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Monday, 9 February 2009

From Today's Papers - 09 Feb 09

Pension Pangs
War veterans return bravery medals
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
Peeved at disparity in pension between the same rank personnel and the Union government's inability in addressing the issue, a large number of ex-servicemen today returned their bravery medals to President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the defence forces.

As Patil was not in the capital, her officials collected the medals in her absence. The soldiers said the medals would be taken back only after 'one-rank one-pension' demand was accepted.

Around 300 soldiers of the few thousand who had gathered on the occasion, including several former generals of the armed forces, marched from Jantar Mantar to Rashtrapati Bhawan. They alleged that the lackadaisical approach of the Union government had created a mess of their pension structure. Over 21 lakh retired ex-servicemen are seeking implementation of the 'one-rank one-pension' demand.

Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IEM), Lt Gen Raj Kadyan, in his letter to President Pratibha Patil, said: "Such a decision, which has been forced on us, is an unparalleled and unfortunate development in our country."

Kadyan, who has remained deputy chief of the Indian Army, said it was illogical that two individuals rendering equal service, both in terms of quantum and quality, received unequal pension. In military terms, it implies that two individuals retiring after equal length of service and from the same rank should get same pension. The IEM demand is that irrespective of the date on which a soldier retires, he or she should get the same pension.

Detailing on the issue, IEM representatives said in the present scenario a pre-1996 retired sepoy gets 82 per cent lower pension than his post-2006 retired counterpart. A pre-1996 havildar gets 37 per cent lower pension than a sepoy who retired after 2006. This, despite the fact that a sepoy is two ranks below a havildar. Similarly, a major who retired before 1996 gets 53 per cent lower pension than the one who retired after 2006.

Thales Awaits IAF Nod for Mirage-2000 Upgrade
By Vishnu Makhijani

New Delhi
Even as it supports a French bid for an Indian Air Force tender for 126 combat jets, European aerospace major Thales is awaiting the IAF's final nod for upgrading its fleet of Mirage-2000 fighter bombers to enhance their strike capabilities and extend their operational life by at least 20 years.

"We have several significant priorities for India. In the short term the retrofit of the Mirage-2000 aircraft is clearly a strong request and we are working hard on it - Thales is leading this important programme along with its French and Indian industrial partners," Pierre-Yves Chaltiel, Thales' head of solutions for governments sector, told IANS.

"In the mid-term, we are also strongly supporting the Rafale aircraft along with Dassault and Snecma in the bid for India's MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) programme (for the 126 jets)," he added.

Chaltiel is in India for the Aero India-2009 international military air show at Bangalore Feb 11-15, during which Thales will be showcasing its capabilities in the spheres of military aviation, civil aviation, aviation services and security, air traffic management and defence.

Pointing out that the technical and programme issues relating to the Mirage-2000 upgrade "have been discussed and agreed (to)", Chaltiel said: "We have put everything in place with all our Indian industrial partners, through the transfer of knowledge and technology, for the Indian industry to be in full capacity during the execution phases of the programme."

While Thales was reluctant to state figures given a confidentiality clause, the project is believed to be worth $1.5 billion for upgrading the 51 Mirage-2000s in the IAF fleet to Dash-5 levels. This will give the jets multi-role capability with longer-range radars and fire-and-forget missiles, enabling less aircraft to perform a given mission thanks to greater fuel and weapon-delivery capacities.

The upgrade will involve providing the Mirage-2000, which was first inducted in mid-1980, a state-of-the-art fly-by-wire digital cockpit and an enhanced weapons-carrying capability.

Under the Thales proposal, the company would deliver the first two aircraft from its facilities in France within 40 months of the signing of the contract, and would simultaneously assist Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in upgrading another two aircraft in India in the same time frame.

Thereafter, HAL would upgrade one of the remaining 47 aircraft every month.

"The Mirage-2000 will be further enhanced by the integration of new capabilities," Chaltiel, had told IANS in November during a visit to Thales facilities in France.

