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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

From Today's Papers - 03 Jun

Three items added.

Vir Chakra awardee is army’s medical chief
June 2nd, 2008 - 3:43 pm

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Lt. Gen. Naresh Kumar Parmar, a recipient of the Vir Chakra for gallantry during the 1971 India-Pakistan war, has taken over as the Director General of Medical Services (Army). Parmar took over from Lt. Gen. Saibal Mukherjee, a defence ministry statement said Monday.

A graduate of MGM Medical College, Indore, Parmar was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in July 1970. He received his diploma in hospital administration from Pune University in 1980 and a masters in the same subject from Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 1989.

An alumnus of the National Defence College, Parmar was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal in 2004 and the Ati Vishist Seva Medal in 2008 for his “unflinching dedication to the cause of service”, the statement said.

During his long career, Parmar has held important posts like training officer at the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune, commanding officer of the field hospital at Hunder on the Siachen glacier, professor and head of department of hospital administration at AFMC, Pune and additional director general Armed Forces Medical Services, at New Delhi.

After Congo, Indian peacekeepers save lives in Sudan
June 2nd, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS - Email This Post Email This Post

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) After a rescue operation in Congo, it was the turn of India’s UN peacekeepers in Sudan to save lives after a truck ferrying troops of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) overturned, injuring about a dozen soldiers, two of whom were stuck under the vehicle and bleeding profusely. The accident occurred at 2 p.m. May 28, a defence ministry statement Monday said.

Troops of the 2 Naga regiment deployed at Bor in southern Sudan “immediately rushed to the site along with a detachment of engineer and medical personnel to extricate the SPLA troops and provide medical aid”, the statement said.

“The immediate response to the humanitarian need by the Indian soldiers helped save lives of SPLA soldiers who would have otherwise bled to death.

The assistance rendered by the Indian troops was widely appreciated and the governor (of the region) expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the immediate and decisive life saving assistance,” the statement said.

“The incident highlights the fine balance the Indian troops maintain in UN missions between professionalism and humanitarian efforts beyond the accepted mandate,” the statement added.

In April, a timely rescue operation mounted by Indian Army troops peacekeepers saved the lives of a number of passengers injured in a plane crash in the Congo.

The officers and men of the 6th battalion of the Sikh Light Infantry swung into action immediately after a Heba Wora airways DC-9 aircraft with 80 passengers and six crew on board crashed at the southern end of the runway of Goma airport in the North Kivu province of the Congo at 2.45 p.m. April 16.

The Indian battalion, which is serving with the North Kivu Brigade of the UN mission in the Congo, was deployed at the Goma airport.

The Indian Army personnel along with the Red Cross managed to rescue six survivors and retrieve 18 bodies from the crash site, a defence ministry statement said April 17.

“A major success was attained when in spite of the raging fire, Lt. Col. K.S. Mathur of the unit managed to retrieve the flight recorder of the aircraft from its tail end,” the statement added.

The police and civil administration in the North Kivu province is virtually defunct due to the raging war between the Congolese government and the rebel forces.

Indian and Chinese troops hold border meet near Tawang
2 Jun 2008, 1840 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: Amid reports of tension on Sino-India border in North Sikkim, Army border personnel of the two countries held a meeting at the famous Bum La pass in Arunachal Pradesh to maintain tranquility on the frontier.

Senior officers from both the armies met "in an atmosphere of cordiality" to discuss "functional issues", a Defence Ministry spokesman said here on Monday.

The meeting, which took place on Friday in the strategic Tawang valley, was the first face-to-face interaction between the two armies in the wake of a stand-off between the forces in 'finger point' in North Sikkim.

"At the interaction, both delegations reaffirmed their resolve to maintain peace and tranquility along the border," the Defence Ministry said.

The border post meetings have become a regular feature after recent confidence-building measures announced by the two countries and are held every year in the month of May.

At the meeting, the Indian commander conveyed New Delhi's heartfelt grief on the loss of lives and devastation caused by an earthquake in nearby Sichuan province.

