10 years after Kargil
A tough call for jawans
But heated barracks, best of winter wear, phone and TV facility makes it a tad easy for them
Ajay Banerjee writes from Drass (on the LOC)
It is the last week of June. Most parts of the country are reeling under an unprecedented heat wave. But, the Drass-Kargil sector is gripped by icy winds. Wearing thick jackets, we brave up to a height of 15,000 feet to get a closer look into the lives of Army men who guard the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
This is one of the most treacherous sections of the Himalayas where winter temperature hovers around -40 degree Celsius and the nights in the middle of summer are below freezing point. It is the same area where the two bitter neighbours had fought a battle exactly 10 years ago. After the Kargil conflict, the Indian Army has set up several posts on top of snow-clad Himalayan ridges.
At these heights, small groups of jawans keep a permanent watch on the LOC. The stillness is broken only by the gurgling noise that comes from the deep valley below as a fast-flowing tributary of the Indus flows into Pakistan. The post (name withheld due to security restrictions) that we descended on is “easy” to approach. There are several posts at heights between 17,000 and 19,000 feet that take hours to reach. Jawans stay there for six months during winter.
Here, though the facilities provided are basic for survival at such a height, each paisa of the tax-payers’ money spent on these sentinels seems worth its weight in gold. Brigadier IS Ghuman, commander of the 56 Mountain Brigade, says: “The boys have to get the very best and that is absolutely necessary”.
The Indian army provides each jawan with some of the best winter clothing available in the world, snow boots and anti-glare goggles. Pucca barracks have been built and are heated using a kerosene “sikri” that has an exhaust system. The toilets are also heated using the same technique. Dehydrated food is available at all posts during winter. The power supply through generators is regulated to conserve fuel.
The best part for the jawans is that they can talk to their wives, children and parents on a daily basis. In one of biggest human resource exercise, the Army has provided each of the posts with STD phone facility that is routed through the Army exchange. At places where the BSNL network is not available, satellite phones have been provided. All calls are subsided. The jawans pay only 25 per cent of the actual cost. Huge back-ups have been built.
Each post has a TV and DTH connection. The leader of the group regulates television viewing. A young captain, whom we met at one of the peaks, smilingly discloses that the power cut is regulated in such a manner that cricket matches involving India are not missed. News channels are eagerly watched as newspapers reach a week after they have been published.
A doctor is attached with each unit, while each post has a jawan who has been trained in nursing. There is also the facility to land a chopper to evacuate anyone who is not feeling well. Chopper-borne evacuations have been carried out even in peak winter and with minimal daylight, says a senior officer posted here.
To keep the morale of the jawans high, senior commanders keep visiting them, at times trudging on foot for three or four hours.
IAF cargo seized at Helsinki airport
New Delhi, June 29
An Indian Air Force (IAF) cargo of aircraft equipment to Moscow has been confiscated at Helsinki airport by Finnish Customs after it was found without valid papers.
The consignment was on a Finnair flight from Mumbai to Moscow when it was stopped during transit at Helsinki on May 28, Defence Ministry sources said here today.
Even after a month of the incident, the consignment is still in the custody of the Finnish authorities and diplomatic efforts are currently in progress to secure the release of the consignment.
“The aircraft equipment was on its way to Moscow, where it was to be repaired by the Russians. At the Helsinki airport, the equipment was found without documents and was confiscated by the Finnish authorities,” they said.
“The cargo included 19 crates of aircraft parts weighing around 1,700 kg and unservicable spares of Russian origin aircraft fleet,” they added. The transportation of military hardware and obtaining clearances for the consignments was the responsibility of an official travel and transportation agent.
“The agents are responsible for making travel and transportation arrangements for the Ministry and by fault, they seemed to have failed in obtaining the valid documents for the consignment this time,” sources said.
After being informed about the seizure of IAF consignment, the Indian High Commission in Finland took up the case with the Finnish authorities to get the equipment released.
“Indian officials in Helsinki are in constant touch with the Finnish authorities and we are hoping that the equipment will soon be released and sent to Russia,” sources said.
