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Doklam solution soon; our forces have might to protect borders: Rajnath

NEW DELHI, Aug 21: A solution to the "deadlock" at Doklam between India and China would be found soon, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday as he made it clear that the country was well equipped to protect its sovereignty.

The minister, while speaking at an event of the Sino-India border guarding force ITBP in Delhi, said he hoped that China would make a positive move to resolve the issue.

"There is a deadlock going on at Doklam between India and China. I believe there will be a solution soon. I hope China will undertake a positive initiative (to resolve the standoff)," he said.

The minister said the world knew that India had never cast an evil eye on any country, had never attacked a nation nor did it harbour any expansionist attitude.

"We never want to expand our borders...but I can say that our security forces and defence forces possess all the might to protect our borders," Singh said.

India and China have been locked in a face-off in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector after Indian troops stopped the Chinese Army from building a road in the area.

China claimed it was constructing the road within their territory and had been demanding immediate pull-out of the Indian troops from the disputed Doklam plateau.

Bhutan says Doklam belongs to it but China claims it to be its territory.

China had been ramping up rhetoric against India over the last few weeks, demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Dokalam. The Chinese state media, particularly, had carried a barrage of critical articles on the Doklam stand-off slamming India.

Singh, in the same breath, lauded the bravery and grit of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), saying it was due to their prowess on the border that "no one can dare cast an evil eye on India".

The ITBP is tasked to guard the 3,488-km long Sino-India border and works under the command of the home ministry.

The minister went on to say that India had always believed in having good relations with its neighbours and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his swearing-in ceremony in 2014, had invited all the premiers of the neighbouring countries.

This move was not just to shake and join hands but to bring together hearts, he said.

"India has taken the initiative (of friendship with neighbours) many times. Our former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say friends can change but not neighbours. He said we should have good relations with our neighbours.

"Hence, I want to give this message to all our neighbours that we don't want struggle but peace," Singh said.

The home minister, during the event, officiated as the chief guest where promotion for 1,654 ITBP officials, across various ranks, was announced.

Singh himself put the new ranks on the shoulders of few personnel during the pipping ceremony, also attended by his deputy in the ministry Kiren Rijiju.

He also expressed concern that these promotions, announced today, were delayed for the last six years and he promised that it would be his effort that promotions and other welfare measures for the troops were not obstructed or delayed in the future.

"It was your right to get promotions on time but despite the delay you never complained and your morale was high. A timely promotion is important for boosting morale. I appreciate your dedication towards your duty," he said.

He recounted his 2015 visit to an ITBP border post in Ladakh where he found that troops were in their full spirits on the line of duty despite the harsh and cold climate in the region.

Video shows Chinese troops pelted stones at Indians in Ladakh on Aug 15

NEW DELHI, Aug 20: Days after Indian and Chinese troops got involved in a shuffle in Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh, a video of the stone pelting surfaced on Saturday, but army sources however said they cannot confirm its authenticity.

The video shows soldiers pelting stones at each other and getting involved in fisticuffs by the bank of a lake.

A scuffle took place between the Indian and Chinese troops this week which saw stones being pelted from both sides.

The incident took place on Tuesday when Chinese soldiers tried to cross the Line of Actual Control. A Border Personnel Meeting on Wednesday however saw both sides agreeing to take steps to ensure peace along the border and leave the incidents behind, according to sources.

Indian Army chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat will start a three day visit to Ladakh from Sunday, during which he will review the security in the area, and also attend a ceremony in which President's Colours will be given to battalions of the Ladakh Scouts.

Meanwhile, a standoff with China in Sikkim sector has been continuing since June 16.

India deploys more troops along China border in Sikkim, Arunachal, raises alertness level

NEW DELHI, Aug 11: India has beefed up its troop strength along the Line of Actual Control from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh in the face of Beijing’s aggressive rhetoric on the current standoff between the Indian and Chinese troops. In the meanwhile, India is also trying to defuse tension through flag meetings between its Army and the Chinese PLA.

However, a question mark hangs over the ceremonial border personnel meetings (BPMs) between the two armies on August 15. Currently, the situation is tense and the Army has “marginally” increased deployment along the LAC from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh.

