Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Anil Ambani To Rahul Gandhi: Congress Misinformed On Rafale Deal 

Anil Ambani last week wrote to Rahul Gandhi saying not a single component worth a single rupee is to be manufactured by his group for the 36 Rafale jets India is buying from France, the company said in a statement. French company Dassault, which is supplying the fighter jets, has entered into a joint venture with Reliance Group to meet its offset requirement of the contract

NEW DELHI: Reliance Group on Monday said its chairman Anil Ambani has written to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on the Rafale fighter jet deal saying his party has been "misinformed, misdirected and misled" by "malicious vested interests and corporate rivals" on the issue. 

Ambani, who had first written to Gandhi on the issue in December, last week again wrote to him saying not a single component worth a single rupee is to be manufactured by his group for the 36 Rafale jets India is buying from France, the company said in a statement.

Gandhi has been attacking the government + for inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated. While he has accused the government of changing the deal to benefit "one businessman", his party has demanded a JPC probe into the deal.

"Allegations of Reliance benefiting by thousands of crores is a figment of imagination, promoted by vested interests," the company statement said, quoting from Ambani's letter. "Simply put, no contract exists with the Government of India."

French company Dassault, which is supplying the fighter jets, has entered into a joint venture with Reliance Group to meet its offset requirement of the contract.

Under defence offset, a foreign supplier of equipment agrees to manufacture a given percent of his product (in terms of value) in the buying country. Sometimes this may take place with technology transfer.

While direct offsets are linked to the original defence contact where companies often agree to transfer relevant technological know-how or use local suppliers to build the equipment they are selling to the government, indirect offsets have nothing to do with the deal and can include the company making up investments in local industries.

In case of Rafale deal, which will give new comer Reliance Group a foothold in the defence industry, the companies have not specified what components will they manufacturer in India.

Ambani in the letter expressed "deep anguish over continued personal attacks by Rahul Gandhi on him", the statement said. He termed all allegations as "baseless, ill-informed and unfortunate"

Explaining the role of Reliance in offset exports/ work share with Dassault, he said: "The Congress has been misinformed, misdirected and misled by malicious vested interests and corporate rivals."

He said Rafale fighter jets are not being manufactured by Reliance of the Dassault Reliance joint venture. "All 36 planes are to be 100 per cent manufactured in France, and exported from France to India."

"There is no contract from the Ministry of Defence to any Reliance Group company related to 36 Rafale aircraft," the statement said.

Ambani said his group's "role is limited to offset/ export obligations. More than 100 medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) will participate in this, along with public sector undertakings like BEL and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

"This role strengthens Indian manufacturing capabilities, and is in pursuance of the Offsets Policy introduced by the Congress-led UPA government itself from 2005 onward."

He said Reliance Group announced its decision to enter the defence manufacturing sector in December 2014-January 2015, "months before the intention for the purchase of Rafale aircraft".

Indian Army Reforms: Cutting Administrative Flab Or Needless Downsizing?

Army chief General Bipin Rawat is set to issue orders to reduce personnel at the Army Headquarters (AHQ) in New Delhi. The move is being viewed as an indirect attack on the lobby for postings in the capital

ThePrint asks – Indian Army reforms: Cutting administrative flab or needless downsizing?

Whims of political and military leadership have driven reforms in Indian armed forces

Major General Ashok Mehta (Retd) - Founder-member, Defence Planning Staff, Ministry of Defence and columnist, security issues

The national security establishment did not carry out any systematic strategic and defence reviews. It resorted to ad-hocism instead. The driver for its reforms has largely been the whims of political and military leadership.

Reforms have taken place earlier as well. There were the K.V.K. Rao reforms in the mid-1970s. In the 1980s came the first systematic security review by the defence planning staff. Needless to say, it wasn’t fully implemented. Then, the Kargil review committee report, the Naresh Chandra task force recommendations and most recently, the Shekatkar committee report came out. These reports have some very valuable recommendations that need to be reviewed and implemented.

Currently, a similar internal review is being carried out by Army chief, Bipin Rawat. It has two objectives: to carry out reforms and cut administrative flab. It aims to improve the tooth-to-tail ratio, in other words, downsize the army. There is a precedent for this. General Ved Prakash Malik did exactly this during his tenure as Army chief from 1997 to 2000. He cut manpower by 50,000 and saved at least Rs 5,000 crore which was supposed to be diverted towards modernising the Army, but never was.

Some internal reforms are also being attempted. These consist of a reorganisation of the Army headquarters, streamlining combat formations and removing further flab. Moreover, the chief is attempting to reduce the number of combatants being used for non-combat duties with senior serving and retired officers.

On the operational side, changes should be made after a holistic review is carried out. The two other forces, especially the Air Force, should be involved in this decision.

Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency have now become the primary role of the Indian Army. Almost one-third of the Army is utilised for this. In addition, the Army provides up to 10,000 troops at any point in time for peacekeeping. Maybe it is time to revisit the old proposal that advocates segregating the Indian Army into an internal security force and a conventional force to deal with external threats.

Can’t afford to reduce military size, India needs boots on the ground

Air Marshal M. Matheswaran - Former deputy chief of integrated defence staff in HQ IDS, Ministry of Defence

Downsizing the military, especially the Army, seems to be the flavour of discussions in New Delhi and in academic, strategic, and financial circles. Much of it is lop-sided and without clear understanding.

The Army chief’s recent statement is more about reducing the administrative flab in the headquarters and enhancing the combat potential rather than downsizing the Army. His view on enhancing the combat potential is also about changes in ‘operational philosophy’. But, critics are likely to grab the wrong end of this statement and holler for downsizing the Army.

Organisational restructuring in militaries is an important element of revolution in Indian military affairs (RIIMA). But that cannot be the first step. RIIMA must address the changes required in the ‘operational philosophy’ – driven in part by technology, and in part by politico-strategic considerations.

It is the operational philosophy that should drive the organisational restructuring that is necessary. The Indian Army has a lot of flab, not necessarily in the HQ but due to its colonial legacies and traditions. This flab needs to be converted into a full-fledged combat force.

India cannot afford to reduce its military size, least of all its Army strength of 1.3 million. We need the effective strength of boots on the ground. The RIIMA needs to focus on this aspect of modernisation driven by operational and strategic necessities. The same logic applies to the Air Force and the Navy, wherein they need to enhance their combat potential by removing wasteful appendages and flab. They also have a case for increasing their strength, but that must come after restructuring to remove their flab.

