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Sunday, 11 October 2009

From Today's Papers - 11 Oct 09

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Taliban storm Pak army HQ, 10 killed
Hold security personnel hostage
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Taliban terrorists were on Saturday night holding 10-15 hostages, including security personnel, hours after launching an audacious attack on Pakistan Army’s headquarters in nearby Rawalpindi that sparked a fierce gun battle in which a Brigadier and five other armymen were killed.

While the casualties in the shootout following the assault by heavily armed Taliban militants included a Lt Colonel, four terrorists were also killed.

The hostages include some civilian employees in the Army headquarters.

At least eight militants armed with assault rifles and grenades, dressed in military uniform, came in a white van and opened fire when they were challenged by the armymen at a check post near a cricket stadium outside the fortified General Headquarters of army at 1130 hours.

The Army initially claimed that the situation was under control. But in the night Chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas said four to five terrorists were holding about 10 to 15 security personnel and civilian employees hostage in the building. The terrorists are armed and had explosives.

Abbas said troops were taking steps to “save as many lives as possible” but declined to give details.

Asked if the terrorists holed up inside the building had made any demands, Abbas said, “this is too sensitive an issue and I can’t share details with the media right now”.

On Tehrik-e-Taliban claiming responsibility for the attack, he said: “we don’t know about the veracity of the claim and will let you know once the intelligence agencies give their report”.

Over nine hours after the assault began, scores of army commandos and policemen surrounded a security office near the heavily guarded General Headquarters complex where the hostages were being held.

There were reports that officials had established contacts with the terrorists to ensure a peaceful resolution of the hostage crisis. The terrorists were asked to surrender unconditionally.

Earlier in the day, the heavily armed terrorists who came in a van, opened fire at a check post after being challenged, killing all soldiers stationed there.

They then left their van and ran towards another check post, sparking a gun battle that lasted 45 minutes.

Four terrorists and six soldiers, including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel, were killed in the fierce skirmish.

Abbas said a total of eight to 10 terrorists were involved in the attack. Abbas initially told reporters that soldiers had foiled the attempt by terrorists to enter the General Headquarters and that the situation was “fully under control”. However, gunfire erupted again shortly after he spoke to the media.

Abbas said there was “some confusion” as the terrorists were wearing “camouflage uniforms”.

Scores of soldiers, including commandos of the elite Special Service Group, were deployed for the operation against the remaining terrorists. Police in Islamabad arrested two suspects with links to the attackers and seized army uniforms, detonators and fuses from them, officials said.

The suspects were arrested from a house in Model Town Humak on the outskirts of the federal capital. Officials said they believed the suspects plotted the attack at the house.

A man claiming to represent the Amjad Farooqi faction of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Geo News channel.

The caller demanded that the government halt military operations against militants and make former President Pervez Musharraf accountable for his actions.

Amjad Farooqi is a militant who rose to prominence after the 9/11 terror attacks. He has been linked to the abduction and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s and attempts on Musharraf’s life.

The terrorists tried to gain entry to the heavily fortified General Headquarters by using a street that connects the Mall Road, one of Rawalpindi’s main thoroughfares, to the General Headquarters.

Dozens of army commandos in black uniforms and wearing body armour cordoned off the area around the Headquarters, where traffic came to a standstill after the firing began.

Several army helicopters hovered over the area.

All roads leading to the army headquarters were sealed till late in the evening. TV channels beamed deferred footage from the scene as they believed aides of the terrorists could be monitoring the coverage.

Three channels were also taken off air briefly apparently due to concerns over their coverage of the incident.

Observers said the attack showed that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan still had the capability to strike at high-value targets despite the success of military operations against militants in the northwestern Swat valley.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said a wave of suicide attacks and bombings had left the government with no option but to launch a military operation in South Waziristan, the main stronghold of the Taliban.

There was also a key similarity between today’s attack and Monday’s suicide bombing of the UN food agency’s office in Islamabad - in both incidents, the attackers were disguised as security personnel.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091011/main1.htm

IAF can pull a gun on Naxals
But only in self-defence, says Antony

New Delhi, October 10
With the government approving a Home Ministry offensive against Maoists, Defence Minister AK Antony today said the IAF too was all set to get permission to open fire in self-defence during anti-Naxal operations after laying down safeguards and procedures.

