Grateful Britain recalls valour, sacrifices of Indian soldiers during World War-1
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 30
The British Government today thanked the contribution of Indian troops in the World War-I. The valour displayed by Indian soldiers during the war was remembered through black and white images and movie footage of the Imperial War Museum.
UK recognises that it could not have prevailed in the war (July 1914 to November 1918) without the contribution and sacrifice made by many countries. The Indian contribution to the war effort was one of the largest from the Commonwealth.
Today, the UK, working closely with the United Service Institution of India (USI), remembered over 1.1 million Indian servicemen who fought in the war. There were around 70,000 fatalities.
A melange of pictures, displayed at the residence of British High Commissioner Sir James Bevan in New Delhi, today narrated the stories of valour by the Indian Army which had the distinction of having fought in almost all theatres of the war - France and Flanders, alongside the Australian and New Zealand at Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine and North Africa.
The commemoration began on August 4 with a memorial service at the Glasgow Cathedral for Commonwealth Leaders which coincided with the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The same day, an event was held at the Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons Belgium and a candle-lit vigil was organised at Westminster Abbey.
The UK has funded a battlefield guide book which will be available through USI for those families wishing to visit battlefields in France and Flanders.
Another coffee table book giving a pictorial overview of India and the Great War is available. War Diaries of the India Corps that fought in France and Flanders and these have been digitised and were presented to India.
Regimental War Diaries printed and bound were passed on to the regiments. A total of six Victoria Cross - the highest military honour of Britain - awarded to Indian soldiers and memorials are being prepared for presentation to the Government of India.
China voices concern over new border posts
Beijing, October 30
China’s military on Thursday expressed concern over India’s plan to construct 54 new border posts in Arunachal Pradesh, saying India should not complicate the situation and do more to maintain peace as it is a “disputed area”.
“We have noticed relevant report. Dispute still exists in the eastern part of China-India border,” Defence Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujin told the media when asked a question on the plans announced by the Home Ministry to build new border posts.
“We urge the Indian side to do more to maintain peace and stability in the area and not do things that may complicate the situation,” he said. Asked why China is wary of India’s development of infrastructure along the border when it has carried out extensive development on its side, Yang said, “I think that the roads you are talking about are in the eastern part of the China-India border which is still a disputed area.”
"China's position on the dispute in this area is clear and consistent," he said. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet. "It is an important consensus reached by the two sides to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Actual Control and both sides should do more towards converging direction rather than contrary," he said.
The Indian Government last week announced setting up of 54 new border outposts and a Rs 175 crore package for beefing up the infrastructure along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. — PTI
6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores
The Defence Acquisition Council of India on Saturday cleared defence deals worth Rs. 80,000 crore. The deal includes the acquisition of six conventional submarines to augment the aging and depleted submarine fleet and two midget submarines -- also known as 'Swimmer Delivery Vehicles' - which are used for special operations.
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'make in India' campaign and the overall policy to build and strengthen the fledgling Indian defence industry, all six boats will be made in Indian shipyards. The Indian Navy - the end users - will identify shipyards that can acquire the technology from foreign manufacturers and build the boats on schedule. The process of identifying the shipyards will be completed in the next two months. There are seven shipyards in India, including four government yards. The Indian exchequer will shell out an estimated Rs. 53,000 crore for the six boats.
Clearing the procurement, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said, "National security is of paramount concern for the government and all hurdles and bottlenecks in the procurement process should be addressed expeditiously."
The midget submarines weigh less than 150 tons and are smaller than conventional submarines. They can carry between 8 to 24 fully armed commandos, who are ejected through the torpedo tubes some miles away from the target, from where they can swim towards their target, complete the mission and swim back; this is why they are also called 'Swimmer Delivery Vehicles'.
Sources told NDTV that the six conventional submarines will have Air Independent Propulsion Systems which allow the boats to run the diesel engines underwater to charge ships' batteries, allowing them to stay underwater for longer durations. Besides, they will also have stealth features, which essentially mean that the boats will have greater ability to suppress noise.
The Indian Navy will also get 12 more Dornier Aircraft. These will be built by the Bangalore based defence Public Sector Unit - Hindustan Aeronautic Limited - at a total cost of Rs. 1,850 crore. Dorniers are issued for maritime surveillance and the Navy has a fleet of 40 Dorniers.
