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Friday, 2 April 2010

From Today's Papers - 02 Apr 2010

April Fool!
The following article in yesterday's post was a fabrication meant as a 'all fools day' prank. I wonder how many of the readers got caught. Would love to hear reactions on this. Please post your reactions in comments or mail me.


Army chief orders ‘operation clean-up’
More than 20 senior officers guilty in various scams in the past four years Ajay Banerjee/Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 1 Virtually shaking up the Indian Army out of its self-imposed ‘silence’ on the issue of corruption within the services, the new Army chief, Gen VK Singh, today announced a ‘clean-up’ operation. “…We want to set our own culture right… improve the internal health of the organisation… the Army value system has to be different from the civil society”.  More than 20 senior officers (Brigadier or above) face charges of corruption or moral turpitude in the past three years or so. Some have been cashiered, others have been jailed, one is facing a CBI probe while a few escaped with a censure. General VK Singh, who started his tenure today, made it clear for what he stands for and how he will go about correcting the image of the world’s second largest Army.  In the past few years, senior officers have been held guilty by the Army Court of Inquiries for a liquor scam, a dry ration scam, a frozen meat scam, for accepting gratification for purchases and even for molesting a woman officer. These are apart from the much publicised and the latest Darjeeling land scam where four senior officers have been held blameworthy of having colluded with a private builder to issue a no-objection certificate.  It was General VK Singh, in his earlier capacity as GOC-in-C of the Eastern Command, who had ordered the inquiry into the Darjeeling land scam, which recommended the summary dismissal of the Military Secretary (MS) Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash. He, as MS, decided all transfers, postings and promotions of senior officers. A summary dismissal is one of the harshest punishments-the rank is stripped, the pension is stopped and the person does not qualify to be an ex-serviceman. Others facing various levels of action in the same case are Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, Lt Gen PK Rath and Maj Gen P. Sen.  Another of the recent cases is of Maj Gen AK Lal, who was dismissed after having been found guilty of molesting a junior woman officer. The woman’s parents, based in Dehradun, had lodged a written complaint against the Major General to the then Army chief Gen JJ Singh.  In early 2007, the two Lieutenant Generals of the Army Service Corps (ASC), S.K. Dahiya and S.K. Sahni, were indicted in two separate cases involving irregularities in the procurement of frozen meat for troops posted in Ladakh and discrepancies in procurement of dry rations, respectively. In the latter case, the CoI recommended disciplinary action against Brig SK Handa and Brig PS Gill. The officers have appealed and matter is now pending before a civil court.  Last year two Major Generals of the Army Ordnance Corps, Anand Swaroop and SP Sinha, faced separate charges of irregularities in the purchase of stores. The two were in running for the top post of DG Ordnance Services (DGOS) at Army HQ. In 2007, the CBI booked Maj Gen Anand Kapoor for possessing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 5 crore.  Another notable case was of Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, a Major General, who was found guilty of attempting to smuggle large quantities of defence liquor to his hometown. He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment, stripped of his rank and dismissed from service by a military court.

New chief wants agile, responsive Army
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 1 The new Chief of the Army, Gen VK Singh, today made it clear that his top priorities will include modernisation of the forces and filling the gaps in operational readiness to make the Army "more lethal, agile and responsive”.  With huge experience in counter-insurgency and high altitude operations, Gen Singh said, “.. the Army would be unable to meet external threats effectively till its internal health is not good”.  Talking to a group of journalists in his office at the South Block here this evening he said, “Our core values, our ethos and tradition will receive due attention”.  “An internal audit will matter a lot to me,” the General said. On being asked to elaborate as to what he meant by the “internal health”, the General identified core values, selflessness, credentials, norms and professionalism of the Army and the strengthening of these. He, however, refused to term it as “a crackdown on corruption”. Such terms “will never take us any far”. “On capacity building and modernisation of Chinese military he said the Army would “stand up and measure up to the challenge”.

