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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

From Today's Papers - 01 Jul 09

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10 years after Kargil

Army focuses on mountain warfare

Ajay Banerjee writes from Drass (on the LOC)

A soldier practising a difficult drill to bring down a colleague on his shoulder at the Kargil Battle School on the Drass-Zojila Highway. Tribune photograph Mukesh Aggarwal

Standing at the base of an imposing mountain on the Drass-Zojila highway, the leader of a group of Army men looks up at soldiers perched high on the mountain and shouts, “Okay boys, do the flying fox (a highly dangerous mountaineering skill)”.

This is just one part of the training followed by the Indian Army as part of its plan to dominate the Himalayas not just along the Line of Control but also along the Line of Actual Control.

Within seconds of the command, a soldier performs the death-defying “flying fox” act that could put stuntmen to shame. Holding a rope in hand, he lets go off his foothold on the mountain and dives down with his face turned downwards. Just as he is about to hit the ground, he arrests his free fall using the rope.

The drop of about 50-60 metres is covered in three seconds flat. A split-second error in judgement, and he would have fatally smashed himself against the rocks.

Ten years ago, while trying to evict Pakistanis from these icy heights, India had learnt a bitter lesson when it did not have enough troops trained in mountain warfare.

Senior commanders of the Army believe that deployment of troops in the Himalayas bordering Pakistan and China is not likely to decrease. Keeping this is mind, the Indian defence establishment has already okayed the setting up of two new mountain divisions. Maj Gen Suresh Khajuria, General Officer Commanding of the 8th Mountain Division near Kargil, says: “Mountain warfare will be very important in the immediate future”. Besides manpower, equipment like snow scooters have now been added to the Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector.

The Army now trains all troops in mountain warfare in these ridges, which are as high as 21,000 feet. Scaling mountains, crossing glaciers and fast-flowing streams is part of the curriculum at Kargil Battle School, which was established after the 1999 conflict. All Indian troops on the Drass-Kargil-Batalik axis spend the first few weeks at the school.

It is here that US troops had a training session with the Indian Army in the middle of the Afghanistan conflict some six years ago. The bald, rocky and sharp mountains ridges in this area are similar to those in Afghanistan and in the North Western Frontier Province in Pakistan — both dominated by the Taliban.

A young Major at the battle school explains that the “flying fox” skill is just one part of the training. A crucial part of the training is directed towards ensuring the survival of the injured. To send an injured soldier across a stream, troops are trained in setting up a rope line that can carry a stretcher. Within minutes, a stream can be crossed. It can take hours otherwise. In another form of evacuation, an injured soldier can be carried on shoulder and the climb down the mountain is made with the help of ropes. The Army also runs another specialised mountain training school near Gulmarg.

As the jawans practise their skills, two Israeli tourists approach the officer at the base of the mountain, asking if they could also climb. The request is politely turned down.

PC inaugurates NSG’s Mumbai hub
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 30
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today formally inaugurated the Mumbai hub of the National Security Guards (NSG) at Marol in the western suburbs of the city. The decision to set up hubs of the NSG in different parts of the country was taken following the terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26 last year.

“The NSG hub will allow quick mobilisation of security forces in case of an emergency,” Chidambaram told reporters after the inaugural ceremony.

Explaining the operations of the NSG hub, the minister said the commandos would be put on operation mode after a request is made from the state authorities. “The first responder in any crisis situation is the police,” Chidambaram said.

Responding to allegations that the NSG hub was poorly equipped, the Home Minister denied the charge. Chidambaram, however, added that lack of equipment like helicopters could be made by requisitioning private helicopters. The Mumbai NSG hub will used to deploy commandos across Western India.

The other NSG hubs will be located at Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata and will become operational tomorrow.

The hub at Mumbai was established after the Maharashtra government allotted 23 acres for the purpose. Work on the hub is still going on with residential accommodation for the commandos still under construction.

Hubs for NSG
It will reach the trouble-spot faster

Tuesday’s launching of the 241-commando National Security Guard (NSG) hub in Mumbai is welcome. Significantly, three more hubs have become operational today in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The creation of four NSG hubs in different regions is part of the Centre’s comprehensive security package for the country. There is no doubt that these hubs will shorten the response time of the crack commandos in countering any terrorist action. The one in Mumbai is timely because 26/11 had exposed gaping loopholes in security at various levels. As the NSG headquarters are situated in Manesar (Haryana), 40 km away from New Delhi airport, the delayed arrival of their crack team in Mumbai meant loss of time to flush out the terrorists.

