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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

From Today's Papers - 09 Feb








Avalanche turns grave for 17 Army men in J&K
17 others hurt as tragedy strikes training camp in Gulmarg
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 8
At least 17 Army personnel, including an officer, were killed and 17 others injured in an avalanche at Khilanmarg in the upper reaches of Gulmarg, about 50 km from here, today. Fortysix others were rescued in a joint operation launched by the Army, police and the State Tourism Department.

A defence spokesman said the avalanche struck the training area at Khelan Marg, where 400 Army personnel were undergoing training. Around 80 members of High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) were trapped under the avalanche. Prompt action by the Army, duly assisted by the state administration, including civilian doctors and the police, resulted in the rescue of Army personnel. A Brigadier from the formation was overseeing the rescue operations, the spokesman said.

The tragedy has happened when the entire Kashmir valley and its upper reaches have been witnessing heavy rain and snowfall for the past four days, disrupting traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Various areas of the valley, particularly in north Kashmir, have been cut off from the rest of the state due to heavy accumulation of snow in the upper reaches and high mountain areas. Gulmarg and Khilanmarg areas are under three to five feet snow accumulated during the past four days.

The Disaster Management, Kashmir, had only yesterday issued avalanche warning for various areas across the Kashmir valley in view of continued bad weather conditions. It warned of high danger avalanches in areas around Sonmarg on the Srinagar-Ladakh axis, and the medium danger avalanche warning in Khilanmarg, Uri, Baaz, Razdan Top, Keran, Machchil, Sadhna Top, Gurez and Chowkibal areas of north Kashmir. Aamir Ali, OSD with the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, in charge of the disaster management, here yesterday, quoting the SASE, also warned of low danger avalanches on the two sides of the Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

According to officials of the Tourism Department, which conducts snow skiing events in the area, a team of skiing and rescue experts headed by Tourist Officer GM Dar, equipped with snow scooters and piston bullies, have joined the rescue operations.







Lankan army arrests Fonseka

Colombo, February 8
Sri Lanka’s defeated opposition presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka was tonight arrested by the military police, a fortnight after he suffered defeat at the hands of incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A close aide of the former Army chief, who is credited with the annihilation of the LTTE, said Fonseka and one of his associate were taken into custody while they were at work in their office in the capital.

He said Fonseka and his media secretary Senaka de Silva were arrested by the military police. The aide told PTI that Fonseka and de Silva were “told in clear terms to cooperate with the military police”.

“I heared one of the officers telling Fonseka that he is being charged for criminal conspiracy,” he said. — PTI







17 jawans killed in Kashmir avalanche, 17 injured

NDTV Correspondent, Monday February 8, 2010, Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir


Seventeen Armymen, including a Captain, have died and 17 people have been injured in an avalanche in Jammu and Kashmir. But over 400 people, mostly Armymen and porters, trapped have been rescued.


The avalanche occurred at 11 am on Monday at Khelanmarg near Gulmarg. The Army's High Altitude Warfare School at Gulmarg had established an advance camp at Gujjar Hut on Sunday, and 300 Army trainees, 100 trainers, 60 support staff and 50 civilians were present when the avalanche came down.


"The  jawans had gone there for some training, they keep going there," said AQ Manhas, Gulmarg DIG, North Kashmir.


The men were trapped for several hours as the rescue operations started late and continued till late in the evening. Army and police rescue teams were on the job since morning. Reports came in by 5.30 in the evening that all those trapped had been rescued.


"No civilian or tourist were hit by the avalanche. All of them are safe," said Nasir Sogami, Tourism Minister, J&K.


Rescue efforts were delayed by incessant snowfall over the last 48 hours, which affected the movement of vehicles. Officials had to ski to the location.


Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) had issued an avalanche warning last evening and advised people living in high altitude areas not to venture in the area which has been receiving heavy snowfall for the past three days.


"Avalanche warning exists in the high altitude areas for the next 24 hours. People living in the areas are cautioned to avoid movement during snowfall and not to venture out in avalanche prone areas", SASE said.


Areas where high danger avalanche warning exists included Sonamarg, Gagangir, Bhimbat, Drass, Batalic, Dhudi and S M Hills in Kargil district.


It said areas where medium danger of avalanche warning exists included Khilanmarg, Uri, Baaz, Razdan Top, Z-Gali, Keran, Furkian top, Machil, Sadna Top, Urez, Niru, Baruab and Chowkibal in Kupwara and Baramulla districts of North Kashmir.