"These include longer range detection across the spectrum, improved tactical situation awareness, longer range weapon firing against multiple simultaneous targets, weapon stealth and extended operating envelope with the capability to engage ground targets while countering airborne threats," Chaltiel pointed out.

"The resulting tactical advantage will allow commanders to commit fewer aircraft while achieving a higher success rate, thanks in particular to greater fuel and weapon-delivery capacities.

"For instance, a typical border protection mission involving two hours on station will require just two upgraded Mirage-2000 aircraft compared with the current six aircraft," Chaltiel pointed out.

The IAF had floated a global tender in September 2007 for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft in a deal valued at $10 billion. Six jets are in the fray: the US Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Lockheed Martin F-16, the French Dassault Rafale, the Swedish Saab Grippen, the Russian MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon built by a four-nation European consortium.

The technical bids have been evaluated and the six aircraft will be put through a rigorous testing process in Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh.

The first is meant to gauge the aircraft's ability to operate in the humid conditions of south, the second their effectiveness in the deserts of Rajasthan and the third to study their suitability in the icy Himalayan heights of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

By the time the evaluation process is complete, the size of the order is likely to rise to around 200 jets, as the IAF, which is down to 32 squadrons from a high of 39 1/2, is expected to see a further depletion of its fleet due to the retirement of some of its ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft. The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 45 squadrons.

Ex-Servicemen Return Gallantry Medals over Pension

New Delhi
More than 300 retired soldiers of varying ranks Sunday marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and returned medals won in combat and for distinguished service as they sought equal pension for each rank. The veterans were among the thousands who had gathered earlier in the day at the Jantar Mantar observatory in the heart of the capital for a protest that some said marked a black day for the Indian armed forces.

President Pratibha Patil did not personally receive the medals, which were collected by some of her officials.

"Our main demand is 'one rank one pension'. As a mark of protest we are returning the medals to the president. A soldier wears his medal with pride but we are left with no choice," former army deputy chief Lt. Gen. Raj Kadyan told IANS. The president is supreme commander of the armed forces.

Kadyan held the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, the Ati-Vishisht Seva Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal -- all of which he surrendered Sunday.

The soldiers, who also included three-star generals, marched under the banner of the Indian Ex-servicemen's Movement (IEM).

The march was led by Shiksha Bharadwaj, mother of Captain Umang Bharadwaj. Her son was killed by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 and he was posthumously awarded Shaurya Chakra.

Umang's father, Col Kanwal Bharadwaj, a Sena Medal winner, accompanied her and other former soldiers.

"When you are not able to meet two ends, the medal is of no consequence," Col Bharadwaj said. "The government did not pay any heed to our demand. We had to take this step."

The main demand of the protestors is that irrespective of the date on which a soldier retires, he or she should get the same pension.

An army sepoy who retired before 1996 gets a monthly pension of Rs.3,670. But one who retired between 1996 and December 2005 gets Rs.4,680. A sepoy who retired after January 2006 gets Rs.8,700.

Effectively then, an army havildar, who retired earlier, gets pension money that is less than that of a sepoy retiring after January 2006 though the havildar enjoys a higher rank. The mismatch applies to all ranks.

"Most IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers, judges, governors, MPs and even the president enjoy this right (of one rank one pension)," pointed out one retired soldier.

The government has rejected the 'one rank one pension' demand, saying that it will entail huge financial costs.

Surgical strikes against terror feasible, says Army chief

New Delhi, February 8
Against the backdrop of much-debated option of surgical strikes against terror infrastructure in Pakistan post-Mumbai terror attacks, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has said that such strikes are "very much feasible" militarily.

"Surgical strikes are definitely feasible but whether you wish to take that decision or not is a separate issue," he said. "Definitely yes. Whether you would like to look at doing it (carrying out such strikes) by air or artillery or by another means or physically there," he said in reply to questions.

Asked if the armed forces were ready for such strikes if the political leadership had given the go-ahead, Kapoor said, "We are the Army which has been involved in operations in Kashmir and Northern Command on a perpetual basis and on an ongoing basis. Therefore, the question of not being ready is not relevant. And we would have been fully ready to do our task." During the wide-ranging interview, the Army Chief also sought to dispel the impression that there was no clarity about the nuclear command when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hospitalised last month.

Kapoor said "Yes, I can say that as far as we are concerned such things keep coming up in the media at times and normally you find the Prime Minister does not talk about it. But as far as we were concerned, there was a lot of clarity. There was no confusion."

Asked about apprehensions in the West of a conflict-like situation emerging in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks, the Army Chief said over the past few weeks there seemed to have been a gradual acceptance of the reality of involvement of outfits based on Pakistani soil in the Mumbai attacks amongst the Pakistani establishment. — PTI

Navy rubbishes China's submarine story

New Delhi, February 8
Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta today rubbished reports that China's warships on anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden had 'forced' an Indian submarine in the area to surface.

Vehemently denying the Chinese claim, he said, "There is no such incident that had happened where an Indian Navy submarine had to surface, that's what I can say." Earlier, the Navy had said the vessel "was not" an Indian one at all.

Dismissing Chinese media reports with regard to the purported incident, Mehta told reporters after flagging off a vintage car rally here that no one in the government has ever said anything about occurrence of any such incident.

The Indian Navy had earlier rejected claims by the Chinese media that the two Chinese destroyers had spotted an Indian submarine tracking them in the Gulf of Aden and forced it to surface. Chinese newspapers and websites had reported a week ago that their warships sent to fight piracy in waters off Somalia were stalked by an Indian attack submarine and the two sides became locked in a tense standoff for at least half-an-hour.

They also claimed that after rounds of maneuvering during which both sides tried to test for weaknesses in other's sonar system, the two Chinese warships managed to force the Indian submarine to surface. — PTI

IAF plane makes emergency landing

New Delhi, February 8
An Indian Air Force Dornier plane had to make an emergency landing after it developed a technical snag in one of its engine during a routine flight today.

"The IAF aircraft, with three crew members onboard, had to make emergency landing after fuel supply in one of its engine was shut off," sources at the airport said.

The plane, which was associated with Palam-based Dornier Squardon, landed safely on the secondary runway at around 4.15 pm, along with the crew members, they said. — PTI

Up to 50 terror camps active in Pakistan: Army chief

Press Trust of India

Saturday, February 07, 2009 9:37 PM (New Delhi)

Terror infrastructure in Pakistan is "existing and active", according to Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, who puts the number of terror camps there in between 30 and 50.

Even as Pakistan seeks to convey an impression that it is taking action against terrorists and their infrastructure, General Kapoor said that the infrastructure was still active.

The number of camps "on the other side" can "safely" be placed at between 30 and 50, he said, adding that there had been a significant increase in such camps from 32 in 2005 to 53 last year.

Kapoor, who has served as chief of the northern command which includes Jammu and Kashmir, said by and large most of these camps are located along the Line of Control (LoC) and between 10 to 50 km away from the LoC. The numbers of these camps have been varying at times.

"I would rather put it that the infrastructure is active. Yes I would put it that way. I would not talk about the numbers specifically right now because of the fact that some of these are closed. But infrastructure is existing and active."

Air Marshal Mukul releases Cenjows Study "

Air Marshal S.C. Mukul, Chairman, Integrated Staff Committee (CISC), released a book titled 'India's Comprehensive National Power: Synergy Through Joint Decision Making', a study report prepared by the Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), in Delhi on February 6,2009."With over 40 ministries and departments of the central government, a coordinating inter-agency mechanism has become a paramount need of the hour to sustain our national interests across the globe," Air Marshal Mukul said. "A joint national security decision-making which could contribute to comprehensive national power through seamless inter-agency coordination between all agencies involved in national defence is thus the need of the hour," he added. The book deals with the various challenges facing the country and makes proposals on giving impetus to the decision-making mechanism at the highest level without a need for any major reorganization of the existing system. It addresses the changes in the realm of information age and e-governance where solutions have to be worked out in a real time framework.

Spectrum release may get delayed
9 Feb 2009, 0042 hrs IST, Joji Thomas Philip, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: In what could further delay the vacation of spectrum (airwaves on which signal of mobile phone travels) by the defence forces, Indian


Army has now said that spectrum cannot be released in a phased manner, as agreed earlier.

Instead, the Army has now said that it should be released for commercial use only after BSNL finishes building the alternate networks for the three wings — Army, Air Force and Navy — which is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Spectrum is crucial for all telecom companies, as it is the lifeline on which they offer their services. The spectrum crunch has caused deterioration in the quality of services, increased call drops and also acts as a roadblock for companies to expand their customer base.

As per the earlier agreement between the communications and the defence ministries, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy were scheduled to vacate these airwaves in a phased manner based on the progress of this alternative network.
BSNL is slated to complete the Air Force Network (AFNET) connecting 162 locations and built at the cost of Rs 1,077 crore by June 2009. The communication ministry, therefore, wants the airwaves used by the Air Force to be vacated within this time frame.

Indian Air Force was expected to vacate as much as 40 MHz of radio frequencies after the completion of this network which could have helped existing operators get additional airwaves, as they expand their subscriber base.

In a bid to resolve this deadlock, the panel of ministers, that is looking into the vacation of spectrum, during their meet this week, will decide if the airwaves will be released in a phased manner, or as per the demands of the Army. The group of ministers (GoM) will also consider approval of the Rs 14,623-crore funding for this alternative network. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) will clear the funding for the project only after it has been endorsed by GoM.

All telecom service providers offer services using second generation (2G) airwaves. But, the government does not have enough 2G airwaves to meet the demands of existing players, as they expand their subscriber base as these frequencies are occupied by the defence forces.

Besides, several new entrants, who were granted licences last year, have not been given airwaves to launch services in many regions of the country.

Additionally, the government does not have adequate 3G radio frequencies, which allows telcos to offer high-end services such has video conferencing on mobiles, high-speed internet and fast downloads of movies and video clips, in nine of the 22 telecom circles in the country.

Cellular companies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular can launch 3G services only after the radio frequencies vacated by the defence forces is reallocated to them through an auction process.

Ex-servicemen return medals over pension parity

PTI | February 08, 2009 | 19:55 IST

A large number of ex-servicemen, including General rank officers, returned their medals on Sunday, to the government protesting the non-implementation of their demand for "one rank, one pension" principle.
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Alleging that a "raw deal" was given to the armed forces by the Sixth Pay Commission, the ex-servicemen, who also
included Colonels, held a demonstrationin New Delhiand sent their medals to President Pratibha Patil, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
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They also threatened to emerge as a "potential votebank" and contest elections to teach the "politicians and bureaucrats" a fitting lesson.
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"We handed over all the medals of the ex-servicemen who participated in Sunday's protest to an official of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The medals were in thousands," Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan, chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, said.
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He termed the protest by the ex-servicemen as an "unparallelled" and "unfortunate" development in the country.
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"A soldier devotes the best years of his life to the country. When he retires, his medals are his most prized possession. These are a proud record of his contribution to keeping the country safe and united," Lt Gen Raj Kadyan, who is set to return his Param Vhishst Seva Medal and other medals, said.
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The former military-men said they were "forced" to come out to the streets by the successive governments to meet their
demands and get justice.

Surgical strikes on terror camps are feasible, says Army chief

PTI | February 08, 2009 | 19:37 IST

Against the backdrop of much-debated option of surgical strikes against terror infrastructure in Pakistan post-Mumbai terror attack, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor has said that such strikes are "very much feasible" militarily.
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"Surgical strikes are definitely feasible but whether you wish to take that decision or not not is a separate issue," he said when asked by PTI whether such strikes were feasible.
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"Definitely yes. Whether you would like to look at doing it (carrying out such strikes) by air or artillery or by another means or physically there," he said in reply to questions.
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Asked if the armed forces were ready for such strikes if the political leadership had given the go-ahead, Kapoor said, "we are an army which has been involved in operations in Kashmir and Northern Command on a perpetual basis and on an on-going basis. Therefore, the question of not being ready is not relevant. We would have been fully ready to do our task."
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During the wide-ranging interview, the army chief also sought to dispel the impression that there was no no clarity about the nuclear command when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hospitalised for heart surgery last month. Kapoor said "Yes I can say that as far as we are concerned such things keep coming up in the media at times and normally you find the prime minister does not not talk about it. But as far as we were concerned, there was a lot of clarity. There was no no confusion."
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Asked if there was no confusion and whether they were clear about who controlled the nuclear button, he said "Yes,
there was no no confusion at all."
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Asked about apprehensions in the West of a conflict-like situation emerging in the wake of Mumbai terror attack, the
army chief said over the past few weeks there seemed to have been a gradual acceptance of reality of involvement of outfits based on Pakistani soil in the Mumbai attack amongst the Pakistani establishment.
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"The peaceful diplomatic course adopted so far by the Indian government seems to have provided stimuli to the Pakistan government to act against the terror infrastructure and help bring the guilty to book," he said.
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In the current and evolving scenario, Kapoor said the armed forces, as per their mandate, were fully prepared to
execute the course of action as decided by the political leadership of the country.
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He said after the Mumbai attack, no no deployment of additional troops had taken place on the border. "However, we
are maintaining utmost vigil and closely monitoring the situation. Our current posture allows us to achieve full operational readiness at short notice." To a question, Kapoor said after the Mumbai attack no no deployment of additional troops had taken place on the border.
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"However, we are maintaining utmost vigil and closely monitoring the situation. Our current posture allows us to achieve full operational readiness at short notice," he said.
���� Asked if there were any plans to deploy specialised troops on foreign soil to protect Indian assets against the backdrop of the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last year, he said at present there were no no such plans.
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However, the emerging security environment and government decision would dictate any such development in future.
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To a question on the proposal for a Chief of Defence Staff that cropped up after the Kargil conflict, the army chief said it was desirable and if it is set up sooner it would be good for everyone in the country.
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He said a Group of Ministers went into the issue and the government felt that it required wider consultation among political parties before a decision is taken. The rest of the structure of the CDS like the starting of vice chief of defence downwards has now been established over a period of time.
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Specifically on the question of CDS, the government felt that it required to have wider consultations and this decision has not not been taken, he said.
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Asked whether it was a desirable thing to do, Kapoor said "I would very much say it is very much desirable in today's
world where all three wings of the armed forces need to work and function together and therefore synthesis their efforts
and that will optimise their equipment, training and efforts in achieving success.
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"I think it is desirable and sooner or later it has to come. So if it has to come it might as well come sooner which will good for everyone and for the country." Kapoor recalled that even in the US and the UK they had to push it through the system.

Natwar Singh recounts 1986 showdown with China

Agencies Posted online: Feb 08, 2009 at 1604 hrs

New Delhi : In the midst of the eyeball-to- eyeball confrontation between Chinese and Indian forces in Sumdorong Chu valley of Arunachal Pradesh in 1986, General K S Sundarji, then Army Chief, had dropped a bombshell by suggesting that India could take on both China in the east and Pakistan in the west, says former minister K Natwar Singh.

Sundarji buttressed his contention during a meeting in Room No 9 of Parliament House of the Political Affairs Committee presided over by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and attended by the civil and defence top brass, recalls Singh, who was the then Minister of State for External Affairs.

"The Army Chief made his presentation on Sumdorong Chu and also the western sector. He announced rather nonchalantly that India could take on both China in the east and Pakistan in the west," writes Singh in his new book 'My China Diary'.

Intervening in the discussion, India's Ambassador to China K P S Menon, a seasoned diplomat, pointed out that this was deja vu, 1962 in another guise, a reference to the Sino-India conflict.

