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    ASSAM TERROR ATTACK NIA team in Kokrajhar, massive combing operation on

    Kokrajhar (Assam), August 6A National Investigation Agency (NIA) team on Saturday scoured the site and spoke to eyewitnesses of Friday’s terror attack here in which 14 people were killed while a massive combing operation is on to nab the militants of Bodo separatist outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) (S) suspected to be involved in the strike.Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who visited the site, told reporters that the militant who was neutralised had been identified as Manjay Islari.“He is a self-styled area commander of 16th battalion of NDFB(S) faction. We will give the body to his parents,” he said.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd) He said the combing operation in the area had been intensified to nab those who fled after carrying out the attack on Balajan Tiniali market, about 12 km from here, days before Independence Day.To a question, he said the militants were not part of any suicide squad. “Had they been part of a suicide squad they would not have fled.”An NIA team had reached the spot and was speaking to eyewitnesses, officials said.Combing operation by police, paramilitary and army is also on in neighbouring Chirang district to nab militants.Defence sources said specialised troops, tracker dogs and other equipment had been pressed into service. The Army was also carrying out extensive area domination operations in the district to ensure swift action, they said. The situation was described as tense but under control.Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal visited the seriously injured at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital and enquired about their condition. He spoke to doctors there on providing them advanced medical treatment, government sources in Guwahati said.The Kokrajhar deputy commissioner held a high-level security meeting with police, army and paramilitary forces to review the situation ahead of Independence Day, administration sources said.A strict vigil was being maintained along the Assam-Bengal inter-state border and international fronts with Bhutan to prevent the NDFB(S) militants from escaping there, sources said.Meanwhile, opposition Congress leaders, who visited Kokrajhar on Saturday, accused the ruling BJP government in the state of failing to take preventive measures despite the fact that militants regularly indulged in violent activities in the run-up to Independence Day and Republic Day.Armed militants dressed in army fatigues and belonging to the Bodo separatist outfit had opened fire and thrown grenades at the crowded weekly market killing 14 people.One of the attackers, who were believed to be five in number, was killed in retaliatory action by security forces, police had said.Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Mukesh Sahay had said that the attack was suspected to be the handiwork of NDFB (S). AK-56 and 47 series rifles along with grenades were also recovered from the spot.The DGP and Additional Chief Secretary TY Das also held a high-level security review meeting with the district administration where it was decided to continue with the security operations.

    Missing AN-32: Govt seeks US help, says scope of sabotage ‘very less’

    Missing AN-32: Govt seeks US help, says scope of sabotage 'very less’
    Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Friday. — PTI/TV grab

    New Delhi, July 29

    The government on Friday said in the Rajya Sabha that the possibility of sabotage in the mysterious disappearance of AN-32 aircraft of IAF was “comparatively very less” and informed that the help of the US has also been sought in locating the plane.

    All types of techniques are being used to locate the aircraft, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said while replying to clarifications sought by members on his suo motu statement on the disappearance of the aircraft on July 22.

    As members expressed concern and raised questions over how the plane went missing, he said, “I can’t speculate because we are searching for it and I will not like to speculate. But I can say only this much. The possibility, although we are checking all angles, of any sabotage is comparatively very less because they have standard operating procedures.”

    While sharing the concern of the members, he gave details of the operation being carried out for the last one week in trying to locate the plane, carrying 29 people, which went missing during a flight from Tambaram in Tamil Nadu to Port Blair.

    “I appreciate anxiety of members. I am also disturbed at the sudden disappearance of the plane. I have spoken to several experts and former air chiefs who were also puzzled by the sudden disappearance,” Parrikar said.

    The Minister said that at the time of disappearance, the aircraft was on “secondary/passive radar” and that “There was no SOS or transmission of any frequency. It just disappeared, so that is the worrying part”.

    The government has sought help from the US for detection of images and is seeking help from American defence forces to ascertain whether their satellites had picked up any signal before the disappearance of the plane.

    “It is total blank. There was not even a single signal recorded. That is the reason we are contacting American defence forces to ascertain whether their satellites picked up any signal,” Parrikar said.

    “Besides our own satellite imagery, we have asked the US for their imagery for the detection of emergency frequency to space based assets. Foreign countries we have already asked. I only hope that our efforts succeed,” he added while replying to queries whether foreign help has been sought.

    Queried about the age of the aircraft, the Defence Minister said it was “almost as good as new aircraft”.

    Elaborating he said, “I don’t know exact age but it is well within lifetime. It has undergone first overhauling. Lot of replacement has been done…. They are considered as one of the safest aircraft.”