Areas where low danger avalanche warning exists include both sides of Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir and its adjoining areas on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.







US nudged India into talks with Pak: Advani
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 8
BJP leader LK Advani has dubbed India’s decision to resume talks with Pakistan as a consequence of a “powerful nudge” from Washington.

Reacting nearly a week after the UPA government’s offer to Pakistan to resume foreign secretary-level talks, the BJP parliamentary party chairman has forewarned against bartering away Kashmir interests to Pakistan under pressure from the USA.

A day after the announcement, the BJP reacted in a similar vein and in effect what Advani said today was a virtual repeat of what Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said on February 5.

Advani wrote in his blog: “Is this the consequence of Obama’s assertion being put into action?” He was referring to US President Barack Obama's remarks in a media interview during the presidential campaign that “working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” would be among the critical tasks of his administration if he was elected.







The Agni-III success
Morale-booster for armed forces

The scientists and engineers of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) associated with the Agni missile project need to be commended for the successful test-firing of the Agni-III surface-to-surface nuclear capable ballistic missile on Sunday. It is a great morale-boosting achievement not only for them but also for India’s armed forces. The first test of the Agni-III on July 9, 2006, had ended in a fiasco, but the tests carried out on April 12, 2007, and May 7, 2008, were perfectly as programmed. The 3,500-km-range missile is now ready to be inducted into the nuclear arsenal of the Army. The significance of the new acquisition of the armed forces lies in the fact that only now India can claim to have the capability to strike deep inside China. All the other missiles in India’s arsenal like the Agni-II and those of the Prithvi series could hit only a few parts of China, though entire Pakistan was under their reach.

This, however, does not mean that India has designs on other nations. Nor should India remain contented with the Agni-III achievement, though a major “milestone in strengthening our defence and developing our second-strike capability”. There is a plan for an Agni-V version (having a 5000-km range) of the ballistic missile so that India’s No First Use policy carries greater meaning. The country must have a strong second-strike capability as part of its nuclear deterrence programme. India must be in a position to send across the message that no nation can think of daring to use a weapon of mass destruction against this country, which would be capable of hitting back with full force.

India’s missile programme has been successful despite attempts to deny it the latest technology owing to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) being in force. This is because of the untiring efforts aimed at as much indigenisation as possible. The Agni-III missile has over 80 per cent indigenously developed components. There is a clear message in this: self-reliance in defence-related projects is essential to become a world power. Nothing should be allowed to block India’s march towards this end if we have to keep our head high in the world.







Security – a national concern
Centre, states to fight for it together

It was a pleasant surprise to see all the states and union territories responding in a spirit of unity during the Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security on Sunday. Even the Chief Ministers of the states ruled by the BJP did not strike a discordant note. In fact, the Union Home Ministry received compliments even from Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for being swift and positive in its response to requests from states. It was also acknowledged that the Centre had considerably reduced the response time to requests made by states. This welcome convergence between the Centre and the states was in sharp contrast to the latter’s criticism of the Centre on the issue of price rise. It raises the hopes that more coordinated efforts will be made in the days to come to meet the threats to the country, which are far more serious than law and order problems.

Apparently, realisation has dawned on the Centre and the states that they have to pull together to defeat the monster. Whether it is left-wing extremism, cross-border terrorism or insurgency, they all require an integrated action plan that can succeed only if all state actors are on the same page. The best example is the Naxalite threat which has been spreading only because states fought it in a piecemeal fashion in the absence of seamless synchronisation. Governments have to rise above party labels to tackle what is a serious internal security challenge for the entire nation.

While the Centre is there to oversee and coordinate the drive, the states cannot abdicate their responsibility. Certain inputs can only be provided by states’ security forces which are familiar with local terrain and attitudes. Once they and the Centre pull in the same direction, dark forces would find it infinitely more difficult to escape the security dragnet. Strong action and meaningful information sharing are the need of the hour and everybody has to chip in.






Kashmir avalanche makes Army camp graveyard


BLANKET OF TROUBLE : Heavy snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district.


Srinagar: At least 16 Army soldiers were killed after an avalanche smashed into a military training camp near the border with Pakistan on Monday, said officials.


The officer killed is Lt. Prateek, said a defence official and added that rescue operations are going on in the north Kashmir district.


The accident occurred in Khilanmarg near Gulmarg, a ski resort visited by thousands of people, including some foreigners, every winter.