Singh, who belongs to the 1953 Indian Foreign Service batch and has served in China, Pakistan and other countries, recounts that then Foreign Secretary A P Venkateswaran also met the same fate from the Army Chief.

At the meeting, P V Narasimha Rao, N D Tiwari, K C Pant and Buta Singh were all looking at the Prime Minister. Also present were Arun Singh, Minister of State for Defence.

Singh says he was surprised to hear the Army Chief's observations as a military reverse in the east would bring down the government in spite of its huge majority in Parliament.

Singh, who was External Affairs Minister in the Manmohan Singh ministry, says he told Sundarji, "General, in 1962, we had Krishna Menon to sacrifice. In 1986, whom do we sacrifice, you or the Prime Minister?

In the latter part of 1986, it came to India's notice that Chinese forces had built a helipad at Wandung in Sumdorong Chu valley.

India had reacted swiftly resulting in a week of tense moments before both sides mutually agreed to withdraw their forces inside their respective territories and create a no man's land.

At the end of 1986, India granted statehood to Arunachal Pradesh, an area still claimed by China. The military movements in Tawang was seen by the Chinese as a provocation.

Both countries realised the danger of inadvertent conflict and after initial posturing, decided to de-escalate their deployments.

Singh offers new insights about the complexities of India-China relations in the 192-page book. He recounts his days as a diplomat in Beijing and writes about what transpired during Premier Chou En-lai's ill-fated visit to India in 1960 as also about Rajiv Gandhi's path-breaking visit to China in December, 1988.

The former minister has also come out with interesting backroom anecdotes and diplomatic manoeuvrings.

Singh said he had wondered how Health Minister B Shankaranand had become part of the PM's delegation. "When I went to brief him on China on the 18th in Delhi, all he talked was about the wicked Brahmins who surrounded the PM. Later, I

learnt that M L Fotedar had suggested his name".

In a passing reference, Singh said Gandhi had told him that Shankaranand had been "rewarded" for his "help" in the Bofors Joint Parliamentary Committee over which he had presided.

"Rajiv (Gandhi) told me that he (Shankaranand) had been rewarded for his help in the Bofors JPC," he said.

Singh heaped praise on Gandhi saying "the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru did not let the pressure of the past to derail the present". Gandhi displayed "boldness, visionary and inspiring leadership. He was both audacious and prudent and endowed with an uncluttered, practical approach.

However, Singh also described Gandhi as an "impatient listener" not having an introspective mind and one who did not read books.

Singh gives glimpses of the tough negotiations during Gandhi's China visit before the two sides agreed on setting up joint working groups to deal with the boundary question, economic relations as also trade and science and technology.

Chinese Premier Li Peng had pressed for inclusion of "mutual accommodation" in the communique but apprehending that this could imply conceding territory, Gandhi suggested "mutual acceptability" as an alternative formulation.

Singh said Sonia Gandhi, who was accompanying Rajiv, got an attack of asthma during the trip. "My inhaler is not working," she told Singh who told her that he had left his inhaler at the guest house.

The high point of the visit was Gandhi's meeting with top Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. "The Deng-Rajiv handshake lasted quite a while. It signalled that Deng wanted the Indian PM's visit to succeed," recalls Singh.

Narasimha Rao was "peeved" that Gandhi had not asked him to accompany him for his talks with Deng.

"I goofed," Gandhi later told Singh but this was for not taking Foreign Secretary K P S Menon for the talks with Deng.

Natwar suggested that Gandhi should send for Menon and tell him the lapse was regrettable. Gandhi had described Rao as "negative, indecisive and uncommunicative".

At one point, Singh says he suggested to Gandhi that Rao should be made a Governor and that the PM should take over MEA with two Ministers of State. Gandhi said he wanted to restructure MEA.

Singh recounts another meeting with Gandhi when the drank Coca-Cola. Gandhi then told him that the Coke people want to get back to India.

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