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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 15 Oct

Cabinet may take up Forces' pay issue on October 16
15 Oct 2008, 0226 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday is likely to consider the resolution of the "anomalies" raised by the Armed Forces in their revised pay scales, after external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee held fresh consultations with defence minister A K Antony and finance minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday.

Mukherjee is the head of the three-member ministerial committee set up by the PM to look into the entire matter after the Armed Forces delayed raising their new salary bills for October since they held that their extant parity with their civilian and paramilitary counterparts had been "destroyed".

Though some quarters in the government have tried to project as "defiance" the three Service chiefs' reluctance to implement the revised pay scales, many others feel they did not have any other option in wake of widespread discontent in their forces.

Sovereignty lies with the people

By Kuldip Nayar submitted 20 hours 1 minute ago

India has prided itself over apolitical military and firm democracy. Even when the neighbouring countries lost the ballot box, we were confident that the democratic system in the country faced no danger. We watched the change of governments at the centre on TV screens and it never crossed our mind that the army could walk in to replace bumbling political parties.
Our faith in the people to decide on the type of representatives they send to Parliament or state assemblies has never been shaken, although we have not been too happy over the candidates elections have thrown up.
I was appalled when I heard the remarks of two retired military officers. They were rightly unhappy over new pay scales of the armed forces. I fully support their plea that the disparity between civil servants and those in the military should go. In fact, the dangers the latter faces or the tasks it is called upon to do should entitle them to be placed a cut above the rest. Why they have been gradually downgraded after the Fourth Pay Commission is not understandable.
However, what shocked me were the remarks on a popular TV network. One of the officers said that the army was furious today, but if it were to become ferocious anything could happen. The other officer, who argued the case of salaries cogently, threatened: is fitne kho soye rehne do (let this mischief sleep).
I do not want to comment on the remarks because both officers did not realise what they were saying was at the spur of the moment. They were conveying to the nation that if their demands were not met, the consequences would be dire. Even after the programme, if they have not realised the wrongness of their observations, all that I can say is: Forgive them Lord, because they do not know what they say.
I only hope that some of their colleagues would point out to them that there was no place in democracy for ventilating anger in the way they did. Sovereignty lies with the people in this country and will continue to remain so. They asserted themselves when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took away their independence and administered in a dictatorial manner. She and her Congress party were routed. No person or a group should believe that they can ride roughshod over the wishes of the people who, at one time, defeated the mighty British to win freedom.
Coming back to the pay scales, I expect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene. The matter should not have been allowed to reach the pitch it has. Defence Minister A K Anthony is a good man but not a good administrator. This was his reputation as Kerala Chief Minister. That may have been the reason why some reservations were expressed at the time of his induction into the Cabinet. I am told that a tiff between him and Finance Minister P Chidambaram has led to this situation. Strange, that the PMO which keeps track of even trivial matters did not smell a big crisis building up.
However deep the grievance, I have not liked the way in which the three service chiefs have gone about getting the pay scales of armed forces raised. This smacks of unionism. I am all for workers' unions but should such a thing reflect at the level of top brass? Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who heads the chiefs of staff committee, was discreet, to say the least, in writing a letter to his men saying that he had been "constrained" to delay payment of arrears and new scales in view of "some serious disparities that have been introduced which disturb the extant parties between defence officials and those from other central services."
He has a point. For instance, a Lieutenant Colonel is now to be paid about Rs 17,000 less than civilian counterparts, an IAS officer with the rank of a director and about Rs 12,000 less than a commandant in the paramilitary forces. Similarly, a Lieutenant General will be paid less than a Director General of Police which reduces his status. At the lower level, the pension of jawans has been reduced. Ironically, the entire package would cost the government just another Rs 450 crore.
By the time this column appears, it is probable that the prime minister would have taken up the matter at his level and sorted things out. But the remarks of the two top retired officers give a peep into the thinking of a section of the military officers. It is palpably wrong and dangerous. I do not know if the armed forces have taken into consideration the Border Security Force which is the first line of defence. The risks they take or the dangers they face are in no way less than that of the armed forces.

Embassy Bombing
Pak denies ISI hand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 14
Pakistan is understood to have denied the involvement of ISI in the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul and assured its commitment to upholding the ceasefire on the border between the two countries.

