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Sunday, 17 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 17 Aug

Two Army majors, jawan killed in helicopter crash
16 Aug 2008, 1534 hrs IST,PTI

JAMMU: Two Army majors and a jawan were killed when a helicopter crashed in eastern Ladakh, a Defence spokesman said here on Saturday.

Lt Col S D Goswami said an Army helicopter with two pilots -- Major Padmanabhan and Major S Ganapathy of the Army Aviation Squadron at Leh -- had taken off on a rescue mission in eastern Ladakh on Friday to evacuate a casualty.

The helicopter lost contact with the air traffic control (ATC) while returning to Leh in bad weather. The wreckage was found near a mountain pass in the eastern Ladakh.

Both the pilots and jawan E Narsaih, who was being evacuated, were killed. The Army has ordered a court of inquiry.

‘India developing network centric warfare capability’


Posted online: Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 1404 hrs IST

Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, August 16:
India is rapidly moving towards developing network centric warfare (NCW) capability, Vice-Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P V Naik has said.

"NCW is vital. You cannot survive today for long against a good adversary without this capability," said Indian Air Marshal at the Nellis Air Force Base, where IAF is participating in the prestigious Red Flag exercise.

Speaking to journalists after celebrating the Independence Day with Indian airmen, he said the Indian armed forces will have this capability by 2010-2011.

"At present we do not have it, we are just about network enabled. But we are in the process of developing this capability."

Pioneered by the United States Department of Defence, NCW relies on computer processing power and networking communications technology to provide shared information of the battle space among armed forces. This shared awareness increases synergy for command and control, resulting in superior decision- making, and the ability to coordinate complex military operations over long distances for an overwhelming war-fighting advantage.

Providing further details about Indian efforts towards network centricity, Air Marshal Naik said the backbone of this entire system will be a fibre optic-based network called Air Force Network (AFNET), on which will be riding the Integrated Air Command and Control Systems (IACCS). IACCS will provide the connectivity for all the airborne platforms and ground platforms.

IAF Creating Network Centric Warfare Capability
By V. Krishnaswamy

New Delhi
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is creating network centric warfare capability to enable it to effectively deploy its assets on the ground, in the air and in space, a top commander has said.

"Network centricity involves linking ground, air and space assets together for complete situational awareness. For this we are in the process of laying a network of fiber optics data links called the Air Force Net, which will be a part of the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS)," the IAF vice chief, Air Marshal Pradeep Naik said Friday.

"The integration of the operational data link with the airborne platforms of IAF will complete the chain. In October we are expecting the first of our AWACS (airborne warning and control system) which will be a crucial link in our network centricity," he added while addressing the IAF contingent at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada that is participating in the ongoing "Red Flag-2008" war game with the US and other air forces.

Naik also attended the pre-exercise briefings, the flying manoeuvres and exercise debriefs of the IAF contingent participating in the prestigious exercise "Red Flag-2008". Apart from interacting with the IAF contingent, Naik also visited the combined air and space operations centre at Nellis.

“I am of the opinion that the relations between countries are best led by the armed forces. India and the US have been natural friends for a long time and they are getting closer and closer. We are looking for increased cooperation in future,” an IAF statement issued here Saturday quoted Naik as saying.

Though India has participated in many US-led war games, it is taking part for the first time in Red Flag, considered one of the toughest military exercises. India has spent around Rs.1 billion ($25 million) for the exercise, which began Aug 10 and will conclude Aug 24.

Apart from India and the US, Red Flag also features air force contingents from France and South Korea.

The IAF has fielded eight Sukhoi SU-30MKI jets, two IL-78 tankers, and an IL-76 heavy transport aircraft. The US has fielded F-15 and F-16 jets, France has fielded the Rafaele fighter and South Korea the F-15.

Talking about the goals of the IAF contingent at the exercise, Naik said: “It is every pilot's dream to take part in this exercise which helps them to fly away from home environment with various other types of aircraft. It is a dense flying environment with large force engagements. It has only been three to four days of flying in the exercise but we are on track to achieve our set goals.”

