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Orop suicide: Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal indulge in opportunistic politics over Subedar Grewal’s death

Rahul Gandhi has yet again done what his politics is best adapted to — rent a cause and move on. An alleged suicide by a 65-year old retired Subedar Ram Kishen Grewal from Haryana on One Rank One Pension (Orop) provided the Congress vice-president with an opportune moment to do a cameo act, land at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi where the deceased’s body was kept and his family members were present.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Anand Sharma and Bhupinder Singh Hooda coming out of Mandir Marg Police Station after his release in New Delhi on Wednesday. Gandhi was detained while trying to enter RML Hospital to meet the family of ex-serviceman Subedar Grewal who allegedly committed suicide over Orop issue. PTICongress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Anand Sharma and Bhupinder Singh Hooda coming out of Mandir Marg Police Station after his release in New Delhi on Wednesday. Gandhi was detained while trying to enter RML Hospital to meet the family of ex-serviceman Subedar Grewal who allegedly committed suicide over Orop issue. PTI

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi with party leaders Anand Sharma and Bhupinder Singh Hooda coming out of Mandir Marg Police Station after his release in New Delhi on Wednesday. Gandhi was detained while trying to enter RML Hospital to meet the family of ex-serviceman Subedar Grewal who allegedly committed suicide over Orop issue. PTI

Incidentally, this was first headline-making public presence of Rahul Gandhi in about a month time after his controversial khoon ki dalali (broker of blood) remark on surgical strikes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress second-in-command would have known that the police and other government agencies may not allow him to meet the deceased Subedar’s family. The hospital, which has hundreds of other patients undergoing treatment, was obviously not the place to allow politicians to rave and rant on the suicide, on Orop and on the Narendra Modi government. For obvious reasons, the police prevented the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in central Delhi from becoming a venue for protests and media blitzkrieg and saved the patients and their attendants from massive inconvenience.

Before Rahul could decide to go there and express his sympathies to the bereaved family, Aam Aadmi Party had picked up the issue. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had already made his presence felt on the alleged OPRP suicide. Sisodia was detained by Delhi Police when he landed in the hospital. Soon after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to Lady Hardinge hospital where the former soldier’s body was taken for an autopsy. When stopped from meeting the kin of the deceased soldier, the AAP chief was quick to declare that the Central government “gundagardi pe utri hui hai” (the Central government has taken recourse to hooliganism). The Delhi chief minister was fast ballistic against the Modi government, alleging that it was politicising the army.

Suddenly the hospital premises became the venue for opposition leaders to make a beeline while politicians from rival formations flaunted their nationalist credentials, love for the army and welfare of retired and serving soldiers but not without going vitriolic against PM Modi and his government. Rahul Gandhi in his quick bites to the swarm of TV cameras claimed that in ”Modi’s India” a type of “non-democratic mentality” prevailed. The Congress vice-president sought to give the incident an emotive spin by indicating that the PM was harsh in his behaviour towards the soldier’s family. “For the first time, I am not being allowed to meet family members of an army man. What kind of Hindustan is being made?” he asked.

The alleged suicide committed by the retired Army Subedar on the contentious Orop issue had all the potential to turn into a huge political issue against the Modi government, as also become an emotional issue for ex-defence personnel and their families to turn up against the present government. The issue was expected to resonate in the public mind since the current national mood is for the army, more so after the surgical strikes against Pakistan.

Ram Kishen Grewal was designated as a martyr by the likes of Rahul and Kejriwal to charge that this is the way Modi government treats the army veterans and martyrs.

The big question, however, is can a retired army jawan who commits suicide on a personal issue be designated s a martyr for political gains? The army trains its officers and men to act as per their head not as per their heart. Their actions couldn’t be guided by their emotions. Suicide is a sign of weakness, not of strength, no matter what the cause is. By allegedly committing suicide retired Subedar Grewal has not done any pride to the uniform he once wore and to the force he once served.

He might have felt passionately for Orop and might have thought that Orop scheme offered by the Modi government was not as per his expectations. But there were two things that Grewal and Congress and AAP leaders queuing up to offer condolence and do politics over his death, should have considered. First, the Orop offered by the Modi government was a big leap forward on an issue, which had been pending since Independence. Second, the Orop issue is pending before Supreme Court. Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani had filed a petition in the apex court and the court had issued notices to the Union government seeking its response on the issue.

The government has a convenient alibi that till such time the matter is pending before the apex court, it can review the Orop, which in any case was offered only months ago. Subedar (retd) Grewal would surely have been informed about that by his colleagues and erstwhile seniors if he had ever taken up that issue with them.

Moreover, the place of suicide Jawahar Bhawan is also intriguing. Jawahar Bhawan houses Ministry of External Affairs and has nothing to do with the army unless Grewal had some other ideas. It is also not clear who was with him at the time he committed suicide. Was he all alone or someone was there with him? What was his state of mind?

A pending request to meet Defence Minister, as has been claimed in some quarters, surely can’t be a cause to drive someone to take his own life. Not for an ex-army man at least.

Grewal’s tragic death is a sad moment, a matter of concern but the politics around his dead body by Rahul and Kejriwal with obvious political motive can’t be approved of.

OROP suicide: Arvind Kejriwal says Modi govt is deceiving the country’s soldiers

Hours after reports about the suicide of former serviceman Ram Kishan Grewal came to light on Wednesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in an emotional video message, said that the Narendra Modi government had deceived the soldiers of the nation.

“It is very sad that on Tuesday evening, a former soldier of our country Ram Kishanji committed suicide over the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme,” Kejriwal said.

“In the letter that Ram Kishanji wrote before committing suicide, he had asked the country’s Defence Minister to implement OROP. He had also written that he was committing suicide for his nation and for the soldiers,” he further said.

Arvind Kejriwal said PM Modi was lying to the nation. Screenshot from YouTube video

Arvind Kejriwal said PM Modi was lying to the nation. Screenshot from YouTube video

Grewal, the former jawan from Bhiwani district in Haryana who committed suicide, had left a note which stated that he was taking this extreme step for the Indian soldiers. CNN-News18 further reported that Grewal’s family has blamed the Centre for the former jawan’s suicide. Grewal had also written to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar over the issue.

“It is very sad that for the last one and half years, the former servicemen of our country have been sitting on dharnas for implementation of OROP, but it has not been done so far,” Kejriwal said.

“This means that when the Prime Minister talks about how the OROP has been implemented, he is lying. The Prime Minister is lying to the whole nation about implementing OROP. If OROP had been implemented, why would Ram Kishanji commit suicide?” he added.

“I don’t think the kind of deception that the BJP government has engaged in with the soldiers has ever taken place before. First off, they have not implemented OROP, because of which Ram Kishanji had to commit suicide. Secondly, after the surgical strikes, the government should have rewarded the Indian Army. But instead of rewarding the soldiers, the government ordered a huge cut in the disability pension of the personnel of the Indian Army. We should have raised the disability pension instead,” said the Delhi CM.

“A few days later, the government also downgraded the ranks of the soldiers. So, you did not implement OROP, reduced their disability pension and downgraded their ranks. This is such a great deception for the Indian soldiers,” he said.

“And then you are going around places saying, ‘We made surgical strikes happen, give us votes.’ The army is being misused politically by the government,” he added.

“The Delhi government has made a policy that the government will give Rs 1 crore as compensation to the family of a martyred soldier who was from Delhi,” Kejriwal said.

“I had written a letter to the Prime Minister, asking the Centre to adopt the same policy. As many as 19 soldiers were martyred in Uri. Why could we not give Rs 1 crore to each of their families? The central government does not become poor if it donates Rs 19 crore. This would have sent a message to the soldiers that the government is concerned about them. But even this suggestion was ignored,” he said.

“Ram Kishanji, who was martyed, had won Rashtrapati Award twice. He had also got the Chief of Army Staff Award. He was a very good soldier who had worked tirelessly for 30 years. His martyrdom should not go to waste. We need to now fight for the cause he gave his life for,” Kejriwal said.

“Because a country in which soldiers and farmers start committing suicide has no future,” he added.

“Today, I ask the central government to completely implement OROP as it is. Secondly, the government should raise the disability pension instead of reducing it. Thirdly, the army ranks which were downgraded should be brought back to the original level. Fourthly, a compensation of Rs 1 crore should be given to each of the families of the soldiers martyred in Uri. And this should be a general policy of compensation,” the Delhi CM said. “And finally, the politics over surgical strikes should be stopped.”

Kejriwal had also criticised the central government earlier on Wednesday after Grewal’s suicide.

You can Kejriwal’s video message here:

Pakistan’s mutilation of Indian jawan: Smoking peace pipe with barbarians never paid dividends

We can all pretend to be uppity about Pakistan’s repeated breach of the Geneva Convention but the point is, to expect a nation that uses terrorism as a state policy to uphold the sanctity of law is illusory and self-defeating. The mutilation of Manjeet Singh’s body is a grim reminder that unless India substantially raises the cost of Pakistan’s delinquent behaviour, the rogue republic will continue to unleash atrocities against us.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

There is a sad sense of déjà vu in India’s handling of Pakistan. It doesn’t matter if the government at the Centre is leftist, rightist or centrist. Each head of Indian state suffers from an illusory notion, aided by an army of entitled influencers with deep ties to the enemy state, that relationship with Pakistan can be and should be stabilized and the onus of doing it lies with us.

Therefore, every act of atrocity that the unstable, terror-sponsoring nation inflicts on us is followed by a predictable pattern. We outrage, foam at the mouth, try some maneuvers which have long exhausted their sell-by date and then eventually settle into a prolonged ennui followed by renewed attempts at restoring ties.

And we are doomed to repeat this fallacious cycle as long as we do not realize that Pakistan is not a modern Westphalian nation-state. It is the original Islamic State that seeks to spread Islamism as a politico-religious-cultural movement with the stated goal of establishing a Caliphate. This explains its lust for Kashmir and why it shall remain congenitally opposed to the pluralistic, multicultural, heterogeneous, secular idea of India and consider the fight against ‘Hindustan’ a holy war, or jihad.

And because the existence of Pakistan as an idea depends on continuing this perpetual jihad against India (a point author C Christine Fair elaborated in her seminal work Fighting To the Finish), any Indian overtures for peaceful relationship is bound to fail. If we as a nation do not understand it, the fault the lies with us, not history.

We only have to turn over the pages to recall that soon after Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus-full of goodwill and Bollywood stardust to Lahore in 1999, he was answered with Kargil and a hijacked Air India flight. And few would forget the bestiality of Pakistan Army in treating our war heroes during Kargil. In gross violation of Geneva Convention, the barbarians subjected Captain Saurabh Kalia and his unit to horrendous torture.

As a News18 report recalls, Captain Kalia and his sepoys’ “ear drums were pierced with hot iron rods, eyes punctured and genitals cut off. The autopsy of the bodies also revealed that they were burned with cigarettes butts. Their limbs were also chopped off, teeth broken and skull fractured during the torture. Even their nose and lips were cut off.”

Pakistan still maintains that the bodies of these Indian soldiers were found in a pit where they ostensibly died due to “inclement weather”.

Treatment of PoWs or showing respect to the dead in war is accorded the highest importance under Geneva Convention. In an article on crimes of war, H Wayne Elliott writes: “The treatment of the battlefield dead can be divided into two aspects. First, there is a prohibition on deliberate mistreatment of the body, either through failure to treat it with appropriate respect or through mutilation. Second, there is a prohibition on pillaging the dead. These mandates concerning the dead are as much derived from the customary laws of war as from the Geneva Conventions.

To understand why Pakistan’s BAT (Border Action Team, an amalgam of its army and pet terrorists) killed and then apparently beheaded Manjeet Singh of 17 Sikh Light Infantry, we must recognise that the situation has to come to such a pass because for far too often the Pindi Khakis have been rewarded for their bad behaviour. If a criminal is paid handsomely for crimes what else can we expect except a recurring nightmare?

As The Times of India had reported back in January 2013, bodies of Lance-Naiks Hemraj and Sudhakar Singh of the 13 Rajputana Rifles were found in the Mendhar sector of Jammu & Kashmir in a badly mutilated state.

“Although the Indian Army did not give more details of the barbarism, sources said the retreating Pakistani soldiers had chopped off the head of one of the Indian soldiers and taken it back with them.”

This is why the surgical strikes on 29 September and its public acknowledgment by the Narendra Modi government were crucial. It broke the template and introduced an element of unpredictability in Indian response. The Army has already reiterated that Pakistan Army will get “an appropriate response” for their bestiality and callous disregard for all norms. But we must not stop there. The punishment from India should be brutal and swift because barbarians only understand the language of violence.

Farhan Akhtar after Karan Johar: The MNS challenge gets bigger for Fadnavis govt

Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has received good audience response on the first day of its release, and there’s a message in it for the patriots of the gutter variety. In fact, it is the second tight slap on the face of the latter after the Army refused Rs 5 crore donation extracted from Johar for having Pakistani actors in his movie and senior ministers slamming such extortionist tactic. Now the audience has delivered their response.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTIMaharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

The movie, according to media reports, has done about Rs 18 crore business in the domestic circuit on day one – combined with overseas collection total earnings come to about Rs 22.5 crore. This despite another biggie, Ajay Devgn-starred Shivaay, being in the race for the Diwali audience. The rather impressive advance bookings in multiplexes reflect no collective faux patriotism-driven ill-will against the movie, which has Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in it.

The message? Leave it to people to decide what they want to watch or read or enjoy. They understand what patriotism is; don’t force on them your version of it. They are intelligent enough — at least more intelligent than the street thugs — to understand that the mere presence of an actor from a hostile country in a film does not constitute an offence to India. They also know the idea of patriotism is too precious to be left to the interpretation of the street and idiots. If they find something repulsive to their sentiments they would reject it on their own.

Political parties in India have always treated the power of the street with the certain degree of reverence, at the cost of civil liberties of the ordinary citizenry. Governments could act against the outfits threatening violence if they wanted. After all, the might of the state is too big for the lumpen elements to handle, never mind whether they carry any political weight. But they desist from taking action; more often than not it’s sheer opportunism. If there’s a ‘cause’ on display on the streets their resistance gets weaker. All this is well-known and need no elaboration.

The point here is where does it leave the rights of individuals as citizens of the country? The instruments of the state in cahoots with criminal forces can make a mess of these. As an expose in a television channel a couple days ago said some members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have been in the practice of taking money to engineer protests, including violent ones, in the city. With the police ‘managed’ they can organise protests of any size and intensity. Those caught on camera were also aware of making the manufactured agitation television worthy. Obviously, all of this happens in the knowledge, if not patronage, of the state.

Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister in Nazi Germany, believed in the power of the street. “Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics has its roots in the street,” he said. Our governments, it includes those of all parties, obviously carry the same conviction but won’t spell it out openly. Such an arrangement has to come at the cost of those who cannot fight back. It includes all of us who have other interests in life than the politics of power. It chips away at our freedom to live freely in a free country.

As this piece is being written there’s news that filmmaker-actor and the maker of film Raees Farhan Akhtar has been threatened by the MNS for refusing to pay Rs 5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund. Obviously, nothing has changed on the ground after the controversy over Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The slaps from the audience and the Army have not worked.

The Devendra Fadnavis government has a challenge on its hands. Tackling the MNS for the second time will require the will of the state more than its might. Will it allow people to decide on the movie and come down hard on street power? Let’s wait and watch.

Pakistan summons Indian envoy over ‘ceasefire violations’ for second consecutive day

Islamabad: For the second day in a row, Pakistan on Wednesday summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner and lodged a strong protest over alleged “unprovoked firing” by Indian forces along the Working Boundary and Line of Control.

It was second day in succession that Indian envoy JP Singh was summoned by the Foreign Office over violation of the ceasefire.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“The Indian Deputy High Commissioner was summoned by the Director General (South Asia & SAARC) today. A strong protest was lodged against the unprovoked ceasefire violations,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The protest was lodged over violation of ceasefire agreement at the Working Boundary in Chaprar and Harpal sectors and on the LoC in Bhimber sector on 25-26 October, the statement said.

Pakistan said that two civilians were killed and nine others injured in the firing.

“It was conveyed to the Indian side that it should investigate the incident and share the findings with Pakistan, instruct its troops to respect the ceasefire, in letter and spirit, refrain from intentionally targeting the villages and maintain peace on the Working Boundary and the LoC,” FO said.

India had on Tuesday said Pakistan Army violated the ceasefire by targeting Indian Army positions with mortar and small arms fire in Noushera sector of Rajouri district, prompting the army to give a “befitting response”. There have been over 40 ceasefire violations from the

There have been over 40 ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side since the Indian side carried out surgical strikes inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir targeting terror launching pads, post the attack on an army camp in Uri on 18 September.

Indian Army says retaliatory firing killed 2-3 Pakistan soldiers near LoC

Jammu: At least two-three Pakistani armymen are believed to have been killed today in retaliatory firing by Indian troops in the Noushera sector of Rajouri district while six female members of a family were injured in RS Pura sector of Jammu district in cross-border shelling.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Heavy exchange of fire, involving use of 82 mm and 120 mm mortar shells besides small arms, was still going on in the evening after it started at around 10 am.

“From 10 AM, Pakistan Army resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation along the Line of Control in Noushera sector of Rajouri district by targeting our positions with mortar bombs and small arms fire,” an army officer said.

The Indian army gave a “befitting response” to the ceasefire violation from the Pakistani side, he added.

“We have inputs that two to three Pakistani soldiers have been killed in the retaliatory firing by our men,” an army officer told PTI here.

“The firing is still going on and our side is giving a befitting reply,” he said, adding there is no loss of life or injury on our side.

In Jammu district, 6 female members of a family were injured in Suchetgarh sector of RS Pura along the International Border after a mortar shell fired by the Pakistan Rangers exploded in their house this evening.

“They are being given first aid at R S Pura hospital after which they will be shifted to Government Medical College (GMC) hospital here shortly,” said Simrandeep Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Jammu.

India, Sri Lanka hold joint military exercise

New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka are holding a joint military exercise at Sinha Regimental Centre in Ambepussa, Sri Lanka, an official said on Tuesday.

The joint exercise is focused on enhancing inter-operability in counter terror operations, a statement said.

The exercise — Mitra Shakti 2016 — which started on Monday, will conclude on 6 November. This is the fourth edition of the exercise.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“The main focus of this edition of the joint exercise is to enhance inter-operability while carrying out counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate. A comprehensive training programme spanning fourteen days has been drawn up for the purpose,” the statement said.

The Indian Army contingent, that reached Sri Lanka on 23 October, is represented by a platoon from the Rajputana Rifles and the Sri Lankan Army has a platoon from the Sinha Regiment.

The opening ceremony was held on Monday, in which the troops of both contingents participated in a ceremonial parade, the statement said.

In the initial two stages of the exercise, both armies would get familiar with the respective methodology of such operations, each other’s arms and equipment and the command and control systems.

It will then graduate towards tactical understanding to enhance inter-operability while carrying out operations to counter insurgency and terrorism.

The last exercise with the Sri Lankan Army was conducted in September 2015 at Pune in India.

Mitra Shakti series of bilateral exercises has been one of the major defence cooperation initiatives between India and Sri Lanka since 2013.

No one needs to give proof of their patriotism: Pahlaj Nihalani on ADHM row

Mumbai: CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani says it is wrong to demand a proof of someone’s patriotism.

Director Karan Johar recently made a video appeal to those protesting the release of his directorial venture because it has Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. He said he was a patriot and wouldn’t cast Pakistani artistes in future.

Raj Thackeray-led MNS had threatened to stall the movie’s release on 28 October.

While Nihalani didn’t make any direct reference to Johar, when asked about the demand for a ban on Pakistani artistes, he said this environment was created by some, who wanted to gain mileage and no one needs to reiterate his or her patriotism.

“Not only Pakistani actors, there should be no import or export. Even the films we send are via Dubai. Our films are illegally exported there…

A file photo of Pahlaj Nihalani. News 18A file photo of Pahlaj Nihalani. News 18

A file photo of Pahlaj Nihalani. News 18

“This environment was created by certain people to gain mileage. In this, our film association body IMPPA was also there whose committee members don’t make films but to gain mileage they said ‘we will ban Pakistani actors’.

“The exhibitor association said ‘we will ban too’. I believe nobody is required to give a certificate of their patriotism. Every citizen of this country is patriotic. Nobody needs to give any certificate or fight. People who ask for it are wrong,” he said.

Nihalani was speaking during a session at Aaj Tak’s conclave ‘Manthan’.

“Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” is now set for a worldwide release as per schedule with MNS ending its protest against it. Nihalani, who has spoken in favour of the film earlier, said a ban on its release would have only resulted into loss of Indians.

“If Karan Johar’s film loses money, the Pakistani artist has taken his money, and he also contributed through arts and culture in bridging the gap between the two countries, when the two nations were trying to come together. He fulfilled his duty. It will be our loss,” he said.

