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    India to buy 145 howitzers from US firm for `5k-crore

    NEW DELHI: The ministry of defence on Saturday cleared India’s biggest artillery gun purchase since the Bofors deal three decades ago. It will import 145 ultra-light howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems at an approximate cost of $750 million (`5,100 crore) for the newly-raised Mountain Strike Corps.

    The decision was taken at the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which met after a gap of three months and discussed 19 proposals, among them new schemes worth `28,000 crore, a top source in the DAC said.

    The proposals cleared by the DAC are a balancing act between fast-tracking delayed procurement of defence equipment and the government’s flagship programme ‘Make In India’ that aims at giving a fillip to indigenous production.

    The first batch of 25 guns will be delivered by the US-based BAE Systems in ready-to-use condition within six months of signing a contract. The remaining 125 will come in a knock-down condition for which a facility for “assembly, integration and testing has been set up in India,” a ministry official said.

    At the same time, the Dhanush, an indigenous replacement for the 155 mm Bofors artillery gun, will go into production soon after three guns are handed over for testing sometime next week. “Three guns will be handed over by June 30 for user exploitation and three more by the end of September,” a senior ministry official said. He added the government has given bulk production clearance (BPC) for producing 18 more Dhanush guns. The Ordnance Factories Board will decide on where these will be produced, based on trials. “The DAC noted that the Dhanush had made satisfactory progress,” he said.

    Former Army chief Gen VP Malik (retd) said the decision to procure ultra-light guns and start producing the Dhanush will “fill a major deficiency” in the artillery arsenal. “These are important steps. They have taken a long time. Let’s hope there are no further delays,” he told HT from Panchkula.

    India fails to get into nuclear club NSG won’t make an NPT exception

    India fails to get into nuclear club
    PM Narendra Modi with Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, at the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Tashkent. PTI

    Simran Sodhi

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, June 24

    In an embarrassment, both at the diplomatic and political level, India’s bid for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was today rejected. At the end of the two-day plenary meeting of the NSG in Seoul, the nuclear club made it amply clear that it was in no mood to make an exception for India.The NSG declared its “firm support” for the “full, complete and effective” implementation of the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime. India, in the meantime, pointed a finger at one country in particular which ‘persistently created procedural hurdles’.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook and Twitter @thetribunechd) China had made its opposition to India’s entry into the NSG quite clear publicly. In various statements, it had stressed on the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India is not a signatory but had hoped that given its clean record in proliferation, the NSG members would make an exception.Pakistan, on its part, submitted its membership application to the NSG a week after India did. That gave China another case to argue that India and Pakistan’s entry be considered together. But China was not alone in its opposition. Turkey, New Zealand, Austria and even India’s BRICS partner Brazil had reservations on India being let into the NSG. Switzerland also made a U-turn. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the country recently and apparently managed Swiss support for India’s bid. “We understand that despite procedural hurdles by one country, a three-hour discussion took place last night on the issue of future participation in the NSG,” MEA official spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

    Guv lauds IAF help to state

    Guv lauds IAF help to state
    Governor NN Vohra with Air Vice Marshal GS Bedi in Srinagar on Thursday. A Tribune photo

    Tribune News Service

    Srinagar, June 23

    Air Vice Marshal GS Bedi, Air Officer Commanding, Jammu and Kashmir, called on Governor NN Vohra here today and briefed him about various important matters relating to the role which the IAF has been playing in the state. The Governor lauded IAF’s prompt and valuable support on all occasions.

    The How and Why of Normalcy in Kashmir:::: Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain

    The How and Why of Normalcy in Kashmir

    Having spent many years in Kashmir in various capacities in the hinterland from Avantipur and Srinagar to the LoC at Uri I never  the enjoyed the Valley the way I did as a child in 1956.

    With my parents at Jammu’s Damana Cantt that year, we drove to Srinagar the only way then known, a public transport bus. Staying at the un-walled Badami Bagh, the delight was in the evening walks to Adoos whose cold coffee still lingers in my taste buds. The boulevard – that is what I presume it was – was awake till late and life was a breeze. The shikarawalas sang songs while paddling their oars; and there was cinema and salted peanuts just like at any other hill station. I never went back to that Kashmir again except very briefly.