No Pakistani agency was involved in the Kabul embassy incident, Pakistan national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani is learnt to have told India's NSA M.K. Narayanan at their two-day official-level talks, which concluded today.

Durrani also had meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon today. He also interacted with the National Security Council and members of the National security Advisory Board.

Reliable sources privy to the meeting between Narayanan and Durrani said the Indian side was told by the Pakistani delegation that all security agencies in Pakistan, including the ISI, were firmly under the control of the political leadership. India assured Pakistan that it would abide by the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty when Islamabad expressed concern over the 'reduced' flow of water in Chenab.

A joint statement by the two sides said the two NSAs reviewed the status of bilateral relations against the backdrop of recent summit level meetings between the leadership of both countries.

Pak threatens India on Chenab issue Press Trust of India
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 (Islamabad)

Pakistan on Tuesday threatened to go for third party arbitration if, it said, India does not compensate it for the loss of two million acre feet of water due to an alleged reduction in the flow of the Chenab River.

Accusing India of diverting water from the Chenab to fill the Baglihar dam in Jammu and Kashmir, Indus Waters Commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah said Islamabad will neither drop its claim nor "sell" its share of Chenab waters.

Shah's comments came days after President Asif Ali Zardari warned that a row over the sharing of waters of the Indus river system could affect bilateral ties.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Lahore on Monday, Shah said he would take up Pakistan's claim for the diverted Chenab waters when he goes to India with a delegation on October 18.

"India will have to compensate Pakistan during the coming rabi season. Otherwise, Islamabad will resort to other treaty mechanisms to get its due share," he said.

Pakistan has no objection to the design of the Baglihar dam, which was changed by India on the recommendations of a World Bank-appointed neutral expert. But India has to observe the criteria for filling the dam, which were not part of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, he said.

"If India insists on its rights under the treaty it also has to observe its duties that exclude tampering with the Chenab flows. It is under a treaty obligation to release 55,000 cusecs even when filling the lake," he said.

Pakistan will ask India to release the water that was allegedly diverted for Rabi crops during November-April, Shah said.
During his visit to India, Shah will visit the Baglihar dam and participate in a meeting of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters.


Those of us who, at one time or the other during the past many decades, had been in the part of the country where The Tribune is most widely read or had the opportunity to have access to it know it for certain and can vouch, without an iota of reservation, the profound concern and tender feelings the newspaper has always displayed towards the armed forces of this country. As regards the pay scales or order of precedence, perks or promotion avenues, status or social recognition, the armed forces officers have invariably been given a shoddy deal over the decades. Otherwise, why is there an acute shortage of officers in the Army? Aren't we playing with the paramount security needs of the nation?

The Sixth Pay Commission has provided the last straw on the camel's back, thus triggering the unfortunate stand-off between the government and the defence personnel. Why has no representative of the defence services been ever associated with the pay commissions while deciding the fate of over 13 lakh-strong armed forces of the country? Why are the defence forces sidelined in the very things that concern them so intimately? This is gross injustice.

Wg-Cdr S.C. KAPOOR (retd), Noida

US Army chief to visit India to take ties to next level

15 Oct 2008, 0228 hrs IST,TNN

NEW DELHI: In keeping with the upward trajectory in Indo-US defence ties, the US Army chief General George W Casey will be visiting India this week to discuss ways to further boost bilateral cooperation.

Gen Casey, during his three-day visit beginning Thursday, will be holding extensive talks with Gen Deepak Kapoor and other top military brass, apart from visiting defence establishments.

As reported earlier by TOI, military pacts and mega defence deals are now firmly on Indo-US radar screens, even as their armed forces engage in a flurry of "advanced" combat exercises to further enhance "interoperability".

Towards this end, close after the return of Indian Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft and IL-78 mid-air refuellers from the Red Flag exercise in the US, the 14th Indo-US Malabar naval wargames are already underway in the Arabian Sea.

Are Pakistan's nuclear warheads safe?

