Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Thursday, 24 April 2014

From Today's Papers -24 Apr 2014

 Encouraged by Modi’s remark on ties: Pak envoy
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 23
Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit today said Islamabad was encouraged by ‘positive’ comments made by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on relations between the two countries.

“His (Modi) response when a question was asked about Pakistan was very positive and that gives us hope that positive things will come... I am indeed encouraged,” he told members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) at a luncheon meeting.

In an interview to a television channel last night, Modi had stated that relations with all countries should be balanced and “no country should intimidate us neither should we do it” when asked how he would deal with Pakistan should he become the PM.

The Pakistan envoy said his country was keen on engaging “quickly, comprehensively and meaningfully” with the government that would assume office in India after the Lok Sabha elections.

The narrative between India and Pakistan should move from conflict to resolution of issues in an atmosphere of goodwill and trust. “We should also preserve and build on past agreements and treaties,” he said and referred in this connection to the Indus water treaty and some understanding on the demilitarisation of Siachen.

He did not agree with the perception that Pakistan was the most dangerous country, saying it was certainly “the most misunderstood country”.

Pitching for strengthening of trade and commercial relations between the two countries, Basit said Pakistan would allow import of all items from India once the ongoing election process was completed in India and New Delhi could also reduce subsidies on some items of export interest to Pakistan.

He indicated that Pakistan had proposed to provide the Non Discriminatory Market Access (NDMA) status to India in March but that could not happen since the model code of conduct had come into force here. He acknowledged that there were four sectors-pharmaceuticals, agriculture, automobile and textiles-which were apprehensive about competing with the Indian industry.

Basit also spoke promoting culture and tourism between the two countries.
 Jangi Paltan veterans visit 1971 Indo-Pak battlefields

Over 42 years after the First Battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry, also known as the Jangi Paltan, had played a decisive role to establish Indian dominance at Tangail, north of Dacca, during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, a handful of veterans from the battalion visited the battlefields earlier this month where they had linked up with paratroopers, repulsed Pakistani attacks and cut off their retreat routes.

Among them were Lt General Satish Nambiar, Brig BK Ponwar, Col Subhas Kulkarni, Lt Col Mahaesh Sachdev and Lt Col KS Puntambekar. The visit was coordinated by the Defence Adviser in the Indian High Commission at Dhaka, Brig PC Thimmaya.

The Bangladesh Army chipped in with liaison officers and all logistical and administrative arrangements.

The trip included visits to an ambush site at Kamalpur near the border with Meghalaya, where the unit had decimated a Pakistani heavy mortar battery and the bridge near Tangail that had been the centrestage of the para-drop operations.

The veterans also laid wreaths at war memorials and visited museums dedicated to the 1971 war, interacted with Bangladeshi war veterans and freedom fighters and called upon the Minister of Liberation War Affairs, AKM Mozammel Huq, and Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Mohammed Mainul Islam.

First Gorkha Rifles turns 199

Indian Army’s senior-most Gorkha regiment, the First Gorkha Rifles (1GR) is just a year short of 200.

Raised from the remnants of Gen Amar Singh Thapa’s forces on April 24, 1815 at Sabathu in the Shivalik foothills near Shimla, the regiment has a long and chequered history with 31 battle honours, two Victoria Cross, one Param Vir Chakra and seven Maha Vir Chakra awarded to it during campaigns across the globe.

At present, 1 GR comprises five battalions. Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, the only recipient of the Param Vir Chakra during UN peacekeeping service overseas, belonged to 1 GR.

Another Gorkha outfit, the Third Gorkha Rifles, also traces its origin to April 24, 1815, but the unit was initially raised as a “Kemaoon’ Battalion, with majority of the troops being drawn from Kumaon and Garhwal regions. It was re-designated as 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gorkha Rifles in 1907.

Online petition to save INS Vikrant

About 10,500 signatures have been received for an online petition launched to save INS Vikrant, India’s first aircraft carrier, from being scrapped.

