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Saturday, 7 May 2011

From Today's Papers - 07 May 2011

Synergising the drivers
The story of Indian defence technology is one of unexpected miracles and unacceptable failures. Indian defence technology is at the crossroads today, with each of the stakeholders and its drivers wanting to take a different road resulting in an impasse. The answer lies in an Indian military industrial commission that would visualise, coordinate and synergise all efforts of military, research and industrial establishments Vice Admiral Venkat Bharathan & Brig (Dr) Arun Saghal   A Russian-made T-90 tank on parade during Army Day. The post-Independence policy of non-alignment coupled with inadequate indigenous defence technology has resulted in a peculiar situation, with the Indian military remaining a British clone, mostly using Russian equipment with Western doctrines in South Asian terrain  The philosophy of approach in Military technology is based on the concept of purpose, vision of intent, potency in performance and relevancy in role, together with effectiveness in execution and purposeful in performance. Sixty years down the line and four wars in our fledgling democratic history, the story of defence technology is one of unexpected miracles and unacceptable failures. Indian defence technology is at the cross roads today.  There are four roads for us to take. These are:  l The Import Highway  l The Indigenous Route  l The Private Path  l The Nowhere Road  In our context, the technology omnibus has five concurrent drivers, which include:  l The Indian Military  l The DRDO & DPSUs  l The Private Sector  l The Political leadership  l The People of India  Of the first three, each want to take a different road. Each one is correct and each one is wrong. The fourth diver lacks understanding while the fifth is passive and perhaps indifferent. Since no consensus is emanating, the omnibus has driven itself mostly to the fourth road.  The most important aspect of this impasse is that the import highway is used by outsiders as a quick fix to show their advanced technology hardware much to the relief and delight of the operationally hard-pressed military concerned about its dwindling operational preparedness. It naturally wants to induct equipment within an acceptable time frame so that it would serve them optimally.  The Indian (indigenous) route is slowly gaining in traction and progressively finding its niche, thanks to the persistence of the government that has sensed the wisdom of allowing the import highway and Indian route to coexist in the interim.  The private path has just begun to be paved, remains dependent upon on both the military and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Defence Public Sector Undertaings (DPSUs). Increased participation with greater access to technology is key to Indianisation.  The “Nowhere road” is an illusion. It looks real and good close at hand, but is actually a shimmering mirage. Our country had no choice but to be on this road. Post-Independence, India chose to be non-aligned. The West shunned us and ensured that even Great Britain did not pass on any military technology. If we missed the industrial revolution in the distant past, we missed the technological evolution of the late 19th and early 20th century. Compounding this is the ironic reality of the Indian political leadership’s approach of separating foreign and security policy. Consequently, development of defence technology remained far removed from the politico-bureaucratic-military mind.  Resultantly, the Indian military remained a British clone, mostly using Russian equipment, with western doctrines in South Asian terrain -- an enigma to itself and the world.  Establishment of indigenous research and development (R&D) facilities in terms of DRDO has the embryonic flaw of being hierarchical, with seniority taking priority over talent and innovation. The promotion structure, the pulls and pushes of the annual confidential reports, often result in the sacrifice of true R&D. The armed forces are also obtuse in their appreciation of what military technology development entail. Most ironically, the concept of tasking DRDO to develop a felt need or upgrade an existing system was rarely contemplated.  THE STATE OF INDIANISATION & INDIGENISATION  Indianisation means converting all equipment to meet our specific military needs. In this there has been considerable achievement as proven in the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the 1999 Kargil conflict. The use of missile boats, MIG 21s, armour and weapons is testimony to our innovative adaptation of equipment. Indigenisation means building at home complete systems or parts thereof. Here too, we have several achievements in terms of graduating from assembling knocked-down kits to building systems from scratch. All these have been part of a big trial and error process. The services too have set up considerable technology infrastructure -- base repair depots, EME workshops, naval dockyards for operational maintenance and repair.  In a nutshell we have Indianised well, indigenised satisfactorily. Herein comes our latent and potent skill euphemistically called “Jugard” and often laughed at. A serious look at our five “Is” of Indianisation, Indigenisation, Innovation, Industrialisation and Integration reveals as to how we have built ourselves from nothing to something sustainable and very recognizable. We are capable of becoming, “Indian” in terms self-reliance across the spectrum of a conflict scenario. It entails the politico-bureaucratic-military-DRDO-industrial leadership to grasp that self-reliance is not a cliché but a caveat that needs to believed and obeyed. It must openly acknowledge that, complete dependence on outsiders is actually deterrence across the spectrum of development, security, economic health and strategic confidence of ‘Bharat’. Yet it must also recognize the prudence of interdependence on advanced technological sources to achieve successful leapfrog results in our security and military preparedness.  What prevents us from achieving this are some macro realities; The Indian psyche, of grossly exaggerating our achievements, glossing over screw driver technology successes, ultra-sensitiveness to criticism over failure and reluctance to work together in synergy remains burden of our mindset. The way the higher defence decision structure is designed is sub-optimal in function, output and result. The concept of stakeholder/customer satisfaction as an important accountable imperative is virtually absent. Lack of ownership approach by the armed forces too is a militating factor. Notable examples are the LCA, the MBT Arjun, Dhruv helicopter among the many. In all these, the military virtually took a hands-off approach wanting the DRDO/DPSU to hand them a readymade product that they would then examine for failure!  THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION  The dynamics of defence technology is complex. It needs a simple strategy of didactics, direction, determination and drive through the aegis of a Military Industrial Commission (MIC). The. MIC charter has to be inclusive and participative. This could be set up from existing entities like CII, FICCI, DRDO, DPSUs, armed forces, CSIR, NRSA, ISRO, private and public sector companies. The Defense Acquisition Council, the Director General Acquisition and the service chiefs/vice-chiefs can become part of the MIC. This could be tiered suitably for policy, planning, review and oversight. It would then emerge as a coordinating catalyst in an all round defence technology development in a win-win scenario. The success of MIC would lie in its composition, autonomy and executive authority. It must have oversight right to review long term perspective planning. It must be empowered to negotiate with foreign governments and international defence companies on transfer of technology.  The foundation of our defence technology edifice is ready and strong. Rapid advances in science, materiel development, electronic-engineering fusion all point towards the advantages of adopting a strategy of technology leapfrog. Reinventing the wheel is no longer needed as India is emerging out of the denial drought. The West woos us while the East engages us vigorously. All this highlights the availability of a span of technologies that can be adopted and adapted to become industrially and militarily Indian. MIC would enable melding military technology and civil technology as an enterprise. Maturing of military commerce, intensive and expansive R&D and focused objectives are the consequent collateral benefits.  The IMMEDIATE STEPS Required  The armed forces must commit to operationalise all Indian systems despite perceived limitations. Equipment and system improvement through upgrades must become ongoing exercise. We need to take a leaf out of Chinese technology innovation To cite an example, it developed the WS-10 engines for its prestigious J-10 fighter aircraft with only a 20-hour life initially. Subsequent upgrades were done based on operating experience and feedback from the end- users.  The MIC can convert the four roads into one common highway. The omnibus can be driven in synergy, and in shifts, by all the drivers and stakeholders. Our five I’s can be maximised. India can be truly independent while being interdependent. It is an exciting prospect. Most importantly it is very realisable and really important for India to reach its destiny. The answer lies in an Indian military industrial commission with the Five-I approach.  The writers are former Vice Chief of the Naval Staff and former Director, Faculty of Studies, Army War College, respectively