Don’t treat Army men shabbily, SC tells govt
R Sedhuraman Legal Correspondent  New Delhi, April 1 The Supreme Court has directed the government to treat Army personnel in a “better and more humane manner” in respect of emoluments, pension and other benefits as they were bravely defending the country at the cost of their lives.  A Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and AK Patnaik passed the order yesterday while dismissing a government appeal against a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict, granting disability pension to an officer for the entire 10-year period of commissioned service.  CS Sidhu was given short service commission on June 22, 1968, for five years, which was extendable by another five years. He was posted in a high-altitude field area and while being on duty on November 21, 1970, he met with an accident and suffered severe injuries. As a result of the accident, his right arm had to be amputated and he also suffered a compound fracture in the thighbone and another fracture in the jawbone. He was released from service on June 23, 1978.  For calculating the amount of disability pension, the Army authorities had taken into account only the period between the date of joining and the date of the accident.  Describing as “a pittance” the “meagre pension” of Rs 1,000 a month plus DA granted by the Army to the affected officer, the Bench said, “If this is the manner in which the Army personnel are treated, it can only be said that it is extremely unfortunate.”

Lt Col Kapil Dev visits border areas, Northern Command
The all time great all rounder of cricket and the only captain to win world cup for India Lieutenant Colonel (Honorary) Kapil Dev donning combat uniform visited border areas of Rajouri, Palma and Bhimber Gali. CJ: Rattan Sharma   Thu, Apr 01, 2010 17:40:13 IST Views: 16    Comments: 0 Rate:  1 out of 5 2 out of 5 3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 5 0.0 / 0 votes            India News :  Utkal Divas in Orissa LIEUTENANT COLONEL (Honorary) Kapil Dev, the all time great all rounder of cricket and the only captain to win world cup for India, donning combat uniform visited border areas of Rajouri, Palma and Bhimber Gali. On reaching Rajouri, displaying his concern for the ailing soldiers and to boost their morale, he visited 150 General Hospital and had an interaction with the patients and the staff at the hospital.  He interacted with the soldiers of 156 Infantry Battalion Territorial Army (Home and Hearth) and expressed his affection as also greatly praised the Home and Hearth for a very challenging role they are performing in combating insurgency on their own soil. He further strengthened his bonding with the Territorial Army by visiting and interacting with the troops of 106 and 160 Territorial Army Battalions in Rajouri districts.  Kapil Dev during his interaction with the officiating general officer commanding and staff at headquarter Romeo Force, applauded the combat skills of the Rashtriya Rifles soldiers in combating terrorists in the area. He also met general officer commanding, 25 Infantry Division and conveyed his regards for the soldiers guarding the Line of Control. Later he visited LC and LC fence at Bhimber Gali and had a feel of staying in bunkers along with the troops deployed on LC. To inspire the young minds, he visited Army Goodwill Public School at Rajouri and impressed upon the children to work hard to achieve what they desire for a better India tomorrow.  Earlier on Tuesday (March 30), he visited the headquarters of the North Star Command at Udhampur Garrison. During this visit the legendary cricket titan met the senior officers including Lieutenant General Jasbir Singh, chief of staff, headquarters Northern Command and Major General Umong Sethi. He later interacted with the NCC cadets from the various schools and the degree college here.  The sports star endeared himself to the heart of the enthusiastic and inquisitive young fans by warmly responding to their flurry of questions ranging from his passion and ideals behind his decision to join the Territorial Army. He also shared his vision for the youth of the country and his views on terrorism. He expressed his belief that the youth of today can play a significant and responsible role as sentinels against this international scourge. He stressed the need for them to be vigilant and alert against every potential threats from anti national elements. He also presented souvenirs to the cadets and the NCC cadets.  The cricketer also visited the White Knight Corps and interacted with Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy, GOC 16 Corps and expressed his deep affection and praise for the troops’ performing the challenging role to combat insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. The officer also visited Sainik School Nagrota and spent time with the students and staff of the school. He presented the school and students autographed miniature bats as a token of remembrance. A brief presentation ceremony was held at headquarters 16 Corps for exchange of souvenirs to mark the momentous occasion.  Kapil was on a two day visit to the forward areas as Territorial Army officer.