    He said the accident rate of Indian Air Force is 0.23 out of 10,000 hours of flying against the global rate of 0.023 and assured the House that maximum efforts would be made to ensure that the mishaps come down.

    “If aircraft is not fit for flying we don’t fly it. We have decided to check up whether we can improve the signalling system,” he added.

    About the missing aircraft, Parrikar said that after the first overhaul, the plane had already done 279 hours and the pilot was experienced, having put in 500 hours on this route.

    The Defence Minister, who had made suo motu statement on the plane’s disappearance in both Houses of Parliament yesterday, said, “Let us hope that we track it down. I can assure that maximum efforts will be taken.” Sharing details of the search operation so far, he said 10 Indian Navy ships as well as submarine ‘Sindhudhwaj’ are carrying searches and “virtually checking up everything”.

    Twenty-three inputs had been located, out of which 6 were of the nature of blinks and all inputs have been checked, he said.

    “If we locate something, then we can send deepwater equipment to pick up. We have also diverted ‘Sagar Nidhi’ (vessel) from Mauritius. It will reach on August one and it can go up to 6,000 metres depth. But we have to locate objects.

    “We have to locate it because at this depth you cannot keep on scratching the bottom,” Parrikar said.

    The Defence Minister said he was personally monitoring the situation. “We owe that much to the people, I have seen (to it) that every family is kept in touch.” Yesterday, he had said that “several inputs and leads” regarding floating objects have been picked up but there is no concrete evidence so far with respect to missing AN-32 aircraft of the IAF. — PTI

    Navy buys 4 more spy planes from Boeing

    New Delhi, July 27

    India today inked a deal with the US defence and aerospace giant Boeing to procure four more P-8I submarine hunter planes worth $1 billion.The Navy has already purchased eight P-8Is for $2.1 billion and deployed some of these in Andaman and Nicobar islands near the busy shipping route passing through the Malacca Straits.The P-8I, classified as a long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, is based on the body of Boeing’s 737-800 commercial aircraft. It is the Navy variant of the P-8A Poseidon that Boeing has developed for the US Navy. It has a range of 4,500 nautical miles.  The Navy’s anti-submarine and surface warfare capabilities will be augmented once the planes join the fleet. — TNS

    Tab on China

    • The acquisition of additional P-8Is will be a shot in the arm for the Navy as the country has been building up its naval surveillance capabilities to check China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

    Pak involved in K-crisis: Army Lt Gen Hooda says police, CRPF showing maximum restraint in handling protests

    Pak involved in K-crisis: Army
    Northern Command Chief Lt Gen D S Hooda paying tributes at the Kargil war memorial on Vijay Diwas at Drass on Tuesday. PTI

    Majid Jahangir

    Tribune News Service

    Srinagar, July 26

    As the Valley continues to remain on the boil, Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda today said Pakistan had a “direct role in whatever was happening in Kashmir”.“There is no doubt in our mind that Pakistan has been sort of interfering in Kashmir and has a direct role in what we are calling the proxy war in Kashmir. We are seeing it every day along the border. We are seeing it from the manner in which support is being given to infiltrating groups. We have seen how sometimes ceasefire violations along the Line of Control are actually in support of people who are infiltrating inside,” the Northern Command chief told reporters at Drass on Kargil Vijay Diwas today.He said Pakistan takes direct advantage of the “internal disturbances” in Kashmir like the ongoing unrest erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.“If there is an internal disturbance, Pakistan will directly take advantage of it. You have heard statements by the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba that they are supporting whatever is happening in Kashmir. The support is not only moral but it is absolutely physical and there is no doubt about that in our minds,” Lt General Hooda said.As the demand for the ban of pellet guns increases, the Northern Command chief said it was “better than using firearms or weapons” for mob control.“There is a requirement of non-lethal weaponry and pellet guns are classified as part of the non-lethal weaponry. Unfortunately, they have caused some casualties. It’s still a better form than using firearms or weapons. There is much better non-lethal weaponry available around the world,” he said. “The government is looking at even more non-lethal options to control a mob. The Home Minister has said that they are going to explore whether we can get some better and more modern non-lethal weaponry,” the Army officer added.The Northern Command chief said the police and the CRPF were handling the law and order situation and they were exercising restraint to handle the unrest in the region.“…the Army is not at the forefront of tackling the civil disturbance. It’s more of the police and the CRPF which is doing it. They are doing it with utmost restraint. We are there on the ground, we are seeing it happening. The police have been dealing with the situation for the last 20-25 years and they know exactly what is to be done. They know that restraint is to be exercised and that is exactly what they are doing,” Lt Gen Hooda added.He, however, said unfortunately one gets into a situation where one is “forced to adopt other measures”.“When police stations are being looted, there is a murderous mob attacking you, weapons are being looted, your own lives are in danger, it’s only in those situations that the police are forced to take some more strict measures,” he said.

