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Friday, 21 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 21 Nov

Army to reinstate 23,476 troops
Discharge illegal: HC
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 20
The Army may reinstate over 23,000 troops that had been discharged on grounds of low medical category (LMC) consequent to orders issued by the Delhi High Court today. They would also be eligible for emoluments and other benefits from the date of discharge to their reinstatement.

Disposing of a bunch of 376 petitions, a Division Bench comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.C. Garg today ruled that the petitioners would be reinstated in service by the Army within 30 days.

The petitioners had contended that the Army had discharged them arbitrarily and without adhering to the prescribed norms.

The Bench also directed the Army that the regimental centres concerned send notices for reinstatement to similarly placed persons who had been discharged but did not fall in the ambit of the aforementioned petitions. “As per orders of the court, they would be reinstated within 30 days from the date of receipt of the notices,” Major K. Ramesh (retd), counsel for some of the petitioners, said.

The Army had discharged 23,476 troops from various arms and services. The rational given was that with the expected recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, the number of senior JCOs and NCOs opting for pre-mature retirement had reduced leading to excess manpower. A review carried out last year had revealed a significant drop in the annual wastages,

primarily due to a reduced number of pre-mature retirements. “It was for the first time that such orders were issued by the then Army chief and the ibid letter now stands quashed as the Army’s actions were contrary to law”, Major Ramesh said.

“Our primary contention was that personnel placed in the low medical category (LMC) cannot simply be discharged on the basis of their condition without the recommendations of a duly constituted invaliding medical board,” Rajeev Anand, another lawyer associated with the matter said.

The Delhi High Court had earlier allowed a petition filed by a JCO against his discharge, but the Union of India had moved a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, against the high court order. Earlier this month, the apex court had upheld the high court order.

The Purohit affair
Case for strict monitoring in Army
by Maj-Gen Ashok Mehta (retd)

THE detention of Lt-Col S.P. Purohit by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad for his alleged links with the Malegaon blasts is an extremely sensitive and serious issue which challenges the very apolitical and secular fabric of the Indian Army. The BBC in its programme “50 Years After the Raj” had described the Army as the last bastion of Indian democracy.

Because this unprecedented incident smacks of anti-national activity and goes against the ethos of the Army, regarded as the number one patriotic institution in the country, the media must handle its reportage with great care and caution, eschewing sensationalism. There should be no trial by the media. Equally, no one in the government or outside should try to politicise the issue during the pre-election debates on who is soft and who is tough on terror as this will be fraught with most serious consequences that can affect the Army, indeed the armed forces. Unfortunately, political mudslinging, reminiscent of the Kargil days, has already started.

Prima facie, in an offence of this nature, which is so unique that it is outside the Army Act but a civil offence, the Army is required to let civilian authority investigate it. Other cases in this category pertain to culpable homicide and rape. For the rest, the Army is the legitimate authority for prosecution and trial under the Army Act.

In the Purohit case, investigation is, therefore, a concurrent responsibility of both civil and military authorities. It is vital that the military’s intelligence and legal branches do not allow the ATS or any other investigating agency to transgress the investigative norms. The civil, police and intelligence record in terrorist acts in the country has seldom gone beyond producing pencil sketches of alleged bombers. Despite the Army’s image being sullied previously with events like Tehelka, the Siachen fake encounters and sundry cases of corruption, it continues to be revered in the country. But helping to make bombs for terrorists is the enemy within.

The Army believes and hopes that this is a freak incident, an aberration. The secular credentials of the Army are intact and being zealously guarded. This is a tradition inherited from the colonial British Army, assiduously nurtured at the time by insulating it from the people by keeping it in cantonments, not even letting Indian Army personnel mix with British soldiers or any foreign armies. Just before Independence, the Army enjoyed high warrant of precedence, high salaries and a key role in decision-making through near-parity with civil services. The historic row between Viceroy Lord Curzon and Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Kitchener was a turning point in civil-military relations establishing political authority over the military. After Independence, while the military was substantially downgraded in pay and prestige, civil and police services were elevated to curb the political ambitions of the military. The unresolved core issues relating to the Sixth Pay Commission and the Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s last rites have further lowered military morale.