Gurmeet Kanwal | October 14, 2008 | 12:16 IST

Pakistan is facing a grave internal security crisis as radical extremists are gradually gaining ground. The crisis is attributable to a large extent to the resurgence of Islamist fundamentalist forces and the army's inability to fight them effectively. Consequently, the spectre of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorist organisations has once again come to the fore. Western commentators are calling for contingency plans to physically secure or destroy the nuclear warheads in the event of a meltdown in the country.

The possession of nuclear weapons by Islamist fundamentalist terrorists will pose a grave danger to international security. The Al Qaeda has declared war on the United States and it allies, and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are known to have made attempts to buy nuclear warheads. Whether the Al Qaeda leadership will actually detonate nuclear warheads over civilian targets or plan to use them for coercion is not known; however, given their predilection for senseless terrorist strikes, they are unlikely to be averse to actually exploding a bomb or two to achieve their nefarious goals.

Among Pakistan's neighbouring countries, India will be particularly vulnerable if Islamist terrorists and their Al Qaeda and Taliban brothers ever lay their hands on Pakistan's nuclear warheads as it is one of the nations that the Al Qaeda has named as an enemy. Being a contiguous land neighbour, it is also easier to target even if sophisticated delivery systems like ballistic missiles are not available.

Islamist terrorists can gain possession of nuclear warheads by physically breaching the security ring around them, by subverting the personnel on guard duty or if they succeed in overthrowing the regime in power in Islamabad through a coup. The Pakistani military authorities are extremely concerned about such eventualities and have made elaborate arrangements to ensure that all their nuclear warheads are stored safely. They claim that carefully formulated personnel reliability policies and electronic safety mechanisms have been developed and incorporated by Pakistan's Nuclear Command Authority.

General Musharraf and his lieutenants have reiterated several times that Pakistan's nuclear warheads are safe and are in no danger of falling into the hands of radical extremists. The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs said in a recent statement: 'As a responsible nuclear weapon state Pakistan has always attached great significance to the security of its strategic assets. These assets are completely safe and secure under multi-layered security and Command and Control structures that are fully indigenous.'

Pakistan's nuclear warheads (about 30 to 50 in number) are reported to be stored at up to six separate locations. The warheads are stored separately from the launchers so as to guard against accidents and unauthorised use. Luongo and Salik have written that the warheads are equipped with electronic locks (Permissive Action Links). A three-tier security system has been instituted for the physical protection of the various components of the warheads.

The fissionable atomic core made of highly enriched uranium and the high explosive trigger assembly are handled only by the respective agencies and are in their custody. These are stored in fortified underground storage sites. Entry and exit into these "bunkers" is controlled by armed and well-equipped specially selected and meticulously trained personnel of the Security Division of the Strategic Plans Division who form the second tier. As part of the Personnel Reliability Programme, these personnel are screened carefully before induction, are kept under constant surveillance and are frequently rotated.

The third tier comprises a well-guarded and fortified perimeter fence with strictly controlled entry. Most of these sites have air defence assets allotted to them to defend against attacks from the air. Personnel selected for the security of the outer perimeter are reported to belong to elite infantry battalions of the Pakistani army. The possibility of any of these personnel being subverted is guarded against by counter-intelligence teams. Military regimes have very strong survival instincts and the Musharraf regime has ensured that hard-line radical elements are ruthlessly weeded out from the nuclear security detail. Hence, it can be concluded that if some rogue elements were to try to gain control over the nuclear warheads, they would have to be prepared to fight their way through several layers of highly motivated personnel who are armed to the teeth.

The delivery systems of Pakistan's Strategic Forces Command, comprising Chinese supplied M-11 and M-9 and the North Korean Nodong and Taepo Dong nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles and their launchers, are based at separate locations. These sites or "hides" are well-dispersed to ensure that maximum warheads survive a conventional air attack during war. They are also well defended against possible commando raids.

In the improbable eventuality that radical hard-liners take over Pakistan, their rag-tag fighters will have to fight the elite army guards to the bitter end before they can lay their hands on the delivery systems. A terrorist organisation must get hold of both a nuclear warhead and a launch system and must acquire the expertise to mate the warhead with the launcher. Or, it must smuggle a warhead undetected to the target and somehow break the electronic code to activate it. These are all extremely complex challenges as highly sophisticated expertise is required to test, mate, activate and launch a nuclear warhead.