    Seeking Kashmir is wishful thinking, Pak daily tells Sharif

    Seeking Kashmir is wishful thinking, Pak daily tells Sharif
    Tells him to focus on regional issues instead. PTI file

    Islamabad, July 24

    Slamming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for saying that he is waiting for the day Jammu and Kashmir would join Pakistan, a Pakistani daily on Sunday urged him not to indulge in “wishful thinking”.“Such statements are nothing more than rhetoric,” the Daily Times said in an editorial.“Instead of indulging in wishful thinking, the PM needs to sit back and think with a cool mind the ways to resolve the regional issues,” it added.Pakistan’s official stance on Kashmir is that it extends moral support to the Kashmiri struggle for freedom and will continue to raise its voice for their right to self-determination.“This stance is commendable but making statements about the accession of Kashmir without any clear policy seems inappropriate,” the daily said.“By uttering these words, the PM is challenging the authority of India and inviting more trouble not only for Pakistan but Kashmiris also.” The daily said talking about Jammu and Kashmir’s accession with Pakistan was easy but nobody knew how to make it happen.“It could only happen through talks or war. There is no other solution. Kashmiris are already paying a heavy price for this conflict.“What can Pakistan offer to Kashmiris when it is still coping with numerous challenges that are posing a threat to its own stability?” The editorial said that instead of talking about capturing more land, Islamabad needed to make Pakistani-governed Kashmir a model state. Islamabad holds the northern part of the divided state.For the past 67 years, Pakistan had failed to ensure good governance in its own Kashmir, known as ‘Azad Kashmir’, it said.The daily urged India and Pakistan to resolve their bilateral issues amicably.“They need to get engaged in the dialogue process to pave the way for further talks to help find common ground to end differences. Both Pakistani and Indian governments must take pity on their respective people and come to the negotiating table for striking a permanent peace deal,” it said. IANS

    Sharif’s K-dream delusional: Swaraj

    Sharif’s K-dream delusional: Swaraj

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, July 23

    India today vigorously rejected Pakistan’s ‘despicable design’, emphasising that the country would never be able to realise its dream  of taking over Kashmir and labelled Pakistan as a country seeking to destabilise the region.In one of the most hard-hitting statements in recent times, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said behind Pakistan’s unabashed embrace and encouragement to terrorism lay its delusional though dangerous dream that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”, as stated by Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif yesterday.“The whole of India would like to tell the Prime Minister of Pakistan that this dream will not be realised even at the end of eternity. The whole of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India. You will never be able to make this heaven on earth a haven for terrorists.” Swaraj said Pakistan, that used fighter planes and artillery guns against its own people, could not pontificate to India on the brave work being done by its security forces.“The country which has used fighter planes and artillery against millions of its own people has no right whatsoever to point a finger at our brave, professional and disciplined police and security forces. Their restraint and respect for fellow citizens is evident in the unusually high number of injured personnel — more than 1,700 — in the violence unleashed with the support from across the border in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)India’s reaction came in the backdrop of the developments in Islamabad after the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani, who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. Swaraj said what was even more condemnable was the “deplorable attempts from across our border to incite violence and glorify terrorists. These attempts have been undertaken by Pakistan’s state machinery in active partnership with UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed and other leading terrorists belonging to internationally proscribed organisations.

    A necessary evil Only substitute for pellet guns in Kashmir is talks

    When passions peak, as in the Kashmir Valley after Burhan Wani’s killing, temperance becomes a casualty. The protesting crowds were unmanageable as the pent-up anger over the status quo erupted in the form of attempts to raze army and police installations. Security officers might appear blasé now but they had struggled to control the outpouring of frustration when the protests were at their peak. And in this, they thought the best option was to clear the streets by firing pellet guns rather than heavy ammunition that claims a much heavier toll. The greater use of pellet guns has led to a lower death toll than during the 2010 protests when they were not as widely deployed.But the Valley’s security managers had not accounted for the powerful impact of the social media. Images of children, barely out of teens with bloodshot eyes that may never see again, have obliged the Union Government to announce a committee to suggest effective but less lethal forms of crowd control. The alternatives such as rubber pellets, tear gas and cattle prod guns, were used but in less perilous situations. Kashmiris might also consider themselves better placed than people of tribal Central India and the North East where unruly crowds are still dispersed by the traditional rifle and august bodies such as the United Nations ignore their travails.Pellets do cause more unintended injuries because they don’t follow a definite path and bounce off rocks and trees. This is what caused injuries to people watching the action unfold from their homes. But can pellet guns be the only alternative? Could Wani have been arrested? Even Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti understands that the alternative forms of crowd control being suggested by human rights advocates won’t work. That is why on becoming Chief Minister, she dropped her opposition on security forces using pellet guns. There seems to be no alternative to this necessary evil unless the political class casts aside its shortsightedness and genuinely attempts a political solution. The only less lethal solution than pellet guns is talks.

