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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

From Today's Papers - 11 Oct 11






Standing up to China

Need for aggressive diplomacy by India  Not bothering about China’s unjustifiable claims over the South China Sea waters, Vietnam has asked India to go ahead with the arrangement between the two countries for hydrocarbons exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the area. A few days back China had told India to avoid executing any project in the disputed waters, keeping in view Beijing’s sensibilities. India and Vietnam have, however, refused to buy the Chinese argument, citing the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Yet it is not easy for India’s ONGC Videsh and the Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group to continue their cooperation in implementing the oil and gas exploration project. The US, too, has entered the scene, describing the disputed waters as being a matter of its national interest. Interestingly, the US and the Philippines have sided with Vietnam, creating more difficulties for China. The situation may take a turn for the worse in the days to come, as the disputed sea waters, having some strategically located islands, are believed to have precious natural resources.  India must use the opportunity to expose Chinese expansionist designs with the help of other Asian nations. The Chinese claims over the entire South China Sea — Vietnam calls it the East Sea and the Philippines the West Philippines Sea — have never been accepted by the entire international community. Some time ago China tried to gain UN recognition of its rights over the disputed sea waters by presenting a map to the UN Secretary-General. But it had to cut a sorry figure as four of the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) members, including Vietnam, falsified the Chinese claims. The issue also came up for discussion at the Asian Security Summit in Singapore in June when China failed to get adequate support.  Most countries in East Asia have been feeling uneasy because of the Chinese bullying behaviour for some time. This is the time for aggressive Indian diplomacy to make China realise that it cannot subjugate the smaller nations in the region despite the massive economic and military might it has acquired. Today’s multipolar world calls for a cooperative approach, respecting the sentiments of one and all.

Army looks to strengthen forces along Pak, China borders

Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, October 10 In a move that will be interpreted in many ways across strategic circles globally, the Indian Army is looking to ramp up its numbers along the western and northern borders, facing Pakistan and China, respectively.  The matter was discussed at the five-day Army Commanders’ conference that began here today. Army Chief General VK Singh said, “Significant steps have been initiated for force structuring. Various proposals for accretion of forces were in the pipeline.” An approval of the government was awaited for accretions in the northern and western areas, he said.  At present, three fully-equipped strike crops based at Ambala, Mathura and Bhopal are tasked to act as the first-strike formation in case of any skirmish. Three full-fledged commands with an assortment of equipment are also headquartered at Udhampur (J&K), Chandimandir (near Chandigarh) and Jaipur. The Pune-based Southern Command looks after the parts of the border in Gujarat. Sources said at least two divisions or a corps (around 50,000 men) could be added to the existing security architecture.  Meanwhile, as part of its ongoing exercise in transformation, the Army will test out a new concept this winter along the Indo-Pak border.The concept is aimed at marshalling all forces, equipment, fire-power and support services under a common command — a system that is in place in the United States of America and Russia.  India has a lone tri-services joint-command at Andaman and Nicobar base.

Is the Indian Army Really Open to Women?

At first glance, it seems that the Indian Army is making progress in recognizing the contribution of women in its ranks. For the first time ever, on its 65th Independence Day, India honored a female soldier with a gallantry award for her role during the 2010 attack against the Indian embassy in Kabul. And last week, Shanti Tigga became the first woman to qualify as a combatant in the Indian army after doing exceptionally well in her physical tests.  But the chances Ms. Tigga will actually be involved in combat any time soon are actually pretty slim. For now, she will mainly be involved in support duties, an army official told India Real Time. She joined a regiment of the Territorial Army, which recruits volunteers with the aim of helping the Regular Army. TA  volunteers are rarely involved in combat duties.  Still, recognizing Ms. Tigga could one day fulfill a combat role is a huge step for the Indian Army, where women have never even been recruited in combat positions and where, in most roles, they are forced to retire early. “Tigga was one of the few to volunteer and the first to pass the physical tests alongside men, without any dilution of standards,” the army official said.  Still, the Indian Army is far from welcoming to women. Although women were first allowed to join the Regular Army in 1992, they are still not allowed to join combat units, unlike in countries like Israel and the United States. Instead, they are only recruited in medical, engineering and other support units. When asked about the reason for the Indian Army’s reluctance to allow women in combat, a retired senior army officer said that women tend to be less independent and less willing to accept postings away from home. He said they are also reluctant to go on night missions. As a result, the retired officer said that “the work atmosphere becomes sour as the younger male officers have to bear the brunt of the inability of the women officers to do their duties sometimes.”  But the biggest problem for women officers is forced retirement. With the exception of women recruited in the medical corps, they are forced to retire after 14 years in office. Unlike their male counterparts, they are not entitled to pensions nor ex-army personnel status and the benefits this comes with, since officers are eligible for pensions only after 18 years of service. Women officers have been battling against this for years. The issue was brought before the Supreme Court, which last month ordered the army to reinstate 11 women who had been forced to retire. Meenakshi Lekhi, the lawyer who represented the women in court, said that for now the ruling only applies to the 11 women who filed the petition. Ms. Lekhi hopes this will eventually apply to all women in the army. “The court has shown a stern face to the army’s policy of forced early retirements for the women,” she said. “There are indications that they will make things right.”  “ If the army has started recruiting women, then it can’t be done half-heartedly. Sex discrimination needs to go, ” said an exasperated Ms. Lekhi. A spokesman for the Indian army said he was not able to immediately comment on the case.  The early retirement age also means women are limited in terms of the ranks they can attain. “Why can’t women be promoted as commanding officers in units where they have technical jobs, which are not remotely related to combat?” Ms. Lekhi said. While the Indian Army is still stuck in its patriarchal structures, Pakistan is reportedly getting ready for its first female three-star general, Shahida Badshah.

