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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

leave encashment

Leave encashment in respect of central Government employees will be considered both for earned leave and half pay leave subject to overall limit of 300 days and in respect of encashment of half pay leave, no reduction shall be made on account of pension and pension equivalent of other retirement benefits. In case of shortfall in earned leave, no commutation of half pay leave is permissible. It will be effective from Jan 1, 2006 instead of Sept 1, 2008 as stated earlier.

war of lords

Intelligence Bureau (IB) & Military Intelligence are at logger heads. Officers of the latter feel that whatever terror activities including 26/11 happened were due to a laxity on part of the IB.

UPA Govt.committed to making IAF a dominant aerospace power: Antony

Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said the UPA Government is committed to developing the Indian Air Force into a dominant aerospace power.

Addressing the first meeting of the newly constituted Consultative Committee of Members of Parliament attached to his ministry, Antony said the steps include enhancing the strategic reach of the IAF and integrating potent capabilities in terms of space-based assets and air defence, surveillance, modern aircraft and advanced weapon systems.

He said the government’s endeavours are aimed at seeing that the IAF’s capabilities are in consonance with India’s stature, aspirations and threat perceptions.

“We also need to conceptualise and build asymmetric capabilities against superior forces”, he said.

Referring to the perspective plans of the Armed Forces, Antony said the gestation period for induction of new equipment is long, and therefore, there must be clarity in our strategic assessments and projection of requirements.

“We need to hasten our procurements to prevent voids in defence preparedness,” he added.

He said efforts are also being made to ensure that the country reaches the level of developed countries in defence technologies without going through all the intermediate steps.

“In our drive for modernisation and in execution of our daily tasks, we must be ever mindful of economy and avoid waste or duplication. We must lend our shoulders to indigenisation and think of ways in which we can reach the level of advanced states without necessarily following all the intermediate steps,” he said.

Antony informed the members that the IAF is in the process of considerable transformation and modernisation.

Giving an account of various projects, he said the Hawk AJT has already been inducted into the Air Force, the intergovernmental agreements on the Fifth General Fighter Aircraft and Multi-role Transport Aircraft have been inked and the evaluation process for the selection of 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft is on.

Cutting across party lines, Members of Parliament commended the role of Indian Air Force over the years in not only protecting the country, but in also providing humanitarian relief during natural disasters.

Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora gave a detailed account of various measures being taken by the Air Force to spread its assets across the country as also to keep the morale of air warriors high.

Members of Parliament, who attended today’s meeting included Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Shivaji Adhalrao Patil, Harsh Vardhan, Manish Tewari, Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya and S S Ramasubbu from Lok Sabha and Ram Chandra Khuntia, Shivanand Tiwari, Dr. Janardhan Waghmare and Veer Singh from the Rajya Sabha. (ANI)


Lt Gen A K Singh becomes GOC Strike Corps

Lieutenant General A K Singh has assumed charge of the Strike Corps on the Western Front.

Commissioned into the 7th Light Cavalry in June 1973, Lt. Gen. Singh is a graduate of the Staff College at Camberley, Higher Command Course and the prestigious National Defence College.

He has also attended a number of other prestigious courses abroad.

A foremost expert on manoeuvre warfare and operational planning, he converted the first T-90 Brigade of the Indian Army during - ’Op Parakram’; and has commanded a prestigious Armoured Division.

The General has a varied exposure in Staff at high altiude, Military Opertions, the Foreign Division and Perspective Planning. He is Col of the Scinde Horse, 74 and 51 Armd Regts. (ANI)


Two Babbar Khalsa men arrested

Two members of the Babbar Khalsa terrorist outfit were arrested by a team, led by Ropar DSP Bhupinder Singh Thind and person in charge, CIA staff, Varinderjit Singh, last night. They have been identified as Harminder Singh of Chariyan village and Balwinder Singh of Dekwala village.

The police also impounded their car and seized one .32-bore revolver, 10 live cartridges and explosive material from their possession.