However, he reiterated that the government would not involve them in a combat role in the anti-Naxal operations, which was the primary responsibility of the state government and central paramilitary forces.

“After carefully preparing safeguards and operational details, for self defence only, we will give the operational clearance. When we give permission, we will first inform the Air Force,” Antony told reporters here on the sidelines of an international flight safety conference organised by the IAF.

“There is no proposal to deploy the armed forces in anti-Naxal operations. The IAF will have a limited role to transport the paramilitary forces and casualty evacuation. There is no proposal to engage the IAF in a combat role in the operations,” he said.

The Defence Minister said the government was “very clear that we will avoid deployment of armed forces to maximum extent in internal security situation.” Antony said internal security was “purely the primary duty” of state governments and paramilitary forces and that the Centre would extend all help to them.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik had a fortnight ago sought Defence Ministry’s permission to defend air force helicopters and crew members operating in Naxal-hit areas.

The Defence Ministry’s stated position is not to use armed forces in internal security role and that the IAF proposal would have to be considered by a higher authority such as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to permit the IAF to use force to defend itself when attacked by Maoists.

If permitted, the IAF would deploy its Garud special force commando to man the guns to be mounted on the helicopters operating in the Maoist-hit areas for transporting paramilitary personnel and for casualty evacuation. — PTI

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091011/nation.htm#1

'US not to walk away from Afghanistan and Pakistan'

Press Trust of India / Washington October 10, 2009, 13:01 IST

As President Barack Obama reviews the Af-Pak policy, a top US official today said that Washington stands firm on its long-term commitment to the region and US will not walk away from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We are talking about how to best carry out that commitment, how we can best serve our interests and those in the region," Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley told reporters.

"I have heard no one say that we are prepared to walk away from Afghanistan or Pakistan or the region, expressly because it is in our interest," he said.

"I have heard no US Government official, from the President down wards, say that there's anything but a long-term commitment to the region and a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan," Crowley said.

His remarks come as Obama continued his review of the new policy with his top security advisers amidst requests by his army for inducting around 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

Given the fact that former Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1988, leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan of late have expressed their apprehension that the US may do the same when its objectives in the region to defeat the al-Qaeda and the Taliban are achieved.

"Now, how will we do that best going forward? That is the purpose of these series of meetings and this broad review," he said.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/%5Cus-not-to-walk-awayafghanistanpakistan%5C/75652/on

IAF gets the green signal to fire back at Naxals

Vishal Thapar

CNN-IBN

BIGGER ROLE: Commandos on board IAF helicopters can fire back if attacked by Naxals.

New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) now has the licence to open fire at Naxals but Union Government has added that the permission is limited to returning fire only in self-defence.

The decision to let the IAF fire back on Naxals marks the beginning of the direct use of military force against Left-wing extremists. So far, the role was limited to just providing logistical support to the police force.

Now many massacres later the Union Government has finally given the green signal for the use of lethal military force against the Naxals

"After carefully preparing safeguards and operational details for self defence we will give them (IAF) operational clearance only for self defence," said Defence Minister AK Antony in New Delhi on Saturday

Despite its writ being severely challenged by Naxal attacks across the country, the United Progressive Alliance Government is still very reluctant to go all-out against Left-wing terror.

"There is no question of Air Force engagement in offensive operation in Naxalite situation," added Antony.

IAF helicopters operating in Naxal-hit areas will now be protected by Special Forces commandos on board

"In the helicopters we will be mounting guns. They will be manned by Garud Force which is our expert force and they are the people who will be undertaking this," IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik had said on October 8 at the Hindon Air Force Base during the 77th anniversary celebrations of the IAF.

So the Mi-17 IV chopper will increasingly be used by the IAF to assist police and paramilitaries in operations against Naxals.

