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Saturday, 22 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 22 Nov

From Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

I am referring to the news item Ex-Servicemen are reactivating their political party, Rashtriya Raksha Dal (National Defence Party). It may be good idea for the Ex-servicemen to politically assert in a democratic system but floating a political party with the sole aim of guarding the interest of servicemen, past and present may not work. It may rather have a negative effect. We will loose the support of all political parties as their rivals. Their appeal in terms of seats in state assemblies and Parliament if at all may be negligible. It may be pertinent to mention that they are highly divided in small littler groups which will become more evident when they form their own political party(S) This may also disturb hither to fore apolitical character of Forces, which is very important from national interest point of view. It may be better that they join political parties and organize ex-servicemen wings with in existing political set up. This way, apart from forming pressure groups with in their respective parties they may also change to better the character of political parties. The need of the hour is to take politics out of slumber of degeneration which has become hallmark of all political parties. So, let the ex-servicemen become politically more active without forming their own party. As disciplined force forming social groups with in their respective areas of influence, they should set examples for others to emulate. By organizing theme selves in social groups engaged in guarding the interest of citizens they can also compel the bureaucrats to conduct themselves as servants and not master of the society as of now.

I am referring to Gen Ashok Mehta's article, `The Purohit Affair` Lt Col Purohit Affair is being seen by different people from different angles. For intelligence agencies, it is a big find. Political parties, in particular BJP are trying its best to give it a communal/service color to use it as a vote bank politics. The Army though wishes it had never happened is projecting it as an aberration while the people with national feelings feel sad that involvement of senior Armed Forces personnel is too sad and serious matter to be taken lightly. Media as usual considers such incidences as God given opportunity to sensationalize and sell which as Gen Mehta says is fraught with danger. There is another angle to this incident; it proves the point that terrorism has no religion, which BJP is trying its best to negate. The Govt of course, would try its best to bring true facts before the public.

In order to convert this tragic happening into an opportunity, it is essential that we go into the why of this happening and take corrective steps where ever required. It is a challenging task for the intelligence agencies, in particular Maharahstra Anti-Terrorist Squad. They need to be thoroughly professional to expose all links, irrespective of who is/are involved so that the problem is taken head on. The nation must remain stead fast in its belief that a terrorist is just a terrorist and it has no religion. That can be best done by out rightly rejecting communal color to terrorism. Military intelligence too should carry out in house investigation of Purohit involvement in such a murky act and what really lead him to do this? What are the areas of Army's system that he could exploit to do what he has alleged to have done? Press too needs to take a balanced view of the episode and not over play this as masala news. As for making this a political issue the answer lies with the people. Election are coming and right thinking people must appeal to the public to show door to the political parties who seek to exploit National tragedies of this kind for their political gains.

Life is give and take. We have very high expectation from the Forces. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Forces have never let the nation down. Can we say the same in return to the forces? Certainly not! We have let them down by continuously down grading them in successive pay commissions. They have been denied both honor and money. What forces are giving is because of their service ethos and traditions. This culture cannot be stretched beyond a limit. While the Forces as such may remain highly professional and motivated for all times to come irrespective what treatment is meted out to them, there can be more of Purohits. More of such people may be de-motivated and mislead to go astray. The Govt has the opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity by giving them, what the Forces Chiefs have asked for in their representation to the Govt and being considered by the ministerial team lead Mr Mukhrjee.

Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

Undermined forces

THE SATURDAY INTERVIEW - Lieutenant-General SK Sinha (retd)

The former Governor of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, Lieutenant-General SK Sinha (retd), has a knack for courting controversy. In Assam, he was called "proactive", sidelining the Asom Gana Parishad government and its low-profile chief minister, Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, as he initiated a number of steps to take on the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa). His stint in J&K was also mired in the controversy over the Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer and was known to be at loggerheads with the state government.
But last week even he was "surprised" at the allegation that Malegaon blast accused Dayanand Pandey had been his "state guest". General Sinha spoke to NIRENDRA DEV on terrorism, the cross-border influx in Assam and disparities in Pay Commission recommendations for the armed forces.

Excerpts:

A lot is being heard about Pay Commission disparities going against the armed forces. What's your view?
Look, it's not only in terms of emoluments but also protocol, the position of army officers has been persistently lowered after independence. This applies to the top level, army chief downwards. If you carefully note this, (it) has been done often after the military fought wars successfully, right from 1947 up to Kargil. Do you know, the protocol status of a Field Marshal has not yet been defined and fixed in the Table of Precedence mainly because babus want to preserve their higher status, precisely of the bara babu, the cabinet secretary.

