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Saturday, 11 December 2010

From Today's Papers - 10 Dec 2010

The cancer of corruption Army must be above reproach  Corruption is often viewed as a way of life in India. But India’s apolitical, disciplined and professional Army has enjoyed a relatively clean image — at least until recently — when compared to most other government institutions and departments. Till about a decade ago, financial irregularities and other kinds of corruption were mostly considered a preserve of branches such as the Army Service Corps, the Army Ordnance Corps and the Military Engineering Service where the opportunity to make money is considered high.  The last decade, however, has witnessed a considerable number of cases of not just financial corruption, but also moral and professional impropriety across even combat arms. Most disconcertingly, a number of General-rank officers, too, have figured in such incidents, thereby sullying the image of an otherwise overstretched Army. The latest in a long list of incidents is a censure for sexual misconduct accorded to a Lt-General, a former Engineer-in-Chief, who is one of the Army Chief’s eight principal staff officers. Earlier this decade, the Leh-based XIV Corps Commander (a Lt-General) was asked to resign for his alleged involvement with another officer’s wife followed by a Division Commander (a Maj-Gen), also posted in Ladakh, being dismissed for sexual misconduct with a junior lady officer. That this is just the tip of the iceberg is evident from the Army’s reply to an RTI activist who sought information on Brigadier and above rank officers facing allegations of corruption. The Army stated that the information sought was so “voluminous in nature” that compiling it would “disproportionately divert their time and resources”. Indeed, several senior Army officers, including General-rank officers, have been caught selling military liquor, fudging encounters with terrorists and Pakistani soldiers, illegally transferring Army land to a private developer, and even manhandling and locking up CBI officials.  An admission to the rot prevailing in a section of the officer cadre was made by the present Army Chief who, soon after assuming command in April, cautioned that until the Army’s internal health was not up to the mark, “we won’t be able to take good care of external challenges”. This is not to say that the entire Army can or should be labelled corrupt. But it is in the interest of both the nation and the armed forces that military officers must always be above reproach. This will also be in the interest of professionalism, propriety and command. There is simply too much at stake.

An hour with Sam Manekshaw by Ved Prakash Gupta  I came across an advertisement in a newspaper, immediately after the demise of legendary Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw by his daughters Sherry and Maja requesting everyone to share with them any anecdote or experience that they have had with their father. I meant to write but never got around to doing it. A few days ago, while cleaning one of my desk drawers, I came across this neatly filed cutting of the advertisement and it brought with it memories of that magical chance encounter with Sam in Shimla many moons ago.  On one crisp winter evening, my wife and I were enjoying a casual chat with our friend Shailender Nigam and his wife Usha over coffee in a hotel lobby. A gentle tap on my shoulder distracted me and there he stood, our charming intruder, Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw. Before we could say a word, he requested with a naughty but pious smile, “May I sit between the two ladies?”, pointing at the gap on the sofa between Usha and my wife. In one simple sentence he had the women eating out of his hands!  Comfortably flanked by the two ladies, his verve and enthusiasm lifted the spirits instantaneously. He held fort and we listened like eager school children devouring every word that came out of his mouth. Out of the many tales he regaled us with I would like to share one with you.  During the course of the conversation, I asked him, “Who was the best Defence Minister you worked with?” Pat came Sam’s reply, “Late Babu Jagjivan Ram”. He remembered affectionately that Babuji could never pronounce his name correctly and, instead of Sam, he used to call him Shaam. He went on to describe Babuji as a brilliant, shrewd and calm Defence Minister, all of the qualities that made him admirable. I was hungry for anecdotes. With a characteristic twinkle in his eye and in his inimitable style, he reminisced.  He had once received a call on his hotline from Babuji requesting him to help an officer to pick up rank as Major-General. Sam politely replied that he does not interfere in such matters. A few months later Babuji invited Sam for coffee, “Shaam caffi khane aavo” (Sam join me for a cup of coffee). Over coffee Babuji requested Sam to help a Colonel in picking up the next rank. Again Sam politely reiterated his stand and said that he never interfered in such matters. Exasperated, Babuji asked him, “Shaam, kya aap kabhi bhi kissi ki sifaarish nahin sunta”. (Sam don’t you ever entertain these requests?).  Sam told Babuji that there are only two exceptions to this rule, either the person being recommended deserves it or when the recommendation comes straight from his girlfriend.  “Shaam yeh bhi kuch aisa hi case hai” (This case also falls in the category of the exceptions to the rule), the radiant Babuji whispered in Sam’s ear. Stumped by his wit, Sam knew that Babuji had turned the tables on him. Babuji smiled triumphantly as he finished his coffee.  Our encounter with Sam, the first and unfortunately the last, stayed in our memories for his ebullience and candour. It is no wonder really that he lives on in the memory of the entire country and a fond smile appears on anyone’s face who has ever been privileged with spending any time with him.