The decision also marks the entry of elite Special Forces in the state's combat against Naxalism.

http://ibnlive.in.com/printpage.php?id=103035&section_id=3

Promote Maj Gen, HC directs Cabinet
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 10
The Delhi High Court has directed the Cabinet to promote a Major General whose elevation was held up after the CBI registered a corruption case against him, to the rank of Lieutenant General within 15 days.

Observing that the government cannot, under the present circumstances, withhold the promotion of Maj Gen AK Kapur, a Division Bench, comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Mool Chand Garg also ruled that if so warranted subsequently, the government was free to initiate action against him in accordance with the law.

While imposing costs of Rs 10,000 on the government, the court also awarded consequential benefits to the petitioner. Consequent to the orders, General Kapur, who would have retired in his present rank at the end of next month, would be able to serve for two more years and occupy the top-most position in the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC).

The CBI had registered an FIR against General Kapur in October 2007 on the basis of sourced information, which the officer contended were anonymous complaints against him. The FIR was lodged just prior to the Special Selection Board (SSB) and the case prompted Army Headquarters to impose a ban on his promotion.

He moved court and in February. The HC directed the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) to re-examine his case and take a fresh decision on the case within a month. Promotion to the ranks of Major General and equivalent and above in the armed forces is done by the ACC on the recommendations forwarded by the respective SSBs.

General Kapur’s counsel said while the SSB had recommended his promotion, the ACC did not approve of it even though no fresh evidence or any material detrimental to the petitioner had come up subsequent to the HC’s order.

The court had earlier also observed that the SSB was held after the CBI case was registered and it had considered it appropriate to recommend the petitioner for promotion, finding nothing adverse in his career profile.

The petitioner had also contended that the CBI investigations were still underway since the FIR was lodged about two-and-a-half years ago. During hearings, the CBI representative had stated that the agency had sought sanction for prosecution from the government.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20091011/cth2.htm#9

Islamabad still not sincere in fighting terror: Antony

LAHORE: Islamabad is still not sincere against terrorism, the Hindustan Times quoted Indian Defence Minister AK Antony as saying on Saturday. He told reporters that Pakistan “has to contain” terrorists operating from its soil. He asked Islamabad to act against terror groups in its own interest and “not to satisfy India”. On Saturday’s terror attack on Pakistan Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, Antony said: “This again shows Pakistan should take determined action against terrorists.” daily times monitor

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\10\11\story_11-10-2009_pg7_9

GHQ Attack - India Strikes Again

Kashmir Watch, Oct 10

By Zaheerul Hassan

At about 1130 hours on October 10, 2009, a white color Suzuki Car tried to target General Headquarters of Pakistan Army located on Mall Road Rawalpindi. According to the witness the shooting began when a carry vehicle was intercepted by army personnel for routine checking at army check post near GHQ. Four miscreants wearing camouflage uniform opened heavy and indiscriminate fire while sitting in the vehicle. According to Major General Athar Abbas brave soldiers of Pakistan Security Forces killed the terrorist and brought the situation within one hour after sacrificing their lives. The current attack is a series of Indian proxy war against Pakistan and its security Agencies.

The proxy war started when Pakistan security forces achieved splendid victory against Swat militancy and were going to start Operation against Indian sponsored Taliban of Waziristan. It is notable here that it is third attack in two weeks or so. The current wave of sabotage activities are directly linked and sponsored by notorious South Asian agency RAW. There is a chance that RAAM is facilitating its master agency RAW. Earlier, on October 5, 2009, RAW trained terrorist blasted himself outside the UN’s World Food Programme offices in Islamabad and then again on 9 October, 2009 at least 50 people were killed and many injured in a suspected bomb blast near a market in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar. President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilliani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani strongly condemned the blast and said Pakistan could not be deterred in its effort to fight extremism and terrorism and would continue its quest to bring peace by eliminating the terrorists.