The armed forces say the Pay Commission is presenting lieutenants-general in a poorer light. Is that true?
I was telling you about Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Do you know it took the government and the bureaucracy 33 years to clear one of the pending payments for the Field Marshal? The defence secretary took it to Manekshaw when he was already on the ventilator. Lieutenants-general have got higher emoluments and held higher status than the chief of police of a state. We are afraid that equation is also now being altered to the disadvantage of the army. A lieutenant-general in the army is a different ball game; the role and responsibilities of army are always different from (that of) paramilitary forces. To scuttle the case of lieutenants-general even in terms of respect, a red herring of comparing them with deputy commandants of paramilitary forces has been raised. Deputy commandants are still class 2 officers and not at par with the status of IPS officers, so the motive is clear.

You said, army and paramilitary forces are different. But the general understanding is they have similar roles, except during war.
The answer is in what you are saying. I am not saying this. Even the likes of former US President Eisenhower had said that the army is called for when diplomats fail to restore peace between countries and also when administration, that is your babudom and cops, fail to restore peace and order. So I have answered your question.

But today's issue is a little different. Paramilitary forces are demanding more senior-level posts for cadre officers instead of IPS officers and the army too has spoken on these lines.
I am glad you've asked this question. The pay equation between army and police officers was maintained till the Fourth Pay Commission. So this move to the disadvantage of army officers started long back. I must compliment the three service chiefs for doing their duty in taking up the case of emoluments of lieutenants-general and lieutenants-colonel at the highest level this time. I am surprised some of you in the media have even criticised the chiefs for this.

Can you throw some more light on how things were going against armed forces and when this started?
Well, as one who served in the Indian Army both before and after independence, I would like to apprise you (about) how the emoluments and status of army officers have been lowered ever since independence. Before independence, the army got emoluments at par with the ICS and sometimes even higher than ICS officers. After independence, it was brought down. At the time of independence, I was drawing a salary of Rs 1,300 a month, which was overnight brought down to Rs 770. Salaries of our contemporaries in the ICS and IP were duly protected. No one from the army went to court. We accepted the blatant injustice and went to war in Kashmir in which many of my colleagues became martyrs. We just feel sad about these (things).

After the 30 October serial explosions in Assam, you talked about political will and Bangladeshi involvement. Where do we go from here?
There has been a total lack of political will to take any action to stop the demographic aggression in Assam purely due to vote-bank considerations. On 10 April 1992, the then chief minister Hiteshwar Saikia told the state assembly that there were three million illegal immigrants. Two days later, he succumbed to pressure and told the press that there were no illegal immigrants in Assam. On 6 May 1997, then Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta said there were one crore illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the country. More recently under the UPA dispensation, on 15 July 2004, Minister of State for Home SP Jaiswal told Parliament there were 1.2 crore illegal migrants in the country. The following day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Guwahati and probably under the influence of local Congressmen, he said that the figure given by the minister was not authentic. A week later Mr Jaiswal told Parliament that he had quoted the figures on the basis of hearsay. So that's the lack of political will for you.

What about the role of Bangladesh? We never really got their cooperation for a joint crackdown, did we?
Illegal migration from Bangladesh is the principal factor for the agony of Assam and 30 October-like explosions will continue if present rulers both at the Centre and in the state government do not exhibit political will and also decide to take on Bangladesh suitably. The root cause of militancy and jihadi violence in Assam has been illegal migration from Bangladesh. I call Assam's tragedy self-inflicted agony. We have to resort to strong measures with Bangladesh to allow joint army actions against Indian ultras taking shelter in that country.

What about other neighbouring countries? Indian ultras are getting help even from them.
That's an interesting question. In 2003, under the Vajpayee government, there was success when Bhutan allowed joint operations against Ulfa. Its downfall looked imminent. We could not repeat this successful experience with other neighbours like Myanmar and Bangladesh. In the case of Myanmar, for international reputation we keep talking about democracy and supporting (Opposition leader) Aung San Suu Kyi, however, lately there's some semblance of pragmatic diplomacy. We should continue this more sincerely as China has cultivated its strategic interest in Myanmar.

You were in the news when allegations were made against you that as governor in J&K you transferred land to the Amarnath Shrine Board sparking off a major controversy and violence.
I find it laughable when you say as a Governor I granted the land. Can I do it? Does the Constitution give that power to a Governor when an elected government and cabinet functions. It's surprising that even two renowned editors joined this campaign based on total falsehood and ignorance. The land allocation was decided by the cabinet and the chief minister and later when they backed out, they looked around and found that I could be blamed.

What about the allegations of your alleged involvement with the controversial priest Dayanand Pandey?
I do not know this man. Some people have been saying that he had meals with me and he stayed in Raj Bhawan. I find it more laughable than anything else. It is absolutely false. I don't know whether and how these charges are linked to the ongoing polls, but it's a fact that totally malicious and careless things are being said irresponsibly on the eve of elections. Such baseless and irresponsible things leave me surprised.