SSP, Ropar, Laxmi Kant Yadav said the accused had been working with the outfit since long and were helping one Baljit Singh Bhau, who was lodged at the Tihar jail, New Delhi. “He was recently arrested by the Delhi police with some arms brought from Pakistan,” SSP Yadav added.

The SSP said during investigations, the accused revealed that they were working on the directions of Bhau and had plans to revive terrorism and create disharmony in the state. They also admitted that they were sending money to Bhau in the jail.

They revealed that they had planned to kill Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarewala near Qila Itihasgarh during the latter’s visit to Ambala for appearance in a case.

One of the accused, Balwinder Singh, was also involved in sending RDX to Jagtar Singh Hawara, the prime accused in the Beant Singh assassination case, in the Burail jail in 1997.

The accused have been booked under various sections at the Sadar Police Station here.
 
 

Residents fear some ultras may have sneaked in

Ramgarh, November 16

The residents of this frontier town of Samba district were a worried lot today as they feared that some infiltrators, who the BSF claimed to have arrested last night, might have entered the Indian side.

The residents of various villages in this sector feared that the tall claims of the BSF that the infiltration attempt was foiled could be a “lie” as last year too the BSF had claimed to have foiled a similar infiltration bid in the sector. However, after two days the militants had surfaced in Kaily Mandi village in Samba and killed six persons.

The villagers said if the militants could kill a senior BSF officer by triggering an IED blast, there was every possibility that the militants might have sneak into the Indian side as well.

“If the militants can kill a high ranking officer of the BSF, there are chances that some of them might have managed to enter our territory,” said Ram Dayal, a resident of Langoor village near the international border.

When The Tribune team visited the spot where the DIG of the BSF was killed, most of the villages en route the border wore a deserted look as people preferred to stay inside. “We are afraid to go out, as we are not sure whether some infiltration has taken place or not. Last year’s incident is still fresh in our minds when militants, who had infiltrated into our side, killed six innocent civilians in the same sector,” said Keshew, a resident of Keso village of Ramgarh sector in Samba district.

The villagers say that late last night they woke up due to the sound of heavy gun shots that continued for several hours and they were even more frightened to hear the IED blast in the morning. “Last night, the firing started around 2 am and continued for several hours. We understood it was an infiltration bid. Earlier also there have been instances of infiltration bid from this sector,” said Anmol, a resident of Keso village, who stays a few yards from the barbed fence near which the firing took place.Though the BSF has denied any infiltration took place, the security around the area has been tightened as the security forces have been kept on high alert along the international border, especially in the Ramgarh sector.


2 jawans killed in gunfight

Two Army jawans were killed in a gunfight with infiltrators in the Keran sector in Kupwara district as the year continues to see a general spike in infiltration bids by militants.

The Army killed a militant in Keran, while a Hizbul Mujahideen militant was killed in an encounter in Pulwama, Lt-Col JS Brar, Srinagar-based Army spokesperson, said today. The martyred jawans are from 9 Rajput, but officials declined to identify them.

The operation in the Keran sector was still on in the evening while it was called off in Pulwama where two militants were believed to be hiding. The police identified killed militant as Rehman Gorsie, alias Aqib-ul-Islam, a battalion commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

The Army spokesperson told The tribune that the valley had seen 36 infiltration bids this year so far and out of which they foiled 22 bids, meaning the militants were either killed or pushed back, while all infiltrators in the rest were shot dead.

However, official sources said there were many more successful infiltration attempts by militants this year. Top Army officers had said on August 26 on the sidelines of an interaction with the media that the Kashmir valley had witnessed 69 successful infiltrations by militants. This number has only gone up since then. The figure for the last year was less than 50 for the whole state.

If police sources are to be believed, the number of militants, who have managed to sneak into the state this year, is well above 400, considerably higher than the average number of infiltrators annually. Though different security agencies, including the state police, have varying figures of infiltrators, there is unanimity among them about increase in their numbers.