By design, there is a strong perception that attack on Kabul Embassy was launched by Indian intelligence agency to malign Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of Pakistan. The revealed opinion proved correct after listening Afghan Ambassador T Jawad comments to USA’s statement given to the PBS news channel on October 8, 2009. In that interview he mentioned that they are pointing the finger at the Pakistan intelligence agency, based on the evidence on the ground and similar attack taking place in Afghanistan. In fact it is a proven fact that Afghanistan and its intelligence agency with the tacit support of RAW is promoting terrorism in FATA, Balochistan and interior Pakistan too. It is mentionable here that Pakistan is facing horrible foreign sponsored militancy. As a result of war against terror more than a thousand of brave Pakistani soldiers and civilians have become victim of militancy. More than 2.8 millions Individuals were internally disabled. According to the sources, the Indian Air Force has stationed its MiG 29 aircrafts at Adampur near the Pakistani border to strengthen its air defence capabilities and minimise reaction time. The deployment of MIG-29 and troops revealed that India may intensify the sabotage activities in the interior Pakistan in the near future and likely to go for Air strikes in already marked areas around GT Road. It is mentionable that BBC, on October 27, displayed a documentary movie regarding the eighth anniversary of the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan. It stated that now this war is being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “it will soon spread in Pakistan.”

New Delhi started this proxy war once Pakistan is on limelight as result of debate on Kerry-Luger Bill. Earlier India also rocked her Embassy at Kabul at the occasion of G-8 conference in July 2008. The nation (including Pak Army) seems united against the objectionable clauses related to Pakistan security. According to the sources John Kerry and Richard Lugar are visiting Islamabad shortly to discuss and remove the bugs and concerns of Pakistan over the bill. Hence, there are likely chances that Obama’s administration will re-evaluate and make it acceptable to Pakistani nation and security forces after removing the objectionable clauses. New Delhi never ever digested any success of Pakistani Intelligence agencies and security forces against foreign sponsored militancy and made another try to prove Pakistan as heaven for terrorists. If we visualise and read the South Asian security situation then we can say that basically India has proved herself South Asian Don and is continuously busy in storming terrorism in the region. The recent blasts point out to the Indian intelligence agency collaboration with RAAM and Mossad who collectively have seemed to plan the series of blasts in Afghanistan and Pakistan with a view to use pressure tactics and built opinion to force Washington to refrain from providing economic aid to Islamabad.

Concluding, I must say that World community should ask India to stop backing Hindu Taliban who are playing with the lives of Innocent people. She must know that Pakistan Security Forces are alert enough to meet any kind of potent threat. We salute our forces and those soldiers who scarified their lives for the nation and their Gazi comrades.

Author can be reached at: zameer36@gmail.com

http://www.kashmirwatch.com/showexclusives.php?subaction=showfull&id=1255184723&archive=&start_from=&ucat=15&var1news=value1news

IAF Jaguars to conduct military exercise with Oman

Ians

October 10th, 2009

NEW DELHI - The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) deep penetration strike aircraft Jaguar will fly down to Oman this month for a military exercise.

“To further military diplomacy and for addressing issues of inter-operabililty, IAF will be conducting a series of international exercises. Our fighters will be going to Oman for a bilateral exercise,” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik told IANS.

The Royal Omani Air Force is the only other force in the world which still flies the British-built Jaguar, known as Shamsher in the IAF.

About half complement of the squadron, about five or six jets, are likely to go for the exercise to be conducted in the third week of October. The IAF’s ‘Flaming Arrows’ Jaguar squadron will be participating in the exercise.

“With only two air forces flying the combat jets, there have been training exchange programmes with Oman on this front,” a senior IAF official said Saturday, requesting anonymity.

India and Oman have agreed to step up cooperation by upgrading their joint military exercises and already have a memorandum of understanding on defence in place. Last year, Oman offered to provide berthing facilities for Indian Navy’s warships patrolling the piracy-hit waters off the shores of Somalia.

Oman military personnel are already being trained in Indian military training institutions.

Oman has also been seeking assistance from the Indian armed forces to set up credible supply systems for their defence equipment.

http://blog.taragana.com/n/iaf-jaguars-to-conduct-military-exercise-with-oman-192354/

In the line of fire

Saurabh Prashar, TNN 10 October 2009, 12:51pm IST

Proximity to one of north India's oldest Army firing ranges has proved deadly for eight villages in Panchkula. Limbs and lives have been lost.

It's time the soldiers took their target practice elsewhere, say villagers

Ajmer Singh still vividly remembers the day 26 years ago when burning splinters from a mortar shell that detonated in his agricultural field cost him his right hand and an eye. Two others lost their lives in the incident and though he survived , Ajmer, now 40, still lives in fear as blasts continue to shatter the peace of Bhood-Mandlai in Haryana's Panchkula district, some 55 km from Chandigarh.

The area's proximity to one of north India's oldest Army firing ranges has left many scars. A visit to the locality with 400-odd houses reveals cracked walls and heart-rending tales of families left to nurse wounds inflicted in the last 50 years. "Every family here has a victim and yet the administration has ignored our long-standing demand for shifting the firing range," rues Ajmer. The firing range spans 50 km and covers eight villages, a river and more than 50 acres of arable land.

The Army, however, lays the blame squarely on residents for not heeding warnings. Acting spokesperson of Western Command Naresh Vig says, "Villagers and local authorities are informed before any exercise. We take all measures to ensure training is safe but others also have to take precautions."

While village elders blame the men in olive-green , the younger generation isn't so quick to point fingers. They say scavenging for scrap from unexploded shells often proves deadly for villagers. "Casualties are reported when people try to collect metal from live or dead shells," says Bhir Singh, a college-going student of Mandlai. Ved Parkash Bakshi, another local, says that some villagers put damp sacks over fired shells and the resulting explosions have led to many deaths. Official figures of fatalities from this dangerous scrap hunt have been put at 60 since the 1980s. As recently as September 13, three children died after a live shell went off while they were trying to extract metal. In every blast case, the police initiate proceedings under Section 164 of the CrPC (accidental death).

Ram Saroop, who frequently goes to the firing range to collect metal fragments, knows he is playing with fire. "It is poverty that has dragged people like me into this risky job. I know it's dangerous but the money I earn from selling the scrap to junk dealers keeps the kitchen fires burning."

Having stared death in the face 40 years ago, Bachan Singh, 65, still can't believe his lucky escape. He remembers the day his friend, Karma, brought home a shell to pound for its metal. "There was a loud boom and then I woke up in Civil Hospital, Naraingarh, with tiny metal pieces embedded in me. The pain was unbearable." When Bachan got back home without his right arm and eye, he was told that the explosion had thrown Karma five feet in the air, killing him on the spot. Another friend, Amro, was left without four fingers.

Daler Singh, 75, of Pattli Ki Bhood jumps at every loud sound. "It was worse 50 years ago when bombs fell on our houses. In the last 10-odd years, the Army has stopped the practice of firing from tanks," says a relieved Daler.

Though casualties have fallen over the years - the last deaths were reported in 2002, when Ram Sharad, 35, and Nar Singh, 18, of Mandlai were killed - houses bear the brunt of heavy shelling even today. Pointing to the cracked walls in Pattli Ki Bhood, husband of panch Satya Devi, Ajmer Singh (namesake of victim Ajmer), says, "As our village is situated at a height, the impact here is much more than elsewhere."

The Army says it gives villagers enough time to clear out. Major Amit Bedi, who was busy with a mortar-attack training schedule when TOI spoke to him, said the district administration was informed of exercises in advance and a copy of the schedule sent to the tehsil office and the police station concerned. He suggested three solutions to check losses: Increase sources of livelihood, educate people and take strict action against those who cross into the firing range during practice sessions.

The incidents have left the local authorities worried. Says deputy commissioner Pankaj Yadav, "We can't interfere with defence policy but the subject of the firing range will be taken up at the civil-military liaisoning conference to be chaired by principal secretary and top Army officials which will be held after October 13." Some 25 years ago, the defence ministry had reportedly decided to shift around 90 villages from the area but that plan was shelved. For the shellshocked villagers, life's become a minefield.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-the-line-of-fire-/articleshow/5109309.cms

First person

Ice Station Taurus

One armyman was the rock India built its Siachen castle on

Saikat Datta

In the army, they knew him as ‘Bull’ Kumar, awed as his mates were by the strength of his thick, muscular neck. Col Narendra Kumar earned this sobriquet at the National Defence Academy, then in Dehradun, during the first boxing match he fought. His rival was a senior cadet, S.F. Rodrigues, who went on to become the chief of army staff. Col Kumar lost the bout, but the ‘Bull’ epithet stuck.