Over the last 60 years, witnessing the slow rot in governance, some chinks — one through which Purohit has appeared — may well have developed in the secular ethos of the Army. After Independence the Army has played a key role in nation-building and come into direct contact with the people starting with the North-East in curbing secessionist movements and aiding civilian authority in governance. The buffer of the cantonments was removed long ago as the Army got a ring-side view of the nexus among politicians, the underground forces and the bureaucracy. From single-party rule at the Centre, we have moved to an era of multiparty coalition governments leading to corruption and crisis in governance. A surplus of democracy and deficit of discipline has polarised the country into sectional and communal vote bank politics.

Keeping the Army unaffected by the transformation in the socio-political milieu in the country will not be simple or easy. Military tradition, regimental spirit, training culture, other checks and balances and routine professional practices have maintained and preserved the secular and apolitical mentality, but the environment has got so vitiated that controlling sentiments and emotions of soldiers is no longer a command of discipline. There is a danger of the heart overruling the head. We saw this happen soon after Operation Bluestar when a number of retired Sikh officers were alienated and demotivated.

Times have changed, and so have the routine and life in the military. There is also a generational change in outlook and disposition of soldiers. Nowadays it is difficult to make the youth join the military, which in the case of the Army is rarely the first choice. Persons joining the Army, especially the officer corps, no longer represent the elite or upper middle class. The value system has changed and is changing. Officers and soldiers have political affiliations, are allowed to vote and join political parties after retirement, subscribing to political ideology denied to them while in service. The military has also begun questioning the undue and unfair civilian bureaucratic control, depriving it of a role in decision-making, in shaping the destiny of the country.

The internal security situation has spiralled out of control. Whether or not it is devising an effective response to the Naxalites or countrywide acts of terrorism, not to mention the politically motivated military operations in Assam and the rest of the North-East, the government has been unable to come up with any answer except: “We are not soft on terror.” For soldiers there can be no greater frustration than to see the helplessness and inaction of the government which behaves as if its hands are tied at the back.

These are difficult times for the government and the military. Ordinary citizens are traumatised by terrorist bombings and know that their fate is in God’s hands and not in the hands of those whom they elected to govern. Retired officers are courting arrest and returning medals, unprecedented as a collective act. Colonel Purohit’s alleged actions appear to be the diktat of his conscience but violative of the high military values and tradition, though being eroded by the socio-political environment. They also reflect the signs of the changing times.

The government and political parties have to lay down red-lines in playing politics, insulating the military and national security from partisan politics. Governments also have to be sensitive to the physical and emotional needs of the soldiers. The Purohit affair is a warning for the government that it has a duty towards maintaining internal security and protecting the citizens of the country.

As for the military, what it took for granted in the past requires introspection. There is need for recalibration of secular traditions on the one hand and stricter monitoring and enforcement of codes. It is time to go back to the basics.

Indian Navy Prods Other Naval Powers
into Swift Action

By Dipankar De Sarkar

The sinking of a pirate ship by the Indian Navy has prodded others, including powerful military nations, into announcing swift and coordinated action in the Gulf of Aden.

Nato military chiefs met in Brussels Wednesday to discuss anti-piracy strategy after the International Maritime Bureau described the situation as “out of control.”

Nato countries were said to be considering a “plethora of proposals” to deal with the problem, but it wasn't immediately clear if they discussed India's call - made last week - for a United Nations peacekeeping force under a unified command to be deployed in the Gulf of Aden.

Among proposals being considered is one by Russia for land operations against the bases of Somali pirates.

Russian ambassador Dmitry Rogozin said naval action alone was not enough to deter piracy, adding: “It is up to Nato, the EU and other major stakeholders to conduct not a sea operation, but in fact a land coastal operation to eradicate the bases of pirates on the ground.”

And with two Britons among the crew of seized Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star, the British government too promised action.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband said the Royal Navy was coordinating the European response to the hijack from its warship in the region, HMS Cumberland.

Saudi Arabia also pledged to join the fight, along with new pledges of ships from Sweden and South Korea.

"The Royal Navy is co-ordinating the European response as well as contributing to the international mission there. Obviously, the problem of piracy around Somalia is a grave danger to the stability in the region," said Miliband.