Soon after General Musharraf's military coup in October 1999, reports of joint US-Israel plans to seize control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons had made headlines the world over. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of Watergate fame had written in The New Yorker that commandos of Israel's elite Unit 262 and US Special Forces had been rehearsing plans to prevent Pakistan's nuclear warheads from falling into the hands of Islamist fundamentalists within and outside the Pakistan army. It had even been speculated that India would willingly provide logistics support for such a venture.

Similar stories have again been appearing in the media, particularly the Western press. Contingency plans are reported to exist for the Special Forces to "take out" or "secure" Pakistan's nuclear weapons, even though it is acknowledged that it is an unbelievably daunting problem. Thomas E Ricks quotes retired Marine Colonel Gary Anderson as having said ('Calculating the Risks in Pakistan', Washington Post, December 2, 2007): 'The bottom line is, it's the nightmare scenario... It (Pakistan) has loose nukes, hard to find, potentially in the hands of Islamic extremists, and there aren't a lot of good military options.'

Planners in the Pentagon must appreciate that even though Pakistan is bleeding from serious blows struck by the Frankenstein monster of radical extremism, it still has a professionally trained combat-ready army that will fight tooth and nail to defend Pakistan's strategic assets against foreign intervention. Hence, a joint US-Israel commando operation to secure or take out Pakistan's nuclear warheads in the event of a serious crisis is a far-fetched idea that does not have even a remote chance of succeeding.

However, there is a possibility that an Islamist fundamentalist regime might overthrow the unstable civilian government with support from a large faction of the army. In such an eventuality, the US and its allies may justifiably form another 'coalition of the willing' to bomb the nuclear warhead storage sites in Pakistan from the air. The coalition forces could employ cruise missiles and fighter-bombers from stand-off ranges to physically destroy the warheads with deep penetration bombs. Several repeat bombing runs would be required after strike damage assessment and even then there will be no guarantee that all the warheads would be destroyed or rendered ineffective.

In fact, a non-kinetic option that employs high-energy microwaves to "fry" the electronic circuitry of the nuclear warheads may also be considered, either in conjunction with physical destruction of the warheads or as a stand-alone strike. These options presuppose that accurate information of the locations of all the warhead storage sites would be available in advance for targeting. The intelligence fiasco about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq and other recent revelations do not generate confidence that this might be so.

Some Pakistani commentators have been scathing in their criticism of Western doubts about the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear warheads. Adnan Gill has called it mass hysteria and loose talk ('Loose Nukes or Loose Talk?' Asian Tribune, November 23, 2007). However, others like Farah Zahra make out a case for bolstering Pakistan's nuclear safety ('Bolstering Nuclear Safety', The News, October 25, 2007).

Indian political leaders and analysts have shown restraint in commenting on Pakistan's nuclear worries. M K Narayanan, India's national security advisor, has rated the probability of Pakistan's nuclear warheads falling into the hands of extremist elements as remote. Bharat Karnad laments the lack of Indian capability to intervene deep inside Pakistan if it becomes necessary to do so ('Nuclear Commando and Control',Asian Age, January 17, 2008): The Indian Army has ten Special Forces battalions but lacks the capability to inject commando teams deep into Pakistan via high-altitude air-drop or by helicopters flying extremely fast and low to avoid Pakistani radar. It is a moot point whether a weak coalition government in India will have the political courage to join a coalition of the willing to secure or destroy Pakistan's nuclear warheads.

The clear and present danger, however, and one that continues to be underestimated, is from nuclear terrorism. Terrorist organisations may assemble radiological dispersal devices-- 'dirty bombs' in which high explosives (RDX or TNT) are used to blow up and scatter uranium or other radioactive materials over a densely populated area, or to pollute a major water source. Crude RDDs do not require a very high degree of technological sophistication and can be assembled quite easily. Spent nuclear fuel rods that are stolen and commercial radiation waste from cancer facilities in large hospitals and irradiation centres could be used.

Though such dirty bombs will not cause horrendous casualties initially, they will cause long-term damage from residual nuclear radiation. They will also serve to create a fear psychosis that will add to the paranoia that has already got a deep hold over ordinary people in this age of terrorism. If there is even the slightest suspicion that the terrorist organisation that orchestrated the attack had the backing of a state, it could set into motion a chain of events that may eventually lead to an inter-state conflict. It is imperative that commercial nuclear materials are also stored safely and are fully accounted for at all times.