The avalanche hit the Army's High Altitude Warfare School in northwest Kashmir, a rugged area at an altitude of 2,730 m (9,000 feet) near a military line.


The avalanche came down on a 60-strong group as they were going up the sheer ice walls in Khilanmarg with near zero visibility. They were part of a group of 350 soldiers selected for advanced winter warfare course run by the Gulmarg-based school, Col Brar said.


The group had set out at 0800 hours on Monday from Gulmarg and reached Khilanmarg eight km uphill at a height of over 10,000 feet to set up a winter warfare training camp when they were hit by the avalanche, Col Brar said.


Army spokesperson Colonel J S Brar and police said that 15 men were buried in snow and 17 others were extricated and moved to base hospital at Srinagar. Two soldiers were still missing and 26 others had been rescued by nightfall.


The Army personnel were being trained on advanced snow craft and were well away from the electric gondola that connects Gulmarg with Aparwhat mountain top used by skiers.


Gulmarg and its surrounding areas have been receiving unprecedented snowfall for the past two days with reports of six-feet of snow in certain areas.


The government weather forecaster said snow and sleet would continue to hit Kashmir mountains for the next two days. Avalanches occur frequently in Kashmir.


Heavy snow blocked Kashmir's main highway, the only road link to the rest of the country, for the third day on Monday.


"It is snowing heavily and there is fog. Weather is hampering rescue operations," senior police official A Q Manhas said.


Officials said there was little chance of any tourist being trapped as the avalanche was triggered at an altitude higher than the popular skiing slopes.


(With inputs from Reuters and PTI)






* India to plug gaps in defence preparedness in A&N




N C Bipindra


Port Blair, Feb 8 (PTI) In view of the Chinese presence in Myanmar's Coco Islands, just 40 km from the Andaman and Nicobar, and its increasing military activity in the Indian Ocean, India is planning to plug gaps in the islands' security with possible induction of Sukhois, more warships and radars.


"There are gaps in surveillance, air defence and coastal security. We are working towards plugging the gaps," a senior officer in the tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) comprising Army, Navy and Air Force units said here today.


"The Chinese have a presence in Coco Islands, which is just 40 km of Landfall Islands in the northern most part of Andaman. Earlier it used to be large, but now they have scaled down the presence. But, yes, they are there," the officer said on condition of anonymity.







Pakistan’s response to India’s Cold Start Strategy: Preemptive strikes

Posted on Feb 09 2010 by (Rupee News) }

Much of this so called “Cold Start Strategy” is based on the Israeli strategy which it tried to implement in Lebanon. Israel was unable to implement its objectives in Lebanon and had to withdraw even from the Litani River. Israel failed to achieve its goals in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Israel was unable to stop the barrage of missiles from Lebanon even on the last day. Many consider this Israel’s defeat.India’s Cold start war strategy and the Pakistani Nuclear response.


Gen Kapoor’s provocative doctrine: Pakistani countermeasures


    * The essence of the Cold Start doctrine is reorganising the army’s offensive power that resides in the three strike corps into eight smaller division-sized integrated battle groups (IBGs) consisting of armour and mechanised infantry and artillery, closely supported by helicopter gunships, air force and airborne troops (parachute and heliborne).

    * The IBGs are to be positioned close to the border so that three to five are launched into Pakistan along different axes within 72 to 96 hours from the time mobilisation is ordered.

    * Cold Start thus envisages rapid thrusts even when the defensive corps’ deployment is yet to be completed, and high-speed operations conducted day and night until the designated objectives are achieved

    * The probable objective areas for Cold Start could be (1) Ravi-Chenab corridor from two directions, an IBG along Jammu-Sialkot-Daska axis and another across the Ravi to link up with the first IBG, and (2) in the south against Reti-Rahim Yar Khan-Kashmore complex.

    * To counter Cold Start, the Pakistan Army will have to create more armour-dominated brigade-sized reserves from the existing resources if possible, and a more flexible military system and structure.

    * For Pakistan the dimensions of time and space assume paramount importance as it lacks territorial depth, is opposed by a larger adversary and lacks the resources to fight a protracted war.

    * The strategy of pre-emption is thus imposed on Pakistan in the same way it was imposed on Israel prior to the 1967 war.

