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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 15 Jul

Disparity and Despair

It was a noble gesture by the PM. As per newspaper reports, he was so impressed by the devotion to duty of late Mr Rao, the IFS officer who died in the Kabul bomb blast, that he announced several benefits for his next of kin. These include full salary and government accommodation till the officer would have retired in 2023. It is undisputable that every possible succour must be provided to the bereaved family under such circumstances. Yet, without prejudice to this thought or to the sacred memory of the deceased, certain politically incorrect questions arise.

What separates the case of Mr Rao from that of Brig RD Mehta, or for that matter Col V Vasanth andscores of other army personnel who lay down their lives in the line of duty actively combating terrorism almost every day? Why has no one ever thought of such benefits for their families? Is there any doubt about their devotion to duty? Are their lives any less precious to their families, or to the nation? Or is it ‘no big deal’ because it is par for the course, a professional hazard for services personnel to lay down their lives? The violent death of a diplomat or bureaucrat, on the other hand , is a rare occurrence thus evoking greater sympathy?

All along, we are being told that that the armed forces are supposed to be at par with other services when it comes to fixing pay and allowances. This is the standard argument forwarded for denying a separate pay commission for the services. By that logic, the death benefits for other services should be the same as those applicable to the armed forces. The reason for these double standards is therefore hard to fathom. Irrespective of the reasons or sentiments behind such random acts of kindness, it must be understood that it undermines the supreme sacrifice made by others, and is liable to affect the morale of their comrades.

It is time that the government decided once and for all whether the armed forces are at par with other central services or not, and act responsibly rather than arbitrarily.

Military action against Iran: India calls for restraint
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
India today expressed grave concern over reports suggesting the imminent use of military force against Iran and said a military strike on the Islamic nation would have ‘disastrous consequences’ for the entire region, affecting the lives and livelihood of five million Indians in the Gulf and the world economy.

“India is gravely concerned at these statements threatening the use of military force against Iran. India is against any such military attack, which constitutes unacceptable international behaviour,” an external affairs ministry spokesman said in response to a question.

The spokesman said there was no military solution to the issues that were being discussed between Iran and the international community. “India continues to support negotiations and diplomacy, rather than the threat or use of force... India calls upon all concerned Governments to exercise restraint and choose the peaceful path of persuasion and negotiations.”

The ministry, in another statement, denied a news report carried by a television channel describing comments of foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon regarding the involvement of the Haqqani network in the Indian Embassy blast in Kabul.

“The MEA would like to clarify that this news report is completely false and professionally dishonest,” the statement said.

Nine US soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Nine American soldiers were killed and 15 wounded on Sunday, after insurgents attacked a remote base in northeastern Kunar province near the Pakistani border. It was the deadliest attack against US forces in the country since 2005.

IN THE deadliest attack against US forces in the war-torn country of Afghanistan since 2005, insurgents have killed nine American soldiers and wounded 15 others on Sunday in northeastern Kunar province near the Pakistani border.

Reports say the fighting began in the early morning hours and continued into the day as insurgents were repulsed from an Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat outpost in the border province. Officials said that a force of more than 100 fighters breached the outer walls of the small outpost allowing insurgents to attack American soldiers from the inside.

NATO spokesman Mark Laity on Monday called the efforts of those within the base as “heroic” and “successful” because the attackers had been repelled. He said the insurgents wanted to overrun the outpost but they failed.

Laity said, “A combat outpost had a major attack on it by a large group of insurgents. They had infiltrated a neighbouring village and they fired on the base from that village and then they attacked the base itself. There was very severe fighting. And in that severe fighting we unfortunately lost nine ISAF soldiers. Fifteen others were wounded and four Afghan army people were wounded as well. They attempted to break into that base. They did make some penetration. But overall they were repelled and they took very heavy casualties themselves. They were repelled. And then we brought in air power to stabilise the situation in a fight that then lasted for several hours. It was heroic fighting I would say, successful fighting. They wanted to overrun that base. They failed.”