3 Maj-Gens challenge Army’s revised promotion policy
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, May 6 Even as the Army’s promotion process for top officers remains virtually grounded, at least three major-generals have moved the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), challenging certain provisions introduced recently in the policy for promotion from the rank of major-general to lieutenant-general. Those who have moved the AFT are Maj-Gen SKH Johnson, Maj-Gen VS Gowder and Maj-Gen DS Chodhary.   In their petitions, they have raised similar contentions over the “quantification” system. They are claiming that despite having a good career profile, they were not selected for promotion to the rank of lieutenant-general due to certain inherent flaws in the policy and the procedures for calculating marks to be awarded by the selection boards.  The Army Headquarters (AHQ) issued guidelines on December 31, 2008, for the conduct of selection boards and introduced the system of “quantifications” that allowed selection boards to award 92 marks to the officers’ confidential reports (CRs) with effect from January 1, 2009.  On April 15, 2009, the AHQ clarified the sub-distribution of these marks, under which 22 marks were for staff/instructional/other reports. It was evident from the policy letters that the reckonable basis for promotion to the rank of lieutenant-general was the CRs earned while holding the ranks of brigadier and major-general.  Among the issues raised by the petitioners is the contention that officers are invariably considered for the rank of lieutenant-general after having a very short stint in the rank of major-general and thus the excess weightage (up to 72 per cent) for a single report in the rank of major-general and the selection on such a basis is against the principles of natural justice and also against the spirit of the policy of quantification of marks of CRs.  Moreover, the provision for 22 per cent marks for staff/instructional/other reports in the reckonable profile does not further lay down any bifurcation for the reports earned in the ranks of brigadier and major-general.

