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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raman opposes pitching army against Naxals

NEW DELHI: The centre may have kept open the option of engaging the Army, most probably Rashtriya Rifles, in counter-Naxal operations at some point of time, but Chhattisgarh on Tuesday strongly opposed a military solution saying it would only further alienate the people against the State.

Speaking to ET a day after the chief ministers’ meeting on internal security here, Chhattisgarh chief minister
Raman Singh insisted that the state police and civilian forces like CRPF and BSF were not only well-equipped to deal with the Maoist extremists but also better oriented to dealing with human aspect of the Naxalite problem.

Involving the Army, he suggested, would obviously mean a tougher and surgical approach to eliminating the “enemy” Naxalites with military precision, which could only add to the discontent and breed further rebellion within the people’s militia.

“In any case, the state police and civilian forces of the Union such as CRPF and BSF are enough to tackle the
extremists...all we need is the support of modern and precise technology to identify our targets and map the
approach routes,” Mr Singh pointed out.

According to Mr Singh, the Centre, by proposing to launch a major anti-Maoist offensive across states, had only heeded a long-pending request of his government for an integrated action plan to deal with a national problem like Left-wing extremism.

Setting aside the piecemeal approach that required the affected states to tackle the Naxalites on their respective soil, the Centre has now decided to take the lead in a major counter-offensive in the inter-state junctions running through Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

During the consultations with the seven Naxal-affected states on the upcoming post-monsoon operation to flush out Maoists, the Centre not only managed to get all the states on board but also was assured by them of a requisite police component for the offensive.

There was consensus on an action plan of MHA for joint inter-state operations, with additional director general or IG-level officer of CPMF designated as task force commander. A single CPMF would be given charge of operations in a given area to avoid any duplication of authority or jurisdiction hassles.

Mr Singh appreciated the proposed technology-driven operations, employing tools like GPS and GIS for mapping the Naxalite-infested terrain, saying it could help achieve in a few months what could not be achieved in the last 35years.

“The plan is to carry out operations in an area to liberate it from Maoists, hold the area and then bring in
administration and development...this is the correct approach,” the chief minister insisted. The finer details of
the operation are to be discussed when Union home minister P Chidambaram visits the Naxal-hit states in September.

“The real operational planning is to be done individually between Mr Chidambaram and the respective state
governments,” a senior Chhattisgarh government official here said, adding the state police was keen to deploy all of its six counter-Naxal battalions for the pending offensive.

At the same time, Raman Singh raised the slow progress of road construction project by the Border Roads
Organisation (BRO) in the Naxal-infested areas of Chhattisgarh while demanding that the deadline be extended to enable completion of the remaining 60 km.

“The BRO is engaged in Chhattisgarh until 2010, but we have requested the Centre to ensure that the agency does not quit from the state until they have laid the entire 144-km stretch,” Mr Singh said, also putting in a word of praise for the excellent quality of roads laid by BRO.

SOURCE : ET

ARMY PAY DETAILS FOR AUGUST POSTED AT CDA SITE

Dear Readers,

Pay details for the month of August 2009 are now available on CDA O Pune Website.

Link is here : https://www.cdaopune.org/

Regards

US Team wants to train RPF

MUMBAI: A six-member Anti Terror Assistance Team from the US visited two Central Railway stations in Mumbai on Wednesday to study the security arrangements in place. They were impressed with some of the security measures that were being followed, and have decided to incorporate them in their own system in the US. They also want to hold a training module for Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) officials around December.

"The American delegation has been familiarising itself with security measures across railway stations in India,''
said inspector general B S Sidhu of the RPF (CR).

RPF officials at CST gave the delegation a presentation on the current security system. The team had a look at the suburban section, the mainline section and entry/exit points including the waiting hall, which witnessed the 26/11 terror attack. It examined the installation and monitoring of CCTV cameras, working of the X-ray baggage scanner, door-frame metal detectors and the dog squad comprising 20 trained canines. Around 5 pm, they left for Dadar station.

SOURCE : TOI

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  • MAGNETS USED TO SMUGGLE BY ISI

    High power magnet is being used by ISI/Pakistani smugglers for shipping their consignments through the Samjhauta Express. It is being alleged that force of the RPF and Indian customs deployed at the Indo-Pak border is not all that alert during checking of the said train when it enters Indian territory. Thus ISI/Pak smugglers have been successful in their motive.

