New Delhi: Gen Bikram Singh, an infantryman, Thursday assumed command of the 1.13 million strong Indian Army, bringing to an end the controversial 26 month tenure of his predecessor Gen V.K. Singh, who retired after 42 years of service. He is only the second Sikh to be elevated to the post.
Bikram Singh, the 27th Indian Army chief, had to surmount a number of hurdles, including a legal battle that almost denied him the opportunity to the helm the world’s second largest army. He was hitherto the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander and will serve for 27 months as the army chief.
Commissioned in 1972 in the Sikh Light Infantry, Bikram Singh, 59, marks a generation shift in the army, being the first chief who has not seen action in a conventional war. The last conventional war India fought was in 1971 against Pakistan to liberate Bangladesh. During the last major operation the Indian Army was involved in – Kargil in 1999 – he was posted in the Directorate General of Military Operations at Army Headquarters and used to conduct the daily media briefings.
His ascension to the top had come in doubt over his predecessor’s claim that he was born on May 10, 1951 and not in 1950, thereby allowing him 10 months more as chief till March 2013 – by which time Bikram Singh would have retired.
However, the Supreme Court, in February, heard a petition on V.K. Singh’s age and upheld the defence ministry decision to treat the birth year as 1950 in official records. This paved the way for Bikram Singh to be named army chief-designate in March, ending months of a bitter succession row.
Bikram Singh’s appointment came after an intricate vetting process in the wake of an allegation that he was involved in a fake shootout in Kashmir and an intelligence check on his family members.
The defence ministry had sought a detailed clearance from intelligence agencies on his eldest daughter-in-law, who was said to be a Pakistani citizen. This had raised fears of “security risks and implications”.
But intelligence agencies rubbished this and in fact informed the defence ministry that the daughter-in-law is a US citizen. She is the daughter of an Afghan and her mother is from a Central Asian country.
As for the March 2001 Kashmir shootout, the mother of an alleged militant killed in a south Kashmir village said her son was a civilian labourer and troops under the command of then Brigadier Bikram Singh had killed him in a staged gun battle.
Kashmir Police gave him a clean chit, even as a petition on the issue is still pending with the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Bikram Singh was among the three short-listed senior-most officers – Vice Chief Lt. Gen. Shri Krishna Singh and Northern Army Commander Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik being the other two – in contention for the top post.
Bikram Singh is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy. He also attended the US Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.
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