India denies sending more ships to Somali waters
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 21
Even as the United Nations has conveyed its sanction to India to enter Somalian waters to curb piracy using, the Indian Government today denied reports appearing in a section of the media that any more ships had been set sail to the pirate-infested waters.

The UN has sent a note to India saying that the Transitional Federation Government (TFG) of Somalia had also requested for help from the UN.

India is also speaking to countries in the Indian-ocean rim and building a consensus. Also it has been made clear that no final decision has been taken on the number of additional ships to be deployed, while no new ship has been dispatched. Sources said if India was going to coordinate with the UN then a larger ship would be sent to escort conveys of merchant vessels, which could be from several countries. The INS Tabar, the present ship, is a 3,000 tonne frigate and India is to send a Delhi class 6,900 tonne destroyer.

Indian position is clear it will co-ordinate with the UN, said officials. The UN note to India says Indian Navy can enter territorial waters to 'suppress' the scourge of piracy as mandated under the international law, a naval official said here on Friday.

India had requested the UN to play a greater role in suppressing piracy in the Gulf of Aden in view of the United Nations resolution. The TFG government gave its nod recently, the official added.

The official denied reports that the Indian Navy had been given the mandate for the 'hot pursuit'of pirates in Somali waters as it posed a threat to the vital energy supply route for India.

We have been given the mandate to function according to the UN resolutions, which allows us to enter Somali waters to restrain piracy in the region. Calling it a mandate for 'hot pursuit' will not be the right interpretation.

In the UN Security Council resolution 1816 passed in June 2008, the international body had given permission for co-operating with the Transitional Federation Government (TFG) of Somalia to enter its territorial waters.

'For a period of six months from the date of this resolution, states cooperating with the TFG in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia may enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purpose of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with such action permitted on the high seas with respect to piracy under relevant international law,' the UNSC resolution 1816 states.

Along with India, China has also put up a request for permission to enter Somali waters. However, the request is still pending even as Somali pirates presently hold captive two Chinese ships.

Tribune Special
MoD poser to Navy — Who ordered firing?
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 21
Even as the Indian Navy sunk a pirate ship three days ago off Somalia, a set of officials in the ministry of defence (MoD), probably fearing an international backlash of some sort, at first questioned the Navy top brass here in Delhi, asking, who ordered the firing; also, if the Navy had exceeded its mandate of deployment in the Gulf of Aden.

It was only after the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the office of the defence minister came to know about the Navy's act of sinking a pirate-ship, that India saw the opportunity to project its Navy as an international force, well-placed sources confirmed the developments that took place in New Delhi early in the morning of November 19.

Naval warship INS Tabar, firing in retaliation, had sunk a pirate boat on the night on November 18 some 250 nautical miles south-west of the coat of Oman.

It was only after the PMO sensed that the act of the Navy could project India as a country capable of protecting its maritime interests and commercial sea routes in international waters, that the Navy was asked to "brief" the media on the operational success and what was the incident. For more than 12 hours - between the time the pirate ship was attacked around 6:30 pm on November 18 and till about 8:00 am on November 19 - the Navy top brass was busy fending off questions and queries.

Navy had referred the MoD to see the rules of engagement (RoE) for the deployment of the warship in the Gulf of Aden. The RoE had been cleared by the MoD itself a few days ago prior to the shooting down of the pirate vessel. This gave operational freedom to the commander of the warship. It would be a tactical error on part of any Navy to expect the commander to seek the permission of the New Delhi on what action was needed each time he encountered a pirate vessel in high seas, and that too thousands of miles away from home. The decisions had to be taken within spilt seconds and on assessing the damage the pirates could have caused. It was not just the Naval warship that could be escorting merchant vessels enroute to the Suez Canal. A warship was meant to instill fear in the pirates and show its strength.

Interestingly, Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had put his foot down when the RoE was being drafted and is understood to have made it clear that operational freedom had to be with the commander, sources said. The MoD had raised almost similar questions when the Navy encountered the first set of pirates on November 11. During that operation the marine commandos of the Navy, using a chopper, had saved two merchant ships from falling prey to pirates.

Delhi HC stays GCM of Lt Gen
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 21
The Delhi High Court today stayed the initiation of court martial proceedings against retired Lt Gen S K Sahni for alleged corruption in the procurement of food items for troops engaged in anti-militant operations in Jammu and Kashmir four years ago.

A Bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri passed the interim order, just hours after the Army had announced the court martial proceedings against Sahni from November 26.

"We direct that there shall be no court martial proceedings" till further orders, the court said on a petition filed by Sahni in the wake of summons issued by the General Officer Commanding in Chief.

