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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

From Today's Papers - 20 Apr 2011

The wind beneath his wings
by Roopinder Singh  The picture in The Tribune brought a lump in my throat. There was Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh DFC, and his two children, having just bid farewell to Teji Arjan Singh, MIAF’s wife and companion for 63 years, and whose soul had soared into the skies on April 15.  My mind went back to the time, a decade ago, when I had first visited the Kautilya Road residence of India’s only living Field Marshal. It was Teji who put me at ease, and made me feel relaxed enough to pursue the subject that had brought me to their door.  “What will you write about me, there’s not much to write about,” MIAF said when I told him that I wanted to write a book on his life. “Oh! There is much, just let me do it,” I replied. Eventually, he agreed to a series of interviews that laid the foundation of his first biography.  The person who helped me even more than him was the gracious and graceful lady, who had chronicled her husband’s journey in life with a thoroughness and meticulousness that showed her love for her man who had swept her off her feet and then made her his life partner.  Teji was born on October 22, 1930, in Sargodgha district of Punjab, now in Pakistan. Pretty, young and petite, she was still a student of Convent of Jesus and Mary in Delhi when, in 1943, she fell for the dashing Squadron Leader Arjan Singh who was visiting Delhi and staying in her father’s house.  They were married in Delhi, in the Janpath house of Sir Sobha Singh, on February 15, 1948. Twelve Harvard aircraft, flying in the formation “A” and “T” flew over the house in their honour, a gesture authorised by Air Marshal Elmhirst, the then Chief of Air Staff. The couple moved to Ambala Air Force station. Teji recalled how, as the CO’s wife, she was expected to give advice to other wives, who were otherwise elder to her.  The next year, Air Commodore Arjan Singh took over as Air Officer Commanding, Operational command and moved to Delhi, where they spent most of their life. That very year their daughter Amrita was born. Her brother Arvind followed three years later, and then came the youngest daughter Asha.  Known for her kindness and graciousness, Teji was the perfect host who put visitors at ease as soon as they entered her home, be it the Air House, an ambassadorial residence, a Raj Bhavan or the imposing Kautilya road residence.  She was, indeed, the wind beneath the Marshal of the Indian Air Force’s wings, his inspiration, his support. They worked together to achieve their goals. In 2004, MIAF Arjan Singh DFC sold off his farm near Delhi, and entrusted a corpus of Rs 2 crore to the “Marshal of the Air Force & Mrs Arjan Singh Trust” devoted to the welfare of retired Air Force personnel. When Teji asked him why he had put her name on it, he replied: “If you hadn’t agreed, how could I have done it?”

Bonanza for Army men deputed to BRO units
AFT restores counter-insurgency allowance Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, April 19 In a judgement that would benefit hundreds of army personnel deputed to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the Armed Forces Tribunal today restored the counter-insurgency (CI) allowance applicable to military personnel deployed in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the northeast.  While CI allowance was being paid to regular army troops and BRO cadre personnel, it was stopped in 2008 for army personnel on deputation to BRO, thereby placing them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis other personnel. Besides stopping the allowance, the government had also initiated recovery of allowance that was being paid to the deputees since 1994 as part of their emoluments.  Allowing a petition filed by several officers, a Bench comprising Justice N.P. Gupta and Lt Gen H.S. Panag also directed the government to refund the recovered amount with 10 per cent interest.  The allowance was discontinued for all army personnel posted in BRO units on the pretext of an audit objection that BRO units were not performing any operational role and that civilians posted in BRO units were not being paid any such allowance and hence it should not be paid to military personnel also.  The petitioners contended that when posted to BRO, their military allowances were protected under the BRO Regulations and that they faced the same risks as other army officers in the area. They had also pointed out that it was incorrect for the government to discriminate between officers posted to army units vis-à-vis those posted to BRO units when the bullets of terrorists made no such distinction between personnel deployed in trying conditions.  The petitioners had also contended that civilians in BRO were eligible for various schemes and allowances under their own rules.