Diversion of funds for swimming pool
Delhi HC relief to Major-Gen
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 2
A division Bench of the Delhi High Court today set aside the censure awarded by the Army to a Major-General, who had allegedly diverted funds meant to construct safety aids and allied facilities at an ammunition depot in Hisar to make a swimming pool adjacent to the flag staff house.

The Bench, comprising Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice J.M. Malik, set aside the censure awarded to Major-Gen R.K. Loomba as certain mandatory provisions was not followed during the course of investigations by the Army authorities.

“Our case was that the Army Rule 180 was not complied with during the court of inquiry,” General Loomba’s counsel Jyoti Singh told The Tribune.

Under military law, compliance of this rule is mandatory when the character and military reputation of an accused is involved and the rule gives him a right to cross-examine witnesses.

“Since Major-Gen Loomba had already been approved for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-General when the controversy had broken out, the Army will now have to consider his case in light of the court’s order,” she added. The Army had conducted its investigations into the matter in late 2006 and the officer’s promotion was put on hold.

Taking cognisance of audit findings and a subsequent court of inquiry (COI), the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Command, Lieut-Gen P.K. Singh, ordered “recordable displeasure” against General Loomba over a year, following which he moved the high court.

General Loomba was the General Officer Commanding, 33 Armoured Division, in Hisar when the funds were allegedly diverted. In his reply to the subsequent show-cause notice issued to him, he had maintained that the pool was constructed for the benefit of military personnel and not for any personal benefit.

The authorities concerned, however, were of the opinion that the diversion of funds without prior approval was a misuse of delegated financial authority and he could not be absolved of the act of commission or omission.

According to an audit note forwarded to the comptroller and auditor-general, the construction of the swimming pool involved “misappropriation” of funds of over Rs 23 lakh.

Army kills two militants in J&K

02 June, 2008 11:33:00 Agencies
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Srinagar, June 2 (agencies): Two militants were killed in a gun battle with soldiers in a village in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir early Monday, an official said. A defence spokesperson here said soldiers troops of the 32 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) surrounded Watergam village, about 65 km from here, following a tip off. “While the soldiers were searching the village, the hiding militants opened fire at the troops. The soldiers returned fire and two militants were killed,” the spokesperson said. “The operation is still in progress,’ he added.

Indian Army may face fuel rationing, say oil companies
The Indian Army consumes a little less than half a million tonnes of petroleum products a year, 94% of which is supplied by Indian Oil Corp.
Utpal Bhaskar
New Delhi: Even as the government continues to send out mixed signals on the decision to raise prices of transport and cooking fuel, the country’s state-owned oil marketing companies have raised the pitch of their efforts to secure an increase in prices by saying their supplies to the army could be hit if this isn’t done soon.
Mint had reported on 29 May that these oil marketing companies which sell fuel at a government-mandated subsidized price, thereby incurring huge losses, were addressing the crisis brought about by the soaring price of crude by cutting back supplies in parts of the country.
“We cannot negate the possibility that if the current situation persists, the crisis will not affect the requirements of the Indian Army. It is very unfortunate,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
The Indian Army consumes a little less than half a million tonnes of petroleum products a year, 94% of which is supplied by Indian Oil Corp., or IOC, the country’s largest oil marketing firm.
This demand is expected to increase on the back of increased troop movement necessitated by more anti-terror operations in various parts of the country.
Restricting sales: Indian Oil Corp. chairman and MD Sarthak Behuria. ( Ashesh Shah / Mint)
Restricting sales: Indian Oil Corp. chairman and MD Sarthak Behuria. ( Ashesh Shah / Mint)
A senior executive at IOC, who did not wish to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said: “As of today, there is no crisis (for the army) but if the bail-out package is not announced shortly, we cannot rule out anything.”
Defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar could not be reached for comment.
IOC and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd have started restricting supply to dealers who retail their products and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd is set to follow suit this week.
“We have restricted our sales subject to availability. The market will have to feel the pinch for diesel and petrol. There will be pressure in some parts of the country over the next few weeks. We have seen this kind of crisis in the (19) 80s and the ’90s. I am not saying there will be a dry-out. However, there would be a panic situation,” Sarthak Behuria, chairman and managing director of IOC, said last week.
The United Progressive Alliance government’s policy of getting state-owned oil marketers to sell fuel at a price lower than ths cost of production is expected to result in losses of Rs2 trillion for such firms in 2008-09.
The government may decide on a marginal increase in fuel prices by Rs2 per litre on diesel and Rs4 per litre on petrol, accompanied by a reduction in the customs duty on crude oil by half to 2.5%, and on diesel and petrol by a third to 5%.
The government is in a bind over increasing fuel prices because political parties supporting the coalition government at the Centre are strongly opposed to any increase in prices.
(K.P. Narayana Kumar contributed to this story.)

