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    Rifleman cremated with honours

    Rifleman cremated with honours

    Armymen pay tributes to martyr Karamjit Singh at Janer village in Moga on Tuesday. Tribune Photo

    Tribune News Service
    Moga, March 19

    Rifleman Karamjit Singh (24), who was killed in a ceasefire violation along the LoC in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, was cremated with state honours at his native Janer village in Dharamkot on Tuesday.

    District Magistrate Sandeep Hans accompanied by SSP AS Bajwa laid a wreath on the behalf of Punjab government, while Captain Gokul Ashok from the martyr’s 18 JAK RIF regiment paid tributes on the behalf of the Army.

    Hundreds of people, who came from different parts of the district, gave a tearful adieu to the martyr. Karamjit’s coffin, draped in Tricolour was brought to his home in the presence of senior Army officials.

    As Karamjit’s father Avtar Singh and elder brother Swaran Singh lit the pyre, a contingent of the Army gave a gun salute to the martyr.

    Local MP Prof Sadhu Singh of AAP, local MLAs Kaka Sukhjit Singh Lohgarh and Dr Harjot Kamal and senior Akali leader Jathedar Tota Singh were also present.


    IAF flooded with requests by veterans to ‘fight’

    Surge in mails after Balakot strike, most willing to quit jobs for Air Force stint again

    IAF flooded with requests by veterans to ‘fight’

    Ajay Banerjee
    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, March 20

    The Indian Air Force (IAF) is lately dealing with a new surge of emotions, from its own retired personnel who wish to fight for the nation.

    The IAF mailbox — email and normal mail — is flooded with requests from retired officers and airmen offering their services to the IAF, fearing the country may face some “exigency”.

    Sources say retired fighter pilots, helicopter pilots, engineers and airmen (IAF nomenclature for jawans and JCOs) have sent in mails detailing their expertise along with rank, name and number held during service. All of them have offered to leave their existing jobs and enterprises and work for the Indian Air Force.

    The mails have been trickling in since the air strike at Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Balakot terror camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on February 26 and subsequent air battle over Nowshera/Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27 when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman ejected in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

    While the IAF has not accepted any such request, retired personnel are all in, apparently feeling that the Air Force may need manpower to monitor ground stations, radars, sensors and warplanes would need to be “hot-serviced” for a quick turnaround. All of them are trained men.

    Normally, if an exigency arises, the duties would entail ground operations, managing logistics and back-end administration.

    Old-timers recollect a similar surge in emotions during the Kargil conflict of 1999.

    The IAF, on its part, has war-gamed its manpower needs in case of an emergency and conducted a pan-India exercise “Gagan Shakti-2018” from April 8-22, 2018, to validate it. The exercise was real-time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario.

    During the exercise, more than 11,000 sorties were flown.

    Rules for ‘reserves’

    • Under the IAF Act, 1950, those who retire from the IAF are deemed to be on ‘reserve’ for a period of two years after retirement
    • This means, if a war breaks out and the IAF suffers losses, medically-fit ‘reserves’ can be called back to duty
    • The clause of ‘reserves’ does not apply to higher ranks where officers retire at 60 years of age

    6 militants, boy killed in 3 encounters in Jammu and Kashmir

    6 militants, boy killed in 3 encounters in Jammu and Kashmir

    In Shopian district’s Imam Sahib area, security forces killed two militants following a gunfight. Tribune file

    Srinagar, March 22

    Six militants and a 12-year-old boy were killed on Friday in three separate gunfights in Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

    Two militants and a boy, who was taken hostage, were killed in an encounter in Bandipora district’s Mir Mohalla area.

    “One Lashkar-e-Taiba commander is among the two militant victims,” the police said.

    In Shopian district’s Imam Sahib area, security forces killed two militants following a gunfight.

    In another gun battle in Sopore’s Warpora area, two militants were killed in the same site of an encounter on Thursday where two policemen were injured.

    The police said the gunfight in Bandipora had ended but the two others were still going on.

    All educational institutes in Sopore were closed and mobile Internet services suspended as a precautionary measure.