The Bench made it clear that Sahni would not have to report for the General Court Martial (GCM) proceedings at Jalandhar. Sahni is the senior-most Army officer, serving or retired, to have been summoned for disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act. Sahni, who retired in 2006 as the Army's Director General (Supply and Transport), has been slapped with corruption charges for allegedly procuring poor quality food items in 2004. Under the Army Act, a retired officer could be subjected to court martial proceedings for offences committed during his service within three years of demitting office.

The Delhi High Court had earlier rejected his plea against the disciplinary move, prompting the Army to invoke the provisions for court martial proceedings.

Sahni caught up in corrupt practices
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 21
Lt Gen S K Sahni, former Director-General, Supplies and Transport (DGST), was recalled from retirement under provisions of Section 123 of the Army Act and attached to 11 Corps, Jalandhar, in September last year for disciplinary proceedings.

The GOC-in-C, Western Command, issued the GCM's convening orders on November 19. General Sahni's writ petition came up for hearing before a division bench of the Delhi High Court comprising Justice A K Sikri and Justice Manmohan Singh, which granted a stay till January 13.

The GCM was scheduled to commence at Jalandhar on November 24. Sources revealed that nine charges had been levelled against the officer pertaining to irregularities in procurements of supplies, misappropriation of funds and other acts of omission and commission during his tenure as Commandant, Army Service Corps Centre, Bangalore, and later as the DGST at AHQ.

A court of inquiry (COI) had, in 2006, indicted General Sahni and several other officers, including a major general and two brigadiers, for alleged irregularities in the procurement of dry rations for the Army. In July 2006, the GOC-in-C, Western Command, had ordered disciplinary action against the general and brigadiers, while administrative action was recommended against the major general.

The Delhi High Court had, subsequently set aside the COI on grounds that mandatory provisions of law were not complied with during the proceedings. The court also gave liberty to the Army to exercise any other power available to it under the Army Act to proceed against the accused as far as it did not rely upon the proceedings of the aforesaid COI.

Procurement of cereals with lower specifications, improperly upgrading stock of dal arhar knowing that it contained harmful elements and failing to withhold payment worth lakhs for a consignment while quality inspection report was still pending were charges pertaining to his tenure as DGST that cropped up during the proceedings. Charges pertaining to his tenure as Commandant included financial misappropriation.

In June last year, the Army had also issued orders to attach Brig P.S. Gill and Brig S.K. Handa to 1 Armoured Division, Patiala, for commencement of disciplinary proceedings. The Delhi High Court initially granted a stay on the attachment orders but subsequently ruled that the Army could proceed with the hearing of charge against them.

Brigadier Gill thereafter moved the Supreme Court, seeking a stay on further proceedings and the Apex Court issued notices on November 10 to be answerable in 14 days.

Golden Jubilee Celebrations
In Gnat's cockpit, pilots felt invincible: Tyagi
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, November 21
Air Marshal P.V. Naik, vice-chief of the IAF, described it as a "combination of poetry and menace". Former IAF chief S.P. Tyagi said it was a "fascinating aircraft". All these epithets and more were showered here today on the Gnat, spearhead of the Indian air attacks in the 1965 and 1971 wars.

The occasion was the golden jubilee of the aircraft which was phased out from the IAF in 1991.

The function, organised by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), came alive with reminisces of the Gnats veterans, who had gathered here for the function from as far Shillong and Malaysia.

Among the participants were D. Lazarus and S. Soares, heroes of the Battle of Boyra in the 1971 war. In the Boyra battle, the Indian Gnats shot down three F-86 Sabre Jets belonging to the Pakistanis. A Sabre had six guns and against the Gnat's two, but yet the Pakistanis lost it. While Lazarus described how the "dog fight" was actually fought, Soares talked about the celebrations and public euphoria that followed the Gnat's feat against the Sabres in the sky of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) village on November 22.

The veterans of the IAF's 22 Squadron, which took part in the operation, are here now for the Golden jubilee function of Gnat. They have decided to assemble here tomorrow to celebrate the 37th anniversary of the battle.

Air Marshal Denzil Keelor, a hero of the 1965 war, who was the first IAF pilot to shoot down a Pakistani Sabre, was also present in the function. He narrated how he brought down the Pakistani aircraft on the fateful day.

Indian military faces communal challenge

By Kuldip Nayar, Special to Gulf News
Published: November 21, 2008, 23:30

The Indian armed forces are a holy cow. We do not question their expense, nor has there ever been any parliamentary committee to look into their budgetary allocation. Why they purchase a particular type of weapon has been left to the Defence Ministry.

To take one example, the navy is bent upon buying the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov, even though Moscow has been periodically raising the sale price, which now stands at $3.2 billion(Dh11.74 billion).