Don't treat soldiers like beggars: Supreme Court
Press Trust of India, Thursday April 1, 2010, New Delhi The Supreme Court has slammed the union government for treating army personnel like "beggars" in respect of emoluments and pension and asked the authorities to adopt a more "humane approach" towards those bravely defending the country's borders.  "If a person goes to any part of Delhi and sits for begging, he will earn Rs 1000 every day and you are offering a pittance of Rs 1000 per month for a man who fought for the country in the high altitudes and whose arm was amputated?  "Is this the way you treat those brave army officers? It is unfortunate that you are treating them like beggars," a bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and A K Patnaik said in verbal comments while passing the order.  The apex court passed the order dismissing the Centre's appeal challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court direction to pay higher pension to C S Siddu, a Short Commissioned Officer whose right arm had to be amputated due to an accident while on duty at the high altitudes on November November 21, 1970.  "The army personnel are bravely defending the country even at the cost of their lives and we feel they should be treated in a better and more humane manner by government authorities, particularly, in respect of their emoluments, pension and other benefits," the bench said in an order.  There was an element of drama in the court when Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi pleaded with the court not to use "strong words" in the order like "beggars," "niggardly" "miserly", following which the bench dropped them from the written order.  "We regret to say that the army officers and army men in our country are being treated in a shabby manner by the government. In this case, the respondent (Sidhu), who was posted at a high altitude field area and met with an accident during discharge of his duties, was granted a meagre pension. This is a pittance (about Rs 1000) per month plus DA. If this is the manner in which the army personnel are treated, it can only be said that it is extremely unfortunate," the bench however, noted in its written order.

Women in combat units not simple: Army chief
April 01, 2010 23:06 IST,  Permanent commission to women in combat units of the armed forces is not so simple as a click of a button but a gradual process and the issue has to be studied in detail, newly appointed Army Chief General V K Singh said on Thursday.  "It is not that simple. It is not so simple that at a click of a button we can provide permanent commission to women. We need to sit down and deliberate on this," Singh told mediapersons in New Delhi [ Images ] on the first day in office.  In fact, Singh said, India needed to study how women officers have been utilised by foreign armies in their combat units and how they fared.  "As far as women officers in the Indian Army [ Images ] are concerned, whatever we have given them to do, they have fared pretty well. They have measured up to whatever work was given to them. I am sure that is why opportunities are opening up. It is a very gradual process," he said.  "We are not a country where women have been in soldiering for a very long time. This has to evolve slowly. It cannot be done in one press of a switch," he added.  The Army Chief wanted the overall effect of permanent commission to both men and women officers to be studied further.  However, he said the two issues should not be linked to each other, though the army had started recruiting women to bridge the 11,000-odd shortfall in the strength of the officer cadre.  "The A V Singh Committee's premise has been that there should be smaller permanent commission and large short service commission officers. We are factoring all aspects before taking action," he said.  The Army had last year offered permanent commission to women in branches such as Judge Advocate General, Education Corps and such other non-combat services of the Army, but for future short service commission officers.  Recently, the Delhi high court, after hearing the plea of serving women officers, ordered the armed forces to provide permanent commission to them too.  At present, the Indian armed forces have a cumulative strength of about 2,000 women officers and there has been a growing demand for providing them permanent commission in the combat streams such as infantry, artillery, and engineers in the Army, fighter pilot stream in the Air Force and postings on warships in the Navy.  Some countries such as the United States and Israel have women personnel in war-fighting roles and they engage in combat with the enemy shoulder-to-shoulder with their men counterparts.