    DG DRDO's POST

    Shivthanu Pillai who turned 60 in July 2007, has just been given an extension for two years. This is his second extension and this makes him eligible for the top job of the scientific advisor and Director General of DRDO. The other two main contenders are Vijay Kumar Saiaswat and Dipankar Bannerjee.

    Nuclear Security in Pakistan

    The debate over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons periodically flares up from time to time, highlighting persistent concerns over the ability of the Pakistani security establishment to safeguard its nuclear weapons and facilities from terrorist groups and proliferation networks. In August 2009, such concerns were once again provoked by the publication of an analysis by a Britain-based academic Shaun Gregory which pointed out that in recent years several tightly-guarded Pakistani military installations have been attacked by terrorist groups and that several of these installations are suspected of housing important elements of Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal. The implication is that such attacks are an indicator that there are plausible threats to Pakistan's nuclear security from non-state actors.
    Threat perceptions regarding Pakistan's nuclear security generally revolve around a few scenarios such as takeover of the country by a radical Islamist regime leading to nuclear weapons control passing into their hands; terrorist attack on a nuclear facility; and terrorist and/or proliferation networks accessing nuclear weapons and materials, possibly with assistance from insiders in the Pakistani nuclear program.
    Three main factors lie at the root of such concerns. First, as pointed out most recently by Gregory, terrorist attacks are increasingly focusing on military and government facilities, which pose a threat to nuclear installations as well. Attacks such as those on military targets like Sargodha, Wah, and Kamra in 2007-08 highlight potential vulnerabilities in the security perimeter. Elite military units such as the Special Services Group (SSG), to which Gen. Pervez Musharraf belonged, also have been targeted by suicide attacks well inside their bases. At least since the Red Mosque episode in summer 2007, there has been a substantial increase of terrorist violence, in terms of intensity, targeting strategy, as well as geographical spread. Moreover, there was renewed concern in summer 2009 over the spread of Taliban-controlled areas in western Pakistan, in close proximity to nuclear installations.
    At this point, there is little clarity over the exact intentions of terrorist groups striking at sensitive military facilities, beyond simply attacking Pakistani government and military targets. Thus, we do not know whether the terrorist planners took into account the possible nuclear weapon-links of these bases when they decided to target them. But regardless of their specific intentions and objectives, nuclear facilities and weapons can be targeted even inadvertently.
    Moreover, terrorist networks have been considering Pakistan's nuclear weapons in their strategies. For example, in July 2009, Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, in a message to the Pakistani population said that the United States wanted to take control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, implying that they (i.e., Al Qaeda) can help protect the weapons. In recent months, jihadi Internet forums have also continued discussions on taking over Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
    The second factor is the continued political instability in Pakistan, although that has subsided to an extent in recent months. Nevertheless, it raises questions over whether the government and the military have the necessary strength to take tough security decisions to push back destabilizing forces such as the Pakistani Taliban, that can pose a threat to sensitive military installations. One of the scenarios mentioned above talks of the prospect of radical Islamist groups taking over Pakistan. That prospect looks unlikely in the near term, given the push for democracy in Pakistan in recent years and the dismal showing of religious political parties in recent elections.
    Finally, the continued legacy of the A.Q. Khan proliferation network is the suspicion among some sections of the international community that because of several unanswered questions related to the activities of the network, Islamabad's nuclear program remains vulnerable. Key questions that remain unanswered are: who else, within the Pakistani political and military establishment, was involved in the network? And, what equipment and designs were transferred (or were intended for transfer) and to which recipients? However, the government of Pakistan has consistently refused to allow Khan to be questioned directly by international investigators, reinforcing suspicions in Washington that investigations into the network are far from complete.
    Islamabad's response to international concerns has been that the controls on its nuclear program are "foolproof" and that the A.Q. Khan network is a "closed chapter." It has put in place strengthened command and control measures and improved physical security of nuclear facilities, while refining its personnel reliability program. Legislative and bureaucratic mechanisms have also been introduced to provide legal backing and governmental capacity for stronger nonproliferation controls. Crucial assistance and advice on such matters has come from the United States.
    Clearly, nuclear matters in Pakistan are closely intertwined with broader security issues in the country. Hence, periodic appraisals such as the one by Gregory and discussions over Islamabad's nuclear security capabilities are likely to continue in the near future.