Army personnel get gallantry awards
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, April 19 Rohtak boy Captain Deepak Sharma’s mother Indu Sharma received the ‘Kirti Chakra’, the second highest peacetime gallantry award of the country, from President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil here yesterday.  The award has been awarded posthumously to the dead captain. Captain Sharma had laid down his life while killing three Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militants in J&K in March last year. Born on July 3, 1983, in Rohtak, Captain Deepak Sharma was an engineer.  The President also conferred Shaurya Chakras on two other officers who laid down their lives during the attack on Indian officials at Kabul. The awards were for Major Deepak Yadav and Major Nitesh Roy. Besides, the President conferred two other Kirti Chakras and 16 Shaurya Chakras on the Armed forces personnel at a solemn ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Major Rahul Gurung and Captain Vikrant Ajit Deshmukh were the two others to be awarded Kirti Chakra. The President also conferred 13 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, two Uttam Yudh Seva Medals and 27 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals on other officers.

Ship near Mumbai dumped AK47s into sea: Sources
Mumbai:  Two soldiers who retired from the British Army have been detained along with six other crew members of a Danish ship that was intercepted for security reasons by the Indian Coast Guard.  Intelligence agencies on Sunday had warned the Coast Guard that there were two men who were on board the Danica Sunrise - a merchant vessel - with weapons that they intended to offload near the Mumbai coast. A ship from the maritime forces was deputed to search the Sunrise.  The crew - during interrogation - has reportedly admitted that they were carrying a stash of AK47s that they dumped in the water when they realised they were on the radar of the Indian Coast Guard. The guns, they say, were meant as protection against pirates.  A team of commandos is trying to locate the missing weapons.     Read more at:
After 26/11, when armed terrorists sailed into Mumbai, intelligence and security agencies are trying to leave little room for error as they monitor the coast near Mumbai.   Read more at:

NATO announces strikes against Gaddafi command sites
NATO's commander in chief for the operation in Libya today announced military strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's command centres, including Tripoli and a brigade accused of leading attacks on civilians.  "NATO conducted deliberate, multiple strikes against command and control facilities of the Gaddafi regime last night," the alliance said in a communique from its Brussels headquarters.
It said these strikes targeted "communications infrastructure used to coordinate attacks against civilians, and the headquarters of the 32nd Brigade located 10 kilometres south of Tripoli."  Libya's official news agency JANA reported earlier that NATO air strikes on Tuesday hit the Libyan capital Tripoli; Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's home town; and the town of Aziziyah, south of the capital.  Deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said these raids were carried out "at the request of the rebels who are preparing to carry out massacres in the region."  Early in the afternoon, AFP journalists in Tripoli reported at least one plane flying over the capital.  "NATO will continue its campaign to degrade the Gaddafi regime forces that are involved in the ongoing attacks on civilians," Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard added.

CRPF jawan killed in Naxal encounter in Gadchiroli
A Central Reserve Police Force jawan was killed and five other personnel were injured in a gunbattle with Naxals in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra [ Images ] on Tuesday, police said.  The encounter took place in the afternoon near Khobramendha jungles in Kurkheda area.  The deceased jawan was identified as Mahendra Singh. The injured were airlifted by a helicopter from the encounter site and brought to district headquarters in Gadchiroli from where they were shifted to Nagpur for treatment, police added.
Detained Danish crew confesses carrying firearms
The crew of the Danish ship MV Danica Sunrise, which was detained by the Indian security agencies on Sunday, has reportedly confessed that they were carrying dangerous and sophisticated firearms like AK-47 assault rifles and ship sinking pistols on-board. But the crew members threw the cache of firearms in the sea, after the Indian agencies started chasing them.  The ship and its crew members were apprehended and questioned by teams from several central intelligence, defence and security agencies. Post receiving an intelligence input that a ship carrying arms and ammunitions was moving towards the Mumbai coast and that it would offload at some landing point, a search was launched and Coast Guard (CG) officials diverted the CG ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan to look for the suspected ship.  With no idea about the name of the ship and names of just the two suspects the search was carried out on all the vessels off the Mumbai coast. The suspects were two crew members of the eight on the Danica Sunrise. They were retired Royal Army soldiers and worked on the ship as security guards.They have been identified as Christopher Johnson and Steven Michael. The duo was supposed to leave the ship on Tuesday and fly back to home to England but were not allowed to do so as the investigations were still on.  “The crew members have confessed that they had two AK-47 rifles and two ship drowning pistols when they started sailing from Egypt, they had bought the fire arms from the open market there and they had receipts for the same. They sailed from Egypt to Kuwait and then sailed towards India where they said they had decided to wait for a few days and get in touch with local agents to see if they could get them any cargo” said a senior coast guard officer.  He added, “An armed party of CG personnel are keeping an eye on the crew members and will not allow the vessel to sail till the investigations are complete. Earlier they had denied that they were carrying any firearms but later confessed. This led to suspicion and teams from various agencies like ATS, IB and defence are questioning them to know the same”.  Other than teams from the intelligence agencies, police and maritime security, a team of the elite commando force, the National Security Guards (NSG) with sniffer dogs has boarded the vessel to carry out checks on the kind of firearms, ammunitions or explosives that were stored on the ship. It is suspected that some firearms or explosives could still be on the vessel.