“We have raised our alertness level and are taking precautions due to the Chinese rhetoric. So we have marginally increased our troop strength in the eastern sector from Sikkim to Arunachal Pradesh,” said a senior government official.

Indian Army’s three important formations — 33 Corps, 3 Corps and 4 Corps, which are to be pitted against the PLA in case of a conflict — have been beefed up. The 4 Corps was one of the main formations which fought against the PLA during the 1962 war. The strength in Dokalam, the place where standoff is taking place, remains the same. Even China has increased troop deployment on its side of the LAC.

Throughout the year, Indian soldiers deployed along the Line of Control and the LAC — from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh — are in a state of ‘no war no peace’. Security experts have told ET that Indian troops dominate the PLA at important locations in Sikkim, so if anything bad has to happen it could happen in other areas.


India, US, Japan Malabar Naval Exercise Concludes

CHENNAI, July 17: The US, Japanese and Indian navies today concluded the 'Malabar Naval Exercise' aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations.

The naval exercise featured 95 aircraft, 16 ships and two submarines, officials said in a statement. Various maneuveres were undertaken in rough seas in the Bay of Bengal, they said.

The exercise, which began on July 10, comprised both on shore and offshore activities which included cross deck flying operations, refuelling across ships and crew handling procedures.

Under cross deck flying operations, a helicopter from USS 'Shoup' landed on-board Indian Naval Ship 'Sahayadri' and later on Japanese Naval ship 'Sazanami', the officials said.

A helicopter from 'Sazanami' then undertook flying operations from INS Sahayadri and USS Shoup.

"The cross deck flying operations require a high degree of interoperability and knowledge of procedures of participating in ships and helicopters", they said.

The navies of the three countries undertook the exercise in rough seas and under challenging weather conditions.

Under the crew exchange programme, an Indian Navy helicopter transferred Japanese sailors to Naval ship Vikramaditya in the Bay of Bengal. This was followed by flying operations by helicopters of US Navy ships.

Yesterday, Indian Navy ship Jyoti transferred oil with US 'Shoup' and Japanese naval ship 'Sazanami' under the replenishment at sea exercise.

"During the operation, INS Jyoti passed the oil hoses to the US and Japanese Navies to exercise transfer of fuel," the officials said.

On combined crew training exercise, MiG 29K fighter air craft from INS Vikramaditya undertook combat missions against US Navy F-18 fighter aircraft launched from USS Nimitz.

Aircraft from both Indian and US Navies undertook composite formation flying, demonstrating another step in the interoperability aimed through this exercise, the statement added.

Pakistan shelling kills 9-year-old girl

JAMMU, July 17: A nine-year-old girl and an Army jawan were killed and four others injured on Monday in heavy firing and mortar shelling by Pakistani troops at various places along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.

The Indian Army retaliated, triggering heavy exchanges, they said.

In Rajouri, the administration sounded alert and advised the residents to stay indoors in the wake of the Pakistani shelling, Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said.

The Pakistani action affected a population of 4500-5000 in villages of Panjgrain, Rajdhani and Naika in Rajouri-Poonch belt, he added.

"The Pakistan Army initiated unprovoked firing on Indian Army posts in Rajouri sector and Poonch district around 0730 hours. The Indian Army retaliated strongly and effectively," a Defence spokesman said.

In the exchange of fire, Naik Muddasar Ahmed was grievously injured when mortar shells landed on his bunker, the spokesman said, adding that he succumbed to his injuries later.

The 37-year-old jawan is survived by wife Shaheena Muddasar and two children.

"Ahmed was a brave and sincere soldier. He loved his job to the core," the spokesman said, adding "The nation will always remain indebted to him for the supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty."

The Pakistani troops also targeted civilian areas in Balakote, Manjakote and Baroti belts of Rajouri, a police officer said.

In the firing and shelling, 9-year-old Sajada Houser was killed at Baroti, the officer said.

"Heavy mortal shelling was reported in forward areas of Tehsil Manjakote in Rajouri this morning. A population of 4500-5000 in villages of Panjgrain, Rajdhani and Naika among others was affected," Choudhary said.

Two civilians were injured in the shelling, he said, adding one seriously injured Shah Begum was admitted in district hospital while other injured Sharief Ahmed was given first aid.