Highly trained and motivated, the NSG commandos did a splendid job during the Operation Black Tornado at Nariman House, Oberoi and Taj hotels, but more lives could have been saved if the commandos had managed to reach earlier. Moreover, they shot dead nine terrorists who were heavily armed with AK 47s, 9 mm Chinese pistols and high explosive hand grenades. Clearly, had the NSG not eliminated the hardcore terrorists, the latter could have prolonged the operation and claimed many more lives. Its brief was clear and challenging: save innocent lives; and keep the collateral damage to the minimum.

The creation of four NSG hubs will give a boost to the security effort. At the same time, the Centre would do well to further modernise the facilities and equipment of the commandos to help perform better. They need spacious and ultra-modern firing ranges, obstacle courses and training areas. In the backdrop of the Mumbai experience, they should be given exclusive aircraft, ballistic shields, hydraulic door-openers (to gain access to rooms without using explosives), special hi-tech equipment (for easy communication even during the noise of the battle) and bulletproof helmets. Also, they should be given ample public and governmental support for discharging their duty to the nation.

'Countries reluctant to contribute to UN peacekeeping force'

Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington June 30, 2009, 12:19 IST

As the United Nations is facing shortage of both manpower and tools for its peacekeeping operations, India today said UN member states are reluctant to contribute to such missions, which is vital in bringing peace to the conflict zones.

"We need to carefully examine the reasons behind this state of affairs and collectively take the steps that are required to rectify matters," Indian Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Puri told the UN Security Council at a special meeting on peacekeeping operations.

India is one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations, Puri said and urged the UN Security Council to have a "clear and achievable" mandate for peacekeeping operations.

It is a self-evident truth that there is no scarcity of the personnel and capacities of the type that the United Nations requires. There are enough troops, enough policemen, enough civilian experts, enough capacities and enough helicopters available to the international community, he said.

"That is not the problem. The problem is that there is reluctance on the part of Member States to make these available to the United Nations," Puri argued.

A major issue that needs to be tackled is the nature of the Security Council's mandates and the manner in which they are generated, the Indian Ambassador said.

"Related to this is the question of whether the mandates have any correlation to the ability of the organisation to deliver. Mandates are increasingly "robust" and place peacekeepers, most of whom come from Member States not represented in this Council, in non-permissive environments," he noted.

They are faced with situations where they are more frequently being called upon to use force not just to defend but to enforce mandates, Puri said.

Unrealistic mandates have led to situations where mission personnel are forced to ask national contingents to undertake tasks and utilize COE in a manner that is inconsistent with the legal framework under which they are deployed.

Calling that peacekeeping "mandates be clear and achievable", Puri reiterated that this will not be possible without substantively involving countries who contribute manpower and resources to Peacekeeping Operations.

Observing that the operating environment for Peacekeeping has changed, Puri said the conventional wisdom that Peacekeepers must be drawn from the ranks of the military is an idea whose time is past.

India believes that the future of Peacekeeping, and at least a part of Peace building, lies in the development of Police and Rule of Law capacities in UN missions, he said.

Give Army honourable exit from Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti

Praveen Swami

‘There’s a very negative mindset in New Delhi on this issue’

NEW DELHI: People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti has called for the withdrawal of the Indian Army from Jammu and Kashmir, saying its presence was no longer needed to fight terrorists. Pointing to several recent cases involving alleged human rights violations by Army personnel, Ms Mufti said there was a “general climate of resentment against the Army and Central Reserve Police Force” and “it is time to give them an honourable exit.”

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Ms Mufti contended that “these forces were needed at a particular time and in a particular context. But now, even officials say there are only 500 militants. There are hardly any encounters.”

The PDP leader’s renewed calls for the demilitarisation of the State come as New Delhi deliberates Jammu and Kashmir proposals for slashing troop strength and lifting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts of the State. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has been holding discussions with defence and intelligence experts on the prospects of withdrawing troops from the central Kashmir districts of Srinagar and Badgam, as well as the districts of Jammu and Kathua.

During a recent visit to Srinagar, Mr. Chidambaram announced that the government was in the process of “redrawing the lines of responsibility” between the Army, central police organisations, and the Jammu and Kashmir Police. He said that a final decision would be made on these issues after consultations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Subsequently, Army chief Deepak Kapoor suggested that some relocation of troops might be possible after the end of the ongoing pilgrimage to the Amarnath Shrine in southern Kashmir.

