Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Saturday, 12 March 2011

From Today's Papers - 12 Mar 2011

Indo-US strategic dialogue deferred
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  New Delhi, March 11 The second India-US strategic dialogue, which was to be held in New Delhi in early April, has been postponed in view of the Assembly elections in India and the ongoing unrest in certain West-Asian and North-African nations.  The strategic dialogue was to be co-chaired by External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The first such dialogue was held in Washington last year.  “In view of the state elections in India and the ongoing developments in West Asia and North Africa, the two sides have decided to reschedule the strategic dialogue and will hold it at the earliest available opportunity,” the External Affairs Ministry said.  It is learnt that Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram had expressed their inability to participate in the dialogue as they would be busy with electioneering in their home states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, respectively.  The two countries will now decide the date for the strategic dialogue through mutual consultations.  The India-US strategic dialogue is a principal mechanism for advancing bilateral cooperation across the full spectrum of relationship and exchanging views on global and regional issues of mutual interest.  However, other important bilateral engagements between the two countries would go ahead as scheduled over the next few weeks. These include: the visit of Commerce Secretary to Washington DC later this month; meeting of the India-US joint working group on counter-terrorism on March 25 in New Delhi; meeting of the high technology cooperation group in India in May; and the India-US Higher Education Summit in June in Washington.  The first Homeland Security Dialogue and the meeting of the joint working group on space cooperation will also be scheduled in the coming weeks.

India test-fires 2 missiles, Pak 1
Shubhadeep Choudhury Tribune News Service  Prithvi-II Prithvi-II  Dhanush Dhanush  Bangalore, March 11 The two sub-continental rivals flexed their military muscles today with India test-firing two missiles against one fired by Pakistan.  Close on the heels of the success of the ballistic air defence missile system test on March 6, India kept up its fine performance in the arena of missile technology by successfully test-firing two nuclear-capable missiles today.  The homegrown nuclear-capable ballistic missiles Prithvi-II and its naval version Dhanush were test-fired from different locations off the Orissa coast, on a day when Pakistan too tested its nuclear-capable Hatf-II ballistic missile.  Prithvi-II was fired from complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Balasore district, about 230 km from Orissa capital Bhubaneswar, at 10.50 am. “The missile reached the designated target with accuracy of a few meters, which can be achieved by a very few missiles in the world,” a statement issued by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said.  Dhanush was launched at 10.03 am from the warship INS Suvarna anchored off the Orissa coast in the Bay of Bengal. “All the radars and Electro optical systems located along the coast have tracked the vehicle (Dhanush) and monitored all the parameters. A ship located near the impact point witnessed the final arrival. The flight test was perfect like a text book trajectory with the missile reaching the target point with a very high accuracy of less than a few meters,” the DRDO statement said.  The tests, carried out as part of training exercises of the armed forces, came a week after India successfully tested its ballistic missile interceptor on March 6 as part of its efforts to develop a shield against enemy missiles.  Prithvi-II, a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of 350 km, is a variant of the country’s first indigenously built ballistic missile. It is one of the five missiles being developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.  Dhanush, with a range of 350 km, is a single-stage ship-based missile with a 500 kg pay-load and capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

SAILORS in CAPTIVITY CCS discusses strategy; envoy raises issue at UNSC
Ashok Tuteja Tribune News Service  Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma comes out after attending the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security in Parliament on Friday. Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma comes out after attending the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security in Parliament on Friday. — PTI  New Delhi, March 11 The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) today decided to intensify diplomatic efforts to secure the safe release of 53 Indian sailors held hostage by Somali pirates even as India raised the issue at the UN Security Council (UNSC).  The CCS meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to set up an Inter Ministerial Group under the Cabinet Secretary to act as an apex forum to monitor early release of Indian ships or crew or cargo.  "The CCS met today and considered proposals with regard to conduct of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told Parliament later.  The CCS, he said, approved a series of measures which would be taken by the government to address the legal, administrative and operational aspects of combating piracy. A broad policy framework covering all these aspects was approved," he said, adding this would involve medium and long term actions to be taken by Ministries of Shipping, External Affairs and Defence.  The meeting decided to intensify diplomatic efforts through consultations with governments of Egypt and UAE where the owners of the vessels concerned reside, as also governments of other nationalities who were also being held hostage.  The government also decided to intensify diplomatic efforts at the multilateral level and within the UN framework.  The CCS also decided to formulate suitable standard operating procedures for the Indian Navy and coordination of its activities with its counterparts of friendly foreign countries in the Gulf of Aden, Krishna said.  On the Inter Ministerial Group, he said it would monitor early release of Indian ships and crew and consider welfare measures necessitated after the release of the captured Indian nationals.  The CCS expressed sympathy with the families of the hostages and decided that the government would take all appropriate actions to safeguard their welfare, Krishna said.  Meanwhile, addressing a UNSC meeting on strategy for realistaion of peace and security in Somalia, Indian Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri regretted that the world body had not addressed the issue of sailors taken hostage by pirates and their plight.  Referring to the 53 Indian sailors still in the custody of Somali pirates, he lamented the fact that the owners of the ships involved had not taken responsibility or displayed adequate interest in securing the release of the sailors. “The hostages are generally from working class backgrounds and often the only bread-winners of their families.’’  He called for more effective action by the international community to meet the challenge posed by the pirates.