They have attributed the increase in infiltrations to Pakistan’s strategy of pushing several groups of militants at once so that the chances of some of them being able to make it to the Indian side increase. The infiltration attempt by a 120-strong group of well-armed militants and porters, who were around 40 in numbers with rest being militants, through Kupwara and Gurez in early April was a case in point. Many of them were killed in encounters spanning over many days, but many also managed to reach this side.
 

Jaipur schools closed for another week

Jaipur, November 16

After Pune, it is now the turn of Jaipur to deal with the H1N1 threat as the virus is spreading fast with each passing day, leaving the state administration virtually clueless on measures to check it.

With over 240 students testing positive for H1N1 virus in the last couple of weeks, the district administration has asked 71 educational institutions, including 63 schools and 8 colleges, in the capital to extend their closure by another seven days. This will be the second consecutive week of closure for various schools in the city due to swine flu. 



Decision on Rodrigues soon

Punjab Governor SF Rodrigues (retd) will continue to hold charge of his post till his successor is appointed. A political decision on the new appointee is expected any time, said sources, adding that Congress bosses had done an assessment and the matter was expected to be resolved soon.

The name of a former union minister from an eastern state tops the list in a small panel of names cleared for appointment.

Sources in the Home Ministry said nothing had been conveyed so far. It was the ministry that initiated the proceedings on the appointment of Governor.

The continuation of General Rodrigues was not an extension of sorts. There was nothing unusual about it, said the sources. Article 155 of the Constitution says a Governor shall be appointed by the President. A Governor shall hold term of five years from the date on which he enters his office. The crucial clause that allows a Governor to continue is “…A Governor shall, notwithstanding the expiration of his term, continue to hold office until his successor enters upon his office”.

The most recent case of a Governor, carrying on beyond the five-year tenure, is of previous Tripura Governor D N Sahay. His term ended in June, 2005, and he was finally removed when Kamla Beniwal was appointed in October, 2009. In case of Rodrigues, the continuation would not be that long. It would not take more than a few days more, said sources.

Meanwhile, the sources in the Home Ministry said the process of appointing a Chief Commissioner for Chandigarh was also under consideration. In the pre-1984 days, Chief Commissioner, who used to a senior UT cadre IAS officer, was in charge of Chandigarh. Since then, the Punjab Governor has held additional charge as Administrator of Chandigarh. Several organisations have been demanding that the old pattern of having a Chief Commissioner should be implemented again. The Home Ministry is in favour of the Chief Commissioner system, however, political compulsions, especially protest from the ruling SAD-BJP in Punjab, may influence the decision.
 

Ajai Shukla: No thanks, you're blacklisted!

Over this last decade, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has “blacklisted” so many foreign arms corporations that the military’s modernisation plan has virtually stalled. The MoD “blacklist” is not a formal document; an arms vendor is mostly embargoed unofficially, when senior bureaucrats agree that it is playing dirty.

The hit list reads like a who’s who of global weapons suppliers, including corporations with good records of delivering arms to India. Starting with Bofors in the late 1980s, the list grew to include Denel of South Africa; Israel Military Industries (IMI); Singapore Technologies Kinetic (STK); and now Thales of France. Earlier this year, the world’s biggest defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, was on the blacklist. Now another global giant, BAE Systems, seems headed there after problems with setting up an assembly line in HAL Bangalore for the Hawk jet trainer.

It is hardly news that arms sales and corruption walk together. Arms vendors routinely bribe political leaders, bureaucrats and senior military officers, not just in India but worldwide. BAE Systems allegedly bribed Saudi Arabian royals with hundreds of millions of dollars in the infamous Al Yamamah contracts. Thales, credibly accused of bribing South African presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma, is also being sued by Taiwan to recover US $590 million allegedly paid in kickbacks to win a deal for six warships. Most arms companies maintain multi-million dollar slush funds to ease the way for their giant deals.