New Indian Army chief to focus on core values
(Lead) New Delhi, April 1  A day after assuming charge as the Indian Army chief, Gen V.K. Singh Thursday said his focus would be on "core values" to improve the "internal health" of the force to enable it meet external challenges.  "Till the time our internal health is not up to the mark, we won't be able to take good care of external challenges," Singh told reporters after inspecting a guard of honour on his first day in office.  "Internal health is very important. And for any organisation to do well, it must ensure that the internal health is good. That's why our core values, our ethos and our traditions will receive due attention," Singh maintained.  His remarks assume importance in view of the stringent action he had recommended, in his previous appointment as head of the army's Eastern Command, in what is known as the Sukna land scam case.  Singh had recommended that two lieutenant generals, Avdesh Prakash and P.K. Rath, be court martialled for their role in the illegal transfer of land at Sukna cantonment in West Bengal to a private developer.  Singh's predecessor as army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, had concurred with the recommendation on Rath but reduced the punishment on Prakash to administrative action. This decision was reversed after Defence Minister apparently put his foot down and said that Prakash too should be court martialled.  Asked about the threat perception from China, Singh said: "I can assure (that) for any challenges against us we are fully prepared. Preparedness is (an) ongoing process... we are making our training more practical."  A third generation army officer, Singh, 59, will serve till he turns 62.

Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh is new Eastern Command chief
2010-04-01 21:20:00  Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh Thursday took over as the chief of Indian Army's Eastern Command.  Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry regiment in 1972 and has held several important command and staff posts, an army statement said.  He replaces Gen. V.K. Singh who took charge as the Indian Army chief Wednesday.  Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh commanded an infantry battalion in the northeast and along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, besides serving in three UN Peace Keeping Missions, the statement said.  Earlier, he was posted as director of general (staff duties) at the integrated headquarters of the ministry of defence.

‘Hot summer’ ahead for Army in Kashmir, says Antony
Express news service Posted online: Friday , Apr 02, 2010 at 0137 hrs Chennai : Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday said that security forces in Jammu and Kashmir will witness a tough year ahead on account of an expected increase in infiltration bids from Pakistan-based militants. “The Army is gearing up to meet new challenges as this summer is going to be a hot summer in terms of security,” he said, adding that sacrifices will have to be made on account of increased infiltration. “Observing infiltration trends witnessed during the winters, it is bound to increase,” he said.  Antony was speaking on the occasion of the launch of the third destroyer ship, INS Chennai, being built indigenously at the Mazgaon Docks under the project code-named 15 Alpha and christened the Kolkata Class ships. INS Chennai, according to MoD, will be inducted into the Navy by 2013. The guided-missile destroyers include land-attack capability and will also feature the Brahmos cruise missiles and the Indo-Israeli Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM). Elizabeth Antony, wife of the Defence Minister, launched the third destroyer of Project 15 Alpha. Speaking on the occasion, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said the under-construction warships were a powerful tool to implement India’s policies on trade.