    * The fact that the Pakistani Army can occupy their wartime locations earlier than the Indian army confers on it the ability to pre-empt Cold Start;

    * failure to do so could lead to firing of low-yield tactical warheads at IBGs as they cross the start line or even earlier

    * Pakistani countermeasures to Cold Start Strategy–battle-ready nuclear weapons

    * India said on Monday it is monitoring the situation following media reports suggesting Pakistan is allegedly digging tunnels in Sargodha district

    * “We are attempting to establish the purpose of digging up such large tunnels,” an intelligence official was quoted as saying in the reports. “These clearly cannot be meant for transport as is obvious from the images available; they don’t lead on to roads,” he added.

    * Delhi’s Cold Start Strategy Frozen DOA (Dead on Arrival)


India knows that it can never win a conventional warfare because of the Nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). However it still harbors notions of winning a sort of a mini war. India may think it has a Cold Start Strategy, but it may end as a hot nuclear war. Indian Defense planners cannot guarantee that a limited strike will not escalte into a full fledged war. A full fledged war witha nuclear armed labor may destroy both countries. Responding to the “Surgical Strikes”: Neutralizing Delhi’s Cold Start strategy:


    While engaging the Kashmir question must be the priority, a much more serious problem is that in less than a decade India has twice threatened us with all-out war in less than a decade, in December 2002 and 2008, using terrorist action by non-state actors as a pretext both times. As the name suggests, the Indian “COLD START” strategy envisages moving Indian forces without any warning or mobilisation into unpredictable locations at high speeds against Pakistan (on the Israeli pattern of 1956 and 1967) seeking to defeat Pakistan by achieving total surprise at both the strategic and the operational levels (remember Pearl Harbour), striving for a decision before the US or China could intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. An unspoken assumption seems to be that “rapid operations would prevent India’s civilian leadership from halting military operations in progress, lest it have second thoughts or possess insufficient resolve”. Does this particular Indian military psyche conform to the so-called civilian control of the Indian military? Facing a foe having 3:1 superiority, and with such a history and such an offensive strategy, we may be forgiven for our “India fixation”.


    The military challenges for Pakistan posed by COLD START derails any resolve for sustained peace with India, re-constituting Pakistan’s strategy to take on all five of India’s “Strike Corps” with all our three “Army Reserve” formations presently occupied in FATA, Dir and Swat. Please forgive also our suspicions as to what the many Indian consulates in Afghanistan are doing on our western borders! Ikram Sehgal. The News


On Dec 13, 2001, five gunmen attacked the Indian parliament building. An hour later, 12 people including the gunmen were dead. In the days that followed, India blamed the militant groups based in Pakistan for the attack.


On Dec 18, 2001, the Indian government ordered the commencement of Operation Parakaram (Operation Victory), the largest mobilisation of Indian forces since 1971. It appeared that war was inevitable. Yet, after a 10-month standoff, Operation Parakaram was terminated. India had lost face.


The main reason why this happened was the time taken by the three strike corps to reach their wartime locations from central India. It took them three weeks during which time Pakistan was not only able to deploy its forces but also to internationalise the crisis.


Until 2004 the Indian army’s strategic thought envisaged the deployment of seven corps in defensive role and three corps in offensive role each built around an armoured division supported by mechanised infantry and artillery. After the defensive corps had blunted Pakistani attacks, the strike corps would undertake counter-offensive operations aimed at the destruction of the Pakistan Army’s two strategic reserves also built around an armoured division.


After Operation Parakaram the Indian army concluded that this doctrine was inflexible because of the huge size of the strike corps — they have long deployment times, are difficult to manoeuvre, while their concentration in the forward areas gives away the general strategic direction they would adopt. And above all, the doctrine inhibited a quick response to challenges posed by acts like the attack on the Indian parliament (and seven years later in Mumbai).


As a consequence, in 2004 the Indian army announced the development of a new limited war doctrine called Cold Start to respond to what it calls proxy wars by Pakistan. It would seek to inflict significant damage on the Pakistan Army before the international community could intervene on Pakistan’s behalf, while at the same time ensuring that the conflict did not escalate to a level where Pakistan was tempted to use nuclear weapons.


The essence of the Cold Start doctrine is reorganising the army’s offensive power that resides in the three strike corps into eight smaller division-sized integrated battle groups (IBGs) consisting of armour and mechanised infantry and artillery, closely supported by helicopter gunships, air force and airborne troops (parachute and heliborne). The IBGs are to be positioned close to the border so that three to five are launched into Pakistan along different axes within 72 to 96 hours from the time mobilisation is ordered.


Cold Start thus envisages rapid thrusts even when the defensive corps’ deployment is yet to be completed, and high-speed operations conducted day and night until the designated objectives are achieved.


In a war limited by time, mobility is the single-most important factor which if used to its full potential will help attain the political aim in the desired time and space framework. But this requires a perfect matching of the physical means of mobility with the mobility of the mind, as the value of a highly mobile force can be reduced to zero by commanders whose minds are characterised by lack of imagination, initiative and flexibility. “Adherence to dogmas has destroyed more armies and lost more battles and lives than any other cause in war. No man of fixed opinions can make a good general.” (J.F.C. Fuller)


In the 1965 war the Indian 1 Corps, spearheaded by the 1st Armoured Division, had penetrated seven miles only into Pakistani territory in Sialkot sector in 21 days, while in the 1971 war, the same corps having about eight tank units did marginally better by penetrating eight miles in 14 days, that too when opposed by light covering troops. In both wars the Indian army was schematic in its operations. Changes in dispositions such as forming a new defensive line, reassigning of objectives, switching forces not in accordance with their original plan, took time. Above all, their commanders at all levels lacked enterprise, imagination and initiative.


Given this, while Cold Start is a sound concept, though not original, the Indian war directors need to question the ability of their commanders at all levels to execute it efficiently and sustain the advantage gained from striking first. The “law of the initial advantage of the aggressor” assumes critical importance, as it is the aggressor who generally sets the pattern which operations will take. The Germans in the Second World War and the Israelis in the 1956 and 1967 wars had translated the concept of blitzkrieg, characterised by surprise, speed and concentration, with devastating results against numerically superior forces because they had a flair for conducting high-speed operations with flexibility, rapidity and less military routine.


The probable objective areas for Cold Start could be (1) Ravi-Chenab corridor from two directions, an IBG along Jammu-Sialkot-Daska axis and another across the Ravi to link up with the first IBG, and (2) in the south against Reti-Rahim Yar Khan-Kashmore complex. To counter Cold Start, the Pakistan Army will have to create more armour-dominated brigade-sized reserves from the existing resources if possible, and a more flexible military system and structure.


For Pakistan the dimensions of time and space assume paramount importance as it lacks territorial depth, is opposed by a larger adversary and lacks the resources to fight a protracted war. The strategy of pre-emption is thus imposed on Pakistan in the same way it was imposed on Israel prior to the 1967 war. The fact that the Pakistani Army can occupy their wartime locations earlier than the Indian army confers on it the ability to pre-empt Cold Start; failure to do so could lead to firing of low-yield tactical warheads at IBGs as they cross the start line or even earlier.


Cold Start would be a portent of escalation, and inevitably a disaster for both. It is a doctrine that challenges both countries. The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her campaign for the presidency of the United States mentioned “Pakistan’s paranoia” about India’s intentions about Pakistan. Pardon us Ms. Clinton but Bharat has threatened Pakistan will all out war, not once but twice in the past few years. Additionally, it was the Pakhtuns that liberated Azad Kashmir and it is Delhi that occupied Kashmir, Junagarh, Manvadar, Sir Creek and Siachin–not the Pakhtuns (aka Taliban).


Terrorism across the borders works for Bharat–in China, Sikkim Bhutan, Nepal, Lanka, and Pakistan. RAW is good at hiring and sending mercenaries to murder innocent civilians–as witnessed in Karachi last week.


    * “No one should ever underestimate our capability and determination to foil any nefarious designs against the security of Pakistan,

    * “None can dare rob us of nuclear arsenal”: General Hameed Gul

    * After dramatic failure of “Cold Start Strategy” India comes up with cockamamy “96 hour Rapid Thrust” scheme

    * India is behind Karachi blast: Imran Khan

    * Proxy war in Afghanistan: Strategic depth vs Strategic clout.

    * “This new doctrine along with the earlier restructuring of the Indian Command structure, particularly the operationalisation of South West Army Command (2005) has increased manifold threats to Pakistan. It has also enhanced Indian capacity for faster action, Prof. Khurshid Ahmad Jamat e Islami.

    * Is Delhi preventing the 4th Battle of Panipat or instigating it?






Passion of the Arjun Tank

February 8th, 2010 Posted by Frontier India Strategic and Defence


For those who don’t know, I have titled the headline based on “The Passion of the Christ,” which is a religious film produced in 2004. It is based on the New Testament accounts of the arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, events commonly known as The Passion. Before some hackles are raised, I am not trying to compare the Arjun Tank with the bible story.


One more point, I would like to emphasize that, I am not against the Russian T-90 Tank. This is for my friends who have repeatedly pointed out to “the fact” that I am anti T-90. Most of the times, I have put up the other side of the fence, whenever there has been attempt to malign the Arjun Tank. Many a times, I have been informed that Frontier India Strategic and Defence” has the most comprehensive collection of data, facts and stories. While I always took it as an compliment, some indicated that it proves I am anti T-90. I absolutely have no arguments for them.


For starters, whoever is working overtime on the anti-Arjun Tank campaign has been responsible for demonization of T-90 in Indian service. There are some points to be considered. The anti Arjun Tank camp is normally Indians. If there are Russians behind it, then I would say, these Russians are doing their job and doing the best for their country. Russia has great generals who make these tanks and great statesmen who would like India to posses these toys for its defence. On the other side, we have Indian generals. They could or could not be thinking about their own country. Let me give them a benefit of doubt and say that, they indeed want the best for their country. But, having said that, even with their best of intention for the country, we have a very “vision” challenged generals when compared to the Russian, American, Israeli generals who make their own stuff and fight.


I have seen the arguments that DRDO has not made tanks up to their standards hence they import. At the same time, we have seen the development histories of tanks in the world. Majority of the tanks have been adopted by their armies when these tanks were not up to their mark. subsequently, they have evolved their tanks to a state that, Indian generals drool at them. Infact, Our generals wanted an Israeli company to evaluate and tell if Arjun Tank was good or bad. Then they wanted DRDO to improve the tank as per the recommendation of the Israeli company. Is army incapable of making a qualitative requirement for itself and the evaluate it themselves?


The habit of changing the qualitative requirements to suit imports was the brain child of General Gopal Gurunath Bewoor. While he was the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (1967 – 1973), he earned a dubious distinction of changing a qualitative requirement, which led to purchase and license production of SS11B1 and the death of the Indian Anti Tank Missile program. Who can argue that General Gopal Gurunath Bewoor was not a good Army Chief? Was there any foreign lobby involved?


I must admit that Indian Army has an history of using Indian equipment. Most of them were shoddy quality from the Indian public sector units and defence production units (DPSU). DRDO was in infancy then. So was Indian Navy. I am not trying to pitch Indian Army vs Indian Navy. Let me give you another example. The Indian Air force, wanted a replacement for the MiG-21’s. The light combat aircraft, though has not achieved the newly formed “air staff requirement,” the IAF is willing to take a specified number of LCA’s. Why? Because they think that LCA, even in its current form is better than the MiG-21’s in service. Indian Army had a similar chance back in 1980’s when they scuttled the induction of Arjun Tank, in favour of T-72 tanks. Look at Akash Missiles induction into IAF and recent orders.


Armed Forces Chiefs can make or break history. IAF chief’s have been not very dynamic in this respect. I am not implying that they were not competent in other departments. It took former Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major to push the much needed change in Indian Air Force mentality. In the Indian Army, General Shankar Roychowdhury was the only general who made a difference. Rest of the Army chiefs were not in his grade in this respect. There is an argument that Indian Army is the user and not an R&D or production unit. An argument which is flawed.


The mismanagement and frequent attacks on the Arjun Tank project by the Army has attracted worldwide attention. The Arjun Tank project detractors were largely responsible for the popularity of the project. I would like to give you an example. When the media is invited to any of the armed forces events, they expect media not to ask ugly questions, eat refreshments and then print their press releases. But media seeks sensation. Press releases don’t sell. Now look who is bad mouthing Arjun Tank project? It is the anonymous Army officers and some retired army officers. They succeed in feeding sensational news about constant failures of the project. Then media somersaulted. When it was pointed out to media that there was a likely sabotage of Arjun Tank trials, they realised that it was a bigger sensation than the regular failure news. It was a matter of DRDO establishing its Public Interface Directorate that the anti Arjun Tank camp faltered. Under strict media and political glare, Arjun Tank showed up its mettle. Nay sayers could not manipulate the results. Also, I hope Indian Army personnel should read a bit on internet. I had already written what Indian Army would cook up during the AUCRT trials. It came as no surprise when Indian Army reported in parliament that Arjun Tanks failed.


Hypothetically, If Russians are very concerned about the image of T-90, then they should be sacking their Indian agents (bothe official and unofficial ones). T-90 tank purchase was a knee jerk reaction to T-80 sale by Ukraine to the pesky neighbor. The Arjun Tank detractors probably bunked their class during studies. Probably that can explain their lack of knowledge of the phrase ” people living in glass houses don’t throw stones at others.” The T-90 tanks came with their set of inefficiencies which were greater than the Arjun tanks advertised deficiencies. There is another aspect to T-90 purchase. Indian Army gives the linage argument. T-90 is logical successor to T-72, an argument which Russian army does not buy. Russians want Black Eagle, a fifth generation tank. Now, if you read carefully the press reports after the acquisition of T-72, these tanks were always under performing. Retired Tankers have said so. They like Chieftains and Centurion better. The T-72 tank was an interim main battle tank in 1979. Since the tanks were worse at the other side of the border, it was okay. Subsequently it was DRDO which improved the T-72 and it was called combat improved Ajeya. When Pakistan acquired T-80 tanks, Russia gave a proposal to improve T-72. Since the DRDO came up with Tank-Ex upgrade, Indian Army did not want an T-72 upgrade. (you can read Indian Armies reaction here.) So Indian Army pushed for T-90. It was not the issue that enemy Pakistan bought T-80’s, the issue was the enemy DRDO came up with Tank-Ex upgrade.


I would like to add one point here. A lot has been said about Indian Army’s problems with DRDO. Less has been said about DRDO’s problem with Indian Army. It is not just the ego the Indian Army officers have inherited from British. They have also acquired the traits of colonial British when dealing with other Indians. I am sure, I have generalised it. But, how far is it away from the truth? Some time back a DRDO’s project manager wanted to demonstrate an equipment to Indian Army. His main concern was not the demonstration, but, where will he and his team mates stay. The place was an remote place, far away from civilization. “You see, they (Indian Army) have quarters there, but not for us” he explained defensively. After some discussion on Indian Army attitude, he again defended Indian Army by saying that “Customers are never satisfied.” DRDO has been bending back to accommodate the Army’s daunting requests, which later on goes on to boomerang on DRDO. I hope, one can understand how strained is the relationship. Its equally strained both ways.


Then there is another argument that Arjun Tank was not available when Army needed it. Sometime back, I was chatting up with two retired senior army officers. This point came up. One of the officers observed dryly that “or is it the Army did not induct Arjun Tank.” Actually, this example can be seen the sequence of events after 1996, when Arjun Tank displayed that it was fit for induction as per the last of Army qualitative requirements.


Army has not been entirely out of loop of developing the tank. There are two names of Indian Army personnel whom I wish to mention or my article will not be complete. One is Lt.Gen Ajai Singh who is the governor of Assam state in India. He was responsible for rejuvenation of the Arjun Tank project. The other one is Retired major general H.M Singh. He has been with the Arjun Tank project in excess of 20 years. A die hard Arjun Tank backer. The 43rd armored regiment have been involved in the development and testing of the Arjun Tanks. They have seen various versions of this tank. They say that every cloud has silver lining.


Some sections feel that Arjun Tank will not get a fair trial by the army. Some say that Army does not has the competency to evaluate Arjun Tank. There is an anecdote. While Arjun Tank was on trial, the engine compressor broke down. The engine was replaced in less than 30 minutes and the tank was up and running. The engine can be repaired and put on to the next tank. Where as if the same thing happens to the T-90, its grounded till the repairs are effected. It may take in excess of 3 hours. So, finally when the report reached the Army HQ, it stated:


Arjun Tank: engine broken. Complete replacement

T-90: engine broken, repaired.


Then there is another anecdote. The Advanced Light helicopters built by HAL in Army service were running huge repair bills inspite of army being specifically told that ALH does not need as many services as a Chetak helicopter.


There is a view that the army had issued GSQR to see that Arjun Tank does not fructify ever. DRDO pulled a fast one on them by importing all it cannot make in time and put together the tank. If army orders it, it will indigenise it as much possible. So, Arjun detractors ended up blaming that it has imported content. They forgot that T-90 was not even an Indian design.


In India, there is no professional independent agency that can interface between the R&D, production and the user. The US has it. The Russians have the military backing their R&D centers. So do others.


Like rest of the apprehensive Indians, even I am eagerly looking forward Arjun Tank vs T-90 comparative trial results. Is the anti Arjun Tank lobby is running and avoiding these trials for the obvious reason?







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