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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chinese helicopters enter Indian air space twice

Leh (JK), Aug 30 (PTI) Two Chinese helicopters have reportedly violated the Indian air space in recent months in Leh area of north Jammu and Kashmir during which they air-dropped some canned food in barren land at Chumar, northeast of this Himalayan town, along the border.

The MI series helicopters were reported to the nearby defence post by residents of this high altitude area living along the Pangong lake, located in the lap of majestic hills, prompting the Army Aviation Corps to rush its Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.

However, they could only find tell-tale signs left by Chinese helicopters which hovered in the Indian territory for nearly five minutes dropping the food material on June 21 this year, sources said.

BSF troops to be withdrawn

Imphal, August 29 2009: Major chunk of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel deployed here in the state as counter insurgency operation force will be withdrawn for redeployment in other Naxal-affected States of India within this month.

An informed source said in view of enormity of Naxalite problems in the States of West bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand the BSF troops are to be pulled-out from manipur in accordance with the Central Government's plan to tackle the Naxalite scourge.

It is reported that out of six battalions of the BSF deployed here in the State five of the them would cease to function with effect from August 31 owing to the call of duty in the Naxal-affected zones of the three States.

The source also disclosed of the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh calling on the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram yesterday to reconsider the Centre's decision for pulling out BSF troops from manipur on ground that the withdrawal is likely to hamper counter-insurgency operation in the State.

Under the chairmanship of the CM the issue concerning pull-out of BSF troops was discussed at a meeting also attended by Chief Secretary DS Poonia and DGP Y Joykumar.

The meeting besides deliberating on the possible impact of the troops' withdrawal on the overall security scenario here in the State also noted that service of the BSF personnel are being utilised in development projects such as deployment at important construction sites like the Khuga and Maphou dams.

The source further reminded that on an earlier occasion an appeal was made against the Centre's directive to the State to provide some personnel/battalion of the IRB for deployment at Naxal-hit areas of the country.

Besides BSF troops, units of the Army, Assam Rifles and CRPF are at present assisting State security forces in counter-insurgency operations.

Jawahar tunnel to remain open for 24 hrs

Srinagar, Aug 29: Jawahar tunnel, the main surface link between the Kashmir valley and rest of the world on the Srinagar-Jammu highway will remain open round the clock from Monday. The decision to the effect has been taken following directions from the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, to ensure free movement of vehicular traffic on the highway and to avoid inconvenience to the public, an official handout said today.
“The Jawahar tunnel, which hitherto remained closed for night hours causing acute inconvenience to the commuters shall now remain open for 24 hours from August 31, 2009 evening,” the handout said, adding the modalities had been worked out in a joint group of Traffic Police, BEACON authorities, CRPF, Army and civil administration yesterday.

Thirty Maoists caught in Orissa

Rourkela, Aug 29 (PTI) Thirty Maoists were arrested during night-long combing operations in four places in Orissa's Sundargarh district.

The Maoists were caught during joint combing operations by police and CRPF at Silipunji, Mundatala, Chandiposh and Champajharan areas in the district, Bonai SDPO Sudarsan Sethi said, adding that arms, ammunition and posters were seized from them.

Police claimed that the rebels during preliminary interrogation have confessed to involvement in the recent killing of Ajit Bardhan, officer-in-charge of Koida police station, looting an explosive-laden van from Champajharan on July 16 and blasting three forest department buildings at Tamada and Birida areas in the district two months back

Indian Air Force Officer receives Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award

Squadron Leader Ramakant, a Logistics Officer of the Indian Air Force was awarded the Tenzing Norgey National Adventure Award 2008 at a function held at Ashoka Hall, Rashtrapati Bhavan today. The officer received the award for his achievements in Aero Sports activities like Powered Hang Gliding (PHG), Para Motors, Para Gliding and scores of other related activities.

Tenzing Norgey National Adventure Award instituted in the year 1993 is given annually to individuals excelling in adventure activities in aero, land and water sports activities. Squadron Leader Ramakant becomes the eighth Indian Air Force personnel to receive this award by the President of India.

For VVIPs, airports to shut for 6 mins

MUMBAI: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) propose to introduce a three-minute complete airport closure before and after the arrival or departure of any VVIP flight at all airports across India.

This would mean that airports would be closed for six minutes in case of a VVIP movement. The decision comes five months after a near-collision situation between one of the choppers in the President's convoy and an Air India (AI) flight in February.

Incidentally, the recommendation for the closure was made in July by a team of both Indian Air Force (IAF) and AAI officials who investigated the case.Officials said the decision is likely to be implemented by the end of next month. ''There are some operational issues at busy airports which need to be sorted out before the closure rule is implemented. An AAI committee is looking into it and it is likely to be in place by the end of September,'' said a senior DGCA official.

Director general Naseem Zaidi confirmed the development. ''The need for this was felt by the investigation committee after the incident at Mumbai airport. Hence, a proper plan is being looked into by AAI,'' Zaidi told TOI.

The findings of the reports had mentioned that ''no closure of airport is required for VVIP flights at present as per the instructions of the home ministry. VVIP flights are, however, to be given priority landing. There is a lack of common understanding on the concept of priority landing between AAI and IAF.''

Is India eyeing base in the Maldives?

Indians have for long considered the Indian Ocean to be India’s Ocean. This thinking obviously necessitated the far flung outposts in the Indian Ocean being considered as an essential part of the Indian defence network in the region. As far back as in 1945 outstanding Indian military strategist K. M. Pannikar concluded that ‘the strategic unity of India, Ceylon and Burma was one of the prerequisites to a realistic policy of Indian defence.’
The late Prof. Shelton Kodikara in his book on Indo-Ceylon relations since Independence points out that Jawaharlal Nehru in 1945 too had supported the view that Ceylon would inevitably be drawn in ‘presumably as an autonomous unit of the Indian Federation.’ Nehru, however, had repudiated such views later on, Kodikara notes.
British Lake  
Before and after World War II the Indian Ocean was a de facto British lake but with the withdrawal of the British east of Suez in the ’60s the United States took control, much to the consternation of India which tilted towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War. At this time India promoted the concept of the Indian Ocean Peace Zone (IOPZ) which Sri Lanka, wittingly or unwittingly posed as proxy proposed to the world.
The end of the Cold War made the IOPZ irrelevant with the end of the superpower rivalry in the Indian Ocean. Now the two emergent powers, China and India are in competition for dominance of the ocean and the region itself although the United State’s Pacific Fleet overshadows the region.
Indian visit
Last week Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony led a high powered delegation to the Maldives and held talks with Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on the defence of the archipelago. This strategically placed archipelago of atolls is in the mid Indian Ocean between South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In the mid ’80s its vulnerability was exposed when the Sri Lankan terrorist group PLOTE took over the capital Male and an appeal by the Maldives to New Delhi resulted in an Indian task force bringing the situation under control and handing it over to the Maldivian authorities.
Defending Maldives  
Reports from Male said that the two sides discussed the threat of terrorism in the region and the installation by India of a ground radar network in all its atolls which would be linked to the Indian coastal command. Other discussions featured the Indian navy coast guard patrolling the waters off the Maldives. 
There was speculation that India was seeking a naval base in the Maldives but Indian Commodore Uday Baskar, defence analyst and Director of the National Maritime Foundation was quoted by al Jazeera saying that he did not believe India was planning to commit itself to such a costly undertaking.
But there are some former abandoned British naval bases in the archipelago such as the former base on Gan Island which the Soviet Union too had wanted in the 1970s but was refused by the Maldives. Speculation is that the Indians are eyeing Gan Island.
Chinese expansion
India as an emergent naval power is considered to be looking at the growing Chinese presence in the region and analysts say that recent Chinese investments in the region that was considered to be under the Indian sphere of influence would now inspire India to enter the fray.
China has made huge investments in East Africa — Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and is also helping to develop major ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. This chain of ports have been described as the String of Pearls of China, the latest of which is the Hambantota Port now under construction and estimated to cost one billion dollars.
While after five decades of planning India has acquired the ability to build and operate a nuclear powered submarine the likes of which only five other countries have, the submarine under construction, INS Arahat will be undergoing tests for another two years before it will be commissioned into the Indian navy.
Reports said that a few months back China paraded its nuclear capability with nuclear powered sub-marines at the 60th Anniversary of the Peoples’ Liberation Army. China is now considered to have the third largest navy behind the US and Russia and is qualitatively and quantitatively ahead of the Indians.
Chinese officials, some commentators have noted, now openly speak of the need of nuclear submarines in the national interest. The PLA General Logistics Department Director has been quoted saying that ‘We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as only an ocean of the Indians.’
Strategic importance
The Indian Ocean region has today become perhaps the most strategically important region in the world. One quarter of the world’s oil supplies flows from the Gulf into the Indian Ocean. Commuters and other vitally important industrial products are now being manufactured in the region as never before and find its passage through these sea ways while terrorism as well as Islamic extremism are abound in countries bordering the region.  
The outcome of Chinese dominance and an increasing Indian presence is hard to predict. India’s developing strategic relations with the US will also be a significant factor with Defence Secretary Robert Gates expressing hope in Singapore last month that they expect India to be a partner in providing security to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Navy factors in terrorism, coastal security in revamped maritime doctrine

NEW DELHI: Making major changes in its maritime doctrine given the evolving nature of modern warfare, the Indian Navy has revamped its existing policies to factor in maritime terrorism, piracy and coastal security

The revamped doctrine, which was released by outgoing Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta on Friday, has an all-new chapter on naval combat power which highlights the everchanging demands on conceptual, human and physical components of warfare.

Navy spokesperson Commander PVS Satish said the rapid transformational changes in technology and consequently tactics have been dealt with in this new chapter.

Many of the chapters in the maritime doctrine, first brought out in 2004, have been changed. This includes one on concepts of maritime power where emphasis has been laid on the contribution of the government and the people towards attitudinal change and consciousness.

Post 26/11, a greater importance has been laid on creating awareness in the coastal belt and on plugging possible loopholes in the security apparatus. Efforts are being made at the government level for acquiring ships to beef up coastal security. All this adequately reflects in the Navy's revamped doctrine.

"This review was necessitated in the current geo-strategic environment, the growing needs of the nation," the Navy spokesperson said.

For the first time, the laws governing armed conflict have been covered in detail for a better understanding of the legal aspects covering combat. There are notable changes in the `principles of war' with the inclusion of `synergy' and `intelligence'. as matters of greater strategic importance.

Delhi HC imposes fine on army for delaying insurance claim

Directing the Indian Army to settle the insurance claim of one of its personnel under the "disabilty pension scheme", the Delhi High Court slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on it for forcing the affected to come to the court to seek redressal.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudershan Misra directed the Army chief to pay Rs 25,000 to the petitioner for forcing him to seek redressal from the court.

The respondents could have settled the claim themselves but they did not do so and he was forced to knock the door of the Court, it observed.

The Court disposed of the petition of Mr Singheshwar singh, who had to retire because of the disability he got during the course of his job with the Army.

The petitioner said there were clear rules for the benefits to be given to a person in case of disability but his employer (Army) refused to adhere to them, hence he had to seek the intervention of court to get justice.

The Court observed that the inaction of the Army resulted in wasting his valuable time as he had to approach the court to get his claims.

"Though the rules are well established under the disability pension scheme, yet the respondants did not take care to follow them," the court observed.

Are we really a police state?

Police forces everywhere have a single mandate: to maintain the law and keep the order. In banana republics and totalitarian States, they go about their job without having to pay heed to any rule or law. In democracies, the police not only are supposed to be entrusted with the safety of people but are also answerable to their rights as citizens. India is clearly not a banana republic or a State under an iron fist.
And yet when it comes to an overwhelming number of cases — most recently witnessed in the incident of a college student in Chhattisgarh being beaten up by police personnel — our men in khaki behave as if they were an occupying force brutalising Indians. The fact that a woman who happens to be suffering from a mental ailment and was causing public nuisance was thrashed first and asked questions later tells a familiar story of policing in this country.
One doesn’t really need to read the recently released report by Human Rights Watch on police brutality in India to know that the culture of riding roughshod and worse by men in uniform against citizens — guilty or innocent — is endemic and a hangover from a colonial mindset where the police played the role of controllers for foreign outsiders.
The 118-page report, however, does document the apocryphal: arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture as well as custodial deaths. This kind of ‘habit’ that has been accommodated and thereby encouraged by the public at large needs to be broken, not only for the sake of our citizenry at large but also because the reputation of India as a democracy is at stake.
Police reforms form a large part of the practical change that is required. The chicken-and-egg problem of a police force working under incredibly stressful and dire conditions with little professional emoluments perpetuates a desensitisation that stops looking at how to use the law against law-breakers and instead uses statutory power to bully the citizenry at large. Coupled with India’s ever-noxious perception of class hierarchies, an overwhelming number of incidents of police excess involve the poorer sections of society as victims.
Unless India puts its mind into building and inculcating a mature, modern police force — whether while dealing with mobs, petty thieves or hardened criminals — it will always remain a sub-democratic country where the lathi serves a purpose more than the law.

Fusion as confusion

Nuclear testing will always attract an unusual degree of public attention. One, it is a technological accomplishment which has over the decades developed an unusual aura of cultural symbolism. Two, its very nature means it cannot be carried out in a transparent nature. It does not help that nowadays they must take place underground, making third party measurements uncertain. Three, even after thousands of such events, nuclear tests are still temperamental. The data collected from each test is  unique to that device. Which is why it is easy to question whether a nuclear test is successful and difficult to prove the opposite.
However, the question of whether the thermonuclear device detonated as part of the Pokhran II tests was a success or not is a literally academic issue. Though it sounds strange, the point of a nuclear weapons test is not to collect data but to establish the credibility of a country’s nuclear deterrent. Nuclear deterrence works by persuading a potential adversary that the cost of waging war against a nuclear-armed nation outstrips any advantage that conflict is unwinnable. Military strategy becomes less a test of strength than a test of psychology. The question should be: did the Pokhran tests strengthen the view that India has a credible nuclear deterrent? The answer is yes. First, no one doubts India’s nuclear fission tests went off perfectly. A fusion test may be a source of pride, but fission bombs levelled two cities. They inflict unacceptable levels of damage. Second, other countries will be equally uncertain as India has a thermonuclear weapon. Even if the tests are proven to have failed, a flaw can always be repaired without another test. No one wages atomic war on a kiss and a prayer.
A perfect example of how mindgames dominate nuclear defence is the case of Israel. Officially, Israel has no nuclear arsenal. It has never publicly tested a device. Yet its neighbours live in fear of the so-called ‘Samson Option’. What matters is less Israel’s technical ability than its fearsome reputation when it comes to national security. Unfortunately, whether India has the mental toughness that underpins deterrence is arguably in greater doubt than whether it has crossed a specific technical hurdle.

US accuses Pakistan of illegally modifying missiles: report

The US government has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying US-made antiship missiles to make them capable of striking land targets and thus creating a new threat for India, The New York Times reported late on Saturday.
Citing unnamed senior administration and congressional officials, the newspaper said the accusation was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest delivered in late June to Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.
At the center of the row were Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the administration of former US president Ronald Reagan as a defensive weapon during the Cold War in the 1980s, the report said.
US military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the missiles in a manner that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act, the paper said.
Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. But according to the report, US intelligence agencies detected on April 23 a suspicious missile test that appeared to indicate that Pakistan had a new offensive weapon.
The missile would be a significant new entry into Pakistan's arsenal against India, The Times said. It would enable Pakistan's navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed.
That, in turn, would be likely to spur another round of an arms race between the nuclear-armed rivals that the United States has been trying to halt, the paper noted.
"The potential for proliferation and end-use violations are things we watch very closely," The Times quotes an administration official as saying. "When we have concerns, we act aggressively."
The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying US-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of US law that the administration of President Barack Obama has protested, the report said.

Nuclear doubts

There was this big difference between Pokhran I in 1974 when Indira Gandhi was prime minister and Congress was in power and Pokhran II in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister and the BJP-led NDA was in power.


The politicians and scientists claimed in 1974 that it was a peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE), though hawks and sceptics at home and abroad claimed that in truth it was a nuclear weapons test.

In 1998, the BJP and the scientists proclaimed that it was indeed a nuclear weapons test which not only had a major political advantage for the BJP but also led to the minimum nuclear deterrence policy. The Vajpayee government had also declared a voluntary moratorium on testing.

Now there is a cloud over the 1998 test. The statement by former defence research development organisation (DRDO) scientist K Santhanam that the thermonuclear yields of the 1998 tests were below the standard levels brings into the open what others, especially overseas experts, had pointed out then. He is not necessarily debunking the explosion as much as pressing the need for more tests and cautioning that India should not give up its option to test. His concern should be seen in the context of speculation that India is under pressure to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT).

But his remarks would be interpreted differently in the scientific, security and political spheres. In the scientific sphere, it would be taken as a statement of fact with no negative impact. In the security establishment however, it has been seen as an admission of defeat. Hence the prompt rejection of Santhanam's claim by naval chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta. The then national security adviser Brajesh Mishra has also pooh-poohed the perception that the bomb was a dud.

The time is now for sober assessment of the facts of India's nuclear capability. What prompted Santhanam is not clear but it would be unfortunate if this becomes a needless controversy and it does not lead to serious thinking on nuclear policy. India has in any case already stated that it reserves the right for more tests. Nor is there any direct pressure to sign the CTBT, since the US has so far not signed it either. But the scientific part remains. Sooner or later the government will have to clear the air on the 1998 tests and this will have a bearing on future experiments and our strategic posture.

All is not quiet on terror front

A.S. Dulat
TODAY, WE talk about the war on terror. I would say we’ve been fighting this for more than 20 years — in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir (Northeast is a different story), and now the rest of the country.
But the Mumbai terror attack has been a watershed. It has shaken up everything. It has certainly brought focus to what was lacking earlier.
Earlier, it was a bomb here and a bomb there. In Varanasi, in Hyderabad. And the incidents were treated individually. But the 26/11 episode was like an invasion from the sea. It made people realise how grave the threat of terrorism is. Since we are focused on the problem now as a coordinated phenomenon, various steps are being taken to revamp the security set-up. The Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) has been revitalised, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been set up, much more awareness is being generated among state police forces, and special attention is being given to modernising them and equipping them with contemporary weaponry and gadgets. Gradually everyone is becoming alive to the situation.
During the recent meeting of chief ministers on internal security, the Prime Minister brought home the real meaning of the terrorist threat as he spoke of credible information about continuing and sustained preparations in a neighbouring country to launch attacks against us. The question asked today is, will there be another Mumbai? And when and where?
I don’t see another Mumbai happening in a hurry. A lot of planning has to go into an attack of that magnitude. At the same time, the threat has not gone away completely. As the prime minister has indicated, the threat from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and other Pakistani outfits is very real indeed. The Lashkar has always been close to the ISI. In Kashmir, during the months of July and August, violence always increases as passes re-open. This year also there has been infiltration and an increase in violence. We are hearing about encounters and shootouts every now and then. Not only J&K, the Laskhar threat to the rest of the country is also very much alive.
Why is Pakistan not taking any action against LeT chief Hafiz Sayeed? The truth is this is very difficult for the ISI to do since the Laskhar has always been very close to it. Pakistan tries to sell the theory that Lashkar has become autonomous. There may be a couple of rogue modules, but what happens in Kashmir — and I am talking about Kashmir because intruders’ attacks happen more often in the Valley than in any other state — cannot happen without the connivance and backing of the Pakistan military. The Kashmiris know this, and they fear this. That is why, in Kashmir, even the separatists have a high security cover, some even have Z-plus security. This is because of the persisting high level of threat.
There is no such thing as foolproof security when people are ready to commit suicide. Security is being beefed up, but this is a long-drawn process. India’s threshold of violence will also be kept in view by those who prepare attacks against us.
For instance, a parliament attack or Kargil cannot keep happening. It is not a coincidence that nothing has happened after 26/11. Pakistan has held back because the Americans have applied pressure and so have we.
Left-wing extremism is also a serious internal security issue. Several states — Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa — bear the brunt but the situation is bad even in West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. This is why the Prime Minister and the Union home minister have said that the greatest threat is coming from the Maoists. We have been found wanting in being able to handle them. In Bastar, for instance, there are areas where the police forces can’t enter because there are not enough policemen and adequate weapons to deal with the situation.
Whenever there is a crisis situation, as in Punjab once and in J&K, the coordination is very good. In the rest of the country, since it is an incident here and there, the response is scattered. It has improved after 26/11. NSG hubs have been set up in metros, besides a host of other steps. Active steps are being taken and the home minister himself is involved in day-to-day supervision.
If you think attacks will now stop, you are wrong. Things will happen. However, the tendency is to make intelligence failures appear glaring. In reality, there has always been coordination between the RAW, IB, military intelligence. After the 9/11 attack in America, it was said that there was a lack of coordination between the CIA and the FBI. We must realise that there is a limit to such coordination. Every agency likes to protect its turf. The bottomline is that when there is a crisis, there is excellent coordination on a day-to-day basis. For example: the Unified Command in J&K. A seriousness is evident after the Mumbai episode where there appeared to be a system collapse, as the Pradhan Committee noted. A more efficient linking between the gathered intelligence and police response is also desired.
A.S. Dulat is a former chief of RAW, India’s external intelligence agency

South India on terrorist radar

Aug. 29: The latest inputs with the Central intelligence agencies reveal that big cities in South India are the next targets of Pakistan-based militant organisations.
According to the new intelligence, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been assigned the job of setting up the maximum number of sleeper cells in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.
Talking to this newspaper, a high-ranking official of a Central intelligence agency said, "The inputs reveal that sensitive installations and big cities of South India are the next targets. Pakistani agencies, including the ISI, have assigned this job to the LeT and JeM. There are confirmed reports that they have asked for a large number of sleeper cells in cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Thiruvan-anthapuram and other important places in South India." "There are several sensitive installations located in South India. The state police forces have been alerted in this regard. Besides, Central security agencies guarding sensitive installations have been alerted. They are already on high alert after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008," said the official.
The official added, "Some people from Kerala have been spotted near Poonch and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir. These two districts are close to the international border. The state police is keeping a close vigil on their activities. Despite repeated efforts by state security forces, the people from Kerala failed to provide satisfactory reasons for their presence in these two border districts of J&K." Further, the interrogation of some militants in J&K has revealed that their next targets are big cities in South India, said the official.
There are reports that LeT and JeM have started recruiting agents for sleeper cells in South India. While in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh they have already started the process, in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu they are looking for trained hands, said the official.

Disputed Pak N. Areas get province-like status

Aug. 29: Pakistan on Saturday granted "province-like" status to the disputed Northern Areas and renamed them Gilgit-Baltistan.
"The Northern Areas will be from now on called Gilgit-Baltistan. They will have autonomy and a province-like status," Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters after a meeting of the Federal Cabinet that approved the decision.
"A 15-member administrative council will see to the matters of Gilgit-Baltistan and the council will choose the chief minister. The (Pakistan) minister for Kashmir Affairs (Qamruz Zamn Kaira) will be the governor," he said.
The Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, can have up to six ministers. Mr Gilani said a committee has been constituted for the Northern Areas and added that all the stakeholders have been taken into confidence on the "Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment Act".
Previously, too, he had said it was the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that worked for the Northern Areas. "The Cabinet of Gilgit-Baltistan will approve their budget. However, the federation will appoint the governor," Mr Gilani said, adding that an auditor-general and election commissioner would also be appointed for Gilgit-Baltistan.
The government’s decision comes after a decades-old struggle of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, who wanted the Northern Areas given a specific name and rights. Some of them have even been calling for freedom from Pakistani rule.
"The Northern Areas will have self-rule. They will have province-like autonomy but will not constitutionally be a province," a senior Pakistani official said. He said Gilgit-Baltistan would have its own Assembly (council) with 39 members. "The Northern Areas would be granted self-rule on the pattern of Azad Jammu and Kashmir as proposed in the summary finalised in consultation with the authorities of these areas and in accordance with its resolutions," the official said.
Asked about opposition from any quarter, he said, "Every sitting minister has been consulted and their inputs are part of the summary."
Under the summary, Gilgit-Baltistan would have its own election commission, commissioner and courts, like the PoK. "Had the Northern Areas been given the status of a constitutional province, there might have been a reaction from outside the border," he added.
Asked about the procedure, he said the President of Pakistan will implement the decision in the form of a presidential order. "The Northern Areas fall under the direct jurisdiction of the President and, therefore, he (President Asif Ali Zardari) will issue an order after approval of the same by the Federal Cabinet," the official said.
The Constitution, he said, provides that only a sitting President can issue an order in the case of the Northern Areas, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and other areas falling under the direct jurisdiction of the federation.

India moon craft dead in space

Aug. 29: Indian Space Research Organisation chairman Gopalan Madhavan Nair was woken up by his colleagues at 2 am on Saturday. They had devastating news. India's first mooncraft, Chandrayaan-I, was lost.
The spacecraft's radio contact with mission command at Deep Space Network (DSN) at Byalalu, 40 km from Bengaluru, was severed at 1.30 am and efforts to restore the link remained futile. Dr Nair's colleagues plan to make another attempt to re-establish communication later on Saturday night. A sense of despair, however, has already set in among space scientists because they are convinced that Chandrayaan-I has come to an untimely end. "We have no clue yet. It is very difficult to predict the chances of recovering the spacecraft," Dr Nair told this newspaper.
His colleague, Chandrayaan project director M. Annadurai, however, was up-front: "The mission is over. We spent the entire night trying to retrieve the spacecraft, but gave up this morning. Chandrayaan-I has done its job during its 312-day orbit. Just now, we are putting together the data of the last hour-and-a-half before the snag. Perhaps we will talk about the cause (of the snag) in a day or two," he said.
Playing down the setback to the Indian space programme, Dr Nair said Chandrayaan ought not to be described as a flop because it had achieved almost all its scientific and technical objectives. "From the launch (on October 22, 2008) to reaching its precise orbit (100 km around the moon, about 3,84,000 km from the earth), to landing the MIP (moon impact probe), to gathering data, we have crossed all the milestones," he said.
Saturday's setback occurred on the eve of a conference scheduled in Bengaluru for September 7 to analyse scientific data beamed home from the earth's nearest astral neighbour. All participating teams, including from Nasa and the European Space Agency, will examine the data and come forward with details of the composition of lunar soil.
The end came a week after an experiment - the first ever by space-faring nations - to manoeuvre their orbiters over their spot on the moon to scout for water-ice. Chandrayaan-I had been moved closer to Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The results of this experiment will be disclosed during the conference here next month. Saturday's snag proved fatal for the spacecraft. Scientists had managed to overcome an earlier one, in May 2009, when a couple of star sensors stopped functioning.
The spacecraft was then moved to a new orbit (200 km) to continue its scrutiny of the lunar surface.