Army allows Sikh Soldiers to keep articles of faith
By Steve Elliott | Army News Service Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 9:14 AM CDT E-mail this story | Print this page  FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - For the first time in 23 years, the Army is allowing a pair of Sikh Soldiers to keep their hair and beards intact and wear turbans.  More than 60 years ago, President Harry Truman desegregated the U.S. armed forces, declaring "there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."  But during those same six decades, the Army's policy and how it was implemented changed from time to time.  From 1948 to 1984, men of the Sikh religion were permitted to serve while maintaining their articles of faith. In 1984, Gen. John A. Wickham Jr., then chief of staff of the Army, eliminated the exception for Sikhs and others who wore "conspicuous" items of faith.  Sikhs who were serving on active duty were grandfathered in by the Army. Two Sikhs in the medical field, Col. Arjinderpal Singh Sekhon, a doctor, and Col. G.B. Singh, a dentist, continued to serve until their retirements in 2009 and 2007, respectively, according to the Sikh News Network Web site.  Capt. (Dr.) Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, and Capt. (Dr.) Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a doctor, were assured by their recruiters at the time of enlistment several years ago that their articles of faith wouldn't pose a problem. But after completing four years of studies, both men were told to remove their turbans and cut their hair and beards for active duty.  It took action by several Sikh organizations and a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, signed by 43 members of the House of Representatives and six U.S. senators, to change the Army's mind. A pair of special exceptions to Army Regulation 600-20 were allowed so Rattan and Kalsi could wear their dastaars (turbans) and keep their unshorn hair and beards as part of their uniform, and also retain their other articles of faith.  "Based on a review of these standards and the specific facts of your case, I am granting your appeal to wear a beard, uncut hair and turban in keeping with the tenets of your faith," wrote Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, acting deputy chief of staff for Army Personnel, in a Dec. 1 letter to Rattan. "Your beard, uncut hair and turban will be neat and well maintained at all times."  The Army does allow personnel to request waivers for practices that may conflict with current Army regulations and policies and are considered on a case-by-case basis.  Considerations include the effect on the health, safety and welfare of all Soldiers; and the effect on order and discipline of the force. The Army decided in these two cases that the Sikh articles of faith would not affect unit readiness, individual readiness, unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety and/or health, according to Farrisee's letter.  Rattan completed the nine-week Basic Officer Leadership Course at Camp Bullis, Texas, March 19, and graduated with his class at Fort Sam Houston, March 22. He'll report to Fort Drum in upstate New York April 12 for an assignment as a dentist. Kalsi, who attended Rattan's graduation, begins the BOLC course in July, after completing an emergency medicine fellowship.  But the story behind Rattan's journey through the military Health Professions Scholarship Program and into the Army's corps of officers sheds light on a little-known change in Truman's promise that has virtually prevented an entire generation of Sikhs from serving in the United States armed forces.  Practicing Sikhs have served in the armed forces since World War I, and the 1984 ruling that effectively disallowed Sikhs to join was due to alleged health and safety hazard of their turban and uncut hair.  Aided by the Sikh Coalition, Kalsi and Rattan appealed the Army policy. They were joined by the Sikh Council on Research and Education, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and United Sikhs. Thousands of Sikhs and other supporters signed petitions on their behalf.  There are 25 million Sikhs worldwide, making it the fifth largest religion after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, and has been in existence for more than 500 years.  "History portrays Sikhs as warrior-saints and I believe that is what Sikhs are. That's what our life is all about," Rattan said. "It is what the Holy Book (the Sri Guru Granth Sahib) teaches us."  "There is a line in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib that translates to 'Good for all,' which means that all men are my brothers. If something happens to them, I must go and protect them," Rattan explained.  "That's what a lot of the Sikhs did after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They left their jobs - many were doctors and dentists - and went to ground zero and they helped. But people looked down upon them because they thought they looked like Muslims. That's something which I am here to remedy, and to educate and to serve."  Organizations like the Sikh Coalition, which has offices in New York and San Francisco, were founded in response to bias and prejudice against Sikhs in the aftermath of 9/11.  Many Sikhs have been misidentified as Muslim extremists because their dress is similar to those who follow Osama bin Laden, according to the United Sikhs Web site.  Many Sikhs have been harassed, assaulted, or even killed, said Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition's legal director. Sikhism bears no resemblance to fanatical Islamic sects, and Sikhs believe in the equality of all human beings, regardless of gender, religion, race, or social status, she said. Many Muslims have also been victimized in North America and Sikhs strongly denounce any violence or discrimination towards others of different faiths, she added.  "We absolutely applaud the Army's decision to grant the exceptions. We look forward to the day all Sikhs can serve their country without any exceptions for their articles of faith," Kaur said. "There have been instances of private and government law enforcement agencies justifying the refusal to hire Sikh applicants because the military didn't accept them."  "The exceptions are a step in the right direction. It's an indication that they are open to Sikhs to serve," she added. "The impact of this decision is huge. We hope we can turn things around and show that we're not second-class citizens."  Sikhs wear the articles of faith to unify and bind them to the beliefs of the religion and to remind them of their commitment to the gurus at all times, according to the Sikh Coalition Web site.  "Sikhs have served in the Army in World War I and II, in Korea and Vietnam with incredible distinction," Kaur said. "The articles of faith have never been an issue before. The principles of our religion are democracy and freedom, just like those of the United States."  