'Exercise Red Flag' will improve Indo-US defence ties, says IAF Vice-Chief



Sat, 16 Aug 2008:

Nevada, Aug 16 (ANI): Air Marshal P.V. Naik, Vice Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force said that the Indo-US relationship has moved a step closer with the participation of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 'Exercise Red Flag' at Air Force Base Nellis, Nevada, USA.

Air Marshal Naik, visited Team IAF along witLieutenant General Loyd Utterback, the Commander of the 13th Air Force, USAF, Hawai, participating in Exercise Red Flag today.

While speaking to the media persons on the sidelines of his visit Air Marshal Naik said, "I am of the opinion that the relations between countries are best started by the Armed Forces."

"India and USA have been natural friends for a long time and they are getting closer and closer," Air Marshal Naik said, adding, "We are looking for increased cooperation in future."

Talking about Network Centric Operations (NCW) in IAF, Air Marshal Naik said, "Network Centric Warfare capability is vital and indispensable in today's warfare."

He further added, "IAF is a network enabled Air Force and we are progressing towards complete network centricity very fast."

During his visit Air Marshal Naik attended exercise briefings, witnessed flying and exercise debriefs. He also visited the combined Air and Space Operation Center at the base.

He also had a detailed interaction with the air crew on how their missions were progressing and addressed the Air Warriors. He also broke the news of the Sixth Pay Commission to some of them.

He congratulated the technicians for 100 per cent serviceability rate so far.

Lieutenant General Loyd Utterback also addressed the Air Warriors and said "The USAF and IAF together form an incredible team."

"I have been planning to get the IAF team in Red Flag and it has now materialized for peace and security in the region. I am looking forward to work more with you," Loyd added. (ANI)

Army foils infiltration bid, 1 jawan killed

NDTV Correspondent

Saturday, August 16, 2008 (New Delhi)

An Army jawan was killed on Saturday when infiltrating militants fired on a border patrol along the the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

The deceased jawan was identified as Sepoy Naresh Kumar from the Punjab Regiment, according to Srinagar-based Army spokesperson Lt-Col A K Mathur.

In the retaliatory fire by the Army, two of the militants were killed and the troops noticed the ultras dragging the two bodies back into the Pakistani side of the LoC, he added.

The incident took place around 1000 hours this morning near the Khamoosh picket along the Line of Control (LoC).

Since January this year, Indian Army has encountered over 100 attempts by militants to infiltrate in to Jammu and Kashmir. The number of attempts to infiltrate has increase recently as time was very little for the militant groups to increase their strength in the Kashmir valley before the assembly polls slated for October this year.

Moreover, the recent violent incidents over the Amarnath land controversy and the agitation taking a separatist hue during the last three months have provided the militants another reason to increase infiltration attempts to augment their sabotage efforts and anti-India sentiments, according to Army sources.

Think the Unthinkable

Have you been reading the news coming out of Kashmir with a mounting sense of despair? I know I have. It’s clear now that the optimism of the last few months — all those articles telling us that normalcy had returned to Kashmir — was misplaced. Nothing has really changed since the 1990s. A single spark — such as the dispute over Amarnath land — can set the whole valley on fire, so deep is the resentment, anger and the extent of secessionist feeling. Indian forces are treated as an army of occupation. New Delhi is seen as the oppressor. There is no engagement with the Indian mainstream. And even the major political parties do not hesitate to play the Pakistan card — Mehbooba Mufti is quite willing to march to the Line of Control.

At one level, the current crisis in Kashmir is a consequence of a series of actions by the Indian establishment. New Delhi let the situation fester until it was too late. The state administration veered between inaction and over-reaction. The Sangh Parivar played politics with Hindu sentiment in Jammu, raising the confrontation to a new level.

But we need to look at the Kashmir situation in a deeper way. We can no longer treat it on a case-by-case basis: solve this crisis, and then wait and see how things turn out in the future. If the experience of the last two decades has taught us anything, it is that the situation never really returns to normal. Even when we see the outward symptoms of peace, we miss the alienation and resentment within. No matter what we do, things never get better, for very long.