MNS has asked Johar to donate Rs 5 crore to Uri martyrs. Nihalani said had this discussion happened earlier, the film wouldn’t have faced this problem.

“If they would’ve earlier said give certain section of your earnings to soldiers, victims, the problem would’ve been solved earlier.”

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s “Raees” has been another film which faced ire of many sections for its casting of Pakistani actress Mahira Khan.

Nihalani said the censor board will certify the film regardless of Mahira’s presence, if its release has government’s approval.

“I’ll give certificate to the film. The issue of Pakistani actors being there or not bring there is not my concern. If it has legal permission, I will give, if it doesn’t, then I won’t.”

Kashmir: Army says spurt in weapon-snatching incidents concerning

Jammu: Spurt in the incidents of gun-snatching by militants in Kashmir has triggered concern in the security establishment, prompting the army to say on Wedneday that it is working with police to tackle the new strategy of the ultras.

Over the last three months, 67 weapons, including AK-47, INSAS, Carbine, SLR, .303 rifles, have been looted and snatched from police personnel in 12 such incidents. “It is a new strategy and plan of the militants with twin objective of making new recruits prove their loyalty and commitment towards gun culture and also to create public perception about demoralisation in the police forces,” a senior police officer said.

The officer, however, dismissed the theory that the snatching is done to arm militants, arguing that the weapons like INSAS, Carbines, SLR rifles are not of much use to the militants unlike the AK rifles.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

“Rifle snatching incidents witnessed recently in the valley, particularly in south Kashmir, is a cause of concern,” said Srinagar-based Army Commander Lt Gen Satish Dua at a function on Wednesday.

“There are some small pickets of the police where they are not able to take care of the situation if the militants come in. It is being addressed jointly with the police,” he added.

Among the steps that are being taken by the forces is to increase the number of men at pickets, including those guarding minority community members in south Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Rashid Bhat, who was close to slain militant commander Burhan Wani, in a recent video message has said that several youth have snatched weapons from security forces and have joined the Hizb ranks.

“Anyone who wants to join us, he should snatch a weapon and join us. We welcome them all wholeheartedly,” said Zakir, a former engineering student of Chandigarh, in the video. Police feels his video message will further incite and encourage youth to snatch and loot weapons from police and other forces in Kashmir in days to come.

Former Army officer Brig (retd) Anil Gupta said the security agencies have to stop this, otherwise the number of the armed militants in Kashmir will increase. “It is concern. Weapon-snatching is being done because militants cannot now smuggle in weapons from across the LoC due to high degree of security. So they go for snatching and looting of weapons,” he said.

Brig Gupta, who has served at 16 Crops headquarters and various other formations in J&K, said, “although police has taken some measures to use digital chips-based GRP tracking system, my suggestion is to put in place Radio Frequency Identification Disc (RFID).

“The RFID should be embedded on the weapon and a code given to weapon handler. The weapon can fire only when both the codes match, otherwise it is of no use,” he said.

The snatching incidents started soon after Burhan’s killing, when people attacked police station Damhal Hanjipora in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district on July 11 and potential militants looted 39 rifles including 21 INSAS rifles, 12 SLRs, One LMG and 2 AK rifles.

On 16 October night, militants decamped with five rifles from policemen guarding a broadcast tower in Davlach village in Dooru-Shahabad area of this South Kashmir district. The militants managed their entry into a room at Lower Power Transmitter Station of public service broadcaster Doordarshan in Davlash village where weapons were kept and escaped with the weapons, including 3 SLRs, one INSAS and a Carbine without any resistance.

Earlier on 8 October, militants snatched two service rifles from a minority police post in Tumlihal-Lassipora in Pulwama district. A day prior to that, weapons were snatch from policemen
guarding a minority picket in Jamnagri village of Shopian. In the fire fight, one cop was killed, two others including a Kashmiri Pandit were injured.

On 3 October, militants ran away with five automatic rifles from a minority post in Kulgam district. On 28 September, they decamped with service rifle of guards of former NC MLA in Shopian.

Prior to that, militants, on the night of 18 September, decamped with four service rifles from security guards of ruling People’s Democratic Party district president, Advocate Javed Sheikh.

Four rifles were also snatched from policemen guarding the house of a former National Conference leader in Begam village in Pombia area of Kulgam district on the evening of 8 September.

On 5 September, a Communist leader’s house in Kulgam was attacked and a rifle snatched from the police personnel on duty.

On 31 August, militants sneaked into protesters who attacked PDP leader and Rajya Sabha member Nazir Ahmad Laway’s house in Chawalgam village of Kulgam district and ran away with four rifles.

In a bid to snatch rifles, militants attacked a Police Picket guarding minority families at Sirnoo village of Pulwama.

Please Manohar Parrikar, stop conducting surgical strikes on our senses

It is not often that the Congress makes a lot of sense these days, but it is difficult to find fault with its description of Manohar Parrikar as a “national embarrassment”. The defence minister’s recent spate of garrulousness sits at odds with the discretion and gravitas that his portfolio demands. The senior BJP leader must remember that before a party functionary or mukhya shikshak of RSS, he is India’s defence minister. His actions and words must be commensurate with that post.

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Unfortunately, over the last few days since the Indian Army’s Special Forces carried out a covert operation to eliminate a few terrorists on Pakistan soil, Parrikar has carried out surgical strikes on our senses. Not a day passes without his inane comments flooding the media. Parrikar might be an exceedingly honest man and a hardworking minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet but that hardly gives him the license to try and raise political capital out of a military offensive. The BJP has been accusing rival political parties of trying to politicise the surgical strikes but truth to tell, nobody has made the onerous attempt more than Parrikar himself did.

Some of his statements, like the one he delivered on Monday, challenge the boundaries of ridiculousness. Speaking at an event in Ahmedabad, the defence minister said: “The prime minister hails from Mahatma Gandhi’s home state and defence minister comes from Goa which never had a ‘martial race’. And then take this surgical strike. This was a different kind of combination. Maybe the RSS teaching was at the core.”

According to the Ministry of Defence website, Government of India, “the responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet. This is discharged through the Ministry of Defence, which provides the policy framework and wherewithal to the armed forces to discharge their responsibilities in the context of the defence of the country.”

Which part of his responsibility was Parrikar carrying out by ostensibly trying to credit RSS for a military offensive? His comments demean the role of armed forces — as rightly pointed out by Opposition parties — and the self-aggrandisement on display is inaccurate and conceited.

But Parrikar’s verbosity doesn’t stop at boasting about his sartorial brilliance, comparing the Indian army to Hanuman or stretching the limits of ridiculousness. Some of his other statements as defence minister are damaging to India’s security interests and run the risk of upsetting the flimsy equilibrium vis-à-vis Pakistan post surgical strikes.

Just a few days after the strike was conducted in the intervening hours of 28 and 29 September and Pakistan’s hot denial of the operation, Parrikar said, “Pakistan’s condition after the surgical strikes is like that of an anaesthetised patient after a surgery who doesn’t know that the surgery has already been performed on him. Even two days after the surgical strikes, Pakistan has no idea what has happened… If Pakistan continues with such conspiracies, we will give them a befitting reply again.”

This type of dialoguebaazi is well-suited for Bollywood potboilers, but thoroughly misplaced when it comes from a defence minister. As one of the key ministers in the Modi Cabinet, Parrikar should have respected the reticence in DGMO’s statement following the strikes which was aimed at ensuring de-escalation of tension with a nuclear-armed adversary following the strike. The operation carried a loud enough message, there was no need for the defence minister to rub salt in Pakistan’s wounds and risk forcing a retaliation from Rawalpindi.

It requires major suspension of disbelief to reckon that Parrikar was unaware of the delicacy of the situation. His blatant disregard from realpolitik needs, therefore, give merit to Congress’ statement that he is unfit for his role.

Kashmir unrest: Despite surgical strikes, militancy not in the wane in Valley, says Lt Gen Dua

Srinagar: The Indian Army said on Tuesday that despite surgical strikes carried out by its forces across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir last month, the presence of militants along the LoC is still intact and many “desperate attempts” by militants trying to sneak into Kashmir valley have been foiled.

Lt Gen Satish Dua. Sameer Yasir/FirstpostLt Gen Satish Dua. Sameer Yasir/Firstpost

Lt Gen Satish Dua. Sameer Yasir/Firstpost

General Officer Commanding of Army’s 15 Corps, Lt General Satish Dua, said that Army is prepared for any “misadventure” by militants, along the LoC, and its preparedness to deal with the situation is of the highest degree. He also said that there has been an increase in attempts of infiltration made by militants in the recent past.

“We do see the presence of militants across the Line of Control, the very fact that there are infiltrations at different places and several such encounters have taken place [they are still there] and continue to try to infiltrate. We are prepared for any eventuality,” Dua said after inaugurating Chinar 9 Jawan Club at Boniyar.

The 9 club, inaugurated by Lt Gen Dua on Tuesday, aims at the constructive engagement of the youth of Kashmir and provides an ideal platform to the youth to interact, rejuvenate, play games and to develop their skill for holistic growth in a stress-free environment, a press statement issued here said.

These clubs which have come across the valley are being seen as an effort to reach out to youngsters in Kashmir. The Army has set up the clubs – centres called Naujawan Clubs where vocational training is imparted free of cost. A total of 70 Naujawan clubs is being set up across the Valley which also doubles up as centres for recreation and exchange of ideas.

Dua said that there has been no change in the way militants have tried to infiltrate into Kashmir valley and this year has been no exception.

“In recent weeks we have noticed movements along the LoC. Yes, there is an increase in attempts of infiltration the Indian Army is today and geared up to meet any such challenge,” Lt Gen Dua said.

Kashmir has been witnessing an unrest since July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and Army has been trying to reach out to the disaffected youths in villages and towns of south Kashmir. The unrest has left at least 91 civilians dead, more than 14,000 injured while around 7,000 protesters have been detained to bring normalcy on the simmering streets.

When asked how did he see the resentment among the youth towards the Army in general, the outgoing Core Commander of the 15 Corps, said that he did conceive the idea that there has been a lot of agitation and anger by the youth towards the security forces but it was not directed at Army.

“I don’t believe and agree with the fact that there is a trust deficit between youth and the army because at several places the army has gone and operated in the recent past, we haven’t had the problem with the youth at all. Kashmiryat is still alive,” the Chinar Corps commander said.

On the rising number of youth joining militancy in south Kashmir, Lt Gen Dua said that there is no exact count available on how many boys have joined militancy because the forces have been rounding up people (stone pelters) and many have fled their homes.

“Some of the boys have been hiding they are not living in their own houses and the agencies have not been able to figure out how many of them have joined militancy. Yes, some of the boys have joined militant ranks exact number will be known later,” he said.

He said the weapon snatching incidents in south Kashmir have been a cause of concern and there are small pickets of the police where they are not able to take care of the situation when militants arrive there to snatch weapons. But it is being jointly addressed with the police, Lt Gen Dua said.

On surgical strikes parade, Manohar Parrikar invokes the virtues of RSS training

The Indian government should immediately shut down the National Defence Academy.

Henceforth, all our soldiers should be sent to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakhas for training.

If Defence Minister Manohar Prabhu Parrikar is to be believed, nothing prepares you better to dealing with India’s enemy than a few years at a neighbourhood shakha.

Forget the backbreaking drills and sophisticated training at Khadakwasla for our soldiers. India, if Parrikar is right, would be in safer hands with our soldiers trotting up to the nearest ground in their knee-length kachchas coffee brown trousers, a danda in hand, topi on head and a pot-bellied shakha babu as their instructor and preacher. Also, it would cost next to nothing.

File image of Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File image of Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Parrikar has been delirious with joy since the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes along the LoC. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his cabinet colleagues to avoid chest-thumping and politics on the sensitive issue, Parrikar has been rolling on the floor with joy and self-praise.

First, he boasted that like Hanuman, the army learnt about its capabilities to strike the enemy only under his command, as if he had personally imparted special combat and psychological training to our soldiers in his trademark chappals and loosely-hanging bush-shirts. Then he got himself felicitated at a function in Uttar Pradesh for the army’s achievement and boasted about his tedha (crooked) credentials as a warning to the enemy. On Monday, carrying on with his surgical tripe, he gave credit for the army offensive to his alma mater, the RSS.

Speaking at a “Know Your Army” event in Gujarat, Parrikar said, “I wonder that a prime minister from land of Mahatma Gandhi and a defence minister from Goa and surgical strikes… maybe the RSS teachings was there, but this was very different kind of a combination.”

For a moment, let’s accept Parrikar’s argument that this — two RSS men in the driving seat — is a different kind of “combination”, or something that, like Halley’s Comet that comes along once in several decades. So, what does Parrikar have to say about the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-LK Advani combo that was in power when a) terrorists struck at the Indian Parliament, b) massacred Indians at Kaluchak and c) hijacked an Indian plane to Kandahar?

Both Vajpayee and Advani were dyed-in-khaki Sanghis, the doyens of its first post-Independence generation leaders. By every conceivable parameter, they were more Sanghi than Parrikar. So, why did they respond differently to these crises? Did the so-called RSS training not force them to strike back, instead of not only preferring restraint but also sending the then foreign minister to escort terrorists released in exchange for the hijacked plane’s passengers?

Did the famed RSS blood did not boil then? Does Parrikar has a different variety of khaki blood singing in his veins? Were Advani-Vajpayee mudbloods compared to wizard Parrikar?

That brings us to RSS drills.

Presuming that he is fond of reading anything other than Amar Chitra Katha volumes on the Miracles of Bal Hanuman, Parrikar should find some time to peruse the Sangh’s history. Even a cursory reading would tell him its shakhas were modelled on Benito Mussolini’s philosophy of indoctrinating youth at an early age. Their structure, as AG Noorani pointed out in the Frontline, was similar to some Fascist organisations that recruited boys from the age of six, up to 18: The youths had to attend weekly meetings, where they practiced physical exercises, received paramilitary training and performed drills and parades.

If India’s defence minister believes indoctrinating youth and teaching them to wield lathis is adequate physical and mental training against rival armies, he needs to revisit the fate of the original proponents of this doomed philosophy.

Interestingly, as the Jeevan Lal Kapoor report on the murder of Mahatma Gandhi points out, soon after Independence there were rumours that the Sangh was raising a private army to lead a coup against the Congress government. Private armies, the Kapoor Commission was told, were assembled in Alwar, Gwalior and a few other princely states. Unfortunately for the RSS, all its rumoured training came to nothing and the Congress went on to rule India for several decades, destroying its dream of a rashtra ruled by Hindus.

It is quite likely that Parrikar is not aware of the history of “RSS training” and the fruit it bore in the past. Or, maybe he is under obligation to give credit to the organisation to which he owes his existence at the cost of the Indian Army. None of it, unfortunately, behoves a man in his position.

Several Indian governments have dealt with the Pakistan question in the past. Some, like Vajpayee’s, decided to exercise restraint in spite of grave provocation. Some, like Manmohan Singh‘s, practised a combination of restraint and covert strikes.

Parrikar has been different only because of his attempt to usurp the army’s credit for political gains.

If that is the result of RSS training, Parrikar may have made a valid point.

Srinagar: One SSB jawan killed, 8 injured in militant attack at Zakura

Srinagar: Militants attacked a paramilitary force convoy on the outskirts of the city this evening, killing a jawan and injuring eight others.

The incident took place at Zakura when militants fired at the vehicles of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) carrying its personnel to their camp after performing law and order duties in the city, officials said here.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

Banned Al-Umar Mujahideen terrorist organisation claimed the responsibility for carrying out the attack and also warned of similar actions in near future.

This outfit had become dormant in the early part of 1990s and ceased to exist after its chief, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar alias ‘Mushtaq Latram’, was arrested in 1992.

Zargar was one of the three prisoners exchanged for passengers of IC-814 plane that was hijacked by Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group in 1999.

Besides Zargar, the other two released were Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Omar.

The claim by the outfit signalled revival of the militant group in Kashmir after more than two decades.

In Saturday’s attack, one jawan of the SSB was killed and eight others were injured, the official said.

The injured, who included a policeman, have been admitted to a hospital for treatment.

Security forces immediately cordoned off the area and launched search operations to track down the militants.

This is the first militant attack in the city since the encounter at Nowhatta on 15 August in which a CRPF commandant was killed and nine other personnel were injured.

Masood Azhar’s surgical strike on Pakistan is deadlier than the one carried out by India

Masood Azhar just did a surgical strike on Pakistan more effective than the one carried out by Indian Army’s Special Forces on 29 September. In one editorial, published in the newest issue of terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad’s weekly pamphlet, he blew away Nawaz Sharif’s fig leaf and made Islamabad stark naked in its brazen bullying glory before the entire world. In the process, the JeM chief also raised some uncomfortable questions for China ahead of President Xi Jinping’s Brics visit to India.

Masood Azhar. ReutersMasood Azhar. Reuters

Masood Azhar. Reuters

During last month’s UNGA address in New York, Nawaz Sharif had stretched the last tendril of credulity when he went against history, reason and a mountain of evidence and proclaimed Kashmir violence as a “popular and peaceful freedom movement” led by “young leader Burhan Wani”.

Taking into account the pulls and pressures of Pakistani Deep State over its civilian government; Nawaz’s compulsions of ratifying Pakistan’s prized assets in the hybrid war against its neighbours; the need to stoke the embers of Kashmir fire — the speech was still a bravura display of defiance where the Prime Minister of a nation was found openly backing a self-declared militant of a designated terrorist organisation from the ramparts of UN. It showed Islamabad’s steady flight down the nihilistic slope of terrorism on the wings of denial.

Masood’s appeal to the Pakistan government to let loose the dogs of terrorism and use the ‘historic opportunity’ to snatch Kashmir, therefore, is the next logical step to Nawaz’s UN address. He was merely ratifying what the Pakistan PM had said and the world (except China and the House of Saud) already knew.

More interestingly, however, Masood’s address provides the context for Kashmir violence. It lays bare the reasons behind Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession — the need to avenge 1971 humiliation and the burning ambition for one Islamic Ummah in the Indian subcontinent. And it exposes, not for the first time, Rawalpindi’s historic role behind the insurgency and its steely resolve to use all terrorist groups, “non-state actors” and tools of insurgency at its command to engage ‘Hindustan’ in a never-ending jihad.

“If the government of Pakistan shows a little courage, the problem of Kashmir, as well as the dispute over water, can be resolved once and for all right now. If nothing else, the government simply has to open the path for the mujahideen. Then, god willing, all the bitter memories of 1971 will be dissolved into the triumphant emotions of 2016,” reads Azhar’s front-page editorial, according to Praveen Swami in The Indian Express.

In the editorial, Azhar exhorts Pakistan’s policymakers and argues that the “jihadist policies it backed in the 1990s had brought strategic benefits to the country” and left India profusely bleeding, with “every one of its limbs badly injured”. He goes on to add that “what remained of India’s military prowess was exposed in Pathankot and Uri,” according to the newspaper.

Shorn of rhetoric, this is the damnedest indictment yet of Pakistan’s hand behind the twin terror attacks and yanks off the last vestige of Islamabad’s deniability. It is difficult to name and shame a puppet government but it could be worthwhile taking a reaction from Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who claimed that Uri was “staged by India itself” to malign Pakistan and take focus away from Kashmir, on what he made of Masood Azhar’s statement.

The JeM founder, who was released by the NDA government in 1999 in exchange for kidnapped 155 passengers and crew members of IC 814, writes further that “terror in Kashmir has weakened India” dramatically and a comparative evaluation of “India before and after the jihad in Kashmir” shows that it has “reduced from a serpent to an earthworm.”

“When we entered the tent of the jihadist movement,” writes Azhar, “it had no branch in Kashmir, nor was there lightning in Iraq or Syria. There were just two fronts, in Afghanistan and Palestine… We have watched as the jihad we befriended grew from a glowing ember into the sun…”, according to the newspaper.

The Indian Army unit that crossed over into the LoC and rained fire on launch pads, could destroy just five of the substantial terror infrastructure. Masood, through one article, established the chain that links jihad in Kashmir to global terrorism.

As Firstpost had argued back in July (Not Burhan Wani, it’s Pakistan’s proxy war that’s behind Kashmir tragedy, the neutralising of Burhan Wani wasn’t an inflection point in “Kashmir intifada” as Pakistan would have the world believe, but merely the kicking off of the latest phase in a long history of Rawalpindi-manufactured violence.

Masood’s statement indicates the extent of Pakistan’s collusion in The Kashmir Project — a venture launched by that humiliated and bitter former ISI chief Lt Gen Hamid Gul in mid-1970s. Right from Kalashnikov-wielding Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) militants in early 90s to Hizbul Mujahideen, from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Jaish-e-Mohammed, the history of “peaceful and popular freedom movement” is now clear.