Observant Sikhs have a long history of serving in armed forces throughout the world, according to the Sikh News Network Web site. During World War I, Bhagat Singh Thind was the only Sikh Soldier in the U.S. Army to serve in combat duty. More than 80,000 Sikh soldiers died fighting for the allied forces during the World Wars. Today, Sikhs serve in the militaries of India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria and the United Nations, among others.  While Rattan was in training, even instructors and classmates who were skeptical at first were won over by his drive and will to do his best.  "As a commander, I knew someone was coming to me with an exception. I was curious how it would fit with the standards of the regulation," said Capt. John Lopez, commander, Company A, 187th Medical Battalion. "From day one, Captain Rattan has been an ideal individual. He has spent hundreds of dollars in finding or creating headgear that conforms with his exception."  "He has done everything in his power to keep within the regulation, and I sometimes have a hard time getting other Soldiers to follow it," Lopez said. "Rattan is going leaps and bounds beyond what others have had to do to keep within the regulation. There have been other people here who have had to be counseled or threatened with being removed from the course to get them to comply."  "Officers should be the standard bearers for the regulation and the Army," Lopez added.  "When I first got to Camp Bullis, I was quite anxious, but I was looking forward to this experience," Rattan added. "This is actually very important for the Sikh community. The reason I am here is to serve, as well as educate. When my little kids grow up, if they want to serve in the Army, they can and they will have the safety to serve. Maybe my elders won't be assaulted when they walk down the street."  "I was not born in the United States, but it is my home and I am an American," said Rattan, who was born in Amritsar, the home of the Sikh's sacred Golden Temple in the Punjab state of India.  "Our country was built by people like me, from different parts of the world, from different races and religions. I hope my desire to serve in the U.S. Army shows my commitment to my country. I am willing to lay down my life for America. I ask only that my country respect my faith, an integral part of who I am. My turban and beard are not an option, they are an intrinsic part of me."  "I already have a responsibility to my faith and I have taken on this additional responsibility of being an Army officer," the 31-year-old captain added. "I get up at 3 a.m. every morning - while others are sleeping until 5 a.m. - to try and groom myself so the standards of the military are being met.  During the BOLC course, the captain was easily able to wear his Kevlar helmet over a custom-made Army Camouflage Uniform turban with rank insignia he had created and paid for himself.  Rattan also worked with an Army tailor to create a flash, or insignia patch, which is worn on Soldiers' berets, and could be attached to his usual black turban with Velcro.  "I was told there were two challenges to allow Sikhs in the military. The first was that we could not put the Kevlar helmet on our heads, which I do every day," the captain said. "The second thing was fitting the gas mask properly."  My uncle, who was in the Indian Army, said he had no problem with that while was engaged in jungle warfare. He said he put some Vaseline in his beard, which kept the ticks away, and it sealed every single time."  Rattan said there are many Sikhs who strongly desire a chance to serve in the military.  "I recently went to the San Antonio temple, which is called a gurdwara, and the kids gathered around me because I was in my uniform," he said. "They were curious to know, 'How did you do it? Why did you do it?'"  "Those kids wanted to do the same thing I did. They were curious, they wanted to see pictures, they wanted to see me dressed in my Army uniform, they wanted to see everything," Rattan said.  "That was a big motivation for me to come back and do the second week of training. These are not emotions talking, this is my goal. I would like to see a Sikh general someday in the U.S. armed forces.'"  "As soon as we have more and more Sikhs join the military, the citizens of this country will see us serving, they'll see us doing everything a Soldier does, and see our loyalty for this country," the captain said. "I think it'll improve over time as people get educated, ask questions. Information about Sikhs needs to trickle down to everyone, and by Sikhs being in the military and in other areas, we can do this."  Ending discrimination in the U.S. Army sends a message to all other employers, both private and public, that discrimination against Sikhs who maintain their articles of faith is not acceptable, said the Sikh Coalition.  Though Sikhs have approached several police and sheriff's departments for jobs, they are often told that if Sikhs cannot serve as U.S. Soldiers, they cannot serve as police officers either, the coalition said.  Most importantly, over the long term, the coalition added, equal participation of Sikhs in all of society's institutions, including the Army, will go a long way towards reducing the prejudice Sikhs often face in schools and on the streets.  "I've made a lot of friends here and this is home for me - home away from one home, which I definitely look forward to someday returning to," Rattan said. "I want to go to the Golden Temple since I was born near there, but the United States is my home."  "I am overjoyed to serve my country and work with my fellow Soldiers, and to have completed basic training," Rattan added.  "Most importantly, in preparation for my work as a Soldier, I was able to successfully complete all aspects of my initial training. I had an overwhelmingly positive experience. I am very thankful to the post command, Army leadership and my fellow Soldiers. I look forward to continuing to serve my country."  "During my several conversations with Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan I have found him to be professional, enthusiastic and dedicated to his profession - as an Army Dental Corps officer and a Soldier," said Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Russell Czerw, commanding general of Fort Sam Houston and the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Army Dental Corps. "I have no doubt of his passion for taking care of Soldiers and commend him for his desire to serve his country."  "I have the utmost confidence that Rattan, or someone like him, is going to go on to do great things, no matter where they go," Lopez said.  "The only struggle is that when some people get their first look, they are going to stereotype him. That is the good thing about having Rattan out there, to show that this is a proud individual, he knows what he is doing and he's doing a phenomenal job. I'd go to battle with him."