Indian Navy rescues Chinese vessel
China refuses to acknowledge Indian efforts Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, May 6 That India enjoys edgy relationship with China was reinforced when China today did not acknowledge the effort of the Indian Navy in saving its merchant vessel from the clutches of pirates some 850 km off Karwar on the western sea coast of India.  Navy’s effort led to the rescue of 24 Chinese sailors and the merchant vessel, MV Full City (Chinese name Fucheng) in the Arabian sea after Somali pirates had boarded it and the sailors were huddled together in a strong room. The incident occurred yesterday morning and Navy’s aviators and warships played a major role in the three-hour-long operation.  The Chinese official line given by its transport ministry is that US and Turkish warships played a role. It does not mention India. The same has been reported by China’s official news agency Xinhua from Beijing.  The Indian Navy was alerted by an SOS from the ship around 8: 45 am yesterday. The Chinese Embassy here in New Delhi followed it up with written request that was sent through fax. Once the operation was over the Chinese Navy’s anti-piracy task force - two warships and tanker - deployed in the gulf, thanked the Indian Navy over the open maritime communication band that was heard and recorded by merchant vessels, warships and naval aircraft in the vicinity. The Chinese ships were stationed some 2000 km away from the spot.  The Indian Navy today said following an SOS from the merchant vessel to a maritime reconnaissance aircraft Tupelov 142 was pressed into action. Along the sea coast vessel CGS Samar was speeding towards the ship.  The Naval aircraft reached above the MV Full City around 9: 15 am. The aircraft observed a pirates main vessel next to merchant vessel and an empty skiff - a fast boat -- alongside it.  The aircraft made a number of low passes over the ship and warned the pirates, over the open radio, to leave the merchant ship immediately, advising them that Naval warships were closing in the area. On getting the warning the pirates fled the merchant ship.  Since no warship was close by, the naval aircraft maintained overhead surveillance for over three hours assisting the rescue operation by co-ordinating with the NATO sea task Force. Sailors from the Turkish naval vessel, Giresun, which is part of the NATO Force, eventually boarded MV Full City and sanitised it even as the Indian Navy aircraft hovered overhead. Incidentally, the Chinese task force was in the know of Indian Navy’s role and were in radio contact throughout.  The Indian Navy said there has been a drop of over 80 per cent in the number of piracy attacks in the Eastern parts of Arabian Sea - that closer to India. As a matter of fact, in the month of April 2011, there was not a single reported piracy attack in the area.

Pak to raze Osama’s hideout
We lived in Abbottabad for 5 years: Osama’s widow   Islamabad, May 6 While the US-led forces were hunting for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's unruly tribal areas for years, the Al-Qaida chief had been living a secluded life in a million-dollar mansion in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad for five years, according to one of his wives.  The woman of Yemeni origin said bin Laden had been living in Abbottabad for the past five years, Geo News Channel quoted an unnamed senior Pakistani military officials as saying.  Bin Laden usually confined himself to 2-3 rooms and never went outside, she told the officials. The report said women and children found in the compound included three wives of bin Laden. One of the women was injured in the firing.  The military officials also said bin Laden's daughter, who was found in the compound, had told them that she had seen her father being killed on the upper floor of a building and then dragged down a flight of stairs. A woman killed during the raid, previously described in some accounts as bin Laden’s wife, was actually the wife of a Pakistani guard of the Al-Qaida leader, the officials were quoted as saying. — PTI