It’s not as though the Indian state has no experience of dealing with secessionist movements. Almost from the time we became independent 61 years ago, we have been faced with calls for secession from nearly every corner of India: from Nagaland, Assam and Mizoram, from Tamil Nadu, from Punjab etc.

In every single case, democracy has provided the solution. We have followed a three-pronged approach: strong, almost brutal, police or army action against those engaging in violence, a call to the secessionist leaders to join the democratic process and then, generous central assistance for the rebuilding of the state. It is an approach that has worked brilliantly. Even in, say, Mizoram, where alienation was at its height in the 1970s, the new generation sees itself as Indian. The Nagas now concentrate their demands on a redrawing of state boundaries (to take in part of Manipur), not on a threat to the integrity of India. In Tamil Nadu, the Hindi agitation is forgotten and in Punjab, Khalistan is a distant memory.

The exception to this trend has been Kashmir. Contrary to what many Kashmiris claim, we have tried everything. Even today, the state enjoys a special status. Under Article 370 of our Constitution, with the exception of defence, foreign policy, and communication, no law enacted by parliament has any legitimacy in Kashmir unless the state government gives its consent. The state is the only one in India to have its own Constitution and the President of India cannot issue directions to the state government in exercise of the executive power of the Union as he can in every other state. Kashmiri are Indian citizens but Indians are not necessarily Kashmiri citizens. We cannot vote for elections to their assembly or own any property in Kashmir.

Then, there is the money. Bihar gets per capita central assistance of Rs 876 per year. Kashmir gets over ten times more: Rs 9,754 per year. While in Bihar and other states, this assistance is mainly in the forms of loans to the state, in Kashmir 90 per cent is an outright grant. Kashmir’s entire Five Year Plan expenditure is met by the Indian taxpayer. In addition, New Delhi keeps throwing more and more money at the state: in 2004, the Prime Minister gave Kashmir another $ 5 billion for development.

Kashmiris are happy to take the money and the special rights but they argue that India has been unfair to them because no free political process has developed. And, it is true that we have rigged elections in Kashmir. But, it is now nearly a decade since any rigging was alleged. Nobody disputes that the last election was fair. Moreover, even though the Congress got more seats than the PDP, the Chief Ministership went to Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as a gesture.

Given that Kashmir has the best deal of any Indian state, is there anything more we can do? Kashmiris talk about more autonomy. But I don’t see a) what more we can give them and b) how much difference it will make.

If you step back and think about it, the real question is not “how do we solve this month’s crisis”? It is: what does the Centre get in return for the special favours and the billions of dollars?

The short answer is: damn all.

As the current agitation demonstrates, far from gratitude, there is active hatred of India. Pakistan, a small, second-rate country that has been left far behind by India, suddenly acts as though it is on par with us, lecturing India in human rights and threatening to further internationalise the present crisis.

The world looks at us with dismay. If we are the largest democracy on the planet then how can we hang on to a people who have no desire to be part of India?

The other cost of Kashmir is military. Many terrorist acts, from the hijacking of IC 814 to the attack on parliament have Kashmir links. Our response to the parliament attack was Operation Parakram, which cost, in ten months, Rs 6,500 crore and 800 army lives? (Kargil cost us 474 lives.) Each day, our troops and paramilitary forces are subjected to terrorists’s attacks, stress, and ridicule.

So, here’s my question: why are we still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with us?

The answer is machismo. We have been conned into believing that it would diminish India if Kashmir seceded. And so, as we lose lives and billions of dollars, the Kashmiris revel in calling us names knowing that we will never have the guts to let them go.

But would India really be diminished? One argument is that offering Kashmiris the right to self-determination would encourage every other secessionist group. But would it? Isn’t there already a sense in which we treat Kashmir as a special case? No other secessionist group gets Article 370 or so much extra consideration. Besides, if you take this line, then no solution (autonomy, soft borders etc.) is possible because you could argue that everybody else would want it too.