Defence Minister AK Antony, who suffered a temporary blackout while inspecting the passing out parade at the National Defence Academy (NDA) near Pune, was flown in Delhi on Saturday evening and admitted to the Army Hospital (Research & Referral) as a precautionary measure.

He was later discharged from hospital and returned home, an official said.

''He will rest on Sunday and resume his normal schedule on Monday,'' defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

At the hospital, Antony underwent a thorough examination by his personal physician, Maj. Gen. Mathew Thomas, who is also the facility's head. He then left for his official residence in Delhi.

Earlier in the evening, the minister had walked down unaided from the special Indian Air Force aircraft that flew him to Delhi from Pune and spent a few minutes with officials who were at the military area of the airport to greet him, Kar said.

''We then suggested that he not strain himself anymore. He then got into his car and was driven to the hospital,'' Kar added.

Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and adviser to the defence minister Sundaram Krishna were among those who greeted Antony when his aircraft landed at the airport here around 6.30 pm.

At Khadakwasla, the NDA campus near Pune, the cadets of the 114th course were marching past under a blazing sun on Saturday morning when Antony suddenly slumped into a chair on the saluting dais. He stood up but then fell onto the dais. An army officer immediately ran up and carried him to his car parked nearby.

By then, Antony had recovered and insisted on returning to the dais, where NDA commandant Air Marshal TS Randhawa had quickly taken the defence minister's place to ensure there was no interruption in the parade.

Antony ignored repeated pleas of doctors to get into the car and did so only after the last contingent had marched off the parade ground.

He was then taken to the Military Hospital at NDA where doctors conducted two ECGs, as also a blood test and a cholesterol test. The defence minister was advised six to seven hours of rest.

He was subsequently shifted to the Command Hospital in Pune and kept under observation in the cardio-thoracic trauma centre.

''There is no reason for any apprehension. He is completely ok. His hectic schedule, lack of sleep, dehydration and the scorching sun at the passing out parade led him to feel dizzy,'' Col. Deepak Bahadur, the physician who treated him at the NDA hospital, told reporters.

''The ECGs and other tests did not show up anything abnormal,'' Randhawa said, adding that the minister was treated in line with his medical history.

''The minister had returned to New Delhi on Friday (after attending the Berlin Air show). He worked in office for an hour and then left for Khadakwasla, arriving late on Friday night,'' NDA public relations officer Major Pratap Singh, who carried Antony to the car, said.

Tribune Special
Punjab youth count dips in NDA
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 2
If you think north Indians lead in joining the armed forces, you are wrong. A subtle change is taking place in the demographic profile of the forces as the intake from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh is on the decline.

The number of youth from north Indian states joining the National Defence Academy (NDA) is on a steady decline and this phenomenon has become more prominent in the past five years.

Reason: Either the youth from the North are failing to clear the entrance test or they are not interested in a career in the forces, said a senior officer.

NDA Commandant T.S. Randhawa says: “We have been getting a healthy pool of talent that is trained as officers. It should not bother anybody from where they are coming”.