Indian Navy thwarts pirate attack; rescues Chinese vessel, crew  
New Delhi:  An attack by Somali pirates on a Chinese cargo ship with 24 crew members on board in the Arabian Sea was successfully thwarted by Indian naval warships and aircraft, which forced the brigands to abandon the attempt and flee, an officer said on Friday. The operation was carried out by the Indian maritime forces in coordination with the NATO and Chinese task forces on anti-piracy patrol in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy officer said.  The Chinese-owned bulk carrier, MV Full City, came under siege from the pirates at 8.45 a.m. on Thursday about 450 nautical miles (850 km) west of Karwar in Karnataka.  The entire Chinese crew deftly locked themselves up in the merchant vessel's safe house, preventing their capture by the pirates, and sent out an emergency message.  On receiving the distress call, Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships patrolling in the vicinity rushed to its help, even as the navy's TU-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew to the spot in 30 minutes and carried out several low passes over the merchant vessel, warning the pirates to abandon their attempt to hijack the Panama-flagged vessel.  
With the aircraft crew warning the pirates over radio that Indian and NATO Task Force warships were closing in on MV Full City to carry out an operation, the brigands abandoned the vessel, boarded a skiff and rushed to a pirate mother vessel nearby, which fled from the site at full speed, the officer said.  "As there were no surface forces in the immediate vicinity to board MV Full City and sanitise the ship, the Indian naval aircraft circled overhead MV Full City for over three hours, assisting the rescue operation by coordinating with the NATO Task Force," the officer said.  The TU-142 aircraft finally left the area after over four hours only after ensuring that surface forces were within range to proceed with the boarding and sanitising operations.  "MV Full City was saved from getting hijacked by the very prompt action of the Indian naval aircraft," the officer added.  The operation to rescue the Chinese vessel was carried out by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in coordination with the NATO Task Force, the Chinese Task Force and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Beijing, highlighting the international cooperation in the anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean.  "The Chinese Task Force also thanked the Indian Navy for its prompt and persistent action leading to the pirate attack on MV Full City being repelled," the officer said.  MV Full City is now continuing its passage through the eastern Arabian Sea, with its safety assured by the sustained anti-piracy vigil being maintained by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, the officer added.  The Indian Navy has, since January, sunk four pirate mother ships in the Arabian Sea, apart from capturing 120 brigands and jailing them in India.  With independent as well as collaborative efforts, the maritime forces have effectively checked piracy in the Arabian Sea in general and the eastern Arabian Sea in particular.  There has been a drop of over 80 percent in the number of pirate attacks in the eastern Arabian Sea. In April, there was not a single reported pirate attack in the eastern Arabian Sea.  

Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon Emerge Favorites in Air Force M-MRCA Deal
2011-05-06 In the past week, a number of mainstream and defense / military specific media sources revealed that the French Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets have made the shortlist while the American Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Marting F-16, Sweden's Gripen and Russian MiG-35 fighters have been rejected. Dassault and Eurofighter have been asked by the Ministry of Defence to extend the offer validity thus making them part of the shortlist.  India Defence had earlier reported that these two fighter jets had emerged favorites after the Indian Air Force conducted extensive field trials between 2009 and 2010. See: -- Air Force MRCA Deal - Eurofighter Typhoon Ahead on Technical Parameters  India has agreed to provide the United States with relevant data based on which its fighters were rejected for the lucrative USD 100 billion dollar deal. The United States, however, has been rapidly growing its share in the Indian defense market and Boeing alone envisions deals worth USD 50 billion in the coming decade.