"It is important that the whole world recognises that it is a threat to trade and prosperity," he said.

Sweden announced it would be sending two warships to join the European Union's antipiracy flotilla deployed in the dangerous waters off the Somali coast. Britain is about to assume command of the flotilla.

And the Arab League convened an emergency meeting in Cairo to discuss how best to co-operate to deal with the growing piracy issue.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "We have ensured that the Navy has the means and the authority to deter and disrupt acts of piracy and we are introducing legislation to strengthen powers for the armed forces to detain ships and arrest suspects."

As two more vessels were seized by pirates Wednesday, Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre at the IMB in Kuala Lumpur, said: “The situation is already out of control. With no strong deterrent, low risk to the pirates and high returns, the attacks will continue.”

But a senior British Navy officer warned no amount of coalition forces would be sufficient to secure the 2.5 million sq nautical miles of the Gulf of Aden, let alone the Indian Ocean waters where the supertanker was seized.

“The pirates will go somewhere we are not,” said Commodore Keith Winstanley, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces in the Middle East.

“If we patrol the Gulf of Aden then they will go to Mogadishu. If we go to Mogadishu, they will go to the Gulf of Aden.”

US Cites Indian Success Against Pirates
to Signal Global Action

By Arun Kumar

Citing the Indian Navy's sinking of a pirate ship in the Gulf of Aden, the US has said action is taking place to deal with the problem of piracy in the international system.

"The issue of piracy is a concern to us as well as others in the international system," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday, noting: "The issue of piracy has been with us, as an international system, unfortunately, for quite some time."

Asked about reports that the owners of a hijacked Saudi supertanker were in talks over a possible ransom, he said: "I'm going to decline to offer any advice to the Saudis on this matter."

The State Department is "trying to come at it from the diplomatic and political angle", McCormack said.

"We're working in the Security Council to try to pass a resolution that could perhaps help deal with some of the limitations that currently exist in dealing with vessels on the high seas," he added.

McCormack noted that "the Indian Navy engaged with some pirates off the Horn of I understand it, the Indian Navy vessel was fired upon. They fired back, sank one of the vessels, and captured some of these pirates as well".

"So there is action that is taking place. But you are also talking about a very, very large surface area in the Indian Ocean just off the Red Sea, off the coast of Somalia.

"It's an international problem. You're not going to solve this - the United States is not going to solve this alone. No one country is going to solve it alone," McCormack said.

"You can see, in very practical terms, the fact that this is an international problem by the fact that you have Indian naval vessels, you have Russian naval vessels, you have NATO vessels in the area.

"You have US vessels that are in the area that are involved in counter-terrorism operations. And again, they have certain obligations under certain circumstances involving piracy. So things are being done," he said.

"We are taking a look internally here at the State Department to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to work with others to address what is an international problem," he added.

At the White House, spokesperson Dana Perino said President George W. Bush had been briefed about the Somali pirates, and ensuring the safety and well being of the crew was of paramount importance in preventing or dealing with issues of piracy.

"We're working with other members of the Security Council right now to see if there are actions that we can do to more effectively fight against piracy and prevent it," she said.

"The goal would be to try to help get this ship to safety, secure the crew, and then work with our international partners to try to alleviate the piracy problem full stop," Perino added.

Pakistan Calls for Halt to US Spy Plane Attacks

Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has urged a halt to missile strikes by US drones inside Pakistani territory.

Kayani made the appeal while addressing the military committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels at the invitation of Admiral Giampaolo Di Paolo, chairman of the committee, according to a statement issued by the Pakistani army Wednesday.

The statement came a few hours after a US drone fired missiles in Pakistan's district of Bannu bordering Afghanistan, killing at least five people.

Pakistani officials said that the US has fired some 20 missiles in the tribal region since August.

Kayani highlighted the need to reinforce Pakistan's efforts and operate in a coordinated manner within respective national boundaries, the statement said.

"He urged a halt to unarmed combat aerial vehicle use within Pakistan's territory," it said.

In his address, Kayani apprised the NATO military committee of the overall security situation in the region.