Apart from this, the Indian Army will also be buying the third generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles from Israel. The 8000 Spike ATGM missiles and 300 launchers will come at a cost of Rs. 3,200 crore. The Army will also get about 360 odd Armoured Personnel Carriers built by the Ordinance Factory Board for about Rs. 2,000 crore.
3 rebels, army officer killed in Indian Kashmir
SRINAGAR, India — An Indian army official says three suspected rebels and an army officer have been killed in a fierce gunbattle near the heavily militarized line of control dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. N.N. Joshi says two militants were killed on Wednesday and an army officer and a suspected rebel died a day earlier in the fighting.
Joshi said the fighting began Tuesday after troops, acting on a tip, surrounded a forested area in the Handwara region.
There was no independent confirmation of the incident and no immediate comment from the dozen or so rebel groups fighting Indian rule.
Rebels have been battling Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.
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Govt moving on war history, memorial: Jaitley
The government is moving ahead with plans to construct a national war memorial and also prepare a “structured history” of all the battles that the Indian Army has fought, according to Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.
Speaking at the commemoration ceremony of India’s contribution to World War I, organised by the British High Commission, Jaitley said that there is a need today to have a structured history of the contribution of Indian soldiers — in the book and digital format.
“That is something which has been missing. I’ve just requested the Army chief,” Jaitley said. “The United Service Institution of India has said they have a lot of material on some recent wars… So, I don’t see why that can’t be done.”
The government is also finalising a plan for setting up the war memorial, he added.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, meanwhile, said that Indian soldiers had distinguished themselves in “every theatre of war” with more than 9,000 of them winning gallantry medals, including six Victoria Cross recipients. “Such heroism must be recognised,” he said.
Speaking earlier Thursday, at a ‘Smarananjali’ programme organised by Doordarshan to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Jaitley said, “I have started having this feeling that the history of these wars, its compendium, [should be] made available so that future generations can know about it.”
Jaitley said that the names of Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore and Havildar Abdul Hamid — from the 1965 war — had become household names during his school days. “None can forget their sacrifices,” he said.
Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan were also present during the function where Jaitley honoured Capt Bana Singh and Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav, both recipients of the Param Vir Chakra.
“Respecting them (soldiers) is, in a way, fulfilling the responsibility of national duty. Ingratitude is considered a sin. The country is one today because of the sacrifices of the soldiers,” Jaitley said.
He also praised the soldiers who were engaged in relief and rescue operations during the landslide and floods in Uttarakhand last year and in J&K this year. — (With PTI)
UK Defence Secy pitches for investment in India
NEW DELHI: UK’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on Thursday pitched for British investments into the Indian defence sector, even as he indicated London’s readiness to negotiate on the Eurofighter deal, if the Rafale deal does not make headway.
Speaking at the Vivekananda International Foundation, Fallon told a gathering of defence and strategic affairs experts, “You are the largest importer of defence equipment, we are the top investors. We are a big defence exporter…there are huge opportunities here for British suppliers across equipment and technologies. We will continue to press our case.”
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Need a structured war history of Indian soldiers: Jaitley
New Delhi: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday tasked Army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh with preparing a structured history of all the wars that India Army has fought.
Jaitley said that there is a need today to have a structured history of the contribution of Indian soldiers, both in book and the digital format.
"That is something which has been missing. I've just requested the army chief," Jaitley said at the commemoration ceremony of India's contribution to World War I, which was organised here by the British High Commission.
Noting that scholarly work is required in this regard, Jaitley said at the event, "The United Service Institution of India has said they have a lot of material on some recent wars... So, I don't see why that can't be done."
He added that the government was in the process of finalising the plan for the setting up of a war memorial, particularly for those who have been martyred or made great contribution post 1947.
The Defence Minister, earlier, expressed a similar view at the 'Smarananjali' programme organised here on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
"I have started having this feeling that the history of these wars, its compendium, is made available so that future generations can know about it," Jaitley said.
The 'Smarananjali' programme was organised to pay tributes to those soldiers who died in the line of duty while defending the country in the 1965 war.
Singer Kavita Krishnamurthy Subramaniam, Suresh Wadkar and violinist L Subramanian were among those who performed at the event.
The Army chief, Air Force Chief Arup Raha and Navy Chief Admiral RK Dhowan were also present during the programme.
Recalling that the 1965 war took place during his school days, Jaitley said that the names of Lt. Col. Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore and Hawaldar Abdul Hamid had become household names. "None can forget their sacrifices," he said.