India refuses to respond to Pak provocation
NEW DELHI: India on Friday dodged the provocation from Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani who had on Thursday gone ballistic, dropping not-so-veiled threats against any Indian attempt for a US-style raid against terrorists holed up in the neighbouring country.  While the Pakistan establishment had burst a blood vessel issuing bellicose statements, the Indian government chose not to respond.  Sources said India saw no reason to get into a slanging match with Pakistan at a time when the neighbouring country was clearly suffering huge embarrassment, but it was clear that the anxiety not to derail the peace-process initiated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also an important driver.  Earlier, the foreign ministry refused to take exception to Bashir's controversial formulation dismissing India's demand for action against 26/11 perpetrators as "outdated". The Pakistan foreign secretary, who has been working furiously to help the country minimize the embarrassment of Osama bin laden's killing in the cantonment town of Abbottabad, also said that insistence on action against terrorists was not helpful to the peace process.  Although the public statement left officials squirming in their seats, the leadership decided not to lodge a protest over Pakistan's dismissal of what is said to be New Delhi's bottom line for the talks.  Pakistan had pounced upon a remark by Indian Army chief General V K Singh about India's capability to undertake surgical covert operations like the one Americans pulled off in Abbottabad. General Singh, who was responding to a query, did not name Pakistan.  But the Pakistani establishment jumped on the statement, giving the impression to many here that it was seeking to manufacture a threat from India just to turn the attention away from its failures. That the Americans could enter Abbottabad, home to the Pakistan Military Academy and two regiments, has come as a huge embarrassment to the military-ISI complex which prides itself as the mainstay of Pakistan.  India has appeared to be sympathetic to Pakistan's plight, with the government showing its keenness to continue with the peace process and the broadened engagement with Pakistan. Earlier this week, senior government officials said India and Pakistan have certain "well-defined issues" that are discussed. India would continue to tell Pakistan that it needed to stop the use of terrorist groups to further strategic goals in the region. "But this is not an exercise to humiliate Pakistan. That would not work," they said.  "Our talks with Pakistan will continue," said high level government sources. "We have to engage them on all issues. There is no alternative." Indian officials will be in Islamabad in mid-May for talks on Tulbul barrage while defence officials will travel to Pakistan for talks on Sir Creek and Siachen later in the month.

Bridge the gap
In a belated effort to present the position of Pakistan, which was not done immediately after the successful US operation to take out Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir briefed the media in Foreign Office and highlighted the legal complications and issues of sovereignty involved in this kind of unilateral incursion. On the other hand, addressing a corps commanders’ conference at GHQ, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani has issued directives to hold a broad-based probe into how Osama Bin Laden managed to evade detection by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The second part of the investigations ordered concerns how the US military managed to carry out such an audacious attack, without the knowledge of their Pakistani counterparts. Harsh and embarrassing questions at home and abroad have finally woken up the civil and military officialdom into formulating a fiercely defensive response over this issue. The army warned of reviewing military and intelligence cooperation with the US if the latter repeated such an adventure in future. Following the operation, some voices in India, including that of the Indian Army Chief V K Singh, suggested that the Indian military had the capacity to follow suit and go after Pakistan-based jihadi networks involved in terrorism on the Indian soil. The chief of army staff issued a stern warning against any such plans and threatened with retaliation. The army chief has also announced to cut the number of US military personnel on the Pakistani soil.  These assertions are meant to placate an unsettled public that wants firm answers to troubling questions raised by this whole affair. On the one hand, Pakistan’s defence capabilities have been questioned, on the other serious doubts have been cast on its intelligence gathering apparatus. While admitting failure, both the foreign secretary and the army have defended the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), suggesting that the initial information provided by the ISI has led to this American success. While the public might have felt somewhat assured by these explanations, the international media and Washington will continue to wallop Pakistan with the Bin Laden bogey in the foreseeable future. Osama’s discovery in Pakistan is being interpreted as a confirmation of suspicions about Pakistan’s double-dealing. Statements such as the one issued by Central Investigation Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta, implying that the US did not trust Pakistan, are only going to make matters worse. Pakistan’s gung-ho response, being reported as ‘Pakistan warns US of dire consequences’, on the other hand, is not going to help its already sullied image in the US. It is obvious that both sides are playing to the gallery, but this is only serving to harden positions. This incident has increased the anti-US sentiment in Pakistan, who feel Pakistan’s sovereignty has been violated, while the Americans are feeling betrayed by Pakistan, which is the biggest recipient of the US aid, for not tracking down Osama Bin Laden. If allowed to grow, the negative sentiments will ultimately impact the strategic relations between the two countries. The recently held meeting of Pak-US Defence Consultative Group has affirmed the need to strengthen defence and security cooperation. In fact, despite mounting a strong defence on behalf of the military and intelligence outfits, Pakistan’s foreign secretary confirmed that Osama’s killing has not affected Pakistan’s bilateral relations with the US and that there is a strategic convergence in the interests of the two countries. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, for her part, has reassured that even if Pak-US relationship is difficult, it is productive. This underlines the urgent need to resolve the crisis of confidence that besets the Pak-US relationship. *