Since then, Col Kumar has done everything in his long military career to justify the name his colleagues gave him. Like the bull, he loves a challenge, sniffs it even before others can see it, and goes at it in a single-minded pursuit, indifferent to consequences, full tilt, tail up. It was these qualities of his that ensured the Siachen glacier became an integral part of India.

Bull Was There: Narendra Kumar tells the story of all those years in the cold

The heroic story of Col Kumar dates to 1978, when he took a major expedition to the inhospitable glacier. This was six years before India launched Operation Meghdoot to thwart Pakistan’s designs on the Siachen glacier. No doubt, he knew the mountains well, commissioned as he had been into the Kumaon Regiment and consequently having spent the better part of his military career surrounded by troops born and bred in the rugged hills of Kumaon. Yet glaciers aren’t just stunningly beautiful mountainscape: they can numb, daze and kill you. Col Kumar, posted as the commandant of the army’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Gulmarg then, knew he was heading into uncharted territory. “This was the first major expedition into the unknown,” he says, reminiscing about it in his flat in Delhi. “We had some reports that the Americans were showing Siachen as part of Pakistan in their adventure maps.”

What Kumar and his team planned was to reach the glacier’s snout, its lowest point, where the ice melts into water, and then trek up the 77 km of treacherous crevasses, mountains, passes and snow-covered peaks to reach the source. The colonel knew the stakes were high, that this mission could decide the future of India’s strategic outreach and establish a critical wedge between Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and the swathe of Indian territory the Chinese had occupied in the aftermath of 1962. “Our equipment wasn’t the best, we didn’t have any maps,” he recalls. “We were going in blind and all we had was a rough idea of the peaks which had been named by the British decades ago.”

Bound to each other by thick ropes, trekking across the harsh terrain for weeks on end, Col Kumar became the first Indian to climb the Sia Kangri peak, which offers a majestic view of the Siachen glacier. But there was also a surprise awaiting the team—a Japanese mountain expedition facilitated by the Pakistan military had a presence there. After a “sit-rep” (situational report) was dispatched to the army headquarters, the team went from peak to peak, staying ahead of snow avalanches to chart the area.

Bull Kumar led other expeditions till 1984, losing four toes to frostbite. His sacrifice wasn’t to go waste.

Cut to 1984: intelligence information convinced the army headquarters that the Pakistanis were planning to militarily occupy Siachen and the heights of the nearby Saltoro ridge. There was evidence: in the autumn of 1983, a team from the Indian army’s elite Ladakh Scouts had sighted a Pakistani special forces unit from the ssg in the Siachen area. This prompted the area army headquarters to immediately draw up plans for a major operation in the summer of 1984. The fourth battalion of the Kumaon Regiment was assembled and equipped for Operation Meghdoot, which had as its bulwark Kumar’s maps, films and his knowledge of the area.

On April 13, 1984, Operation Meghdoot finally got under way. Air force choppers, their engines clattering in protest at being pushed to the limits of technological possibility at incredible heights, began to drop soldiers at Bilafond La which is today part of the Siachen Base Camp. For the first time in history, India had stamped its claim on the Siachen glacier. The sturdy Kumaonis then trekked up the glacier to secure the two major passes—the Sia La and Gyong La—even as the Pakistanis were scrambling their troops into the region. The Kumaonis moved up the Saltoro ridge, overlooking the approach from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and Sia Kangri to establish posts that would give India the command of the glacier. With hands veritably frozen around their 7.62 mm rifles, Indian troops battled the elements to establish a military foothold in what would become the world’s highest battlefield.