But the Indian MoD is wholly wrong in behaving as if the problem is just one of predatory arms corporations. All those bribes are being paid to somebody; but no MoD official is in jail for having accepted a bribe. Instead South Block’s vendor blacklists grow longer and longer.

These blacklists are now choking defence procurement. The Indian Army’s artillery firepower is grossly inadequate today because — starting from the original Bofors scandal — every time an artillery gun looks like it may be selected by the army, a cloud comes over its vendors. In recent years, the Bofors 155mm towed howitzer has been the standout candidate in repeated Indian trials. But the cloud over Bofors has never really lifted, even though it is now owned by the UK-headquartered BAE Systems.

In the procurement of tracked guns, South African company Denel was to fit a gun turret on the Arjun tank chassis. That was scuttled in 2005 when Denel was unofficially blacklisted over bribery allegations, never proved, in another sale. That also blocked a crucial ammunition factory, being built in George Fernandes’ constituency Nalanda, for which Denel was providing technology. In 2007, IMI replaced Denel as technology partner; this June, after former Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) Chairman Sudipta Ghosh was arrested, IMI was prohibited as well. The Nalanda factory languishes.

Also ostracised after Ghosh’s arrest was STK, whose Pegasus ultralight howitzer was the lone gun being evaluated for the army’s mountain divisions. Despite strong protests from the army (Business Standard, 18th July 2009), that crucial procurement remains blocked. Two new mountain divisions for the Sino-Indian border are being starved of artillery.

“Today, anyone who wants to block an important Indian arms purchase has only to level an allegation against the vendor,” complains an Indian army officer furiously. “Anonymous letters, motivated charges, press reports, whatever… just kick-start an investigation and the MoD will kill the procurement. This is now routine business practice for rival arms dealers and, sooner or later, Pakistan and China will realise how easy it is to stop vital purchases from going through.”

Former OFB Chairman Ghosh was granted bail in July after the CBI failed to file a charge sheet against him. But the seven arms companies (four foreign and three Indian), which were blacklisted after his arrest, remain proscribed.

This situation, ironically, is rooted in Defence Minister AK Antony’s crusade against corruption. But his onslaught has entirely bypassed wrongdoing within his own ministry. And, increasingly, US companies are being let off the hook in situations where lesser mortals might have paid a heavier price. Lockheed Martin, discovered with classified information, was ordered to dispense with the services of its India CEO, Ambassador Douglas Hartwick (Business Standard, 13th July 2009). But it remains in contention for the IAF’s lucrative medium fighter contract.

Similarly, even after the US Department of Justice revealed that the subsidiaries of two US companies, York Navy Systems and Textron, paid bribes to secure defence contracts in India, these companies face no blacklists or restrictions. In a procurement environment characterised by paranoia, blacklists and dwindling vendor options, India will inevitably drift towards sourcing most of its defence sales from the US, using the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. In this, New Delhi will provide Washington with its requirements; the Pentagon will nominate a vendor and negotiate a price; India will pay and receive the equipment. This will be non-controversial in terms of corruption and kickbacks, but will renew dependency on Washington in the crucial military arena.
 

BATTLE AGAINST A BROTHER

The recent attacks on several Pakistani cities and towns — Lahore, Kohat, Peshawar and Rawalpindi — have shown the army of Pakistan in a poor light. The armed forces, it seems, have been reduced to the role of mere spectators. This certainly cannot be good news either for the State or the regions that are engaged in a discussion with the powers that be.

Lahore is not only important militarily, but is also, symbolically, the custodian of Punjabi culture, tradition and cuisine. Lahore is the base of the IV corps, which consists of the 10 and 11 infantry divisions, two independent infantry brigade groups (partly mechanized) and one independent armoured brigade whose objectives are to defend Punjab and counter any threat emanating from Amritsar, India. However, this vast garrison of (more than) 60,000 military men was found wanting when it came to negating the internal threat originating from insurgent elements who were once friends of the military establishment. These men had been raised and supported by the Pakistan army to fight the threat posed by foreign powers such as India. The recent increase in the spate of attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers on the army has the potential to bring about an unprecedented restructuring of the military in Pakistan.