Despite the setback in sending the equipment for repair to Moscow, the incident had not impacted either the IAF’s requirement for spares, or its operational preparedness, IAF officers said.
“The delay in the repair of the equipment and spares is not affecting IAF’s flying operations as we don’t need them immediately,” the officials said. A majority of the IAF aircraft is of Russian origin and the IAF keeps sending its unserviceable equipment to Russia to get them repaired. Though over the years India has developed the capability to service the aircraft within the country, yet some from its fleet still need to be sent to Russia for overhauling and maintenance. — PTI
One of four regional NSG hubs coming up in Mumbai
NDTV Correspondent, Monday June 29, 2009, Mumbai
One of the big problems of the counter terrorist force during the Mumbai 26/11 attack was that the NSG was located in Delhi and it took hours to get to Mumbai.
Then, nationwide hubs for the counter terrorist forces were promised and they are finally being set up with Mumbai being the first of these counter terrorist hubs.
But the sight of NSG Commandos chugging along in a bus to reach the Taj and Trident hotels can very well be repeated.
They may have got new, regional bases, but major challenges remain. They still need dedicated helicopters to ferry them to city centres and other areas of action.
The Commandos also want more modern weapons and their plea to source equipments like the Prime Minister's SPG, without a laborious tendering process, hasn't been cleared yet.
Over the next 48 hours these four new NSG centres will have about 100 Commandos each to begin with.
But instead of 200 Army officers required for the four hubs, only a tenth are available. The Army, which is about 13,000 officers short, says it cannot spare anymore.
Lashkar, Jaish shifting bases to PoK, says report
Press Trust of India, Monday June 29, 2009, Islamabad
Police in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir has revealed that groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are shifting bases to PoK following clampdown on their activities in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, a media report said on Monday.
In a confidential report submitted to the government of Pakistan, PoK police has said these groups have acquired large pieces of land in and around PoK capital of Muzaffarabad and are pursuing "jehadi" agenda under the garb of religious activities, a prominent radio network reported.
"After the ban imposed on the Jamat-ud-Dawa (the front of Lashkar-e-Toiba) by the UNSC, Pakistan forces had taken control of their offices... the activities of the outfit had gone underground for some months, but have again become active," the network quoted the report as saying.
The report said that the JuD has constructed a mosque, a school and a dispensary on the land acquired by them in Dulasi and further construction is on.
India has blamed the Lashkar-e-Toiba for carrying out the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, in which close to 170 people lost their lives. JuD has, however, maintained that it has no links with the LeT.
The PoK police report also mentions the activities of other jehadi organisations like JeM and Harkatul Mujahideen which have also constructed madrassas near Muzaffarabad, the radio said.
JeM, which had carried out attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001, has also set up an office and Madarssa near Muzaffarabad.
Police has noted that most of the activities of the Jehadi organisations have been observed in Neelam Valley, near Line-Of-Control.
Extremists organisations have also set up offices in Kandil Shahi.
1st NSG hub operational in Mumbai today
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 29
Seven months after the 26/11 terror attacks, the first NSG regional hub will become operational in Mumbai tomorrow while hubs at Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata will start functioning from July 1.
"After the Mumbai terror attack, a need was felt to have the presence of NSG in other metros also for effective and quick response in countering such incidents. Thus, four regional hubs were sanctioned and are being raised and operationalised at Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata," according to an official statement here. It said the Centre has also sanctioned two NSG regional centres to be established at Kolkata and Hyderabad. The existing hubs at Kolkata and Hyderabad will subsequently be merged with the regional centres.
The new NSG hubs have been established at Marol (23 acres) in Mumbai, Nedunkundram (85 acres) in Chennai, Trimulghery (22 acres) in Hyderabad and Badu (20 acres) in Kolkata. "Pre-fabricated and permanent structures are being constructed to station NSG commandos at these locations.
The National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC) has been assigned the construction work," the statement added. After the Mumbai terror attacks, the Cabinet had approved setting up of the NSG hubs in the metropolitan cities to quickly mobilise commandos in case of a terrorist strike. "With the establishing of the hubs, the response time of the NSG for countering any terrorist action would be reduced very significantly," said the statement.