Another area of concern is that one or more Pakistani nuclear scientists with fundamentalist inclinations may have volunteered to work for the al Qaeda, as has been reported off and on over the last few years. Three Pakistani nuclear scientists were arrested and handed over to US intelligence agencies for questioning in 2001. Two of the three were senior scientists who had set up an NGO called Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (Reconstruction of the Muslim Ummah) in Afghanistan after retirement. This NGO, with its membership comprising mainly nuclear scientists and military officers, is known to have had close links with the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.

It is possible that these scientists may have been actively engaged in assembling rudimentary nuclear weapons for the Afghan terrorists with fissionable material smuggled from the former Soviet states. Other reports have affirmed that at least one Central Asian nuclear weapons expert works for Osama bin Laden. Hence, the possibility that a crude, untested, nuclear warhead may have been developed by bin Laden's Al Qaeda cannot be ruled out.

Finally, contingency plans must be debated, analysed, made, approved, rehearsed and readied for execution to meet unforeseen eventualities, the safety and security of nuclear weapons is best assured by the country to which these belong. Maximum cooperation must be extended by the NWS to Pakistan by way of technology, intelligence and training to help Pakistan to secure its own nuclear warheads. While the world waits with bated breath for the crisis in Pakistan to blow over, the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani army would do well to ensure that all possible measures are adopted to further enhance the safety and security of the country's nuclear warheads and delivery means.

The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi

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India develops new UAVs

Will deploy laser target designators

By Peter Larsen @ Tuesday, October 14, 2008 5:40 AM

India is reportedly developing a new generation of UAVs designed to deploy laser target designators deep inside enemy territory.

"We are planning to base LTDs on UAVs to cut down the risk of our troops getting caught inside enemy territory while illuminating targets for attack and save the cost of sending another aircraft for doing the task," explained a senior Defence Ministry official.

The new UAV project will be led by the DRDO, in partnership with the Army, Navy and the IAF.

As IT Examiner previously reported, the crowded Indian defence market has led numerous officials to express concern over a perceived lack of indigenous self-reliance. To be sure, air chief marshall F M Major recently recommended that New Delhi reduce its dependency on aerospace imports by embarking on a "strategic shift [that] will offer the required thrust towards building skills and infrastructure for engineering and manufacturing."

As such, the MoD has taken several notable steps to develop advanced military technology. For example, the Indian Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) is designing a number of unmanned infantry combat vehicles. According to CVRDE director S Sundaresh, Medak Plant workers are fitting Russian infantry combat vehicles with advanced robotic components at a cost of Rs 60 crore. Sundaresh also noted that the all-terrain vehicles would be utilised to detect mines, as well as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

In addition, the DRDO has announced plans to develop missiles that are lighter and less costly than current indigenous models. An independent centre for composite testing and evaluation is being established at the Hyderabad-based Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) -- which was primarily responsible for designing the long-range Agni missile. Avinash Chander, Director of the Laboratory under DRDO, explained that the ASL already maintains a composites production centre (Comproc) responsible for the fabrication of lightweight missile material. However, Chander noted that the ASL wanted to make "all the stages of the Agni missile composite structured." X

Full gender equality still an issue for the military

Proponents point to Iraq, Afghanistan roles

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When Staff Sgt. Tabitha Williams completed basic training for the U.S. Marine Corps at Parris Island, S.C., it was the proudest moment of her life.

The 13-week course -- the longest of any military branch -- ends with the Crucible, three days of sleep and food deprivation and obstacles that both men and women must overcome.

"I realized I could do anything I wanted to do," said Sgt. Williams, 27, a 5-foot-tall Marine recruiter in Ross who had the nickname "Little Tabby" as a teenager in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Today, the Marine Corps has more than 11,000 women, including more than 1,100 officers. About 200,000 women serve in active duty posts in the armed forces, 14 percent of the total.

Yet Sgt. Williams and her fellow female soldiers and Marines are far from being able to do "anything" in the military, a fact that irritates proponents of full gender equality. The Department of Defense prohibits women from serving with the infantry, special forces, armor, field artillery and on submarines.