Army, corporator fight over 'encroached' land  Hemanth CS, DNA, Updated: December 09, 2010 15:40 IST ad_title  Bangalore:  The Indian Army not only has to deal with incursions on the borders but also with alleged encroachment of its lands within cities where their bases are located.  The Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC) in Bangalore is one such. A local corporator has allegedly not just encroached upon its land in two separate locations adjoining HD Deve Gowda Road in RT Nagar, but also built a commercial complex and a petrol bunk there.  Documents with the PRTC officials show that a total of 27.87 guntas of land has been allegedly encroached upon by JC Nagar corporator N Govindaraju (of ward no 46).  Govindaraju claims the land is his ancestral property and insists that he is in possession of the PRTC land which had been handed over to the Central government by the Mysore State after it merged with the Indian Union in the 1950s.      * Share this on     * NDTVTwitter     * NDTVNDTV Social     * Share with MessengerLive Messenger     * NDTVGmail Buzz     * NDTVPrint   "The Mysore State Force handed over 613 acres and 33 guntas of land to the government of India after the state's merger. This land which was used by the Mysore Lancers and the Mysore Infantry and given to Ministry of Defence in 1955. But over the years small portions of our lands have been encroached upon," a senior official of the PRTC told DNA.  The encroached land on which the petrol pump and commercial complex have come up fall under survey no 42 of Matadahalli and survey no 1 of Saverline villages.  The PRTC had got a survey conducted in August this year, which revealed that a petrol pump had come up on 11.43 guntas of land and that the land belongs to the defence and has been encroached. Similarly, the survey states that there is an encroachment of 16.44 guntas in survey no 42 which also belongs to the defence, where the commercial complex has come up.  But Govindaraju has refuted the claims of PRTC. He told DNA that the disputed land is his ancestral property and that the Army authorities were using unfair means to grab the land.  "The land records and sale deeds indicate that the property is owned by my family. Besides, we have been paying property tax year after year. The Army's allegations are baseless and this was proved in the court," Govindaraju said.  He pointed out that two FIRs have already been filed against the Army after its personnel threatened to take over the land.  At present, there is a one-year injunction in the high court ordering a status quo on the situation, which means that the court has not ruled in favour of either party.

India tests Agni-I – all set for further missile tests news        25 November 2010                                  Bhubaneswar: India on Thursday successfully tested its nuclear capable, surface-to-surface, Agni I missile from a test range in Orissa. The missile, which has a range of 700 km, was tested as part of ongoing user-trials by the Strategic Command of the Indian Army from the permanent test facilities located at Wheeler Island, about 200 km from here, defence sources said.  Agni-IOriginally designed with a range of 700 km, the current test apparently will see the Agni-I fly over an extended range. Though nothing has been said, it is very likely that a special coating developed by Indian scientists, which reduces the friction and resultant drag upon missiles re-entering the atmosphere, may have been applied to the missile.   Weighing 12 tonnes, the 15 metre tall Agni-1 can carry payloads weighing up to one tonne. The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile is powered by solid propellants. The missile can carry a one ton nuclear payload to most targets in Pakistan without having to be deployed at the borders.  This last factor makes it less vulnerable to counter-strikes as compared to the Prithvi series of surface-to-surface missiles, which have a maximum range of 350km.  Agni-I incorporates new guidance and control systems and there are also significant improvements in its re-entry technology and manoeuvrability.  The Agni-1 is both road and rail mobile.

Indian plan to deter Pakistan more myth than reality SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A strategy developed by the Indian military to fight a lightning and limited war with Pakistan without crossing nuclear red lines has stirred concern across the border and in the United States, but the plan is years, if not decades away from battle readiness.  Cold Start involves the deployment of battle groups inside Pakistan within 72 hours of a Mumbai-style attack to carry out a punitive operation without threatening the survival of the Pakistani state and triggering a nuclear confrontation.  It flows from the Indian government's slow-footed response to an attack on parliament in 2001, which was also traced back to Pakistani militant groups, when it took months for the large, lumbering army to deploy on the borders.  By then, the element of surprise was long gone, and Delhi had come under intense international pressure to climb down.  Pakistan says the Indian battle plan is at the heart of its refusal to move forces away from the Indian border to fight militants on the Afghan borderlands, hindering the U.S. war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.  It has drawn concern in the Pentagon too, which worries about any disruption of its long supply line for troops in Afghanistan that runs through Pakistan.  But as the U.S. ambassador to Delhi said in secret cables published by Wikileaks and corroborated by independent military experts, the Indian army's Cold Start doctrine is a mixture of myth and reality.  The military has neither the manoeuvrability or the firepower to rapidly deploy and fight the air and land battle envisaged in the strategy, and it is not even clear whether the civilian authorities have signed off on the plan.  Above all, the idea that you can fight a conventional war without risking a nuclear confrontation between two neighbours with a troubled history for more than 60 years is a vast gamble, say military analysts.  "It has never been and may never be put to use on a battlefield because of substantial and serious resource constraints, but it is a developed operational attack plan announced in 2004 and intended to be taken off the shelf and implemented within a 72-hour period during a crisis," Ambassador Tim Roemer wrote in a February 2010 cable.
 Indeed, as Roemer notes, if the Indian government really intended to implement Cold Start and thus risk "rolling the nuclear dice", the Mumbai attacks were an opportunity.  "First, the GOI (government of India) refrained from implementing Cold Start even after an attack as audacious and bloody as the Mumbai attack, which calls into serious question the GOI's willingness to actually adopt the Cold Start option."  Roemer also questioned Pakistan's sincerity in drumming up fears over the Indian military plan, saying it had failed to deter Pakistani mischief inside India even though they had known its existence since 2004.  On Tuesday, a bomb went off in Varanasi, killing a child and wounding several Hindu worshippers, an attack that reinforced concerns that India remained vulnerable, and that ties with Pakistan could quickly unravel if acts of violence were linked to militants based there.  Pakistan has warned that the Indian battleplan further de-stabilised regional security, and that it would take measures to counter the strategy. Retired Pakistani army general Talat Masood said it was a fallacy to think the two countries could fight a limited war without the risk of escalation.  "So the potential of a nuclear conflict as a result of Cold Start doctrine is very much a possibility and surely, it will result in escalation to the conventional level," he said.  OPERATIONAL PLAN  But there is no denying that the Cold Start plan exists in some form and there are proponents in the Indian security establishment who think they can fight a limited war without crossing Pakistan's nuclear threshold.  "I would say that Cold Start is in the experimental state of development, having moved beyond pure speculation but more than a decade or two away from full implementation," said Walter Ladwig, a South Asia security affairs expert at Oxford University who has written a seminal paper on Cold Start.  Ladwig said the army had yet to organise itself into integrated battle groups envisaged under the plan and the tank corps are not fully operational.  Only 20 percent of armoured vehicles had night vision capabilities and the artillery had less than 10 percent of the self-propelled guns that ground forces would require for a rapid thrust across the border.  The army also did not have enough attack helicopters and the transport helicopters that it had could barely lift 15 percent of the troops and armour required for such an operation.  Pakistan was well aware of the shortcomings of the Indian army and for all its protests over the plan, it was not as concerned as made out to be, Ladwig said.  "What it has done is handed Islamabad and Rawalpindi a propaganda coup," Ladwig said.  "Although Cold Start is explicitly a response to Pakistan's support for terrorism, leaders in Islamabad have managed to portray India's pursuit of a limited war capability as evidence of New Delhi's 'hostile intent' and 'hegemonic' designs that will 'destabilize the regional balance'."  Retired Indian army brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal who heads the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi says the doctrine was essentially an attempt to address the problem of mobilisation of the 1.1 million-strong army. It is also aimed at taking the battle into Pakistan.  "It is essentially a pro-active deterrence strategy with the clear implication that the Indian armed forces will take the initiative and the next war in the plains will be fought in the adversary's territory," he said.

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