Indian Army to hold ''Vijaya Bhava'' exercises along Pak border
New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI) To practice its war-fighting concepts and doctrines, the Indian Army will hold a massive wargame codenamed 'Vijaya Bhava' along the Pakistan border in first week of May."The Division-level (around 15,000 troops) exercise would be held in the deserts of Western Rajasthan where the elements of the elite 2 Strike Corps and other formations will take part," Army sources said here.Sources said the exercise would be held "well inside" the border where all fighting arms of the Indian Army including the artillery, armoured columns including tanks and mechanised vehicles will take part.As part of war-fighting arrangements, the Indian Army has put its three Strike Corps, which are supposed to strike and enter enemy territories in case of war, under three different commands.The Army will evolve and practice battlefield tactics for different warfare scenarios for a conventional conflict with the adversaries.Defence Minister A K Antony will also visit the area of exercise in Rajasthan.In the aftermath of Operation Parakram in 2001, the Indian Army has evolved a doctrine which calls for a rapid and quite mobilisation of troops to the fronts from hinterland and continuous efforts have been made to cut the time taken for movement of formations.

The Army's right to its opinion
The top brass doesn't agree with the State government's plan to draw-down forces in the Kashmir valley. But should the military air its view publicly, and how does that impact policy-making, wonders Firdaus Ahmed. The right of the Army to voice an opinion has been defended by Minister of State for Defence, Pallam Raju. The background to his defence was Omar Abdullah's complaint to the Prime Minister on an Army press release of a day earlier. The press release indicated that the decision to remove certain bunkers from Srinagar did not have the Army's concurrence. "Though it appeared to be a well-considered decision, the latest incident has raised many questions. It may have pleased a few separatists and their handlers in Pakistan, but what about the common man in the Valley? Will the reduced security and visible absence of security forces raise uncertainties, fear and doubt in the minds of the population during the long winter ahead?" The Army Commander has since apologised for the offending press release saying it was unauthorised. The press release has been explained away as the 'personal predilections of a junior officer'. Yet, the Army being a highly centralised system, it is likely that the press release on a sensitive subject would have been vetted in the Command Headquarters Information Warfare section. The Army Commander, in tendering an apology to the Chief Minister, has apparently taken responsibility, as a good leader must, and there the matter could rest. However, does the contretemps have any ramifications? This case can be seen as part of the continuum of the Army's unease with the security implications of moves towards normalisation of the Valley. These initiatives include the reported dismantling of 20 bunkers, removal of 1000 CRPF jawans and contemplation of removal of the notification of disturbed areas from some parts in Srinagar. The latter was to presage the progressive withdrawal of the AFSPA from the Valley where the security situation made it feasible. The Army, understandably focused on the military dimension of the security situation, has apparently missed the larger gameplan unfolding. This is as per the eight-point formula of the Center to defuse the agitations that rocked the Valley over the summer. The formula had included sending interlocutors to further the peace process. The state government's efforts at drawing down the presence and visibility of security forces in Srinagar, is to enhance the levels of trust necessary to make the political plank work. The Army, understandably focused on the military dimension of the security situation, has apparently missed the larger gameplan unfolding. It has two aspects. One is wider regarding AFSPA as law. Deliberations in North and South Block have focused on diluting its less 'humane' parts by either reframing it or incorporating the legal cover the Army needs into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The Army Commander had earlier made his reservations on any dilution of the AFSPA, terming it a 'holy book'. The second is of local significance, relating to the security aspect of the draw down in Srinagar. The Army had been called out in July for the first time since early nineties in 'standby' in case the agitations in the run up to the foreign minister's meeting in Islamabad got out of hand. Such a situation would have placed the Army in a delicate position, that it no doubt apprehends in case control