Without proper execution, this will remain a cosmetic standalone exercise 

Lt Gen H S Panag (R) - Former GOC-in-C, Northern & Central commands

As per media reports, the Indian Army is in the process of a holistic cadre review to “restructure” and “right size” the Army to bring about a revolution in Indian military affairs (RIIMA). The study has been ordered in May 2018 and is likely to take six months to come up with concrete proposals.

Media’s focus has been on the “proposal” to do away with the division headquarters and place the restructured all-arms brigades directly under the corps headquarters. This concept was adopted by the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan post-Gulf War 2.

The proposed study must have government approval, it must be tri-service in nature and the defence minister should be the prime mover. More importantly, the government needs to first formalise a national security strategy. Only then can it formulate a force development strategy in tune with the RIIMA. The government has to finance the RIIMA, which is a very costly exercise. Thus, it has to be top-down in concept and bottom-up in execution.

Once the recommendations for RIIMA crystallise, trials would have to be carried out before the final approval. The funding and execution of such a revolution takes place over 5-10 years.

At the moment, RIIMA does not seem to be on the government’s radar. In the absence of the above prerequisites, the Indian Army’s study will remain a standalone cosmetic exercise and nothing more. It would be prudent for the three chiefs to get together and prevail upon the government to create the prerequisites for the RIIMA to begin.

In the project’s gestation period, there is ample scope for the three services to carry out an in-house organisational review to reduce the manpower flab. In view of modern weapon systems with much higher accuracy and lethality, there is no point in hanging on to the World War 2 organisations. This exercise alone can “down size” the army by 25 per cent.

Before General Bipin Rawat can downsize Army, he needs to ensure change of mindset

Sujan Dutta - Editor, Defence, ThePrint

Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s move to cut administrative flab in his headquarters, create integrated brigades and “right size” his force is in sync with global trends in modern militaries. As he sets out to push through his ideas, there are three urgent requirements.

The first is a change of culture or, as Rawat is fond of saying, a change of mindset. This would involve not just a willingness to accept a new structure in the military hierarchy that he has proposed – doing away with divisions, for example – but also mean using new signs of respect for soldiers through the ranks.

It would mean, for example, doing away with the “sahayak” system. Despite its origins – when the sahayak used to be the radio operator of the officer – the system has gotten corrupted over the years. There are occasions wherein sahayaks have been used for menial labour in officers’ family quarters.

With the rise in the standard of education and the increasing use of digital technology, soldiers today are far more informed than a decade ago. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of soldiers who have used social media to complain about internal systems of discrimination has increased.

The second important requirement is the infusion of technology. This does not have to do only with the Army. Indeed, the Army has limited powers for acquisition of weapons although it is the biggest user.

Acquisition processes have been so tardy that most proposals usually outlast the governments that shape them. “Rightsizing” the 1.3 million-strong Army without the technology that will enhance firepower and agility runs the risk of weakening it.

A third important requirement is for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to synergise not only operations but also systems. Turf wars are not unknown.

The services have to address administrative issues that may crop up with Rawat’s proposals, such as what happens to the equivalent ranks of the Brigadier in the Air Force and the Navy (Air Commodores and Commodores) if the rank were to be abolished in the Army.

India Refutes Pakistan's Claim of PM Modi Offering Talks In Letter To Imran Khan

Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi claimed on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an offer of talks in his letter to newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi claimed on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an offer of talks in his letter to newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. But citing sources Indian media reported that the letter written by PM Modi to his Pakistani counterpart was congratulatory in nature and contained no such proposal.

India has reportedly rejected any possibility of dialogue unless Pakistan makes a complete clampdown on terror emanating from its soil.

While addressing the media at the Foreign Office in Islamabad, Qureshi, who took oath of office as part of Khan’s cabinet, said, “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a letter to PM Imran Khan in which he indicated the beginning of talks between the two countries.”

He said that there was need for “continued, uninterrupted dialogue” between the two neighbours but did not forget to raise the Kashmir issue.

“India and Pakistan have to move forward keeping realities before them,” he asserted adding that the issues between the two nations are “complicated and we may face hurdles in resolving them”.

“We will have to admit that we are facing problems, we must admit that Kashmir is a reality,” he said.

Recalling late Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan when he was the Prime Minister of India, Qureshi said that the “Islamabad declaration is a part of our history”. He was referring to joint declaration of SAARC nations at the 12th Summit meeting held in Islamabad on 4-6 January 2004.

“We may have a different approach and line of thinking, but I want to see a change in how we behave,” Geo News quoted him as saying.

According to Geo News, Qureshi also directly addressed Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urging her to resolve issues through dialogue.

“I want to tell the Indian foreign minister that we are not just neighbours; we are atomic powers. We have a lot of common resources. We have long-standing issues; both of us know these problems. But we have no other option but to engage in dialogue. We cannot afford adventurism,” he said.

Imran Khan, the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), took oath as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan on 18 August following his victory in the General Elections on 25 July 2018.

Meanwhile, newly reinstated Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said that he would be very happy if India and Pakistan hold talks while expressing his happiness at the appointment of his “long time friend” SM Qureshi as the foreign minister.

PM Modi Writes To Imran Khan, Underlines Good Relations, Meaningful Engagement

In the letter, Modi has also underlined the need to make the Indian subcontinent “free of terror and violence” — which also outlines the BJP-led NDA government’s core concern on terrorism

by Shubhajit Roy

In his letter, PM Narendra Modi also stressed that India looks forward to “constructive and meaningful engagement with Pakistan.”

In what is being seen as an outreach to Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and has expressed a commitment to build “good neighbourly relations” and pursue “meaningful and constructive engagement” for the benefit of the region, sources said on Monday.

This was part of Modi’s letter to Khan, which was written on August 18, the day he was sworn in as the new Prime Minister.

In the letter, Modi has also underlined the need to make the Indian subcontinent “free of terror and violence” — which also outlines the BJP-led NDA government’s core concern on terrorism.

However, the outreach is significant, since Khan had — in his victory speech — said that if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two steps.

According to sources, Modi, who wrote to Khan and congratulated him on his assumption of charge, “expressed the belief that the smooth transition of Government in Pakistan would strengthen and cement people’s belief in democracy”.

This is also a message of support to Khan’s electoral victory, which has been questioned by Opposition parties in Pakistan who have called the elections “rigged” and “unfair”.