    Today, after 26 years of internal turbulence, the search for happiness in Kashmir ends very early. In fact it hardly begins. Unless you are booked at the high-end hotels like Lalit Grand or Taj Vivanta, cocooned in the hillsides of the Zabarwan and enjoying only the weather and the view and nothing much beyond. Within Srinagar, the unpredictable law and order situation is a fun-spoiler. Reaching the traditional tourist spots of Gulmarg and Pahalgam too is fraught with unpredictability because some anti-terror operation may be on or an ambush could have taken place on a BSF bus. If you manage to stay at an Army facility, the checking and the curfew timings for entry and exit will upset you no end.

    Many who are stakeholders in Kashmir’s return to peace like to evaluate their own parameters on what peace means. Some prefer the term normalcy to the rather utopian sounding ‘peace’ because they do not think Kashmir was ever at war, or remains in any form of conflict. No need to debate the semantics because most of us would agree that much of J&K has not been normal for the last twenty six years or so. Many of us in the Army do feel that we have been in a war-like situation for all these years. The term is ‘proxy war’ and I too have been brought up on this belief which I still hold dear.

    For a tourist, the understanding of normalcy would probably dwell on predictability; the ability to enjoy the Valley’s serene beauty in the company of loved ones, away from the din of Delhi and Gurgaon, without having to be confronted with shut-downs (bandhs) or cancellation of flights. Gulmarg and Pahalgam, Srinagar’s boulevard or the Nagin houseboats can’t be enjoyed if one has to keep Plan B, C and D ready to escape awkward situations.

    For a taxi driver, tourist operator or restaurant owner normalcy means tourists around the year and not restricted to the season. Tourists are carefree people. They like to do things they would normally not do while at their home stations. They like to take walks at awkward times, sit beside the lake and croon a few numbers, sip coffee at midnight in a brightly-lit coffee shop or eat aloo paranthas at 2 AM; some would love to even take in a cheap-thrill Bollywood movie, something they wouldn’t touch with a bargepole otherwise. Unfortunately, the proxy war has taken out the characteristic fun of a hill station. Forget tourists, it is usually difficult to find a smiling face in the local crowds. Happiness seems to be eluding its people and the new generation used to the gun-and-checkpoint culture is brooding in this unhappiness.

    I do remember that on February 6, 2011 a young man in Maidan Tsogul near Handwara lost his life because he preferred to run when challenged by an Army ambush at 9.30 PM instead of stopping and identifying himself. It was a regretful case because all that the young man was doing was meeting his sweetheart in an orchard; a huge risk no doubt, given the environment. Where should young people meet and express love in a world today in which awareness is unbounded due to social media and the Net.

    The awkwardness which prevails in the psyche of the young Kashmiri today is that he is technically modern, with access to information from all over the world. He is not necessarily radicalised as many would be wont to thinking. However, how does the modernity of outlook take shape? There are no outlets for entertainment, no burger joints which are open in the evenings and no coffee shops – the natural outlets for steam within the coffee and within the hearts. During the infamous Emergency of 1975-77, one of the first casualties was Delhi’s iconic Coffee House at the place where the run-down Palika Bazaar stands today. It was the place where intellectuals sat and let out all their steam against the system, the government and against probably God himself. It was Delhi’s happening place which gave much happiness to people until it was torn down. If Kashmir needs an outlet to vent frustration of the people, it is coffee, tea and kahwa which must find place in its landscape at ‘nukkads’ and at Residency Road. I now hear something like this is emerging, not in a transformative but in a slow way. The emboldening entertainment from stone-throwing can then perhaps be stopped.

    Mercifully, one does hear of an odd seminar being organized at Srinagar but the feelings are yet tentative and hesitant. Many an expert is consulted about the safety of organizing these. The wonderful facility of the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) must unhesitatingly host events of a cosmopolitan nature, protests from the separatists notwithstanding. Some years ago Delhi’s outstanding choir, the Capital City Minstrels, were invited by the then-Chief Minister to perform at Gulmarg and the SKICC. The event was so poorly advertised that only a few rows could be filled, and Maxell Pereira and his excellent choir could hardly find appreciation. The German Ambassador to India organized the Zubin Mehta concert at the Nishat Garden a few years ago but the Separatists got the better of the event by organizing their parallel event based on the misplaced notion that local music and song were being endangered. Speak to former Governor SK Sinha and he will tell you of the show by the Pakistani rock group Junoon on the banks of the Dal Lake, and how it was appreciated by the young public of Srinagar and other towns.