The north Indian states — seen as the home to the “martial races” — the Sikhs, Jats and the Rajputs — no more form the backbone of the forces.

The bulk now is from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. More numbers of boys from these two states along with youth from the northeastern states are qualifying.

The worst decline has been witnessed from Punjab where the intake has reduced to a single-digit number. Just a decade ago, about 30 boys from the state cleared the NDA exam, held twice a year.

However, in the past five years, the number is declining fast and the previous batch had just 10 boys from Punjab. And still worst, not a single candidate from Chandigarh has qualified for the NDA in the past three batches. Delhi, with its mix of Sikh, Punjabi and Jat population notwithstanding, had only eight boys in the last batch; down from the “heyday” just a decade ago when the average was more than 20 for each batch.

In case of Himachal Pradesh, which has a sizeable number of Rajput and Punjabi population, the number at the NDA is falling. The heroics of Capt Vikram Batra, who was awarded the Paramvir Chakra for the Kargil War, does not seem to have not encouraged the youth enough.

In the past five years, the intake has been mostly less than 10. However, the last three batches have been somewhat better. About a decade ago, Himachal had a constant stream of young officers so much so that demands had been made that Himachal should have a separate regiment.

In case of Haryana, the intake has varied with each batch but has remained somewhat static. However, the youth from Uttarakhand and Rajasthan have maintained a healthy inflow. On an average more than 20 boys make it to every batch.

Nationally, there has been decline from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal also.

Australia for practical military cooperation with India P.S. Suryanarayana
The two countries already have a high degree of trust between one another, says its Defence Minister

Says Canberra can learn from New Delhi’s expertise in counter-terrorism

Australia does not want its ties with China and India to be a zero-sum game

Joel Fitzgibbon

SINGAPORE: Australia, under the new Kevin Rudd government, intends to engage India in “closer practical military cooperation, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.” And, “the starting point is the two countries already have a high degree of trust between one another.”


Outlining the “potential” for a new take-off from this “platform” of mutual trust and compatible democracies, Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told The Hindu that “maritime security and counter-terrorism” were already identified for enhanced cooperation “in the first instance.” India, he said, “has great expertise in counter-terrorism, and we think we can learn from that.”

In an exclusive interview, after the conclusion of the seventh Asia Security Summit organised here by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Fitzgibbon said: “I don’t exclude anything from the dialogue” with India in the defence domain.

He was responding to specific questions about the possibilities of India-Australia cooperation on matters relating to “network-centric warfare, missile defence, and outer space-oriented preparedness.”

Mr. Fitzgibbon said: “You almost drove me into operational issues now. While I have had a number of conversations with the Indian junior Defence Minister [M.M. Pallam Raju, on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit in Singapore], I wouldn’t want to pre-empt more, formal, discussions on the practical ways in which we can develop our cooperation. We are both ‘Western democracies,’ sharing many of the same values; and that’s a great starting point for any further discussions.”

He was emphatic, however, that “the new government [in Canberra], at this point in time, has not turned its mind to any decision about a quadrilateral relationship [among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States].” The idea, first mooted by Japan about two years ago, has been opposed in some East Asian quarters. Yet, Australia would not see its own ties with China and India through the “prism” of any zero-sum games.

India a key player

As Australia “develops a new white paper on defence this year, we will be looking to India as very much a strategic player for global security and security in the [Asian] region.” As for Beijing’s strategic relevance to Canberra, he said: “The only country that has a stronger economic relationship with Australia [than China] is the United States of America.”

Engaging the U.S.

Asked about the signs that the Kevin Rudd government would think totally out of the box in engaging the U.S., Mr. Fitzgibbon said: “It is true that we are putting a greater emphasis on our own region, but the U.S. is an important player in that equation as well. We are absolutely committed to [Australia’s] U.S. alliance. It is one of the first pillars of our defence policy and will continue to be so into the future.”

About the Australian Labour Party’s signature tune on Iraq in this context, the Defence Minister said: “We have promised to have our troops out by mid-year, and they shall be.”

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