In the letter, sources said, Modi “recalled their telephone conversation, in which they spoke of their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent, in order to make it free of terror and violence, and to focus on development”.

“The Prime Minister expressed India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region,” sources said.

Information about Modi’s letter to Khan was disclosed by newly elected Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday when he told Pakistan’s media that Modi had sent a letter with a message about starting the path of dialogue.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson later clarified that Qureshi had not said that “the Indian Prime Minister had made an offer of a dialogue”, but had said “that the Indian Prime Minister in his letter to Prime Minister, Imran Ahmed Khan, had also mentioned something similar to what the Foreign Minister elucidated earlier, that is, that the way forward was only through constructive engagement”.

“The Foreign Minister was also briefed about the same positivity and constructive environment prevailing during the meeting of the former Minister of Law & Information with the Indian External Affairs Minister during his visit to India on 18 August 2018 to attend the funeral of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson said.

“Pakistan looks forward to a mutually beneficial, uninterrupted dialogue with India to resolve all issues. Any attempts to instigate controversy and vitiate the environment are counter-productive and against the spirit of responsible journalism,” the spokesperson said, in a statement released by Pakistan High Commission in Delhi.

The letter from Modi to Khan comes about three weeks after Modi had called up Khan and congratulated him for emerging as the largest political party in the National Assembly of Pakistan in the recently conducted general elections.

“Prime Minister expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan…and had also reiterated his vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood”, an official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs had said, without making any reference to “terror-free atmosphere”.

The emphasis on “terror-free atmosphere” has been Delhi’s standard language template in response to Pakistan’s overtures in the last two-and-half years.

After the telephone conversation between the two leaders, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria had met Khan on August 10 and had gifted a cricket bat autographed by the Indian cricket team. They had discussed the prospects of the India-Pakistan relationship and a range of issues, according to Bisaria. According to Khan’s party colleagues, the PM-elect had raised the issue of human rights violations in Kashmir.

In its first reaction on general elections in Pakistan, the MEA’s official spokesperson had hoped the new government in Islamabad will work constructively to build a safe, stable and secure South Asia “free of terror” and “violence”.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that India desires a “prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours”. He had also said that India welcomed that the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections.

“We hope that the new government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence,” Kumar had said.

India, Japan Resolve To Deepen Maritime Cooperation

On India's proposal to procure the US-2 amphibious aircraft, the statement said the ministers noted the effort made by both countries over it

India and Japan today decided to expand their maritime cooperation and work together to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, which is witnessing growing Chinese assertiveness, officials said.

The two countries also decided hold the first-ever joint Army exercise later this year besides deepening cooperation in co-development of military hardware and weapons.

The decisions were taken during wide-ranging talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera.

The India-Japan defence dialogue came a day before Chinese defence Wei Fenghe arrives here on a four-day visit.

Officials said the two ministers also exchanged views on India's long-pending proposal to procure the US-2 ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft from Japan for its Navy.

The two sides also firmed up a project in the area of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) and robotics, marking the start of first such bilateral initiative.

They said Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Indian Navy are working towards firming up an arrangement for deeper cooperation between the two navies.

"The ministers shared the recognition that it is important for the two countries to further strengthen defence and security cooperation under the 'Japan-lndia Special Strategic and Global Partnership' that aligns Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy' with India's 'Act East Policy'," a a joint press statement said.

It said Sitharaman and Onodera recognised that stability of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are crucial for ensuring the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.

The two ministers also deliberated on the situation in Korean Peninsula.

"The ministers reaffirmed that they have shared interests in expanding cooperation in the maritime security domain and welcomed the fact that Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Indian Navy are working towards the signing of the Implementing Arrangement for Deeper Cooperation between the two navies," the statement said.

On technology sharing, it said engagement between the Acquisition, Technology and Logistical Agency (ATLA) of Japan and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has resulted in a joint project in the area of development of Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) and Robotics.

"The Ministers recognised the importance of promoting defence equipment and technology cooperation through a joint effort between the public and private sectors in order to bilaterally strengthen technological capability," said the statement.

On India's proposal to procure the US-2 amphibious aircraft, the statement said the ministers noted the effort made by both countries over it.

Hardliners Upset As Imran Khan Skips Kashmir In His Address After Becoming Pak PM

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (R) administers the oath to Imran Khan (L) as Prime Minister of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan here on Saturday morning

Abdul Basit, a former High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi, tweeted that he was “saddened” that the PM didn’t express solidarity with Kashmiris

The newly installed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan skipping any reference to Kashmir in his maiden address to the nation after taking over reins of the country has upset the hardliners in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Pakistan.

Imran Khan after being sworn in as Prime Minister on Saturday in his address to the nation did not touch the Kashmir issue and confined himself to the internal situation and worsening economic scenario of Pakistan.

Irked over the issue, Abdul Basit, a former High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi, was the first to react by tweeting that he was “saddened” that the PM didn’t express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Many among Basit’s followers on his Twitter account were quick to snub him for raking up the Kashmir issue in his every tweet and regretted that he never talked about real issues like water, energy, health, education and terrorism.

Basit during his stint in New Delhi repeatedly made controversial statements about Kashmir and was in regular touch with the anti-India Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani. His reaction to Imran Khan’s address is being seen as the viewpoint of the hardliners in Pakistan.

During an earlier address after winning the elections, Imran Khan had last week expressed “solidarity” with Kashmiris but in his speech after becoming PM, he said that Pakistan was desirous of peace with its neighbouring countries as only peace was the key to development and prosperity.

The valley-based separatists had relished the earlier speech of Imran Khan but were apparently disappointed now as his address as PM was virtually the official policy of the new government.

Separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said while extending his best wishes to Imran Khan, “hope that Mr Khan is instrumental in the resolution of our long-standing dispute & peace in the subcontinent”.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s continued hostility, residents of the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir are taking the peace slogan of Imran Khan with a pinch of salt unless he takes some concrete steps to check frequent unprovoked shelling in civilian areas by the Pakistan troops and their active support to terrorists to infiltrate into India.

The border residents recall the 10 years between 2003 and 2013 as the golden period during which not a single gunfire was exchanged on the international border and the Line of Control (LoC). The NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh ruled the country during the period.