Once in a while a case like the Bofors guns scandal has shaken the nation, but the information came from outside and the ruling party did its best to hush it up. Even the Italian go-between, Quattrochi, was pursued up to a point and then allowed to go scot-free, despite CBI protests, because of his high-level connections.

So our trust in the armed forces has been implicit since independence and never did we suspect that some officer could be ideologically contaminated. All of a sudden, we have been hit by one case, that of Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Prasad Purohit. He is the senior serving officer who has allegedly played a key role in the Malegaon bombings of September 29.

The blasts took place in mostly Muslim localities, killing 31. As usual the initial suspicion fell on Muslims. Malegaon is a small weavers' town near Nasik in Maharashtra and this is the second time in two years that the Muslims of this rundown area have been victims of similar blasts.

Strange that the military intelligence had no clue that one army officer was involved with local Hindu extremists. The credit goes to the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) that unearthed the information that those responsible for the crime were Hindu extremists. The ATS interrogated Lt Col Purohit and arrested him after getting permission from the army.

The question anybody will ask is why military intelligence failed to discover that a senior officer was involved. Military intelligence has a large setup in all the three services and has its men all over the country. When they fail in their job, this suggests that they are taking their job nonchalantly.

Disconcerting

It is all the more disconcerting that no such previous case has come to light since independence. It may well be an aberration. Yet it is difficult to imagine that a Purohit has been born only in the last few years. An in-depth and overall probe is required.

True, in a recent interview, Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Malhotra has revealed that the army high command is now profiling officers. This is a knee-jerk reaction. A thorough profiling of 31,000 officers is simply not possible and picking up a few at random will not be fair.

What the services have to eliminate is the suspicion in the minds of people that even the military is not immune to communal contamination. For the common man the armed forces are a bastion of security and protection.

I concede that the military does a credible job to hire recruits from a society that has all the ills and convert them into an apolitical force. But this is a field where the nation cannot afford to go wrong even in one case.

I know how upset the army was when a senior officer was taken to the BJP office in Delhi for a briefing when the Vajpayee government was in power. The mistaken impression given to the army high command was that some MPs wished to be briefed about ongoing operations.

Still, the worrying point is that many retired military officers are joining the BJP, or propagating on its behalf. Indeed, the party has an association of ex-military men. A few days ago this association sent out invitations on BJP stationery to a press conference about Assam scheduled to be addressed by a retired lieutenant general.

This does not come as a surprise because the BJP has said that Hindus cannot be terrorists and that the armed forces are a part of Indian society which has been horrified by the pusillanimous and apologetic approach of the UPA government to terror attacks. In fact, party president Rajnath Singh has said that the party will bear the legal costs of those apprehended in the Malegaon case.

The BJP is playing with fire when it communalises a case that should be looked into objectively and the guilty punished severely.

I do not know why the regimental centres have to have a temple, mosque and gurdwara on their premises. These places of worship exist in those towns and cities where the regimental centres are located. Those who seek the comfort of religion are perfectly free to go there. Why should the army allow religious worship in its barracks?

The nation even before winning independence said that it would have a secular polity and that is what we have been following, although not as firmly at times as we should.

Purohit or persons like him among Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims are a symptom of diseased thinking. They are a danger to the country's integrity. It's a pity that for the sake of votes some political parties are encouraging them even at the expense of the country's unity. My experience says that they will not go very far.

Kuldip Nayar is a former Indian High Commissioner to the UK and a former Rajya Sabha MP.

Indian Navy - Projecting a Force Beyond Borders

By Ritu Sharma

New Delhi

The Indian Navy's "proactive" move against Somali pirates in the strategic Gulf of Aden marks a significant step in New Delhi's aspirations of projecting its force beyond its borders and translating its growing economic and military strength into political clout, says officials and analysts.

Indian Navy's widely appreciated combat move has come at a time when the International Maritime Bureau termed the situation in the important sea lane that controls a lot of the world's energy levels "out of control" and major military nations expressed helplessness.

"Navies are the best tools to showcase a nation's might and to send a message globally. Indian Navy has been keen to take more responsibility in the Gulf of Aden to boost its credentials as a maritime force to reckon with in the region," a senior navy official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Indian Navy's INS Tabar Tuesday sank a pirate vessel in a retaliatory fire while patrolling the piracy-infested Gulf of Aden, about 1,800 miles/2,880 km from its home port of Mumbai.

"The incident has clearly underscored the point that the Indian Navy has capability to project force beyond its border. We have to take a proactive role in security of the Gulf of Aden as it controls access to the Suez Canal and is a vital route for energy supply to India," the official added.

The opinion has been echoed by military experts.