India And The Homemade Headache
April 1, 2010: The Indian Army was recently compelled to conduct a field test between the domestically designed (and largely rejected) Arjun tank, and the Russian T-90 (now considered the army's primary tank). Fourteen of each tank were used, and the results were classified. But journalists had no trouble getting unofficial reports that the Arjun managed to best the T-90 in tests of mobility, endurance and gunnery. This was unusual because, until now, the Arjun was considered an expensive and embarrassing failure. Development of the Arjun began in the 1980s, and until four years ago, the army had received only five of them, for evaluation purposes. The evaluation did not go well. Originally, the Arjun was to have replaced thousands of Russian tanks, but after so many delays, the army only reluctantly accepted 128 Arjuns (equipping the 140th Armored Brigade). If the new test reports are to be believed, there will be renewed pressure on the army to buy more Arjuns. This pits the Defense Ministry weapons development and procurement bureaucrats against the generals.  All this assumes that the Arjun has really fixed all the problems it was having with its electronics. In this case, it was the fire control system. But Arjun has also had problems with its engine, and that fact that its size and weight prevents it from being used with current tank transporters.  Meanwhile, last year, an Indian factory delivered the first ten (of a thousand) T-90 tanks to the Indian Army. The Russian designed armored vehicles are being built in India under license. Many of the components are Indian made, and some of the electronics are imported from Western suppliers. The Indian made T-90s cost about $3 million each. India has already bought 700 Russian made T-90 tanks, at a cost of $3.5 million each.  Four years ago, India adopted the Russian T-90 as its new main battle tank. By 2020, India will have 2,000 upgraded T-72s, over 1,500 T-90s, and few hundred other tanks (including a few Arjuns). This will be the most powerful armored force in Eurasia, unless China moves ahead with upgrades to its tank force. The border between China and India is high in the Himalayan mountains, which is not good tank country. India's tank force is mainly for use against Pakistan.  The T-90 is a highly evolved T-72. Originally, the T-90 was done as a fall-back design. The T-80 was supposed to be the successor to the T-72. But like the T-62 and T-64 before it, the T-80 didn't quite work out as planned. So the T-72, with a much improved turret and all manner of gadgets, was trotted out as the T-90. Weighting 47 tons, it's 23 feet long, 11 feet wide and 7.5 feet high. Same package, better contents. And with well trained crews, it can be deadly. The Arjun is a larger vehicle (59 tons, 34.9 feet long and 12.7 feet wide).

Awaiting orders
C. Raja Mohan Posted online: Thursday , Apr 01, 2010 at 0354 hrs As he takes charge of the Indian army, General Vijay Kumar Singh will find any number of challenges that demand urgent attention. But the first and foremost task of the new army chief is not difficult to discern. It is to restore the image of the army that has taken a battering in recent years amidst the many serious charges of corruption.  As the GOC-in-C of Eastern Command, General V.K. Singh squarely confronted a major scandal — the Sukna landscam case — and prevailed on the establishment to do the right thing. As chief, he must now initiate steps that will significantly dampen if not eliminate the sources of corruption in the Indian army.  To be sure, no institution can be immune to the larger trend of declining ethical standards around it. Yet there is a strong case for ensuring that the armed forces, responsible for the defence of the country, are as insulated as possible from negative trends in the rest of the nation.  As the ultimate instrument of protection for the republic from threats abroad and at home, the Indian army enjoys a very special respect and legitimacy. Delhi can’t afford to lose the people’s trust in the army. This in turn will require not only systemic reforms, that will take time to implement, but also immediate measures that can reinforce public confidence in the army and its leadership.  A second task for General Singh is to make the army an attractive career for young men and women. Unless it takes urgent and special steps, the army’s officer shortage, now said to be running at more than 11,000, will only grow. The traditional regional and social catchment areas of the Indian army officer corps have long since begun to dry up. The army must thus find ways to reach out to new sources. One possible approach might be to take the Sainik schools to regions and communities that have had little exposure to career possibilities with the army. By providing the opportunity to, as well as imparting the capability to, compete for positions in the armed forces, a targeted expansion of the Sainik school system could at once help spread the roots of the Indian army as well as make it an attractive vehicle of social mobility for many marginal sections of society.  A third task for the army leadership is to develop more effective ways of intervening in policy debates within the government and improving its outreach to the public. The tendency for the chiefs to make impromptu pronouncements to reporters and TV crews has landed some of Singh’s predecessors in political trouble.  Meanwhile, resentment within the army and the other armed services is mounting at the perennial short shrift they get from the civilian bureaucracy, where the capacity to manage the nation’s military appears to be eroding rapidly. The answer to this lies in the army improving its institutional capacity to frame policy issues, to engage other governmental agencies, and to better communicate with the public — rather than the occasional public venting by the chief.  The biggest challenge, however, is the urgency of rapid modernisation. It won’t be long before Singh finds himself as frustrated as his predecessors in the army and colleagues in the air force and the navy by the “masterly inactivity” that has now enveloped the defence ministry. So long as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are willing to tolerate the current drift in the ministry of defence, which returns year after year money meant for weapon purchases and undermines the efforts to build a modern defence industrial base, it would seem there is little anyone can do.  But it behoves the new army chief, after he reviews the state of affairs on the needs of the army, to point to the dangers to national security from further delays in the modernisation of the armed forces. Civilian primacy over the military in our democracy does not mean that the chiefs of our armed forces have to be mute in the face of persistent neglect of national defence by incompetent bureaucrats and indifferent ministers.  If he can make the army’s case calmly and in a sustained fashion, within the government and to the public, the new chief can make a huge difference to the national discourse on defence policy. And that surely is the least we should expect from the head of an institution that is among the oldest and the most professional the nation has had.

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