The petition has urged the President Pranab Mukherjee, Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam and Defence Minister AK Antony to order a stay on the breaking up of the ship. The petition contends that the popular sentiment of the people of India is that INS Vikrant should be converted into a maritime museum ship that can sustain itself through visitor fees as well as foreign exchange from foreign visitors.

The petition, launched by a Mumbai resident, states that the ship has great historical value and will be highly resourceful for students of history, military science and the general public.

Army’s grand old lady turns 99

It was a pleasant surprise for Rajkumari Shrinagesh, wife of the Army’s third Indian chief, late General SM Shrinagesh, when on her 99th birthday she was felicitated by senior officers.

She was celebrating the event in Gurgaon this week with her close and extended family, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren when Army Chief General Bikram Singh and his wife Bubbles sent her a bottle of champagne, flowers and a cake with a card that read “From all officers of your army”.

Kumaon regimental band played some nostalgic tunes and the Army’s Quarter Master General, Lt Gen Om Prakash, Additional Director General Public Information, Maj General Bobby Mathews and National Security Guard IG (Operations) Maj Gen BS Das and Lt Col RS Pathania — all from the Kumaon Regiment — came to pay their respects to “a link to a glorious past” of their regiment.

The grand old lady, who has an agile mind, recalled her splendid association with the Army when she said that she remains wedded to the great institution. Her face lit up with joy when the five sparklers placed on the cake illuminated, celebrating her long association with the Army.
U.S. Army sergeant charged with murdering two unarmed, deaf Iraqi teenagers due to appear in a military court today

A former U.S. Army sergeant accused of murdering two unarmed teenage boys while they herded cattle in Iraq is due to appear in a military court.

Former Staff Sergeant Michael Barbera is charged with killing Ahmad Khalid al-Timmimi, 15, and his brother Abbas, 14 - both of whom were deaf - as they tended to cattle in a palm grove just outside As Sadah, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Barbera, 31, who faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted, is set for a preliminary hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state later this afternoon.

The U.S. army has released few details of the March 2007 killing, but Pittsburgh newspaper The Tribune-Review last year claimed soldiers serving alongside Barbera had reported the deaths.

The newspaper said the soldiers remain troubled that he hadn't been prosecuted.

Barbera also reportedly faces additional charges of lying to his commanders, directing fellow soldiers to lie to military investigators, and making a threatening call to a civilian.

He had previously led Charlie Troop, 5th Squadron of the 73rd Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

At the time of the alleged murders, the squadron was involved in counterinsurgency operations in the Diyala province of Iraq.

That's when military officials say Barbera fatally shot the two boys before lying to his superiors about how they died.

'None of us feel good about this. But I'm glad that the army is doing the right thing,' Ken Katter - a 46-year-old sniper assigned to Barbera's team - said at the time.

It isn't clear if Barbera has a civilian lawyer in addition to military defense attorneys.

Barbera was most recently stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 23 Apr 2014

 India, China mull more meeting points, hotlines
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 22
Senior military officials of India and China today discussed setting up of more border meeting points between local level Army officials and for having hotlines between the top military leadership of the two countries.

Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff (Operations) of the People Liberation Army of China, and his eight-member delegation was locked in discussions with the Indian side led by Vice Chief of the Indian Army Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who was accompanied by Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lt General PR Kumar. The PLA has no such post as DGMO.

The Chinese side is on a two-day visit in response to an invitation extended by the Government of India in January this year.

An Indian Defence Ministry statement said: “The two sides exchanged views on various issues of mutual interest such as maintenance of peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and enhancing mutual cooperation and understanding between the armies of India and China.”

Measures for implementation of existing bilateral agreements were also discussed, it said. The Chinese side has confirmed their participation in the Fourth India-China joint training exercise scheduled to be held in November 2014 in India.

Sources said the talks focused on maintaining peace along the largely unmarked 4,057-km as a direct contact between the top military brass will help in keeping either side in check and ensure that there are no repeats of the April 2013 incident when Chinese troops had camped in Northern J&K. This is in line with the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) inked on October 23 last year during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing.