Navy may send more ships to Gulf of Aden: Sources

NDTV Correspondent

Thursday, November 20, 2008, (New Delhi)

India may consider sending more warships as the piracy situation off the Horn of Africa gets more volatile, sources have told NDTV.

However, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has said that India can only intervene to save ship of another country if there is a request.

Navy chief told NDTV that India is looking at collaborating with other countries for anti-piracy action. He also said that aerial recce will be considered in the Gulf of Aden.

We are considering augmenting our efforts to keep Indian traffic safe, Admiral Mehta said.

All men of war are mandated to take action in self defense, he further said.

For the third day, pirates are holding seven Indians among others on board an Iranian ship hostage in the Gulf of Aden.

Talks have begun to get the ship released and sources say that pirates have made a ransom demand as well.

Just this year $25-30 million have been paid as ransom to pirates in this region. This ship, the Delight was captured off the coast of Yemen while en route to the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.

The Indian Navy frigate Tabar sank a Somali pirate boat on Wednesday.

Lieutenent Colonel Purohit: Hero or extremist?

Imtiaz Jaleel

Thursday, November 20, 2008, (Pune)

Is Lieutenent Colonel Prasad Purohit a talented officer or a radical extremist?
So far the headlines have only has suggested the latter. But his family has now made public details of Purohit's record in his defense.

Commendation Letter from ATS

· Perhaps the most embarrasing for investigators is a letter from the Anti-Terrorism Squad itself. Sent in September 2005, it is signed by K P Raghuvanshi, the then Deputy Commissioner of Police. It commends Purohit for a training programme.

Commendation Letter from 15 Marathas Light Infantry

· A confidential letter from the officiating commanding officer of the 15 Marathas Light Infantry commending his role in a live encounter with infiltrating terrorists along the Line of Control in February 2001.

Commendation Letter from Rashtriya Rifles

· A commendation letter from Rashtriya Rifles in May 2002 for his service during the the visit of the PM to HQ 28 infantry division.

Commendation Letter 68 Mountain Brigade

· A commendation letter from Brig Prakash Menon, headquarters, 68 Mountain Brigade, sent in May 2002 for killing 2 foreign terrorists.

Commendation Letter Station HQ, Deolali

· A commendation letter from Brig A K Garg, Station Commander, Station headquarters Deolali, in October 2002 calling him a dedicated and forthright officer.

Commendation Letter from Nashik Commissioner

· Letter from Himanshu Roy, Commissioner of Police, Nashik in November 2006 for the assistance and cooperation between Nashik Police and military intelligence for over a year and a half.

Lieutenent Colonel Prasad Purohit's wife Aparna Purohit says these medals and letters are evidence of Purohit's dedication to the country. "I am very upset that these politicians are getting involved. I am sure the law will take its course and he will come out clean," she says.

The letters and the medals obviously don't rule out the possibility that Purohit may be involved, but it's the first attempt by the officer's family to defend his record.

Navy gets firepower


New Delhi, Nov. 20: The Indian Navy has been given the nod to take offensive action against suspected pirates inside Somalia’s territorial waters, two days after it claimed that one of its warships had fired at and sunk a vessel of sea bandits.

Alongside this international “approval”, the navy is also sending one of its largest and most powerful destroyers to the Somali coast to operate with the INS Tabar stealth frigate. The Delhi-class destroyer is expected to be in Somali waters in four days.

The decision was conveyed to the navy at a meeting convened by defence minister A.K. Antony. “We have been given an informal international mandate,” a senior naval source told The Telegraph.

He would not detail the mechanism through which the mandate has been conveyed to the navy but cited the United Nations Security Council Resolution, 1838.

The resolution asks nations with the military capability to “actively fight piracy” on the high seas off Somalia. It says countries must use naval vessels and military aircraft, “the necessary means to repress acts of piracy, in a manner consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has also suggested that naval aircraft in addition to helicopters on board the Tabar and the Delhi-class destroyer be used for surveillance.

“We are looking at how most efficiently to augment our efforts,” a senior naval officer said. “It requires a phenomenal effort to combat piracy in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. No single country can do it.”

The ministry of shipping and merchant shipping bodies have inquired with the defence ministry if the navy could deploy up to four warships. But that is not easy.