For Beijing, the al-Qalam editorial poses some tough questions. Only last week China’s state-controlled media had accused India of seeking “political gains” in getting UN to ban Masood Azhar. It would be interesting to note now how China justifies its stand of extending “technical hold” on designating the JeM founder as a global terrorist whom India has accused of masterminding the attacks on Indian Parliament in 2001 and on an IAF base in Pathankot, the last of which has been acknowledged by Masood himself.

If Beijing continues to stand as the only impediment behind Azhar’s designation as a terrorist, it would have done a cost-benefit analysis of the losses it may suffer by withdrawing the hold in terms of its heavy investment in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Beijing’s conduct over the South China Sea should tell us just how ‘seriously’ it takes global opinion when it comes to own strategic interests. So it would be foolish to think that Masood’s statement will force its hand any which way. What it may do is make its bargaining chip vis-à-vis India a little weaker. A position New Delhi would no doubt have noted ahead of the Brics Summit.

Pampore attack: Gunbattle enters second day as militants hold ground

Srinagar: Security forces pounded the government building in Pampore near here with mortars and
blasted IEDs for the second day today to target the militants believed to be holed up there but there seems to be no early end to the operation.

Fire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTIFire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTI

Fire and smoke rises from the government building where suspected militants have taken refuge during a gun battle in Pampore, 16 kms from Srinagar on Tuesday. A group of ultras took shelter inside EDI building on Monday morning. PTI

Army personnel fired mortar shells at the multi-storey building of the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) at Pampore on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway at regular intervals with the aim of flushing out the militants or cornering them to one side of the building, officials said here. The ultras did not fire in retaliation, they said.

The operation has been now going on for 36 hours and unlikely to end before daybreak tomorrow. It was launched in the wee hours yesterday.

Most part of the concrete building has been reduced to a skeleton as many of its walls have been blown up.

Elite Para commandos of the army have also been called in to neutralise the militants but the security personnel are not rushing into the building to avoid casualties, the officials said.

The area around the EDI premises has been cordoned off to prevent the militants from escaping, the official said.

Two to three militants stormed into the EDI complex in the wee hours yesterday and took positions inside one of the buildings.

The ultras could have entered the complex from the riverside after travelling by boat but that can only be
ascertained once the operation is over, the officials said.

After getting inside the complex, the militants set on fire few mattresses inside a hostel room to attract the
attention of the police and other security forces, which arrived within minutes of the smoke emanating from the
building.

In the initial exchange of firing, one army soldier was injured, the officials said.

The security forces on Monday used mortar shells, Light Machine Guns and other small arms to flush out the militants.

Militants had targeted the EDI building in February this year as well.

Five security force personnel including two young army officers and a civilian employee of the Institute and three militants were killed in that operation which lasted 48 hours.

Pampore encounter: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

Pampore encounter: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

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Srinagar: Police said on Monday a group of two to three militants were trapped in a building of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex near Pampore town of Pulwama district.

“The militants were trapped inside a building in the JKEDI complex near Pampore town,” a senior police officer said.

“Security forces surrounded the building and all escape routes of the militants were sealed,” he said.

The officer said that intermittent gunshots were heard inside the complex as the security forces were moving in cautiously to flush out the militants.

A 48-hour long fierce gunfight took place in the same complex in February in which seven people including a civilian, three paramilitary commandos of the Army and three militants were killed.

The JKEDI complex is situated on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, about 10 kilometres from Srinagar.

Traffic on the strategic highway was also suspended.

Pampore attack: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

Pampore attack: Gunfight continues near Kashmir’s Pulwama district; 2-3 militants trapped

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The police said on Monday a group of two to three militants were trapped in a building of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex near Pampore.

“The militants were trapped inside a building in the JKEDI complex near Pampore town,” a senior police officer said.

“Security forces surrounded the building and all escape routes of the militants were sealed,” he said.

The officer said that intermittent gunshots were heard inside the complex as the security forces were moving in cautiously to flush out the militants.

A 48-hour long fierce gunfight took place in the same complex in February in which seven people including a civilian, three paramilitary commandos of the Army and three militants were killed.

The JKEDI complex is situated on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, about 10 kilometres from Srinagar.

Traffic on the strategic highway was also suspended.

Surgical strikes: What exactly have the Modi govt and BJP done wrong?

In the aftermath of the Uri attacks and India’s subsequent response, a powerful narrative — one of the many around India’s covert operation across the LoC to degrade Pakistan’s terror infrastructure — seeks to place the Indian Army’s action within the narrow context of domestic politics.

Worried that the successful offensive against Pakistan may give Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party an electoral boost in the upcoming Assembly polls, an assortment of Indian political leaders — from Arvind Kejriwal, P Chidambaram, Sanjay Nirupam to even Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son Tejashwi — have accused the BJP of trying to gain political mileage out of the strike. The political discourse, plumbing new depths every day, slipped several notches further still on Thursday with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accusing the prime minister of doing ‘khoon ki dalaali‘ with the blood of dead soldiers.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AP

While Rahul’s comments may be a surgical strike against the Congress’ poll prospects, it is consistent with the Opposition’s effort to undermine the importance of the operation by making it appear as if cross-border strikes are common place. While the Congress has suddenly remembered all the strikes that happened under its watch, some like Kejriwal have insinuated that the operation may have not happened at all.

It has even been alleged — as Dinesh Unnikrishnan has argued in this article — that the Modi government has frittered away the effectiveness of the covert operation by displaying needless triumphalism or chest-thumping.

Facts, however, say otherwise. Far from displaying triumphalism, the government has shown rare reticence and restraint. It has been wisely reluctant to comment on the surgical strikes, save one deplorable slip from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. If we take away Parrikar’s crude bragging where he compared the prowess of our armed forces to that of the mythical Hanuman, we have precious little from government’s key figureheads on one of the most successful covert operations in recent times.

To begin with, the media briefing that followed the surgical strikes was conducted by the DGMO, not a government official, minister or even the army chief.

Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh’s carefully worded statement set the tone. He portrayed the strikes as a preemptive attempt to ensure that further terrorist attacks do not take place, thereby placing the cross-border operation within the legal realm of “self-defence”.

As Siddharth Varadarajan writes in The Wire: “Preemptive self-defence is a controversial concept in International Law. Over the years, however, in the context of the US-led war against terrorism, there is hardly any state that can or will criticise India for invoking it.”

That done, the DGMO was careful to send out a message that the strikes were aimed at terrorist launch pads, and not the Pakistan Army, although some collateral damage to those trying to “support” the terrorists was inevitable.

The statement, which did not put a figure to casualties except describing it as “significant”, was spartan in details and firm in assertion that the strikes have ended. The wording left no space for doubt that India, having sent the message across, is extremely reluctant to put additional pressure on Pakistan and risk more escalation.

Following the briefing held last Thursday (29 September), there has been no further communication from the civil or the military administration. The prime minister has maintained radio silence. Social media is Modi’s preferred mode of mass communication. There has not been a single tweet from him so far on the strikes, not even a congratulatory one on the army’s role.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has posted three tweets on the subject — all three on the day the operation was carried out. Two of those are on the valour of Indian Army, without being specific, and one on the “successful counter-terrorism operation”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has posted two tweets on the issue. The tone and tenor of his tweets mirror that of the home minister.

Both the senior ministers in Modi Cabinet have carried forward the theme of fashioning the surgical strikes as a reactionary measure taken in self-defence.

As far as the defence minister is concerned, Modi cut him down to size during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The prime minister asked ministers, and by implication party members, to avoid bragging about the raids and leave it to authorised spokespersons to speak on the issue, according to a report in The Times of India.

Firstpost had argued on Wednesday why not releasing evidence would be the correct move, but for a government “hungry for political mileage”, it would have been far easier to put out evidence of the covert operation, especially in the face of Opposition’s “disbelief”, Pakistan’s continued denial and skepticism from the western media.

The Times of India report, mentioned above, suggests however that the government may not release any evidence. It is understandably apprehensive that sharing of “video footage, photographs and infrared images would compromise operational details, tactics, techniques and equipment used in the strikes to take out the Lashkar-e-Taiba launch pads, at least two of which were co-located with Pakistan army positions, across the Line of Control.”

To suggest, therefore, that the government has been indulging in chest-thumping over the strikes requires a masterful spinning of facts.

The second narrative, suggested by some commentators, that the NDA government’s handling of surgical ops has been a PR disaster, is equally inaccurate.

Following the ops, global and regional powers have rallied behind India asking Pakistan to dismantle the terror factories. Recent reports indicate Pakistan is facing considerable internal pressure over an obvious global isolation. Dawn, a leading Pakistan daily, has reported fissures between the army and the civilian government. The report reveals how the top echelons of the Pakistani establishment are feeling the pressure of adverse international opinion.

The way BJP’s habitual motor-mouths have maintained discretion over the strikes makes it clear that the memo has gone through.

News agency ANI reported on Wednesday that the vice-president of the European Parliament Ryszard Czarnecki, in a signed article published in EP Today, said India’s cross-border action against the terrorists should be “commended and supported by the international community”.

The EU figurehead’s endorsement of India’s actions follow a string of such open pledges of support from the US, Russia, Germany and even Singapore. Most global powers have either backed India or called for restraint, an euphemism for urging Pakistan not to precipitate matters following the strike.

Far from a PR gaffe, the government’s deft handling of the diplomatic offensive needs to be praised. So how exactly has the Modi government or the BJP messed up here?

Politicising LoC strikes is disservice to our jawans, centre must declare Pak a ‘terror-state’: Bitta

Chandigarh: On Thursday All India Anti-Terrorist Front Chairman M S Bitta appealed to political parties not to “politicise” the Army’s cross-LoC strikes, while stating that the Centre must declare Pakistan a “terrorist state”.

“I am not going into what is being said by political leaders from various parties on the issue of surgical strikes. The thing is that this is the time when all of us should speak in one voice and back the government and our Army.

“Those doing politics over the issue are doing disservice to our jawans, who will get demoralised while Pakistan will stand to benefit from this,” he told PTI over phone.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Hailing the decisive action taken by the government and the Army, Bitta said, “For the first time after Indira Gandhi, I am seeing anyone take a firm decision and have such clarity in approach. Earlier, our jawans used to get killed, but we used to talk.

“The question is not of Narendra Modi, the question is of nation’s security. The government has taken a very clear stand and we must applaud them,” he said.

Bitta said those people who were speaking in different voices at this juncture were “insulting those martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of our nation.”

“Those politicising the (LoC strike) issue are enemies of the country,” he said.

Bitta, who survived a terrorist attack in Delhi in 1993 when he was the chief of the Youth Congress, said India should now take steps to get Pakistan declared as a “terrorist state.”

“Our government should approach the United Nations in this regard. We should also take help of friendly countries to combat terror. India should take these countries along and seek their support to get Pakistan declared as a terrorist state,” he added.

19 soldiers were killed in a militant attack on an Army camp at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on 18 September. The Army had launched surgical strikes targeting terror camps located across the LoC on 28 September night.

Inadvertent India-Pakistan border crossers treated humanly even in tense times

Amritsar: Mohammed Tanveer, 12, a village resident from Pakistan’s Kasur district bordering India’s Ferozepur district, strayed into India last Sunday while trying to find drinking water at a tubewell. Despite hostilities between both nuclear-armed neighbours at their peak, the boy was handed over by the Border Security Force (BSF) to its Pakistan counterparts on “humanitarian grounds” the very next day.

Before going back to Pakistan, Tanveer said that he was treated well by Indian border guards after he was apprehended in the area of responsibility of the Dona Telu Mal border out-post (BoP) in Ferozepur sector.

“He inadvertently crossed International Boundary and entered Indian territory. The individual was grazing his cattle in Pakistan area near the IB and came inside Indian territory to drink water from a tubewell on Indian side as he was very thirsty,” BSF Punjab Frontier Deputy Inspector General RS Kataria said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Why does this happen?

Punjab shares a 553-km IB with Pakistan. The entire border has an electrified barbed wire fence which is located 500 metres to 1 km inside Indian territory.

“Since the IB is much beyond the fence and our guards are mostly behind the fence, sometimes people stray into Indian territory and are apprehended,” a BSF commandant told IANS.

Thus, Tanveer is not the only case of inadvertent border crossers from both countries who stray into the territory of the other. Border guards of both nations, India’s BSF and Pakistan Rangers, have an established mechanism to repatriate such individuals.

This is in sharp contrast to Indian Army jawan Chandu Babulal Chauhan’s case, who is in the custody of the Pakistan Army after he inadvertently crossed across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir’s Mendhar sector.

The BSF has apprehended 26 Pakistani border crossers this year itself. They were handed over to the Pakistan Rangers.

In 2015, 12 Pakistani inadvertent border crossers were repatriated by the BSF.

In mid-April this year, the BSF handed back Pakistani national Mohammed Waqas Akram of Pati Chak village in Pakistan’s Bhawalnagar district, just days after an Indian prisoner, Kirpal Singh, 54, died mysteriously inside a jail in Pakistan’s Lahore city.

In March, the BSF handed over a five-year-old deaf and dumb Pakistani girl to border authorities in Pakistan after she inadvertently crossed over into Indian territory in Punjab’s Abohar sector, Kataria pointed out.

The BSF keeps a strict 24×7 vigil along the IB. Alert BSF troopers foiled an infiltration bid by around eight people at the Chakri BoP in Gurdaspur sector on 3 October.

In 2016, the BSF has seized nearly 200 kg heroin, valued at Rs 1,000 crore ($150 million) in the international market, killed six Pakistani smugglers and six intruders, apprehended one Pakistani smuggler, killed two Indian smugglers and apprehended 12 Indian smugglers in Punjab’s border belt.

Kejriwal never asked for proof of surgical strike, BJP, media wrongly attributed words to him: Manish Sisodia

Panaji: AAP leader Manish Sisodia on Wednesday alleged that BJP and the media attributed words to Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal which he never uttered on the issue of the surgical strikes by the Army across the LoC.

Referring to a video message of Kejriwal, Sisodia told reporters in Goa that the AAP convener never uttered the word “saboot” (proof), but was asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the propaganda unleashed by the international media with Pakistan questioning the authenticity of the operations.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

Kejriwal had on Monday released a video message “saluting” the Prime Minister for the surgical strikes across the LoC and urging him to “unmask” Pakistan’s propaganda. However, BJP on Tuesday said his remarks amounted to “seeking proof” of the Army action, while AAP hit back saying their rival party was playing politics.

“We have only demanded that PM should stringently fight back the propaganda by the international media on behalf of Pakistan suspecting the authenticity of the surgical strikes. It is BJP and the media which have attributed word ‘saboot’ which is not there at all in the footage,” Sisodia said.

“Those who have watched Arvind Kejriwal‘s video footage, they have appreciated him. They (who have seen the video) have said it is true that at the international level, the media is poking fun at the surgical strikes. There is a propaganda happening at the international level.

“So the way the Indian soldiers have bravely gone into the territory of Pakistan and eliminated terrorists, in similar fashion, the PM or the Indian government should fight back the propaganda,” the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi said.

“Where are words like ‘video’ or ‘saboot’ in the entire footage? They (media) are attributing these words on their own,” he alleged.

Sisodia said Delhi, places like Goa and the entire India are safe because of the soldiers who are braving all the difficulties on the border.

“When they are risking their lives on the border for our safety, cannot we expect the (Union) government to at least counter the propaganda against the operation carried out by them (soldiers),” he said.

Surgical strikes sent right political message to Pakistan, but let’s not go overboard

While opposition parties were expected to politicise India’s surgical strikes in PoK on 28 September, our electronic media appears to have gone more than berserk. The opposition fears are natural with the approaching elections particularly in Uttar Pradesh where they would not want the NDA government to draw any political mileage having demonstrated a pro-active stance against rogue Pakistan.

So while they support government action, they make direct and indirect suggestions that the strikes were a big hoax by the Centre that has created the adverse prevailing situation. Those media hawks aligned cross-border or with the Opposition including those funded from dubious sources directly or through media houses located abroad continue to play games that certainly are not in our national interests. But they are secure in the knowledge that India is yet to find a solution on how to differentiate between ‘sedition’ and ‘freedom of press’ – similar to confusing ‘bureaucratic control’ over military with ‘civilian control’ whereas it should actually be ‘political control’ over the military. So these media hawks are naturally revered by our adversaries.

Then there is this politician famously called ‘pole tortoise’ who is obsessed with cross-border love, who reportedly consulted a surgeon and surmised that surgical strike implies cutting a limb, crippling the enemy and deterring terrorism but Pakistan’s response shows nothing has been cut off or deterred. His conclusion therefore is that these strikes were not ‘surgical’ but perhaps could have been categorised as ‘general medication’. But wait, he has more pearls of wisdom – he says launch pads are used by missiles, not guerillas, who are very mobile and infiltrate wherever opportunity beckons; they are not stationary targets (read like missile launch pads). Apparently, this tortoise could have taught a thing or two to Liddell Hart, Colin Grey and others. The Opposition sure doesn’t want the government to gain because of their bold action and stern political message to Pakistan in the forthcoming elections in UP, Punjab and other states. So, they have adopted the policy to praise the military but demand proof — not realizing they doubt and denigrate their own military in the process. But then there are many of those who are prepared to sell anything of the sake of votes.

Representational imageRepresentational image

Representational image

There are others of the same ilk holding important positions that are patronized more by Pakistan and do the latter’s bidding. So whatever they say publicly finds widespread mention in the Pakistani media. Take for example the recent exhortations by Delhi CM to release evidence of the surgical raids undertaken by India. This, in the backdrop of the massive disinformation campaign launched by Pakistan, which was not required in the first place if nothing had really happened or rather the cross-LoC strikes had not been executed. But let us examine the demand for release of photographic evidence to prove that the strikes actually took place, which actually amounts to doubting their own military. It is known by and large by now that the above mentioned surgical strikes were monitored by Cartosat-2.

However, satellites clips of even US and Israel operations only show movement of personnel as small-sized gray-white blobs. These cannot differentiate between friend and foe and certainly cannot identify any individual. A launch pad for 8-10 terrorists actually implies an overnight halting place, not an elaborate set up like the some of the crows would believe it to be. Filming can hardly be expected as done by US Navy Seals in Abottabad or like the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Besides, Indian Special Forces do not have the wherewithal yet to upload live pictures directly to the satellite. Whatever photos/video evidence taken cannot certify these were shot at a particular place – there are no signboards like this is Delhi CM’s residence or that is his bedroom.

Pakistan’s ISPR knows this full well and that is why increased Pakistani demands, including its sympathisers in India, to release the photos. When Pakistan can say that the Uri terrorist attack was the handiwork of RAW, why would they not say the same when evidence is released by India — that these pictures are taken within India? Most importantly, you cannot expect your own military to be part of such hoax. In fact with our NSA speaking to his counterpart in the US before these strikes, these operations may have monitored by US satellites also. Surprisingly Pakistan never asked for photographic evidence when they lost East Pakistan, when General AAK Niazi signed the instrument of surrender and when 93,000 Pakistani military men laid down their arms. So, why the demand now – is it because they have been shocked out of their wits? Why fire at civilians in villages in desperation now? Nawaz Sharif yelling “naked aggression” immediately post the strike was proof enough.

But it is shameful to see and hear the crows and frogs within our country who are cawing and croaking without any sense of national pride.

The media continues to go berserk; debating future operational options, pitting senior military veterans, even former Service Chiefs in these senseless debates. In which country do you see this type of nonsocial drama? Who discusses options like this in public? Of course there can always be an odd journalist who can’t get over his childhood shock of having seen his father go down in disgrace. But then there are others who will produce sand models showing future options, akin to arrows and pincers shown after every corps level exercises or like layout of the Parliament was shown after it was attacked by terrorists. Then media’s love for Special Forces shoots up after every major terror attack or incidents like the US raid to kill Osama-bin-Laden or say our last raid along the Myanmar border. So this time also the very same sets of questions were brought up by many channels, including whether our boys can execute the Abbotabad type of raid? This without knowing how many years it took the US to build up intelligence, how it was acquired, mechanics of the raid to kill Osama, suppression of Pakistani air defences and the like. The more enterprising ones wanted to know details of all types of weaponry and equipment our Special Forces hold. Some having heard Special Forces had been employed, talked about para-dropping, combat free-fall and even helicopters landing across the across the LoC. The whole process is akin to discussing scams in India – intense debate and then shoved under the carpet till next scam comes up; in this case till the next major terror attack or Special Forces action.

What we need to realise is that though these surgical strikes sent the right political message to Pakistan, they were executed on foot and given the distance across the LoC were tactical. Though Special Forces were used, these could have been undertaken by regular infantry too. The primary employment of Special Forces should be at the strategic level. But that is something that the hierarchy is unlikely to address in the near future given the type of higher defence structures that we have.