over Srinagar by the central police forces is diluted. With regard to the latter, the Army has the Corps Commander in Srinagar as the advisor to the Chief Minister in the Unified Headquarters looking after the Valley. His position, taken with approval of the next rung in hierarchy at Udhampur, has doubtless been taken on board in its decision making by the Chief Minister. In any case, Srinagar town does not have Army deployment and is the responsibility of the state police assisted by central police forces. The onus is therefore of the state, legally and structurally. Therefore, the apology was due. But it does indicate a major perspective in the military. Outside the small print is the fact that the Army Commander is due to retire at year end. He can therefore choose to go the extra distance in firming up the military position. Army Commanders in the Indian system have considerable stature and power. This has proven disruptive at times in J&K, since the Army Commander curiously does not figure as the security adviser, though corps commanders, reporting to him, do. That the Army has a right to an opinion is well understood. This enables it to perform its advisory function in a democracy. That it should voice its opinion is also useful - in providing access to its view for the attentive public. This helps make the democratic debate better informed. However, the question is whether it can voice it openly in a manner as to bring a policy and the policy-maker under cloud. Watchful commentators, such as AG Noorani and Srinath Raghavan, are of the opinion that the military's repeated assertion of its position is an attempt to expand its role. Such views are based on the recent publicly-voiced position of the military by multiple personages at different occasions against deployment in Central India and against reformulation of the AFSPA. The point these critics make is that this ties down the policy maker's hands, since the politicians who make policy are often short of wide political capital, and would not like to be pilloried for going against professional judgment if things go wrong. In the political process unfolding in the Valley, there is a need for calculated risks to be run to bring about a modicum of trust necessary for talks to proceed. Over a hundred youth have died in the summer agitations, and something substantive must be done to reverse this downward spiral. The slow and limited draw-down of visible security in Kashmir is part of this effort. The problem is that the Army is apparently not on board with this agenda. This is a structural deficiency and a political gap that needs to be filled. The state government which is taking the initiative, backed by North Block, has only limited oversight over the Army, since the latter reports up its channel to South Block. Compounding this, the top brass of the armed forces is skeptical of political processes in general. The Supreme Court judgment in the Nagaland Human Rights case against the AFSPA for the North East in 1997 had required that the armed forces maintain a relationship of 'cooperation' with the state when in 'aid to civil authority'. They are however outside the scope of authority of the state government. This means that the military is accountable neither to the state nor the Ministry of Home, responsible for internal security. It is instead accountable to the Raksha Mantri, who has no answerability for internal affairs. This divergence requires reconciling. In the interim the onus is on the military leadership to navigate the structural deficiencies of the system by better formulation and articulation of the military's institutional position. Firdaus Ahmed  

Army's war games in hot desert to begin in May
New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The Indian Army is gearing up for a major war game in the scorching Rajasthan desert, near the border with Pakistan, to keep the troops battle-ready, sources said Tuesday.  The prestigious Western Command headquartered at Chandimadir will lead the exercise, which army sources said would begin in the middle of May in the hot desert where the maximum temperature shoots up to 45-50 degrees Celsius in the summer.  The sources denied that the drill was directed against Pakistan. But it is likely that some 15,000 troops, engaged in the war game, would evolve battlefield tactics for a scenario if they come face-to-face in a conventional conflict with their counterparts across the border.  "These are routine exercises by different formations to keep the forces battle-ready," said a top source in the Army Headquarters here.  Ahead of the major exercise, Defence Minister A.K. Antony be visiting Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to review the operational readiness of the troops in the desert.  He will be visiting there in the first week of May.