At the navy headquarters in Delhi, there was a sense of relief after what officials said were statements of encouragement from the global maritime community, the US and the International Maritime Organisation.

The navy had earlier been wary of the diplomatic fallout of exhibiting its sea power beyond Indian waters.

India has alreay sought deployment of warships on the high seas by various countries, particularly those in the Gulf, jointly under the UN flag.

The proposal was being considered, said N. Ravi, secretary, east, in the foreign ministry.

Delhi HC rejects Army layoffs, orders reinstatement

Arunoday Majumdar


New Delhi: More than 26,000 army personnel were being terminated from service in phases by the Army HQ on medical grounds some of them had already lost their jobs but now the Delhi High Court has ordered their reinstatement within a deadline of one month. Reason the termination was not through proper procedure.

"Without setting up an invalidating medical board, the army constituted only relief medical board and just discharged everybody, so the discharge has been held illegal by the HC," says lawyer Abhik Kumar.

The court ordered that all of them should be paid back wages and benefits .The termination had been on in a phased manner from April 2007. Those who challenged the order alleged the layoffs were based on unfair medical reports.

"All my blood test reports are normal, I have no symptoms and I am as fit as any other person" says havaldar Pradip Kumar Saha.

The two judge bench also ruled that those who have taken their retirement benefits should refund it within a month before re-entering service.

UN to boost DR Congo forces by 3,000

Agence France-Presse

Friday, November 21, 2008 (United Nations)

The UN Security Council on Thursday agreed to boost its forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo by some 3,000 troops.

In a unanimous resolution, the council agreed to boost the 17,000-strong mission known by the acronym MONUC by "up to 2,785 military personnel, and the strength of its formed police unit by up to 300 personnel."

The temporary reinforcement will last until the end of December, but could be renewed at the same time as the mandate of the MONUC mission which also expires then.

The resolution, drawn up by France and co-sponsored by several nations, stressed the temporary increase was to enable "MONUC to reinforce its capacity to protect civilians, to reconfigure its structure and forces and to optimize their deployment."

It further "underscores the importance of MONUC implementing its mandate in full, including through robust rules of engagement."

MONUC is the UN's largest mission currently deployed in the world and was first set up in 2001. About 5,000 UN peacekeepers are based in eastern Nord-Kivu province where fierce fighting flared again at the end of August.

The fighting has pitted government troops against the rebel forces of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

Muhamalai breached: Troops begin march towards Elephant Pass

Army overcomes earth bund, other defences in crucial offensive

After four days of continuous intense fighting the 55 and 53 Divisions of the Sri Lanka Army based at Muhamalai, Nagar Kovil and Kilali were yesterday able to capture the strategically important Muhamalai Forward Defence Line (FDL) of the LTTE, achieving yet another victory in the present conflict.

Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara announced that the military completed capturing the 800 metres long 8 kilometres wide strong defence line around 5am yesterday inflicting heavy damage on the Tigers.

During the last few weeks, small teams of the 53 and 55 Divisions facilitated the capture of the defence lines as they had infiltrated the enemy line almost on a daily basis during the late hours and had succeeded in blowing up the LTTE bunkers on the FDL.

During the process the 53 and 55 Divisions had been able to cause heavy damage on the LTTE cadres and bunker lines although several soldiers had also been killed and injured.

Brigadier Prasanna Silva, General Officer Command of the 55 Division based in Muhuamalai and GOC of the 53 Division Brigadier Kamal Gunaratne mapped out the plan to capture the strategically important line under the direction of Army Commander Sarath Fonseka and Jaffna area Commander G.A. Chandrasiri.

The 53 and 55 Divisions commenced their march towards the LTTE defence line backed by the Air Mobile Brigade and the Mechanical Infantry Brigade soon after the capture of Pooneryn; the LTTE’s last stronghold on the Western flank of the A-9 road. The troops were assisted by Artillery guns and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers in the forward march. The fighting commenced on Saturday and continued for almost four days until yesterday morning when the enemy line was completely captured. The LTTE had suffered heavy casualties and were forced to withdraw their main defence line to their second defense line due to the continuous artillery and MBRL assaults.