Meanwhile, let the crows caw and the frogs croak but let us not go overboard about these surgical strikes.

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army who has served in Kashmir

Live: Pakistan PM chairs meet with ‘one-point agenda’ against India after Baramulla attack

Oct 3, 2016

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At least two terrorists and a BSF personnel were killed while one BSF jawan was injured when militants attacked two adjoining camps of the Army and the paramilitary force at Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir.

The heavily-armed terrorists attacked the two camps belonging to Rashtriya Rifles and Border Security Force late Sunday night, leading to a fierce gun-battle with the security forces.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Following the firefight, two terrorists were killed by the forces while one BSF personnel, who was hit by bullets, succumbed to his injuries later, a Home Ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The martyred jawan has been indentified as Constable Nitin while the injured personnel is Constable Pulwinder. Both belong to the 40th battalion of the BSF, officials said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval discussed the incident and necessary instructions have been given to the forces.

Singh also spoke to Director General of BSF KK Sharma and asked him to provide all possible treatment to the injured jawan.

Firing was also reported at a BSF post along the international border with Pakistan in Gurdaspur district of north Punjab early on Monday.

The Border Security Force troopers, according to sources, repulsed an intrusion bid by 8-10 people in the counter offensive at Chakri border out post (BoP).

The sources said that the firing started around 2 am after the alert troopers, using Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTI), noticed movement of 8-10 people near the international border.

The intruders, who had crossed the border but were behind the barbed wire fencing, were challenged.

“They fired at the BSF post. Our troopers immediately retaliated the firing. The intruders retreated back to Pakistan. A search operation has been launched in the area today (Monday) morning,” a BSF official said.

The Baramulla attack was the first major attack on security forces by terrorists after the Indian Army launched surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir last week.

The attack comes despite intelligence inputs about possible terrorist attacks on security installations in Jammu and Kashmir following the operations in PoK on 29 September.

The strike comes exactly a fortnight after terrorists struck at army brigade headquarters at Uri, 102 km from Srinagar, killing 19 soldiers.

Terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, had also attacked the frontier Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot town of Punjab on 2 January this year, leaving seven security personnel dead.

The Pathankot attack was preceded by a terror attack by Pakistani terrorists in Dinanagar town of Gurdaspur district on 27 July last year.

With inputs from Agencies

Baramulla attack Live: Rajnath arrives in Leh, NSA briefs PM Modi about the assault

Oct 3, 2016

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At least two terrorists and a BSF personnel were killed while one BSF jawan was injured when militants attacked two adjoining camps of the Army and the paramilitary force at Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir.

The heavily-armed terrorists attacked the two camps belonging to Rashtriya Rifles and Border Security Force late Sunday night, leading to a fierce gun-battle with the security forces.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Following the firefight, two terrorists were killed by the forces while one BSF personnel, who was hit by bullets, succumbed to his injuries later, a Home Ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi.

The martyred jawan has been indentified as Constable Nitin while the injured personnel is Constable Pulwinder. Both belong to the 40th battalion of the BSF, officials said.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval discussed the incident and necessary instructions have been given to the forces.

Singh also spoke to Director General of BSF KK Sharma and asked him to provide all possible treatment to the injured jawan.

Firing was also reported at a BSF post along the international border with Pakistan in Gurdaspur district of north Punjab early on Monday.

The Border Security Force troopers, according to sources, repulsed an intrusion bid by 8-10 people in the counter offensive at Chakri border out post (BoP).

The sources said that the firing started around 2 am after the alert troopers, using Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTI), noticed movement of 8-10 people near the international border.

The intruders, who had crossed the border but were behind the barbed wire fencing, were challenged.

“They fired at the BSF post. Our troopers immediately retaliated the firing. The intruders retreated back to Pakistan. A search operation has been launched in the area today (Monday) morning,” a BSF official said.

The Baramulla attack was the first major attack on security forces by terrorists after the Indian Army launched surgical strikes on terror launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir last week.

The attack comes despite intelligence inputs about possible terrorist attacks on security installations in Jammu and Kashmir following the operations in PoK on 29 September.

The strike comes exactly a fortnight after terrorists struck at army brigade headquarters at Uri, 102 km from Srinagar, killing 19 soldiers.

Terrorists, suspected to be from Pakistan, had also attacked the frontier Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot town of Punjab on 2 January this year, leaving seven security personnel dead.

The Pathankot attack was preceded by a terror attack by Pakistani terrorists in Dinanagar town of Gurdaspur district on 27 July last year.

With inputs from Agencies

Baramulla attack: Search called off, militants’ attempt at entry foiled

Srinagar: The over six-hour long search operation against militants was called off on Monday morning as the security forces said the attackers had failed to breach the security parameters of the army camp in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

One Border Security Force (BSF) trooper was killed and another injured late Sunday night when a group of heavily armed guerrillas attacked the camp of counter insurgency 46 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Baramulla.

“Militants with suicide intent used grenades and heavy automatic gunfire to enter the camp in Janbazpora,” a senior police official said.

“They first attacked the outpost of the camp which is guarded by the BSF,” a senior police officer said.

“The attempt of the ‘Fidayeen’ militants to enter the camp was foiled by the security forces.”

The officer said a massive search operation was launched to locate the militants immediately after the two-hour long gunfire exchange stopped.

“After six hours, the search operation was called off and traffic restored in the area,” he said.

The suicide attack at the 46 RR camp is the first such assault in the wake of the Indian Army’s surgical strikes on 29 September morning across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

On 18 September, militants had killed 19 soldiers and injured 29 others in the garrison town of Uri, which is also located in the same district.

Efforts on to secure release of Chandu Babulal Chauhan in Pakistan, says Manohar Parrikar

Efforts on to secure release of Chandu Babulal Chauhan in Pakistan, says Manohar Parrikar

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Pune: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday said a well-established mechanism through the DGMO has been activated to bring back Army jawan Chandu Babulal Chauhan, who is in Pakistan’s custody after inadvertently crossing over.

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIA file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“He had crossed over which happens in border areas. There is a well established mechanism through DGMO (Director General of Military Operations) which has been activated,” he said.

On 30 September, Chauhan from 37 RR had inadvertently crossed over to the other side of the Line of Control following which Pakistan had been informed by the DGMO on the hotline.

“Such inadvertent crossing by Army and civilians are not unusual on either side. They are returned through existing mechanisms,” the army had said.

On Friday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called up the family of the solider and assured them that efforts are being made to secure his releae. Chauhan’s grandmother had passed away after hearing the news of his crossing over to Pakistan.

Parrikar also said that people should remain alert and report anything unsusal to the police.

Army chief Dalbir Singh visits Northern Command after surgical strikes across LoC

Udhampur: Army Chief Dalbir Singh on Saturday visited the Northern Command base here to take stock of India’s operational preparedness along the border in the wake of heightened tension in Indo-Pak ties following the surgical strike targeting terror camps across LoC.

“Gen Singh arrived at Northern Command headquarters this morning and chaired a high-level meeting to review the situation and operational preparedness in Jammu and Kashmir, including along the Line of Control,” a Defence official said.

Indian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFPIndian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFP

Indian Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag. AFP

The surgical strike, seen as a reprisal for Uri terror attack, was planned and executed by the Northern Command.

Singh also personally complimented officers and men who “successfully” targeted seven terror launch pads located in Leepa, Tattapani, Kel and Bhimbar, the official said.

He is scheduled to visit army’s Western Command to review operational preparedness.

Sources had said the decision on the surgical strike was taken soon after the attack on the Uri army base on 18 September. They said India was ready with contingency plans considering the possibilities that Pakistan may retaliate in the wake of the surgical strike.

It has been estimated that number of casualties was at least 40 on Pakistani side but there was no official confirmation.

The Army has also trashed reports in Pakistan about Indian casualties during the operation, saying one member of the special forces received minor injury while returning but it was not due to any enemy or terrorist action.

Post surgical strikes, Indian Army, IAF and BSF on high alert in Punjab

There has been no gunfire, no alert sirens and no fighter jets dropping bombs. It is not wartime yet, but tens of thousands of villagers in lying in the border belt with Pakistan are already experiencing a war-like situation.

As the relations between India-Pakistan — the nuclear armed neighbours — sizzle up, especially after India’s retaliatory surgical strikes on the terror launch pads across LoC, the Indian Army is bracing up for a possible escalation in the situation. Thousands of villagers in the border states of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Rajasthan are being relocated while a state of high alert was issued across Uttar Pradesh fearing retaliation from Pakistan. The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) also stepped-up up vigil along the Indo-Nepal border.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Punjab border villages evacuated

Following constant reports of ceasefire violation along LoC and amid apprehensions of situation escalating across the border, over 4,00,000 people in Punjab’s border belt, comprising Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Fazilka districts, have been evacuated from their homes to “safer areas”.

Residents in nearly 1,000 villages in these districts have been ordered by the authorities to evacuate following escalation of tension between India and Pakistan as the Army beefed up security across the length of Indian border.

“We loaded a lot of our belongings and household articles on our tractor-trolley. We have not yet decided where we will go. But we have to move out. The standing crop in our fields has to be harvested within the next 10 days. We hope this situation eases out soon,” farmer Sardul Singh of Amritsar district told IANS.

Punjab shares a 553-km international border with Pakistan. The entire border is marked by an electrified barbed wire fence.

The Sikh holy city of Amritsar, which lies only 30 km from the international border, too seemed to be prepared for any eventuality, including war.

Hospitals in the border districts have been asked to keep some beds in the emergency wards vacant for any contingency. The leave of police personnel, medical staff and others maintaining emergency services have been cancelled. Electricity of border villages and towns will also be cut-off, according to CNN-News18. 

In some of the border villages, which are located across the rivers in the border belt, Border Security Force (BSF) and Indian Army personnel could be seen ferrying people, including children and the elderly, and their belongings to safer areas on Thursday and Friday.

“There is nothing to panic about. The evacuation is being done as a preventive measure. Arrangements are being made to accommodate the evacuated people,” Isha Kalia, Deputy Commissioner of Fazilka district in southwest Punjab, said. Kalia visited various evacuation centres in her district and talked to people accommodated there.

But villagers said that there was some panic and anxiety among them. According to CNN-News18, some villagers have refused to move stating that they have nowhere else to go. “Punjabis have faced wars before and we will see whatever happens again… Yaha se uthenge to jayenge kaha ji (where will we go from here),” a resident told CNN-News18. 

“Old timers have been through the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. Those days were bad. But Punjabis have always faced wars valiantly. For the newer generation, who have not seen wars, the evacuation is a new thing. Many youngsters are worried about what will happen,” Waryam Singh of Ferozepur district, who is 70-plus and lived through the 1965 and 1971 wars, told IANS.

The villagers who have been evacuated were headed either to the homes of relatives and friends in “safer zones” or opted for camps organised by the district authorities.

With arrangements to accommodate hundreds of people at each of the 45 relief camps having to be made within a few hours, the evacuated people complained of mismanagement and chaos.

Local gurudwaras and social organisations also chipped in, within the past 12 hours, to arrange food and water for the displaced people.

Along all roads and paths in the border belt, any mode of transport available was being used by the people to move out with their belongings. The authorities also arranged buses at some places to ferry people. Army convoys, with artillery, moved towards the border with Pakistan on Thursday and Friday.

Army on high alert in Punjab

The Indian Army, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) were put on high alert in Punjab and neighbouring states to counter any escalation that may follow under the current stand-off between the two nations.

Army convoys, carrying artillery guns, could be seen moving towards the border belt in Punjab on Thursday and Friday in preparation of thwarting any move from Pakistan to retaliate the LoC strike. Leaves of Army personnel deployed on the Western front have also been cancelled with immediate effect, according to CNN-News18.

The IAF has been put on high alert with forward air bases on the western front in full preparedness. The IAF bases in the region include Halwara and Adampur (both in Punjab), Ambala (in Haryana) and Hindon (near Delhi).

Air Force fighter jets carried out sorties over some parts of Punjab as a preventive measure.

The International Border (IB) in the Punjab frontier is manned by the BSF which is on maximum alert following the latest developments at the LoC.

Army units were also on high alert in Punjab. The army presence in Punjab is substantial, spread in Mamoon cantonment near Pathankot, the 11 Corps based in Jalandhar, the 10 Corps in Bathinda in southwest Punjab and army units in Ferozepur, Amritsar and other places.

The Western Command, headquartered at Chandimandir near Chandigarh, is monitoring the situation along the border with Pakistan in Punjab sector, a senior Army officer said.

The Ambala-based 2 Corps, a strike corps, has also been put on high alert along with the Hisar-based 33 Armoured Division, sources said.

UP on high alert, increased vigil along Indo-Nepal border

Security was heightened in all districts in Uttar Pradesh, fearing retaliation from Pakistan while the SSB was also asked to step up vigil along the Indo-Nepal border.

Special focus was on security of historical monuments, tourist destinations, public places like railway and bus stations, malls, shopping complexes and film theatres, an official told IANS.

Additional police force was deployed in the peripheral parameters of cantonments in Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur and Meerut, and military installations and airports were put under close watch.

Special checking operations were initiated to screen vehicles on border and other sensitive areas like Maharajganj, Bahraich, Gonda and Gorakhpur.  “Other than scaling up the visible security, we have also sensitised the intelligence system and are keeping an eye on every activity,” an official said.

India carried out surgical strikes on seven terror launch pads inflicting “significant casualties”across the LoC on the 28 and 29 September, seen as a reprisal for the Uri attack. The Uri Army base was attacked by heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists on September 18 in which 18 soldiers were killed. India has maintained that the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed was behind the attack.

With inputs from IANS

Surgical strikes against Pakistan along LoC are a breath of fresh air

On Thursday morning, the Indian Army announced that it had conducted several strikes on terrorist camps across the Line of Control. According to the statement by the Director General for Military Operations, Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, operations took place in four sectors along the LoC — Bhimber, Hotspring, Kel and Lipa — at 12.30 am on 28 September and destroyed seven terrorist bases that were used to stage infiltrations into India. All facilities were between 500 and 3,000 metres from the LoC. Casualties are reported to include two Pakistani soldiers and 38 terrorists. Commandos were dropped at the LoC from where they crossed over into Pakistani-occupied Kashmir under the watchful eye of Indian drones. The action was undertaken after receiving “credible and specific information” about terrorists at the locations, planning attacks on major Indian cities.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Pakistan’s initial reaction has been to deny these strikes, citing “usual” Indian cross-border shelling instead as the cause of death of two of its soldiers. This buys its leadership time to decide on how to respond, especially in light of the US’ prompt statement expressing support for Indian counter-terrorism efforts. Though worded vaguely, its timing and general import leaves little doubt that Washington knew about and approved of India’s military actions Wednesday night.

The Indian strike is truly genius — while representing almost nothing tactically, it has truly set the cat among the pigeons diplomatically and strategically. At an empirical level, India’s action is a cross-border strike only by the grace of semantics — its Special Forces penetrated Pakistan-held territory only just beyond a good sniper’s range and killed 38 terrorists, a number that could probably be replaced in hours. Normally, a cross-border strike evokes memories of Neptune Spear, Ajax, Moked or Thunderbolt. Nonetheless, this is nothing to be scoffed at — I had written in a previous article that India cannot hope to dissuade Pakistan from terrorism with cross-border strikes and should instead target Pakistan and its terrorist allies.

Wednesday’s strike fits the mould perfectly.

The ingenuity of India’s move comes in its diplomatic package. First, it sought to persuade the US of the justness of its cause — Washington can be a moralising bully as much as India’s early prime ministers were. Second, it announced the strike publicly and reiterated that the operations were limited and had been halted — this dampened any escalatory opportunism by Pakistan. Furthermore, it was a booster shot for national morale, sagging after decades of receiving blows from across the border. Third, Delhi briefed the envoys of 22 nations, including the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, through its foreign secretary S Jaishankar on Wednesday’s mission. This would consolidate international opinion behind Indian actions, especially since Pakistan has a glowing reputation for supporting terrorism.

The briefing was presumably to also reassure the global community that the military action was indeed limited, the conviction of which would lead to their diplomatic pressure on Islamabad to abjure from further provoking Delhi.

Strategically, India has called Pakistan’s bluff that it would respond with nuclear weapons if the former dared to conduct raids into the latter’s territory. Wednesday’s raid is so small and insignificant that a nuclear response would seem insane by any standards. As several analysts in favour of striking back at Pakistan, including myself, have argued earlier, India must utilise the conflict space below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold if it is to have any hope of curbing Pakistani shenanigans. This is exactly what Delhi has now done, challenging Islamabad to actually defend in public terrorists with nuclear weapons. And it seems, Islamabad has blinked.

The Indian strike is truly genius — while representing almost nothing tactically, it has truly set the cat among the pigeons diplomatically and strategically

There is no reason this bluff could not have been called earlier, but previous administrations imagined — and Pakistan allowed them to do so — that even the slightest response to the asymmetric war being waged from across the LoC would incur Pakistani nuclear retaliation. The Narendra Modi government has understood that the threshold had to be higher than that for it to have any meaning. Yet in all caution, Modi authorised only very shallow strikes at first — if Pakistan fails to live up to its rhetoric, future strikes may be even deeper and more significant as India improves its capability to conduct such strikes. Wednesday’s raid has disregarded Pakistan’s nuclear red lines and in all likelihood, pushed them back a bit.

Why did Modi not act earlier? Perhaps because he wanted to, on the world stage, give diplomacy a chance; perhaps the Indian military was not ready in the first two years of the Modi administration; or perhaps he wanted to dispel the stereotypes about him for domestic political reasons. This is all speculation and irrelevant to the national security debate. What matters is that the Indian government has finally acted boldly — and wisely — on the Pakistani-sponsored terrorism question and it is a much appreciated breath of fresh air.

Surgical strikes across LoC: Pakistan’s response shows it didn’t expect retaliation post Uri

India’s surgical strikes on terrorist camps on the other side of the LoC have been denied by Pakistan. These camps were not on their territory, it says, and that India is lying.

Moot point. So be it. India really doesn’t need that seal of approval and her paratroopers have done what they were sent to do. Destroy terrorists wherever they are.

So, there is no beef. If it didn’t happen as Pakistan says, and it was not playing to these gun-toting killers’ host it cannot see this as a hostile act. Consequently, since Pakistan is also vehement in being a victim of terrorism, it should thank India for helping out.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

With this attack, India has added a military manoeuvre to three other fronts: the diplomatic offensive stopping Saarc and asking for a global category of our neighbor as a sponsor and exporter of terror, up the ante of the threat of abrogating the Indus Waters Treaty and opening up the issue of the MFN status in trade. These are the four major fronts and all are active.

Clearly, Pakistan did not think that Uri would spark so much response. It probably imagined that India would do another Pathankot, make sounds and leave it at that.

Which is why it is imperative that after the operation last night, India does take the bait and begin producing evidence of any sort to show Pakistan up. We went in and we killed terrorists and we came home. We never attacked Pakistan and we don’t need to explain, a tendency that very often detracts from our successful initiatives.

At this juncture, it would need someone with a very twisted mind in India to say that action per se has not been taken. There are no partisan politics, no parties, just one country telling the world no more killers in cold blood will be tolerated.

If there is a major fear, it is not of Pakistan firing Shaheen missiles at Indian cities because there is no provocation to do so and India has not attacked their Army, but it lies in making sure that fifth columns in our cities are not allowed to be woken up and sent into action.

It becomes imperative for all Indians to now play a role — not so much vigilantes but observers. It is disturbing that there have been sightings of armed men prowling near military bases and being able to vanish. That such people with hostile intent are in our country already is a given and we would have to be unutterably naïve to think otherwise.

Consequently, do not rent rooms to strangers without a proper vetting. If you see new faces in the locality and their conduct strikes you as odd call the police. Rather, we were wrong than victims. It is easy to form community groups and make ourselves safer.

That India must be on alert is only common sense. Especially in the coming days as actions set into motion gather momentum and begin to engage in the ripple effect.

Be vigilant and salute those men who jumped out of their aircraft into the night while we were in our beds asleep… because they are there.

After Indian Army’s surgical strikes across LoC, Punjab govt orders evacuation of villages on border

Chandigarh: The Punjab government has ordered the evacuation of villages in a 10-km belt along the border with Pakistan following the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the LoC.

File photo of the Indian Army. AFP

File photo of the Indian Army. AFP

The union home ministry on Thursday directed the Punjab government to get the border villages evacuated.

Local authorities were using loudspeakers to announce to residents in the border villages to leave their homes and villages and move to safer zones.

The authorities have ordered the closure of schools and other institutions in the border belt.

Punjab’s border districts include Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Abohar and Fazilka.

Informed sources said the Border Security Force (BSF) was mobilising its troops and strengthening the security along the border belt.

Punjab shares a 553-km border with Pakistan.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called an emergency meeting of the cabinet on Thursday evening.