Handling internal conflicts Avoid prolonged use of armed forces
by Gen V.P. Malik (retd)  Carl Von Clausewitz’s “remarkable trinity” is the capstone thesis of his book “On War”. This is interpreted by most theorists as comprising three important elements of the state: the people (“passions that are to be kindled in war must be inherent in the people”), the government (“political aims are the business of government”), and the military (“the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army”). These three elements and their relationship are the basis for armed forces’ operations. The trinity theory has highlighted the relationship between the people and the armed forces in the performance of the role by the latter.  Before World War II, despite trinity linkage, the armed forces maintained a certain aloofness (cantonment living) from civil society. There was strong attachment to military values and a clearly defined distance from civil society. With increased democratic polity of the states and ever-increasing transparency, the armed forces have got more and more integrated into the values and interests of democratic society. Wars are no longer fought by the armed forces alone. National security has become a wider, more relevant and acceptable concept. Questions are raised whenever the role and mission of the armed forces come into conflict with civil society.  There has also been self-awareness and a shift in the self-image. The armed forces have become conscious that while remaining capable of deterring and fighting an enemy, they must remain part of a larger community. The weapons of war are to be wielded against armed opponents; not against unarmed civilians, particularly co-citizens. This attitudinal transition is best explained by the neutral stance maintained by the Egyptian armed forces during the recent civil unrest in the country to oust President Hosni Mubarak.  There are some basic differences in fighting an enemy and when engaged in internal security and law and order situations. Serving and defending the nation is a strong conviction among soldiers. There is no such conviction when a soldier is involved in handling internal conflicts. The former is unidimensional in which “attack” is the best form of “defence”. The soldier’s mindset of being able to use unrestricted violence against an enemy goes through confusion when he is ordered to use force against unarmed civilians for a preferred non-violent “conflict resolution”. Public expressions of defiance like hunger-strikes, dharnas, marches and demonstrations by civilians cause acute discomfort because they run contrary to the essence of all that a soldier is taught: respect for civil society and obedience of lawful authority. There is a conflict between the larger civil society and a sub-system of the society whose identity is defined by martial honour. A soldier’s professional and social identities come into conflict. After the Operation Bluestar experience, the Indian Army succeeded in avoiding any role in the Ram Janmabhoomi conflict.  But it must be admitted that the above mentioned military attitudinal transition notwithstanding, there are many instances, including some in close neighbourhood, wherein the armed forces have intervened to take over the nation and governance on the pretext of saving it from political instability and anarchy (“defense of motherland” syndrome!). Such instances have occurred mostly where democratic institutions have not been established or have remained weak; the forces have been politicised, and/or involved repeatedly and for prolonged durations in internal conflicts. Once in power, military rulers have developed vested interests. They have misused military authority for governance and internal conflicts and not allowed democratic forces to flourish. There are several such examples in West Asia, North Africa and, closer home, in Pakistan and Myanmar. Internal conflicts in Sri Lanka and Nepal, too, have had some impact on their armed forces.  India has been fortunate in this respect. Our armed forces have not only fought gallantly on the battlefield but also consistently and impartially upheld India’s integrity and secular democratic traditions even when many other institutions have failed the nation. The armed forces enjoy their unique status in national life because they are uniquely isolated from politics. But such a situation cannot be taken for granted. It can get diluted if the armed forces are misused or deprived of their legitimate rights and status.  Let us focus on some ground realities and consequential adaptations which have been made in the strategy, doctrine, force structures and re-orientation of our armed forces for employment in internal conflicts.  With considerable experience behind us, we usually adopt a holistic strategy wherein political, economic, social, psychological and military aspects are given simultaneous attention. The aim of security operations is to arrest or eliminate hardcore militants and to deter their supporters. The rules of engagement are based on two forms of self-restraint: “discrimination and proportionality”. “Use of minimum force” principle is employed in all such operations. The forces fight militants and anti-social elements but also reassure innocent people feeling insecure or neglected due to the inadequate role of the civil administration. During sustained operations, the forces often form citizens’ committees to learn about their difficulties and hold meetings with them. Along with sustained operations, small and large-scale civic action programmes are undertaken. The Army launches projects like Operation Goodwill and Sadbhavna for this purpose.  No democratic nation can afford to give full licence to the armed forces to operate freely. Their responsibility, authority, legality and accountability have to be defined clearly.  In handling internal conflicts, armed forces have to uphold human rights. Terrorists and insurgents are under no such constraints. I have personally come across instances of terrorists taking shelter in and firing from religious places, hospitals, schools and colleges. There have also been cases where they have used women and children as shields to escape when cornered by security forces. False allegations to implicate security forces personnel in cases of molestations and rape are not uncommon. Then there is also the question of human rights and legal protection of the armed forces, ordered by the state to counter terrorism.  It is a complex situation, contrary to the conventional war-oriented military culture and training of the soldier, which requires constant explaining and asserting that as good citizens of the nation, we cannot afford to compromise on human rights. It needs to be recognised that in such operations where it is impossible to identify the difference between a friend and a foe and its stress, strain, and often deliberate provocations, aberrations cannot be ruled out. These aberrations have to be dealt with legally in a transparent manner as far as possible.  With experience, we have realised the need for specially organised, equipped, area-oriented forces to deal with insurgencies and terrorism. Rashtrya Rifles is one such force wherein Army personnel have been organised to deal with internal conflicts. These forces undertake training for local terrain, people, their language, customs and traditions. It must be admitted, however, that such conversions, orientation and re-conversions of soldiers affects the primary operational role of the Army, which is a substantial cost.  Based on personal experience, I would like to make two essential points on the employment of armed forces in internal conflict situations. First, military pressure alone and cannot resolve matters unless there is good governance and a strong thrust on socio-political and socio-economic issues. Political leadership and civil administration have to govern the states and the country with greater commitment and efficiency. Second, protracted and excessive employment of the armed forces leads to “Law of Diminishing Returns”. The reasons are (a) over-dependence on the Army reflects lack of trust and faith in the capability of the state and the Central armed police and the paramilitary forces; (b) after a while, locals start treating the Army as another police force; (c) such deployments and prolonged duties have an adverse impact on the Army’s discipline, morale and operational effectiveness. Abhorrent incidents of “fake encounters” can also be ascribed to this reason. (d) During a war or war-like situation, the Army needs public support (trinity linkage). It cannot afford to alienate the local population due to public inconveniences that go alongside such deployments.  I would like to state that although constitutionally required to help the states in internal security and maintenance of law and order, excessive and prolonged use of the armed forces in internal conflicts is neither good for the armed forces nor for the nation.

Army men selling arms won't get away: SC told
Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN | Mar 12, 2011, 03.13am IST NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has informed the Supreme Court that it has reopened cases against senior Army officers, who were let off lightly despite being blamed by a court of inquiry for illegal sale of their non-service weapons (NSPs) in the border districts of Rajasthan.  On a PIL by advocate Arvind Kumar Sharma, a bench comprising Justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar expressed concern about the prohibited bore weapons reaching terrorists as the firearms were sold illegally without any buyer verification.  On Friday, advocate Rajiv Nanda read out a portion of the ministry's affidavit promising that "adequate" punishment would be given to the Army officers found "blameworthy" by a 2008 court of inquiry (CoI).  The ministry said: "Keeping in view the findings and opinion of the court of inquiry and the seriousness of the violations and the relevant provisions of law, the violators have not been dealt with."  "It has been further instructed that subsequent allegations received regarding alleged involvement of senior Army officers in the illegal sale of weapons, which were not covered by the earlier CoI may be investigated," the ministry said. It had asked the Army on February 22 to review the matter on a time-bound basis considering all aspects of the case.  "The Army Headquarters has also been asked to review the procedures followed in the Army for permitting Army officers to import arms and ammunition while posted in Bhutan and for issue of NSP weapons from the Ordnance Depots to Army officers for personal use," the ministry said.  Last year, the Army's status report to the court admitted that 72 officers, including a serving Colonel and three Lt Colonels, posted in sensitive border districts of Rajasthan and in Indian Army Training Team at Bhutan were found involved in a illegal arms racket.  "A total of 72 officers and one JCO were blameworthy" in these cases, the Army had said quoting the 2008 CoI report.

Arjun set for formal induction into Army
TNN | Mar 12, 2011, 06.11am IST JAISALMER: The indigenously-built Arjun tank will be formally inducted into 75 Armoured Regiment on Saturday. A programme will be held where the Arjun tank will replace Tank-55.  South Zone's General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Lt General S.K.Singh will be chief guest. The delays and failures in its development from 1990 to 2000 prompted the Indian Army to order vast number of T-90 tanks from Russia to meet the defence needs.  The tank comes with a 120 mm main rifled gun with indigenously developed APFSDS ammunition, a 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun, and a 12.7 mm machine gun. It is powered by a single MTU multi-fuel diesel engine rated at 1,400 hp, and can achieve a maximum speed of 70 km/hr (43 mph) and a cross-country speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). It has a four-man crew: commander, gunner, loader and driver.  Automatic fire detection and suppression, and NBC protection systems are provided. All-round anti-tank warhead protection by the newly developed Kanchan armour is claimed to be much higher than available in present third generation tanks.  Earlier, in March 2010, the Arjun was pitted against the T-90 in comparative trials and performed well. Subsequently, the Army placed an order for an additional 124 tanks on May 17, 2010.

Unkept spectrum word upsets MoD
Rajat Pandit, TNN | Mar 12, 2011, 04.02am IST NEW DELHI: After the scams, another controversy is brewing on the spectrum front. The armed forces are hopping mad that the alternate pan-India communication network that was promised to them for vacating the spectrum two years ago remains a mere pipedream till now.  Matters have come to such a head that the defence ministry (MoD) has warned that the military will not vacate any more spectrum for civilian use, including commercial mobile telephony, if the telecom and finance ministries do not get cracking on the dedicated optical fibre cable (OFC)-based network for armed forces.  This came after Indian Air Force chief P V Naik, in his capacity as chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, wrote a strongly-worded letter to defence minister A K Antony last month, said sources.  Antony, in turn, raised the matter with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to make it clear that the department of telecom had miserably failed to meet any commitment as well as adhere to the timelines clearly chalked out in the MoU inked between the telecom ministry and MoD on May 22, 2009.  As per the MoU, the military was to progressively release 25 MHz of spectrum in the 3G band and 20 MHz in the 2G band, on which mobile operators were banking to expand their networks and subscriber bases. In return, the alternate OFC network would be built for them by DoT in a time-bound manner, with firm "timelines/triggers" at which the spectrum would be released.  But while MoD has already vacated 15 MHz of 2G and 15 MHz of 3G spectrum, whose auction led to a huge windfall for the government, the work on the 40,000-km OFC military network is yet to take off. "The telecom ministry has not even awarded the contract for laying the network, along with supply of associated hardware, which was supposed to have been done last year," said a source.  As per 'Project Kranti', the OFC network is to be built under the aegis of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd by December 2012 at a cost of Rs 9,175.16 crore approved by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure.  Of the 414 stations earmarked for it, 219 will be reserved for the Army, with the IAF and Navy dividing the rest. With the requisite encryption facilities, the network will be ``owned, operated and maintained" by the armed forces.  Spectrum has been a major bone of contention within the government, with the armed forces insisting that its allocation policies must take into account national security interests. Antony, in fact, had publically expressed dismay that the defence establishment was not consulted when the controversial S-band spectrum deal was inked between Isro's commercial arm Antrix and private firm Devas Multimedia. The S-band deal, of course, now stands scrapped.

US, India draw closer as defense planners, army chiefs meet
Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | Mar 11, 2011, 07.20pm IST WASHINGTON: Top men leading India's fighting arm and its defense policy engaged with their American counterparts here this week as New Delhi and Washington drew closer in a strategic clinch while trying not to alarm China and Pakistan, which are seen by the democratic duo as posing complex challenges in the neighborhood and beyond.  U.S and Indian officials were circumspect in describing low-key Defense Policy Group (DPG) meetings early in the week, an engagement that was closely followed by talks between the Indian Army Chief V K Singh and his U.S counterpart Gen. George Casey.  In a statement that was largely anodyne but contained much between the lines, they spoke of an "extensive discussion on further strengthening bilateral defense ties, under the auspices of the Defence Framework Agreement of 2005," an informal but controversial Bush-era pact that promised unprecedented strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi but had been sidelines in recent times.  The DPG meeting, the statement said, included "a policy-level dialogue on the global strategic and security situation," which also discussed the "multilateral security architecture in Asia and looked forward to continued cooperation in these organizations," – diplomatese for common U.S and Indian concerns about the fluid situation in the Gulf and Arab world, the Af-Pak imbroglio, Pakistan's slide into anarchy, and China's muscle-flexing.  The DPG meeting, the eleventh since U.S and India entered into an informal alliance -- more generally described as a partnership -- at the turn of the century, was co-chaired by India's Defense Secretary Pradeep Kumar and the U.S Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Michelle Flournoy. Kumar, accompanied by Ambassador Meera Shankar, also met Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Deputy Secretary of Defence William Lynn, as the two sides grappled with reaching common ground on a range of concerns in Asia and beyond.  The policy meetings were followed up by day-long talks between Army Chiefs Singh and Casey over lunch and dinner between ceremonial events, deliberations which a Pentagon spokesman described as "thoughtful and productive." Both sides have noted repeatedly they hold more joint military exercises with each other than with any other country, a practice that is becoming even more frequent with the increasing acquisition of American military hardware by India.  In fact, the DPG meeting, which is taking place under the overhang of tremendous U.S pressure on New Delhi to choose American fighter jets to augment its air force, referred to India's purchase of the C-130J heavylift aircraft, a deal that advances interoperability between the two sides. India recently deployed INS Jalashwa, an amphibious ship acquired from the U.S for evacuation of its national from Libya is a demonstration of its naval outreach, a capability which Washington is encouraging as part of its strategy to outsource some of its security concerns in the region stretching from the Gulf of Hormuz to Malacca Straits.  Because an overt expression of such cooperation might alarm China and Pakistan, both Washington and New Delhi are keeping it low-key, even as policy makers on both sides struggle with internal political dynamics. The strategic community in both countries is divided about the emerging clinch, although more and more American pundits are starting to see India as the go-to power in Asia because of the perceived threat from China and the collapse of Pakistan.  "India constitutes the logical hub for a new American alliance with Asian and Pacific nations to balance Beijing's growing military clout and to maintain stability in the region," analyst Steve Huntley, wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday. "Washington can't anticipate every foreign upheaval, but closer ties with India could prepare for what may be gathering storms on the other side of the world." Increasingly, many U.S commentators are expressing similar views.

Gen Singh meets American counterpart; discuss military ties
PTI Share  ·   print   ·   T+   Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh. File Photo The Hindu Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh. File Photo  Army Chief Gen V.K. Singh, who is currently visiting United States, had a “very thoughtful and productive” meeting with his American counterpart Gen George Casey, a Pentagon official said on Friday.  “As a matter of policy, we don’t provide the details of Gen Casey’s private discussions with his counterparts. But Gen Casey was pleased and honored to host Gen Singh here. The talks of the day were very thoughtful and productive,” said Lt Col Rich Spiegel, the spokesman of Gen Casey.  U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen Casey welcomed Gen Singh at a ceremony at Fort Myer following which the Indian General attended the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  Gen Casey hosted him for lunch at the Pentagon and again for the dinner at the night yesterday.  The two general were engaged in a series of meetings throughout the day during which they reviewed the relationship between the armies of the two countries and held discussions on a wide range of bilateral issues.  Gen Singh’s visit comes two years after former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had come to the US in 2009.  In the last five years, defence relations have been expanding between the two countries under the New Framework for U.S.-India Defence Relations.  The U.S. undertakes the highest number of joint exercises with India amongst all nations that includes the navy-to-navy Malabar and SALVEX, army-to-army Yudhabhyas and aerial ‘Cope-India’ exercises.

An ode to the Indian soldier
March 12, 2011   9:32:33 AM  Manvendra Singh  While India has chosen to forget the sacrifices of its soldiers in foreign land, Sri Lanka has erected a memorial in honour of the IPKF’s fallen heroes.  I was on the lookout for Harpal’s name. Like all those who knew him I too had been devastated by the loss of the Ropar Khalsa. He had that infectious persona. I had last seen him at his unit mess, during the 1987 cricket world cup. Even as the country partook in its cricket craze, there were those who didn’t have that luxury, as they were at war for India.  Harpal didn’t want to remain in the rear, looking after his unit ladies and children. An officer of 1 Para Commando, Harpal lost his life during Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka. His battalion, like countless others, had been part of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force that ended up fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam when they had gone to keep the calm in the island.  Nothing captured the irony and the idiocy of the situation more than an officer injured early in the fighting telling me later, “I was injured by the LTTE who were using arms and ammunition supplied by India, and saved by the Sri Lankan Army who had been supplied by the Pakistanis.” But it is not for the soldier to question political decisions, however bizarrely they may turn on their head.  A dear friend, Harpal had been the subject of the first article I had written about the IPKF in my early days as a journalist. It was on ode to Harpal, by name, and through him to all the others of the Indian Army who had fallen in a battle they had hardly prepared for.  So when I learnt of the memorial to soldiers of the IPKF, a visit there became inevitable. To bow my head, say a prayer, pay respect, and search for names that carried memories of fondness. And there it said — Capt H Singh PARA. Touching, and I was grateful.  Standing at the foot of the memorial I gazed in awe at its beauty and solemnity. Officers and jawans etched in perpetuity, white on black, and from across the country. There are Kashmiri names, just as there are Naga names. All casualties of a political decision to battle those they had gone to protect.  Every infantry regiment, and more, was recorded there. Tank men who volunteered for infantry duties, and didn’t come back to India are remembered for their valour. I saw the name of Col Chabra, whose son now dons the same uniform of the same battalion as he did while fighting for his country. It was humbling to stand before them, all together in memory, for posterity.  When the awe and pain of going through the names subsided, I couldn’t believe myself that there was, finally, a state inspired and funded war memorial to Indian soldiers. The fact that a Government-created memorial could be so beautifully made was as hard to believe as seeing one constructed in the first place. It is not a citizen’s initiative like, for example, the memorials in Chandigarh and Bangalore. It has been inspired by a national Government, funded and constructed by its agencies.  But, alas, in this case the state is not the Government of India, and the agencies that created it are not its PWD or MES. The credit is owed only to the Government of Sri Lanka, and the construction has been done entirely by the Sri Lankan Navy. And it has been done strikingly well.  Even as the Government of India resists the pressures of its soldiers and citizens to make a post-independence war memorial, Sri Lanka has recognised the significance of the Indian soldiers and sailors who died for its integrity from 1987 to 1990. The memorial has been made entirely from Sri Lankan funds, architectural consultants, and the contracting agency is the Sri Lanka Navy. Creditable when one considers the absence of any Government-made war memorial in India.  A plaque reads in English and Hindi: “This monument is dedicated to the members of the Indian Peace-Keeping Force who made the supreme sacrifice during the peace-keeping mission from 1987 to 1990 in Sri Lanka.” Another plaque says: “Indian Peace-Keeping Force — Valiant were their deeds; Undying be their memories.”  The IPKF memorial resides in the new capital of the country near Colombo, Sri Jayawardanepura Kotte. Past the Sri Lankan Parliament, the IPKF memorial is but a stone’s throw from the Sri Lankan national memorial for their own war heroes, rows upon rows of names etched in eternity. They fought to the bitter end with the LTTE, losing hundreds of brave soldiers in the process. And it is touching the level at which Sri Lanka values the contribution of the IPKF, for such is the pride of place which they have given to, and erected a memorial for, the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers.  I recall vividly the coincidence of dates in 1995. In the space of a few weeks there would be the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 30th anniversary of the 1965 India-Pakistan war. I remember formally asking the Ministry of Defence as to how India was going to mark the events, both of which cost precious Indian lives. A bureaucrat replied, without any trace of irony or humility for the dead, that India was a peaceful country and did not believe in marking events like wars. The classic ahimsa line.  I was aghast, especially since the British Government was taking all Indian Victoria Cross and George Cross winners to London for the big celebrations. And India was silent on its own contributions. That attitude persists even today.  India’s attitude towards its soldiers, sailors and airmen can be gauged from the fact that a black plaque bolted on the IPKF memorial remains unlettered, blank. The Prime Minister of India was meant to inaugurate the memorial and have his name etched on this plaque. The inauguration was put off on account of political sensitivities within India, so the plaque remains bare and black.  Votes and political alliances are more important in India than respecting the memories of those 1,200 soldiers and sailors who lost their lives on account of the follies their rulers. The bare black plaque stares back at visitors, conveying a message of ingratitude, insensitivity, and disrespect. As true a reflection of Indian attitudes to fallen soldiers as there can be.  In the meantime, Sri Lanka honours Indian soldiers and sailors just as well as they honour their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal