Heralding a new dawn
A third generation officer Captain Priyanka Mehta, 26, dons the Olive Green every morning with her head held high. She might be the lone woman officer in her unit but life’s as testing for her as male counterparts. Posted with Signals Corps in Western Command Chandimandir, this electronics engineer, basically from Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, has already served the North-Eastern part of the country and vying for more!
Donning the Olive Green has been a privilege meant for the special few. Chances are even less if you are a woman… means double effort if not more, to make it in the prestigious Armed Forces of the country. Yet, there are women who with a passion in heart and wish to serve the motherland beat the odds to make it there. “Republic Day is no more a holiday but having been on both sides of the Rajpath, being the representative of national honour and pride patriotism is way of life,” says Major Sneha Bhandari. Born in Garhwal, she did Masters in Psychology before making it to the Ordinance Corps in the Indian Army. If these women officers are proud of being a fauji, prouder are their families. Major Preeti Ponia is as deft in her duties as being a mother to a two -year old son, and she is happy sharing credit for her success with her husband, a businessman in Gurgaon.
Army life means exercise at the crack of the dawn, office work during the day, games with their troops in the evening and socialising post it. “An understanding family to back you is a huge plus,” says Major Natasha Munshi, from Navsari, Gujarat. Eight years into the Corps of Signals; this engineer is living her dream of being a fauji.
Ask them if balancing personal and professional lives becomes a bit challenging with postings in remote areas, Major Natasha replies with a smile writ large on her face, “Challenges are everywhere, Army prepares you to deal with them and more.” Gender bias? “None, in fact, sometimes I feel men are more comfortable approaching us, for being women, we understand better,” says Major Sneha Bhandari. No more are they afraid of venturing out alone in dark, walking for kilometres, surviving hostile conditions but ready to face what life doles out …head on!
“There would be difficulties everywhere, but what we have here might not be elsewhere — an all round development, postings all across the country, opportunities to study for prestigious courses where civilians have to spend lakhs of rupees for free.” Needless to say that they are pumped up at the talk of permanent commission!
Moment of glory
Captain Divya would be leading the first women contingent part of Republic Day Parade, our show of strength to the world. Captain Diyva is the only woman officer to get the Sword of Honour for the best all round cadet at Officers Training Academy, Chennai in 2006. Daughter of a businessman, and NCC cadet in her college, Captain Divya wished to don the Olive Green and made it to Army Air Defence. “Be determined in what you want to achieve in life,” says Captain Divya whose first posting was in Anantnag, Kashmir Valley. Presently, Instructor at the OTA, Chennai Captain Divya makes history as she leads 144 officers at the Republic Day Parade
Call of duty
What baffles Capt Rupinder is why in a country of a billion plus, there aren’t enough officers. “It’s my appeal to all young men and women to come and join Armed Forces.” Given to her she would make it compulsory for every young man and woman to be part of the Defence Forces for at least two years. “Youngsters must know that they can appear in SSB even when in college and join post their studies,” says Captain Priyanka Mehta. “One must appear for SSB, the entry form is free so is ‘to and fro’ travel. If you make it, life is yours, even if not, it would be the most rewarding experience of life,” signs off Major Sneha Bhandari.
“Chin up, chest out, they make a man out of you in the Army,” says Capt (retired) Rupinder Sihra who served in the Corps of Signals in Indian Army. Major (retired) Sangeeta Tomar was the first batch of women to join the Judge Advocate General Branch and couldn’t be prouder. “Being from the family of Defence Personnel, I too wished to serve the nation, but I would be fortunate enough was a big surprise. When you don the colours, you feel for your country like you have never before.” Teething troubles? “No. Not for a moment I felt out of place. Jawans, JCOs address you as Saab, Mam is the title reserved for Army officers’ wives,” shares Capt Rupinder who post her term with Army is heading HR of an e-commerce firm in Delhi. Trained well, no wonder Army officers are picked up in whatever they wish to pursue, at a price they command!
Focus on co-production in defence
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25
Taking the first baby step in joint production of military equipment, India and the US announced four products that can be manufactured in India. Both the sides renewed the India-US Defence Relationship Framework for ten more years beyond June 2015 while laying specific importance on expanding maritime cooperation.
The Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) has been included in defence framework. The decisions were announced after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting US President Barack Obama here today. The four projects are not big ticket multi-billion dollar items, but will be ice-breakers and end apprehensions the US may have had over India in the past.
The first is for the hand-held Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs) RQ-11, "Raven", the most widely used UAV for tactical surveillance. The second is the specialized surveillance and intelligence gathering equipment for the C-130-J transport planes. The Indian Air Force has five of these planes in its fleet and ordered six more. The intelligence gathering equipment is of the ‘roll-on roll-off’ variety indicating rapid deployment ability.
The third is Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources (MEHPS), which was evaluated in Afghanistan. The MEHPS is non-grid-tied smart power system with output ranging from 300W to 800KW. These will augment traditional generators on the battlefield. The fourth is the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, a configured head-to-toe individual fighting system for land-based soldiers.
“The leaders expressed confidence that continued DTTI collaboration will yield additional joint projects in the near future,” a joint statement of the two sides said after the talks.
The key area to watch out will be the “efforts made by both countries to deepen cooperation in the field of maritime security” and the same has been reflected in the 2015 Framework for the US-India defence relationship.
“The navies of both sides would continue discussions to identify specific areas for expanding maritime cooperation. They also reiterated their commitment to upgrade their bilateral naval exercise MALABAR,” said the statement.
Another announcement is the setting up of a ‘working group’ to co-develop engines for fighter jets and jointly build an aircraft carrier.
CRPF bags most gallantry medals
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25
The CRPF has been awarded the highest number of gallantry medals among all the police forces and the Central armed police forces of India announced on the eve of the Republic Day.
The CRPF has been conferred with four President Police Medals for Gallantry (PPMG) and 32 Police Medals for Gallantry (PMG). Out of the gallantry medals, eight CRPF personnel have been awarded posthumously. The CRPF is India’s primary counter-Maoist force and is also involved in operations against militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.
Twentythree medals have been awarded to the troops deployed in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) theatre for their acts of valour, whereas four of them have been awarded to the troops deployed in the North East and nine for their acts of gallantry in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ITBP has been conferred with 22 gallantry medals. Four ITBP personnel have been honored with the President Police Medal for Gallantry (PPMG), while 18 personnel have been awarded with the Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG), including 15 posthumously. These 15 personnel attained martyrdom while saving the lives of the stranded pilgrims during the Uttarakhand disaster in 2013 when an Mi-17 helicopter involved in a rescue mission crashed near Gaurikund on June 25, 2013.
The ITBP is guarding the India-China border. The force is also involved in anti-Maoist operations in the LWE affected areas. The BSF has been given six Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG), six President’s Police Medals for _Distinguished Services (PPMDS) and 50 Police Medals for Meritorious Services (PMMS).
The BSF is deployed along India’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is also conducting operations against militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and the LWE affected areas.
The CISF has been conferred with three President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service and 28 personnel have been awarded with the Police Medal for Meritorious Service.
Two Armymen get Ashoka Chakra for JK operations
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 25
The country’s highest peace-time gallantry award, the Ashoka Chakra, has been conferred posthumously upon Naik Neeraj Kumar Singh of the 13 Rajputana Rifles. He was attached with the 57 Rashtriya Rifles and posted to J&K counter-insurgency operations.
He was leading a search operation in Gurdaji area of Kupwara district of J&K on August 24, 2014 when he came under heavy fire from terrorists which hit one of his colleagues. With utter disregard for his own safety, Naik Neeraj Singh crawled and extricated his colleague. A terrorist threw grenades and opened heavy fire on Naik Neeraj, but he inched closer to the terrorist and shot him dead. Simultaneously, he was shot by another terrorist in the chest. Despite grievous injuries, he pounced on the terrorist, snatched his weapon and killed him in a hand-to-hand combat. The President has also approved awards of 374 gallantry and other defence decorations to armed forces personnel and others on the eve of Republic Day celebrations.