The 1965 war event was organised by Doordarshan. It was conceptualised in the form of a lyrical tribute by artistes to the martyrs.
The Defence Minister also honoured Capt. Bana Singh and Subedar Yogendra Singh Yadav (both recipients of Param Vir Chakra) at the function.
"Respecting them (soldiers) is, in a way, fulfilling the responsibility of national duty. Ingratitude is considered a sin. The country is one today because of the sacrifices of the soldiers," he said.
Jaitley also praised the efforts of the soldiers during natural calamities in Uttarakhand last year and in Jammu and Kashmir this year.
Meanwhile, at the British High Commission function, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that Indian soldiers had distinguished themselves in every theatre of war with more than 9,000 of them winning gallantry medals, including six Victoria Cross recipients.
"Such heroism must be recognised," he said.
Britain had entered the war on August 4, 1914. Over 1.1 million Indian servicemen fought in WWI and there were around 70,000 fatalities.
The UK has funded a battlefield guidebook which will be available through USI for those families wishing to visit the France and Flanders battlefields.
It has also funded, in conjunction with USI, a coffee table book giving a pictorial overview of India and the Great War, besides digitising the War Diaries of the India Corps that fought in France and Flanders. These were presented to the Indian government.
Memorials for the six Victoria Cross winners were also presented to the Government of India.
World War I, which started on July 28, 1914, and finished on November 11, 1918, involved all of the world's great powers. It saw 70 million combatants in action of which, more that 9 million were killed.
Modi steps up India’s defense preparedness
India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is galvanizing his administration to clear long-pending defense projects that will bolster India’s operational military capabilities, stepping up reforms and raising limits on foreign direct investment in defense production to 49 percent from 26 percent.
India’s defense establishment has long been so riddled with corruption that its previous Defense Minister, AK Anthony almost stopped ordering equipment for fear of kickbacks and bribery. That has heightened India’s geopolitical vulnerability at a time when the country is caught between an expansionist China, with which it shares a disputed 2,500-km border, and an imploding Pakistan.
The withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and the ensuing tension the situation may trigger has done nothing to assuage the department’s worries. At one point, during an extreme provocation by Pakistan, India’s general staff counselled against a military strike because they didn’t think the Indian Army was capable of taking on Pakistan.
Now the Defense Acquisitions Council headed by Defense Minister Arun Jaitley is determined to get things moving, however, clearing a slew of proposals worth over US$140 billion over the weekend.
They include building six new stealth submarines with foreign collaboration in India as well as deals for anti-tank guided missiles, midget submarines for special covert operations, Dornier aircraft and Russian Uran missiles for warships and the like. Purchases of Israeli “Spike” tank-killing missiles, and 321 Israeli Spike launchers and 8,356 missiles also on the list among others.
In a bid to push forth its agenda to privatize defense manufacturing, the right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party government has also greenlighted a deal between the Tata conglomerate and French aircraft giant Airbus to manufacture transport planes for the defense sector. The synergy marks the first big-ticket entry after the FDI limit hike in defense production in August.
The Modi administration earlier faced criticism for not allowing majority control in defense for foreign partners, leading to a widespread apprehension that this might deprive India of a chance to upgrade its antiquated weaponry and partner with world-class players in the crucial sector.
However, in August the Union cabinet approved raising FDI in the sensitive sector to foreign firms. The cabinet also decided that FDI beyond 49 percent would be allowed in state-of-the art defense equipment manufacturing, with technology transfer under Indian control and management. As a safeguard, the Cabinet Committee on Security will approve all such proposals.
“With the Modi government embarking on a ‘Make in India’ campaign to turn India into a global hub for low-cost quality manufacturing, the defense sector figures prominently in its strategy. We’ll be hearing of more and more such big ticket announcements,” said Rakesh Pawar, a consultant to the ministry on defense purchases.
Under the previous political coalition, India faced a long list of scandals in defense procurement deals that deprived the military of state-of-the-art defense equipment. In January, it cancelled a deal with the Italian-owned AgustaWestland to buy 12 luxury helicopters after a 15-month government probe amid allegations the company paid bribes to win the US$753 million contract.
Defence projects in the fast track
It is heartening that the indecision and drift that characterised the erstwhile UPA regime in regard to matters of defence acquisitions has been replaced by a new sense of urgency under the present Modi dispensation.