100% inflation in 100 days

The first 100 days of the second UPA Government is an occasion that will go largely unnoticed in the country. Even the TV polls and the lavish advertisements are unlikely to register too much in the public consciousness. The simple reason is that, all pronouncements notwithstanding, 100 days is a contrived benchmark to assess the performance of any Government. Most people need a longer time span before they can come to a decision about whether a Government is a performing or non-performing one and whether or not it corresponds to their sense of self-interest.

At the risk of jumping to hasty conclusions a few observations may be in order. First, while there is dissatisfaction with the Government’s inability to control food prices — said to have increased 100 per cent in 100 days — this has not yet translated into a larger political dissatisfaction with the Congress. A Government in its second term may not enjoy a prolonged honeymoon but this doesn’t imply that the process of estrangement has begun. Politically, the UPA Government still looks comfortable and this level of comfort has little to do with performance. After the fear that the 15th Lok Sabha election would throw up an inconclusive verdict, India seems reassured that a stable Government is in place.

Secondly, the absence of the Left from the cast of the ruling coalition hasn’t meant a spurt in the reforming zeal of the Government. The Congress is essentially a party wedded to the idea of an intrusive and interventionist state. There has been no change in that philosophy and the global endorsement of spendthrift Governments to fight recession has meant that the UPA will not depart from its well-trodden path of statism. If there was an expectation in corporate circles and among innocent business journalists that the comfort zone of politics will facilitate some radical change, the first 100 days has done nothing to provide it nourishment. On the contrary those believers in responsible fiscal management may find enough in the unmanageable fiscal deficit to fear for the future.

Finally, while the Prime Minister came out of the general election with enhanced personal stature, he has chosen to not drive home the advantage in the first 100 days of his second innings. Manmohan Singh was never an assertive Prime Minister. His reputation for playing it safe and trying not to ruffle feathers is legendary. This may not win him a huge fan following but it has also ensured that a campaign of visceral hate against him is unlikely to ever succeed. His image and reputation have been built on decency and understated competence. In recent months, he tried to break the mould only once — at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit with the Pakistani Prime Minister. But this attempt to think out of the box and be extra generous towards the neighbourhood rogue has enthused neither the country nor the strategic affairs community. Rather than persist, Manmohan chose to retreat without fuss and reserve his cards for a future occasion. The Sharm el-Sheikh fiasco also ensured that the bid to accommodate “global concerns”, a euphemism for US pressure, on climate change has been put on hold. It will probably be re-emerge unexpectedly at the Copenhagen Summit.

Manmohan Singh may want to give the impression that he is a political novice but there is no doubt that the goodwill the UPA Government continues to enjoy at the end of an unspectacular 100 days owes a lot to him. While many of the UPA Ministers are thoroughly incompetent and some of them lack integrity, the overall impression that the country is heading in the right direction owes a lot to popular trust in the Prime Minister. As long as this trust is not shaken, the UPA will continue to be treated indulgently.

It is also a truism to suggest that this trust will not be shaken as long as the main Opposition party continues to wage war against itself. Manmohan Singh and the Congress seem to be shining when compared to a BJP that has completely lost sight of its political responsibilities. The main Opposition doesn’t lack the ammunition to either take pot shots or undertake sustained artillery fire on the Government. Unfortunately, its present leadership is either incapable or has lost the will to fight a long war.

Mohan Bhagwat said in his Press conference last Friday afternoon that the BJP must resolve its own battles, without looking outside mediation. Once this principle is accepted and the leaders who have a stake in the future put their heads together — as they belatedly did on Friday evening — it will not be long before the BJP begins to get its act together. There are some long-term issues of strategy that need careful deliberation but two immediate priorities — one honourable retirement and one dishonourable discharge — are apparent to all but the wilfully obtuse. It is also clear that any delay in doing what has to be done — on grounds of either compassion or astrology — will only worsen the situation, provoke a scorched earth response, guarantee a political defeat in Maharashtra and ensure that the second 100 days of the UPA look far better than the actual experience.

The BJP is a lot into Mao Zedong these days. Three years before he instructed his deranged Red Guards to “bombard the headquarters”, the Great Helmsman penned a few lines of poetry that are worth repeating: “On this tiny globe/ A few flies dash themselves against the wall,/ Humming without cease/ Sometimes shrilling, sometimes moaning…/ Away with all pests!/ Our force is irresistible.” Bad poetry, but a nice thought.