    The Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre must be used to organize world-class conferences at Srinagar to bring it on the international map of intellectual activities.

    Kashmir’s youth needs to get out of the well in which has been been stuck. Frustration is rife, when information of the world is at your fingertips but the occasion and opportunity eludes you. Many believe and preach that cosmopolitanism is against the tenets of Islam. Yet, nowhere does Islam ban entertainment. A casual search of the Net reveals the existence of cinemas in Tehran, Dubai, Djakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Indeed they do in Pakistan too. Is there any reason why cinema should not return to Kashmir? All these cities, where people adhere to the Islamic faith, are rich in café culture contributing to the basic desire of their nationals to do what most human beings do; go out as families or with friends and sit around a table of food or steaming cups of some beverage or the other.

    Good weather in Kashmir, especially around the spring season can see hundreds of families with their picnic baskets descending on picnic spots. The desire for fun and togetherness in outings is inherently there in every Kashmiri; and the ‘mehmendari’ they are used to, can even give some good Punjabis a run for their money. When a people have an unnatural environment which stymies their natural social psyche, the effect is even more frustrating.

    So even as security agencies debate parameters of normalcy by comparing figures of grenade blasts and terror acts, they need to realise that security considerations go beyond physical limits. To secure a people you also need to create and promote an environment of happiness for them to thrive in. Nothing artificial; just see the desire of the people and combine what comes naturally to them from their roots. Don’t ever mar the happiness in families, for if you do so the memories would be difficult to detach.

    Given the temper and anger in the streets, and the increasing tendency on the part of the public to come to the assistance of the terrorists once encounters begin, this advice will be criticised. But we seem to be hugely short on ideas on how to change the tempo in the Valley. We cannot await the end of street confrontation to commence initiatives towards changing the narrative, and we cannot be held hostage by Separatists who wish to play the religious card and keep a society from progressing. It’s a a difficult task for the government of the day: to change the concept of governance from the simple ‘roti, kapda, sadak, makan’ to something more transformational which will usher more happiness among the common people.

    For the professional security provider, and for the political leadership perhaps, here is food for thought. The attempts to establish normalcy in Kashmir must have a concept that is commonly understood by both. Discussing this in only Unified Command Meetings is not going to evolve narratives that are well-understood. It has to be through brainstorming at the highest level and frequent meetings between the core agencies. As prime professionals in the game of counter-violence, perhaps the Army needs to take this more professionally, war-gaming it at all its premier institutions and giving the Nation the results of all its nurtured military intellect.


    Indian Reserve Battalion to be named after Maharana Pratap: Rajnath

    Indian Reserve Battalion to be named after Maharana Pratap: Rajnath
    People pay tribute to Maharana Pratap statue on his birth anniversary in Gurgaon. PTI file photo

    Udaipur, June 8

    A new Indian Reserve Battalion in Rajasthan will be named after Maharana Pratap, the great warrior of Mewar region, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said.The Home Minister, who is on a two-day visit to the state, made the announcement at a programme here yesterday.Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had made a request to Singh in this regard.The Indian Reserve Battalion will be named after Maharana Pratap, a Rajput ruler who had fought against the Mughals and never bowed before them, Singh said.The government will make sure that his contribution is highlighted, he said.The Union minister also announced setting up of a global centre for counter terrorism at Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice at Jodhpur and said the process of police modernisation will be expedited. — PTI

    Three-time Everest climber wants to scale highest peaks of all continents

    JAMMU: Ecstatic after scaling Mount Everest for the third time, Lieutenant Colonel Ranveer Singh Jamwal says he is targeting to scale all the highest peaks of the seven continents.

    Lt Col Jamwal is the first army officer from Jammu and Kashmir and third in India to achieve the feat for a third time. He had first scaled the world’s highest peak at 8,848 metres on May 25, 2012 and the second time on May 19, 2013.

    Lt Col Jamwal belongs to Badhori village in Samba district.