After India’s surgical strikes across LoC, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif calls federal cabinet meeting on Friday

After India’s surgical strikes across LoC, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif calls federal cabinet meeting on Friday

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Islamabad: Amid surgical strikes which India claimed it carried out on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the Federal Cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the growing tensions between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. AP

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. AP

Officials from the Interior and Defense Ministries will brief the Prime Minister over national security, an official statement from the Prime Minister’s House stated.

Two Pakistani soldiers died when Indian forces resorted to firing across the LoC on Thursday amid mounting tensions between the two nuclear-armed adversaries over Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistani Army confirmed.

The meeting will also discuss Indian “atrocities” in the Kashmir Valley and the threats to Pakistan, it said.

Global cost of India-Pakistan nuclear war: 21 million dead, ozone layer destroyed and more

By Abheet Singh Sethi

If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide.

As the Indian Army considers armed options, and a member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) urges a nuclear attack, these projections, made by researchers from three US universities in 2007, are a reminder of the costs of nuclear war.

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Visualisation by nucleardarkness.org based on study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said, on 23 September, 2016, that if 100 million Indians died in a Pakistani nuclear attack, India’s retaliation would wipe out Pakistan.

But the real costs would be higher and not just in India and Pakistan, where the first 21 million people–half the death toll of World War II–would perish within the first week from blast effects, burns and acute radiation, according to the 2007 study by researchers from Rutgers University, University of Colorado-Boulder and University of California, Los Angeles, all in the USA.

This death toll would be 2,221 times the number of civilians and security forces killed by terrorists in India over nine years to 2015, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of South Asia Terrorism Portal data.

Another two billion people worldwide would face risks of severe starvation due to the climatic effects of the nuclear-weapon use in the subcontinent, according to this 2013 assessment by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a global federation of physicians.

Pakistan has an estimated 110 to 130 nuclear warheads as of 2015–an increase from an estimated 90 to 110 warheads in 2011–according to this report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a global disarmament advocacy. India is estimated to have 110 to 120 nuclear warheads.

Talk of war began after a terrorist attack on an army garrison in the Kashmir town of Uri claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers. The Indian Army said the attack was carried out by four terrorists from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed) group, based in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja M Asif responded to threats from India by saying, “If Pakistan’s security is threatened, we will not hesitate in using tactical (nuclear) weapons.”

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capability has previously deterred India from responding to previous attacks.

“At the end of the day, India has to ensure that the options it exercises–particularly the military ones–do not leave it worse off than before in terms of casualties and costs,” wrote analyst Manoj Joshi in The Wire.

It does not really matter if India has fewer nuclear weapons than Pakistan, IndiaSpend reported in April, 2015, primarily because of the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction”, or MAD, as it is commonly known (See this IndiaSpend report for more about India’s nuclear weapons program).

66 percent Pakistan’s nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles

As many as 66 percent Pakistani nuclear warheads are mounted on 86 land-based ballistic missiles, according to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists data estimates.

Pakistan’s Hatf (named after the sword of Prophet Muhammad) series of ballistic missiles has been developed–and is still under development–keeping India in mind.

A major attack by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) would likely target India’s four major metropolitan cities–New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai (depending on where the missile is fired from), according to Sameer Patil, fellow, national security, ethnic conflict and terrorism at Gateway House, a think tank in Mumbai.

The MRBMs would also target “the major commands of the Indian Army”, Patil told IndiaSpend.

Nearly half (40) of Pakistan’s ballistic missile warheads could be mated to Ghauri (named after 12th-century Afghan king Shahbuddin Ghauri, also known as Muhammad of Ghauri) MRBMs. The missile has a claimed range of 1,300 km and can target Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Bhopal and Lucknow, according to this 2006 report on Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme by the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

Pakistan has an estimated eight warheads which could be mated to the Shaheen (Falcon) II. This MRBM has a range of 2,500 km and can target most major Indian cities, including Kolkata on the east coast.

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Source: Pakistani Nuclear Forces, 2015; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

An estimated 16 warheads could be fired atop the short-range Ghaznavi (named after the 11th-century Afghan invader Mahmud Ghazni) ballistic missile. With a range of 270 km to 350 km, it can target Ludhiana, Ahmedabad and the outer perimeter of Delhi.

Pakistan has an estimated 16 nuclear-tipped Shaheen1 (falcon), short-range ballistic missiles (IRBM), having a 750 km range which can reach Ludhiana, Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Pakistan has an estimated six 60-km range Nasr missiles, which could be mated to nuclear weapons. These tactical nuclear missiles could target “advancing battle formations of the Indian Army”, according to Patil. These missiles could be what Asif referred to.

Pakistan also has eight nuclear-tipped 350-km Babur cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.

An estimated 36 nuclear warheads, accounting for 28 percent of Pakistan’s total, can be delivered using aircraft. US-made F-16 A/B aircraft can deliver 24 nuclear bombs while the French-made Mirage III/V can deliver 12.

India’s triad: Submarine, missile and aircraft

India has deployed 56 Prithvi (earth) and Agni (fire) series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which carry 53 percent of India’s 106 estimated warheads, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

This doesn’t take into account the estimated 12 warheads for the K-15 Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which India has possibly produced for the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant.

Once commissioned, Arihant would give India a strategic nuclear triad and second strike capability, as this July 2015 IndiaSpend report notes.

“Given the smaller geographical size of Pakistan,” said Patil, India would likely target “Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi and the Pakistani Army Armed Corps headquarters at Nowshera”.

However, he cautioned: “The fallout of the nuclear attacks on Lahore and Karachi, for instance, would not just be restricted to the Pakistani territory, and depending on the wind directions, can affect both Indian and Afghan border territories.”

Indias-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825Indias-Nuclear-Arsenal-Desktop 825

Source: Indian Nuclear Forces, 2015; Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

The 250 km-range Prithvi SRBM acts as a delivery system for 24 of India’s warheads. These are capable of hitting major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore, Sialkot, the capital Islamabad, and Rawalpindi, according to this May 2015 IndiaSpend analysis.

India has 20 nuclear-tipped Agni I SRBM and eight Agni II intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), with ranges of 700 km and 2,000 km, respectively. These are capable of covering almost all Pakistani cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and Gwadar.

Agni III, IV and V, with their longer ranges, might be able to reach all of Pakistan, but it can be safely said that they are directed more towards China.

IndiaSpend-Logo11 (1)IndiaSpend-Logo11 (1)

India also possesses an estimated two ship-launched 350-km range Dhanush SRBM, which could be fitted with nuclear warheads.

India’s aircraft can deliver an estimated 45 percent of 106 warheads. The Indian Air Force’s Jaguar fighter bombers can deliver about 16 nuclear warheads, while the French-built Mirage-2000 fleet can deliver 32.

Indiaspend.org is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit

Uri attack aftermath: Thundering against Pakistan is fine but India needs to defend itself

With the terror attack and death of 18 Indian soldiers in Uri on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing its first major crisis. Public anger has reached a fever pitch with people demanding immediate retaliation. The 24×7 television channels are in the forefront of war mongering with retired officials, BJP leaders and those belonging to the larger Sangh Parivar family, thundering vengeance on various channels. One worthy predicted that Pakistan would not be in a position to celebrate its next independence day.

An Army person inspects a passenger vehicle at the checkpost near Uri Army Brigade on Thursday. The road, passing through the brigade headquarters connecting 12 villages close to the LoC, was opened to civilian traffic after remaining closed for four days in view of the recent attack on the army base. PTIAn Army person inspects a passenger vehicle at the checkpost near Uri Army Brigade on Thursday. The road, passing through the brigade headquarters connecting 12 villages close to the LoC, was opened to civilian traffic after remaining closed for four days in view of the recent attack on the army base. PTI

An Army person inspects a passenger vehicle at the checkpost near Uri Army Brigade on Thursday. The road, passing through the brigade headquarters connecting 12 villages close to the LoC, was opened to civilian traffic after remaining closed for four days in view of the recent attack on the army base. PTI

This kind of rhetoric helps no one and can only boomerang on the hard line support base of the Sangh Parivar by raising unrealistic expectations. Prime Minister Modi who had railed against his Congress predecessor is finding out that once in the hot seat, there are no easy options. In fact, retaliation can be the easy way out, but the cost could be high. The BJP is caught up in its past rhetoric and the need to reassure its supporters that the government at the Centre will not allow Pakistan to continue its terror attacks with impunity.

No knee-jerk reaction, no frozen ties

So far Prime Minister Modi has not gone in for a “Knee-jerk reaction”, former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh said. “As the government has announced India’s response will be calibrated, at a time and place of its choosing. This is the right approach,” he said.

He waved off the possibility of war but said: “We are in a phase of frozen relations with Pakistan. Talks now are completely out. Terror will be the one point agenda if talks are held in future. Without sorting this out talking is useless. At the same time, there will be a no-holds-barred promotion of the Baloch cause as well as Gilgit and Baltistan, to tell Pakistan that it is not a one way street.”

Put your house in order

Thundering statements at the UNGA may win brownie points with the domestic audience but does not help to solve problems. Knowing full well that terror attacks continue to be launched from Pakistan, India should have by now ensured that its defences cannot be so easily breached. If the proper security protocol is followed terrorists would not so easily gain entry to the Uri camp or a front line air force base in Pathankot, or even the police station in Gurdaspur, leave alone several others down the years. Speeches in the UNGA, or briefing the international community about Pakistan’s perfidy is all very well. But India has to be responsible for its own security and make sure that its defence installations remain watertight. After major terror attacks, like Mumbai strike of 2008 and Parliament attack of 2001, much soul-searching is done and promises made to plug the loopholes. Yet we continue to remain vulnerable.

“The fact, that at a time when Kashmir is on the boil and India knows well that Pakistan is fuelling the fire, the army camp in Uri, in fact all defence installations in the state should have taken the necessary precautions. Unfortunately, we keep repeating our mistakes and expose our own vulnerability,” former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said.

If the proper security drill was put in place, the terrorists could have been killed before inflicting such heavy casualties on the Indian army. terror strikes which could have easily been avoided.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that lapses as in Uri would never be allowed to happen again.

Prime Minister Modi has to keep in mind the cost and risk involved in whatever action he is contemplating. India’s most important strategic goal at the moment is uninterrupted economic development, providing jobs to millions of young people and infrastructure development. A war will divert much-needed resources and there will be an economic price to pay.

Immediate retaliation would have mean playing into the hands of the Pakistan Army and its spy agency the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI). The government has denied a web magazine report that Indian forces had crossed over the Line of Control in Uri and killed 20 terrorists at a camp across the border.

The terror strike was to provoke action from India, ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address at the UNGA, to bring the Kashmir to the top of international consciousness. After the Uri terror attack, Pakistan’s chances of putting India on the mat on Kashmir receded. In fact, Pakistan’s image as a state which encourages terror has been reinforced over the last two decades. While at one time, New Delhi had found it difficult to convince the US and its allies about Pakistan’s sponsoring terror groups, after Afghanistan, when the West got a first-hand experience of the Pakistani Army’s dubious deals with terror, no one needs much conviction. China, Pakistan’s long-term ally will be the only one of the five UN Security Council members who will go out on a limb for Pakistan. It has already done so when Beijing found technical grounds to hold up Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar’s name from the UN terror list, which India had moved.

Options for India

A quick strike inside Pakistan territory to send the message that Pakistan cannot keep bleeding India without paying a price. Not that the Pakistan Army is not prepared for such an eventuality. Reports that leave of the Pakistani rangers who are posted along the border have been cancelled, that Pakistan airlines flights to PoK have been stopped, is an indication that the army is well prepared for any eventuality. Another war between two nuclear-armed neighbours would alarm the world and the US and its allies would get busy trying to make peace.

Covert opertions

Covert operations at an appropriate time are also being mulled. But this will mean not declaring it from the roof top and the public mood being as it is at the moment, the government would like to show the public what it has done. This is one reason that a covert operation may not be the PM’s choice at least for now.

MFN status and the Indus Waters Treaty

There is a talk of removing the Most Favoured Nation Status that was given to Pakistan by India in 2012 in keeping with its WTO and Saarc obligations. But as overland trade with Pakistan is at best minimal, just over two billion dollars, and mostly in India’s favour, it will have little significance. Trade through third countries is more robust and will not be affected.

Talk of revoking the India Waters Treaty is foolish, which has continued despite three wars between the two neighbours. Any attempt to block water will play out badly in the international community.

India’s priority is ramping up its own internal procedures to make it difficult for the terrorists to breach perimeter walls of sensitive installations.

Post Uri terror attack: Israel offers expertise to secure India’s borders

New Delhi: In the wake of the 18 September cross-border terror attack on an army base that claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers, Israel on Friday reiterated its offer of experience and expertise to secure India’s borders.

“Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) visited Israel and he was shown different kinds of borders in Israel with their own uniqueness,” Israeli Ambassador David Carmon said at a press conference ahead of the Israel Homeland Security (HLS) and Cyber 2016 International Conference to be held in November.

Army personnel in Kashmir's Uri sector. PTI

Army personnel in Kashmir’s Uri sector. PTI

“India has 14 different kinds of borders which are managed by different units and forces,” he said. “When the minister came back and assessed the situation, I am sure he took some of the ideas he saw (into consideration).”

Carmon said that both countries shared similar challenges in border management and that Israel has the solutions for these, adding that the two countries can work together taking into account the capabilities of Israeli companies and government and adapting them to Indian needs.

Stating that Israel has the cyber technology experience to secure borders, Ram Dor, a former Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Chief Information Security Officer, said that a major problem today was the unauthorised movement of people between nations across borders.

Stating that having faced the issue of safeguarding its borders for many years now, he said that Israel has developed the technological expertise for this.

“We started in the north with Lebanon with a simple fence with very minor sensors,” Dor said. “Then we developed the second stage when we developed our border between Israel and Jordan-Sumeria and on the Gaza Strip,” he stated.

Following this, he said, the third layer was developed which he described as “the most advanced one”, which was with Syria.

“We have three layers starting with intelligence trying to bring in an alert whenever there is an attack coming in, going into the level that we can cover as much area as we can with all types of sensors,” Dor said.

He said Israel was now using electro-optical sensors to collect information via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Israel is a world leader in designing and manufacturing UAVs.

Sensors are also used to collect data and information from towers along borders, according to Dor.

He said all the sensors were integrated with a field command and control room “operated by a very intelligent soldier woman”, who directs the Israeli special forces in order to mitigate incoming threats.

“So you can see those are the kind of activities that you can do on your borders,” Dor said, adding. “These could also be compatible to challenges that you have on your borders,” he said.

He said that similar technology is also used to protect Israel’s critical assets like airports.

Highlighting Israel’s prowess in cyber technology and security, Ambassador Carmon also referred to a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday at the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly.

In his speech, Netanyahu said that though Israel accounted for one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population, last year it attracted some 20 percent of the global private investment in cyber-security.

“In cyber, Israel is punching a whopping 200 times above its weight. So Israel is also a global cyber power,” he said.

“If hackers are targeting your banks, your planes, your power grids and just about everything else, Israel can offer indispensable help,” the Prime Minister stated.

Some 30 to 40 Indian participants are expected at the HLS and Cyber 2016 International Conference to be held in Tel Aviv from November 14 to 17.

Uri attack aftermath: Army steps up vigil after ‘war-like’ situation develops along LoC

Srinagar: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, has been informed that a “war-like” situation has developed along the Line-of-Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and security has been stepped up in the wake of an increase in incidents of infiltration from Pakistan following the militant attack at an army base in Uri that left 18 soldiers dead.

The army camp in Uri where the attack happened. PTIThe army camp in Uri where the attack happened. PTI

The army camp in Uri where the attack happened. PTI

“It is a war-like situation here at the LoC in Uri. Even the movement of police personnel towards the LoC has been stopped and the constant mortar-shelling has been witnessed here for the past four days. Even Pakistan has evacuated people from a large area facing the Uri sector and is carrying out security drills,” said a senior police official in Srinagar.

In a review of the situation, conducted by Mufti, the chief minister was informed by the police top brass that heightened militant activity has been witnessed from across the LoC in Kupwara and Uri. After Sunday’s militant attack at the Uri army base, constant shelling has been witnessed along the LoC and the exchange of fire has continued even during the night. The army has said that at least four infiltration bids have been foiled from across the LoC along the Nowgam sector in Kupwara and Uri for the last past four days.

Defence spokesman Rajesh Kalia said that the vigil has been stepped up along the LoC following the Uri militant attack. According to sources, there have been constant attempts by the militants to sneak inside. Two boys from Pakistan who have also crossed to this side have also been apprehended by the security agencies and questioning about their involvement in the militant activity is underway.

On Tuesday afternoon, the army had intercepted a group of militants at Bijhama in Uri and though there were initial inputs that 10 militants were killed however search operations still continue in the area and not a single body has been recovered as of now. Along the Nowgam sector in Kupwara source said that besides the death of one army jawan, Madan Lal, a militant was also killed but the body has not been recovered as of now.

“The search operations continue at both Nowgam and Uri,” said Kalia.

Director General of Police, Law and Order, SP Vaid, said the Pakistani troops have occupied vantage positions at different places along the LoC in Uri due to which Uri has seen a stepped up militant activity.

“The Uri area is surrounded by a mountain range and the peaks have been occupied by the Pakistani troopers due to which militants get the advantage of sneaking inside,” he said.

According to sources even as a large area of LoC remains fenced and the army has set up IEDs near the fence to prevent the infiltration of militants into the Indian side, the militants are trying to sneak into this side through the ravines and drains.

“A large area of the LoC remains fenced but there are some areas which remain porous from where the militants are trying to sneak inside,” said a senior official.

Security officials are apprehending that in case the infiltration attempts go up and some militants manage to sneak in the attacks on security installations within Kashmir will go up.

“Certainly the militant attacks have gone up. But handling the attacks inside and constant pounding along the border will be a tough challenge in the region particularly when the movement of militants in protest hit areas has increased,” said a senior army official in Srinagar, adding however that forces are fully geared up to deal with the situation.

Uri terror attack: The Quint’s ‘daring’ story on ‘cross-LoC operation’ angers press, social media

Considering the sensitive nature of the Uri attacks, any reportage around the issue has to tread the fine line of stating facts and developments in relation to the attacks without being jingoistic or sensational. The Quint, on Thursday morning, didn’t tread lightly when they published the contentious story titled ‘Exclusive: Uri Avenged As Spl Forces Cross LoC, Kill 20 Terrorists’.

The story in question reports that the Indian Army conducted a ‘daring cross-LoC operation’ where at least 20 terrorists have been neutralised. The story, which is dangerously light on official quotes and vague on its sources claims that “two units of the elite two Paras comprising 18-20 soldiers flew across the LoC in the Uri sector in military helicopters and carried out an operation that killed at least 20 suspected terrorists across three terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).”

The story sparked a debate as soon as it was published on the site’s social media pages. The Twitterati wondered how no other news source could get such sensitive information and questioned the veracity and timing of the story.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah also expressed surprise in a series of tweets against the piece by The Quint.

Following the immediate and rampant backlash, The Quint added that they would reconfirm the ‘information of the story’. Just an hour after publishing the story, the site asserted that they reconfirmed information about the cross-LoC operation.

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A number of journalists and army experts bashed the story and the way the controversy was dealt with.
Veteran journalist Nitin Gokhale deemed the story as ‘nonsense’.

India Today’s Shiv Aroor also dismissed the story, adding that it endangers real operations that the Indian Army may engage in.

Senior Fellow at Royal United Services Institute, Shashank Joshi questioned Aroor, saying that covert operations can and has been covered by the global media. But he added that considering how the story was reported not even a day after the alleged military operation, he reconsidered the fact that the story could in fact endanger lives.

Senior journalist Barkha Dutt also commented on the issue.

She questioned the facts of the story and also echoed Business Standard columnist Ajai Shukla’s assertion that the story aimed at spreading ‘motivated disinformation’.

When asked about whether this story was an error on The Quint’s part or whether the Indian Army planted the story, Dutt had quite a provocative response.

The Quint still asserts that they stand by their story.

Kashmir: Army foils two more infiltration bids along LoC

Kashmir: Army foils two more infiltration bids along LoC

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Srinagar: Army on Thursday foiled two infiltration bids along the Line of Control by militants trying to sneak into Kashmir Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“Even as counter-infiltration operations continue in Uri and Nowgam sectors, two more infiltration bids have been successfully foiled by the army at two different places in Nowgam sector,” an army spokesman said.

Army has been engaged in counter infiltration operations in Uri and Nowgam sectors for the past two days in which one soldier has been killed. There were reports of at least eight militants getting killed in the Uri operation but no bodies have been recovered so far.

The spokesman said Army has enhanced vigil in view of increased infiltration attempts along the LoC . “In the wee hours of today (Thursday), two separate groups, trying to sneak in, were intercepted and forced to flee back,” he added.

Uri terror attack: Prepare for more such strikes, but don’t treat Kashmiris as the enemy

The Uri attack dramatically drove home the fact that a very lethal sort of militancy will be a facet of the unrest that is unfolding now in Kashmir. Let us make no mistake: It is just beginning to unfold. The worst is yet to come.

The training of the Uri attackers may have been similar to that of the 10 who attacked Mumbai in November 2008. If so, the facilities that produced them will surely produce more. This is not the sort of militant that was active during the 90s, not even in the very lethal phase of fidayeen attacks from 1999 to 2001. Those were easy by comparison. As for the sort of militants that Burhan Wani led, the Uri-type militants are as different from them as the global ring of nuclear device smugglers are from a neighbourhood gang of chain-snatchers.

The government has done well to take the diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to a new level. But that will not stop Pakistan. Indeed, it might even spur it on. Far more important is policy-making on the ground — in Kashmir. Two kinds of action are very urgent:

Soldiers guard outside the army base in Uri. PTI

Soldiers guard outside the army base in Uri. PTI

Prepare on multiple fronts

One, the army must pull up its socks. The Northern Command could soon face what smart strategists are calling ‘a two-and-a-half front conflict’ — the militants and stone-pelters on the ground together constituting just the half. This could very quickly transform into the biggest challenge any major army has faced since the Soviets were in Afghanistan. Uri gave a glimpse of just how quickly.

The army’s smartest officers should immediately get involved in ops room war games, through which they might sort out which bridges and other vital infrastructure and installations need to be protected, what roads, railways and other lines need to be urgently upgraded, which supply lines need to be girded, and which fresh lines established.

All three corps of the Northern Command should engage in this sort of brainstorming. Not only that, they should be prepared for the most unexpected possibilities on both the west and the east. We can only forget at our national peril how the Indian Army was taken by surprise in Kargil in 1999.

Kashmir, not Pakistan

Two, the government and the various organs of the State such as the army, must be very cautious now not to conflate the infiltrators of Uri with common Kashmiris. Sure, the infiltrators will get a huge and vital support from Kashmiri militants, and from stone-pelters too. But most of the latter will view the infiltrators as foreigners, never as their own.

At least two strains of discourse have been common across Kashmir since the Uri attack. On the one hand, people are cynical about the whodunit. That is hardly surprising given the game of smoke and mirrors that the agencies have played in Kashmir for decades. But on the other hand, people are uneasy about this high voltage India-Pakistan action.

For most Kashmiris, it was not part of the script. Azadi, autonomy, negotiations — these have all been part of the discourse in recent weeks. Kashmir becoming a part of Pakistan has not. It is not a generally preferred option.

It may only be a coincidence that traffic has been relatively heavier in Srinagar since the Uri attack than over the past couple of months of continual hartal. Then again, it may not be a coincidence.

In most parts of the valley, the forces have been relatively restrained over the past several weeks, noticeably more so than in 2010. In many cases, the forces have turned away from stone-pelting mobs, treating discretion as the better part of valour.

It is imperative that the government keep a firm rein on the forces. They must not give up the gains of the policy of restraint.

Srinagar: Security jawans stop people to enter Lal Chowk area where movement of people was restricted by authorities to foil sepratists march in Srinagar on Monday. PTI Photo by S Irfan(PTI9_19_2016_000191B) *** Local Caption ***

Jawans stop people from entering Lal Chowk area in Srinagar. PTI

In for the long haul

It is time the government and its organs woke up to the fact that we are in for a long haul. This unrest may dip for a while but there is going to be hell to pay over the next couple of years. It will be extremely tough to maintain restraint in place.

Yet, the worst thing would be to treat the Kashmiri people by and large as enemy, even when a large number of them will support and sustain lethal infiltrators. That is the mistake the Indian Army made in the late 1990s. Although that policy changed radically after Kargil, that mistake of the late 90s is one of the major reasons why we are witnessing a new insurgency. It must not be repeated.

The last thing we need at this stage is stuff like Operation Calm Down, which was launched by no less than the army chief just about 10 days before the gentleman rushed back to the valley after the Uri attack. That’s not the sort of to-ing and fro-ing the army chief should be doing at such a challenging time.

What is Operation Calm Down? It has put the army into play along with the police and the paramilitary to, um… yes, calm down stone-pelters. Bad idea. It stems from gross underestimation of the challenge that faces India.

The urgency of getting our estimates of what we require from our army a little closer to right cannot be overemphasised.

Curfew lifted across Kashmir except in Srinagar as normal life remains disrupted

Srinagar: Curfew was on Tuesday lifted across Kashmir, except from six police station areas of Srinagar, in view of the improving situation, even as normal life remained disrupted in the Valley for the 74th straight day.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Curfew remains in force in five police station areas of downtown (interior city) and Harwan in Srinagar, while the curbs have been lifted from elsewhere in the Valley, a police official said.

He said curfew was clamped in Harwan Police Station areas on Tuesday in view of the fourth day of mourning of a boy killed in security forces’ action on Friday.

The official said the curbs on the movement of people were lifted, from other areas where curfew was in force on Monday, because of the improving situation.

Barring stray incidents of stone pelting in Sopore and Shopian, overall situation remained under control across the Valley on Tuesday and there was increased traffic and movement of people between various districts and towns of the Valley including in some areas of Srinagar city, the official said.

He, however, said that restrictions on the assembly of people under Section 144 CrPC continued to remain in force in the Valley.

Meanwhile, normal life continued to remain paralysed in Kashmir for the 74th consecutive day due to restrictions and separatist sponsored strike.

The separatists, who are spearheading the current agitation in the Valley, have extended the protest programme till 22 September. They have also asked people to observe Tuesday as Women’s Day.

They have not announced any period of relaxation in the strike for the week.

Shops, business establishments and petrol pumps continued to remain shut, while public transport was off the roads.

Schools, colleges and other educational institutions also continued to remain shut.

Postpaid mobile telephone services were restored last night, while the outgoing calls on prepaid numbers continued to remain snapped across the Valley.

Mobile Internet services also remained suspended.

As many as 81 people, including two cops, have been killed in the unrest that broke out a day after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces in South Kashmir on 8 July.

Uri attack: Death toll touches 18, India decides to isolate Pakistan on the global stage

In one of the deadliest attacks on the Army in recent years, 17 jawans were killed and 19 others injured as heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the force in North Kashmir’s Uri town early on Sunday. The death toll climbed to 18 as another soldier succumbed to his injuries on Monday. Four terrorists were killed by the Army in the ensuing encounter.

“All four killed were foreign terrorists and had carried with them items which had Pakistani markings. Initial reports indicate that the slain terrorists belong to Jaish-E-Mohammed tanzeem,” Lt Gen Singh had said in a statement on Sunday.

He added that since “the terrorists had some items with Pakistani markings, I have spoken to Pakistan DGMO and conveyed our serious concern on the same”.

On Monday, Modi chaired a high-level meeting attended by top ministers and other officials over the deadly terror attack in Uri.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag besides other senior officials attended the meeting.

Army soldiers rush to the attack site in Uri. PTI

Army soldiers rush to the attack site in Uri. PTI

The top security brass briefed the prime minister on the prevailing ground situation in Kashmir Valley in the wake of the terror attack at a Brigade Headquarters in Uri in which 17 soldiers were killed, official sources said.

The defence minister and the Army chief had visited Kashmir after the terror attack on Sunday.

The attack has led to widespread furore across the country and Prime Minister Modi is under pressure to live up to his 2014 election campaign rhetoric of showing Pakistan that India is not a “soft power” and would give a “befitting reply” to any attacks on the country.

Expectations of appropriate action were raised when Modi himself said soon after the attack: “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.”

India decides tio isolate Pakistan on the global stage

As an immediate step against Pakistan, PM Modi has sought a concerted global effort to diplomatically isolate Islamabad, reported IANS.

Sources told IANS that Modi asked the security and other investigative agencies to collect all evidence that points to Pakistani involvement in the attack for presentation at international fora.

The sources said the broad thinking was that India must act without getting into the trap of emotions and anger after taking into account both the short- and long-term implications.

Speaking to reporters separately, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said India was not concerned about Pakistani denials and reactions and will react appropriately and at its own pace.

“Everything is in front of the people. We must not give much attention to Pakistan’s reaction. We will take our steps carefully,” Rijiju said.

Jaish terrorists may have had help from mole: intelligence sources

Sources in intelligence agencies said that Jaish-e-Mohammad was identified as the perpetrator of the Uri attack after a representative of the terror outfit called up a local journalist in Kashmir to claim responsibility.

Incidentally, JeM had also emerged as the outfit behind the Pathankot attack but it did not claim responsibility for the same.

On Sunday, after recce at the administrative base, agencies did not rule out help from a ‘mole’ or overground worker in alerting the Jaish masterminds to troop positions within the camp, thus helping the fidayeen maximise casualties, The Times of India report said.

“A recce was done. The terrorists were aware of the layout of the camp and knew their way around. They had possibly identified the stretches where the fence was not properly manned and accordingly found a safe spot to cut the perimeter wire,” an officer was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan rejected India’s claims and asked New Delhi to provide actionable intelligence.

India diverting attention from Kashmir: Pakistan

Pakistan on Monday accused India of misleading the world opinion to cover up its “reign of terror” in Kashmir by a spate of “vitriolic” and “unsubstantiated” statements.

“Pakistan has noted with serious concern the recent spate of vitriolic and unsubstantiated statements emanating from Indian civil and military leadership in the aftermath of yesterday’s attack” in Uri, Sartaj Aziz, the adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, said.

He said Pakistan categorically rejects the baseless and irresponsible accusations being levelled by senior officials in Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Government.

“It is a blatant attempt on India’s part to deflect attention from the fast deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Kashmir since the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani,” Aziz said.

The Pakistani media has alleged that the Uri attack was staged. PTI

The Pakistani media has alleged that the Uri attack was staged. PTI

While the world came together to condemn the dastardly attack in Uri, Pakistan media had a different, and a rather bizarre stand on Sunday’s terror attack. The Pakistan media blamed India for the Uri attacks, saying its timing was suspicious because it coincided with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif heading to the UN General Assembly to talk about Kashmir.

Perhaps the most caustic remarks against India were made in an article in The News International titled ‘Uri attack is an addition to RAW failures’. “The Indian political and security establishment is notorious for designing bizarre pseudo operations so that it could defame Pakistan in the eyes of the world,” said the article

World community rallies behind India after Uri attack

The global community today stood behind India in its hour of loss following the Uri attack which claimed the lives of 18 army personnel, with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

France and Canada also condemned the attack and said they stand with India in the fight against terrorism, as international denunciation continued to pour in against the brazen assault carried out by suspected Pakistan-based terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammed. France also called for peaceful settlement of disputes in Kashmir.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asserted that the perpetrators of the attack would be brought to justice and all stakeholders would meet their responsibilities to maintain peace and stability.

The US strongly condemned the dastardly terror attack in Uri in which 17 soldiers were killed even as the State Department asserted it was “committed to our strong partnership” with India to combat terrorism, PTI reported.

“We strongly condemn the terror attack in Uri, J&K. Our thoughts are with the families of the brave soldiers who lost
their lives #UriAttack,” US Ambassador to India Richard Verma tweeted.

Separately, the US State Department issued a statement in Washington strongly condemning the attack.

“The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir during the early morning of 18 September. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families. The United States is committed to our strong partnership with the Indian government to combat terrorism,” John Kirby, Assistant Secretary and State Department spokesperson said in the statement released by the US embassy in New Delhi.

Shaida Mohd Abdali, Afghan Ambassador to India told news agency ANI:  “We fully support PM Modi’s call for a strong and firm action against those who terrorise all people and those who use terrorism as an instrument of foreign police.. We have been seeing this for many years.”

Bangladesh Envoy to India, Syed Muazzem Ali, offered deep condolence to the martyrs and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured soldiers. He said that Dhaka strongly condemns all acts of terrorism and extremism reiterating that Bangladesh “strongly stands with India as a close friend and neighbour in this tough hour,” according to CNN-News18.

When asked whether Bangladesh will back India’s bid to isolate Paksitan diplomatically and take up terrorism at the United Nations, he said “we are prepared to cooperate on every front with India to eradicate terrorism.”

Uri terror attack: India’s priority should be stocking up on ammunition and weaponry

It was easy for the terrorists to reach the barbed wiring as the area surrounding the Uri camp was wooded and mountainous. They could have moved from rock to rock without detection. Even amateurs do it in weekend war games. That’s exactly why we were unable to catch the dacoits of the Chambal ravines. The terrain suited them.

File image from the Uri base attack in Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

File image from the Uri base attack in Jammu and Kashmir. PTI

If the camp had been at the centre of a circular cordon sanitaire with nothing but flat land spotlit at night, these killers would not have made it anywhere near the infantry battalion.

As a matter of fact, the response of the just relieved of duty soldiers was impressive in that they were able to shoot the intruders. Carrying heavy caliber weapons and hurling grenades does not require strategic genius and it speaks well for our boys that these killers did not melt back into the forest and the foliage without casualties. They probably expected to get away with it.

Having said that, the concern now is what India should do in retaliation. It is said that despite the five odd years of slack in dribbling away our ammunition and our weaponry into the red as far as shortages go, the investment master plan is to make us the fourth most potent armed forces in the world by 2019/2020.

That is still a pretty far distance away and the reality is now. As the shortage in what is projected as 125 out of 170 types of ammo (CAG 2013) with a nominal increase of just 15 percent since then our shabby government produced stuff isn’t going to cut the mustard. The Ordnance Factory Board is not able to deliver anywhere near the need and the augmentation from Russia isn’t enough.

It is remarkable that the government (present and past) will not permit projectiles to be manufactured by the private sector. If that permission was given, India would be able to reach its required supply in double-quick time.

We should go shopping today. Getting up to speed has to be a rushed priority never mind the bullet train, just get the bullets and get going now. Especially for Indian armour and its T72 and T90 tank regiments. High explosive fin propelled shells are of the essence. High explosive anti-tank (HEAT) shells have to be invested in. The western sector is a tank terrain and we all remember the battle of Shakargarh and Basantar in the Pathankot region. With the monsoon over, the marshes dry all conventional conflicts and even skirmishes have a role for the armoured corps.

War wastage reserves (WWR) are weapons and ammunition kept back in case of battle conditions where the firing rate is infinitely more.

The present estimate is between 8 and 20 days depending on whose report you are reading. India’s target has been 40 days because in all scenarios it is unlikely it can last longer. But to be at 50% of a best case scenario seems to be self-indulgent and blinkered.

It is a moot point in that there is a damn shortage, it is public knowledge and giving your adversary, this comfort is just not acceptable.

Quality and quantity, we need them both. Now.

In the interim on foreign policy front, India’s best bet is to use contempt washed in silence as a weapon.

Uri attack: Despite strong fences and ring of mountains, army town caught unawares by terrorists

Uri, Jammu and Kashmir: Imran Shah was sleeping in the attic of his house in Parampila village overlooking the bowl-shaped Uri town when a sudden explosion woke him up at 5.30 am on Sunday morning. He went back to sleep thinking that it was the army carrying out firing drills across the river Jhelum, just 500 meters from his house in the northern most part of Uri.

But, minutes later, he was shaken out of his sleep again by the rattling gunshots and loud explosions which continued for almost thirty minutes before that brief lull. “As the explosions continued, I woke up and told my father the army camp has caught the fire,” Shah, 16, told Firstpost on Sunday morning outside his house as plumes of smoke continued to rise from three spots from the Army’s 12 Infantry brigade in the border town of Uri in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

“At 6 am, there were several explosions one after the other and we left the house,” Shah said, “My neighbours gathered outside their houses and then someone said militants have attacked the army camp,” he added.

Firstpost/Sameer YasirFirstpost/Sameer Yasir

Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Another Uri resident Shareef Khan, said he mistook the loud explosions for shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) — Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), something which was normal till late Nov 2003, when a ceasefire between India and Pakistan provided the much-needed relief from the daily shelling for the residents of this town.

Villages failing along the LoC in Uri have been at the cross-hairs of Pakistan artillery many times in the past after the start of militancy in Kashmir in 1989, but a fragile peace prevailing on the LoC since 2003 has changed the live of thousands of people who have been living on the edge for decades.

The shells would land in the market, and crash on residences of people. In 1999, the shells fired from the PoK sides also reached the brigade headquarters, where militant made one of the most brazen forays to date in the more than two-decade old militancy in Kashmir.

But never had armed militants, in the past, from across the LoC launched such a daring attack on the Army headquarters here or in the main town of Uri.

“When the explosions happened, I rushed to check on my mother in another room,” Khan said. ”It was about 5.30 am then I heard the blast again and went to the mosque,” he added. Khan also said that by the time he had returned home, it was clear that something terrible was happening inside the brigade headquarters.” Then word spread that militants had stormed the headquarters.

Plumes of smoke from the army camp. Firstpost/Sameer YasirPlumes of smoke from the army camp. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Plumes of smoke from the army camp. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Sunday’s attack on 12 Infantry Brigade, the first in more than two decades of conflict in valley, was carried out by four alleged Jaish militants, who, intelligence sources said, had infiltrated hours before the attack.

The attack on this garrison town has come as surprise and shock for the people and security officials. Uri town is ringed by mountains from all sides and has a strong fence with latest sensors and lights that shine real bright in the night, making it easy for the army patrols to detect human movement. The sensors and thermal imagers also make it almost impossible for the infiltrators to sneak in without risking detection and elimination at the earliest.

Yet, the puzzle of how four heavily armed militant could sneak into the rear side of the brigade and blast their way into the barracks of sleeping soldiers and unleash death has baffled many.

“The terrorists fired incendiary ammunition along with automatic fire of small arms that led to army tents, temporary shelters catching fire,” said Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Ranbir Singh.” The tents located in the complex were to house additional troops inducted due to routine turnover of units.”

“Since the terrorists had some items with Pakistani markings, I have spoken to Pakistan DGMO and conveyed our serious concerns on the same,” Singh said.

The militants, according to intelligence sources, crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in the wee hours and rolled over from the top of the hill to reach the base of the barracks where the soldiers were sleeping in two tents.

“The soldiers were sleeping in tents for paucity of space,” an army officer told Firstpost. “6 Bihar was to replace 10 Dogra and because of the paucity of space, the soldiers were sleeping in a tent as there was not enough space to accommodate the soldiers,” he said. “The terrorists opened indiscriminate fire on the sleeping Jawans and threw grenades towards the tents that caught fire,”

The lives of the residents of Uri and army are intertwined. The latter is also a source of livelihood for many locals many who literally thronged the entrance of the brigade headquarters in front of the heavy posse of reporters and TV channels covering the attack live.

Jammu3Jammu3

Helicopters airlifted dead and injured soldiers. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Syed Abdul Majeed, a resident of Uri town, said in the peak militancy years, there used to be daily skirmishes on the LoC between militants and security forces. But the militants never barged into army camps in the main town.

“When I heard militants have attacked the camp I could not believe it,” Majeed told Firstpost as helicopters airlifting injured soldiers hovered over the town with the number of dead soldiers increasing steadily.

By 11 am, 17 soldiers were confirmed dead and 25 others injured. The condition of two soldiers remained critical at the army’s base hospital in Srinagar.

Taha Rashid, who was sitting outside the signboards reading, stop, 200 meters from the headquarters, said he heard soldiers crying for help after two tents caught fire and as explosions continued one after another.

“I don’t know why the soldiers were inside tents when attacks took place,” he said. ” The tents smouldered for hours after they caught fire.”

Initial reports indicate the militants crossed the LoC early morning and straight away headed for the camp. “As far as I understand this group of militants entered Kashmir and carried out the attack the same day,” an intelligence officer said.

In Srinagar, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti condemned the attack saying the deadly attacks was aimed at triggering “fresh violence and creating a war-like situation in the region.”

Mufti said the heightened tension in the wake of Uri attack is set to further vitiate the atmosphere in and around Jammu and Kashmir amid increasing Indo-Pak hostility. “Unfortunately, people in Jammu and Kashmir, who are already mired in an agonising situation shall have to bear the maximum brunt of the fresh attempts being made to step up violence and trigger fresh bloodshed in the State,” she said.

Uri Attack: Continuous strategic intelligence will help respond to asymmetric threats

Same old story; another terrorist attack albeit this time more heinous in Uri using incendiaries to burn the wounded, and higher number of casualties. There events have been dissected, conferences held, prime minister warned the perpetrators, home minister cancelled his US trip, DGMO talked about Jaish-e-Mohammad JeM involvement on national TV, there was a flurry of officials sent to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), TV debates, proclamations about what needs to be done, Raheel Sharif brought out his ‘nuclear’ approach, so on and so forth. Could we have consigned bodies of the four terrorists to flames (they burned our soldiers, didn’t they?), televised it and showed live to the world — have you not been harping terrorists have no religion? But this apart, are we going to do anything beyond ‘Artomacy’ (artillery bombardment and diplomacy)? If that is all then our civilian areas will also be targeted by Pakistani artillery and mortars. And, while you may be happy about the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan, there will be more cautionary remarks by the US (sanctions – you must be kidding!) to go after terrorists organisations, China will hug Pakistan more tightly — end of the story. The Hurriyat separatists would be mighty amused, as would the ISI and their terrorist protégés.