Lt Gen SK Singh to take over as Dy Army Chief

New Delhi: Lt Gen S K Singh will take over as the Deputy Chief of Indian Army next month, following the retirement of incumbent Lt Gen A S Lamba on October 31.  A senior Gorkha officer and an alumnus of National Defence Academy (NDA), Lt Gen S K Singh is presently heading the Jaipur-based South Western Command of Indian Army.

He was commissioned into 8 Gorkha Rifles in 1972 and has participated in a number of operations, including the IPKF deployment in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka and in militancy infested areas of Jammu and Kashmir.  He also commanded a Brigade in Siachen Glacier during Op Meghdoot.  Following the elevation of Lt Gen Singh to the Army Headquarters here, Lt General Gyan Bhushan will take over as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the South Western Command.  Lt Gen Gyan Bhushan is presently serving as the Director General Staff Duty.

Army to test re-structuring plan in war game

A Grand Strike Corps exercise that will take place in Rajasthan next month will be the test bed for a new doctrine of “theaterisation” that is likely to transform the structure and deployment tactics of the Indian Army.  The “Sudarshan Shakti” exercise, which is being led by 21 Corps but will include elements of the Air Force and Navy, will be the test bed for the new doctrine that was drawn up as part of the Army’s “Transformational Study” led by a group of top Generals and the concept will be implemented on the basis of the results.  The Armed Forces have for long talked about moving from a threat specific approach to a capability based approach, but this is the first time the concept is being tested in a full scale war game involving thousands of troops and all three armed services.  Under the new concept, the entire combat resources and support elements that are engaged at war in a particular theatre or front will be utilised optimally from a command centre that will use the latest technologies to get a complete picture of the battle. The battlefront will be managed seamlessly through the command centre or centres without the administrative “borders” of various commands slowing things down.

Army colonel in dock over cash, pistol in luggage

A colonel of the Indian Army, deputed to a paramilitary force and posted in the northeast, has landed in the dock after a pistol and Rs.19 lakh cash was recovered from his bag in Barama in Assam last week. A counter-intelligence probe has been initiated against him.  Colonel B.B. Yadav, on deputation to Assam Rifles as the commanding officer of a battalion, came under adverse notice after Assam's Baksa district police, acting on a tip-off, recovered the cash and pistol from a truck that was transporting his personal belongings.  The officer, belonging to the Sikh Light Infantry regiment of the Indian Army, was moving his belongings from Tripura, where he was posted till recently, to Lucknow on being transferred, and the truck was intercepted on Oct 3, according to an officer in the army headquarters here.  An Assam Rifles trooper was also travelling on the truck, which contained several locked trunks. The trooper had they keys for all the trunks, except three, the officer said.  The police then got the three specific trunks broken open in the presence of a magistrate and found the cash and the pistol in them.  Apart from the police, the Assam Rifles and the army headquarters have also opened separate investigations against the colonel and are trying to find out the source of the funds and the ownership of the pistol, the officer said. The Income Tax Department too has been alerted about the cash.  The truck, officers said, was allowed by the police to proceed to Lucknow with the other trunks, but the three opened trunks and their contents were now in the possession of the Baksa police.  Assam Rifles, India's oldest paramilitary force involved in counter-insurgency operations in the northeastern states, is under the control of the home ministry. It recruits its own troopers and junior officers from the region, but the units are commanded by army officers on deputation.

Army chief advocates greater synergy among three forces

New Delhi, Oct 10 (PTI) Considering the security situation along India's borders and in its neighborhood, Army Chief General V K Singh today advocated greater synergy among the three forces and laid emphasis on macro level security issues. Addressing the inaugural session of the five-day Army Commanders Conference, Singh expressed concern over the security situation in Afghanistan and emphasized on the macro level security issues both within the country and in the region. "Army Chief emphasized on macro level security issues, both internal and regional, and expressed concerns over the security situation in Afghanistan. In respect of terrorism and insurgency, he stated that situation was still fragile and needed due attention," Army officials said here. On theatrisation of combat to increase synergy between the three forces, Singh said the proposal has been completed and these would be test bedded during the forthcoming Southern Army Commanded exercise codenamed 'Sudarshan Shakti'. Singh said that the concepts to improve synergy between the three forces would be implemented once their efficacy is ascertained. With respect to transformation of the force, he said significant steps have been initiated for 'Force Structuring' and accretion of troops. "The Army Chief mentioned that various test beds have been set up for the Northern and Western borders and the same will be implemented once approval is accorded for force accretion," the officials said. On re-structuring of Army Headquarters, he said the process is on so that it becomes a more responsive and synergised organization.


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