    On Thursday, three militants were killed while seven securitymen and three civilians injured in three different gun battles in the Kashmir Valley. IANS

     


    There’s always an alternative by Avijit Pathak

    There’s always an alternative

    More than one: In a democracy, the idea of experimentation, possibilities and changes must be celebrated.

    Avijit Pathak 
    Professor of Sociology, JNU

    As the elections approach, the ruling regime wants to make us believe that there is no alternative, and hence it is wise to reject the Opposition that can only cause ‘anarchy’. Yes, the propaganda machinery that the establishment has succeeded in creating through noisy TV channels and the toxic social media manufactures this ‘truth’ — Modi with his macho-nationalism is the best choice, and the BJP with its Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley knows how to emancipate the country from all the ‘mistakes’ Nehru and his ‘dynasty’ committed.

    As awakened voters and self-reflexive political subjects, we need to understand the implications of this discourse. Agreed, at a deeper level, the structure of ‘representative democracy’ and the electoral process associated with money/muscle power, as Gandhi’s vision of decentralised ‘oceanic circles’ and MN Roy’s ‘radical humanism’ with party-less participatory democracy would suggest, tend to impose some sort of passivity on us. We are compelled to believe that we can’t do much except ‘choosing’ the ‘lesser evil’; and we have no control over the quality of candidates the gigantic political parties impose on us. In a way, it generates some sort of cynicism and helplessness: everyone is corrupt, and hence it makes no sense to think of an alternative possibility! Is it that after every five years we only ‘select’ our masters?

    Even though we have to acknowledge the inherent limitations of the form of democracy we have institutionalised, we should try to see some possibilities in it by exercising our agency, critical thinking and ethically nuanced political praxis. And it is in this context that we can see the dangers of the no-alternative discourse, which emanates from the cult of ‘absolute certainty’ through which all authoritarian regimes seek to define themselves. ‘We are infallible. We are true nationalists. And all those who oppose us are dangerous’ — Indira (recall the dark days of Emergency) thought like this; and today the assertive noise that the ruling regime makes manifests itself in Amit Shah’s body language filled with inflated confidence, Mr Modi’s melodramatic and aggressive speeches, Arun Jaitley’s one-dimensional blog,  Ravi Shankar Prasad’s ‘legalistic’ press conference and Sambit Patra’s toxic words on TV channels known for deciding the fate of the ‘republic’ in our ‘times’. To cherish democracy, however, is to celebrate the idea of experimentation, possibilities and changes. Hence, the popularisation of the no-alternative discourse is inherently anti-democratic.

    Another danger of this discourse is that it seeks to transform us as mere consumers guided by ‘brand consciousness’. Hence, politics, too, is being projected as a ‘product’, and a political personality becomes a ‘brand’. Let us understand it through an analogy. Salman Khan as a ‘brand’ promotes, say, a specific soft drink product; and his ‘magical performance’ aims at seducing the consumers. Likewise, in our times — driven by the management discourse of selling politics as a product, we see Modi as a ‘brand’ (‘energetic’, ‘efficient’, ‘dashing’ and ‘brave’) selling the politics as a ‘product’ — the gospel of hyper-masculine nationalism that gives a tough lesson to the ‘enemy’ — internal as well as external; the project of techno-development that promises bullet trains and smart cities; and the psychology of ‘Hindu pride’ aiming at reclaiming the ‘heritage’ the ‘Muslim invaders’ destroyed. With the 24×7 ‘live coverage’ of the ‘presentation of self’, the hyper-real spectacles of the ‘surgical strike’ and ‘surveys’ indicating his ‘mass appeal’, Modi as a ‘brand’ looks gorgeous. And hence, as the argument goes, there is no alternative because an ‘immature’ Rahul, a ‘pro-Muslim’ Mamata and an ‘eccentric’ Mayawati look so ‘dull’. It is like saying that Pepsi is so gorgeous that a glass of lemon water can never be an alternative! The danger is that as passive consumers of politics with ‘brand consciousness’, we lose our democratic spirit — the ability to think clearly and critically, and the creativity to nurture our own politics.