"The robust response by INS Tabar off the Gulf of Aden has reiterated the credibility of the Indian Navy in strategic water ways. This is a reflection of India's transborder military capability and its ability to maintain a naval 'presence' to deal with any low intensity maritime challenges that may arise," former Director of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) C. Uday Bhaskar told IANS.

This is the second time the 55,000-strong Indian Navy, the fifth largest naval force in the world, is playing a significant role in the region. In 1992, as part of the United Nation's multinational force under "Operation Restore Hope", it has constantly undertaken surveillance and patrolling off civil war- ravaged Somalia coast.

Suggesting a paradigm shift in the power projection of the Indian Navy from a regional force guarding its 5514 km coastline, the Indian Navy is now assuming greater role to place itself as a global force.

In pursuit of its goal the Indian Navy is acquiring the bigger symbols of potent maritime force - aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

In the next decade Indian Navy will commission Russian built Admiral Gorshkov, renamed INS Vikramaditya, and two indigenous aircraft carriers. The navy will also be completing its nuclear triad with the acquisition of nuclear submarines - one Russian built Akula and three constructed within the country under its ambitious Advanced Technology Vessel project.

The Indian Navy, which was quick to respond to President Gayoom's request in the wake of an apprehension of a coup in Maldives in 1988, has come of age.

When tsunami struck in December 2004, although India suffered over 15,000 deaths and vast destruction, the Indian Navy was the first navy to rush aid to the Maldives as well as to Sri Lanka and Indonesia which were the worst hit.

About 1,000 Indian relief personnel and five naval ships were sent to Trincomalee, Galle and Colombo ports in Sri Lanka, with medical teams and immediate relief material.

"The fact that India could deploy its navy within 24 hours of the tsunami created ripples in the world, including in Washington," pointed out Bhaskar.

Since then the Indian Navy has been gradually increasing the scope of its operations. During the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 the Indian Navy sent warships to evacuate 2,280 persons, including 700 Indians.

In May this year, as Cyclone Nargis battered neighbouring Myanmar leaving thousands dead, the Indian Navy was the first to send relief supplies.

"Power projection today every nation is doing," Lt.Gen (retd.) Raj Kadyan, a strategic expert, told IANS. "India is now in a position to project its power and earn goodwill, though this event is not related to any entry into the Security Council yet, its part of a larger scheme of things."

Senior Indian Army Officer to Face Court Martial

New Delhi
A lieutenant general will face a court martial Nov 26 for alleged irregularities in procuring ration for the troops in 2005, a senior official said here Friday. Lieutenant general is the second highest rank in the Indian Army, and this is the first time that such a senior officer is facing a court martial.

A court of inquiry constituted in 2005 against Lt. Gen. S.K. Sahni, the then director general of Army Service Corps and Transport, has found enough evidence against him to prosecute him for alleged irregularities in the procurement of frozen meat for troops based in the northern sector.

"A court of inquiry in Jalandhar (Punjab) has found that there is enough evidence of omission and commission by the lieutenant general in the operation of the contract for the dry ration for the troops," the senior army official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

A year after an inquiry was constituted against Sahni, he retired from the army. He then approached a civilian court against the court of inquiry. The court stayed the proceedings and sought all the evidences against Sahni following which it gave a go ahead to the inquiry proceedings.

The court of inquiry has ordered the court martial of the lieutenant general, the second highest rank in the Indian Army's hierarchy, preceded only by the army chief.

"The officer will be court martialled Nov 26," the official said.

Navy wants ships in convoy in pirate zone

SUJAN DUTTA

New Delhi, Nov. 21: The navy wants Indian merchant vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden to form convoys so that they may be escorted through the piracy-threatened waters off Somalia, a senior navy source said today.

Naval headquarters has asked the director-general (shipping) to give details of Indian vessels taking the route to the Suez Canal, a day after the Indian Navy was told it might go into Somali territorial waters to counter pirates. But the navy does not want to trample on delicate diplomatic toes by exhibiting its OOA (out of area operations) capability.

A bulk of India's trade with the US and Europe transits the region.

A Delhi-class destroyer, one of the largest ships in the Indian naval fleet, would be sent to the Gulf of Aden for "convoying" operations through a corridor covering 480 nautical miles by 30 nautical miles (877.5 X 54.5sqkm approximately). India does not have secure bases in the region where it could berth its warships or aircraft. But it has begun talks with countries that may replenish and give "turnaround" facilities to its warships.

The navy was told it might act under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1838 that gives it a mandate under Chapter VII (peace-enforcement) of the UN charter. Indian government sources said New Delhi favoured a collaborative peace-enforcement mission.

Nato and the European Union already have, or are in the process of deploying, patrols in the Gulf of Aden but these arrangements are not under the UN flag. Indian government sources said Nato had been pointing out that the UN had little experience in the kind of measures required for anti-piracy operations.

India is also in touch with Russia, France and Japan and states in the Gulf.

An Indian Navy source described the initial outcome of talks with defence attaches based in New Delhi as "good". Earlier this year, the navy hosted the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, a gathering of the chiefs of navies of the Indian Ocean region. Naval headquarters is trying to leverage the relationships built through that meet to explore if it can generate a larger response in anti-piracy patrols.

The move comes after the Indian Navy's action in sinking a pirate vessel but more so because the threat to merchant shipping has magnified after sea bandits' boarding of a Saudi supertanker. Shipping companies have begun re-routing their vessels from the Horn of Africa, where the piracy runs highest, right to the Cape of Good Hope, or are taking extra security measures.

The Saudi supertanker, MV Sirius Star, is now reported to be anchored by Somali pirates off that country's east coast town of Xarardheere.

The supertanker was carrying 2 million barrels of Saudi crude for the US and has a crew of 25. The ship itself is estimated to cost about $100 million. Western media reports have said that the pirates are demanding a ransom of $25 million for its release.

Lt Col Purohit alleges ATS threatened to kill him

Press Trust Of India

Pune: Prime accused in Malegaon blast case Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Prasad Purohit on Friday made a written submission in a court in Pune alleging that Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad threatened to eliminate him in an encounter and tried to extract confession from his under duress.

Lt Col Purohit, remanded in 14-day judicial custody by Magistrate GG Italekar in a 2003 case of alleged forgery in procuring an arms license for one Milind Date in Pune from Jammu and Kashmir, sat in the court room to write his grievances after the judge asked him whether he had any complaints regarding his two-day police remand which expired on Friday.

"I have no complaints against Pune police. But I want to submit in writing my grievances," he said. The Lt Col's advocate Srikant Shivde told the court that the accused did not want to air his grievances in an open court and would prefer to put them in writing.

The contents of Purohit's written submission were informed by his lawyer to the media afterwards.

Shivde told media that in the written submission to the court, Lt Col Purohit has given details of the "pressure and physical and mental torture" he was subjected to by Mumbai ATS which tried to "extract confession forcibly" from his in regard to involvement in the September 29 blast.

Earlier, the prosecution made a plea for a seven-day police custody of Purohit to unravel his connections in Jammu and Kashmir and further investigate whether he was part of a gang that procured illegal arms and forged licences from the military quota.

Defence counsel Shivde consented to three-day police custody. He also alleged his client would be framed in another case immediately after being taken to Nashik court and his police custody would continue till November 29 till he is produced before Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in Mumbai.

All the 10 accused arrested so far in the blast were on Thursday booked under stringent law MCOCA.

"My client will be safer in police custody than in the ATS custody," he remarked.

The Magistrate, however, rejected the prosecution demand for police custody and remanded Purohit to judicial custody. Purohit will now be taken to Nashik and put in the central prison there.

Six persons were killed in the blast in the powerloom town in north Maharashtra's Nashik district.

Purohit also complained of an "encounter" threat by ATS, the defence lawyer said. On a plea from the accused, the judge allowed him to carry medicines and some books along with him to Nashik.

The defence counsel told the court that Purohit was vulnerable to attacks of asthma and needed certain medication in his possession.

Purohit's wife Aparna, too, was present in the court.

India slams Pakistan's comments on Jammu and Kashmir polls

PTI | November 21, 2008 | 19:51 IST

India reacted sharply to certain comments by Pakistan on the Jammu and Kashmir polls, saying it indicates Islamabad is not interested in playing a "responsible role" in the region which it should in its "own interest".
External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash termed as "most unfortunate" the comments by Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq that polls in Jammu and Kashmir do not reflect "authentic" expression of aspirations of the people of the state.
"We strongly object to these remarks. It is in Pakistan's own interest to play a responsible role in the region. Comments such as these hardly suggest that it is prepared to do so," Prakash said.
His reaction came a day after Sadiq said that "the ongoing elections in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be construed
as authentic expression of the real aspirations of the Kashmiri people."
Seven-phase elections are underway in Jammu and Kashmir amid tight security to thwart any attempt by militants to
disrupt the polling process which is boycotted by separatists.
In the first phase on November 17, electorate turned up in large numbers braving freezing temperatures and ignoring
separatists' boycott call and recorded a turnout of 55 percent.

Retired Lt Gen to face court martial for corruption

PTI | November 21, 2008 | 14:10 IST

In the first-of-its-kind case, the Army on Friday decided to initiate court martial proceedings against a retired lieutenant general on corruption charges, for allegedly procuring poor quality food items for troops fighting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir four years ago.

Lieutenant General (retired) S K Sahni will be seniormost army officer, serving or retired, to face such disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act.

The court martial proceedings, to be presided over by a senior Lieutenant General, will begin on November 26 at the 11 Corps headquarters in Jalandhar.

The retired officer had served as the Director General (Supplies and Transport) in Army headquarters and retired from that post in 2006. He held the responsibility of supplies to the troops serving across the country.

Under the Army Act, any retired officer could be called back for court martial proceedings for offences committed during his service tenure that had come to light before or after his superannuation.

A court of inquiry probing the charges indicted him along with six other officers including a major general and two brigadiers.

EDITORIAL COMMENT | Firing Blanks

22 Nov 2008, 0114 hrs IST

When an Indian Air Force MiG-23 trainer went down this week, it was the second crash in the past few days and the seventh this year. It highlights the growing problem of maintaining technological and operational standards that are concomitant with India's role as a regional power. Two of the crashes involved planes that are of 1960s vintage. The MiG-21, which forms the backbone of the Indian Air Force, was first deployed in the 1970s. The T-72 tanks comprising the bulk of the army's armoured corps are at least a generation behind current standards. The situation calls for a well thought out government response. But that is unlikely to happen while the defence purchase system remains as it is, opaque and plagued with problems.

Obtuse thinking on the part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and bureaucrats is one of them. Deals to procure new combat aircraft to replace the outdated MiG-21s as well as attack helicopters and light utility helicopters have all recently seen a rash of pullouts by foreign companies because of red tape and inflexible offset clauses. Stipulating that firms plough back as much as up to 50 per cent of the deal amount into a largely state-run Indian defence sector that, they complain, is not able to handle the inflow and deliver on its commitments is simply not workable. With legislation being proposed in the US to limit defence assistance to countries with high offset stipulations, the situation is only likely to worsen.

Corruption is an even more troubling issue. The Barak anti-missile defence system joint venture, inked in 2000, was on hold for eight years after irregularities resulted in a CBI investigation that revealed just how far the rot had spread with a well-connected Indian arms dealer and politicians being allegedly implicated. This is far from an isolated incident. A $325 million air force deal is on hold for similar reasons and a media expose in 2001 revealed that as many as 15 defence deals possibly involved kickbacks. The biggest danger in all of this is that substandard or unsuitable armaments will be pushed onto the armed forces in a bid to maximise illicit profit.

A country hoping to acquire military capability to match its rising economic clout cannot afford to let this situation continue. Too often, the ministry of defence, DRDO and military work at cross purposes and the result is a labyrinthine tangle. Oversight must be implemented and a far greater degree of transparency brought to the procurement process. The deals may be negotiable but the country's security is not.

Soon under Belgaum forest cover: China, India hand-in-hand

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | November 20, 2008 | 13:22 IST

The second Sino-Indian joint training exercise, 'Hand in Hand', will be held at Belgaum, Karnataka between December 8 and 14, Army sources told rediff.com.

A 100-member strong troop comprising officers and soldiers of the People's Libration Army will visit India to take part in the second Sino-Indian Joint Training Exercise.

Currently a delegation of the Indian Army is working out the modalities in China for this exercise. Army sources say the delegation will finalise the preparations for training arrangements for the exercise and other aspects.

This exercise is being conducted in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on exchange and cooperation in the field of defence, signed between India and China in 2006.

The first Sino-Indian Joint Training Exercise was conducted last year at Kunming, South West China last year.

The exercise will deal with jungle warfare. The first exercise in China was based on counter terrorism and saw the participation of an armed reconnaissance company of the PLA and an equivalent strength of the Indian troops.

During the first exercise, both the Armies participated in various drills like establishment of a joint command post, joint battle decision making and conduct of anti terrorism drills.

The reason for the Army to choose Belgaum for this exercise is because this place in Northern Karnataka is because of the forest cover. Another reason is because of the ample space available and also this town borders the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre.

Moreover, the place that has been chosen in Belgaum is secluded and away from the public eye. Besides, additional forces which can support in administration will be readily available.

Even as Belgaum gears up to host this event, the Indian Army has already decided on the next event.

Sources said the next event would involve US forces. Although the place for the exercise is yet to be decided the Army has confirmed that the Indo-US exercise will be held between January 6 and 14 next year.

Image: Indian troops on their way to Kunmingbefore last year's joint exercise with China.

1 comment:

  1. I congratulate Three Service Chiefs for taking up the issue of continued injustice to Armed Forces.
    I also thank Gen Sinha for giving it a boost.
    I request all concerned to solidly stand behind the Three Service Chiefs in their fight against injustice even if there is a need to tender a resignation and refuse low pension.
    I am prepared to refuse the enhanced paltry pension till anomalies are removed.
    Lt Col S. S. Bhatia , Retd

    ReplyDelete

 

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