“At times, you face impossible choices on the glacier. We always moved in pairs, bound to each other by rope. At one point, my buddy fell into a crevasse. For 45 minutes, I grappled with the idea of dying with him or cutting him loose and saving my life or to hang with him till the cold killed us both. I am glad that I never cut the rope.” In those 45 minutes, the buddy crawled up, the duo living to continue their foray from peak to peak.

http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?262249

India needs to modernise military inventory: Minister (Interview)

October 10th, 2009 - 12:36 pm ICT by IANS Tell a Friend -

By Ritu Sharma

Ladakh, Oct 10 (IANS) Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju has expressed concern at the aging inventory of the Indian armed forces and said its modernisation is on the priority list.

With the army’s artillery modernisation plan in a limbo for decades, the air defence of the army becoming obsolete and the navy grounding its Sea Harrier combat jets, Raju said the government was alive to the problem.

“We need to modernise very fast. We have problems, with vendors getting blacklisted. These are setbacks. We are aware of the urgent need for modernisation,” Raju told IANS in an interview.

The army has been waiting for 23 years for new artillery guns - a crucial element of its modernisation drive. The wait got longer with the blacklisting of artillery manufacturer Singapore Technology whose howitzer was the frontrunner for a Rs.29 billion ($612 million) order for 140 guns.

Singapore Technology was also a contender for a Rs.80-billion order for 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns as well as the indigenous manufacture of another 1,100 howitzers through the transfer of technology route.

The army had purchased 410 Bofors 155mm howitzers in 1986 but the deal was mired in corruption charges and the name of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was dragged in. The Supreme Court eventually found no wrongdoing but the taint stuck to Bofors, as a result of which it was not considered for a new order.

Another area of concern is the air defence set-up - required to protect field formations and vital installations - that is approaching obsolescence.

“It (air defence) is one of our shortcomings. We are working on that,” Raju said, when asked about the army and air force’s obsolete air defence system.

The L-70 air defence gun, which forms the backbone of the air defence system of the army, has been in use for nearly 44 years.

The air force had purchased Pechora missile units from Russia between 1974 and 1990. Most of the units have become defunct due to aging and lack of support.

The navy’s aviation has run into problems, with its fleet of Sea Harrier combat jets grounded. The aircraft have met accidents at an alarming rate. Inducted in 1980s, the navy has been left with only 11 aircraft.

“As the fleet ages, problems come up. The Sea Harrier requires to be replaced,” the minister added.

A recent crash of the Sea Harrier in the Arabian Sea left a pilot dead.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/india-needs-to-modernise-military-inventory-minister-interview_100258609.html

Indian Army looks for ‘A few Good Officers’

October 8, 2009

Special Forces in Indian Army facing acute manpower crunch

by Christina Palmer

New Delhi—Believe it or not, the otherwise world’s 2nd largest army is starving to have just a few good officers in its ranks despite having an overall strength of around 1,100,000 personnel, making it 2nd largest after China and its top brass has now decided to look out for a few good officers to be positioned to its special wings and even the volunteers with high mental and physical strength are being sought after.

According to a national English Daily of India, the Mid Day,The elite Special Force units of the Indian Army need a few extra hands. And the Army has decided to take a strong step.

The Army has planned to compulsorily send two passing-out officers to Special Force (SF) units to maintain the sanctioned strength. Two volunteers from each batch of Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Officers Training Academy (OTA) will be sent to the seven PARA (SF) units.

“SF units require men with very high mental and physical strength. Even highly trained officers from military academies fail to fulfill the criteria set by the Special Forces,” said a senior Army officer, wishing anonymity, writes the Mid Day Sources in the Army said, Mid day reports, almost 70 per cent of officers from Seven PARA have been deployed across the country. The PARA have a sanctioned strength of 35 officers but due to the decreasing number of new inductions, most of the units are functioning with only 10 to 12 officers. “These are specialised units and only the best can go through the training. Even though we are heavily short-staffed there is no question of compromising on quality.

Thus the existing strength is made to bear all the strain,” said the officer. The strain increases further as the existing officers are sent off to several schools related to battlefield training in the country to undergo mandatory courses and exercises. Consequently, the units are operating with an average strength of five to 10 officers at most times. In some units there has not been any new induction in the last one-and-a-half year. “The criteria to join the SF units are tougher than in any other unit in the Army. More than half of the officers who opt for SF units are rejected in the 90 days probation period,” said an Army officer, wishing anonymity.