    Another point needs to be understood. ‘Alternatives’ are not like fancy products that one can buy as a consumer. Our alternative political culture or our alternative mode of governance ought to emerge out of a sustained search and practice. We will make mistakes, and even enter a domain of chaos or uncertainty. Yet, history teaches us that without creative practice, temporary upheaval, and experimentation nothing innovative takes place. Gandhi made experiments with satyagraha; Ambedkar interrogated patriarchal Brahminism; and Marx dared to see beyond the exploitative character of capitalism. They were working on alternatives. 

    We need to see beyond what the ruling regime symbolises — the culture of narcissism leading to the mass psychology of authoritarianism, the aggression of militaristic nationalism, the reduction of religion into a mere identity-marker, the close affinity with the corporate elite causing further marginalisation of the downtrodden, and the normalisation of aggression and hatred. If we begin to think that there cannot be or should not be any alternative, we accept the rejection of our reflexivity and agency.

    Well, it is possible to say that the ‘opposition’ parties — given the history of their opportunism and instrumental politics — are incapable of doing things differently. Yet, we should not stop our quest for an alternative political culture, even if we do not get a perfect result. Modi, too, emerged as an alternative to the corrupt UPA-II. So, this time why should we deprive ourselves of striving for an alternative to the present regime known for devastating consequences that measures like demonetisation, and the culture of mob lynching, cow vigilantism and war-mongering psychology have led to?

     


    Punjab jawan killed, 4 injured in Pak firing on LoC in Rajouri district Karamjeet Singh belonged to Moga

    Punjab jawan killed, 4 injured in Pak firing on LoC in Rajouri district

    Rifleman Karamjeet Singh.

    Amit Khajuria

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, March 18

    An Army jawan was killed and four others were injured when Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire for the second day on Monday, resorting to heavy mortar shelling and firing along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district, officials said.The Pakistan army initiated unprovoked firing around 5.30 am, targeting the LoC area in Sunderbani sector with mortar bombs and small arms, a defence spokesperson said. The Army retaliated effectively, he added.

    The spokesperson said Rifleman Karamjeet Singh (24) was critically injured in the firing and succumbed while being shifted to Jammu for treatment.

    Hailing from Janer village in Dharamkot tehsil of Moga, Karamjeet is survived by his mother Kulwant Kaur. Born on November 15, 1994, he had joined the Army on June 28, 2015. “In Karamjeet Singh, the nation has lost a brave and sincere soldier. The nation will remain indebted to him for his sacrifice,” said the spokesperson.

    His mortal remains would be sent to his native village on Tuesday after a wreath-laying ceremony in Akhnoor.

    The condition of the four other soldiers, undergoing treatment at a military hospital, was stated to be stable.

    The Pakistan army had violated the ceasefire in the same sector on Sunday evening, which stopped following effective retaliation from the Indian side.

    The border skirmishes witnessed a spurt after India’s airstrike on a Jaish terror camp in Balakot on February 26 in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.

    The year 2018 witnessed the highest number of ceasefire violations — numbering 2,936 — by Pakistani troops in the last 15 years along the India-Pakistan border.


    Corridor headway Talks a step in right direction, but trust deficit remains

    Corridor headway

    Exactly a month after the Pulwama massacre, India and Pakistan have agreed to work towards an expeditious launch of the Kartarpur corridor. The terror attack and its aftermath had threatened to derail the project, but the two countries have commendably delinked it from the ongoing hostilities for the sake of a pious occasion — the upcoming 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. India has stuck to its oft-quoted stand that ‘talks and terror’ cannot go hand in hand, making it clear to the Pakistani delegates that the Attari meeting should not be seen as a ‘resumption of bilateral dialogue’.

    Pakistan had initially stated that the proposed corridor would be opened only for Sikh devotees from India, a decision that had exposed the Pak ploy as Sikh places of worship are revered and frequented by Hindus as well. Quick to see through the divisive agenda, India has finally prevailed upon Pakistan to grant access to all Indian citizens, irrespective of their religion. In another positive move on the diplomatic front, India has managed to make the neighbour give the assurance that it would insulate Kartarpur Sahib pilgrims from Khalistani (and anti-India) propaganda. India and the world will watch closely whether Pakistan walks the talk on this contentious matter. Pakistan has repeatedly demonstrated a soft spot for pro-Khalistan terrorists and campaigners. Incidentally, a day before the Attari talks, PM Imran Khan was reported to have met a controversial Sikh leader, who is considered to be a close aide of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar.

    Such developments should make India wary of Pakistan’s intentions. Misuse of the corridor for the radicalisation of devotees or other nefarious designs will defeat its purpose. The possibility that the passage could be used to push in infiltrators might be slim, considering the high security expected all along the route, but it’s not entirely ruled out. The focus should remain on facilitating hassle-free access to the shrine associated with the first Sikh Guru. Mutual trust is a must to ensure that the project sees the light of day.

    Decoding Kartarpur

    Pravin Sawhney

    Pravin Sawhney
    Decoding Kartarpur
    Why? India can’t quite understand Pakistan’s ‘amenability’ on the corridor.

    Pravin Sawhney
    Strategic Affairs Expert

    That religious sentiments will always triumph over policy prejudice is evident from the just-concluded first round of talks on the Kartarpur corridor. The joint statement issued after the talks said both sides had a ‘detailed and constructive discussion’, which will be followed up in the second round at Wagah, where issues flagged by India are likely to be addressed. These include the number and nature of pilgrims per day. India wants that Overseas Citizens of India should also be able to use the corridor.

    These are small issues, and it is unlikely that under the present circumstances, Pakistan would make these sticking points, especially when it has completely usurped the peace narrative in the subcontinent, despite the recent history of Pulwama attack. As far as India’s larger concern regarding Pakistan misusing this opportunity to peddle Khalistani propaganda goes, this is in the realm of perception. Frankly, India cannot have any control over this. What happens inside Kartarpur, what kind of people will come there and who will interact with whom is something India will just have to accept for the larger issue of deferring to the long-pending request of the Sikhs.

    From India’s perspective, the niggling question is why must Pakistan be so amenable on the Kartarpur corridor? And why did the Pakistan army chief mention this to the visiting Indian politician Navjot Singh Sidhu? After all, Sidhu had gone to Islamabad on the invitation of his long-standing ‘friend’ PM Imran Khan. Wouldn’t it have been more natural for the ‘friend’ to communicate this?These questions betray a total lack of understanding of how the Pakistan government — a first-ever military-political joint venture — has been repositioning itself in the region as a reasonable and responsible power committed to human values. We tend to laugh at this, because our policy-making is held captive by the twin forces of deep-rooted prejudice and manufactured public opinion.

    Sample the responses from both sides after the first round of talks. An anonymous Indian source told the media that it was disappointed by Pakistan’s recalcitrant attitude during the talks. Whereas, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood told me, ‘Since both governments have shown deference to the wishes of the people, this (corridor) has the potential of transformational effect.’ He accepted that there was ‘lack of trust’ between the two sides, but insisted that a number of positives might help mitigate it. According to him, ‘The release of the Indian pilot, resumption of Samjhauta Express train, return of the cross-LoC trade, weekly contact between the two directors general of military operations, return of the high commissioners to work, and the Kartarpur talks are good for the relationship and people-to-people contact.’

    Pakistan’s positivity does not mean that it is anxious for an early meaningful resumption of talks with India. It knows this will not be immediately possible with even the next dispensation in Delhi, which, if different, would need time to re-channel the dislike which has currently shaped the public opinion. Given this, Pakistan could well be working for outside mediation, which India has thus far steadfastly refused, on Kashmir.

    The starting point for Pakistan is the raising of its geopolitical profile, pivoted on three milestones: CPEC announced in 2013 as the flagship of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); Pakistan’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2017 as a member state; and the installation of the Imran Khan government in 2018 with clearly defined division of work between Islamabad and the general headquarters, Rawalpindi. With these, Pakistan’s importance for the US, China and Russia, three geo-strategic nations with capability, capacity and political will to influence events far away, has increased exponentially.

    China needs Pakistan for (a) the success of BRI, (b) entry into the Muslim world by CPEC extensions to Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Central Asian republics, and (c) favourable opinion-building in India’s neighbourhood comprising Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Maldives and so on, which would ease China’s entry into SAARC. In return, China, through its official newspaper, The Global Times, recently said China’s primary aim in the region ‘is to develop poor and backward Kashmir’.