Laity spelt out that the insurgents have started to use new tactic. He added, “It is quite common for them to attack our combat outposts but this was a larger scale attack than normal. So I’m not sure I would call it a new tactic but it’s not one that they have been using a lot and one of the reasons is, that they usually get defeated. We are obviously very, very sad that we have lost some people but once again their attempt to take that base failed and that is because of the training, the bravery and the superior equipment that we have. Once we had repelled them off the base the use of air power obviously inflicted heavy casualties on them.”

A senior police official in neighbouring Nuristan province, said that the Taliban and units of Hezb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are in the area. Claiming presence of foreign fighters the officer added Arab, Chechen and Pakistani fighters operate there.

The attack was the deadliest for US troops in Afghanistan since June 2005, when 16 American troops were killed - also in Kunar province - when their helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade.

US officials say militant attacks in Afghanistan are becoming more complex, intense and better coordinated than a year ago.

Monthly death tolls of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan surpassed US military deaths in Iraq in May and June.

Meanwhile, democratic US Presidential candidate Barack Obama mourned the death of the US soldiers. The Illinois senator has called for redeploying US forces from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Obama, in his article published in the New York Times has written that as President, he would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support US effort in Afghanistan. He added we need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more non-military assistance to accomplish the mission in Afghanistan.

He writes that on his first day in office, he would give the military a new mission: Ending this war, adding ending the war is essential to meeting the broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven.

Cross Border Infiltration Up in Jammu and Kashmir
By Binoo Joshi

Rajouri (Jammu and Kashmir)
It is the perfect setting for infiltrators to cross into Indian territory - tall bushes, haze, intermittent rains and undulating hills dotting the well-guarded but porous boundary in Jammu and Kashmir. And, on top of it, a cover fire allegedly by Pakistani troops helps militants to cross over into Kashmir with heavy arms and ammunition.
"The infiltration has picked up and there have been serious incidents of firing from across," a senior army officer, posted in the Nowshera sector on the Indian side, told IANS on condition of anonymity as service rules don't allow him to speak to the media.
"It is almost a throwback to the pre-ceasefire days," the officer said, referring to the Nov 26, 2003, ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.
The infiltration, he said, is taking place on a scale "not seen before in the past five years".
India and Pakistan are locked in a truce on the border - the 744-km Line of Control (LoC) which divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries and an international border along parts of Jammu.
However, there have been occasional allegations from India that Pakistan was trying to push armed guerrillas into Kashmir. Nevertheless, officials have admitted that the infiltration has remarkably decreased due to border fencing and other measures taken by the Indian Army.
Pakistani troops on July 10 allegedly opened indiscriminate firing on Indian posts in the Kishna Ghati area, along the LoC in Poonch district, as Indian troopers were engaged in preventing a "major" infiltration bid. The army believes it was a group of eight intruders.
There have been many attempts at infiltration, some effectively foiled by the alert Indian troops, almost on a weekly basis, according to the officer.
Infiltration started picking up in May after melting of snows in the Himalayan passes.
"By now, according to our estimatem, more than 70 militants have crossed over to this side from the south of Pir Panjal only," the army officer said.
Police sources also confirmed that they have received reports that "new faces have been sighted" in the Budhal, Thanna Mandi, Surankote and Bafliaz areas of Rajouri and Poonch districts.
The army sources conceded that the barbed wire fence, which is 12 feet high and runs all along the LoC, has not stopped the infiltration. "It is just a deterrent, not a fool-proof system against the infiltration."
This barbed wire fence has its own problems. It gets damaged during snowfall every winter. The repair takes its own procedural delays and militants take advantage of this, said the officer.
"They (militants) have also developed techniques of jumping (across) the fence, cutting the fence and also neutralizing it by using shock proof gloves," the army source said.

Kargil’s first Indian PoW to fly IL-78

Jorhat, July 14
Nine years since his capture and release, the first Indian prisoner of war (PoW) in the Kargil conflict, Kambampati Nachiketa, is set to fly mid-air refuellers, a small consolation from being kept away from fighter aircraft owing to an injury caused by ‘physical hardships’ during captivity.

