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Saturday, 4 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 04 Jun 2016

3 dead as militants attack BSF convoy
Suhail A Shah &

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Anantnag/Srinagar, June 3
Three jawans were killed and seven injured as militants today attacked a BSF convoy in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown Bijbehara, 40 km south of Srinagar. The ambush on the Srinagar-Jammu highway comes days ahead of Anantnag bypoll.

At about 4.30 pm, militants attacked the busy Goriwan market in Bijbehara, firing indiscriminately at a BSF bus which was part of a convoy of 24 vehicles on way to Srinagar.    Sources said that militants took vantage positions near the Bijbehara Sub-District Hospital.

“Three of our men were killed. Seven, including an officer, were injured. The condition of two of them is critical,” Inspector-General Vikash Chandra said. The slain BSF men were identified as Head Constable Garish Kar Shukla, Constable Mahender Ram and Constable Ganesh Giri. The driver of the attacked bus lost control and the vehicle rammed into a tree. The attackers fled after engaging the BSF personnel in a brief exchange of fire. Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack. The area has been cordoned off and an extensive combing operation launched. The BSF is not involved in counter-insurgency operations in J and K and is deployed along the Line of Control under the operational command of the Army.

Today’s attack is akin to that on the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in Sempora-Pampore area in February. The militants had then taken shelter in the EDI building after ambushing a CRPF convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Two CRPF men were killed. In the ensuing gunfight, three elite Para Commandos, including two Captains, three militants and a civilians were killed. An Army convoy was attacked in Hyderpora, Srinagar, in 2013 in which eight jawans were killed and 12 injured.
Pak cheers NIA chief’s remark, India does damage control
The reported statement of the NIA chief that there is no hand of the Pakistan government or its agencies in helping the JeM carry out the Pathankot attack has triggered sparring between India and Pakistan with New Delhi saying that involvement of its nationals “is an accepted fact”.

Even as the NIA backtracked on its chief Sharad Kumar's statement, Islamabad said his remarks were a "vindication" of its long-standing position in that regard. The row started over a written interview by Kumar to a television channel in which he said, “So far, (there is) no evidence to show that the Pakistan government or any Pakistani government agency was helping Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) or Masood Azhar or his aides carry out the Pathankot attack.”

Later, the NIA issued a statement saying the observation attributed to the NIA DG is "strongly refuted". It said his statement had been misquoted. Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup said, "I understand that the DG NIA has issued a clarification that his words are being misinterpreted. Let me clarify the position. The involvement of Pakistan's nationals in the Pathankot air base attack is an accepted fact." He further said "enough information" has also been provided to the Pakistani authorities through two Letters Rogatory to conduct investigation in Pakistan so that "all those associated in Pakistan with planning, support and execution of the attack are brought to justice".  — Agencies
NSG tops PM’s 5-nation tour agenda
India applied for elite group membership on May 12; Modi to seek Swiss, Mexico support
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 3
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a five-nation tour to Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the United States and Mexico tomorrow. India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will top the PM’s agenda during the visit.

His US trip has been the most hyped with Modi scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress on June 8. But the two issues that are likely to play spoiler during the trip are: the government’s “inability” to check problems related to the ease of doing business in India and India’s human rights record for which the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the US Congress will hold a hearing on June 7 itself.

Officially, India has denied that Switzerland and Mexico were added later to the PM’s itinerary primarily to enable Modi to meet the leadership of both countries to push for India’s membership of the elite 48-member group. However, the backing of the two countries for India’s NSG membership remains crucial.

The group works on consensus and the government is hoping Modi will be able to convince both countries to support India’s membership application which is likely to come up for discussions at the plenary meeting of the NSG to be held in Seoul in June.

Modi will also seek Obama’s support for joining the NSG when the two leaders meet. India formally applied for the NSG membership on May 12.

The PM will first travel to Afghanistan where he will inaugurate the Afghan-India Friendship Dam in Herat province, along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. From there, he travels to Qatar and then will make a stop-over in Switzerland where Modi will also raise the issue of black money stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks. This was also one of the poll promises of the BJP. “We are in touch with the Swiss Government and we have a few plans in the near future,” Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said.
Final trials of home-grown artillery gun start this month
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 3
The final trials of indigenous artillery gun Dhanush will start this month. Spread over the next six months, these trials will be of a production-level prototype. This is supposed to be the last lap of trials before the Ordnance Factory Board starts it bulk production.

The Army will use six such guns at various locations to test its firing ability during summers and also in the winters in the Himalayas.

Dhanush 155 MM/45 calibre gun is based on the 1980’s Bofors FH-77B/39 Calibre artillery gun design and aided by the transfer of technology (ToT) clause signed in the 1980’s with the Swedish company. The OFB, an organisation under the Ministry of Defence, first unveiled the Indian version of the gun in February 2014 and hand it over to the Army for intensive tests. These were successfully conducted.