The prevailing situation in Peshawar is not different either. Peshawar is home to the XI corps, which consists of two infantry divisions with Mardan and Kohat as the headquarter of the 7 and 9 infantry divisions respectively. The corps is responsible for security in areas such as the North West Frontier Province, the Afghan border, as well as for the reinforcement of the eastern formations facing India.

The recent killings in Kohat and Peshawar comprised all the ingredients of Sun Tzu’s Art of War — surprise, deception and mobility, and the precise choice of date, time, place and target. Indeed, the Pakistani army today faces a real dilemma for the first time since its inception: it not only has to confront an enemy, which is capable of fighting an ‘asymmetrical war’, but is also having to push hard against ‘blood-brothers’ who are operating in the catchment areas of military recruitment. This constitutes a grave threat and endangers the unity and cohesion within the army.

Having ruled Pakistan for over three decades, the high command of the army now finds itself in a tizzy. This is because any insurgency spreading further and wider across the Punjab and the Pashtun homeland can be potentially disastrous for the army’s recruitment operations. And there are no signs yet of a decline in the number of attacks by militants against the military.

It is an extraordinarily complex situation. Fifty five per cent of combat soldiers in the Pakistan army is Punjabi and 30 per cent are Pashtun. The bulk of the recruits hails from Attock, Rawalpindi and the Pashtun badlands of NWFP and Fata. This army of Punjabi and Pashtun soldiers are having to face an enemy, which has been resorting to guerrilla warfare and suicide missions against the nation. Although the army is expected to take the fight to the Taliban, the possibility of an escalation of conflict on fronts in the rear cannot be ruled out. This is likely to stretch the armed forces of Islamabad.

In reality, the outfits raised and reared by the army and by the Inter-Services Intelligence are bound to mount further desperate attacks against their mentors. Moreover, there are enough of them lurking in the shadows. There is the Al Badr, a “small organization”, which is capable of inflicting serious damage on Indian targets in co-operation with larger terror outfits operating in South Asia. With bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Lahore, Al Badr is reportedly trained in Kotli, PoK, by the ISI’s instructors who train the cadre in handling explosives as well as in guerrilla warfare. Although Al Badr has claimed that it is not a part of the al Qaida, it had opposed the restrictions that President Musharraf had imposed on jihadi groups.

The biggest foe of the army in Pakistan is the Tehrik-e-Taliban, which, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly, was “formed as an umbrella group to enable the numerous pro-Taliban groups operating in the FATA and NWFP of Pakistan to co-ordinate their activities and consolidate their growing influence in the region”. In the light of the recent suicide attacks across urban Pakistan, including the one on the Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi, it is pertinent to refer back to what Jane’s had to say in 2008 — “These groups (under TTP) are regularly confronting and defeating Pakistani security forces. Their ability to deploy suicide bombers has also meant they are capable of posing a threat throughout Pakistan, even in military strongholds such as the garrison city of Rawalpindi.” Prophetic? Yes, as well as a practical assessment of the threat perception.

The Pakistani army is already facing a daunting task fighting its own countrymen. The Tehrik-e-Taliban has openly professed its three-pronged strategy: First, to unite the various pro-Taliban groups in Fata and NWFP, thereby preventing the government from pursuing its divide-and-rule strategy to counter tribal insurgency by creating a single channel for all negotiations; second, to assist the Afghan Taliban in its campaign against Hamid Karzai and Nato; finally, to reproduce a Taliban-style Islamic emirate in Pakistan and beyond.

The most significant aspect is that the Tehrik-e-Taliban represents a section of the ‘population on the fringes’. These people were the ones who formed a critical front in the State’s proxy wars, from Kabul to Kashmir. The Pakistani soldiers and spies, till recently, had selected these jihadi groups, among others, as asymmetric weapons “to tie down half the Indian army in Kashmir” and to develop “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.