“I am being transferred to Agra Air Force Station next month. Now I’ll be flying IL-78 air-to-air refuellers,” Nachiketa, captured on May 27, 1999, after his MiG-27 suffered a flameout while destroying enemy positions in the Batalik sub-sector, told PTI.

On that fateful day, Nachiketa, then a Flight Lieutenant, took off in a ‘Hayena’ formation led by Sqn Ldr A. Mandhokot to bomb enemy positions with 80 mm canons.

Recalling the details, the Vayu Sena Medal awardee said despite initial difficulties, the target was identified and he fired 40 rockets in one salvo. Having acquired the target, he carried out a second attack, this time with 30 mm guns.

“I then eased out of the dive, but felt a backward jerk due to sudden deceleration. The speed dropped to 500 kmph and realised the engine had flamed out. I immediately jettisoned the rocket pods and attempted a relight. Informing my leader Sqn Ldr Mandhokot, I further lowered the altitude to maintain the speed which had felled to 450 kmph,” he said.

With hills surrounding the area and no sign of the engine restarting, Nachiketa realised that eviction was inevitable and after calling to his leader ‘Mando, Nachi ejecting’, had pulled the ejection handle.

While ejecting, Nachiketa saw his aircraft crash into the hills and go up in flames.

“After about 15 seconds of para descent, I landed on soft ice. I saw people running towards me. Bullets were being fired and I returned the fire from the small arms I was carrying.

After holding forth for some time, there was an ambush and I was made a PoW,” he said.

Now a Wing Commander, Nachiketa was unwilling to discuss his experience during captivity but said he was made to undergo “physical hardships.” “It is an experience which is difficult to be described in words. Sometimes I felt that death would have been a better solution,” he said.

He now suffers from back pain and this prevents him from flying a fighter plane. Doctors attribute his pain to the injury during para-landing and the physical hardships during captivity, he said.

Besides physical scars, the experience had been traumatic psychologically. “It took quite some time to heal. But in two or three years you reconcile with life and get on with it.”

However, the trauma was bigger for his family, including his parents and sisters. To a question, Nachiketa admitted that he was initially crestfallen at the prospect of being eased out of flying fighter aircraft, but has now reconciled to it.

“When you are in the cockpit, you have a role. Sometimes experience changes you so much that you accept whatever role you get. My experience has taught me not to regret what I have lost. It has made me stronger,” Nachiketa, fondly known by friends and colleagues as Nachi said. — PTI

India takes disciplinary action against 3 UN peacekeepers in Congo

* Peacekeepers blamed for involvement in smuggling gold
* Indian peacekeeping contingent was lured: statement

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: The Indian army has taken disciplinary action against three of its UN peacekeepers in the Congo for their involvement in gold smuggling and gun running racket. An official release, however, refused to elaborate the charges, saying they were punished for “aberrant behaviour”.
The statement said that these concerned individuals were called from Congo and subjected to detailed investigations headed by an officer of three-star rank. “Subsequent to the investigations, disciplinary action against the three Indian peacekeepers have been initiated under the provisions of the Army Act,” the statement added.

Indian army had hitherto kept the details of the investigations and the action taken against the trio under wraps. The statement while detailing the charges, said a soldier of the Indian peacekeeping contingent was lured into purchasing a small quantity of counterfeit gold dust and thus being cheated by an anti-social person.
“Investigations have revealed that the soldier concerned and his immediate superior officer, on becoming aware of having been cheated, detained the cheat to recover the soldier’s money,” read the statement.
“In light of periodic reports in sections of the media which have sought to undermine professional and ethical behaviour of the Indian peacekeepers in Congo, it is considered essential to place the facts in correct perspective lest mischievous designs of some parties with vested interests should go unchallenged and to ensure that the truth prevails,” the preface to the statement said.
“The media reports have emanated from Congo based upon various allegations levelled by either unnamed sources or by individuals of doubtful credibility, against the Indian peacekeepers of indulging in ‘gold smuggling’, ‘trading arms with the rebels’, ‘refusing to conduct operations against armed rebels and even of ‘sexual exploitation’ of locals,” the statement said. Indian Army statement further stated that all United Nations investigations have rejected all these allegations.

Arjun tank not being thrust on the Army: DRDO

New Delhi, July 12 (ANI): The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) today made it clear that it is not trying to force the Army to buy the indigenous Arjun main battle tank (MBT).
Reports have appeared in newspapers that the Army is being forced to accept more than its demand of 124 tanks already ordered. It has also been pointed out that while the Arjun is a very good armoured vehicle, efforts are being made to develop a more modern tank suited to the needs of the country in the context of changing defence needs.
Sources close to the DRDO have pointed out that the DRDO is not thrusting the Arjun tanks down the throats of the Army The MBT Arjun is strategically a very competent armoured vehicle, having an excellent weight to power ratio, good mobility and very accurate firepower, which conform to the requirements laid down by the Army.
It compares excellently with all the heavy class of tanks available across the world. It can be effectively deployed in most of the border areas of our country. The Army had cleared the MBT Arjun for production and placed an indent on March 30, 2000 for the manufacture of 124 tanks by 2009 for two regiments.
The Defence Ministry has been supporting the induction of MBT Arjun, and has asked the Army to objectively study reports of the trials of the Arjun tanks during the recent exercises, and ruled out abandonment of the project.
There is no question of forcing the Arjun down the Armys throat, as it is the best main battle tank available with the country, a senior DRDO official told ANI over phone.
Recently, the Director General (Mechanised Infantry), Lieutenant General Dalip Bharadwaj, said: Arjun is a contemporary tank and may be used in the next decade or so, but not for a technologically advanced, next generation warfare some two decades hence.
The official said that DRDO will develop a futuristic tank in the form of Mark II, and claimed that no tank can last for 20-25 years.
DRDO is working on the development of the futuristic Mark II MBT with suitable technological upgrades, which can be introduced later after completion of production of at least 500 tanks of the present version.
The comparative trials of MBT Arjun and T-90 can be pursued but should not be linked with placement of further orders for MBT. Government should intervene at this stage and ensure that indigenous efforts in this direction are appropriately rewarded, the official said.
Despite continuing criticism from the Army establishment, the Arjun has successfully completed a gruelling 5,000-kilometre summer trials in the Rajasthan desert. During six months of trials, the DRDO, along with tank crews from the Armys 43 Armoured Regiment, proved not just the Arjuns endurance, but also the ability of its computer-controlled gun to consistently blow away suitcase-sized targets placed more than a kilometre away.
The MBT Arjun today remains a contemporary battle tank and by far superior to T-54, T-55, and T-72 tanks that the Army has been using over the years.
The T-90S and the MBT Arjun tanks are of different class. Both tanks have their own special features. The MBT Arjun has more power to weight ratio, hydro-pneumatic suspension for better ride comfort and a stable platform to fire on the move, better quality class of Gun Control System and Fire Control System etc.
The missile firing capability of Arjun was demonstrated during field trials. The T-90S tank has missile firing capability and lower silhouette. Tanks of both the class are required by the Indian Army.
The present cost of the MBT Arjun is Rs.16.80 crore and the cost of T-90 is around Rs.12.00 crore. The cost of Arjun compares favourably with contemporary Western MBTs of its class, costing in the range of Rs.17 to 24 crores.
Some of the state-of-the-art technologies incorporated in the Arjun are modern integrated fire control system with Fire Control Computer and MRS, Hydro-pneumatic suspension, Kanchan Armour, highly lethal and accurate FSAPDS ammunition and NBC protection.
The major imported systems in the tank are the power pack and gun control system from Germany and Delft-SAGEM gunners main sight from OIP Belgium.
Arjun is a proven tank and has been cleared after taking approval of the Army. The DRDO and Army have drawn a Joint Action Plan and as per which the improvements have been incorporated in the production tanks.
Earlier, Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjeet Singh said: I have spoken, off the record, to officers who have gone through the trials. Even the crews (from 43 Armoured Regiment) who have been testing the tank I forced them to choose between the Russian tanks and the Arjun.
I said, you have driven this tank and youve driven that tank (the T-90). Now mark them out of ten, which tank is better? And Ive found that the Arjun tank was given more numbers than the T-90 tank, Rao added. (ANI)

Indian Army chief to visit Bangladesh

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor is to visit Bangladesh, possibly towards the end of the month, an official said. “The details are being worked out but the visit will most likely take place towards the end of this month,” the defence ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.“This will essentially be a return visit for that of the Bangladesh Army chief (General Moeen U. Ahmed in February), the official added.

That visit, the first by a Bangladesh Army chief of India was considered significant as the political changes and the promulgation of an emergency in the country in January 2007 was strongly backed by the armed forces.

New Delhi hopes that the new dispensation in Dhaka would act on its complaints of cadres of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and other militants using Bangladesh as the staging post for raids into India’s northeastern region.

Even more worrisome than the anti-India groups are the operations of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) extremist group. India has blamed the HuJI, established in 1992 reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front, for two sets of blasts in Hyderabad last year.

While the official was tight lipped on the agenda for Kapoor’s visit, analysts said this would include improving bilateral ties and greater military-military interactions between the Indian and Bangladeshi armed forces.

India has been steadily reaching out to Bangladesh and during Ahmed’s visit, had gifted him six horses valued at a little over Rs.35 million ($850,000) as a token of goodwill and friendship.

Kapoor had handed over the reigns of the two stallions and four mares to Ahmed.

“In the last four or five years, there has been an engagement of a positive nature, but there have been no concrete achievements. We need to turn that around,” an official had said at that time.

Ahmed is the first four-star officer of the Bangladesh armed forces.

Russian Army officers visit mountain combat center in India

14/07/2008 15:44 MOSCOW, July 14 (RIA Novosti) - A delegation of Russian Ground Forces officers will learn about training troops for mountain warfare during a two-week trip to India that started on Monday, a spokesman for the Russian military said.

Deputy commander Lt. Gen. Valery Yevnevich, along with officers from Russia's mountain brigades and the Far Eastern Military Command officer training school, will visit a training center in Jammu and Kashmir, India's northernmost state, "to see how the Indian troops train for mountainous operations," Col. Igor Konashenkov said.

The visit, which runs until July 30, was agreed in Moscow on June 24 by India's Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, and Russia's Ground Forces commander, Gen. Alexei Maslov, as part of an extensive military cooperation program.

Russia began deploying two mountain brigades in the North Caucasus last year, near the mountainous border with Georgia. The two brigades are made up of contract soldiers, totaling about 4,500 personnel.

The Indian Army has 10 divisions dedicated to mountain warfare and another infantry division earmarked for high-altitude operations. They are deployed in strategically important areas along the borders with its traditional rivals, Pakistan and China.

India and Russia have a long history of military cooperation, which goes back almost half a century. The existing Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation program, which lasts until 2010, includes up to 200 projects worth about $18 billion in all, according to Russia's Defense Ministry.

Failure of Arjun Tank is an example of failed Indian technocrats running after quick money American body shop contracts
Harish Baliga
Jul. 13, 2008

It is a shame that the Arjun Tank – Indian indigenous manufacturing efforts of high quality defense armor has miserably failed.

It is the failure Indian science and engineering. It just shows where the country has gone under the guidance of dollar and euro loving ‘India Inc.’.

Fourteen Arjun tanks were handed over to the Indian Army for user trials last year but were returned to the manufacturer - the Combat Vehicles Development Establishment - with a list of defects. These included a deficient fire control system, inaccuracy of its guns, low speeds in tactical areas - principally the desert - and the tank's inability to operate in temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

Now the Defense research organization DRDO calls for investigation on sabotage. There is no sabotage. Indian Army has denied the same. It is a just failed Indian engineering and poor quality.

This just shows the what talented Indian engineers are and were doing in the last twenty five years.

The young talented engineers served as cyber slaves working for American and European companies fixing their ‘legacy systems’ and picking up useless call center phone calls.

India is now void of technical talent to build and service ‘real world class engineering.’

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