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    HAL: total indigenisation of Sukhoi fighter next year

    MOSCOW: The first fully indigenous Su-30MKI fighter plane will roll off Indian assembly lines in 2010, a top executive at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited said on Wednesday.
    “Next year, HAL will achieve 100 per cent indigenisation of the Sukhoi aircraft — from the production of raw materials to the final plane assembly,” V. Balakrishnan, general manager, Aircraft Manufacturing Division, told The Hindu here.
    A five-member HAL delegation is taking part in MAKS-2009, Russia’s international air show now under way here.
    Out of the 230 Su-30MKI air superiority multirole fighters the Indian Air Force plans to induct by 2015, 140 aircraft are to be built in India. License production began in 2004, with the first planes assembled from knockdown kits supplied by Russia. The programme provided for a gradual increase in the number of parts and components produced locally.
    Challenging phase Last year, HAL mastered the manufacture of the wing and the tail. This year, it started producing the fuselage and raw materials, Mr. Balakrishnan said. The final and most challenging phase involved the indigenous manufacture of the engine.
    “We’re currently testing the locally produced engine for the Su-30MKI and are planning to launch its production in 2010.” HAL would manufacture 60 Su-30MKI fighters in the full production cycle till 2015, he said.
    India also plans to sign an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with Russia for supply of HAL-manufactured Sukhoi airframes for third countries. It is already supplying some avionics equipment for Sukhoi aircraft Russia is building for third countries.
    Later this year, India and Russia would sign a design accord for a fifth generation fighter aircraft they agreed to build jointly in 2007. India would be responsible for the manufacture of composite-material parts of the airframe, avionics and software packages, Mr. Balakrishnan said.
    The Russian single-seat version of the fifth generation fighter plane is expected to make its maiden flight in the coming winter. India will induct a twin-seat version.
    Under another IGA accord that may be signed this year, India and Russia will set up a joint venture for designing and building a medium transport aircraft for their air forces. It would take a maximum of five years to design and develop the plane, he said.

    Escalation of LoC infiltration worries New Delhi

    NEW DELHI: Last week, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed to the existence of “credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks.”
    His warning, classified data exclusively obtained by The Hindu shows, came in the context of a marked escalation of infiltration across the Line of Control: the first reversal of a steady reduction seen since 2005.
    From a historic low of 126 last year, figures compiled by the Jammu and Kashmir police show, an estimated 236 jihadists crossed the Line of Control from January to July this year. By way of contrast, the estimated infiltration stood at 1,504 in 2002, when Pakistan scaled back support for jihadist groups in the face of Indian war threats and mounting international pressure.
    So far, the surge is yet to bring about an increase in violence. The Jammu and Kashmir police records show 58 civilians were killed from January to July, down from 147 in 2008 and 170 in 2007.
    The losses of security force personnel have also continued to decline: 39 police and military personnel were killed between January and June, down from 85 last year and 122 in 2007. The number of attacks targeting Indian forces has also fallen, from 217 in 2007 to 129 in 2008, to just 51 till June-end this year.
    Jammu and Kashmir has seen a steady dip in violence since 2001, when 1,098 civilians were killed and 1,258 injured. Six hundred and thirteen security force personnel and 2,020 terrorists also died. The State has seen no fidayeen attack since 2007, when there were two strikes, down from a high of 28 in 2001. Nor were there any car bombings over the past two years, as against 13 in 2005.
    But the reversal in infiltration trends has fuelled fears that Jammu and Kashmir could see a renewed wave of violence.
    Mobilisation Pakistan’s apparent failure to shut down training camps run by anti-India jihadist groups underlies these fears. On Tuesday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters that “even today, dozens of terrorist camps are functioning actively in Pakistan soil.”
    Both the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Indian intelligence officials say, have continued to operate facilities, despite recent promises.
    Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar, wanted for his role in the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar, is building a sprawling new seminary outside his home town of Bahawalpur. In addition, recruits continue to be trained at a facility near Fort Abbas, near the India-Pakistan border in Punjab.
    Lashkar commander Muzammil Bhat, who is believed to have trained the fidayeen team that attacked Mumbai in November 2008, is now believed to have taken operational control of the organisation. His predecessor, military chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is in jail, awaiting trial for his alleged role in the carnage.
    Last year, the western media reported that Muzammil Bhat — also known by the aliases ‘Yusuf’ and ‘Mohammad Muzammil’ — had been arrested in a military raid on the Lashkar’s main training base in the Shawai Nullah, near Muzaffarabad. However, Pakistan did confirm the claims.
    Indian intelligence sources said Mr. Bhat was sighted at a new Lashkar training facility that has come up some 30 km from Muzaffarabad in the Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
    Earlier this year, the newspaper Roznamcha Jasarat reported that a rally held in Muzaffarabad attracted “thousands of people, including the representatives and leaders of Pakistan’s banned organisations Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat-ul- Mujahideen, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in addition to the leaders of the Muttahida Jihad Council.”
    Later Pakistani authorities promised to shut down the Lashkar-linked Falah-i-Insanyiat, a charitable trust, after reports emerged in May that it was working among refugees from Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. No action, however, was taken. In many south Punjab towns and villages, government sources said, the Falah-i-Insaniyat label has been used to keep open Lashkar offices.
    Most worrying, from India’s point of view, is Pakistan’s failure to legally proscribe the Lashkar’s parent organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and prosecute its chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
    Last month, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told Parliament that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa was among 25 organisations proscribed in Pakistan. It later emerged, though, that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa had merely been removed from a list of charities and not banned.