The first three guns of the production-level prototype will undergo four-month trial from June to September. Between October and December, three other guns will be added and the entire lot will be tested in high altitude winter conditions.

The MoD has set a stiff delivery schedule. The first 18 guns will be delivered in 18 months after the signing of contract. Another 36 guns are slated for delivery over the 12 months thereafter. The remaining 60 guns will be delivered by June 2020.

The Indian version has several improvements to make Dhanush compatible with today’s modern communication techniques. It has an effective range of 38 km as against the 27-km range of the original Bofors. It has a system to auto-correct any variations in ammunition and atmospheric pressures. The gunner has a high resolution sight besides an infrared sight. Its electronics suite enables real-time adjustments for moving and static targets. The Army’s Field Artillery Rationalization Plan, drawn in 1999, aims to acquire 2,800-3,000 155 mm/52-calibre guns of all kinds and 155 mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers by 2027.

The next batch of Dhanush will be in line with this target and its barrel for the next batch will be 52 calibre.
3,000 ex-servicemen to be recruited in police: CM
Tribune News Service

Bahadurgarh (Jhajjar), June 3
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today announced to fill 3,000 posts in the Police Department under the ex-servicemen's category, besides setting up the state’s third Sainik School in Jhajjar’s Matanhel village.

Khattar was addressing an ex-servicemen's rally after the foundation stone-laying and bhoomi pujan ceremony of a residential colony over five acres for serving and retired army personnel at HUDA Sector 7 in Bahadurgarh. Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu, Army Chief Dalbir Suhag and Lt-Gen KJ Singh were also present.

“The welfare of serving soldiers and ex-servicemen is among the highest priorities of the state government. As many as 3,000 ex-servicemen will be given jobs in the police while the process to fill 1,000 posts under the ex-servicemen category is already going on,” said the CM, adding that classes in Matanhel’s Sainik School would begin next year.

Khattar maintained the state government was planning to associate ex-servicemen with government schools with the twin aim of bringing about a qualitative improvement in the education standard and enhancing the strength of students in schools.

“There are about 2.82 lakh ex-servicemen in the state and we want to use their experience for the betterment of the educational system,” said the CM.

He also announced to give some relaxation in the norms to construct flats in the residential colony “As per rules, 400 flats can be built over the land but we have accorded special relaxation to construct 500 flats ,” Khattar added.

The residential colony would be named after Major Rajiv Joon, a recipient of Ashok Chakra and Shaurya Chakra, who laid down his life fighting terrorists in Anantnag in 1994. The CM also honoured Rajiv’s brother, Paramjeet Joon, during the rally.

Army plans educational complex in Sonepat

Jhajjar: The Army has decided to set up an educational complex in Sonepat district to provide quality education to wards of serving and retired defence personnel. The complex would have law, management, IT and technical institutes along with hostels and these institutes would be affiliated to Delhi University. Army Chief Dalbir Suhag disclosed this while interacting with ex-servicemen in Bahadurgarh here on Friday. General Suhag informed he had talked to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar about the plan who not only approved it in principal but also assured to provide adequate land for the purpose. A degree college would also opened in the centre, said the Army Chief. About the one rank, one pension scheme, the Army Chief said war widows would now be able to get their full arrears under the scheme in one instalment while the proposal to pay the arrears to ex-servicemen over 80 years of age in one or two instalments was also being considered. Other ex-servicemen would be paid their arrears in four equal instalments.— TNS
The beard truth: Army wants soldiers to have a clean shave

Jawan who wanted to grow one is sacked.

After a great deal of legal wrangling, a jawan who insisted on growing a beard on religious grounds has been terminated by the Army and termed ‘an undesirable soldier’.

His dismissal was upheld by the Kochi Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) recently.

Maktumhusen, a 34-year-old Muslim from Dharwad in Karnataka, was a sepoy in the Army Medical Corps for nearly 10 years from 2001, when he first sought permission from his Commanding Officer (CO) to have a beard on religious grounds.

The CO allowed him on the condition that he get a new identity card and retain the look for the rest of his service. Shortly afterwards, however, he discovered that the original rules — Army headquarters letters of 1951 and 1978 based on which he gave his nod — had been superseded by amendments to Regulation No. 665 of the Defence Services Regulations and the Ministry of Defence (Army) letter, 1991.

Order revoked

Under the amended rules, those other than Sikhs cannot sport a permanent beard. Citing this, the CO revoked his order and asked Mr. Maktumhusen to comply. The jawan refused and moved the Karnataka High Court, terming the order ‘discriminatory.’

Mr. Maktumhusen was, meanwhile, transferred to Command Hospital, Pune. His CO there also asked him to get rid of his beard. When he refused, a show cause notice followed, after which he was sentenced to 14 days detention for disobedience. The soldier paid no heed to further instructions, and the Army discharged him from service as an ‘undesirable soldier’ after an enquiry.

Tribunal ruling

The Armed Forces Tribunal was not swayed by the contention of his counsel, C.R. Ramesh, that he had the right to grow a beard [under Article 25 of the Constitution on religious freedom] and that he should have rights on par with Sikhs.

The Tribunal said that having a beard was not among the ‘fundamental tenets’ of Islam. “The Army is a disciplined force and denominational differences among its members based on religion, caste etc. cannot be permitted. Practice of wearing a beard claimed on the basis of religion by the applicant which goes against Regulation 665 of the Defence Service Regulations, is not conducive to the discipline of the Force,” it said.

Mr. Maktumhusen may move the Supreme Court, his counsel said.

Sikhs are permitted to keep a well-maintained beard and untrimmed hair across the Services. But the Army, Navy and the Air force have differing rules. The Army allows non-Sikhs, especially in certain regiments, to sport a temporary beard.

The Air Force does not allow display of religious symbols on duty or at parades. But Muslims who had a beard at the time of enrolment before January 1, 2002, can keep it.

The Navy allows its personnel to change their appearance. But the CO’s permission is mandatory. Medical grounds grant exemption from the rules.
When army brat Shibani Kashyap performed for the Indian Army
Playback singer Shibani Kashyap recently performed at a function that was organised for the Indian Army in the Rajouri district of Jammu & Kashmir. The event was organised for jawans and their families. The singer enthralled them with some of her popular tracks.

Around 1,400 people attended the show. “The venue was only five minutes away from the India-Pakistan border. It is considered a sensitive area. But, it was an incredible experience. Since I come from an army background, I realise how difficult it is to be on duty round-the-clock. I really wanted to do something for the Indian Army,” says Shibani.
Apart from singing her popular Bollywood numbers, she also crooned some patriotic songs. “I started the show with songs like Saare Jahaan Se Accha and Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon. They were followed by my popular song, Sajna Aa Bhi Jaa, and a few others,” says the singer, who was reminded of her childhood days in Rajouri.
“I was born and brought up in Kashmir. So, going back to the place where I had spent my childhood made me nostalgic. My team and I were looked after really well by the Indian Army. I didn’t charge anything for the show,” says Shibani.
India Sets Up Three Committees for Defense Reforms
NEW DELHI — The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has set up three committees to reform the defense sector, but some officials and analysts say setting up the panels would only delay the process.

In May, an 11-member committee led by retired Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar was tasked to modify the Indian military's manpower ratio of combat personnel to noncombat personnel in order to release additional funds to buy fresh weapons and equipment for modernization.

Another committee was created under Vivek Rae, former director general of defense procurement, to study the creation of a defense procurement organization with the aim to streamline the acquisition process.
"Time is indeed running out. The immediate task before MoD is to conclude contracts in respect of the procurement proposals that are already in the pipeline," Amit Cowshish, a former Ministry of Defense financial adviser, said. "That Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) 2016 has not yet been released in its entirety does not come in the way of concluding contracts in respect of the ongoing cases. The deal for purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft is a case in point. Ultimately, everything depends on the speed at which decisions are taken."

A subcommittee was formed to recommend how private sector companies should be shortlisted as Strategic Partners (SP). The panel itself was a follow-up to the recommendations of the Dhirendra Singh Committee, which had recommended last year that SP status be given to select private sector companies. However, MoD is yet to draw the criteria to back up the recommendation.

The subcommittee was set up in the wake of a division within the private defense sector over which company should get SP status so that it becomes eligible to get big-ticket defense orders on a nomination basis — which is the case for state-owned defense companies.

"The idea of ‘strategic partnership model’ is not going to be easy to execute. It is just as well that the MoD is taking time to sort out all issues before adopting the model," Cowshish said.

The new DPP were announced in March by the government, two years after the ruling party came to power in May 2014. But the chapter SP and blacklisting of foreign companies is still to be incorporated.

"The ruling government is making an attempt to completely redo all the procedures that affect capital procurement. Some feel that it is a good idea, but if such a task has to be done then speed is of the essence and almost no progress in 24 months is surely a cause for concern," according to an MoD official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since coming to power, the ruling party has cancelled several big-ticket global tenders and reserved them for the domestic sector. However, the procurement process on these programs has been very slow.

"A lot of time has been spent on easing defense manufacturing. It is now time for actual business and manufacturing to flow into the hands of the Indian private sector as this will be the biggest confidence booster for them," said Ankur Gupta, a defense analyst with Ernst and Young India.

Adding to the delayed procurement process is a shortage of funds as well as 10 defense programs that are awaiting inking despite being finalized.

There is agreement among military planners and officials that the weapons procurement process has to be fast-paced and some key projects need to be implemented without waiting for reform.

"I think the defense minister should not hold up critical projects because of a delay in implementing reforms which are still under consideration. Projects like P-75I for acquiring six conventional submarines, for example, are already long overdue and should be expedited,” defense analyst and retired Indian Navy Commodore Anil Jai Singh said.

Singh added that organizations like the Defence Research and Development Organization should be told to actively seek technology partners and get moving on providing contemporary technology to the armed forces in the long term.

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