However the Tigers launched several waves of attacks in full strength with the aim of recapturing the defence line, but the troops were able to hold the line with the assistance of the Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets and combat helicopters.

It has been reported that the LTTE had sustained heavy damage with the commencement of fighting on Saturday.

According to Jaffna military sources, troops have also destroyed sections of an earth bund and ditch constructed by the LTTE to fortify its defences.

The Army has also deployed the mechanized infantry battalion in support of the rear defences. Meanwhile, sources in uncleared areas said that the LTTE has sent experienced senior fighters to the front, to prolong the military advance. Jerry, Muhundan, Kadalparidi, Puhalendi and Sendeer were identified as the senior members in charge of the LTTE cadres assisting Theepan in the Northern battlefront.According to ground sources more than 60 LTTE cadres were killed and over 100 injured during the last four days of fighting, while official figures show that more than 10 soldiers were killed and 30 sustained injuries during the same period. However, ground sources stated that the casualty figure could be higher than the official figure.

The LTTE is currently facing a severe shortage of manpower as well as military hardware as it has to commit more and more cadres to at least six main fronts with the military poised to enter Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu from six directions.

In the Kilinochchi battlefront, the 574 Brigade removed the last obstacle to Kilinochchi town on Wednesday as they captured the more than six feet high earth bund that linked Iranamadu to Akkarayan through the Murukandi temple. Earlier troops captured over fifteen kilomtres of the earth bund from Akkarayankulam to an area close to Murukandi temple. On Wednesday some one and half kilomtres long bund up to the A-9 road was captured completing the taking of the entire bund in the Western flank of the A-9.

During the battle at least 30 LTTE fighters were killed and the military lost 5 soldiers. Three counter waves of the LTTE led by Ramesh, were launched against the military, but were successfully repulsed despite heavy rains throughout the day. Troops of the 8 and 10 Light Infantry had taken part in this operation.

While troops in the Jaffna peninsula captured the first defence line of the LTTE in Muhamalai, soldiers of the 58 Division are now heading towards Paranathan and are now few kilomtres away from the Paranthan town. If the troops continue to advance and gain Paranthan, the LTTE will be unable to hold the entire area in the north of Paranthan town and the Tigers will lose their supplies routes to Elephant Pass and Muhamalai areas. Such a breakdown of supplies would compel the LTTE to withdraw defending the area.

In order to prevent such a situation, the LTTE would put their maximum strength to hold Paranthan. However, latest ground reports revealed that LTTE had begun to vacate the town and relocate their military operation centres. Reports also said that civilians in the area had already vacated the Paranthan town and its suburbs during past few weeks after the intensification of clashes.

Currently, the military is attacking an earth bund build by the LTTE to defend the Paranthan area.

The 1993 Pooneryn debacle

As the troops strategically overran Pooneryn area after defeating the Tigers, sustaining only minor casualties, it was in stark contrast to the major debacle suffered at Pooneryn in 1993. On that occasion the LTTE attacked and captured the military base killing nearly 1000 soldiers.

It was just past midnight on November 11, 1993 when a group of LTTE armed men infiltrated the heavily fortified Pooneryn military base through the Forward Defence Line. They first captured the main gun positions and armoury positions. Less than one hour later around 2 in the morning, the LTTE launched a massive surprise assault from both the land and the lagoon targeting the Nagathevanthurai naval base and the army defence lines in Pooneryn, getting the support of the infiltrated cadres.

The security forces within the camp were unaware of the infiltration by the LTTE cadres into the base until the full scale assault began. The LTTE operation was led by S. P. Thamilselvan, but before dawn, he had to leave the battle field as a rocket fired by the military exploded near him seriously wounding him. Thamilselvan later became the organization’s political head and was killed in an air force strike last year.

The Tigers were armed with heavy anti-aircraft guns in order to prevent any air support for the Army and the navy.

On the following day, the Army’s elite force -- the Commanndos-- were called to the scene. But they were also unable to hold the base against the LTTE’s fire power. Several attempts made to land helicopters to rescue casualties had to be abandoned due to enemy fire.

At the end of the day the Nagathevanthurai naval base was overrun and all craft were destroyed or taken over by the LTTE. It is reported that the LTTE captured several naval gunboats, heavy mortars and two tanks. Later the Air Force destroyed one of them. But large quantities of other arms and ammunition were captured by the Tigers. Statistics show that some 200 soldiers were captured by the Tigers and then murdered, while another 241 soldiers, including 8 officers were killed in the fighting. 469 LTTE fighters were killed. Up to 200 soldiers still remain missing. A Court of Inquiry comprising four army officers was subsequently appointed to inquire into the LTTE attack on the Pooneryn Army and Naval Base.

India on alert to nab fleeing Prabha

With the armed forces intensifying their operations against the LTTE and capturing the strategically important Pooneryn area, Indian defence authorities were on high alert in South India regarding a possible escape by LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to India, informed sources said.

Official sources said that when the Sri Lanka military moves further into the areas occupied by the LTTE, Prabhakaran would attempt to reach the neighboring Tamil Nadu where the LTTE has strong backing from certain politicians and other sections of the community.

A security blanket has been laid in South India with war ships, air force surveillances and tight security along the coastal belt to prevent any LTTE infiltration. In recent times a large number of LTTE cadres had fled to Tamil Nadu. Although a few of them were arrested, most of the others managed to make their way to India, successfully pretending to be fishermen.

Source also said that the LTTE leadership may use their light aircraft to fly over Sri Lanka’s land mass into the seas and from there take a boat used by the fishermen to reach India.

‘Sornam’ comes under military assault

On Monday (17) troops of the newly formed Task Force – III were on an offensive in the north of Mankulam area when they noticed that two green colour trucks had arrived in their vicinity. Three motorcycles were also in front of the trucks and were later found to be part of the security detail for the trucks. Suddenly, a person stepped out of the vehicle and the troops identified him as senior LTTE ‘Commander' ‘Col’ Sornam.

They opened fire at the LTTE group as well as at Sornam from two directions completely taking him by surprise. On being fired the other LTTE cadres had surrounded Sornam and immediately whisked him away in a separate vehicle.

Troops continued to attack with their small arms as well as using heavy weapons even Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers towards the direction where Sornam was believed to have escaped. One time special Commander of the east, Sornam, who just took over the area from ‘Col Lawrence’, had made a visit to the areas under his responsibility on that day. At the time of the incident he had come to the area in order to visit an LTTE camp located between Olumadu in the east of Mankulam on the Mankulam – Oddusuddan road.

By that time, the Task Force III was heading towards the enemy lines from north to south direction on the North-east of Mankulam. However, Sornam could have thought that the military movements were from the east of Mankulam to the further east. Sornam was in Welioya area before this appointment. Jeyam had been appointed for the vacant post in Welioya. Sornam was earlier injured during the Sri Lanka Army’s counter attack at Kattaparichchaan in the east.

Earlier the LTTE commander in the Mankulam area ‘Lawrence’ had been transferred due to his poor performance. If the military was able to kill Sornam at this moment, it would have been a major blow to the LTTE as the organization only has few senior level leaders, such as Soosai, Bhanu, Jeyam left.

See for details and graphics

Indian infantry runs short of Officers

New Delhi—Indian Infantry Officers are undergoing intense pressure and low morale on account of unscheduled duties and over work. Due to the same reason not only there is a tremendous increase in inquiries with regard discipline of officers but suicide cases have increased manifolds.
In the same regard, Indian Ministry of defence has admitted that infantry Battalions in Indian Army have only nine officer posted in each unit despite the authorized strength of 22 officers. In the same regard the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence recorded that Indian Army is short of 12,000 officers, which is almost 25 percent of the authorized strength. The committee recorded that the shortage is mainly in the units as the formation Headquarters run with the full authorization so they are not affected.
The committee further recorded that since each officer eventually ends up doing the work that should have been handled by at least two or three officers, which results in tremendous pressure on officer posted in Infantry units.

Defense chief rejects plea to upgrade Marine's medal

By Steve Liewer


November 20, 2008

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rejected a request by several members of Congress to upgrade the valor award for Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, the late Iraq war hero from San Diego.