So thoroughly was the UPA exposed for non-performance and corruption and so low was its credibility in the later years of the Manmohan Singh regime that vital defence purchases were kept on the backburner as defence preparedness suffered.
Now, when at a single meeting of the high-powered Defence Acquisitions Council defence deals worth Rs 80,000 crore are cleared, there is all-round surprise. If this government pulls it off without controversies, it would be a great achievement.
The bulk of the money earmarked is for the Navy that is in dire need of up-gradation and capability enhancement. It is happy augury that the government has decided to make indigenously the six submarines which account for Rs 50,000 crore worth of committed expenditure. Ensuring strict quality control and blocking corruption would be challenges that the decision-makers would have to grapple with. The submarines will be Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) capable that will enable them to stay underwater for longer than conventional submarines besides having enhanced stealth features. They will have the capacity to be equipped with land attack cruise missiles.
The other major acquisition cleared was the purchase of 8,356 Anti Tank Guided Missile of Israel worth Rs 3,200 crore rather than the US’ Javelin missile for the Indian Army. The Army will also purchase 321 launchers for the missile. In the past, any deal with Israel was frowned upon since the West Asian Muslim-majority bloc used to breathe down our neck and the Congress party was unduly concerned about keeping the minority Muslims in good humour for electoral gains.
The Modi government, on the other hand, is not into minority appeasement.
For over five decades, India has been largely dependent on Russia for its military preparedness. But the warmth and vibrancy in the time-tested and very cordial Indo-Russian ties is somewhat evaporating. India’s growing clout in the international community and the fast changing geopolitical matrix has goaded New Delhi to further cement its relationship with Washington and other Western nations, which are willing to offer what Moscow is increasingly failing to deliver — high precision sophisticated weaponry at relative cost. The delay in transforming the modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov into the INS Vikramadtiya and its exceeded cost has badly hurt Russia’s reputation.
Russia’s recent offer to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to India’s arch-rival Pakistan has further dealt a major blow to Indo-Russian ties.
The series of crashes involving mostly Russia-made MiG 21 and MiG 29 fighter jets, a slew of kickback allegations, and procurement delays have marred government’s efforts to upgrade India’s armed forces. There is a growing urgency in India to upgrade its Soviet-era military weaponry to counter China, which has forced it to look beyond Russia.
Another big factor, which has compelled New Delhi to weigh more options is the willingness shown by the Western countries to offer the latest technical know-how along with the clause to co-develop and manufacture hi-tech defence equipments in India to which Moscow never agreed until recently.
The Central government’s decision to fast-track defence projects has come not a day too soon. The Chinese have moved well ahead of India in terms of the country’s defensive and even offensive capability. It is now time for India to play catch-up.
While it is laudable for India to develop indigenous technology and expertise, import substitution in the field of defence cannot be at the cost of quality.
China’s biggest hike in military spending in three years, with its defence budget set to cross $ 130 billion in the current year, should make countries like India sit up. While Chinese officials said the increase was in keeping with the size of China’s growing economy and in line with what most countries spend in terms of percentage of GDP, the 12.2 per cent hike is huge indeed. China’s spending now dwarfs that of countries in the region, and is second only to the United States, which spends more than $ 600 billion on defence. Chinese military analysts explained the defence hike as a response to China’s challenges in the region, such as on-going territorial differences with Japan over East China Sea islands, and recent disputes in the South China Sea. But it would be foolhardy to ignore that Chinese hegemonism could be a threat to India as well.
Though India announced a 10 per cent hike in military spending during the interim budget last year, India’s effective defence spending in dollar terms actually fell. Besides, while the country is in dire need of modernisation of the armed forces and the augmentation of military equipment, then UPA Defence Minister A.K. Antony seemed oblivious to the need to shore up our defences.
What else can one make of the manner in which he caved in last year to the Finance Ministry diktat to cut spending by Rs 10,000 crore in the capital acquisitions for the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force, on the pretext of the economic situation being grim. The UPA government at the Centre was guilty of having jeopardised national interest by failing to upgrade and modernise vital Indian military equipment.
There is a yawning gap in the conventional capabilities between China and India and this asymmetry is increasing by the day. Continued neglect of the modernisation of Indian armed forces and delayed acquisitions during the last 10 years of the UPA rule made the challenge bigger. It is this that the NDA government is grappling with as a legacy of the UPA misrule.