This includes three Kirti Chakra, 12 Shaurya Chakra, 48 Sena Medal (Gallantry), two Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry), 11 Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry), 28 Param Vishisht Seva Medal, three Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, three Bar to Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, 53 Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, 13 Yudh Seva Medal, 42 Sena Medal (Devotion to Duty), eight Nao Sena Medal (Devotion to Duty), 19 Vayu Sena Medal (Devotion to Duty), four Bar to Vishisht Seva Medal and 124 Vishisht Seva Medal.
The President will also award Ashok Chakra posthumously to Major Mukund Varadarajan of 22 Rajput.
Guard of Honour for President Barack Obama Led by Wing Commander Pooja Thakur
A woman officer, Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, led the ceremonial Guard of Honour for US President Barack Obama at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today. (Show-Stealer Wing Commander Pooja Thakur: Comment Here)
President Obama was given a 21-gun salute at the forecourt of the majestic presidential palace, after which Wing Commander Thakur walked him for the inspection of the Guard of Honour. She is the first woman officer to lead a tri-services Guard of Honour.
The gesture reflects the theme for this year's Republic Day parade, which is "Nari Shakti (woman power)".
"It is a very proud moment for me and the Indian Air Force, to be creating history, to give the Guard of Honour to the most powerful man in the world," Wing Commander Thakur told NDTV, explaining that years of training have prepared her for moments like this.
She hoped that she would inspire more women to join the forces. "I hope it will be an inspiration to them to see that woman officers are commanding contingents of men, and people are accepting it. That's a message for everybody to come and join us," she said.
President Obama will be the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations tomorrow, which will see woman contingents of the army, navy and the air force marching down Rajpath for the first time.
The special Guard of Honour fired up social media, with many commenting that a woman taking the lead sends a positive message.
"As a woman, I feel extremely proud to learn about a Lady Commanding Officer leading the ceremonial Guard of Honour to President Obama," tweeted Anandiben Patel, the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Amid India-US bonhomie, Pakistan Army Chief visits Beijing
Just as India and the United States were on Sunday announcing a deepening of defence and security ties, Pakistan's Army Chief General Raheel Sharif met with the People's Liberation Army's top General in Beijing and received China's backing for its efforts to crack down on terror groups amid renewed criticism from Delhi and Washington.
Gen. Sharif, whose two-day visit to China is coinciding with Obama's India trip, was hosted by the powerful Vice Chairman of the PLA's Central Military Commission (CMC), top ranking General Fan Changlong. The CMC, the top military body, is headed by President Xi Jinping.
The two generals discussed expanding security and defence cooperation. Pakistani reports said China had "praised" the Pakistani Army's recent operation to target extremist groups near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including those affiliated to the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which China says has been behind recent attacks in its frontier western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region. China has in the past voiced concern about ETIM camps active in Pakistan.
China's statement of support to Pakistan's anti-terror efforts comes amid increasing pressure from India and the US on the issue. Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to Islamabad called on Pakistan to tackle all militant groups, including those that posed threats to Indian, American and Afghan interests.
Obama in India: India, US renew defence framework pact for next 10 years
New Delhi, Jan 25: India and the US today renewed an enhanced Defence Framework Agreement for the next ten years and identified four key “pathfinder projects” for joint development and production including the next generation Raven mini UAVs and specialised kits for C-130 military transport aircraft. Both countries also agreed on a Working Group to explore aircraft carrier technology besides designing and development of jet engine technology. (Read: Obama in India: United States and India seal civil nuclear and defence cooperation deal)
The breakthroughs came following the high-level talks held between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting US President Barack Obama. ”Today, we have also decided to take our growing defence cooperation to a new level. We have agreed, in principle, to pursue co-development and co-production of specific advanced defence projects,” Modi said addressing a joint press interaction with Obama. Modi said this will help upgrade country’s domestic defence industry and expand the manufacturing sector in India.
He added that both countries will also explore cooperation in other areas of advanced defence technologies. ”We have renewed our Defence Framework Agreement. We will deepen our cooperation on maritime security,” he said. The new framework will enhance bilateral defence partnership by stepping up joint military exercises and in-depth intelligence-sharing, maritime security efforts among others besides giving a strong push for joint- development and production of high-end defence equipment.