The legislators had appealed to President Bush for intervention after the military denied Peralta the top award for combat bravery in September. Peralta received a Navy Cross, which is second to the Medal of Honor.

Gates announced his decision to not conduct further reviews in a letter dated Tuesday.

Peralta died Nov. 15, 2004, during house-to-house combat in Fallujah, Iraq. After being wounded by a friendly-fire bullet in the back of his head, he grabbed an enemy grenade that landed next to him and pulled it to his chest before it exploded, said members of his team who were there.

Peralta's act is credited with saving six Marines. His superiors in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment nominated him for the Medal of Honor. The nomination won approval from the Marine Corps, U.S. Central Command and secretary of the Navy.

Gates noted conflicting forensic evidence about whether Peralta was still conscious enough to smother the grenade. He made the unprecedented decision to ask five experts – a former Army commanding general in Iraq, a Medal of Honor recipient, a neurosurgeon and two pathologists – to analyze the evidence. Gates said they unanimously, and independently, recommended against the Medal of Honor.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter then awarded Peralta the Navy Cross, including a citation that described his actions as “without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety.”

“We're still confused,” said Icela Donald of San Diego, Peralta's sister. “The Navy Cross is a very good award. It's just, we always believed he would get the Medal of Honor. That's what everybody told us.”

California's two senators, all five House members from the San Diego area and other legislators wrote to Bush asking him to reconsider the military's decision.

In his Tuesday letter, Gates said: “The five independent reviewers each individually concluded that the evidence did not meet the exacting 'no doubt'standard necessary to support award of the (Medal of Honor). After careful consideration, I concurred with this conclusion. Further, given the reviews already conducted, I do not believe further review is necessary.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, wrote a speedy response that was signed by the same legislators in the original group. The letter expressed “extreme disappointment” with the decision and noted that another Marine, Cpl. Jason Dunham, had received a posthumous Medal of Honor in 2007 after using his helmet to smother a grenade.

“Intentionally absorbing a grenade blast to protect one's comrades-in-arms has been traditionally recognized by awarding the Medal of Honor,” the letter said.

The decision wasn't surprising given Gates' previously stated position, said George Sabga, a lawyer, former Marine and friend of the Peralta family.

Sabga said he is working with Marines in Peralta's unit to gather video footage taken during the battle in which Peralta died. He believes the film will bolster arguments for awarding the Medal of Honor.

A buddy of Peralta's has been staging a one-man protest at the Hawaii Marine Corps Base, where the pair were once stationed together. That person, former Marine Sgt. Catcher Cuts The Rope, frequently stands outside the base's gate holding an American flag and a sign that reads, “Honor Peralta.”

“The whole air of what Peralta had done, it really enraptured us,” said Cuts The Rope, an American Indian. “We looked at Rafa as the epitome of what we were fighting for in Fallujah. It was for each other.”

Defence spectrum band gets a relook

20 Nov 2008, 0156 hrs IST, Joji Thomas Philip, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The department of telecom (DoT) and the armed forces have revived the plan to have a ‘defence (spectrum) band’ or classifying all

spectrum used by the forces into a single band.

With an exclusive spectrum band, the armed forces will develop or buy technologies that work only in their band, ensuring greater national security. Commercial users of spectrum such as telcos and broadcasters would be able to use only the civilian band.

Europe and the United States have divided all their spectrum, or airwaves on which signals used by communication, broadcasting and wireless internet travel, into civilian and military bands.

In India, the proposal to have a defence spectrum band was first mooted in 2005, but was put on the backburner. During recent meetings between officials of the communications and defence ministries, chaired by National Security Adviser MK Narayanan, it was decided that India would explore this model, sources told ET.

The concept will work as follows: Currently, the armed forces use radio frequencies across several frequency bands for their communication, signaling and other operations. All airwaves in the country will be divided into two categories – civilian and military, after talks between both ministries.

The defence forces will then have to vacate all airwaves (spectrum) that come under the civilian band. Both the communication and defence ministries will soon launch talks to resolve the complications associated with having a defence band.

For instance, both ministries will have to work out a model to compensate the armed forced on the costs incurred in shifting or reconfiguring all their systems to work on the defence band. Additionally, the armed forces may also have to buy new equipment.

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