The BDCA proposes 'mutual consultations' to facilitate contacts and meetings between relevant organisations. It refers to establishing border personnel meeting sites in all sectors, as well as telephone contacts and telecommunication links at mutually agreed locations along the LAC. It points to setting up a hotline between the military headquarters of the two countries.

At present there are three meeting points for Brigadier-level officers to meet at Spanngur Gap in eastern Ladakh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh. There is keenness to have two more meeting points - one at Kibithoo in eastern Arunachal and the one in Himachal Pradesh.

Year 2014 has been declared as “Year of Friendly Exchanges”. In February, the PLA Delegation led by Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of General Staff, had come to India for Annual Defence Dialogue and the Indian Defence Minister had visited China in July 2013. The Chinese side has also confirmed the visit of their Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan to India later this year.
Controversial appointments put Navy at sea
The Navy has created some controversial precedents leading to major upheavals which would forever remain recorded in India’s naval history, the latest being the appointment of Admiral RK Dhowan as the Navy Chief. In this, the government has bypassed two established norms, the first being that he has never headed an operational command. The other is overlooking the principle of seniority
Dinesh Kumar
The Indian Navy, the smallest of the three services, is better known as the ‘silent service’ since it is publicly the least visible considering that its operational area is on the high seas. The Navy also has a far better record of contributing to defence indigenisation with its long and well established record of building warships which is in direct contrast to the Army and the Air Force both of which are entirely import-dependent for practically all their weapon platforms and weapon systems.

Yet despite being a ‘silent service’, the Navy has created some remarkable and controversial precedents leading to some major upheavals which are likely to forever remain recorded in India’s post-Independent naval history. The latest is the unfortunate recent sequence of events which began with a spate of accidents involving ships and submarines which culminated in the unprecedented resignation of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi.

The resignation, accepted within hours of its submission on 26th February this year, led to the Navy being headed on an ad hoc basis by the Vice Chief of Naval Staff for almost two months (50 days to be precise) – which again is unprecedented – before the latter was formerly appointed to the Navy’s topmost post on 17th April.

However, in appointing Admiral Rabinder Kumar Dhowan as the new CNS, the 24th Navy Chief since Independence, the government has simultaneously bypassed two established norms, one of which is unprecedented. First, Admiral Dhowan has never previously headed an operational command (or even a training command), which is considered an essential requisite for an officer to be considered for appointment as CNS. This is unprecedented for all three services. The Navy has two operational commands – the Western Naval Command with headquarters in Mumbai and the Eastern Naval Command with headquarters in Vishakapatnam while a third, the Southern Naval Command with headquarters in Kochi, is a training command with no real operational jurisdiction on the high seas.

Second, Admiral Dhowan’s appointment has been made after bypassing the principle of seniority. The senior most vice admiral who was in the reckoning for the post of Navy Chief after Admiral Joshi’s resignation, Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Western Naval Command, which is considered to be the most prestigious and important of all commands and in whose jurisdiction all the major mishaps had occurred, had immediately following the announcement of Admiral Dhowan’s appointment requested voluntary retirement from service which only yesterday was accepted by the government. As a result, two key Navy posts – that of the Vice Chief and FOC-in-C of the Western Command – are currently vacant and require to be filled at the earliest.

Despite its small size (57,000 personnel), which is smaller in strength than the Delhi Police, and the fact that the men in white have otherwise performed with aplomb and with little controversy on the high seas, the Navy has, disproportionately to its size, made greater negative headlines compared to the other two services. Unfortunate as it is, both the office of the Navy Chief and several senior officers have on several occasions in the last two-and-a-half decades engaged in intrigue, manipulation or maneuvering. What is further disconcerting is that on most occasions, the Ministry of Defence has either been a party to these incidents or has spearheaded it.