When will we learn that we have to fight our own war? The global powers, themselves using proxy forces, will go by their own national interests. Have we not understood why foreign intelligence related to Pakistan is coming to us piecemeal, as and when it suits the interests of the country providing it? Following the January terrorist attack on the IAF base at Pathankot, the editorial of Washington Times of 6 January titled ‘Islamic terrorists open a new front’ said, “Just what the civilised world needs, a new front in the war against radical Islamic terrorism: Two terrorists were killed this week in an attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Base.”

Smoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTISmoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTI

Smoke rises from the Army Brigade camp in Uri. PTI

Of the 1,67,221 terrorist related fatalities in period 2001-2015, only 2.2 percent were suffered by US and Western Europe which included 11 September 2001 attacks; which is a is happy situation, while 75 percent of those killed were in 25 Muslim-majority countries. Significantly, Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment had said in 2012, “India being continuously subjected to terror actually suits many … India is a sponge that absorbs global terror.” Also, post the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, Tellis recommended to a Senate panel that US must go for the evisceration of the LeT and allied terrorist groups with or without the cooperation of Pakistan. But there is hardly any pressure on Pakistan. Pakistan was as big a country with nuclear weapons in 2001 when Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State threatened Pakistan to join the global war on terror (GWOT) or they would be “bombed into stone age”.

Late MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled published in 2005, “I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of ‘coercive diplomacy’, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups.” Dhar was obviously referring these recommendations while he was in service, much before he wrote the book post retirement.

Similarly, Jaswant Singh, former Foreign Minister and Defence Minister wrote in his book A Call to Honour, “Terrorism in India – as an aspect of our current history, now virtually an ideology, a new tool of coercion in the conduct of internal and external relations — has redefined both internal and international relations — has redefined both inter-state and intrastate dynamism. There are issues here that we have, sadly, neither sufficiently grasped nor addressed. Whatever we have done has been ad hoc. This is a sure recipe for ultimate failure”. If any more proof was needed we are a soft state, Army’s sub-conventional warfare doctrine, preamble of which was signed by Defence Minister AK Anthony, is confined to its own side of the border.

So, how should India respond? Sure the diplomatic pressure must be accelerated including at the UN to isolate Pakistan. Conventional PGM strike at carefully selected target(s) too is an option that would also call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff once for all. The two-way porosity of the LoC should also be exploited to hit the enemy hard. But the most important issue is to understand that conventional response is no match to asymmetric and irregular war. Diplomatic efforts sure should be accelerated to get Pakistan declared terrorist state, terror organisations blacklisted and getting their leaders isolated and declared terrorists. But such measures do not suffice by themselves. You cannot protect your house without effective policing in streets. We need to take control of Pakistan’s fault-lines, which are so many one can actually pick and choose. Special forces have been employed in conjunction national intelligence agencies to good effect by USA, UK, France, Israel, Germany and China, but despite being subjected to terror for decades and continuing voids in strategic intelligence this has not happened in India. We have a host of special forces that must be used in conjunction intelligence agencies to control Pakistani fault-lines since these forces operate without or with ambiguous signatures. Their tasks no more focus solely on direct action but span continuous strategic intelligence and shaping the environment in own national interest, in addition to politico-military actions at the strategic level. Unless this is acknowledged and put in motion, we will never be able to respond to asymmetric threats appropriately. Concurrently there is need to synchronise global political, intelligence, military, cyber and diplomatic efforts towards identifying, isolating and stemming the specific sources of financial and armed support to terrorist organisations.

When Zia-ul-Haq ushered in Wahabism, he set Pakistan on the trail to consume itself through Islamic radicalisation. Raheel Sharif will be remembered for letting in the PLA, setting Pakistan in the path of US-China strategic competition on land, similar to what’s happening on the waters of South China Sea. But while that takes its own time, we should be prepared to fight the sub-conventional on our own steam.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army

Ban condemns Uri terror attack; expresses hope that attackers will be brought to justice

United Nations: Condemning the militant attack on an army camp in North Kashmir’s Uri town that killed 17 soldiers, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hoped the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice and re-establishing stability and preventing any further loss of life will be the priority of “all involved”.

“The United Nations is following developments closely and shares the concerns of people living in the region for peace,” a statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson said.

Ban expressed hope that the perpetrators of the attack will be brought to justice and all stakeholders will meet their responsibilities to maintain peace and stability.

“The Secretary-General hopes that the perpetrators of this crime will be identified and brought to justice,” it said.

A file photo of Ban ki-Moon. APA file photo of Ban ki-Moon. AP

A file photo of Ban ki-Moon. AP

He “hopes that all involved will prioritise the re-establishment of stability and prevent any further loss of life. The Secretary-General encourages all stakeholders to meet their respective responsibilities to maintain peace and stability,” the statement said.

Condemning the “militant attack”, Ban expressed his “deepest sympathy and condolences” to the families of the soldiers who lost their lives and to the government of India and wished a speedy recovery to those injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement, also expressed solidarity with the people of India “who have suffered a terrorist attack.”

“We are committed along with our brotherly people of the world to get into the depth of this problem that has generated proliferation of terrorist movements, which doesn’t respect life and the need for coexistence of people,” he said at a press conference after the summit in Margarita Island on Sunday.

In one of the deadliest attacks on the Army in recent years, 17 soldiers were killed and 19 others injured as heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the force in North Kashmir’s Uri town early on Sunday.

Four militants involved in the terror strike were killed by the Army.

The attack comes two years after militants had carried out a similar type of attack at Mohra in the same area. Ten security personnel were killed in the attack that took place on 5 December, 2014.

Kashmir unrest: Army kills three terrorists in Tangdhar sector along LoC

Srinagar: The Indian army says its soldiers have killed three suspected terrorists near the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) that divides disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Securing highways. PTISecuring highways. PTI

Securing highways. PTI

Army spokesman Colonel Nitin N Joshi says the soldiers engaged the militants after tracking them in Tangdhar sector on Sunday.

The rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.

Meanwhile, a security lockdown and protest strikes continued for the 44th straight day Sunday, with tens of thousands of Indian armed police and paramilitary soldiers patrolling the tense region. The killing of a popular rebel commander on 8 July sparked some of Kashmir’s largest protests against Indian rule in recent years.

Kupwara encounter: Militants affiliated to Lashkar-e-Taiba, says Army

Srinagar: The militants, who were killed in two separate encounters in Kupwara on Thursday were affiliated to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the army claimed on Friday

“About 200 to 220 militants are active in Kashmir valley. Among them, about 100 are local militants and rest are foreigners,” Commander Eight sector Rashtriya Rifles Brigadier Rajeev Puri said while talking about the successful operations in Kupwara.

He said the number of militants in south and north Kashmir varies as they do not have boundaries.

Playing down the use of new app “Calculator” by militants to keep in touch with their handlers in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir without being detected by Army’s technical surveillance, the Army officer said “such things keep happening between the security forces and the terrorists”.

File photo of the Indian Army. AFPFile photo of the Indian Army. AFP

File photo of the Indian Army. AFP

“Earlier, they were using radio sets and we used to intercept it. They come out with a new thing and we counter it,” he said.

Giving credit to human intelligence for successful anti-militancy operations, he said “our human intelligence is very strong. If they succeed in level one (infiltrating from across the LoC), we get them at level two and eliminate them.”

Talking about the two successful operations that left six militants dead in Kupwara district yesterday, the army officer said “all the six were affiliated to Pakistan-based LeT outfit”.

“The first operation started at Khailia Doban in the north of Lolab valley at around 9 am and resulted in the death of three Pakistani militants of LeT group. The operation ended at 1.30 pm,” he said.

“A large quantity of medicines and eatables, carrying Pakistan-made mark, were recovered from the slain militants. Soon after the first operation was over, a second operation took place in Drugmulla’s Waterkhai area and three more LeT militants were killed,” the officer said.

A huge cache of arms and explosives were seized from both the operations, he said, adding the seizure included six AK 47 rifles, maps, Under Barrel Grenade Launchers, grenades, radio sets, night vision devices, compass and Ground Positioning System (GPS).

Indian Army celebrates International yoga day at Siachen

Srinagar: Amid sub-zero temperature, the Army on Tuesday celebrated International Yoga Day at the Siachen Glacier, situated at the height of over 20,000 feet.

Representative image. ReutersRepresentative image. Reuters

Representative image. Reuters

“The soldiers and the officers posted at Siachen, commonly known as the highest battlefield in the world, today celebrated International Yoga Day”, a defence spokesman said.

He said apart from Siachen, the Army’s Fire and Fury Corps also celebrated the day at Leh, Kargil and other forward locations along the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The event at Leh was attended by over 900 personnel which included officers, junior commissioned officers and jawans of the Leh Garrisson, the spokesman said.

“Large attendances were also organised at Siachen, Kargil and other forward locations along the borders,” he said.

Apart from giving an impetus to physical fitness, the events were aimed to popularise yoga and also to spread awareness on benefits of yoga among the soldiers, he said, adding large number of soldiers showed interest in learning yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation.

The Indian Army has incorporated yoga asanas into the daily routine of the soldiers in high altitude areas with harsh climatic conditions, he said.

Decline in trend of youths joining militancy in J&K: Army

Uri: The Army on Thursday claimed that the alarming trend of local youth joining militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a decline with fewer youths joining militant ranks this year as compared to last year.

Securing the Valley. PTISecuring the Valley. PTI

Securing the Valley. PTI

“Last year, a large number of youth got recruited in militancy. But this year we are witnessing a decline in the
trend. This year the number is very less compared to last year and among those who joined the militant ranks, six have returned or surrendered,” General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Satish Dua told reporters.

He was here in the border town to inaugurate the Chinar Youth Club set up by Army as part of Operation Sadhbavana
(goodwill) to provide opportunities to the local youth to hone their skills in different fields including sports and education.

“We intend to start training for IAS competitive exams for the desirous youths from this year,” he said, highlighting the efforts of Army’s Super-30 coaching programme in which 16 students of the state were selected for IIT this year.

He said the Army is also providing coaching to the local students for the National Defence Academy exams.

Referring to the Chinar Youth Club, he said Army is setting up 70 such clubs across the valley.

More than 20 have already been set up and in the next couple of months, the rest will be completed, Dua said.

The Army commander also dismissed reports that the Army is obstructing tourist activity in Tosamaidan in Central
Kashmir Budgam district and Bangus valley in Handwara area of Kupwara district.

“The reports are baseless and irresponsible. Three years back the lease of Tosamiadan expired and the state government decided not to renew its lease agreement and wanted us to clear the area of the littered explosives, which was a genuine demand.

“Army under an operation cleared the whole area and handed it over to the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Since then, the land is not with us and tourists are going there as well,” he said.

“As far as Bangus valley is concerned, the people mostly do not visit there as it is very sensitive area and also close to the border. If someone wants to visit the valley, we will try he will go there,” Dua said.

About the upcoming Amarnath Yatra starting on 2 July, he said the Army is ready to meet any challenge to ensure a
peaceful pilgrimage and troops guarding the Line of Control (LoC) are fully geared to foil any infiltration attempt.

PTI

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Tariq Pandit surrenders in Kashmir

Srinagar: A Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander in Pulwama district of Kashmir region surrendered on Saturday, dealing a major blow to the Burhan group of militants in the Kashmir Valley, officials said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Tariq Pandit, a close associate of Burhan Wani, and a commander of HM outfit surrendered before the security forces”, a senior police officer told IANS in Srinagar.

Defence sources said the militant commander surrendered before the officers of 55 Rashtriya Rifles deployed for anti-militancy operations.

Pandit had been prominent in pictures posted on the social media that showed Wani and his associates wielding weapons and wearing army fatigues.

For over six months now, a 22-year-old youth from Pulwama district, Burhan Wani, has become a militant icon to lure educated local youth into the cadre of insurgent groups.

Despite their best efforts, Wani is still at large and the security forces have not been able to arrest or eliminate him.

A reward of Rs 10 lakh has been announced by the security forces for anyone leading to actionable information on Wani.

Indian army team scales Mt. Everest after 2 year hiatus

Jammu: An Indian Army mountaineering team led by an officer belonging to Jammu and Kashmir Thursday scaled the Mount Everest.

Colonel SD Goswami, spokesman of army’s Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command told IANS in winter capital Jammu on Thursday: “Indian Army Mountaineering team scaled Mount Everest on Thursday at 6.07 a.m. in spite of inclement weather conditions after a hiatus of two years following the Nepal earthquake.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The team was led by Lieutenant Colonel Ranveer Jamwal who belongs to Jammu district of J&K.

“The team included one officer, one junior commissioned officer (JCO) and five other ranks,” he said.

Army Chief General Dalbir Singh has congratulated the team.

The team, led by Lt Col Jamwal, a reputed climber, was at the Everest base camp last year when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake stuck Nepal on 25 April, 2015.

In 2015, following the Nepal quake, an avalanche had struck the Everest Base Camp from Mount Pumori destroying camps of many expedition teams, killing 22 international climbers and local sherpas, and injuring more than 70, some of whom were critical due to severe head injuries.

The Indian Army’s Everest Expedition Camp was also in the path of the avalanche, but its members were safe.

The team had immediately taken control of the situation by regrouping and started helping in rescue operations by providing stretcher bearers, as well as providing shelter and rations to those in need.

As various agencies gradually moved their mountaineers down, the Indian Army team was the last to leave Everest Base Camp.

Two militants killed in ongoing gun battle in Kashmir’s Kupwara district

Srinagar: Two unidentified militants were killed today in an encounter with security forces in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, the army said.

Acting on specific information about the presence of militants in Putshai area of Lolab in the district, security forces cordoned off the area and began a search operation today, an army official said.

He said as the search operation was going on, militants who were hiding there fired upon the forces resulting in a gun battle.

Two militants have been killed in the operation so far, the official said.

He said the identity of the slain militants could not be immediately ascertained.

The operation was still ongoing.

Unrest in Handwara indicates that Pakistan will go to any extent to claim Kashmir

The Srinagar Valley is smoldering. There was the violence at NIT, Srinagar, with media reporting that 2,000 non-Kashmiri students had left NIT, and another 1,000 non-Kashmiri students proceeded on leave. The Centre was forced to rush in CAPF units, with some students alleging that the local police beat up non-Kashmiri students who actually were the very victims of the student violence. The issue has not died down. There were calls to move the NIT out of Srinagar which the CM refused. Now student unrest is being reported in Rajouri as well.
The fires in Handwara are still burning after the violence erupted post allegations that a local minor girl was molested by army soldiers. It is a sad commentary that some Kashmiri radicals will even molest and rape local girls in order to please their masters from Pakistan’s ISI. The allegation of molestation created unprecedented violence including a mob of frenzied youth attacking an army camp. The army opened fire in self-defence which resulted in the deaths of five youths. The girl, accompanied by her father, was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Handwara, where she revealed that after school hours on 12 April, she entered a public toilet on way back home but as she came out, she was confronted, assaulted and dragged by two boys and her bag was snatched. One of the boys was in school uniform. Significantly, a video shot right after the alleged Handwara molestation is on the social media, where the girl clearly says that no soldier tried to molest her, and that local boys had already planned to create disturbance and just wanted an excuse for it. The girl from Handwara was exceptionally brave and persisted with the truth, despite threats to her and her family from terrorists and their sympathizers. Otherwise, the situation could have been uglier.

Security personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTISecurity personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTI

Security personnel in Handwara. File photo. PTI

The separatist Hurriyat Conference questioned the credibility of the girl’s statement before the CJM and raised the issue of the youth killed because of army firing. Yes, innocent lives were lost, but it is not the army which is responsible for killing people in Kashmir. The Pakistan’s ISI and their Indian protégés (Hurriyat included) behind the violence want the world to focus its attention on Kashmir while the ISI and the Pakistan Army is slaughtering Baloch people into silence and targeting the Shia population of Gilgit-Baltistan (already reduced from 70% to 50%) through demographic invasion, institutionalized killings and military courts steamrolling valid descent. A former CISF officer, veteran of the 1st CISF Course, wrote on social media, “If you are surrounded by 1000 people who want to kill you…They are trying to burn you to death and pelting stones at you and the ones next to you, what will you do? Army men in Handwara were in the same situation. If they hadn’t fired, the mob would have lynched them. Is that what you want? If not, please support your Jawans. They did what they did to save the lives of their colleagues. Jai Hind”.
Now a blog (not any national daily) has reported that the state government is quietly shifting art treasures (including oil paintings, acrylic paintings, sculptures, artifacts wooden works, modern Art, Basohli paintings and a collection of the works of top artists of the country – collected over 58 years) on display at Kala Kendra, Jammu under pretext of ‘inadequate storage capacity’ and ‘suitable weather conditions in the Valley’. Significantly, the J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages (JKAACL) is the custodian of these art works. Shifting these 300 paintings, 91 miniatures, 34 artifacts, 80 sculptors and a number of rare photographs has already commenced. The State Minister of State for Culture and Education was not even aware of the shifting having commenced till recently because the move was apparently ordered during the fag end of Governor’s rule. It is possible that even the Governor not aware of it. Significantly, it is being reported these art works are being shifted to the Academy’s strong room at Lal Mandi Srinagar, which was flooded with water in September 2014 causing immense damage to historic manuscripts and other art works. It is difficult to decipher whether this is an attempt to destroy old art, akin to what the Taliban and IS did elsewhere. If these art works are on display in Jammu, why can’t they remain on display to the public? The authorities can install air-conditioners and add additional accommodation, as required. Is this not better than locking them up in a strong room in Lal Mandi, awaiting the next deluge?
During 2013, the media, quoting the NIA had reported: one, Kashmiri terrorist groups had received US$ 100 million for terror operations in past two years; two, over the past 10 years. some Rs 600 crores were diverted to terrorism in J&K from within India; three, Rs 98 crores were diverted in one single year from the J&K Affectees Fund; four, the J&K Affectees Relief Trust (JAKART) has been facilitating Pakistani infiltration into J&K and; five, goods sent through trucks to POK were intentionally overpriced two-three times and additional money received was being diverted to terrorist operations. Syed Salahuddin, HuM chief has been involved in exploiting JAKART for funneling more than Rs 100 crore in J&K; manipulating funds meant for relief to finance terrorism in the state. The ISI has also been pumping in fake Indian currency, narcotics and drug money into J&K, drug proceeds being significant amount obtained through Taliban links.

With 42 terrorist training camps running full steam in PoK, the main branches of terror financing from Pakistan at Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Muzzafarabad service collection points at Pulwama, Kupwara, Sopore, Budgam, Doda, Baramula and Srinagar. It is unthinkable that with all the illegal funding coming in to finance terror, the politicians of J&K are not getting their pie. For example, how is it that the State Government is not aware of such a large diversion of funds from JAKART? Rackets like overpricing of goods transported by trucks, narcotics and fake Indian currency rackets would obviously have political connections including through the state intelligence. The irony of J&K is that none of the state governments have tried to focus on improving administration leave aside correcting the anti-national narrative, because retaining status quo implies enormous funds from all directions. So, while successful panchayat level elections are lauded, panchayats per se have little powers and hardly any finances. That is why no government in J&K has released data of the massive number of AIDS cases in the Valley courtesy Pakistani infiltrators. That is why, Pakistani and IS flags can be waved without fear. Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits was successfully orchestrated by one political party. A subsequent attempt in Doda was made during the last regime.
Pakistan knows well that no matter what they do, including attempts to masquerade PLA Troops on posts along the LoC, it cannot get them J&K. Radical politicians and rabble rousers in J&K know this too. The more Pakistan implodes; the more ISI will attempt to destabilize India, J&K in particular. Nawaz Sharif being caught in the Panama web is an indication that the Pakistani military is holding all aces. It appears that, aided by China and cajoled by the US, the proxy war levels will be raised by Pakistan. The elder Bhutto had announced we will get the bomb even if we have to eat grass.

The present mantra of the ISI appears to be we will get J&K even if we have to sell our sovereignty to China. Only difference is that Bhutto succeeded in getting the bomb (not that he did not want J&K as well), but ISI can continue to destroy Pakistan until infinity in the vain hope of getting J&K. The Modi government and BJP as a coalition partner in J&K need to work within this paradigm.

The author is a veteran of Indian Army.

Kashmiris unconvinced by Handwara ‘probe’: It is denial of justice for them

Ten days after Mehbooba Mufti took over as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, security forces allegedly gunned down four people in the northern district of Kupwara, but her predecessor Omar Abdullah was less fortunate. On the second day after he become Chief Minister, Army gunned down a hearing impaired men on 7 January, 2009.

Investigations revealed that Abdul Rashid Rishi, a resident of Veer Saran Pahalgum was killed when he entered camp near the main gate of the Commander 31 sub area residence. Army personnel fired at him, killing him on the spot. Rishi had crossed the boundary wall and entered the camp, before crossing two gates hearing no warnings, when the troops fired upon him, resulting in his death. Following the killing Abdullah too ordered a magisterial inquiry, and army followed up with its own.

No one knows what happened to that inquiry and the probe.

“The word [probe],” sociologist, Ajaz Ahmad Lone, a research scholar in Kashmir University, who collects data on unfinished probes, say “is the most brutalized and overused word by State in Kashmir, even if you go beyond an armed conflict that erupted in early 1990’s.”

The meaning of the word, he says, has lost its relevance in the vocabulary of Kashmir, “because it is a synonym for the denial and delay in justice.”

Four people have been killed in two days, including a woman, who was working in her fields when a stray bullet hit her head. As dead bodies were being lowered in the graves, another probe was ordered in the incident by the state government.

Protests erupted in Handwara, 69 kilometers from Srinagar, after reports of an alleged molestation bid by an Army man in a public toilet surfaced in the town. The claim was later rebuffed by a school girl in a video clip that surfaced in the evening on social media networks. But was immediately removed from video sharing website YouTube. The girl claimed she was not molested; instead, some boys from the town instigated the trouble.

kashmirkashmir

Protests in Kashmir. Image courtesy: Idrees Mir

Mehboob’s father and former CM of state, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, said in the State Legislative Assembly on 8 April, 2015 that there are 35 magisterial and judicial probes underway against security forces for alleged human rights violations in the state.

“As many as 22 magisterial inquiries and 13 judicial inquiries against security force personnel for alleged human rights violations are at different stages of inquiry in the state.”

But advocate Parvez Imroz, a noted human rights defender in Kashmir says weather it is an administrative or judicial probe, around eighty-five percent probes ordered by the government have failed even to come up with a report.

“In the rest of the cases, there have been less indictments, and when you go to the Army with the findings, they categorically deny jurisdiction of civilian courts. If these probes would have done something previously, today people in Kashmir would not have been so apprehensive about this word.” he told Firstpost.

Historian says the first probe in Kashmir valley was order in 1963 when India’s first Prime Jawaharlal Nehru sent his intelligence chief, BN Mullick, to valley to probe the theft of holy relic of Prophet Muhammad from Hazratbal shrine on 27 December 1963.

Fida Hussain, a renowned historian of state says, the theft of the relic had triggered crises in valley and beyond, but the relic was soon recovered and identified. A few days after the incident, the Home Minister in the Central government, Gulzari Lal Nanda, said on the floor of the Parliament that the investigation would take a week to complete and guilty will be punished.

“But the culprit were never brought to justice, since then these probes have served as eyewash when the state wants to divert the attention,” Hussain, told Firstpost.

Image courtesy: Idrees MirImage courtesy: Idrees Mir

Clashes between the protesters and security forces in Handwara. Image courtesy: Idrees Mir

In Kashmir the massacre of 35 Sikh at Chittisinghpora in south Kashmir is still fresh in the minds of people. Police killed five “foreign militants,” for the killings, when people contested the claims, the state government took away their DNA samples to ascertain their identity.

The then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, said that Justice G A Kuchey will hold inquiry into the matter and submit his report within two months and a special session of the legislative assembly would be convened and probe report tabled in the house. Neither was the special session convened, nor were the findings made public.

For the movement, Kashmir is on the boil, again. Mobile service and Internet has been snapped, all the roads leading toward Handwara town have been closed, and anger is seething under the surface, and if the previous instance are any thing to go by, it could well spill beyond the boundaries of this border town and engulf Kashmir.

That is preciously what happened on Wednesday, when clashes erupted in Drugmulla village of north Kashmir’s, 13 kilometers from Handwara town, and Jahangir Ahmad Wani, was killed after being hit by a teargas shell fired by police and paramilitary forces. His killing took the death toll to four, in less than 24 hours, in the frontier district.

The Army has said that it has asked for an early completion of the inquiry, which has already been ordered.

But in Kashmir, people hardly believe that someone would ever be punished for these human rights violations. When the case goes to the court the judge asks the Army if they want to take up the case. Even if it takes up the case and hands out punishment , the Defense Ministry invokes the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

“We will set a precedent this time. You will see justice being dispensed and in less time,” says the spokesperson of People’s Democratic Party, Waheed ur Rehman Para.

“No one would be allowed to go scot-free. This government will ensue that if someone has committed a crime, including the Army, we will take the fight for justice to the logical conclusion,” he adds.

At the heart of this is the question of how the new Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, would deal with situation. Mufti has in past been critical of former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for failing to book the culprits behind the killings in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir government has said they have taken action against a police officer by putting him under suspension.

“Disciplinary action will be taken against erring police officials under the law. One officer namely ASI Mohd Rafiq stands placed under suspension for his alleged negligence of duty and a magisterial inquiry by the under signed into the matter
will be completed within the stipulated time,” an order by Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Rajiv Ranjan, read.

Handwara incident highly regrettable, says Northern Army commander

Srinagar: Terming the Handwara incident as “highly regrettable”, Northern Army Commander Lt General DS Hooda, who visited the area on Tuesday, favoured early completion of probe into the killing of three persons after security personnel opened fired during a violent protest on Tuesday.

Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda. AFPNorthern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda. AFP

Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda. AFP

“The Army has offered to take care of the expenses for hospital care and subsequent rehabilitation of those injured
in the incident,” defence spokesman Lt Colonel NN Joshi said in Srinagar.

“The Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D S Hooda accompanied by Chinar Corps Commander Lt Gen Satish Dua today visited the Handwara area and interacted with officers and soldiers regarding the incident in which three civilians were killed when protesters tried to storm an Army post,” Joshi said.

The General Officer Commanding in Chief of Army’s Northern Command termed the incident as “highly regrettable” and asked for an early completion of the inquiry which has been already ordered, the spokesman said.

Army had on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into the incident while police said a magisterial probe and a departmental
inquiry are being conducted.

A junior police officer was today suspended for “mishandling” the law and order situation.

“Assistant Sub-Inspector Rafiq Ahmad has been suspended pending inquiries into yesterday’s incident,” a senior police official said on Monday.

PTI

Handwara firing: Mother of aspiring cricketer shot dead by army wants her Gavaskar back

A narrow road in Banday Mohalla, about 200 metres from the main square of Handwara town in Kashmir Valley, leads to aspiring cricketer Nayeem Qadir Bhat’s home. Late Tuesday evening, a steady trickle of mourners poured into this young cricketer’s house who was killed by the Army in the afternoon, during a protest sparked by allegations of a molestation bid by a soldier.

“His father is with his body in the police station. Can you please tell him to bring my Gavaskar back,” Nayeem’s mother urges a group of mourners, including me, as we enter the house.

Nayeem was killed on Tuesday afternoon along with two other civilians when protests erupted in Handwara town, 69 kilometres  from Srinagar, after the news spread of an alleged molestation bid on a girl student by an Army man, inside a public convenience, located near an Army camp.

Nayeem Qadir Bhat dream was to play for India. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Nayeem Qadir Bhat’s dream was to play for India. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Late Tuesday, a video circulated on social networking websites, showing the girl in her school uniform, telling a group of police officers that she was not molested, but some boys from the town instigated trouble and even assaulted her.

The news of the alleged molestation spread like wildfire as hundreds of protesters hit the streets and attacked an Army bunker in Handwara chowk, assaulted the personnel deployed there, ransacked the bunker and torched it.

Nayeem, one of the three persons who died in the shooting, “was recording a video on his mobile phone, right opposite Kashmir cloth house, a famous landmark in the main chowk when he was shot. He died on the spot, said Abdul Rashid Saraf, a local shopkeeper.

The protesters were angry over the molestation of a school girl. According to another shopkeeper, two girls from a local government school had walked towards the public convenience constructed by the Army near their camp.

“While one girl stayed back, another entered the washroom. The girl waiting outside was soon heckled by a local boy who told her about the presence of an Army soldier inside the washroom. Within a few minutes, the girl inside the washroom also left, but a fight started between the boy and the Army man,” said the shopkeeper.

“Soon, a group of boys gathered and started protesting and attacked the bunker,” a statement by the Jammu Kashmir police said.

It was Iqbal Farooq Pir, 21, who was killed first and minutes later, Nayeem, who was hit by a bullet, also fell on the ground, witnesses said.

Inside Nayeem’s house, pictures of cricketers like Sachin Tendulakar, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kholi, Wasim Akram and Brian Lara, adorn his room. The back of his door has a a life-size poster of Kashmiri cricketer Pervez Rasool, when Nayeem had met him for the first time in south Kashmir’s Bijbehera cricket stadium,

“Cricket was his passion. He would travel to Baramulla Degree College to practice, which is 30 kilometre from here, almost three days a week and played for a local club,” Farooq Ahmad, Bhat’s cousin told Firstpost.

Nayeem was also selected for All India-level coaching camp for cricket three years ago and was a student of first year in Government Degree College, Handwara. He become famous after he showed his extraordinary performance in the state-level Under-19 cricket competition. He was the first cricketer selected for Under-19 cricket coaching camp from the northern district of Kupwara.

“He was a talented batsman and we played cricket together on the grounds of Baramulla Degree College for years. He played for ‘Star Eleven’ Handwara. He was a gifted cricketer,” Amir Nabi, a resident of Baramulla town, who practiced with Bhat, told Firstpost on Tuesday.

“His dream was to play for India,” Amir added.

Protests in Handwara after the firing. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Protests in Handwara. Photo courtesy: Facebook

Gh Qadir Bhat, Nayeem’s father, told Firstpost inside the Handwara police station, that his son could have been saved if the forces had not fired directly at protesters, “They could have chased them away by firing in the air. What was the need to fire at these young boys directly,” he said.

Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Handwara, Dr Rouf said Iqbal had received bullets in face, while bullets hit Nayeem’s abdomen. “Iqbal died on spot,” he said. Dr Rouf said that the hospital treated over 9 injured persons.

Another women, Raja Begum, who was hit by a bullet while working in her field, was declared ‘brain dead’ by doctors in Srinagar SKIMS hospital, late evening, while Rayees Ahmad, who was hit in his chest and is undergoing treatment. His condition is said to be critical.

Director General of Police, K Rajendra, told Firstpost that the police has taken up the investigation. “Anyone found guilty will be punished, I can assure you that,” he said.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was in a meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi, when the killing took place. She expressed “tremendous grief” over the killings and said forces personnel involved in the incident would be handed exemplary punishment.

While in the Opposition, Mehbooba Mufti was known for raising voice against the killings and other human rights violation. She had accused former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of being ‘incapable to handle the situations’ and accused him to be ‘more invested in Delhi.’ How she will deal with the situation as a Chief Minister only time will tell as Handwara is simmering with anger with protesters ransacking and torching a building late in the night.

Defence Procurement Procedure 2016: An ambitious roadmap for India’s industrial defence base

The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), unveiled on Monday, has laid out the process for acquisition of equipment for the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. An attempt has been to make the system more transparent and cut out delays But the centerpiece of the new policy is to boost home grown defence industry and give a fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

At the heart of the DPP is a new category for indigenously designed, developed and manufactured equipment. Simply put, it allows India’s fledging private sector a much bigger role in production of military hardware. Equipment manufactured in this homegrown category will get preference or to put it in officialese, will be the “preferred category” to supply the defence forces.

But the DPP remains a work-in-progress with defence minister Manohar Parrikar saying that a review will be undertaken after six months.

File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

File image of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“I do not say the document is foolproof. Let us take a review after six months. Nothing is perfect, but we are taking it to perfection,” he said. Also, a key element in the DPP, the part dealing with the ‘strategic partnership’ has not yet been finalised. This is because opinion remains divided within the government on this sensitive issue.

The new policy gives India’s private sector both the support and freedom to design, develop and manufacture defence components with the help of foreign partners of its choosing. This can be done by a joint venture with a foreign collaborator without having to get the signature of a joint secretary sitting in the defence ministry. For years the armament industry had been the exclusive preserve of public sector utilities (PSU). The state-run giants have been pampered and crores have been sunk into locally-made equipment that has taken decades to develop. Since Independence, India has sought to be self-reliant in manufacturing defence equipment.

But the effort was to have state-run units take on the responsibility.

Naresh Chandra, former Indian ambassador to Washington, believes that successive governments have protected the defence PSUs.”Money was sunk into these industries with no hope of returns. There are huge vested interests,” said Chandra.

The new policy will help the private sector to set the base for the development of India’s defence industrial complex, which has so long been under the strangehold of the defence ministry babus. Importantly this will also create jobs for India’s teeming workforce. Not that the situation will change immediately, these are at best baby steps towards building a self reliant defence manufacturing base for the future. The new DPP would help India reduce its dependency on foreign countries and source defence equipment within the country.

If the government’s ambitious plans for indigenous manufacturing take off properly, India can save as much as $50 billion from its likely spend of over $260 billion on defence equipment in the next 12 years, says an Ernst and Young report. This is a distinct advantage. India’s private sector has welcomed the new policy. “By introducing and according the highest priority to ‘Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured procurement’, DPP 2016 will definitely spur more design development activities within the country and contribute towards much higher indigenous content and will finally create a vibrant domestic defence industrial base,’’ Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general, Confederation of Indian Industry.

The private sector is already in the field, but in a small way. FDI in defence was raised from 26 percent to 49 percent soon after the Modi government came to power. The latest announcement will give them the much needed impetus to go ahead without looking over their shoulders. Significant players like the Tatas, L&T, Reliance, Punj Loyd, Fokker Elmo and India Forge, Mahindra and Mahindra, are already in the field. Lars Olof Lindgren of SAAB, the Swedish aerospace and defence corporation, believes India has the potential to do well in the high-tech sector.

L&T had already tied up with a South Korean company to manufacture ammunition for K9-self propelled rifles. The joint venture private companies are also hoping to make assault rifles. Tata is in the field with collaboration for the C-130 Hercules aircraft with Lockheed Martin and  C-17 aircraft with Boeing. More such joint ventures are expected to gather momentum.

Among the three services, the Indian Navy has been the best in sourcing equipment from the country. In fact, it has done well. The Navy had a design bureau in its ranks since the 1950s. This is why the Navy is able to build the platform for its warships and patrol boats. In fact, India sold its first offshore patrol vessel (the Barracuda) to Mauritus for a cool $58.5 million in December 2014.

The sale was commissioned when Modi visited the island state.

India is also building a nuclear-powered submarine (the Arihant) with Russian help. It has already had its sea trial and was supposed to be part of the International Fleet Review, but did not make it. Most of the warships and patrol boats used by the Navy are homegrown, though of course, the engine and much of the equipment is imported. But that is common all across the world. So if the Navy can do it, so can the Army and Air Force.

But that will take time. However, India is on its way to building an industrial defence base in the coming years.

‘Kuchh nahi chahiye, bas apni razai’: Pampore martyr Capt Pawan Kumar’s life was shaped by JNU and Jind

Captain Pawan Kumar, of 9 Para Special Forces of the Indian army, studied for his under-graduation at Jawaharlal Nehru University. A Jat from Jind district of Haryana, Kumar died in his early twenties while fighting militants in Sempora area of Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar on Saturday evening.

According to Army officers who worked with him, Kumar loved riding bikes, vintage cars, and clicking pictures in remote areas. It is ironic that the man whose life was shaped by two places — JNU and Jind are mired in controversy these days. Kumar tried to downplay their influence on him in his sarcastic best, recently in a Facebook status:

“Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiki ko azadi bhai. Humein kutch nahin chahiye bhai. Bas apni razai.” (Some want reservation and some want independence. I do not want anything, except my blanket.)

Kumar was the only child of his parents. Rajbir Singh, his father, said in a chocked voice on Sunday that he is proud of his son’s achievement, “I had only one child. I gave him to the Army, to the nation. No father can be prouder.”

Captain Pawan Kumar.Captain Pawan Kumar.

Captain Pawan Kumar.

The Army officials said on Sunday that Kumar was head of a Para Special Force team that stormed the building in Pampore to flush out militants holed inside. The militants first attacked a Central Reserve Police Force convoy coming towards Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, at around 3.45 pm on Saturday.

After killing two CRPF jawans, the militants sneaked into the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex in Pampore town located on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Like every young officer, he led from the front and stormed the building in wee hours of Sunday but the operation failed.

Kumar was born on 15 January, 1993. He has served less then three years in the Army. When the militants stormed the EDI complex on Saturday, they directed employees towards the exit gate and closed its doors. In the ensuing firing, a poor gardener also lost his life.

Roop Kumar Singh, Kumar’s friend, told Firstpost from Jind on phone that his friend rarely talked, “but whenever he did, he would made others burst into laughter.”

“The courage shown by his father is exemplary. Despite losing a young and only son, he hardly cried and is proud of his sacrifice. It is frightening because one should let out the sorrow, but he has kept to himself. His courage is remarkable,” he said.

An army officer said in Srinagar that Captain Kumar had refused to go on sick leave to take part in the operation and led from the front. He had recently participated in the 15 February Pulwama encounter in which two militants were killed.

“Pawan Kumar was a young and a dynamic officer, He was a true commander”, Lt. Gen. SK Dua, General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, said.

On Sunday afternoon when the black smoke billowed out from one of the whitewashed buildings of EDI, news trickled in that another Para Capitan, Tushar Mahajan, has been killed, after being hit by a volley of bullets during the mopping-up operation.

Tushar MahajanTushar Mahajan

Tushar Mahajan

Majahan, 24, a resident of Udhampur district of Jammu, was killed along with Lance Naik Om Prakash in the operation which has been a black day for the Indian army in Kashmir. Tushar is son of Prof Dev Raj, a retired Principal and Lecturer of Physics in Udhampur. Before getting selected for National Defence Academy training in 2010, he had completed his schooling from Little Flowers School, KV and APS Udhampur. Tushar was a bachelor and his only brother works abroad.

“He had joined the army against the wishes of his mother and father; they wanted him to be an engineer like his elder brother, but he followed his passion,” one of Tushar’s school friend in Udhampur told Firstpost.

Abdul Gani Mir, a resident of Pinglina village of Pulwama, who also died on the first day of the encounter, worked in JKEDI as a gardener. He fell to the bullets when the firing started on Saturday and the forces started evacuating the trapped employees.

The story of Mir is no less tragic. His brother-in-law, Mohammad Maqbool, a policemen, was killed by militants in 2013. The family of Maqbool was now dependent on Mir along with two daughters and minor son. With nobody to take care of Maqbool’s family, his widow and kids moved to Mir’s place. Mir had his own family to sustain – two grown up daughters already in college and a minor son.

“Who will take care of such a big family now. Did they not think of that before killing you,” Mariyam, the daughter of Mir, shouted as his coffin was being carried out for funeral prayers.

The encounter meanwhile continues even after three days between security forces and militants. Intermittent exchange of fire again started on Monday morning.

So far, six people, including two captains and soldier of Para, two paramilitary troops of the CRPF and a civilians have been killed in the gunfight.

India bids emotional farewell to Siachen bravehearts

Madurai/Theni: Hundreds of people on Tuesday bid emotional farewell to Siachen bravehearts G Ganesan and S Kumar, whose last rites were performed with full state honours at Chokkathevanpatti in Madurai and Kumanan Kuzhu in Theni districts respectively.

Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh paying homage at the mortal remains of soldiers, at Palam Airport, in New Delhi on 15 February 2016. Image courtesy PIBChief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh paying homage at the mortal remains of soldiers, at Palam Airport, in New Delhi on 15 February 2016. Image courtesy PIB

Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh paying homage at the mortal remains of soldiers, at Palam Airport, in New Delhi on 15 February 2016. Image courtesy PIB

While Sepoy Ganesan (25) was cremated at Chokkathevanpatti, Havildar Kumar (37) was buried at Kumanankuzhu.

The atmosphere at the funeral was highly emotional with friends, relatives and locals bidding tearful farewell.

District Collectors of Madurai and Theni – Veeraraghava Rao and Venkatachalam respectively – handed over cheques of Rs 10 lakh each to the bereaved families, the solatium announced by the state government.

The government has also assured job to one family member of the two deceased soldiers.

Ganesan, Kumar and eight other soldiers, including Havildar M Elumalai of Vellore and Sepoy N Ramamurthy from
Krishnagiri of Tamil Nadu, got buried in snow after an avalanche hit their high-altitude post in Siachen glacier in
Ladakh on 3 February.

One of them, Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, found alive under the snow, also died on 11 February after battling
for life.

PTI