In Potential Challenge To Army, Pakistan Seeks India Talks

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comments set up a potential rift with the military top brass, who were said to have supported Imran Khan because they thought he wouldn't challenge their authority

Pak's foreign minister called for "uninterrupted dialogue" with India. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said there is "no other option but to engage". His comments reiterate Imran Khan's olive branch to India last month

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he will seek talks with India and Afghanistan as part of a regional peace initiative and claimed that foreign policy would be determined by the civilian government, setting up a potential clash with the powerful military.

Qureshi, of Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that formed government this month, called for an "uninterrupted dialogue" with India and said he would visit the Afghan capital Kabul to bridge trust in a tense bilateral relationship. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a letter to Khan that also stated a desire to restart talks between the two nuclear-armed rivals. A government official in New Delhi said PM Modi had sent a general congratulatory letter and declined to comment further.

Pakistan and India "have no other option but to engage," Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad on Monday. "I want to go to Afghanistan with the message of a new beginning,"

Qureshi's comments reiterate Khan's olive branch to India last month, which was greeted with skepticism across the border. Pakistan's armed forces have for years been accused of supporting and providing sanctuary to terror groups that strike at India and Afghanistan. The army has repeatedly denied the charges, but the military has directly ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 71-year existence and it continues to assert its grip on foreign and national security policies.

In an answer to a question about military influence, Qureshi said "the foreign policy of Pakistan will be formed here at the foreign office." Those comments set up a potential rift with the top brass, who were said to have supported Khan because they thought he wouldn't challenge their authority.

Military Dominance

Khan and the military have repeatedly denied those charges and the 65-year-old former cricket star told Bloomberg News in early July that the army was filling a vacuum because Pakistan has "such incompetent people dealing with the government's foreign policy."

However, no sitting prime minister has ever completed their five-year term and analysts say the military turned against Khan's predecessor and now jailed former premier, Nawaz Sharif, because he challenged their dominance.

Pakistan's outreach to India stands in contrast to Khan's previous comments on PM Modi, who he called an "anti-Muslim politician" in an interview with Bloomberg News last year. Khan said PM Modi's handling of the 2002 riots in Gujarat -- where roughly 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims -- constitutes "a black mark on Indian society."

Qureshi also said Pakistan would seek "straight talks" with the U.S. and that trust in the troubled relationship has to be rebuilt. This year U.S. President Donald Trump has pressured Islamabad to act against terror groups inside the country and suspended military aid. 

Washington also pushed for Pakistan's inclusion on a global terrorism financing watch list.

Yet it's the military that own these relationships, said Shaista Tabassum, chairwoman of international relations at the University of Karachi. "Verbally these statements look good, but how will they do it practically remains to be seen.

Army Studying Force Reorganisation And Optimisation

Army now studying force reorganisation and optimisation, flattening headquarters at different levels, cadre review and terms of engagement for officers and Jawans. Results will be discussed at the Army commanders' conference in October. Feasibility of raising 'special operations force brigades' for the borders with Pakistan and China also being considered

NEW DELHI: The over 1.2 million strong Indian Army plans to launch a massive transformative exercise by early-2019 to emerge as a lean, mean, rapidly-deployable and operationally versatile force in the years ahead, grappling as it is with a ballooning revenue expenditure and pension bill that leaves little for modernisation.

Top sources say the results of four ongoing studies, all headed by senior Lt-Generals, on force reorganisation and optimisation, flattening headquarters at different levels, cadre review and terms of engagement for officers and jawans will be discussed at the Army commanders’ conference in October.

Proposal cleared for modernisation of Army's armoured vehicles

“Army chief General Bipin Rawat will then take stock of the final consolidated and integrated plan towards end-November before it is sent to the defence ministry for clearance. If all goes well, the implementation should begin early next year,” said a source.

It remains to be seen how many of the radical measures under discussion actually translate on the ground due to institutional resistance and general politico-bureaucratic apathy. But there is no getting away from the fact that there is an urgent need to improve the Army’s poor teeth-to-tail ratio and boost its combat capabilities to ensure the force can meet future operational challenges with strategic flexibility and budgetary prudence.

Interestingly, the feasibility of raising “special operations force brigades” for the western and northern borders with Pakistan and China is also being considered under the overall plan. The other proposals range from slashing non-operational or administrative flab and downsizing the Army headquarters in Delhi to creating composite and integrated brigades, with four to five battalions each instead of the existing three, which will be commanded by Major-Generals.

The proposal for these integrated brigades ties in with the ongoing cadre review of officers, which is mulling the radical step of doing away with the rank of Brigadier or brigade commanders to ensure better career prospects and parity with the civil services as well as arrest its greying profile of commanders, as was earlier reported by TOI. 

The integrated brigades will be larger combat forces, with all arms and services under them, and will report directly to the corps headquarters. This will eliminate the need to have divisional headquarters, each of which controls three brigades at present, in the middle.

The Army currently has six operational or regional commands, which have 14 corps and 49 divisions under them, and one training command. “Some divisional HQs, especially under the four strike corps (1 Corps at Mathura, 2 Corps at Ambala, 21 Corps at Bhopal and the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps) may have to be retained but most can be done away with,” said a source. 

Similarly, with the same intention to ensure more officers are available for postings to frontline operational units rather than being deployed for staff duties, a drastic downsizing of the Army HQ at New Delhi is also on the cards.

“The Army HQ has become unwieldy. It’s being examined which branches or directorates can be merged, and the ones that can be closed down or relocated out of Delhi. There is lot of overlap and duplicity in the charter of directorates/branches as of now,” said another source.

“The two directorates for procurement, Perspective Planning and Weapons & Equipment, for instance, can be brought under a single authority. The aim is to improve functional efficiency and usher in faster decision-making in the hierarchy,” he added.

All these measures, it is felt, will transform the Indian Army into an agile and efficient war-fighting machinery, with formations that can rapidly deploy from one front to the other. China, incidentally, has re-organised its 2.2-million People’s Liberation Army into five theatre commands to crank up its offensive capabilities as well as establish better command-and-control structures. Its Western Theatre Command now handles the entire 4,057-km Line of Actual Control with India, instead of the earlier Chengdu Military Region in the east and the Lanzhou Military Region towards the north.

How China Steals U.S. Secrets

China wants to steal U.S. secrets and is very good at doing so

“China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest, most pervasive, most threatening challenge we face as a country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Aspen Security Forum in July.

A recent U.S. government report titled “Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace” indicates how multifaceted China is when it comes to stealing American intellectual property and U.S. government secrets.

“China has expansive efforts in place to acquire U.S. technology to include sensitive trade secrets and proprietary information,” states the report by the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre (NCSC). “It continues to use cyber espionage to support its strategic development goals — science and technology advancement, military modernisation, and economic policy objectives.”

Here’s a look at how the U.S. views China’s strategic goals:

Source: National Counterintelligence and Security Center

Spurce: NCSC, “Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace”

China hopes to further its strategic development goals by using cyber espionage to target “U.S. private industry, focusing on cleared defense contractors or IT and communications firms whose products and services support government and private sector networks worldwide,” the NCSC asserted.

Detailing tactics ranging from engaging academic collaborations to human espionage to hacking, the report shows how Beijing has invested considerable effort to acquire technological know-how from the U.S.

“We believe that China will continue to be a threat to U.S. proprietary technology and intellectual property through cyber-enabled means or other methods,” the report, which also examines Russia and Iran, concludes on China. “If this threat is not addressed, it could erode America’s long-term competitive economic advantage.”

Paul Moore, a former China analyst for the FBI, explained China’s spying mindset with an analogy:

“If a beach were a target, the Russians would send in a sub, frogmen would steal ashore in the dark of night and collect several buckets of sand and take them back to Moscow. The U.S. would send over satellites and produce reams of data. The Chinese would send in a thousand tourists, each assigned to collect a single grain of sand. When they returned, they would be asked to shake out their towels. And they would end up knowing more about the sand than anyone else.”

China has been stealing U.S. intellectual property for decades. Here are some of the recent espionage activities that we know of (organized by type of collection):

Intelligence Services

The most worrying of all is how the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) and military intelligence offices are involved in China’s technology acquisition efforts (in addition to foiling CIA spying efforts).

For example, earlier this year a former U.S. intelligence officer was charged with smuggling information about U.S. military and intelligence issues in exchange for money.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, who had served for 20 years in the U.S. Army (including a few months with the Defense Intelligence Agency), allegedly attended trade conferences on behalf of China and shared the information he had gathered with officials who were connected to Chinese intelligence.

Hansen’s case is just one of many where China targets U.S. citizens to procure U.S. defence secrets, from military aircraft to nuclear systems.

In cases where they can’t entice U.S. intelligence officials or insiders, China also engages in hacking — such as in the case of the F-35 fighter jets.

In 2015, according to documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, it was revealed that Chinese hackers had stolen data on the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jet from subcontractor Lockheed Martin (LMT).

The case — being one among many more — showed how Chinese hackers are using information mined from U.S. defense contractors to make their own weapons.

The F-35 was turned into China-made stealth fighters such as the J-31 and Chengdu J-20, which has serious national security implications.

Non-Traditional Collectors

According to the NCSC, China uses individuals with a primary profession in science or business to target and acquire U.S. technology.

For example, a General Electric (GE) engineer with ties to China was recently arrested and accused of stealing files related to proprietary power-turbine technology.

Xiaoqing Zheng, a U.S. citizen, was hired by GE to work in its power division in New York. In 2014, GE’s corporate security team detected that Zheng had copied more than 19,000 files from a GE–owned computer to an external storage device. He told GE officials that he had deleted the files — but then repeated the offense in 2017.

The FBI, which worked closely with GE on this case, said Zheng elaborately concealed his actions to avoid detection.

Zheng was arrested in early August 2018.

Silicon Valley, in particular, has become a den of foreign spies targeting various types of information, as detailed by Zach Dorfman in Politico.

“The Chinese just have vast resources,” Kathleen Puckett, who worked counterintelligence in the Bay Area from 1979 to 2007, told Dorfman. “They have all the time in the world, and all the patience in the world. Which is what you need more than anything.” 

Last month, U.S. authorities arrested a former Apple Inc. engineer on charges of stealing driverless car secrets for a Chinese startup.

Joint Ventures (JV)

China also uses JVs to acquire technology and technical know-how, according to the report.

Joint ventures are collaborative in theory: Two companies work together to learn from each other’s best practices. But when you’re working with China, it gets murky.

If a foreign firm wants to enter certain industries in China, it usually needs to form a joint venture with a local partner.

And according to a paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NEBR) that looked at all international joint ventures in China from 1998 to 2007, the Chinese firms exploit those relationships to gain substantial knowledge from them, which could then be used to replicate the same product.

For example, in a 2017 survey by the U.S.–China Business Council, nearly 20% of American businesses operating in China said that they have been directly asked to transfer technology to a Chinese partner during negotiations.

But it’s difficult to track these trends as “firms have an incentive to keep quiet about these things because part of the quid pro quo is to not complain about what they have to give up for market access,” Thomas Holmes, author of the NBER report, told Yahoo Finance.

Holmes highlighted a case involving German conglomerate Siemens (SIE.DE) as an example of a JV enabling theft of information.

In 2011, the chief executive of French engineering company Alstom (ALO.PA), Patrick Kron, suggested that Siemens may have inadvertently slipped technical know-how to Chinese companies through a high-speed trains partnership.

Kron said then that Alstom was reluctant to enter partnerships in China because he didn’t want to hand over “high-technology components” to Chinese business partners who could use them to turn around and compete against the same companies.

Alstom had previously asserted that 90% of the high-speed rail technology the Chinese are using is derived from their partnerships or equipment that foreign companies had developed.

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)

In some cases, China seeks to buy companies outright that have the technology, facilities, and people that it desires. These sometimes end up as Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) cases, which has the ability to block deals.

But CFIUS has let cases slip through its far too wide fishnet.

Early last year, when a company called Avatar Integrated Systems declared bankruptcy, China swooped hoping to buy one of the company’s previous acquisitions, ATop Tech, which was a chip-designer.

The transaction went through without much fuss from the U.S. government, despite the company making products critical to U.S. military systems. These kinds of deals, particularly with companies that are part of a larger supply chain, would have major national security implications if manipulated or counterfeit Chinese components ended up in military supply chains.

Talent Recruitment Programs

China also uses its talent recruitment programs to find foreign experts to return to China and work on key strategic programs. China also heavily recruits scientists from abroad enticing them with big paychecks. The country is even offering fast-tracked work visas geared towards Nobel laureates, coaches, and athletes.

Last year, Chinese–American nuclear engineer Allen Ho pled guilty to conspiring to produce “special nuclear material” in China. 

Ho was employed as a consultant by a company called CGNPC — China General Nuclear Power Company — and helped them recruit and execute contracts with U.S.-based nuclear engineers to assist in the design and manufacturing of components for nuclear reactors. He also helped facilitate travel to China and payments for the experts in exchange for their services.