"District Administration ordered closure of all schools early morning. However, 120 students were held up in Government School at Panjgrain and on report of headmaster, senior officers coordinated for their safe evacuation as shelling was reported of have affected nearby area," the DC said.

"The firing and shelling exchanges stopped at 1445 hours," the defence spokesman said.

Later in the day, Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing at three villages in Kamalkote area of Uri in Baramulla district at around 3 pm, defence sources said.
They said one soldier was injured in the firing.

Intermittent firing by Pakistani troops was going on till last reports came in.

In this month, seven people, including four jawans, have died in firing and shelling by the Pakistani Army along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

US, India, Japan Launch Naval War Games Malabar 2017

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 6: Amidst stand off with China on borders, India is holding 10-day Malabar exercise with the US and Japan in the Bay of Bengal from Friday. Though planned much earlier, the Malabar 2017 assumes significance in the current scenario on Sino-Indian borders. The exercise would see participation of warships, submarines, aircraft and personnel, amid reports of the presence of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean.

Malabar 2017 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, according to a US embassy statement said.

The exercise will feature both ashore and at-sea training.

While ashore in Chennai, training will include subject matter expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical operations, damage control, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), helicopter operations, and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations.

The at-sea portions will be conducted in the Bay of Bengal and are designed to advance participating nations’ military-to-military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in a multinational environment. Events planned during the at-sea portions include liaison officer professional exchanges and embarks; a photo exercise; submarine familiarization; high-value unit defense; air defense exercises; medical evacuation drills; surface warfare exercises; communications exercises; search and rescue exercises; helicopter cross-deck evolutions; underway replenishments; gunnery exercises; VBSS exercises; and anti-submarine warfare.

Participants from the U.S. Navy include the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) with embarked Carrier Air Wing 11; the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59); guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Shoup (DDG 86), and USS Kidd (DDG 100); a P-8A Poseidon aircraft; and a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine.

Indian, Japanese and U.S. maritime forces have a common understanding and knowledge of a shared working environment at sea. Each iteration of this exercise helps to advance the level of understanding between our Sailors, and we hope to be able to continue this process over time.

As members of Indo-Asia-Pacific nations, our maritime forces are natural partners, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our bonds and personal relationships, said the statement.

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Izumo (DDH 183) and JS Sazanami (DD113) will be participating in the exercise.

The Indian flotilla is expected to have six to seven frontline warships.

Sikkim stand-off: Indian troops unlikely to pull back

NEW DELHI, July 7: Despite rising stridency in Chinese demands that India pull back from the confrontation near the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction, Indian troops are digging in to protect the strategic topography that is just 30 km from a hydel project and overlooks the Bengal-Assam road link.

The hydro-electric project is located at Jaldhaka river at Jhalong which is not far from the border with Bhutan and is also a bridge for crossing over to the landlocked hill kingdom. The Jaldhaka, along with Torsha river, flows into the Brahmaputra and is part of a tract of land that could come under pressure if the Chinese build the road they are planning through Doklam plateau in Bhutan.

The Siliguri corridor, and the town itself, will be vulnerable if China gets to dominate ridge lines which will allow its troops to literally sit astride Indian territory. The road to Assam also runs through the narrow strip of territory that connects West Bengal to the northeast and any threat to it can snip the surface link from Bagdogra to Guwahati.

Given the importance of holding the current alignment and preventing China from altering this to its benefit, India is not likely to consider a pullout without some clear terms being arrived at first. Though the Chinese are clearly annoyed at Indian troops stalling road work in an area that is near the tri-junction, Bhutan has strongly protested the intrusion on its territory. Even if the area is considered disputed, China's unilateral move violates agreements with India and impacts Bhutan's sovereignty.

As the full significance of the Chinese move becomes apparent, it is clear that the road project and movement of troops was more than the "usual" intrusions by which China tests India's defences and responses. The realignment of ground position was intended to grasp a decisive advantage in the region and went beyond the "needle and nibble" attempts to reset parts of the unsettled boundary between India and China.

With matters grinding to a stalemate and India holding its ground and comments, the stage could be set for more serious diplomatic engagement. Though the tough talk on part of Beijing continues, ejecting Indian troops is not an easy prospect and neither side would be keen to let matters get out of hand.


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