    J&K Govt plans to hire MI-17s for remote areas

    The Jammu and Kashmir Government is planning to hire Indian Air Force helicopters during winter to ensure communication with far-flung areas cut-off by snowfall. Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs would be approached to fund the proposal.

    “We intend to hire MI-17 helicopter services for Gurez, Tangdar, Drass, Paddar, Machhail, Zanskar, Marwah, Warwan and other such remote and cut-off areas to”, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told a delegation from Drass, the second coldest inhabited region of the world on Wednesday.

    “The Union ministry for Tribal Areas development will be approached to extend support to Jammu and Kashmir in this regard”, he said. Chief Minister said that the matter of constructing a tunnel in Zojilla Pass is being pursued vigorously with the Central authorities.

    A separate proposal has been mooted to open a 12 km tunnel at Razdan Pass connecting Kashmir Valley with Gurez. Zojila and Gurez tunnels are cited as major defence proposals which would also be highly beneficial for the local population.

    “We are also looking for weekly helicopter services to the remote areas by hiring big helicopters like MI-17”, he said and added that this would not only help to airlift the passengers and essentials but open these areas for tourism and sports.

    Most of the remote areas in Jammu and Kashmir get cut-off after the onset of winter season. Many areas like Gurez, Kargil, Leh and Macchil remain out of ground reach for more than six months. The people in these areas are solely dependent upon erratic aerial traffic. The State Government occasionally hires defence helicopters for supply of essential commodities and airlifting sick and needy people.

    The looming threat

    Despite often unwarranted criticism that Indian Foreign Policy lacks dynamism, successive Governments in India have shown imagination and dexterity in responding to the challenges that India faced after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nowhere has this been more evident than in India’s ‘Look East’ policies initiated by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. India realised that in a globalised world economic order, its interests where best served by progressive economic integration with the fast growing economies of East and South-East Asia. What followed was a policy which enabled growing interaction with South-East Asian countries linked together in ASEAN. This was reinforced by the establishment of the BIMSTEC, linking SAARC members Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan with ASEAN members Thailand and Myanmar. The long-term vision has been to join a process of Asian economic integration without being hampered by Pakistan’s efforts to play a spoiler by linking economic integration within SAARC to its ambitions on Jammu & Kashmir.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has tenaciously and courageously not allowed domestic compulsions and lobbying by States like Kerala, which seek to protect their uncompetitive agricultural practices from competition, to hinder efforts to integrate India’s economy with the economies of East and South-East Asian countries. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee similarly overruled opposition when a Free Trade Agreement with Sri Lanka was negotiated. On August 13, India inked a landmark Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, which is now our fourth largest trading partner. The agreement comes into force on January 1, 2010, and would, over six years, minimise or end all trade barriers boosting two way trade. Contrary to the unwarranted fears expressed, the agreement protects the legitimate interests of producers of plantation crops like coffee and pepper. India’s growing economic integration with ASEAN and its Look East policies, which have led to expanding strategic ties with countries like Singapore, Japan and Vietnam, have been opposed by China, which looks at East and South-East Asia as its backyard. China has sought to ‘contain’ India by encouraging anti-Indian sentiments in India’s South Asian neighbourhood.

    Even as the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement was readied for signature, a ‘scholar’ from Beijing’s Institute of Strategic Studies made the astonishing assertion on August 8 that India is today a ‘Hindu religious state’, that Hinduism is a ‘decadent religion’ and that apart from annexing Arunachal Pradesh and working with countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan to separate Assam and Bengal from the Indian Union, China should encourage Tamil separatism and break up India into 20-30 nation States. Interestingly, this is also the view of the rabid sections of the Pakistani military establishment which is echoed repeatedly by the likes of the amir of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba — now called the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h) — Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and by the Chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed Maulana Masood Azhar. Is it a mere coincidence that China has consistently sought to block moves for enhanced sanctions against the Jaish and Lashkar in the UN Security Council? Did Chou en Lai not voice similar sentiments after China lost face following the 1971 Bangladesh conflict?

    Similar Chinese hostility towards India was evident after the 26/11 Mumbai carnage. ‘Scholars’ from the state-funded China Institute of Strategic Studies proclaimed that the Mumbai attack reflected “the failure of Indian Intelligence” and claimed that India was blaming Pakistan to “enhance its control over the disputed Kashmir”. Even before Pakistan claimed that India was manifesting aggressive intentions, a CISS ‘scholar’ stated that “China can support Pakistan in the event of a war,” adding that Pakistan could benefit from its military cooperation with China while fighting India. This CISS ‘scholar’ asserted that in such circumstances China may have the option of resorting to a “strategic military action in Southern Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) to thoroughly liberate the people there”. A ‘scholar’ of yet another state-run institution, the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, claimed that the terrorists who carried out the attack on Mumbai came from within India. Chinese comments on the Mumbai carnage then echoed the views of rabid sections of the Urdu press in Pakistan.

    The 26/11 terrorist outrage was followed by a visit to China by Pakistan’s senior-most military official, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen Tariq Majid, who was received like a high state dignitary by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie and Foreign Minister Yiang Jiechi. China’s Vice President assured Pakistan of Chinese support in the UN by agreeing that their countries would support each other in international forums. In substantive terms, Gen Majid’s visit resulted in a new agreement on military cooperation between Pakistan and China. His visits to military establishments in China suggested that the latter would expedite delivery of four F 22 frigates to the Pakistani Navy. The delivery of 250 JF 17 fighters also figured in the Sino-Pakistani discussions. More recently, the outrageous comments of the CISS ‘scholar’ was followed by no less than the ‘Prime Minister’ of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Sardar Yaqoob Khan, asserting in Lahore on August 12 that India cold not become an ‘Asian Tiger’ until it withdraws its Army from ‘Indian held Kashmir’. Sardar Yaqoob added that India would disintegrate into six states if it failed to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

    The recent articles by Chinese ‘scholars’ could not have been published without authorisation at the highest levels in a country that rigidly censors Internet access of its citizens. While it would be counter-productive to get alarmed by such writings, they should not be ignored as China’s many apologists in India suggest. India needs to understand that ruled by an elite, which has discarded Marxist ideology and lacks legitimacy, or a popular mandate, China is set to become more nationalistic and even jingoistic. It is a neighbour with whom we need to work both regionally and internationally on issues of common concern. At the same time, there is a need to accelerate economic progress and expedite our defence modernisation — both conventional and nuclear. The remark of the outgoing naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta that the gap between China and India is “too wide to bridge,” was torn out of context, ignoring the fact that he had also urged the need to create a “reliable and stand-off deterrent” while building strategic ties with the US, EU and Russia.

    Generals put in command, staff streams

    Aug. 19: The Indian Army has introduced a new policy for promotion to the ranks of major-general and lieutenant-general from January 1 this year. The generals will be categorised into staff and command streams on promotion, and Army sources say this will ease the intense competition to command divisions and corps.
    Army sources said the allocations would be on the basis of the merit list at the time of promotion to major-general and lieutenant-general. Command positions would go to officers on top of the merit list, while others would get staff positions. The new policy was adopted as part of implementation of the second phase of the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee recommendations, which led to more upgraded posts of major-generals and lieutenant-generals.
    This was initially mooted two decades ago, but implemented only from January 1 this year. The sources also dismissed speculation that a few Army commanders had reservations about the new policy, saying such reports were baseless.
    Army sources said another new factor from January 1 this year was that in interviews for promotion to major-general and lieutenant-general, 95 per cent of the candidate’s evaluation would be on the Annual Confidential Report, while the remaining five per cent would be evaluation by the Army commanders who were on the promotion board. Under the earlier system, promotions would be decided entirely by members of the promotion board, who would have with them the dossiers and all records of the candidates that they were evaluating.

    MHA cracks whip on babus

    Aug. 19: Cracking the whip, home minister P. Chidambaram has asked ministry babus to undertake visits to states every ‘’three months’’ to monitor the implementation of various Central schemes and acquaint themselves with the ground realities. The home ministry, in an office memorandum dated August 12, said that 19 nodal officers , who are joint secretaries in the ministry, have been given charge of various states, and will be responsible for furnishing reports after reviewing the progress of governmental schemes aimed at strengthening the internal security set-up in the country.
    The nodal officers have been directed to prepare, update and maintain a profile of the states and UTs allocated to them and also liaise, as and when necessary, with them in emergent situations. The order, previously issued on November 20, 2008, has been rectified to fix the specific time frame of quarterly visits by the ministry officials concerned.
    As the states affected by Left-wing extremism and North-east states grappling insurgency have been found lagging on various fronts, the move is aimed at plugging the loopholes and ensuring better coordination with the states. The ministry officials said that the step will also ensure that the Centre , especially the home secretary, has a window open in other states like Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh. Among the nodal officers, Ms D. Diptivilasa has been made incharge of Andhra Pradesh, Mr A.K. Goyal is incharge of Rajasthan, K. Skandan for Tamil Nadu and J&K; Naveen Verma for Bihar and NE states; A.K. Yadav for West Bengal and Sikkim among others

    Navy Chief tries to clear air on China

    Aug. 19: Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta on Wednesday set about clearing up certain misconceptions with the press about his previous statements about China. Lashing out at a mediaperson’s question about China, Admiral Mehta said, "First of all, I did not say anything about the naval power of China outpowering ours. You (the media) shouldn’t just take one sentence and stretch it out of proportion. It should be put into perspective."
    Flagging off India’s first solo circumnavigation of the globe (in the form of the INSV Mhadei), he elaborated that what he had said was that "China had a larger Navy" than the Indian one. "That doesn’t mean that we should aspire to have as many vessels as they do," continued the Admiral and further said, "We can get far better ones and improve existing vessels so that they can do the job better." He went on to say the nation’s sea blindness was finally in the process of being removed.
    "It has taken a long time for the nation to recognise the importance of the sea. The Navy has known it all along," he said. He said the western fleet’s overseas deployment had provided dividends, with the Navy’s four vessels travelling across Africa, the Mediterranean, Britain and Russia.
    "Our task force of four ships participated in exercises with the British and French navies, like the ones their navies conducted off our shores," he said.

    Antony leaves for Maldives today

    New Delhi, August 19
    Defence Minister AK Antony would be leaving on a three-day official visit to Maldives tomorrow.

    Antony would be leading a high-level delegation comprising Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar; DG, Armed Forces Medical Services, Lt Gen NK Parmar; DG, Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and Deputy Chief of Navy Staff Vice Admiral DK Joshi.
    Shortly after his arrival at the Maldivian capital of Male, Antony would call on President Mohammed Nasheed. He would hold talks with the top leadership of the government and the Maldives National Defence Force.
    Antony would also have bilateral discussions with his counterpart Ameen Faisal on ways of expanding defence cooperation between the two countries. He would attend the closing session of the India-Maldives Friendship function, besides paying a visit to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the most visible symbol of Indo-Maldives cooperation and friendship. — TNS

    Naxals ransack CPM office in Midnapore

    MIDNAPORE: Violence erupted in Jhargram sub-division of West Midnapore district on Wednesday, the second day of the indefinite bandh called by

    People's Committee against Police Atrocities, after Maoists ransacked the CPM office.

    It was easy for PCPA supporters to attack the CPM office as there was no police presence on Jhargram-Midnapore road (via Dherua) during the day. On Tuesday night, too, four trucks plying on the Silda-Jhargram road were set on fire at Magura in Binpur. There was an exchange of fire at Kanjimakli forests during the day as Maoists and PCPA supporters tried to resist the advance of the police force. There were no casualties though around 40 rounds of fire were exchanged.

    Gram panchayats in forest areas of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura were closed because of the bandh. No employee could reach the offices across 18 police station areas. All shops were closed. Daily farm labourers suffered the most as they could not go to distant villages for cultivation.

    Schools also remained closed. Most of them have suffered a lot as Central forces have set up their camps on the campuses. In fact, one of the PCPA's 23-point charter of demands is police vacate all schools in Lalgarh. CPM cadres in Jangalmahal are a scared lot. In the past two months, 23 party workers have been killed and eight party offices set on fire. They are afraid to keep in touch with district party leaders.

    After 19 years, CRPF moves out of Sopore

    SRINAGAR: Bringing smile on the face of the people, troops of CRPF's 177 Battalion have vacated camps being run in houses around Jamia Masjid

    Qadeem in Meer Sahib locality of Sopore town in north Kashmir after 19 years. They have also started dismantling the pickets.

    For the first time in the last 19 years, late evening (Isha) prayers were offered at Jamia Masjid Qadeem on Tuesday. "We're happy that the forces are pulling out of the area. We could not offer late night prayers at the mosque," Farooq Ahmad, a resident, told TOI.

    CRPF had occupied several residential houses adjacent to the mosque in 1991. They had also made dozens of bunkers around the area to prevent attacks from terrorists. The paramilitary force had also warned people not to come out of their houses after sunset.

    "Fearing action by CRPF, people preferred to stay indoors and did not even offer late night prayers," said Ghulam Nabi Dar, a Sopore resident.

    Sopore ASP Abdul Waheed said the CRPF unit will leave the area in a few days. The troops, he said, will be relocated. At Bandipore in north Kashmir, troops, however, continue to occupy 26 buildings and 1,675 kanals of land, according to the government. Besides buildings, 13 kanals of private land and 996.9 kanals of government land in Bandipore tehsil are under the occupation of forces.

    INS Viraat to be fully operational in 2 months

    NEW DELHI: India's solitary aircraft carrier INS Viraat will be fully-operational in another two months or so after undergoing an 18-month-long

    comprehensive refit to bolster its longevity as well as weapon and sensor packages.

    The ageing INS Viraat, with its complement of Sea Harrier jump-jets, helicopters and 1,500-crew, has been out of action since early-2008, first at the Mumbai harbour and then at the Cochin Shipyard, as was first reported by TOI.

    "INS Viraat has now come out of the dry dock at Kochi after most of the refit work has been completed. The rest of the work at Kochi should finish by August-end," said an officer.

    "The warship will then undergo a work-up phase and trials off Mumbai before it becomes fully ready for operations. Though it is 50 years old now, we will be able to run it smoothly for another five years," he added.

    Navy has been forced to go in for another refit of the 28,000-tonne old warhorse due to failure of successive governments to undertake long-term defence planning to build military capabilities in tune with the country's geostrategic objectives.

    Navy has time and again told the political leadership that India needs three aircraft carriers — one each for the eastern and western seaboards, while the third undergoes repairs — to protect its growing strategic interests stretching from Africa's eastern coast right up to Malacca Strait.

    But to no avail. The long-delayed 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) being built at the Cochin Shipyard, for instance, will be ready only by 2015 at the earliest.

    Then, of course, India will get the refurbished 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, undergoing a refit at the Sevmash Shipyard in North Russia, only by 2013 now

    Nitish meets PC on Naxalism, drought package

    PATNA: Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday met Union home minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi and discussed issues related to internal

    security, Naxalism and the drought situation in the state.

    Nitish supported the Union government led joint inter-state operations against the extremists. He insisted on effective patrolling of Indo-Nepal border by the BSF and early construction of border roads.

    Since the Union home minister is also a member of the empowered group of ministers and the home ministry deals with disaster management and National Calamity Contingency Fund, Nitish apprised Chidamabaram of the severe drought situation in Bihar affecting 1.26 crore families in 26 districts in the state.

    He said that there was a shortfall of 57.7 per cent in paddy crop coverage and 27.4 per cent in maize. He also apprised the Union home minister of the memorandum submitted to the Union agriculture ministry by the state government seeking financial assistance of Rs 23,071 crore to tackle drought. Chidambaram expressed deep sympathy for the drought-affected people and assured full cooperation of the Centre to the state government in dealing with the situation.

    He said that an inter-ministerial team for the state had already been notified and sent to have an assessment of the field situation. Quick action will be taken on the report submitted by the team, he promised.

    The CM also reminded the home minister about the pending issue of Kosi rehabilitation and reconstruction proposal of Rs 14,808.59 crore. He insisted that special Central assistance for this be immediately sanctioned on the pattern of tsunami reconstruction package of Rs 9,822 crore. Chidambaram assured to look into the matter.

    Nitish also pressed for early settlement of pending dues on account of pensions due from Jharkhand government amounting to Rs 2,399 crore as on March 31, 2007, as per Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000