tight Budget
New Delhi:  When the Rafale fighter deal with France is inked later this year, the Ministry of Defence or MoD will have to pay nearly Rs. 6000 crore for it, which is roughly one-tenth of the total cost of the deal, top Ministry officials told NDTV.

"I am not unduly worried," a top a Ministry official told NDTV, adding, "out of box thinking and imaginative accounting will see us through."

Although, final price negotiations are still on, the Rafale purchase deal is likely to cost India about Rs. 60,000 crore.

The Ministry of Defence has a little above Rs. 80,000 crore to pay for new acquisition this financial year out of its total budget of about Rs. 2,50,000 crore.

Of the Rs. 80,000 crore, three-fourth will have to be set aside for "committed liabilities" - the MoD's phrase for payments to be made for previous purchases.

Sources told NDTV that for the financial year 2014-15's purchases, Rs. 66,000 crore is still being paid for.

In the current financial year, India signed up to purchase defence hardware worth Rs. 44,000 crore. This includes two additional Airborne Warning And Control Systems ( AWAC) for the Indian Air Force. Also, And, it expects to ink deals for purchases of about another Rs. 15,000 crore by month-end.

The UPA Government in 2013-14 signed for purchases worth Rs. 37,000 crore which the Modi Government paid for in the last two years.

In an effort to better manage funds, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has asked the three forces to re-evaluate 342 cases of pending purchases - some even a decade old - worth Rs. 509 lakh crore.

"Much of these proposed purchases are of technology which is obsolete now and can be cancelled, reducing demand on the available resources," the officer added.

For the Rafale acquisition, to be able to pay in installments is the big relief for the MoD. "We will have just enough to pay the first installment given the current allocation," the officer said.
NDA's defence budget keeps the spend steady, aspires for sturdiness
India's defence budget, a part of the country's annual financial statement (budget), has received a moderate increase of 0.96 percent (effective increase of 1.16 percent) for 2016-17.

Despite the positive vibes created by Make in India and a call for foreign and domestic private investors to capitalise on it, the defence allotment has been perceived to lack lustre. An overall outlay of Rs 2.49 lakh crore for 2016 is only a slight increase over last year's allocation.

According to a report by Economic Times, the NDA regime has also continuously fallen short of utilising its defence allotment over the last two years. The report said that the defence ministry has spent lesser by 13.5 percent (Rs 11,595 crore) of its allocated budget in 2015-16. And in the previous year of 2014-15, it could only spend 85 percent of its allocation.

A political-trend analysis suggests the NDA government's term has always cut a smaller piece for defence, be it utilisation or allocation. Unlike the previous UPA government, which exceeded the utilisation rate intermittently by 4  and 8 percent in 2008-09 and 2010-11, the NDA regime has always fallen short.

Defence analysts, however, believe the government is inspired by its policy of substituting imports with indigenous production and therefore not intent on spending big on foreign defence deals in the future. At the same time it has been promoting its Make in India initiative as a platform for both foreign and domestic players to venture.

"Yet more than funds, the bigger problem was lack of clarity on the defence procurement policy," according to Amit Cowshish, who handles defence accounting in the ministry."It's not that the money is not there, it's that there's still no clear-cut policy on indigenous manufacture, the procedures, etc. That is why even the money that has been allocated ends up not being spent," he told Reuters.

However, with its steady defence capex, the Budget 2016 emphasises on sustaining foreign deals while reinvigorating the spirits of home-grown enterprises. But until the government sets its policies in order as a top priority, defence modernisation is expected to take a further beating especially with mounting wages and pension cost.

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