Controversy over Pokhran-II needless: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Saturday that the controversy over the May 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests was "needles" and cited former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's assertion that the tests were successful.

"A wrong impression has been given by some scientists (about the success of Pokhran-II)," Manmohan Singh told reporters here, adding: "A needless controversy has been created over the Pokhran tests."

Manmohan Singh also pointed out that Kalam, who spearheaded India's nuclear programme, has clarified that the Pokhran-II tests were successful.

The controversy arose when K. Santhanam, who was director of the test site for Pokhran-II, said earlier this week that the thermonuclear test, one of the three conducted on May 11, 1998 was a "fizzle" - meaning that it did not meet the intended parametres.

Santhanam's remarks sparked speculation about India's nuclear deterrence. Kalam quickly repudiated Santhanam and said that the test had yielded the desired yield.

"After the test, there was a detailed review, based on the two experimental results - seismic measurement close to the site and around and radioactive measurement of the material after post shot drill in the test site," Kalam had told IANS Thursday.

"From these data, it has been established by the project team that the design yield of the thermonuclear test has been obtained," he added.

Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar also said the tests had achieved "100 percent desired results".

The defence ministry, too, had reacted sharply to Santhanam's contention, saying India has a meaningful nuclear deterrent.

Pay scales cannot be reduced: HC

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the higher pay scale obtained by workmen cannot be reduced.
The ruling by Justice K Kannan came in connection with a petition filed by Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited against the presiding officer of the UT Labour Court.
The corporation, a state government undertaking, had challenged the award passed by the labour court acceding to a reference that was a sequel to a demand notice on behalf of 35 fertiliser clerks-cum-clerk typists complaining against the order of reversion without notice and fixing them on lower scales of pay.
The main opposition to the labour court award was the alleged inherent lack of jurisdiction for a court to accord sanction for restructuring of cadre and fixing a scale of pay, which was exclusively in the domain of the employer.
The petitioner’s contention was reorganisation took effect only from assistants upwards; and no decision had been taken for providing for any promotion for clerks, fertiliser clerks or senior clerks.
Counsel appearing for the workmen contended that it was decided to revert all workmen without affording any notice to them and to put them on lower scales, even while stating their payswere protected.
Management counsel, on the other hand, contended no notice or opportunity of hearing was required, while reverting a person wrongly promoted. A reversion, which arises on account of rectification of mistake, does not attract Article 311 (2) and principles of natural justice are not required to be followed.
Justice Kannan concluded: “The increase in scales of pay that the workmen have obtained by the upgradation or promotion, in whatever manner they have obtained a higher scale, cannot, in any way, be reduced and the decision of the board reverting them without any notice was against law.”
“The labour court was, therefore, perfectly justified in upholding the claim of the workmen… The award of the labour court is, under the circumstances, perfectly justified and confirmed. The writ petition is dismissed,” it said.

26/11: Pakistan court again puts off proceedings

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terror court on Saturday once again put off proceedings against five suspects in Pakistani custody for their alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks without framing charges against them.
Judge Baqir Ali Rana of Anti-Terror Court 2, which meets in the maximum-security Adiala Prison, fixed the next hearing for September 5.
The judge, who had ordered that the proceedings be held in camera at the hearing on July 25, reiterated that he wanted this order followed strictly. He threatened to haul up anyone responsible for leaking any part of the proceedings to the media for contempt.
As a result, the information emerging about the proceedings is patchy. The Hindu has learnt that the proceedings against the five suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and communications expert Zarar Shah, were put off apparently because the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had not given defence lawyers copies of all statements made by the suspects during investigation as the court had ordered.
The bail petition of a sixth suspect, Jamil Ahmed — the NWFP resident was arrested in August for his alleged involvement as a “facilitator” in the 26/11 attack — was submitted at Saturday’s hearing. It will be heard on Tuesday.
10-day remand The FIA produced a seventh suspect, identified as Younus, in the court which granted a 10-day remand for him.

wo ULFA militants shot dead in Kamrup

RANGIYA (ASSAM): Two hardcore ULFA men were shot dead on Saturday in an encounter between the militants and a joint team of police and Army in Assam’s Kamrup district.
Police said the joint team raided Naguparahills village on specific information that five ULFA ultras were holed up in a house. The militants fired at the approaching security personnel and the encounter lasted for about an hour. While two militants were shot dead, three others managed to escape. — PTI

India shying away from talks: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday accused India of “shying away” from peace talks, even when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had acknowledged that dialogue was the only way forward for the two countries.