‘Jaipur Maharaja cried for soldiers who died in 1965 war’
City-based businessman Shashikant Mehendale still remembers the 1966 Republic Day Parade at India Gate in New Delhi, when he saw Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh, the last Maharaja of Jaipur, who passed away on Saturday.  “Brig Singh was commanding the parade of 2 PARA (Maratha) Regiment, which also stood first in the parade,” said Mehedale, who is extremely passionate about defence.  Recalling the day, Mehendale said that despite being felicitated at the Republic Day Parade, Brig Singh had tears in his eyes.  Sharing the reason for his tears, Brig Singh said that he is crying for more than 60 soldiers who died fighting in Indo-Pak war of 1965. “Those words brought tears in the eyes of almost everyone present at the India Gate, including me,” remembers Mehendale.  Mehendale was so impressed by the army officer, that he tried meeting him personally after the parade but did not get permission due to security reasons.  Ads by Google  “Later also, while I was in Delhi, I tried meeting him but learnt that he is on a field posting and not in Delhi,” added Mehendale, who has read more than 2,000 books on military history. Infact, Mehendale is like a walking encyclopedia on the subject, be it the World War II or general knowledge on warfare.  “In the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Brig Bhawani Singh, then a Lt Col was heading 10 PARA (SF). The battalion, commanded by their leader infiltrated deep inside enemy region and for four days carried out raids on the posts of the enemies at Chachro and Virwah, said Mehendale.
Later he was awarded the Mahavir Chakra for the same valour, said Mehendale.  At the parade Mehendale saw the names of the regiments which fought in the World War I. That is when, the idea of building a similar war memorial in Pune struck to Mehendale, who was instrumental in setting up the war memorial.  “Of course, it took more than 25 years for the idea to turn into a reality,” says the 78-year-old, who was also the convenor of Friends of the War Memorial Committee.  One of the prominent landmarks of the city, The War Memorial at Morwada Gardens, was set up by the defence authorities with funds collected by the Express-Citizens’ War Memorial Committee from citizens, corporate companies, the State Government and also the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.

17 die in Tawang chopper crash - Technical snag blamed for mishap
Guwahati, April 19: Seventeen people, including two children and three crew members, were killed when a Pawan Hans helicopter crashed at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh this afternoon.  The helicopter, which was on a regular flight, had taken off from Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here at 12.50pm, before crashing at 1.55pm just outside the helipad located at an altitude of about 11,000 feet.  Pawan Hans officials here said there were 18 passengers on board, besides four crew members and an official — the pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, base manager and an engineer.  The co-pilot and the engineer were among the six survivors, who have been admitted to Tawang district hospital in a serious condition.  The operating manager of Pawan Hans here, Simanta Bijoy Deb, said a technical snag was suspected to have led to the crash of the helicopter.  “According to preliminary investigations, a technical snag caused the accident. The weather was good. Pawan Hans officials from New Delhi will carry out a detailed probe to ascertain the cause of the mishap.”  Officials said the Mi72 helicopter caught fire immediately after the crash, killing the 17 persons on the spot.  A rescue operation, mounted soon after, managed to bring out the survivors.  “I saw badly burnt bodies being dragged out while the injured were rushed to hospital,” a witness at Tawang airport told The Telegraph.  According to local residents, the tragedy could probably have been mitigated had there been a fire tender at the helipad, 7km from Tawang.  “The fire brigade is located at Tawang and by the time the fire tenders arrived, it was too late,” a resident said.  The victims have been identified as Anitha, A. Baruah, Tandon, Asif, R. Asif, Zahira, Z. Asif, Master Z. Asif, Arbind Sarma, A.K. Sarawgi, Nidhi Bothra, Col. Sharma, A.K. Tiwari (co-pilot), Dixit (flight attendant), Kulkarni (base manager), T. Moslala and Master Rishi.  The Tawang district administration has declared a holiday tomorrow to condole the deaths.  The survivors are Capt. Barun Gupta, flight engineer P.K. Chaturvedi, Dorjee Wangdi, Rajendra Pal, K. Sarawgi and W. Bothra. But alhough the passenger list mentions the name as W. Bothra, the family claimed he is Nishit Bothra.  The Centre-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd operates a flight to and from Guwahati and Tawang every day.  It was the first such mishap involving the service in its three years in operation.  The helicopter that crashed today has a capacity of 30 and can fly at a cruise speed of 220km per hour and has an endurance limit of two hours and 10 minutes.  In November last year, 11 Air Force personnel and an army lieutenant colonel were killed when an Air Force Mi-17 helicopter crashed at Tepsha village in the Bomdir area, about 6km from Tawang.  The chopper was on its way to Guwahati from Tawang when it crashed on a wooded hillock.  In June 2009, 13 defence personnel were killed when an aircraft — AN32 — crashed near Mechuka.  In 1997, then junior defence minister N.V.N. Somu and three army officers were killed in a helicopter crash near Tawang.  Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed a large number of air crashes since World War II, when the Allies lost many aircraft in the eastern Himalayan mountains.  The US defence department estimates that about 400 Allied airmen were killed in crashes, caused mainly by poor visibility, along the route.  The flight path over Arunachal Pradesh, used by American aircraft to ferry supplies to Chinese forces battling the invading Japanese, was nicknamed “the Hump” by the Allies.  Wrecks of some of the US aircraft are still found in the Arunachal mountains.

Gaya Army Centre closed
GAYA: After fluttering for 36 long years without a break, the flag of the Army Service Corps(N) was on Tuesday ceremoniously brought down and packed for being shifted to Bangalore signaling the closure of the Gaya Army Centre which has been moved to Bangalore.  Despite opposition from several quarters and rare unanimity among the Bihar politicians across the political divide on the issue of retention of this Centre, the defence ministry finally notified the shifting of the Centre to Bangalore in November 2010 and the shifting process began soon thereafter.  Army officials apparently became emotional during the function to ceremonially bring down the ASC(N) flag on Tuesday morning. "The love and affection of the Gaya people will always remain unforgettable," said a senior Army officer.  Expressing his unhappiness over the decision to shift the Centre from Gaya to Bangalore, former IMA chief and Sports Medicine Association of India national president Dr Farasat Hussain said that the Centre will always be remembered for bringing qualitative change in the infamous Gaya climate.  By planting and maintaining thousands of trees, this Centre has been instrumental in tempering Gaya summer.  On the social service front too, the ASC(N) adopted villages and joined the civilian population in the revival and restoration of water recharge sources, including old ponds, he said.

Army chief’s age in way of succession plan
Two different dates of birth (DoB) in the official records of the army chief Gen VK Singh have returned to haunt him and could send the succession map of the world’s second largest army into disarray. The controversy on whether Gen Singh was born on May 10, 1950 or a year later has to be settled by the defence ministry.  A top defence ministry official said, “It’s a sensitive issue with huge implications for the army’s top hierarchy. We have to weigh in all pros and cons before taking a call.”  The issue surfaced in May 2006 when the Military Secretary’s branch detected two different DoBs for Singh in its official records. The army chief had been maintaining his DoB as May 10, 1951, in his confidential reports and service record — contrary to the DoB shown in other official documents.
The then military secretary, Lt Gen Richard Khare, asked Singh in a letter dated May 3, 2006, “to reflect the correct date of birth, which is May 10, 1950” in his records.  The case had been shut in 2008 following a written commitment made by Singh accepting the 1950 date. But it was reopened after he took over as chief following a Right to Information (RTI) query, and on the army’s reference the defence ministry sought the law ministry’s opinion.  The legal opinion accepted Singh’s birth date as May 10, 1951, contradicting army rules that say that change in DoB must be made within two years of joining service. Singh said he received his school-leaving certificate with 1951 as his year of birth from the Rajasthan Education Board in 1971, which he then submitted.  If the defence ministry accepts this legal opinion, Singh would retire in March 2013 instead of May 2012, giving him 10 more months as army chief.  However, HT has found that the law ministry has overlooked at least four different documents — in the possession of this newspaper — that show him a year older. Among them is a reiteration of a commitment made by Singh in 2008 accepting May 10, 1950, as his DoB to the then army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor.  “I have learnt of some misgivings and doubts being raised on my commitment given on my date of birth (May 10, 1950) as per your directions… I once again reiterate that my commitment to you stands,” Singh wrote to Gen Kapoor. This letter was sent to the defence ministry after which Singh’s case was processed for being appointed as army commander.  The law ministry in its opinion dated February 14 stated that the May 10, 1950 entry appears only in Singh’s NDA form. It also supposes that the form was filled out by “somebody else than the applicant”.  But the documents accessed by HT show that Singh’s application form for admission to the National Defence Academy, the Indian Military Academy dossier, the Army List and Recruiting Branch particulars verified by the Intelligence Bureau all list his DoB as May 10, 1950. The law ministry’s opinion is based only entirely on records that show Singh younger.  