Grand old IAF warrior dead
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 29
Group Captain Gurdial Singh Paul (93), a grand old retired Air Warrior who served the Indian Air Force (IAF) from its formative years, died here on Saturday. Gurdial is survived by his wife, two daughters, a son and three grand children.
He was cremated near Brar Square today. A wreath was placed on behalf of the IAF by Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station, Race Course, Air Commodore Ajit S. Bhonsle.
He was born on November 3, 1916, in Chittavatni in Pakistan. He joined the RAF and was commissioned to the IAF at AF Station, Tambram. In 1943, during the World War II, he visited UK for training, sailing from Mumbai to Durban to Southampton on the Elle de France, encountering German U-boat in the Atlantic.
He spent time at various stations of the RAF in London, Cranfield, and Branham. He had the privilege to serve in the same Squadron as the actor, Clark Gabel.
At times, Gurdial flew over occupied France and Germany on air reconnaissance flights and on more than one occasion, had close encounters with the German Messerschmitt. Gurdial retired from the Air Force in 1971 as Station Commander, Race Course, New Delhi.
Aid to Pak shouldn't be used against us: Indian MPs tell US
Lalit K Jha/ PTI / Washington June 29, 2009, 9:42 IST
A delegation of Indian parliamentarians has asked the Obama administration to make sure that Pakistan does not use the American aid to build up its forces against India, as was the case in the past.
Members of Parliament (MPs) "firmly and unequivocally" conveyed India's concerns of contemporary significance, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, leader of the delegation, told reporters here.
"At several meetings we made it clear that the Af-Pak policy must necessarily have an inbuilt safeguard component to prevent the direct or indirect diversion of enormous US aid for potentially anti-India activities by Pakistan," Singhvi said before leaving for India.
The MPs told the US officials and lawmakers that their aid to Pakistan was welcome, but they need to make sure that it is not used against India.
The group of 11 MPs from five parties and nine sates were in the US last week as part of the 3rd India–Yale Parliamentary Leadership Programme.
During their week-long trip, the MPs attended classes by top Yale faculty and met senior officials of the Obama administration, including those at the State Department, senior Congressmen and think-tank.
"We also conveyed the huge Indian concern about the continued non-reduction of aggregate carbon emissions from the US," Singhvi said.
Singhvi said that the delegation conveyed India's "legitimate concerns regarding the scope for progressive reduction and elimination of agricultural subsidies by developed countries including US".
"In these and several other matters, despite our clear and unequivocal views frequently not fully in sync with US policy we were heard with full patience and appreciation," Singhvi said.
Senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said the MPs were able to convey India's concern very clearly.
"Definitely there are concerns on climate change, agriculture subsidies and Af-Pak approach. I think it will be noted," Javadekar said.
The Yale Parliamentary Leadership Programme was launched in 2007, in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and India–US Forum of Parliamentarians.
The three Fauji Entrepreneurs, driving India Inc
30 Jun 2009, 0226 hrs IST, Yasmin Taj, ET Bureau
In the recent times, old soldiers don’t fade away into early retirement; they go into business. Many ex-defence personnel have chosen to walk on
the entrepreneurial path and have achieved overwhelming success in their respective fields.
Army fosters leadership
For Lt. Col H.S. Bedi VSM, CMD, Tulip Telecom, following a three generation old family tradition of joining the army came as a natural choice to him during his formative years. But today, he is a successful entrepreneur. ”The ‘seeds’ of entrepreneurship were laid in 1986 when I was posted as an instructor in the computer wing of the Military College of Telecom and Engineering (MCTE).
MCTE offered me a platform to interact with a range of businesses for the arrangement of student training programmes. That was the time, when I realised my inclination towards entrepreneurship. After 22 years, in 1989, I decided to move on to the next level in my life and in 1990, I put my ideas firmly in place to start my new venture,” expresses Bedi.