Ho is currently serving a two-year prison sentence.

Pakistan Wants 'Uninterrupted' Dialogue With India Says Qureshi

Shah Mahmood Qureshi was the foreign minister from 2008 to 2011 under PPP government

Islamabad: Pakistan's new foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi today extended the hand of friendship to India soon after taking oath by offering "uninterrupted" dialogue to resolve all the outstanding issues, saying it is the "only wise course" as the two countries cannot afford any "adventurism".

After the swearing-in ceremony at the President House, Mr Qureshi went to Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs to address the media.

Mr Qureshi was the foreign minister from 2008 to 2011 under the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government when the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks took place. He was in New Delhi when 10 Pakistan-based LeT terrorists attacked India's financial capital.

The new foreign minister said Pakistan wants to rebuild ties with eastern and western neighbours and create peace in the region.

He said Pakistan wants to resolve all issues with India through talks. "We need a continued uninterrupted dialogue. It is the only wise course for us," he said.

The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place.

The ties between the two countries had strained after the terror attacks by Pakistan-based groups in 2016 and India's surgical strikes inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The sentencing of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court in April last year further deteriorated bilateral ties

Qureshi, the vice-president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, today said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj sent a letter yesterday to congratulate Prime Minister Imran Khan and mentioned about talks to resolve issues. "I welcome her letter," he said.

"I want to say to Indian Foreign Minister that we are not only neighbours but also nuclear powers. We have old issues and we both know what these issues are. We need to address these issues," he said.

Mr Qureshi said that the two countries cannot afford any adventurism due to close proximity.

"We cannot afford any adventurism as response time is so short. The only option is to engage with each other. We cannot live in enmity and we have to accept that there are outstanding issues," he said. He also added Kashmir is an issue and both countries know about it.

He said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore and Islamabad and recognised the reality of Pakistan and the issue of Kashmir.

"Whether we wish or not, Kashmir is an issue and both countries have recognised it. In my opinion there is no option other than talks to resolve it," he said.

Prime Minister Khan in his maiden address to the nation yesterday said Pakistan will hold talks with all its neighbours to normalise ties as without it peace cannot be brought in the country.

Earlier, in his address after leading his party to victory in the general elections on July 25, Khan had said Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the "core issue" of Kashmir, through talks.

"If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least (we) need a start," he had said.

Talking about Afghanistan, Mr Qureshi said he will make a phone call to the foreign minister of Afghanistan and also visit Kabul with a "solid message" that both countries have same destiny. "There will be no peace in Pakistan without peace in Afghanistan," he said.

"I want to tell people of Afghanistan to understand each other's problems and bilaterally try to resolve all issues," he said.

Talking about relations with the US, he said there is trust deficit between the two countries but Pakistan wants to have good ties based on its interests.

Qureshi said that the foreign policy of the new government will be based on interests of Pakistan and it can be fine-tuned according to the needs of the nation.

He said that priority of Pakistan's foreign policy will be "how we can change lives of common people through economic diplomacy." "We will try to change lives of people through socio-economic development," he said.

He said there are enormous local and regional challenges but "we want to make progress on these issues." "Some forces have been trying to isolate the country but it will not happen now," he said.
He said his government will build national consensus on foreign affairs. "I will follow bipartisan approach on the issues of foreign policy."

He announced that he will invite Opposition leaders for consultations before the next month's UN General Assembly session.

CPEC Chimera: Pakistan, China’s Hip Pocket?

Border between China and Pakistan

The significance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, has been visualised in terms of the socio-economic development not only of Pakistan rather for the entire region as well.

Primarily, it is conceived as the developmental project focusing on regional connectivity though the highways, railways, pipelines etc. to sort out the energy deficiency and lack of infrastructure of Pakistan and for China, the materialization of its ambitious project of regional connectivity. The enhancement of trade & commerce, peace & development, human resource development, livelihood opportunities along with the ensuring stability and security of the region, are the main focus of the CPEC. Thus, it has been taken as game and fate changers, which could transform Pakistan into a developed economy. The irony is that CPEC is entrapping Pakistan into financial crisis and making it China’s hip-pocket.

CPEC And Pakistan Economy’s Promising Future?

The political and military leadership of Pakistan are holding views that the CPEC would bring the promising future for its economy. The CPEC is the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping as a part of ambitious project under the umbrella of regional connectivity design -the One Belt, One Road (OBOR). The project has been reciprocated very positively by the Pakistan’s ruling civilian and military leadership in speculation of sea of opportunities in terms of economic, security and political offered by the CPEC.

The project is networks of port, pipelines, highways, railways etc. Eventually, it would be helpful in increasing trade and fulfilling energy demand by connecting the Chinese city of Kashgar to the Indian Ocean through the Pakistani port of Gwadar. Corollary, it is anticipated that the proposed project would give a push to the development of infrastructures and growth of economy with the help of FDI ($46 billion) committed on part of China. Now, the same has reached to the value of $ 62 billion.

The Pakistani politicians particularly from the ruling party including media have been calling the CPEC investments as “game and fate changer” for the region. Moody’s Investors Service has called this project as a “credit positive” for Pakistan. While speaking on the 140th birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Peshawar) Pakistani President Mamnoon has projected CPEC as a lifeline for the Pakistan economy. At the same time, he warned the people of Pakistan are to be aware of the internal and external propaganda against the multibillion-dollars project CPEC.

The scholars like Ahmad and Mi (2017) have argued that this project would bring the real economic prosperity for Pakistan. They were also of the conviction that rather it would facilitate in creating a promising future not only for the Pakistan, rather for the entire region as well. In All Parties Meeting (APM) convened (201 May 2015) by the PM had supported the CPEC and the commitment on part of Chinese leadership was taken as a welcome step. The CPEC will improve Pakistan’s current economy as well as the lives of nearly three billion people cutting across the boundaries.

Riaz Ahmad (2018) in his opinion, “CPEC & its Importance”, has dreamt of Pakistani economy that it is likely to emerge as one of the best Asian economies. The World Bank has also predicted that Pakistan’s economic growth will grow at the 5.4% given the increased inflow of foreign investment from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The project has been envisioned as the corridor of development, peace, and prosperity. The project has a lot of potentials to provide a promising future by boosting trade and investment, three to four-time profit out of investment, the creation of new business and job opportunities and elimination of poverty. It has positive impacts on infrastructure, the energy requirements, workforce development and economic progress.

CPEC: Variegated Dilemma

CPEC has received a mixed response- positive and negative. Politically too, this project has taken as both positive and negative. While addressing (August 4, 2016) the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Parliamentary Meeting in Islamabad, PM Sharif called the CPEC a major gift from China. The importance of CPEC for Pakistan could be highlighted by PM Nawaz Sharif’s statement, which believed that the project is going to make Pakistan as, “a regional manufacturing hub and a lucrative market for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).”

From the negative side, the CPEC has not going well with the Pakistani businessmen. This can be substantiated by an argument of a businessman (head of a large investment company), who is highly critical of the project, “We have to be careful if we don’t want this [CPEC] to turn into a repeat of the East India Company”. The same views have been echoed by Senator Tahir Mashahdi (Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development) who said, “Another East India Company is in the offing; … but the interests of the state should come first.” One another senator Saeedul Hassan also alleged that, “… will this [project] be a national development or a national calamity? Whatever loans taken from China will have to be paid by the poor people of Pakistan.”

The CPEC has become a bone of contention and controversy among the Federal, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan governments. However, these allegations and apprehensions were encountered by the Pakistani Planning Ministry spokesman as baseless and unfair fears.

The major cause of concerns and controversies are due to transparency lack in terms of terms, conditions, and financial details related to CPEC. The State Bank of Pakistan Governor, in an interview with Reuters has said that, “I don’t know out of the $46 billion [in CPEC deals] how much is debt, how much is in equity, and how much is in kind. CPEC needs to be more transparent.” In the backdrop of exponentially increasing Chinese FDI, the IMF Chief Christine Lagarde has also cautioned Pakistan about the potentially unfavourable economic fallout.

Chinese Loan: Pakistan-A Hip Pocket

About $50 billion has been committed on part of China to complete the CPEC project by 2030. About $35 bn for energy projects and $15 bn for mass transit schemes, Gwadar development, industrial zones, and infrastructure. Although the energy projects are planned to be competed by 2020 but seems that the same is not going to be competed before 2023 given the bureaucratic hurdles. On the other hand, the infrastructure projects ($10 bn) like highways, roads, airport and port development are anticipated to be concluded by 2025, while the remaining projects ($ 5bn) by 2025-30.

Pakistan debt has been increased many folds and it is anticipated that it would reach to US$ 90 billion in 2019. China has become the largest lender to Pakistan. Out of this debt, about $19 bn including $ 14 bn ( about 1/5 of its total debt) is owed only to China. This inflating amount of debt is seriously abating the Pakistan’s ability to pay the same. Moreover, it is anticipated that the debt would be reaching to the 70 percent of the total size of the GDP during the ongoing fiscal year despite setting the limit of the same at 60 percent of the GDP by the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, (FRDLA) 2005.

It becomes important to know the health of the Pakistan economy. Some of the commentaries have argued that the health of Pakistan economy has remained comparatively in a better position under the military rule rather than under the civilian political setup. Can the Pakistan watchers may anticipate the health of economy likely to become bad to worse under the stewardship of PM Imran Khan? Generally, it is presumed that the public debt may be the result of the bad governance and there is probability of so in Pakistan given the formation of coalition government as experienced in a number of countries. The external debt had already reached to 70% of the total GDP.

The new government under the stewardship of Imran is going to inherit faltering economy, huge trade deficit, massive foreign debit, currency crisis, low forex, plunging stock market and the balance of payment. Pakistan has also been plagued by the widespread corruption, lack of law enforcement and lack of education, health, water, electricity facilities etc. Fissiparous tendencies have become one of the major security challenges.

The health of the economy is at the lowest ebb. The growth rate has been remain averaged at 4.91 percent between 1952 to 2016. It was reached at the highest and lowest rate (10.22 and 1.80 percent), in 1954 and 1952 respectively. It is facing a high rate of fiscal and current-account deficits, inflation, and poor performance of macroeconomic indicators. The external debt along with liabilities has reached the highest rate of the GDP. Shahid K. K. (2018, July 15) has argued long with other major economies, Pakistan has also been suffering from the same, which is currently standing at 70.7 %.

Chief Executive Officer (Zubair Ghulam Hussain) of the Insight Securities Pvt. (Karachi) has remarked over the currency volatility, “The nation’s current-account deficit had become sizable and foreign debt repayment obligations were also rising.” Pakistan’s Central Bank has devalued its currency three times since December 2017, particularly in the backdrop of worsening and faltering economy. In the background of failures in terms of foreign, defense and economic policies, Rehman Malik has remarked that the Pakistan economy is on the ventilator. In this context, how Pakistan would be able to pay its loan to China when its economy and forex are not suffice to meet its two months imports?

Options To Bailout From Crisis?

In this scenario, what are the options left for Pakistan and what it should learn from the Sri Lankan experience in respect of the developmental project undertaken by China. Sri Lanka had taken billions of dollars in loans from China for developmental projects (Hambantota-port and airport) without bothering the unpropitious economic fallouts. Ultimately, failing to pay the loan, Sri Lanka had to handover Hambantota and airport to China for 99 years.

Along with the faltering economy, the external dynamics are also not in favour of Pakistan. The relations with the US are at the lowest ebb. The US military and economic assistance to Pakistan have partly been suspended. Moreover, it has been put in the grey list due to money laundering and financing terrorism by the international watchdog FATF. It would likely to create several financial challenges in terms of borrowing loans for Pakistan.

Given the off-keel relations with the US, the IMF option is becoming little unrealizable. In this situation, only China and Saudi Arabia are left viable options to bailout Pakistan from this critical time? In the situation of “Only China Option”, would Pakistan be able to protect per se in turning it into “East India Company” as alleged by some people and politician of the country. There is no hope on part the US and even cautioned the IMF to give loan to Pakistan to pay off the Chinese lenders.

How To Come Out of This Quagmire, Is A Major Challenge For Pakistan?

The new government has to puts its own economic system in order, with sound and pragmatic economic policies. It needs to make its own economy strong by putting pragmatic policies in place along with austerity by following the principle of cutting its sheet according to cloth. More and more loan from China likely to make Pakistan, the former’s hip pocket. When out of CPEC, the promising future was anticipated for Pakistan economy, then why every facet of its economy is moving in opposite direction? The new Pakistani government is needs to take into account all the apprehensions and suggestions given by the country’s intelligentsia, scholars and enlightened citizens.