    India, China could replicate Sino-Russia protocols to avoid border rows, says expert

    BEIJING: India and China could replicate military protocols set up during Sino-Russia border negotiations to minimise conflict as both countries continue protracted talks to resolve their boundary dispute, a top Chinese expert has said.


    HT FILETwo military and disarmament protocols implemented by China and Russia could be replicated in the Sino­Indian talks.

    There are lessons in avoiding conflict to be learnt from the way China and Russia resolved their boundary issue after negotiating for decades.

    “China successfully solved the problem with the Soviet Union despite difficulties such as the collapse of the Soviet Union. All border issues have been solved except the ones with India and Bhutan,” Xing Guangcheng, director general of the Institute of Frontier Science at the influential Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told Hindustan Times.

    Two military and disarmament protocols implemented by China and Russia in the mid1990s could be replicated in the Sino-Indian talks to settle boundary differences.

    From the negotiations, we built mutual trust with Russia and came out with two important protocols – the Border Area Military Trust Protocol in 1996 and the Border Area Disarmament Protocol. I think the protocols can also be applied to the Sino-India border problem,” Xing said.

    The negotiations between the Soviet Union and China were not moving forward, he said, till then President Mikhail Gorbachev came to China in 1989.

    “After that, the negotiations became more meaningful as both countries started to work pragmatically to settle the border issues. Soon after that in 1992, the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia joined the three countries of Central Asian and continued the negotiation in the ’4+1 pattern’,” he said.

    After several rounds of talks and the two protocols to maintain peace along the border, the problem was finally settled, he said.

    Xing – an expert on China’s border history and designated “cultural elite” by the government — was in Lhasa to take part in the recently held Tibet Development Forum.

    He said India and China currently have good mechanisms for communication but will have to focus on controlling flare-ups.

    For one, the two countries have implemented the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement aimed at controlling incidents along the boundary.

    There are three disputed regions along the frontier and tension in one can escalate tensions along the entire boundary, Xing said. “Unless completely resolved, the whole border issue would continue to be a sensitive status.

    Urgency to re-engage youth :::Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd)

    Infuse fresh blood into Kashmir’s bureaucracy

    Urgency to re-engage youth
    MISSING IDOL : Kashmiri youth have no real heroes to focus on.