    The US needs Pakistan for (a) extrication of its troops from Afghanistan, (b) ensuring that its N-weapons are not accessible to non-state actors, and (c) to maintain some leverage in the subcontinent, which it has assessed as a nuclear flash point. Russia’s interest in Pakistan, which started in 2001, has become prominent. It believes that by strengthening Pakistan’s counter-terror capabilities it can, through proxy, once again have a role in the post-US Afghan dispensation.

    Moreover, the trio of Russia, China and Pakistan is fast emerging as an alternative to US-led security matrix in the Indo-Pacific region. This has been helped by the withdrawal of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership without a good substitute which caters to both security and prosperity of regional nation states. This explains Russia’s trade cooperation with Pakistan, with a promise of direct arms trade. While this will be a slow process, Pakistan is likely to get Russian military technology through China.

    Unfortunately, India remains oblivious to these dynamics. The predominant narrative of Indian policy-makers, analysts and media is that Pakistan is a failing state, one that is deeply in debt and a hotbed of terrorists. For decades, we have been waiting for Pakistan to implode, but it has been refusing to oblige us.

    Coming back to the Kartarpur corridor, one of the strongest elements of Pakistan’s soft power is its human resource — polite, humble and apparently in love with Indians. As Sikh pilgrims visit Kartarpur, Pakistan is likely to unleash this charm on them, gradually building the constituency for meaningful talks with India.


    Rafale Deal: The Big Difference With Bofors is Nobody Has Found Money Trail Yet: N Ram

    Senior journalist and Chairman of Kasturi & Sons, which publishes The Hindu, speaks about series of investigative articles recently published in the newspaper, suggesting the PMO’s involvement in parallel negotiations in the Rafale deal.

    Rafale Deal: The Big Difference With Bofors is Nobody Has Found Money Trail Yet: N Ram

    A series of investigative articles published recently in The Hindu has flared up the political storm over the controversial Rafale aircraft deal. The Hindu reports claim that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was conducting ‘parallel negotiations’ in the deal, removing the anti-corruption clauses and the integrity pact, while France refused to offer any bank guarantee for the 36 Rafale jets India bought, which shot the price of each aircraft by 41% Edited excerpts of an interview with senior journalist N Ram, the author of the reports:

    Do you think the Rafale scandal will be Narendra Modi’s nemesis?

    N. Ram: It was something very mysterious to start with. It was announced suddenly and I think all procedures were violated or bypassed. It also came as a surprise to all his senior officials. The nature of decision-making was quite shocking. Nothing had prepared people for that, especially on a major defence deal because in the past, following the Bofors scandal, governments had been fairly careful in signing defence deals or military deals on this scale anyway. So, it came as a big shock when a completely new framework for a deal to buy state of the art fighter aircraft was announced.

    And then there was a stench of corruption here because the price was too high, the air force didn’t get what it asked for, the usual procedures were not followed or violated and it looked like a big loss for the Indian national exchequer. It took some time for some of the details to emerge clearly since the contract was signed in September 2016. But it is about completely manipulating the decision-making process to do something that is seen to be against the public interest, and also in favour of certain business groups and so on. There was no transparency.

    The present government removed Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and bought a lot less aircraft. Why? What did your research show?

    Research shows that it was arbitrary decision-making. It makes no commercial or financial sense, nor any sense for the air force. Because they wanted seven squadrons, now they are going to get two. And part of the plan was to develop indigenous capabilities using a well-known public sector company, HAL. However, that has been thrown out of the window now, saying that it was taking too long. Of course, it’s taken too long but you also contributed to that.

    Also Read: MoD Had Protested Against PMO Undermining Rafale Negotiations, Says Report

    They could have considered I think the Eurofighter offer, either go for it or use it as a leverage to beat the French down on these issues. But because of the arbitrary nature of the decision-making, parallel negotiation was conducted by the PMO and by the National Security Advisor behind the backs of the officially sanctioned negotiators. In case of the seven-member Indian negotiating team constituted by law in the Defence Ministry, their position is undercut on virtually every issue—from price, bank guarantees, sovereign guarantee to delivery schedules. This is because the parallel negotiators are with the French side rather than the Indian side.