It remains a fact that most of the Indian army troops are fighting insurgency movements in around a dozen different parts of the country and are sick of this style of warfare. This has raised the level of frustration and depression amongst the officers and soldiers of the Indian army which has lead to the alarming ratio of suicides and killing of fellow colleagues by Indian Army personnel.

A recent article over at the BBC News website claims that the Indian army is loosing more soldiers to suicide than to enemy action. The statistics for this year alone are a bit weird. According to the article, over 72 soldiers have lost their lives in combat this year, but approximately 100 soldiers have committed suicide. So – what’s going on then? It seems the key issue is leave, or rather the lack of it. Most experts attribute the growing stress to low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate home leave, unattractive pay and a communication gap with superiors. To quote from the article: “Soldiers get angry when they are denied leave and their senior officers themselves take time off. It triggers a reaction, they are well armed and they take their own lives.” This one is certainly for the “Weird” category here. Just take a look at the following key statistics:-

Since 2004, 282 soldiers have been killed in militant attacks.

Since 2004, 408 soldiers have taken their lives, killed colleagues or died after colleagues ran amok of the 408 soldiers, 333 killed themselves.

Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t this seem a bit wrong to you? Well armed (and trained) soldiers who get bitchy because their leave has been cancelled decide to a) retaliate using their well honed skills, training and equipment or b) kill themselves in protest.

Renu Agal of BBC Hindi service New Delhi describes this phenomenon in these words, “Nobody quite knows why Lt Col Jha pulled the trigger on himself – he had been serving in the military for the past 14 years. According to his mother, Lalita Jha, “there was no tension, no problems. I just can’t understand why he did it”. He is far from the only soldier to take his own life this year – Capt Sunit Kohli, Maj Sobha Rani, Lt Sushmita Chatterjee… the list goes on. In fact, the Indian army is losing more soldiers in these incidents than in action against the enemy.

The army has lost 72 soldiers to enemy attacks so far this year. But over 100 soldiers have already taken their lives. In addition, another 32 have been killed by their colleagues.

What is happening to the army? The million-strong force is clearly under tremendous stress. Though it has not fought a full-blown war in decades, the force is bogged down in fighting domestic insurgencies, guarding restive borders and sometimes quelling civilian rioting.

Most experts attribute the growing stress to low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate home leave, unattractive pay and a communication gap with superiors. Retired Maj Gen Afsar Karim, who has fought three wars, says that the stress may be high among soldiers because of lack of leave.

“The army is involved in a [difficult] long running internal security environment. There is lack of rest and they get very little leave. Lack of leave increases his stress,” he says. “Soldiers get angry when they are denied leave and their officers themselves take time off. It triggers a reaction, they are well armed and they take their own lives.’’

Then there is the question of what many say is low pay – starting salaries in many jobs in middle-class India are double that of a new soldier, and for many of them the army no longer holds out the promise of a good life. Retired Maj Gen Karim suspects that with the increase in numbers of soldiers, cohesiveness is being eroded. “In our times, we used to know the names of our soldiers, where they came from. We used to meet their families, but now the army has expanded manifold and this cohesiveness is gone,” he says, on what precisely is causing these soldier deaths. Lalita Jha, mother of Pankaj Jha, hopes that she will find out more about her son’s suicide. “I am sure the army will look into the matter and find out what happened,” she says.

Before more soldiers take their lives, one hopes. Although the Indian Army top brass has now come up with a unique experiment of posting glam girls ( Prostitutes) to meet the natural desires of male soldiers, (http://www.dailymailnews.com/0909/08/FrontPage/FrontPage5.php) yet it is still looking for “a few good men” to care of its elite combat wings as nobody with a slightly higher caliber in the Indian army is not willing to serve there.

http://pakistankakhudahafiz.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/indian-army-looks-for-%E2%80%98a-few-good-officers%E2%80%99/

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