    THE deluge of writing in the media on the death of Burhan Wani, the young Kashmiri terrorist from Tral, and the subsequent violence that has spewed into the streets in a near 2010-like situation is actually a phenomenon which often occurs. The unfortunate thing is that it does only when such incidents take place. With so much already written, my approach here is to project the usually unknown facts which can only be gleaned once you are there with the Kashmiri people. Has it ever occurred to people in Delhi that the lofty Pir Panjal range is a psychological barrier to all communication to and from Kashmir? It used to hit me very often as I flew out of Srinagar. In Delhi, my thinking would change, returning to its normal Kashmir orientation the moment I flew past the range. It may sound exaggerated, but is the nearest to the truth of a phenomenon most may never understand. What is perceived in Delhi is perceived differently in Srinagar by whosoever he is. For those in Delhi, there has to be a deliberate attempt to understand what happens in Kashmir. The first of the lessons which must dawn on them is that communication is the key to the issue. That is where we fail miserably because everyone here thinks he knows Kashmir; no one is willing to listen and change his mind. This is why I stated during a TV panel discussion that in the last six months, not once have I attended a round-table discussion, or a seminar, on Kashmir. I attend one on diverse subjects almost every other day. No one feels it is important to understand Kashmir and that is the reason why a strategy has failed to evolve. Communication is the core of the desired strategy and the means to execute this cannot be left to a couple of well-meaning bureaucrats, policemen, or Army men. They can all do their bit, but within limits. Where India has failed is the intellectual application of mind to the sponsored proxy conflict in Kashmir. Burhan Wani is only the symptom which helps attract attention when it is flagging. It is the attention which has been lacking and the strategic and intellectual community is very largely to blame for this.How many would actually know that Kashmir’s youth lacks inspiration because it has no heroes to focus on? That is why a Burhan Wani comes along and captures their attention. This generation has grown under the shadow of the gun, in an environment of checkposts, sometimes five in a distance of 50 km. The ills of a conflict zone on the psyche of a population can only be realised once you are there. Angst and alienation is a natural outcome. No one ever steps back to deliberate upon a curious fact. Tral, the village to which Burhan belonged, and one which carries the most negative perception in the eyes of security practitioners, has sent hundreds into the ranks of terrorists. Not known is that it has also sent hundreds into the ranks of the JAK LI, the Indian Army regiment of which one of the highest profile units does service at Rashtrapati Bhavan today. They are all fiercely loyal and patriotic soldiers. A strange phenomenon, indeed. When I set out to examine this fact in 2011, I interacted frequently with almost 500 young, and mostly educated, Kashmiri youth at different places. Given a chance to vent their angst against the nation, against the system and against me, I absorbed their abuse, but when I met them informally over tea, almost everyone of them had only one enquiry — how they could be enabled to join the Indian Army? I often reflect on this experience and deduced that the psyche of the Kashmiri youth has never been studied and acted upon. Suitably engaged with a communication strategy that understands their limitations and empathises with them, gives them the opportunity to speak instead of talking down to them and listens to it all, may work towards drawing them away from the negativity which is a part of their every day lives.The negative psyche has also provided psychological space to extremist religious ideology to set in, against which we need more refined answers than simply cliched responses of counter-radicalisation measures. We knew all along that Islamic radicalism was finding its place in Kashmiri society, but never really concerned ourselves with finding the counter to it. We need to do it more urgently than ever and it’s even more difficult today.It’s not the youth alone that needs engagement, but every segment of Kashmiri society, and that includes the other major stakeholders — the Kashmiri Pandits. We need all Kashmiris together rather than engaging separately because, ultimately, if normalcy has to return, they have to live together. The separate engagement only encourages each to speak against the other and does no good to either cause.Let us get some fresh blood into Kashmir’s bureaucracy and administration. It will be some time before the outstanding young Kashmiri men and women, who have in recent years joined the Indian  Civil Services, come to occupy positions of prominence. I have all praise for the existing senior members, but they need fresh thinking; the approach is too stilted and needs energy and innovation. My simple advice — give Kashmir two comfortable winters in terms of logistics, administration and daily life and see the mindsets change.Lastly, at different places and times I have repeated ad nauseum that solutions to problems seldom come from within the government. The officials remain too busy, have no continuity and are simply too careful about their careers. Solutions come from independent or even semi-independent institutions and from uncluttered minds. They don’t also come from one-off committees such as interlocutors, but from continuous study and monitoring of the situation and institutional memory. Since it is communication, or the lack of it, that we have identified as the major concern not only in the case of Kashmir, but equally of the Northeast, and of the growing problem of radicalism, all this comes under the scope of strategic communication strategy. There is an urgent need for a multi-discipline body at the highest level to evaluate the current problems, suggest ways and oversee implementation. National problems require national-level solutions and a body akin to the UPSC is what I can suggest over any idea of a body such as the Minorities Commission or the National Integration Council.— The writer is a Senior Fellow with the Delhi Policy Group

    Beijing loses South China Sea title, cool Tribunal: China has no historic claims

    Beijing loses South China Sea title, cool
    Chinese vessels are seen around Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. Reuters file photo

    Amsterdam/Beijing, July 12

    An arbitration court ruled on Tuesday that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and has breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights with its actions, infuriating Beijing which dismissed the case as a farce.A defiant China, which boycotted the hearings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, vowed again to ignore the ruling and said its armed forces would defend its sovereignty and maritime interests.China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said shortly before the ruling was announced that a Chinese civilian aircraft had successfully tested two new airports in the disputed Spratly Islands. And China’s Defence Ministry said a new guided missile destroyer was formally commissioned at a naval base on the southern island province of Hainan, which has responsibility for South China Sea.The United States, which China has accused of fuelling tensions and militarising the region with patrols and exercises, urged parties to comply with the legally binding ruling and avoid provocations.US officials have previously said they feared China may respond to the ruling by declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013. — Reuters

    Ground-breaking ruling

    • The ruling is significant as it is the first time that a legal challenge has been brought in the South China Sea dispute
    • Reflects shifting balance of power in 3.5 mn sq km sea, where China has been expanding presence by building artificial islands, sending patrol boats that keep Philippine fishing vessels away
    • The court has no power of enforcement, but a victory for Philippines could spur Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei to file cases