    HAL got kicked out. So, who was brought in?

    Nobody was brought in, but the interest is in the offsets. Initially, it looked like some of the offset partners will do what HAL was going to do, but it’s not very clear. Some of them will be manufacturing executive business jets rather than anything in the military sphere. I don’t know what the connection is, because you were supposed to strengthen indigenous defence capability, not provide handouts to others who may be in trouble.

    Businessman Anil Ambani became involved in the deal. How did that work?

    He went to Paris and boasted about the deal being very big. It was even reported in the press. It is not yet clear what the size of investment with Anil Ambani’s joint venture will be. But I think they have said that he will put out an executive jet, whether it has anything to do with defence that we don’t know.

    Could you please elaborate on the extent of corruption?

    For example, the procedure laid down has to have anti-corruption clauses. There should not be any commission agents or undue influence- it’s called the integrity pact. And the buyer, the Government of India, will have access to the book of accounts of the commercial suppliers—Dassault and MBDA France in this case—their books of accounts would be open to scrutiny, to check in case they give a bribe or a commission. The French side, however, absolutely refused this under the pretext that it’s an inter-governmental agreement.

    Also Read: Govt. Waived Anti-corruption Clauses in Rafale Deal, Says Report

    Actually, it’s not an inter-governmental agreement if these supply protocols are to be executed by the commercial private companies. Have they paid commissions? Or are they going to pay commissions? Have they used undue influence? What are they hiding in the book of accounts? These questions arise, which lead to suspicion of corruption.

    Why would the government want to waive anti-corruption clauses? To hide something?

    That’s the question we have asked. This is a safeguard that is required in your procedure, then why would you waive it? The negotiators demanded it. The Ministry of Law and Justice had wanted the safety procedures in place, but the PMO’s parallel track shot it down. If you read the report, on every issue similar to this, the French side said it already agreed with them, so that matter is over. Even if only to use it as a bargain, you could have considered the Eurofighter deal, to make the French be more reasonable.

    If we listen to Modi now after the Pulwama attack, he blames the Congress government for delaying the Rafale deal. He turned the whole story upside down. How do you see it?

    It will be a major issue, and now, of course, they will try to control the narrative, on the platform of hyper-nationalism, jingoism, war mongering, not actually going to war, but talking in a war like manner. Because you can’t go to war with two nuclear states are involved, everybody knows that, but they are using this, but Rafale won’t go away. Modi is saying they delayed it… it’s true, it was delayed, but part of the delay is during his period, because they came into power in 2014, and they got have easily push forward on these issues, making Make in India an important part of it. If the French didn’t agree you could have gone to Eurofighter, which the Air Force says is equally good.

    Also Read: Rafale Deal: Is the Inter-Governmental Agreement a Smokescreen?

    They both meet Air Force qualifications, the only difference is price and delivery schedules and so on, how quickly you can get it. They hide behind these procedures to say that we can’t consider the Eurofighter option, saying these procedures are already there to prevent us. So, on the one hand you go via procedures to scuttle the Eurofighter offer or looking at the Eurofighter offer or even using it to compare prices and on the other hand, you completely do away with the procedure in striking the new Rafale deal with 36 aircraft. So, I think this is certainly misconduct on a massive scale. It will be a big issue, I think.

    Will it be decisive for the elections?

    No issue is decisive, I believe that the really decisive issues are livelihood issues. And if you see the public opinion polls, now and earlier, once usually the top will be unemployment, other livelihood issues are price rise, and the rural distress in a country like India, the agrarian distress, those are the top issues. Even now they will be the top issues followed by whether this hyper nationalism or Rafale, we can’t say it. But livelihood issues matter most in any election in India.

    How is the Rafale deal different from Bofors?

    The commonality is in decision-making. In the Bofors deal and also in Rafale deal, professional standards were not applied to make the decision. In Bofors, for example, the rival to Bofors, the French Howitzer, came first and all the military trials, but through political intervention, Bofors was preferred. And then you found that, it involved commission payments, bribes, disguised as commission, percentage payments, so everything… something was supplied as part of the contract, the money went to secret Swiss bank accounts to these people and they were of course initially hidden, we found out who they were.

    In Rafale, the money trail has not been found yet. But decision-making is common, but as I said the anti-corruption clauses, the integrity pact all this were done away with, making it easier to cover up corruption if it’s happened and so on. That’s the huge difference. The big difference is nobody has found the money trail yet. Same thing about 2G spectrum by the way, they alleged it’s a huge scam. A. Raja, the then telecom minister said that there is no money trail, he said it in many interviews, including what The Hindu published, and that’s exactly what the trial court found. They found no evidence of any money being paid as a result. So, the decisions you can question, but there was no bribe that could be proved by the CBI at that stage, so very similar.

    The government seems to be going against The Hindu for publishing the documents. Do you think investigative journalism is getting riskier in India?

    Of course, that’s at stake. I think the Official Secrets Act is an obnoxious piece of legislation. It goes back to 1923, its part of the British Raj, used it to against the people of India, against the freedom struggle at that point. Unfortunately, it continues to be in the statured books. It has been rarely used against publications. Those who publish any number of secret documents have not been punished in the past. In 1981, I was Washington correspondent with The Hindu, and we published many secret papers, where India was involved in negotiations with International Monetary Fund for what was then the largest multi-lateral loan of credit in line of credit in history, 5 Billion SDR, about $ 6.3 billion at that time. And lots of secret papers were there. Nobody spoke about using the Official Secrets Act against it.

    Also Read: ‘Stolen Documents’: Opposition Questions Government’s Ability to Defend Country

    On Bofors, we published 250 documents, including many government documents, nobody spoke about using the Official Secrets Act of 1923 against the publications. The public-spirited lawyer Prashant Bhushan has produced the secret papers and documents and taken them to the court. For example, on the coal block allocations scandal, the courts have no hesitation in looking at it. Nobody thought of using the Official Secrets Act against Prashant Bhushan. So, the first time it happened was in the Supreme Court, but it remains to be seen. It has been clarified that it won’t, I think, according to the report in Times of India and also in Editor’s Guild statement, that it won’t be used against the journalists and lawyers. Let’s wait and see. But we are not concerned about it. Because we are well protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and also by the RTI provisions specifically Section 8(1i) and 8(2) which overtake the Official Secrets Act, so we are not really concerned about it.

    Aaquib Khan is a Mumbai-based multi-media journalist. He tweets at @kaqibb.


    Rafale scam? We now know too much to ignore

    he Supreme Court on Thursday reserved orders on the preliminary objections raised by the government in the Rafale matter. The Supreme Court had in December 2018 ruled that no probe was needed into the ‘Rafale scam’. The petitioners had sought a review of that ruling based on their earlier plea. Since then, however, new documents and material have become available on the decision-making process that led to the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force. The petitioners sought to…

    Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/national/national-politics/what-all-can-the-court-overlook-in-the-rafale-matter-723110.html


    A date with war heroes

    Participants at the national convention-cum-reunion of the War Decorated India in Chandimandir on Friday. TRIBUNE PHOTO: RAVI KUMAR

    Maha Vir Chakra recipient the late Brig KS Chandpuri’s widow Surinder Kaur Chandpuri and son Hardip Chandpuri (right) being felicitated by Lt Gen GS Sihota (retd) during the national convention-cum-reunion of the War Decorated India in Chandimandir on Friday.

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, March 15

    The two-day national convention-cum-reunion of the War Decorated India (WDI) began at Chandimandir Military Station today. Gallantry award recipients from various parts of the country and next of kin of deceased war heroes attended the event.

    Tributes were paid to the recently departed members of the association and war widows were honoured on the occasion. The election of the association president, nomination of executive committee members and issues relating to gallantry awardees and their welfare were part of the agenda. As tales of heroism flowed, old camaraderie was reignited.

    The WDI was set up in 1991 to serve as a platform for strengthening camaraderie among the war heroes, further their cause and to provide them any assistance in times of need. Its members consist of recipients of gallantry awards won in the face of the enemy that include the Victoria Cross and Military Cross of the pre-Independence era and the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra, which were instituted post-Independence.

    Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt Gen PN Bali, addressed the gathering. He said the serving military men drew inspiration from the bravehearts who fought valiantly for the motherland and in the process many had laid down their lives.

    The convention is held once in four years. The event this time was relatively a low-key affair with lesser number of participants as compared with past occasions as the number of war heroes has been dwindling over the years.

    Among the Victoria Cross awardees, relatives of the Late Nb Sub Nand Singh of the Sikh Regiment, Late Sub Ram Sarup Singh of the Punjab Regiment and Late Badlu Singh of the Jat Lancers were felicitated. Dhano Devi, wife of Late Col Hoshiar Singh of the Grenadiers and daughter of Late Sub Joginder Singh of the Sikh Regiment, both of whom were decorated with the Param Vir Chakra, the nation’s highest gallantry award, was also honoured.

    Col Hoshiar Singh was awarded the PVC for his actions while establishing a bridgehead across the Basantar river and repulsing enemy attacks in the Shakargarh Sector during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, while Sub Joginder Singh had led his troops in the face of the enemy despite being heavily outnumbered and defended his post near Bum La in the north-east until he was wounded and captured during the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

    Sub Nand Singh’s son, Ripu Daman, who was attending the convention for the first time, pointed out that the names of Indian Victoria Cross recipients did not find a place in the newly constructed National War Memorial in the Capital.

    Among those present was Lt Col (Dr) Virendra Sahi, a Vir Chakra recipient form the Battle of Laleali in the Chhamb Sector in December 1971. He had killed a Pakistani officer, who was physically much larger, in hand-to-hand combat after his weapon had jammed. Pakistani troops under the command of a major were able to gain a foothold on the forward tip of the Laleali post that resulted in a hand-to-hand combat between Indian and Pakistani soldiers. Sahi, who was also then a Major commanding an infantry company, had sent a handwritten citation to Pakistan, detailing his opponent’s actions.


    Bodies of 2 more Army soldiers

    Tribune News Service
    Shimla, March 14

    The search and rescue operation for tracing soldiers trapped in an avalanche in the Namgya area of Kinnaur district was called off after the bodies of the last two missing soldiers were recovered on Thursday.

    The remaining two bodies that have been traced are those of jawans from Himachal and Jammu. The body of NK Videsh Chand of Thrauna village, Nirmand, Kullu district, was shifted to Jhakri today and the last rites will be performed tomorrow morning at his native place.

    The body of Rifleman Arjun Kumar of Kattal Brahamana village, Hira Nagar, District Kathua (Jammu) will be airlifted to Janglot tomorrow and will be sent by road from there to his native village.

    It was on February 20 that six Army personnel were hit by an avalanche in the Namgya area of Kinnaur, close to the border with China, while they were patrolling along the border. The body of one jawan was found the same day.

    Drunk jawan misbehaves, cops let him flee

    Our Correspondent

    Una, March 15

    A Home Guard jawan, attached with the Transport Department and posted at the RTO barrier in Mehatpur, allegedly misbehaved with the Director of the department last evening.

    The incident took place during a surprise visit by the official. The jawan was reportedly in an inebriated state.Director, Transport, Capt JM Pathania, said Home Guard jawans had been deployed by the department at RTO barriers for a period of one month, after which their duties were extended. He said the jawan at Mehatpur, identified as Jasbir Singh, was drunk and allegedly began misbehaving when he was inspecting the barrier.

    Pathania said he contacted the Superintendent of Police, who sent two constables from the Mehatpur police station. However, instead of conducting a medical examination of the jawan, they allegedly let him flee from the scene.SP Devakar Sharma said on the second complaint of the Director, Transport, he himself visited Mehatpur. He said two police personnel, Head Constable Inder Kumar and Constable Sandeep, who were accused of allowing the inebriated jawan escape, had been called to the Police Lines for departmental action.

    He said such dereliction of duty would not be tolerated.

    Meanwhile, the Director, Transport, said a disciplinary action would be initiated against the Home Guard jawan. He said the department would also consider making amendments to the service period of the Home Guard personnel attached with the department so that they were more answerable to the system.