The monster that has been set free is the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Consequently, its creator is fast losing its head and heart. So much so that the harassed army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is having to rush to douse the domestic fire and save the State from oblivion. The Taliban pose an existential threat to Pakistan, and the Pakistani army is solely responsible for the unenviable situation in which it finds itself today. 
 

Navy Chief to sail on INS Viraat to mark golden jubilee

Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma will sail on board India’s sole aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, later this week to mark the golden jubilee of the warship that is the oldest operational aircraft carrier in the world.

The Viraat, which has just come out of a massive refit to increase its service life till 2014, was originally commissioned as the HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959, into the British Royal Navy. The warship was later acquired by India in 1987.

Admiral Verma, who is visiting Mumbai to review the operational readiness of the Western Fleet, would spend a day on board the aircraft carrier to mark the golden jubilee. “The Navy Chief would witness fleet exercises, gun and missile firings by ships and aircraft as also observe aircraft operations from Viraat, which has rejoined the fleet after an extensive maintenance period,” said the Navy spokesperson.

The Viraat, which is also one of the smallest aircraft carriers in the world, had been out of service for over an year as it was undergoing a massive refit at Kochi. With the warship operating well beyond its original service life, engineers have been struggling to keep it going in recent years. The fleet of Sea Harrier fighters — the only kind that can operate from the warship — has also depleted over the years due to accidents, and only four operational fighters are currently left in service.
 

Border mine left behind by militants kills DIG

Srinagar, Nov. 16: A BSF deputy inspector-general was killed today near the Pakistan border when his vehicle was blown up by a landmine suspected to have been planted by militants who tried to sneak in but were beaten back last night.

.P. Tanwar, 48, is the senior-most BSF officer to be killed in a decade in Jammu and Kashmir.

A BSF officer said the militants pushed back last night had planted an improvised explosive device (IED) several hundred metres inside the border in the Ramnagar area of Jammu’s Samba district.

“The explosion was so strong that the vehicle was blown to pieces,” a source said. Tanwar’s driver and guard were critically injured.

DIG J.B. Sangwan said the slain officer was supervising the search for the infiltrators when the blast occurred early this morning. Sources believe the militants were watching the BSF’s movements and triggered the blast when the Bolero carrying Tanwar and the others reached the spot.

Sources said the blast took place between the zero line on the border and the fence, built some 2km inside Indian territory to protect border posts from Pakistani shelling.

The search for the infiltrators is still on. “They may have gone back (to Pakistan),” a source said. BSF officers will meet their counterparts from the Pakistani Rangers to lodge a protest against the incident.

BSF sources said Tanwar was only the third DIG-rank officer killed during the two-decade-long militancy. His death came on a day two army soldiers and as many militants were killed in gun battles elsewhere in the state.

BSF DIG S.K. Chakarvorty was killed in the first-ever fidayeen attack on a BSF camp in north Kashmir’s Bandipore in July 1999. Before that, another DIG was killed at Nishat in Srinagar.

The BSF was at the forefront of the fight against militants but was withdrawn from counter-insurgency operations after the Kargil war.

The BSF’s role is now largely restricted to guarding the 192km international border in Jammu, though a few battalions are still in the Valley. The force has lost over 750 of its men in clashes with militants.

Infiltration through the Jammu border has been increasing in recent years. In August last year, three militants cut the border fence and took several hostages at Chinore in Jammu. The 20-hour hostage drama ended with the killing of the militants but seven persons, including security personnel, had lost their lives by then.

The army soldiers who died in the other incidents today belonged to the 9 Rajput Regiment. They were shot while beating back infiltrators on the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir’s Keran. One militant was also killed during the operation, which is still on.

Lt Col J.S. Brar, the defence spokesman in Srinagar, said the sneak-in attempt occurred 36 hours after five infiltrators were killed in Uri. A Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander, Rahman Gursi, was killed in another encounter that took place at Pulwama in south Kashmir.