Ms Mufti, however, is sceptical about New Delhi’s resolve on demilitarisation. “I think the Prime Minister is sincere,” she observed, “but I am sorry to say there is a very negative mindset in New Delhi on this

R(ay)nuka of hope for women army officials

By: Anshuman G Dutta

The clamour for permanent commission to serving women officers in the Indian Army has just got shriller.

One of the most vocal proponents of the women cause and a former union minister for women welfare, Renuka Chowdhury, has joined issue with the serving women soldiers.

Chowdhury daughter of a former Indian Air Force officer had spoken in support of the army officials while she

Representative photo

was the union minister for women and child welfare.

"We have already achieved 50 per cent success. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has already given in principal approval to grant permanent commission to the women officers. But there are several serving officers who will not be benefited, as it has been reserved for the future women officers only," Chowdhury told MiD DAY.

The government is not doing any favour by granting permanent commission to these officers, she asserted. "It is their right after they have served for 14 years in the armed forces. It is a matter of six more years only. After serving for so many years they are not less trained than their male counterparts," she said.

"We met her sometime back. She has promised support for our cause. The present government has already said that women empowerment is one of its primary focus areas but even then we are being retired from our services," said a women officer, requesting anonymity. She is among the officers who have filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in this regard.

Sources also said that the women officers have sought an appointment with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. "I can't comment on this issue right now but most of the petitioners will be retiring in coming months. It's a desperate situation for us and we are seeking support from all quarters," said the officer.

Meanwhile, the Delhi high court has already asked the additional solicitor general to be present in the next hearing. In previous court hearings while negating any gender bias in the forces the government counsels maintained that the women officers were not trained to command higher posts.

"Their training period was shorter than their male counterparts and the ultimate discretion on their service remains with the employer i.e. the government only," said an MoD official wishing anonymity. But the serving officers countered the argument saying, they have already received two extensions to spend 14 years in the uniform. "If our services can be extended for 14 years it can be given another extension of six years to bring us under pension category," said one of the officers.


Women are inducted in the Army as officers under the Short Service Commission (SSC) for a maximum period of 14 years but their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.

UK 'must slash defence spending'

The UK should consider slashing defence spending by up to £24bn and revisit plans to renew its Trident nuclear deterrent, a think-tank report says.

Britain cannot afford much of the defence equipment it plans to buy, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report says.

Its authors include former defence secretary Lord Robertson and the ex-Lib Dem leader, Lord Ashdown.

The government said it remained committed to renewing Trident.

'New thinking'

Lord Ashdown said the UK would have to "reach out to establish a new concordat with other nations and other global powers in order to secure a secure world in changing and turbulent circumstances".

"That does require new thinking," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"One conclusion we arrive at is we can no longer afford to maintain museum Cold War armaments," he said.

"We can no longer afford to maintain full-spectrum armed forces capable of operating anywhere in the globe like a mini-United States."

The IPPR's recommendations include:

* Scaling back conventional capability by cutting £24bn of planned spending

* Review to consider possible alternatives to Trident or extending life of system

* UK active role in fostering European defence co-operation

* Setting up of National Security Council to co-ordinate security policy

* Greater specialisation in the UK armed forces

'Cold War relics'

The report comes after news of a £1bn cost overrun on two new aircraft carriers.

The original budget for the two carriers for the Royal Navy was £3.9bn but the BBC has seen a memorandum revealing the programme will come under "severe pressure" because of the cost escalation.

“ Given the new fiscal restraints, [the report] concludes, Britain can no longer afford to play the same world role as before ”

Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

The head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, has previously defended the new carriers from accusations they were outdated "Cold War relics".

His counterpart in the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, had earlier suggested many of the Ministry of Defence's new equipment programmes were "irrelevant" to modern warfare.

Similarly, the IPPR report suggests there ought to be a radical rethink of the way the UK budgets for defence.

Spending on the aircraft carriers, along with the fighters which would fly from them and the destroyers protecting them, should be in the frame for cuts, its report says.

Nuclear arsenal

The report says Britain's aim should be to eradicate nuclear weapons, and calls for renewed debate about the Trident submarine-based missile system.

The government is committed to renewing Trident at an estimated cost of £20bn. The policy is backed by the Tories but opposed by the Liberal Democrats and many Labour backbenchers.

Armed forces minister Bill Rammell said the UK was "working towards a world free of nuclear weapons".