But the transition from armed forces into the Indian corporate sector was never an easy task, keeping in mind the differences in both the sectors. Bedi had to face his set of challenges too. The period between 1995 to 1999 was really tough for me as getting adequate working capital to meet the business requirements was a serious challenge,” he states.
Bedi feels that a job in the army offers new challenges everyday and you come across various new situations on a regular basis. “The army fosters leadership in every individual that focuses not only on short-term results, but also on long-term requirements to improve the organisation. I firmly believe that army men are perfectly blended with the latest hi-technology, training techniques and strategic doctrines that help them to excel in various avenues,” he concludes.
Army brings in discipline
After 36 years of service in the Indian Army, Major General S Dutta VSM (retd), Chairman, Marine Solutions, Distribution and Services, Pvt Ltd suddenly realised that though he had a wonderful life in the army, he also had an empty pocket at the end of his career. “I had made up my mind to carry on working after my retirement from the army,” shares Dutta. After a few stints in the corporate world, Dutta ventured out on his own. “Being a yachtsman and having a son who also is a very good yachtsman, we decided to start a company selling luxury yachts. We formed the Company Marine Solutions in 2003,” he informs.
Talking about the transition from army life to corporate life, Dutta expresses, “One good aspect of military training is that it prepares one for all circumstances. I had no problem transiting from army to civil life. I was the Commandant of a training establishment in Vadodara. That coupled with my training in management in the US and IIM Ahmedabad made my task of setting up the PMDI of IPCL quite easy.”
Dutta says that coming from the army to a civil life is not a challenge. All challenges are left behind. “If one keeps following the army traditions in civil life too, one will get better appreciation and respect. The corporate sector respects army people for their discipline, honesty and leadership qualities,” he adds.
But an army man does need some kind of grooming before he enters the corporate domain since he needs to keep himself abreast with the latest trends. According to Dutta, “Frankly, not much grooming is required. On the contrary, the armed forces personnel should not forget the grooming they have received in the past. Re-skilling is certainly required. In an armed forces career, the skills imparted are mostly specific to the armed forces’ needs.”
Army instills focus
For Lt. Colonel Dharampal Balyan, owner, Health & Harmony, his keen interest in health related issues led him into entrepreneurship. “While I was in the army, I was interested in my own health. When I retired, I met someone who was teaching naturopathy, and since I was already keen on learning about subjects related to health and health related studies, I decided to get some formal education.
After studying the same, I decided to start a naturopathy centre called Health & harmony in Noida, which looks at nature and its elements for treatments,” he expresses. Talking about the kind of challenges he faced in his journey, Balyan says, “Getting people to believe in natural system of healing and turning to nature for healing was the most challenging task.”
Balyan concludes by sharing a few lessons that he has learnt from his army background that has helped him better his prospects in the corporate domain and says, “Devotion, discipline and total commitment are a few qualities imbibed in me and these have helped me in my corporate life too.” With their immense courage, discipline and leadership acumen, these Fauji entrepreneurs have shown the way to many!
Army open to ‘Arunchal Scouts’ plan
Sunday, June 28, 2009
By Saurabh Joshi
Scouts raised from locals considered highly motivated
The Indian Army views with favor the idea of raising ‘Arunachal Scouts’ battalions to complement the existing Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police presence in Arunachal Pradesh.
The proposal, recently reiterated by the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and former army chief, General JJ Singh, advocates the creation of a 5,000-strong force on the lines of the Ladakh Scouts, Dogra Scouts. “Naturally, we would welcome any increase in numbers,” said a senior officer.
“The advantage with the raising of scouts battalions from the state is that these ‘Home and Hearth’ battalions are hardy and well-suited for operating in that terrain, they know the local language and customs and have a high level of familiarity with the terrain. Naturally they are also highly motivated, since they are essentially providing security for their own homes and families,” he explained.
Recently, the stationing of Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft at Tezpur in Assam, close to Arunachal Pradesh and the plans for doubling the number of troops in Arunachal, with the deployment of two divisions led to strong reactions from the Chinese media. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also slammed the approval given by the Asian Development Bank for a $ 60 million loan for development in Arunachal Pradesh, as it considers the state, disputed territory.