Pak discomfiture no solace for India
One does not have to be a flag-waving peacenik to lament the tone and tenor of many of the debates on the killing of Osama bin Laden aired on our television channels. Anchors and their hawkish guests often crossed the thin line separating a vigorous but reasoned discourse from invective when they put Pakistan on the mat for its duplicitous conduct. The outbursts of patriotic frenzy ensured that voices seeking to provide some perspective and balance to the discussions were not allowed to rise above a whisper.  It wasn't a pretty sight at all to see these discussants in a state of near-hysteria when they sought to nail Pakistan's lies, denounce its doublespeak and rap New Delhi on the knuckles for failing to summon the nerve to follow in the footsteps of the Americans. Even more unsettling was the smirk on their faces when they stopped speaking. It denoted, turn by turn, arrogance, superciliousness, condescension: all synonyms for terminal smugness.  This much was most in evidence when they had to listen to the Pakistani guests on the programme. The latter, shamed and embarrassed by the recent developments, tried valiantly to defend the indefensible. Civility demanded that our hawkish anchors and experts treated them with a measure of circumspection. You do not kick a person who has tripped on the shin.  Our votaries of a muscular patriotism did precisely that. Their smirk appeared to convey to the Pakistanis, with more than a hint of gloating, that their day of reckoning had arrived. This was the underlying narrative: for years India had cried itself hoarse about the safe havens that their defence and intelligence establishments had provided to terrorists of every stripe. And for years no one of consequence cared to listen. Pakistan was in denial; their western mentors chose to look the other way.  Now, however, the chief mentor had called Pakistan's bluff. No one is going to believe in its protestations of innocence any longer. It has no choice but to go before the international community in sackcloth and ashes, beg forgiveness for its past trespasses and atone for them in word and deed.  The narrative, to put it bluntly, is hokum: more wishful thinking than a cool assessment of what is likely to happen next. In the weeks and months to come you can expect the Americans to leak to the media duly sanitised bits of information about whether or not the Pakistani military establishment harboured bin Laden in a safe house in the garrison town of Abbottabad. Information will also be forthcoming on whether or not America truly kept the Pakistanis in the loop when it conducted the operation leading to the death of the al-Qaida's iconic leader.  It is more or less certain that Pakistan will have more egg on its face as a result of these leaks. This is bound to add to the strains and stresses in US-Pakistan ties in the short run. But these are unlikely to reach breaking point. The army establishments of the two countries have been through thick and thin for decades. Together they ousted the mighty Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Institutional cosiness of this sort forges bonds that are not easily snapped.  Moreover, the strategic interests of the two countries, especially in Afghanistan, will remain intact regardless of recent and forthcoming recriminations. Once the dust raised by the bin Laden killing begins to settle, both sides can be trusted to act in unison even though it won't quite be business as usual. America is bound to exert pressure on the Pakistani military to come down hard on all terrorist outfits. They might be acting on their own but the passions and fantasies that drove bin Laden drive them as well. And Pakistan, mind you, can't do without American largesse.  No amount of gloating over Pakistan's pathetic predicament at present by our trumpeters of muscular nationalism will change that. There is no alternative for us but to engage with that country with due regard for its own nationalist sentiments. To argue otherwise - and, worse still, to believe that we have the capacity to stage an Abbottabad-like operation to neutralise Pakistan-based criminals on our wanted list - is to chase a chimera. 

A page from the forces
A century-old house journal is more than a magazine for the armed forces.  Recently, V K Joshi, editor of the Indian Armed Forces’ house journal Sainik Samachar, received a phone call from an elderly ex-serviceman. The gentleman wanted to meet him. The man turned up the following morning only to say that he had not received the past three issues of the magazine and was disappointed. The lapse had upset a ritual. A regular reader of the journal for the past 30 years, the retired officer would routinely invite his friends to have them read various issues of the magazine, all of which he had neatly stacked over the years.
Priced at Rs 5 a copy and running to 32 pages — courtesy the Government of India — Sainik Samachar is more than a slick magazine. “For people associated with the forces, it’s a matter of maintaining the bond they share with the Indian Army,” says Joshi.  The magazine started over a century ago, in 1909. It was then called Fauji Akhbar — a journal that brought news of accomplishments, breakthroughs, important visits by dignitaries, expeditions, celebrations, technological advancements, even snippets. The idea was to keep the soldiers informed and also bring a smile to their lips through comic strips and caricatures.  “The journal,” says Joshi, “is designed keeping in mind the soldier who sits inside a bunker in some desolated terrain of the country.” The inside back cover of one issue features ace cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni presenting an autographed bat to Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.  The magazine, which has a circulation of 25,000 and comes out in 12 Indian languages and English, is brought out by an editor and three assistant editors. Inputs are collected from 25 correspondents, who are public relations officers (PROs) in the defence ministry’s Directorate of Public Relations (DPR). Some armed forces personnel also serve as PROs.  It all started in the heyday of the British Raj. A need was felt to bring out a periodical that would cater to the army personnel. On January 2, 1909, Fauji Akhbar was published from Allahabad, with office located in Simla (now Shimla). Printed in Urdu — the language extensively used in the Indian Army at the time — and priced at an anna a copy, the 16-page weekly read much like a news digest comprising snippets on promotions and appointments, some highlights of the Services, a short story and a tactical essay competition.  “In the early years, the British bias was conspicuous,” says Sitanshu Kar, Additional Director General (Media and Communications), DPR. The magazine would offer news from Great Britain and other countries of the Empire. News about India mostly featured British officials’ activities. At one point, it contained criticism of the Non-cooperation Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. For instance, an article in the issue dated November 6, 1920 read: “The government of Hind thinks this proposal is unacceptable since it aims at disturbing the country’s current set-up. Even so, the government has not taken any action against the proponents.”  In the years that followed, the journal was published from Lahore, moving to Shimla again, and finally to Delhi after Partition in 1947. The division of the country meant a sudden migration of the publication’s staff and printers. “Some early issues got lost. Later, we wrote to the Pakistan embassy hoping we’d find some of them. We never got a reply,” says Kar. He has been instrumental in compiling various issues of Sainik Samachar through the years for a coffee-table book, Soldiering On, which was published on 2009 to mark the centenary of the journal.

Special moment awaits Parachute Regiment in Bangalore
History will be made during the attestation parade of the Parachute Regiment Training Centre (PRTC), located in Bangalore, on May 7.  In a first for the Indian Army, a paraplegic officer would be reviewing an attestation parade.  On May 7, Major General Sunil Kumar Razdan will review the parade at the PRTC in Bangalore during which recruits of the Para regiment after successfully completing their training will take oath to serve the motherland.  Razdan, the first wheelchair-bound General of the Indian Army, was wounded in the spinal cord during a battle with the militants in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990’s, leaving him paralysed below the waist.  Razdan, then a Lieutenant Colonel, successfully led a 20-member team of Special Forces to rescue 14 women who were abducted by militants holed up in a hideout in the Damal Kunzipur region of the strife-torn state.  During the 16-hour operation on October 8, 1994 -- which also happened to be his birthday -- a militant fired at Razdan, injuring his spine. He was airlifted to the Army Hospital in New Delhi where he was treated for his injuries.  For his valiant effort, the government had awarded him the Kirti Chakra, the country’s second highest peace-time gallantry award. He is currently posted in the Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters in Delhi.  An officer at the PRTC told DNA that the reason Razdan was invited to review the parade was to install confidence in the young recruits who will become soldiers of the Indian Army following a nine-month long training.  “There cannot be a better person than Razdan to motivate these young recruits. He is an ideal role model for the recruits who can see and get inspired by his achievements. One must remember that he has battled all odds in the last 15 years to reach where he is now. He has risen from a Lieutenant Colonel (when injured) to a Major General which is no ordinary feat,” he said.

Air Marshal GS Joneja is new AFMC chief
Air Marshal GS Joneja has been appointed the 46th director and commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune.  He replaces Lt Gen DP Vats, who retired on April 30. Joneja is the fourth alumnus to head the institution. He was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps and seconded to the Indian Air Force on January 16, 1975. Joneja served as a squadron medical officer and did his post-graduation in obstetrics and gynaecology from the AFMC.  Joneja served as a gynaecologist in various hospitals of the Armed Forces Medical Services and became a senior advisor in 2001. He was consultant and head of department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Army Hospital (R&R), New Delhi, between 2004-07.  Prior to his present appointment, Joneja was the deputy chief of the integrated defence staff (medical). He has been decorated with the Vayusena Medal and Chief of Army Staff commendation card in 2007.  The graduate wing of AFMC will celebrate its golden jubilee from August 4, 2011 to August 4, 2012under his command.

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