But the nature of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made some of those prohibitions obsolete, with insurgents targeting support units and putting all military personnel in harm's way, argues Lory Manning, a project director for the Women's Research & Education Institute in Arlington, Va.

Female medics, for example, sometimes accompany combat units into battle. And special forces teams bring female soldiers on missions to help them question Muslim women who are reluctant to cooperate with male soldiers.

Two women have won the Silver Star medal for valor in combat, the first to do so since World War II. Nearly 100 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"These women aren't asking for special privileges," said Ms. Manning, a Navy veteran. "We think women and men should be allowed to do any job they are physically qualified to do."

Elaine Donnelly, a former member of the "Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces," convened by President George H.W. Bush, has sharply criticized both the Department of Defense and Congress for allowing these changes to take place without public debate.

"It's a cultural shift. It does concern me quite a bit," she said. "These women are patriotic. They're courageous. But we should not ask of our women and the military more than is realistic."

Ms. Donnelly, who heads the nonpartisan Center for Military Readiness, argues that ordering women to serve in combat is lowering standards and creating resentment among male soldiers. "There are differences between men and women where physical strength is an issue."

That's a point Ms. Manning, a Navy veteran, disputes.

"There are some pretty strapping women out there," she said.

When she joined the military in 1969, few positions were open to women. No woman could have command authority over men, nor could she serve on any Navy craft, except hospital ships and some transport ships.

By the time Ms. Manning retired 25 years later, more than 40,000 women had served in the first Persian Gulf War in 1990 and 1991. Thirteen were killed and two became prisoners.

In the first three years after the war, Congress allowed women onto combat aircraft and most Navy combat ships.

Defense Secretary Les Aspin issued a new rule for all women in the military, only keeping them from serving in units below the brigade level "whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground."

He also prohibited women from serving in support units that work side by side with combat units. The rule opened up 32,700 Army positions and 48,000 Marine Corps positions, according to the Women's Research & Education Institute.

Mr. Aspin's rule remains in effect today, at least officially. The Iraq war has shown limitations with his definition of direct combat occurring "well forward" on the battlefield.

During the first weeks of fighting, Iraqis attacked the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company in Nasiriyah, capturing three women: Lori Ann Piestewa, Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch.

Ms. Piestewa, 23, a Hopi Indian and a single mother with two young children, later died.

More than 25,400 women deployed during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and many have seen fierce fighting.

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a 23-year-old soldier with a National Guard unit from Richmond, Ky., won the Silver Star in 2005 after she and her fellow guardsmen fought off insurgents ambushing a supply convoy. Sgt. Hester's squad cut off the insurgents and attacked their trench. She killed three enemy fighters.

"These are things people said women just couldn't do," Ms. Manning said.

Neither branch of Congress has had a formal committee hearing on the role of women in the military in several decades, even though the Defense Department is required to let lawmakers know if changes are made to the Aspin rule. That has allowed the expansion of female roles on the battlefields, Ms. Donnelly said. "I don't think we have thought this through as a nation," she said. "Very few people are aware of it."

President Bush has said he opposes opening combat positions to women, an opinion echoed by Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee. But Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, would consider a change.

Sgt. Williams, the Ross recruiter, who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in logistical units, said she would take a combat position if it were open to her. Regardless, she plans to stay in the military and do her duty.

"They don't call me a female Marine," she said. "They call me a Marine."

Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at or 412-263-1183.

Remembering The war (The 1962 India-China war)

Posted by kashmirihindu on October 12, 2008

The Rediff Special/Col (retd) Anil Athale

World history is full of 'ifs' and 'buts' when it is commonly assumed that if only a certain action had been taken, history would have been different.

In India it is almost an industry since we have surfeit of disasters that litter our 5,000-year history. The 1962 military disaster is no exception and has spawned works like the 'Guilty Men of 1962′ or self-justificatory works like the 'Untold Story' by General B M Kaul, et al.

The first missed opportunity to avoid the conflict came in December 1960 when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai made a brief stopover in Delhi. Under the so-called 'Krishna Menon Plan' it was mooted that India would lease the Aksai Chin area to China and in return the Chinese would lease the strategic (from the Indian point of view) Chumbi valley that is like a dagger pointed at the line of communication with Assam and the Northeast.

This would have been a very fair deal as the Aksai Chin area, besides being strategically useless to India, was also very difficult to defend.

But it is believed that under the pressure from the right wing of the Congress and fear of vociferous opposition, Nehru rejected it. A hint of this is available in Michael Breacher's 'India & World Politics: Krishna Menon's view of the world' (Oxford University Press, 1966, p 145-154) as well as an account of that visit in Swadhinta (January 26, 1966) by Pandit Sunderlal.

China at that time was no superpower and wary of American designs on it through Taiwan (then called Nationalist China, which occupied the Chinese seat in the UN Security Council). Indian friendship was of great value to China then.

But an obdurate Nehru missed the chance. In subsequent years this proposal was revived, but by now a confident China saw no merit in it.

From the professional military as well there were many warnings and suggestions that confrontation with China should be avoided till we build our strength. But these objections were summarily dismissed due to 'political considerations'. Once India embarked upon the disastrous, legalistic, and militarily foolish 'forward policy' (of establishing small posts in Chinese-dominated areas), the die was cast and like a Greek tragedy the events moved towards a disaster.

In the popular mind the 1962 conflict evokes memories of an unimaginable defeat. This is not strictly true. In the northern sector, on the Ladakh front, the Indian Army, despite heavy odds, gave a good account of itself and Chinese gains were small. The airfield at Chushul, one of the major prizes, remained in Indian hands.

The impression that it was an unmitigated disaster is fostered by the Indian rout at Sela. But for the Sela defeat and panic retreat, 1962 would have at worst been classed as a setback, not a disaster.

The discredit for this debacle belongs to Lieutenant General Brij Mohan Kaul and his catastrophic leadership. After the initial setback in Tawang district, in the last week of October, Kaul fell ill and Lt Gen Harbax Singh took over the command of 4 Corps.

Harbax consolidated the position at Sela and was quite confident of holding back the Chinese there. The order for withdrawal from Sela was a panic reaction by Kaul who had no fighting experience (he spent World War II in charge of a drama troupe for the entertainment of troops).

Harbax was a veteran and had faced the Japanese enveloping tactics in Burma. He was also confident that even if cut off from ground, Sela could be maintained by air. But to India's ill luck, as soon as Kaul felt that the situation had stabilised on the front, he hastened back to 4 Corps not wanting to miss on the 'credit'! The rest, as they say, is history. If instead of Kaul, Harbax had been in charge, the Sela disaster may not have happened at all.

But the biggest 'mystery' of 1962 is the non-use of offensive air power by India. The whole conflict was run as a personal show by Kaul and there was very little co-ordination with the air force. At that time the Chinese had barely two airfields in Tibet and their fighter aircraft were decidedly inferior to India's British-made Hunters.

The Indian Air Force was guaranteed virtual air superiority on the battlefield. With air power on its side, India could have overcome the tactical disadvantage of lack of artillery in Ladakh and could have intercepted the foot and mule columns of the Chinese in Tawang area (like it did during the Kargil conflict in 1999). But such was the irrational fear of Chinese retaliation against Indian cities that India did not use its air power.

This fear of danger to cities was a result of panic in Calcutta… The only long-range aircraft the Chinese had at that time was the Ilyushin 24, operating at extreme ranges. The Indian Air Force with its network of airfields in the East (thanks to World War II) was well capable of dealing with it.

Right till the end, Krishna Menon was in favour of use of air power, but was overruled by a leadership that had lost its nerve. Use of offensive air power could have tilted the balance on the ground and boosted the morale of our troops. The morale factor is of great importance as essentially even the Sela disaster was due to loss of morale.

The above analysis is not complete given the constraints of space. The full details will be before readers when the official history, of which I am the co-author, is released.

At the very basic level, the Indian Army was fighting a repeat of the 1947-48 Kashmir war, a campaign against tribal invaders, while the Chinese, veterans of the Korean War, were a well-oiled military machine.

The above analysis may seem unduly harsh, but that is the job of an analyst and it is time we face the truth, for in that lies the germ of future success.

Colonel (retd) Anil Athale, former director of war history at the defence ministry and co-author of the official history of the 1962 war, is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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