The history of intrigue, manipulation and controversy mainly began in 1987 when the then Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Radhakrishna Hariram Tahiliani, the Navy’s 13th chief, recommended a short extension in service for Vice Admiral Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni, who was otherwise retiring, in order to facilitate the latter becoming the next Navy Chief. The political dispensation comprising Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was also Defence Minister, and Arun Singh, who was then Minister of State for Defence, accepted the recommendation and in due course Vice Admiral Nadkarni was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and appointed CNS on 1st December 1987.

This move (or maneuver?), according to Brigadier (retired) RP Singh and Commodore (retired) Ranjit B. Rai in their jointly authored book Sacked or Sunk? Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was dictated by Admiral Tahiliani’s desire to work out a line of succession for the Navy that would (or should) have led to the appointment of Vice Admiral Sukmal Jain (popularly known as Tony Jain) as the Navy Chief after Admiral Nadkarni’s retirement followed by then Rear Admiral (later Admiral) Vishnu Bhagwat.

What happened subsequently was unprecedented in India’s post-Independence military history. After Admiral Nadkarni took over as CNS, Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was apparently removed from reckoning for the critical post of Fleet Commander of an operational command, an appointment which is considered mandatory for an officer to be considered for the post of FOC-in-C of either of the two operational commands – the Western and Eastern Naval Commands. The Navy exercised its discretion to appoint Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Kailash K. Kohli as Fleet Commander of the Western Naval Command where Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was Chief of Staff.

But it was the questionable manner in which the appointment was effected which appeared to smack of intrigue. Rear Admiral Kohli flew to Mumbai by a late evening flight and was driven in a car belonging to the Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) to the Western Naval Command headquarters where he took charge as Fleet Commander around midnight, all of which was an unprecedented maneuver.

The incident led to a major upheaval in the Navy which lasted several years. For, acting on a tip off that Rear Admiral Kohli was being appointed Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat filed a voluminous 405 page petition in the Bombay High Court on 12th September 1990.

The 13 respondents to his writ petition (number 2757) included a wide range of persons and institutions ranging from the Union of India, both the Defence and Home Ministers, the Defence Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary at that time to eight top Navy officers beginning with the Navy Chief himself (Admiral Nadkarni) and his immediate senior, the FOC-in-C of the Western Naval Command Vice Admiral Jain. Incidentally, the latter too had been given a special extension until December 1990 with the ostensible aim of his being made Admiral Nadkarni’s successor.

The writ petition had been explosive to say the least and it was for the first time that a senior service officer had taken the Union government, the Defence Ministry, the Prime Minister’s office and virtually the entire top brass of the Navy to court for having been overlooked for an appointment and a for a promotion. While just the petition comprised 146 pages, the 48 annexures had run into 239 pages. The allegations ranged from the petty (parties attended, overseas visits etc by officers) to the more serious (professional impropriety, financial corruption, conspiracy etc) and from the personal to the professional with the reputation of every officer named questioned. Indeed, the petition reads like the Navy was a den of debauchery, conspiracy, degeneration, anti-national activities and corruption which would put Nero to shame.

Eventually, the writ petition resulted in a compromise. Rear Admiral Bhagwat withdrew his petition and was subsequently appointed Fleet Commander of the Eastern Naval Command. The reason(s) for the compromise is a subject of much debate and speculation. Whatever the reason, the compromise was arguably a questionable way out. The charges against the officers were never proved or disproved and yet their reputation was maligned while Rear Admiral Bhagwat got his way notwithstanding.

Vice Admiral Sukmal Jain, against who Rear Admiral Bhagwat had leveled charges of professional and personal impropriety and who was then the senior most vice admiral in line for promotion to the post of CNS, was superseded – the first incident of supersession. Instead, Vice Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas was approved for promotion and he took over as Navy Chief about two months later on 1st December 1990.

Interestingly, Vice Admiral Jain’s supersession and Vice Admiral Ramdas’ appointment was decided before Prime Minister VP Singh (who was also Defence Minister) resigned on 10th November 1990. When Chandra Shekhar took over as Prime Minister that same day, there were still 21 days for Vice Admiral Ramdas to formally take charge as CNS and had soon after taking charge considered reversing his predecessor’s decision and giving Admiral Nadkarni extension for a month in order to consider someone else (possibly Vice Admiral Jain) for the Navy’s top post. However, as brought out in his book My Presidential Years, Ramaswami Venkataraman, who was then President of India, strongly advised against it saying it would set a bad precedent.