    “Till date, out of the seven tallest peaks, I have scaled five. Till now, I have scaled Mount Everest in Asia, Aconcagua in South America, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Europe and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia,” said Jamwal.

    “Now, two tallest peaks are left to be scaled which includes Mount Vinson in Antarctica and Mount McKinley in North America,” he says enthusiastically.

    “The total expedition cost for Mount Vinson in Antarctica will cost at least `25 lakh and I am looking for sponsors. Usually it costs around five lakh to scale other peaks, but Antarctica being the toughest and most treacherous, the expenses are quite high. I hope that in the coming December, I am able to scale that peak too. While I will scale Mount McKinley in next June,” said Jamwal.

    Asked if he loved mountaineering since childhood, Jamwal says, “I only picked up mountaineering after joining the army. After joining the mountaineering course, I felt I can scale mountains. Whatever I am today, is because of the army. I joined army as a sepoy.”

    Jamwal joined the army on October 24, 1994 as a Sepoy in the Dogra Regiment (15 Dogra) but cleared the officer Examination (Army Cadet College) and joined Indian Military Academy in 1998. He got commissioned into 11 JAT regiment in June 2002.

    Army faces ammo shortage, MoD ropes in private sector

    Vijay Mohan

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, May 28

    As the Army continues to grapple with “huge” shortage of ammunition because of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) falling short of meeting its requirements and import of equipment being a long-drawn process, the private sector is being roped in to produce seven types of ammunition to help mitigate the situation.“The OFB itself is falling short of what the requirements are. The ammunition shortage is huge because the capacities are not there. There is a need to diversify beyond what we have,” a representative of the Ministry of Defence is quoted as saying in the latest report of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence that was tabled this month.State-run OFB consists of 41 manufacturing units located across the country, which produce a wide range of products including tanks, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, clothes and other war-fighting equipment. Out of these, 11 factories are engaged in producing ammunition and explosives. Last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed that there was a shortage for 125 of the 170 types of ammunition used by the Army and even the war wastage reserve, required to maintain supplies for at least a 40-day war, had fallen to a 20-day supply.Expressing concern over the situation, the Defence Secretary also stated before the committee that “we have to depend on the OFB or import the materials”. “Import also takes its own time. The OFB is not able to fulfil the targets that are given to them. The only other option is to find a good alternative source of production in the country,” he said.“For key ammunitions, sometimes we need technology. So, technology issues are also involved. In order to make good the deficiencies, it has now been decided that we would selectively go in for private participation for production of ammunition,” he added.The Defence Secretary’s deposition states that after taking into account the existing production capacities, the capability to deliver and the gaps that exist, it has been decided that to begin with seven items will be put up for private participation. “This is something which we can achieve without much delay because there are a number of companies which are willing to enter the field,” he said.

    India’s NSG membership not about arms race, US tells Pak

    India’s NSG membership not about arms race, US tells Pak
    The nuclear-capable strategic ballistic missile Agni-IV on display at the Republic Day parade. File photo

    Washington, May 28

    In an apparent snub to Pakistan over its opposition to India’s bid to become a member of the elite NSG, the US has said it is not about an arms race, but about peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    “This is not about an arms race and it’s not about nuclear weapons. This is about the peaceful civil use of nuclear energy, and so we would certainly hope that Pakistan understands that,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Friday.

    He was responding to questions about India’s membership application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and opposition to it by Pakistan on the grounds that this would give pace to nuclear arms race in the region.

    However, the US has fingers crossed, ahead of the crucial meeting of the 48-nation NSG.

    “Look, all I can say is that during his visit to India in 2015, President (Barack) Obama did affirm the US view that India meets missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for membership. But it’s a consensus body, so we’ll wait and see how the vote goes,” Toner said.

    “Deliberations about the prospects of new members joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group are an internal matter among the current members. I don’t have much to say beyond that other than that I think they meet regularly,” he said.

    The upcoming NSG meeting has not been set up for this purpose, he said.

    “This I not a specific meeting, I believe – not set up to particularly talk about this issue. They (Pakistan) have made public their interest, and certainly any country can submit its application for membership. We will consider based on a consensus decision,” Toner said. — PTI