The controversy arose in May 2006 when the Military Secretary’s branch detected two different DoBs for Singh in its official records. The army chief had been maintaining his DoB as May 10, 1951, in his confidential reports and service record --- contrary to the DoB shown in other official documents.  The then military secretary, Lt Gen Richard Khare, asked Singh in a letter dated May 3, 2006, “to reflect the correct date of birth, which is May 10, 1950” in his records. Sticking to his claim,  “The date given in the UPSC form was filled as per details given by the school clerk and the same was subsequently maintained till the original certificate was received. In the absence of the original certificate the error made due to what the clerk gave continued,” Singh wrote back to Khare.  He also claimed that he tried to get his DoB corrected in 1985 and 2002 as per records maintained by the Adjutant General’s branch. The MS branch informed Singh in August 2006 that army rules did not allow any corrections after two years of joining service and his case could not be processed at such a belated stage.  Singh brought up the issue again in 2007. He got no relief again. The then military secretary Lt Gen PR Gangadharan, stated in a confidential letter dated December 20, 2007, that “as per available records the officer (Singh) had not taken up any case for correction of his DoB prior to intimation by the MS branch in May 2006.”  Like his predecessor Gen Khare, Gangadharan recommended that Singh’s DoB should be considered to be May 10, 1950, for the purpose of promotion and retirement. He argued that any correction would be legally unsustainable and would give rise to similar claims by others.  Singh, however, kept seeking clarifications on the DoB issue from the MS branch in 2009 until he was reminded of his commitment, which he promised to honour.

India Orders Eight Minesweepers from South Korea; Goa Shipyard Limited to Build Six
2011-04-18 India is all set to place an order with a South Korean shipyard for building eight minesweepers for its navy in its quest to overhaul its existing fleet of such specialized warships, defence ministry sources say.  The ministry has zeroed in on Pusan-based Kangnam Corporation as the lowest bidder that is technically qualified to execute the order for which Italian firm Inter-marine was among the shortlisted companies. "The defence ministry has initiated cost negotiations with Kangnam Corporation that is expected to be completed in a month or two, when the order will be finally placed," a senior defence ministry official told IANS.  Though the final price is yet to be fixed, it is likely to be in the region of Rs.3,000 crore ($670 million) for each of the eight warships, defence ministry sources have indicated.  As per the tenders for the Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMV), Kangnam will be asked to build the first two warships, following which Goa Shipyard Limited will be commissioned to build the rest six minesweepers under licensed technology transfer.  Minesweepers are specialised warships capable of detonating sea mines.  These eight vessels will be capable of playing the roles of both minesweepers and minehunters and hence will lie somewhere in between the two in terms of its capabilities, the official said.  The contract, which was originally scheduled for signing this month, got delayed as the Kangnam's competitors went to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against its selection.  But after the defence ministry and the navy explained the rationality of Kangnam's selection as the lowest bidder to the CVC, the matter was settled and the cost negotiations are now progressing well, he added.  The navy currently operates 12 minesweepers of the Pondicherry/Karwar class that are equally divided between the two operational Mumbai-based Western Naval Command and Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command for deployment.  The Pondicherry/Karwar class of warships, built in the 1970s and 1980s, are fast approaching obsolescence and need to be replaced within this decade.  Kangnam will deliver the first two MCMVs by 2016 and Goa Shipyard Limited will complete its side of the contract by 2018.  The navy is also considering buying two used Osprey-class minesweepers from the US that were decommissioned by the US Navy in 2007. The US Congress has already cleared the prospective sale of these two vessels to friendly countries.  The Obama administration had in 2010 offered these two minesweepers to India, which had expressed its interest in acquiring them in April 2005.

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