Pay hike for medical faculty soon


P.K. Sreemathy says a project is being drawn up to make life-saving drugs available at affordable prices.
Thrissur: Health Minister P. K. Sreemathy has said that the faculty in government medical colleges will get a substantial increase in salary with special allowances soon.
Addressing a function at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thrissur, on Saturday, she said that doctors should be well taken care of to ensure better patient care. “A declaration in this regard will be made within a few days. The salaries of the doctors in medical colleges have not been revised in the past 13 years,” she said.
Research activities, she said, would get priority in the proposed Kerala University of Medical and Allied Sciences.
She said the State government was preparing a project to make life-saving drugs available at affordable prices. The Minister said meetings of drug manufacturers, health officials and agencies, such as the Neethi and Maveli stores, which sold medicines at subsidised rates, would be convened in Kochi soon to chalk out the project.
“The cost of life-saving drugs is beyond the common man’s reach. Medicines are being distributed at lower rates through the medical corporation,” she said.
New MRI scan centre She inaugurated a Rs.7-crore MRI scan centre, Hindlabs, set up by HLL Lifecare Ltd. as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the company and the State government. The centre would provide MRI scans at an affordable rate, the Minister said. “This is an Onam gift for the people of Thrissur. While private agencies charge around Rs.7,000 for a scan, Hindlabs will charge only Rs.3,500. And, 10 per cent of the poor will get the facility totally free.”
During the trial run, 150 patients had availed themselves of the facility. HLL Lifecare Ltd. would set up two more scan centres in the government medical colleges at Alappuzha and Kottayam by the end of the year. With this, all five government medical colleges in the State would have MRI scan facility.
Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran said the government was considering construction of a Rs.12-crore indoor stadium at the proposed Kerala University of Medical and Allied Sciences.

Pay hike for teachers of government colleges

CHENNAI: The State government on Saturday announced hike in pay for teachers of universities, government colleges and government-aided colleges. The move will benefit 20,000 teachers and entail additional expenditure of Rs.557.49 crore annually for the government.
Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi told reporters that a newly appointed assistant professor would get Rs.26,352 a month against the present pay of Rs.19,680. The minimum increase would be Rs.6,672.
In the case of professors, the revised pay would be Rs.62,085 against their current pay of Rs.40,344, an increase of Rs.21,741.
As done in the case of government employees, the new pay scales would be fixed notionally from January 1, 2006. The monetary benefit would be given from January 1, 2007. The arrears would be disbursed in three instalments.
The Chief Minister also said that there would be no change in the structure of the revised pay scale and academic grade pay, as announced by the Centre, on the basis of the University Grants Commission’s recommendation.
The government would follow another recommendation of the Commission that there be three designations of teachers — assistant professors, associate professors and professors.
As advised by the UGC, pay scales of librarians, assistant librarians, physical education directors, deputy and assistant physical education directors would also be revised. They would also receive pension, family pension and other pensionary benefits.
The conditions followed for the provision of other allowances to the government employees will be applicable in the case of the teachers, Mr. Karunanidhi said.

NSA: India doesn’t need another nuclear test


M.K. Narayanan
New Delhi: Describing India’s commitment to its voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing as “steadfast,” National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan on Saturday came down hard on those making a case for the resumption of testing by claiming the May 1998 thermonuclear device test had been a failure.
In an interview to The Hindu, the NSA described the man at the centre of the current controversy — the former Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist, K. Santhanam — as “a bit of a maverick” who had no locus standi to comment on the measurement of the test yields despite being the DRDO’s point-person at the Pokhran test site in 1998.
DRDO not in scene
Asked whether Mr. Santhanam’s claims had undermined the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrent because this was the first time Western doubts about the yield of the 1998 test had been echoed by a DRDO insider, Mr. Narayanan said: “First and foremost, DRDO has nothing to do with [this aspect of the] tests, frankly, whatever plumage they may like to give themselves. The measurements are not done by DRDO.”
Citing the “authorised and proven measurements” of yields done by Anil Kakodkar and S.K. Sikka from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, he said nobody had really questioned their conclusions. “If those who were involved come forward and say, ‘I have looked at the measurement and these are the mistakes’ that would be different. If Santy says, ‘I have an independent set of measurements about the tests,’ let him come forward,” Mr. Narayanan said, referring to Mr. Santhanam by his nick-name. Western analysts had been questioning the Pokhran-II tests because “they don’t want to recognise that we are a nuclear weapon power, particularly that we are capable of a fusion device,” the NSA said. “Now if Santy honestly believed that there was something about it, he should have said so [then], not 10 years later.”
“A maverick”
Mr. Narayanan said that Mr. Santhanam’s statement would lead to increased international pressure on India on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), even though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had publicly declared that Washington had no right to make demands on Delhi until it had itself ratified the treaty. “I think we are going to face pressures from the international community. They don’t know Santy … I mean, he is extremely bright but he is a bit of a maverick in these matters! But the international community is going to say that this is one of India’s very devious methods of preparing for a test, that [our] scientists are saying that was a fizzle, therefore India may find it necessary to prove itself once again. This is my worry. I hope it doesn’t happen.”
Anticipating a “new rash of [statements] saying India should not test,” Mr. Narayanan said, “In any case, our decision not to test has nothing to do with this. We have a voluntary moratorium. At the moment, our people feel that we don’t need a test. I suppose that’s where we are.”
Asked whether he could think of a situation where India might want to resume nuclear testing in the absence of a deterioration in the international security environment, the NSA said, “As of now, we are steadfast in our commitment to the moratorium. At least there is no debate in the internal circles about this.”
But if that were the case, did the Manmohan Singh government stand by the formulation first advanced by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister in September 1998 — that India would not stand in the way of the CTBT entering into force? Throughout the world, that statement was understood to mean India would have no problem signing the treaty if the others whose ratification is required for the CTBT to enter into force — especially the U.S. and China — did so. Mr. Narayanan ducked a direct response. “I think we need to now have a full-fledged discussion on the CTBT. We’ll cross that hurdle when we come to it.”