A second objection is that Indian secularism would be damaged by the secession of Kashmir. This is clearly not true. As history has shown, Indian Muslims feel no special kinship with Kashmir. They would not feel less Indian if some Kashmiris departed.

Moreover, too much is made of the size of Kashmir. Actually secessionist feeling is concentrated in the Valley, an area with a population of 4 million that is 98 per cent Muslim. (The Hindus either left or were driven out). Neither Jammu nor Ladakh want to secede. So, is the future of India to be held hostage to a population less than half the size of the population of Delhi?

I reckon we should hold a referendum in the Valley. Let the Kashmiris determine their own destiny. If they want to stay in India, they are welcome. But if they don’t, then we have no moral right to force them to remain. If they vote for integration with Pakistan, all this will mean is that Azad Kashmir will gain a little more territory. If they opt for independence, they will last for about 15 minutes without the billions that India has showered on them. But it will be their decision.

Whatever happens, how can India lose? If you believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right to self-determination is the correct thing to do. And even if you don’t, surely we will be better off being rid of this constant, painful strain on our resources, our lives, and our honour as a nation?

This is India’s century. We have the world to conquer — and the means to do it. Kashmir is a 20th century problem. We cannot let it drag us down and bleed us as we assume our rightful place in the world.

It’s time to think the unthinkable.

The shortest way to a soldier's heart


IN THE run up to Independence Day several restaurants have been advertising special Raj menus. I quite like the sound of the food (bakes, souffl├ęs, very alcoholic trifles, that sort of stuff) but the linkage strikes me as odd; wasn't this what we wanted freedom from?

According to the restaurants' blurb the credit for keeping this cuisine alive goes to clubs and Anglo-Indian families, but they miss out the other community that continued to cook these dishes — the wives of armed force officers who made such 'English' food a key part of their cuisine.

I first became aware of armed force wives cuisine thanks to my mother's aunt who was a Navy wife. She is an excellent cook, though she has always professed to find cooking a bore. She says her aim is always to do it quickly and economically, yet her food always tastes good and has a certain imagination and style. I was reminded of her food while eating at the houses of friends who had grown up as army kids, and I realised their mothers shared, not exactly a cuisine in terms of actual dishes, but one united by a similar approach to cooking. Talking to my friends and their mothers I realized how the style had been set by the shared experience of armed force life with all its expectations and restrictions.

The expectations were clear. A certain standard of entertaining and cooking was expected of armed force wives, and enforced by the fiercely polite competitiveness of cantonment life. One lady remembers it with what sounds like rather mixed feelings: "Stuck in a remote outpost what else could we do except cook? And keep meeting for tea parties and dinners to compare what we cooked?" One friend recalls how her mother was famous for never serving 'empty tea' — there would always be innovative snacks and cakes to go with it. In small communities you can be sure that this would get back to the other wives, who would then also be under pressure to have properly non-empty teas!

Armed force life also required a regular round of parties for fellow officers, and also superiors, for whom the need to impress would be even greater. One friend's mother tells me that this was the reason for all those English dishes: "In India that sort of food has always been seen as fancy, so you had to cook it for a party." Perhaps this is changing today, as increasingly globalised and health conscious Indians switch to lighter cuisines, like Italian or Thai, but one shouldn't underestimate the isolating powers of remote army outposts.

A friend whose sister followed her parents into armed force life tells me that her food feels like its from another era: "She's a very good cook, so it's always delicious, but nothing like what most of us would cook these days. Gelatine salads or desserts like floating islands (whipped egg whites cooked in custard), or Indian dishes like navaratan korma or shahi paneer which used to be served in old restaurants."

Tradition has always counted in the armed forces, and army kitchens were no exception. The British had set the custom of curries for lunch, but English food for dinner, and that clearly continued for years after Independence, both in army messes and in army homes. The two were linked as Savitri Ghose, who was an army wife in the 50s and 60s, recalled in an

article: "In those days, we had good cooks and one could easily leave the cooking to them. They made both Indian and British Raj food, excellent roasts, crumb chops and mixed grills which have gone out of fashion…." That generation of army mess trained cooks does seem to have died out; few of my friends could recall their mothers using them. They made such English food by themselves, sometimes learning it from their mothers (since many came from army families themselves) or from cookery classes (Ghose recalls eagerly attended classes run by an army officer's wife who had done a course herself on a foreign posting, and Bhicoo Manekshaw, an air force wife, got her start as a noted chef and cookbook writer by giving such cookery classes).

Another influence was British women's magazines like Woman & Home which were easily available then, and were collected and exchanged, mainly for knitting patterns, but also for recipes. Today the recipes in these magazines are all hip and globalised, but till the 70s they were mainly British staples influenced by the austerity years after World War II. Even when fancy, the recipes had frugality in mind — margarine rather than butter, ways to use up leftovers — which made them ideal for armed force life.

Because the other reality was that all this competitive cooking and entertaining had to be done on minimal budgets. Armed force wives could not afford to be extravagant, and another clear element in their cooking was many ways to make do, to find creative ways to cook at the least expense. My grand aunt, for example, was always making interesting food with inexpensive local ingredients, like the jute leaf chutney in her recipe book.

The armed forces did compensate in some ways. Houses were usually large, so there was space for pickles and preserves to be made and stored. They also usually had gardens where vegetables could be grown.

You could also count on the armed forces to move kitchen equipment wherever you went — a South Indian friend's family always had dosa and iddli batter, even in north India, because their massive stone grinder always traveled with them. And while the Canteen Stores Department (CSD) may not have been quite a cornucopia, it did provide certain things reliably. Some tinned staples were always available (the British magazines also made much use of tins, another reason why they were useful) and even today the one recipe on the website of the Army Wives Welfare Association is for a bean and cheese pie built around a tin of rajma beans in tomato puree.

The CSD also provided the one key item in the armed force wives kitchen — an oven. The problem with home baking in India has always been getting reliable ovens and finding space for them in cramped kitchens. But army kitchens were large and basic ovens, first Bellings, then Toshibas and later Indian brand oven-toaster-grills, were usually available through the CSD.

Another source was from foreign postings, either diplomatic or part of UN peace keeping forces. "Lots of wives got ovens after their husbands were posted in Gaza," a friend recalls. Baking was an important skill for all armed force wives (again those British magazines were useful here), something that marked them out from other middle class Indian wives who rarely had ovens. For some this would later become a way of earning a little extra income, making birthday cakes and cookies to sell to neighbours.

Another way armed force wives differed from other middle class wives was the regional variety in their food. Officers came from all regions, so a lot of culinary cross-fertilisation took place as wives swapped recipes (they also picked up recipes from the regions they were posted in). This sort of swapping happens in any apartment block, of course, but a friend points out that the difference was the standards you were held to at all the constant

parties: "You had to be good in your own regional cooking, since that was what you were known for. And if you tried another regional recipe, you had to become perfect at it, since you'd be compared against the person you got the recipe from." Some ladies say darkly that it was not unknown for key ingredients to be left out, and in the introduction to Tripti, a cookbook put out by Vayu Shakti Sangini, the air force wives association, Suman P.

Rao notes ruefully, "each of us probably has at least two or three of her child's abandoned exercise books filled with recipes given to her (sometimes, alas, somewhat reluctantly!) by her friends."

So far I've mentioned the armed forces as one, but there were also subtle differences between the services. An air force wife tells me that the advantage of their planes flying all over the country was that they could be loaded with different foods, like Alphonso mangoes in Darjeeling or Christmas cake decorations from Kolkata in Cochin.

Navy ships sailed to foreign ports, and had the benefit of duty free goods — the first memory of foreign cheese for many people was the tins of Kraft that were always available from Navy families. (The Navy was also the one service where the men had a tradition of cooking, but that's another matter). There's probably much more that could be written about army wives and their cooking, so if readers have stories please write in.

vikram [ ]

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