"We are the most forward-leaning nuclear state in terms of disarmament - we have reduced the explosive capability of our nuclear arsenal by 75% over the last 10 years," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But he added: "When we look at the risks moving forward over the coming decades, we don't believe at the moment it would be safe to fail to make decisions now which would effectively commit us to unilateral disarmament in the future, regardless of the circumstances."

Mr Rammell also said that he believed the UK could afford its defence plans.


The report's authors also claim that the mission in Afghanistan is on course for possible failure unless it is changed to include a joint civilian-military stabilisation and reconstruction taskforce.

It also draws lessons from the Mumbai attack in India, appealing for new preventative measures in case the UK has to face a terrorist attack at multiple locations in one of its major cities.

That would be a job for strengthened special forces, not the police, the report argues.

“ Threats to our security do not go away simply because we are in a recession ”

Ian Godden Society of British Aerospace Companies chief executive

There is also a broader appeal for Britain to do more to co-operate with Europe and stop relying on the US when it comes to security.

The report says Britain would be deluded to think the US would always help out.

Lord Ashdown said: "We are going to have to work more closely with our allies, and in particular our European allies.

"Integration at a European level both of our armed forces and the defence industries is a crucial part of it."

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey agreed that more European co-operation was needed, and that the UK "cannot mortgage future security solely on the goodwill of the US".

"This report is a wake-up call for the nation. We must act now to make our country safer by using precious resources more effectively," he said.

"We need armed forces that are relevant for the security threats of today and tomorrow."

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the 180-page document, published after two years of research, would carry weight in Whitehall, given its highly-experienced authors. HAVE YOUR SAY Defence is the most important area of public spending. Without adequate defence, this country would cease to exist Paul

But the UK defence industry had reacted angrily to the proposals suggesting cuts to major projects, our correspondent added.

Ian Godden, chief executive of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, said: "The debate about big projects versus better conditions for troops or more boots on the ground and between one service or another is a false one or at best highly risky.

"The real issue is the fact that as a nation we no longer adequately fund our own defence."

He added: "Threats to our security do not go away simply because we are in a recession."

As well as Lord Robertson and Lord Ashdown, former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former UK ambassador to the United Nations Sir Jeremy Greenstock, and former Association of Chief Police Officers president Sir Chris Fox also contributed.

Story from BBC NEWS:

United States Offers India to Lease 12 Surveillance Helicopters

Dated 29/6/2009

In the midst of the Indian Defence Ministry scurrying for aerial surveillance aircraft, speedboats and vessels for coastal security, the U.S. has offered 12 helicopters on lease to India for more effective surveillance of the Indian coastline, according to India Defence Online.

While India is ruminating over the U.S. offer, it will be the first time it will be leasing aircraft from U.S for defence purposes. It may be noted that the Indian Coastguard is undergoing a shortage of helicopters, especially the twin-engine helicopters. The U.S has reportedly offered Sikorsky and Augusta Westland helicopters to India.

Since coastline security framework is top priority for India, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been asked to deliver 12 Dornier aircraft to Coast Guard at the earliest. India has also requested private players to make offers for helicopters and other surveillance aircraft.

India to Receive Three Russian Krivak IV Class Frigates by 2012

Dated 29/6/2009

Russia will fulfill its obligations on schedule to supply three Project 11356 frigates to India by 2012, a shipbuilding industry official said on Friday to RIA Novosti.

Russia is building three Project 11356 Krivak IV class guided missile frigates for the Indian Navy at the Yantar shipyard in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad as part of a $1.6 billion contract signed in July, 2006.

"The contract's deadline is 2012. We are not expecting any delays at this point," general director of the Yantar shipyard Igor Orlov said at the 4th International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg.

The official said the hulls of all three vessels had been laid down at the shipyard.

"The first ship will be floated out this year, the second, probably, in spring 2010, and the third - a bit later," he said, adding that the Indian government had provided sufficient and timely project financing.

A delegation of Indian military officials, led by India's deputy chief of the naval staff, Vice Adm. Raman P Suthan, visited the Yantar shipyard in October last year and said it was satisfied with the pace and the construction quality.

Russia previously built in 2004 three Krivak class frigates - INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar - for India, but they all were delivered late.

All of the new frigates will be armed with eight BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile systems and not the Club-N/3M54TE missile system, which was installed on previous frigates.

The Krivak class frigate has deadweight of 4,000 metric tons and a speed of 30 knots, and is capable of accomplishing a wide range of maritime missions, primarily hunting down and destroying large surface ships and submarines.

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