Under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), four projects have been agreed on as “pathfinder projects”, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said. She identified them as next generation Raven Minis UAVs, roll on and roll off kits for C-130, mobile electric hybrid power source and Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Increment 2. Obama, who arrived today on a three-day visit, welcomed the development and said renewal of the defence pact will guide the bilateral defence cooperation for next ten years.
“We agreed to deepen our defence and security cooperation…. And in a major step forward for our relationship, defence technology and trade initiative will allow us to jointly develop and produce defence technologies,” he said. Obama added that both Modi and he have also agreed to a “new vision for Asia Pacific”. ”We are doing together more to advance our shared security and prosperity in this critical region,” he said. The first framework agreement, which expires this year, was signed in the US in 2005 by the then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart in the previous George W.Bush administration, Donald Rumsfeld.
The Foreign Secretary said both countries have also ”agreed on a Working Group to explore aircraft carrier technology, sharing, design and also development of jet engine technology”. Asked for more details, Indian Ambassador to US S Jaishankar said all four projects involve joint development and joint production. ”Two of these are with American companies. Two of them with US governments. They have to work out the modalities because they just had a DTTI working group meeting before the visit,” he said.
The Ambassador noted that the purpose of DTTI is to identify technologies which is unique and which is viable to produce. He said the identified projects are “called pathfinders projects because experiences of this will guide us on how we take this forward”. On the Working Group for jet engines, he said both sides had a discussion under DTTI and have decided “to explore the development of jet engines in India”. He said it was much broader than the Kaveri jet engine that India is already working on.
Replying to a query about the difference between the existing defence framework and the new one, he said India has “negotiated a new” agreement for the next ten years. ”DTTI is an initiative which is within the defence framework. It is a new initiative. It was announced a few years ago but it has really become operational now. The big change is that we have taken that big step towards operationalising an initiative and this case specifically identifying projects and agreeing on important areas where we will have working groups,” he said.
The significant project under DTTI is the plans for joint development and production of next generation Raven Mini UAVs, a device which the Indian Army was eyeing. If the joint manufacturing of the UAV happens, then India would be able to get a slice of the multi-billion order book for the world’s most advanced hand-launched drone. The drone proved to be a great success for the American forces in Afghanistan as it gives air observations up to a distance of 10 kilometres, which makes it possible to increase situational awareness.
Defence sources said the roll on and roll off kits for C-130 aircraft deals with specialised plates and technology for loading and loading off cargo.
Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Source is conceived to be a non-grid-tied smart power system with output ranging from 300W to 800kW. This was also effectively put into use by the American Army in Afghanistan. Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Increment 2 refers to a more advanced protection gear for soldiers against chemical and biological warfare. A joint statement issued after the meeting said both
leaders welcomed the efforts made by the two sides to expand bilateral defence cooperation in areas of mutual interest and reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work towards deepening bilateral defence relationship.
The leaders acknowledged bilateral military ties as the foundation of the defence relationship and encouraged their respective militaries to pursue additional opportunities for engagement through exercises, military personnel exchanges, and defence dialogues. They underscored the need for the two-way defence engagement to include technology cooperation and collaboration, co-production and co-development. To this end, the President and the Prime Minister emphasized the ongoing importance of the DTTI in developing new areas of technology cooperation in the defence sector including through co-development and co-production.
The Prime Minister welcomed the US Defence Department’s establishment of a dedicated rapid reaction team focused exclusively on advancing DTTI. Modi and Obama expressed confidence that continued DTTI collaboration will yield additional joint projects in the near future. The President also welcomed the Prime Minister’s initiatives to liberalise the Foreign Direct Investment Policy regime in the defence sector and US leader agreed to cooperate on India’s efforts to establish a defence industrial base in this coutnry, including through initiatives like ‘Make in India.’
Modi and Obama expressed satisfaction over the efforts made by both countries to deepen cooperation in the field of maritime security, as reflected in the 2015 Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship. To this end, they agreed that the navies of both sides would continue discussions to identify specific areas for expanding maritime cooperation. They also reiterated their commitment to upgrading their bilateral naval exercise MALABAR.