Pakistani Troops Violate Ceasefire Along Loc In J&K's Uri Sector

"No loss of life or property was reported," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain.

Pakistani troops today violated ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

Some mortar shells were fired by Pakistani forces in the Kamalkote area this afternoon, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, said.

No loss of life or property was reported, he added.

Pakistan Army Chief Asks Navjot Singh Sidhu About Overland Sikh Pilgrimage Route

In his chat with Sidhu, General Bajwa, sources said, also expressed his desire for peace with India besides discussing his love of cricket

“Gen Bajwa Sahab hugged me and said ‘We want peace’. So, let’s swim in a blue ocean and shun red ocean. It’s my dream,” Navjot Singh Sidhu told the media after the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan.

Former Indian cricketer and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu was the cynosure of all eyes at the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday, especially when he embraced and spoke to Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Sources told The Indian Express that Sidhu, who is also a minister in the Congress government in Punjab, was allocated a numbered seat towards the rear along with other guests, which he had occupied before he was approached by a protocol officer and escorted to a front-row seat. He was then seated next to Masood Khan, the president of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), a person whose identity the Indian politician was not aware of until informed by an official of the Indian High Commission.

Dressed in a royal blue bandhgala and pink turban, Sidhu was seen engaging in a conversation with General Bajwa, and sharing a gentle embrace. Sources said the army chief asked Sidhu if the two sides could start an overland Sikh pilgrimage route between the two Punjabs.

In his media conference after the ceremony, Sidhu said the army chief told him of plans to open the route to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in 2019. He also mentioned the desire to open the route to Nankana Sahab — one of the many Sikh pilgrimage sites in Pakistani province of Punjab.

In his chat with Sidhu, General Bajwa, sources said, also expressed his desire for peace with India besides discussing his love of cricket.

“Gen Bajwa Sahab hugged me and said ‘We want peace’. So, let’s swim in a blue ocean and shun red ocean. It’s my dream,” Sidhu told the media.

Sidhu, who had walked across the border at Wagah yesterday, had told the reporters there that he had come with “a message of love” to Pakistan as a goodwill ambassador of India. “I have come here not as a politician but as a friend. I have come here to take part in the happiness of my friend (Imran),” he had said.

Case Filed Against Sidhu For Hugging Pakistan Army Chief

Lawyer Ojha said he has filed the case under Indian Penal Case sections involving sedition. In his complaint, he said Sidhu's gesture hurt the people of the country

NEW DELHI: A case was filed against cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu in a Bihar court on Monday for insulting Indian Army by hugging Pakistan Army Chief at the swearing-in of Imran Khan as Prime Minister of that country.

Lawyer Sudhur Ojha filed the case in Muzaffarpur's Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court.

Ojha said he has filed the case under Indian Penal Case sections involving sedition. In his complaint, he said Sidhu's gesture hurt the people of the country.

"The court has admitted the case and will hear it next week," he said.

Sidhu, a minister in Congress-led government in Punjab, is under attack for hugging the Pakistan Army Chief, by the BJP and Akali Dal leaders.

Indian Navy Continues Relief Operations In Kerala

Indian Navy's Operation Madad has been further scaled up to meet the increasing requests for rescue from more parts of flood-hit Kerala

Southern Naval Command (SNC) rescue teams have been augmented by Gemini boats, divers and other resources from both Eastern and Western Naval Commands of the Indian Navy.

On the tenth day of Operation Madad which was August 18, a total number of diving teams deployed is 72, which have been distributed to multiple locations. Eight newly inducted teams were sent out to various locations to augment those already in place. 42 teams with one Gemini boat each are deployed in Ernakulam district at various places.

One team is at Pizhala island, one at Edapally, three at Perumbavur, 16 at North Paravur, 14 at Aluva, four at Muvattupuzha and two at Kadangallur.

In the Thrissur district, the deployment at Chalakkudy has also been augmented to 10 teams, while in Pathanamthitta district, 10 teams are deployed at Chengannur and one team each at Ayroor and Pullad.

Meanwhile, the deployment at Wayanad district was scaled down as conditions have improved there and presently two naval teams with Gemini boats are deployed at Porunnannur. Altogether, rescue teams have been able to rescue more than 3375 people by boats on August 18.

In addition to the aforementioned efforts, all air assets available at INS Garuda have been extensively utilised for winching up stranded personnel, transfer of stores, boats, relief material, etc.

Air rescue has been carried out at various places of the three worst affected districts such as Thrissur, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta. Various aircraft including ALH, Sea King, Chetak and MI 17 (of IAF) were able to rescue more than 154 people till now. Food packets along with bottled water were also airdropped on the rooftops of various houses/ churches.

Squadron leader V Joshi told ANI, "The situation is quite bad. We are trying to rescue people. Right now we are giving them food and water so that they can at least survive until the water recedes."

Approximately 350 rescued people have been accommodated at the T2 hangar inside the Naval Base, which has been converted into a makeshift relief camp. Another relief camp set up by the Naval Armament Depot, Aluva catered for another 170 persons. The Naval Kindergarten (NKG) School within the Naval Base has also been converted into a relief camp and approximately 250 persons have been accommodated there. Two Kendriya Vidyalayas, close to the Naval Base and administered by SNC, have also been kept standby as additional relief camps to house more displaced persons.

A community kitchen set up by INS Venduruthy at the campus of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) is catering for 7000 people. At least 17 cooks, four officers and 13 staff are relentlessly working to serve all three meals and tea twice a day for the needy. Kerala government authorities have also contributed to this kitchen, providing condiments and other edible items for its smooth functioning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kochi on August 18 to survey the flood-affected areas by helicopter, and take a review of the rescue operations being undertaken by various agencies, including the Indian Navy.

The Prime Minister was received and seen off at INS Garuda by Governor P Sathasivam, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Vice Admiral AK Chawla, AVSM, NM, VSM, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, along with other senior state government dignitaries.

Yesterday, Vijayan said that the death toll in the flood-hit state has increased to 357. The Chief Minister further informed that the state has suffered a loss of Rs 19,512 crores due to floods.

The Centre has launched massive rescue and relief operations in the southern state. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been asked to mobilise additional manpower, boats and helicopters to scale up the rescue and relief operations. Food packets and drinking water are also being rushed.

The Chief Ministers of various states have also come forward to help the southern state cope with the huge-scale devastation and extended financial aid.

News Agencies