The Navy’s saga of courting controversy did not end there. Six years later, Vice Admiral Vishnu Bhgawat, who by then had become FOC-in-C of the Western Naval Command, rose to CNS. He assumed command on 1st October 1996 which led to an upset Vice Admiral Kohli, who by then had become Vice Chief of Naval Staff, to proceed on leave pending retirement later that year. Admiral Bhagwat’s appointment had been preceded by considerable mudslinging against him and all other officers who were under consideration nfor Navy Chief.

Admiral Bhagwat’s tenure as CNS came to an abrupt end when on the evening of 30th December 1998 the government terminated his service for defiance of the civilian government then headed by the BJP-led NDA. Some months before his dismissal from service, a number of senior officers, including two vice admirals, had filed complaints against Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. Intrigue was again at play. Just as Rear Admiral Kohli had been driven in a MDL car to the Western Naval Command to take over as Fleet Commander at midnight, Vice Admiral Sushil Kumar, then FOC-in-C of the Southern Navy Command was surreptitiously flown in a specially requisitioned aircraft belonging to the Aviation Research Centre, the aviation wing of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) from Kochi to New Delhi on Defence Minister George Fernandes’ instructions and asked to take charge soon after Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was served his dismissal orders after 5.30 pm, which was well past office hours.

Just as Admiral Dhowan has never commanded an operational command, neither had Admiral Sushil Kumar considering that the Southern Naval Command is a training command. But then, Admiral Sushil Kumar is not the only such officer to make to the top post of his service. General Shankar Roychowdhury, who became Army Chief after General Bipin Chandra Joshi died in harness in 1994, too had never commanded an operational command. He was then commanding the Army Training Command or ARTRAC in Shimla, which was designated as an operational command on paper but in Army circles is actually referred to only as a paper command.

The recent sequence of events were perhaps avoidable and could have been handled differently. Admiral Joshi’s resignation on moral grounds need not have been accepted. For, there is a need to define moral grounds. Ships have sunk in the past and yet officers at the helm of affairs have risen in rank. Aircraft have crashed and soldiers killed in both peacetime and conflict. Yet, no Air Chief or Army Chief has resigned. If, however, Admiral Joshi’s resignation needed to be accepted, then a Board of Inquiry should have clearly pinned responsibility before the government decided to supersede the senior most vice admiral. Issues concerning the services, the guardian of the country’s security and the instrument of last resort in case of crisis, needs to be handled far more carefully and with greater seriousness.

House of intrigue

    Unfortunately, both the office of the Navy Chief and several senior officers have on several occasions in the last two-and-a-half decades engaged in intrigue, manipulation or maneuvering.
    What is further disconcerting is that on most occasions, the Ministry of Defence has either been a party to these incidents or has spearheaded it.
Students briefed on career in armed forces
MHOW: Students of Army School recently had an opportunity to understand career possibilities in defence services, as they were in for a lecture by an officer from the Military College of Telecommunications Engineering (MCTE).

School principal Pramod Kumar Tiwari told TOI that MCTE faculty of studies commander Col Rakesh Chopra was the resource person, who spoke on the opportunities at National Defence Academy (NDA) and Indian Military Academy (IMA).

Through lecture cum presentation, he elaborated on the 'Life in the Olive Greens' where students were informed about different doorways to join the Indian Army as an officer. Elaborating on the schedule of Services Selection Board, its selection criteria, examination pattern, various tests, group testing, psychological tests and the interview, he encouraged them to identify and properly utilize opportunities available. Students were also informed about personality traits and other qualities required to achive success in life.

Later, Col Chopra addressed various queries of students, regarding preparation for entrance at various defence institutions.


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal