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Friday, 28 October 2011

From Today's Papers - 28 Oct 2011






Army concerned over Omar’s proposal to withdraw its special powers from 4 areas

Tribune News Service  Srinagar/New Delhi, Oct 27 The “avoidable political skirmish” between J & K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the state Congress, over the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), escalated on Thursday.

J&K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz went public to complain that the Chief Minister had neither taken the Congress into confidence nor discussed the issue at the Unified Command before publicly announcing that the law would be lifted from parts of the state.  The Chief Minister, as is his wont, responded almost immediately and maintained that Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had been kept in the loop and that the issue was discussed at meetings of the Unified Command. Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand is also part of the deliberations by the Unified Command, he asserted. Pointing out that Soz chaired the NC-Congress coordination committee in the state, Abdullah declared that the committee was free to deliberate on the issue and give its opinion. “ I am not a member of the coordination committee,” said Abdullah.  But he conceded that the decision to withdraw AFSPA, wholly or partially, rested with the Home Ministry.  On Diwali day, Omar tried to douse the controversy created by his uncle and National Conference general secretary Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, who had suggested that the four grenade attacks on Armymen on Diwali-eve could have been engineered by the Army itself to justify the continuation of AFSPA, which provides it immunity from legal prosecution while detaining, arresting or killing suspected militants and while searching any premise at any time.  Abdullah was quick to complain that Kamal’s statement was distorted by the media and twisted out of context. “ It is nobody’s case to demonise the Army, as it has proved time and again that it is a disciplined force which is governed by certain standard operating procedures,” said the CM, who alleged that attempts were being made to drive a wedge between the state government and the Army.  Army Chief General VK Singh refused to comment on the controversy. He only said the issue was being deliberated by the Union Home Ministry and the Army had provided the inputs required.  The CM, meanwhile, finds himself in a catch-22 situation. While he is committed to the withdrawal of AFSPA, there is clearly no consensus on the timing yet. While Abdullah has made no secret of his belief that such a withdrawal would greatly help in restoring people’s confidence in the government, the grenade attacks this week demonstrate the ease with which peace can be shattered by militants in the Valley. In such an eventuality, even a partial withdrawal could easily boomerang and make the Chief Minister’s continuation untenable. Even the National Conference, therefore, seemed to be having second thoughts.  The principal opposition party in the state, PDP, is naturally elated at what it perceives to be a ‘self-inflicted goal’ by the Chief Minister. The controversy, it commented, reflected Omar Abdullah’s style of governance, namely speak first, act later.


MiG-29 crash site located in HP, no trace of pilot

Tribune News Service  Shimla, October 27 Eight days of gruelling search operation and 149 sorties later, the IAF has managed to locate the site in Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Valley where the ill-fated MiG-29 fighter aircraft had crashed on October 19. The fate of the pilot, however, is still unknown.  The Task Force Commander, Group Captain PK Sharma, who is coordinating the search operation, confirmed locating the crash site at 15,000 ft above Chokhang village in Lahaul.  He said several components of the aircraft have been recovered after digging under the snow. These are being brought down to the base camp for proper identification.  An IAF helicopter had dropped eight expert mountaineers, including three from the Army, on a ledge where they spent the night with just the basic survival gear. The same site was also spotted by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) earlier in a photo reconnaissance mission. But it could not be conclusively established since the ill-fated plane had disintegrated into small pieces and the debris was spread across the slopes on either side of a ridge, said an official release.  “The crash site could not be confirmed as the area came under fresh snowfall. Also, soot and burn marks along the slopes as seen in our recce imagery as well as by villagers, also disappeared under the snow,” the release added.  A base camp was set up at 13,000 ft on a ledge to provide support to the search party and 55 personnel, including expert mountaineers from the IAF and the Army, were involved in the search.  The team was under threat from wild animals since fresh snow had claw marks of animals - suspected to be of bears in the area. Also, the site had accumulated ice with crevices that were covered under fresh snow, making the progress even slower.  The Task Force Commander praised the missionary zeal displayed by Wg Cdr SK Kutty and Sqn Ldr N Rawat who headed the search teams.  The aircraft had taken off from Adampur base in Jalandhar district for a night-flying exercise when it crashed into the mountain. Earlier, some pieces of the aircraft were recovered from Gangstang Glacier. Some villagers of Thirot, located 40 km from Keylong town, had spotted some burnt pieces of the plane in Chokhang hills and brought three such pieces, which, the IAF said, matched with that of the MiG 29.


The copter that strayed Changing codes the right thing

The safe return of the crew and the Indian army helicopter that had strayed into Pakistani airspace on October 23 speaks much about the maturity displayed by the two governments in handling what could well have escalated into a crisis. It is, however, natural to assume that the Pakistani army thoroughly examined the helicopter while it was in their custody, and thus there has been concern that data saved in various instruments in the helicopter could have fallen into Pakistani hands.  It is true that seldom has any equipment of the Indian armed forces fallen into enemy hands in a manner that security could have been compromised, but this incident has only shown that it can happen, and thus proper precautions must be taken. The Army Aviation Corps, operating in that militarily-sensitive region, has taken the right step in initiating a process that would change the code names of the helipads, as well as call signs of the pilots who operate in Ladakh and its adjoining region. This is a sensible precaution, in fact a necessary one. Indeed, nations make such changes even if there is the slightest chance of security being compromised.  In a time when military satellites routinely map and monitor all the world, especially sensitive areas like the Indo-Pak border, it stands to reason that both India and Pakistan have fairly detailed coordinates of each-other’s military and civil installations. It is not clear how much data the GPS system in the helicopter carried, it is possible that the data might not have critical value to the Pakistani armed forces. The Army has stressed that no sensitive information was compromised. Even so, it is important to take the precautions which have been initiated. The armed forces must also plan a long-term strategy to ensure safety of critical data were any such accident to happen in the future.


Geopolitics of Durand Line Questionable status as international border

by G. Parthasarathy  As the “end game” of American withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan begins, there is increasing resort to bluff, bravado and bluster challenging American power and influence, in Pakistani pronouncements. The Pakistan Army’s grandiose schemes for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan have been premised on ensuring that Afghanistan is ruled by an internationally isolated Pariah regime, which would result in it becoming a de facto client state of Pakistan. Given its pretensions to power and influence in Afghanistan, the brief period of Taliban rule was regarded by the Pakistan military as its golden age. But behind this bluster and bravado lies a key strategic calculation. A Pariah regime in Kabul would have neither the influence nor power to aggressively assert Afghanistan’s historical claims to territories seized from defeated Afghan rulers by Imperial British power. No Afghan Pashtun ruler has ever accepted the Durand Line, which divided and separated Pashtuns between Afghanistan and British India, as its international border with Pakistan.  The Prime Minister’s Special envoy to Af-Pak, Mr Satinder Lambah, has recently published a study of the Imperial machinations that led to the Durand Line being imposed as the “frontier line” between British India and Afghanistan in 1893 following negotiations between Afghanistan’s then Amir, Abdur Rahman Khan, and Sir Mortimer Durand, the then Foreign Secretary of British India. With Tsarist Russia extending its empire across Central Asia and into Persia, the 1893 agreement also set the limits of British territorial ambitions in the “Great Game,” after Imperial Britain and Tsarist Russia had agreed on the limits of Russia’s sphere of influence in 1873.  Sandwiched between an expansionist Russia and Imperial British power, the hapless Afghans had no choice but to accept the inevitable. The British sought to widen the terms of their rule over what later became parts of the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan. The “frontier line”’ became the “frontier” after the then Amir, Amanullah Khan, was compelled to accept a peace treaty with the British in 1919. But the flames of Pashtun nationalism could not be extinguished. No Afghan ruler ever accepted the legitimacy of the division of historical and traditional Pashtun homelands.  The first time that the Durand Line was referred to as an “international boundary” was in a statement by Pakistan in 1947. The British Government, thereafter, referred to the Durand Line as the “International Frontier” between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1950. This was not surprising. Egged on by its erstwhile Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, Sir Olaf Caroe, the British, who had developed a distinct distaste for Prime Minister Nehru’s left-oriented nonalignment, decided to adopt a pro-Pakistani tilt. Caroe, who was an ardent admirer of Jinnah, persuaded American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that it was essential for the Western allies to support Pakistan as a Muslim state which was to be designated to safeguard Western access to the “wells of power” — the oilfields of the Persian Gulf.  The Afghans held that the disputed Pashtun region should not only have been given the option of joining either India or Pakistan, but also the additional option of becoming an independent state joining Afghanistan through a referendum. The Afghan position remains that the areas that historically and legally formed a part of Afghanistan were forcibly taken away between 1879 and 1921 and subsequently made a part of Pakistan. Afghanistan’s claim that territories extending till the River Indus constituted its frontier, together with its demand for the inclusion of the port of Karachi in Afghanistan, was voiced in secret negotiations with Nazi Germany. Thereafter, in November 1944, the Afghans urged the British that Pashtun tribal areas under British rule should be given the choice of independence or reuniting with their “motherland”. They also urged the British that Afghanistan should be given a “corridor” to the sea through Baluchistan. The Afghan National Assembly passed a resolution in July 1949, rejecting all “unequal” treaties signed with the British and denouncing the description of the Durand Line as the international frontier with Pakistan. The Afghan government also staunchly opposed the grant of UN membership to Pakistan.  Under pressure from Afghanistan over the Durand Line, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto retaliated by inviting the fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to organise cross-border insurgency to destabilise the Daoud regime in Afghanistan. Gen Zia-ul-Haq thereafter used the opportunity of the ill-advised Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to put together an alliance of Wahabi-oriented parties, to wage an armed struggle against the Soviets and, with Western backing, to seize power in Afghanistan. According to a German journalist who interviewed him the day before he died, Zia was beset with delusions of grandeur and spoke of Pakistani influence extending from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort, across Afghanistan, to Central Asia. Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid asserts: “Zia’s vision of a Pakistani influenced region extending into Central Asia depended on an undefined border with Afghanistan, so that the army could justify interference in that country and beyond, as a defined frontier would have entailed recognising international law and the sovereignty of Afghanistan.”  Pakistan thereafter entered into a dangerous game of imperial overreach into Afghanistan and Central Asia, by challenging the international community, through support for what Ahmed Rashid describes as “surrogate regimes such as the Taliban”. It has left virtually no space for backing off on this score. While the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani military may have brutalised lightly armed Baluchis and Bangladeshis, it fears the Pashtuns. General Kayani thus has a difficult choice. If he chooses to try and fulfil Zia’s ambitions, he will have to confront American and Western wrath amidst concern in Iran, Central Asia and Russia. Even if the Taliban succeed in capturing substantial parts of the Pashtun areas in Southern Afghanistan, they will find that unlike in the past they will be faced with determined resistance from the non-Pashtuns in the country, backed by Western powers, Russia, Iran and the neighbouring Central Asian states.  In the ensuing turmoil, the already dwindling writ of the Pakistani state in its Pakhtunkhwa Province and tribal areas will be further eroded. We will then have a de facto Talibanised “Pakhtunistan” on both sides of the Durand Line. Have General Kayani and his Corps Commanders seriously thought through what would happen as a consequence of their ill-advised swagger, bluff and bluster? I think not. Historically, apart from the foray of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s brilliant Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa, Punjab’s rulers have never prevailed over the Pashtuns. General Kayani would be well advised to remember this.


Ex-Armymen pin hopes on court decision

The Delhi High Court notice to Army to consider providing reimbursement of medical expenses for treatment under Indian System of Medicine and homoeopathy as is being given for allopathy to its employees has given a ray of hope to over 36 lakhs ex-Armymen.   For, the members of the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) from three forces-Army, Navy and Air Forces — have been demanding similar benefits for the past one year but to no avail as the Ministry has remained unmoved.  It has made clear that as alternate systems of medicines is not recognised in its policy, defence services personnel cannot claim reimbursement for any treatment apart from allopathy under the scheme.  Sources told The Pioneer, the ECHS members are annoyed at the apathy of the senior bureaucrats in the Defence Ministry for having narrow vision and refusing to think out of the box. “They feel that the officials need to open up to the idea of providing medical claims for ayurveda treatment which is acceptable across the country.”  “The Central employees are availing the benefits under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS). For unknown reasons the Defence Ministry wants to deprive the ex-Armymen from availing such facilities. We are not seeking any entertainment benefits but ensuring better health is our right. We should have the option to avail medical treatment as per our need,” said an ex-Army personnel on the condition of anonymity.  He stressed that it was high time the Ministry changes its rules to adopt the Indian system of medicine which is not only cheap but also has potential to cure ailments that are otherwise incurable by allopathy or modern system. Its ridiculous while the Health Ministry is promoting the alternative system, the Defence Ministry has closed its door on it.”  He said that as required, the ECHS can refer the patients to Ayurveda or Unani hospital and reimburse the payment.  The Army veteran now pins hopes on the Delhi High Court case in August wherein the Centre, the Army, Navy and Air Forces have been asked to look into the National Policy on Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy and frame a scheme for medical treatment/reimbursement for their employees.  The court direction came following a PIL highlighting the case of NSG commando PV Maneesh (Shaurya Chakra awardee) who was paralysed after being injured during operations during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. His ayurvedic treatment costing Rs 2,000 was not reimbursed by the Army as its medical rules do not recognise it.  The case will come up for hearing in the next month.


Oune Salutes the brave-hearted foot soldiers

Serving, retired army officers pay tribute to the heroes of infantry It is on 27 October, 1947 that for the first time after India’s Independence, the Infantry men went into a battle with Pakistan. The Sikh and Kumaon regiments of the Indian Army landed in Srinagar to protect the valley from invasion. The day is observed in commemoration of the first infantry soldier, who had fallen in the battle. We have a ceremony at the War Memorial, next to the Sub-Area headquarters in Pune.  Serving and retired army officers pay tributes to the heroes of the infantry, laying wreaths at the war memorial. A Raising Day is the birth day of an army unit or regiment, whereas Infantry Day is to remember the members of the armed forces who died in the battle.  The usual practice of spending some time at war memorial in remembrance of comrades is observed only by army people. I would say it must be observed by everyone all over the country.  Lt Gen (Retd) RK Nanavatti of 8th Gorkha Rifles  Infantry Day should not only be observed by Army but also citizens Infantry Day is observed because on this day, our soldiers landed in Kashmir and saved Srinagar airport, otherwise Kashmir would have been lost. The irony is that we got our Independence through peaceful means, but just two months after Independence, we had to use force and violence to safeguard our sovereignty.Subsequently our infantry, which is our foot soldiers, lost many lives.  Our foot soldiers have been active throughout the wars that followed. In 1954, during the Nagaland insurgency, Indian troops had to fight the Naga rebels. During the 1962 China War, it was the foot soldiers that battled the enemy braving the harsh weather. The Infantry was armed only with .303 Le Enfield rifles and not automatic rifles.  Close to 2,000 infantry soldiers lost their fingers and hands due to the extreme cold weather. The infantry soldiers have been on the forefront and always played a major role in all the battles, including facing the brunt of insurgency and militancy in Kashmir. Therefore, Infantry Day should not only be observed by Indian Army but also citizens should acknowledge the sacrifice given by these soldiers for India’s sovereignty. Col (Dr) Anil Athale, (Gorkha Regiment) and Former Head of War History Division, Ministry of Defence  Soldiers pay tribute to their brothers who laid down their lives We soldiers observe every day in remembrance of our brothers who sacrificed their lives for the nation and it is not only limited to the Infantry Day. However, on Infantry Day, soldiers remember the brave ones who laid down their lives to defend the honour of the country. I have always insisted that every citizen of India must observe this day in remembrance of soldiers who sacrificed their lives. In Punjab and Haryana, everyone observes Infantry Day and pay tribute to the families of the lost soldiers. I feel in Maharashtra too, citizens must pay respect to the soldiers who have lost their lives in wars.  Col (Retd) Sadanand Salunke, Vir Chakra (Maratha light infantry Regiment)  ‘The infantryman stood silent with victory at his feet’ It was the year 1947. The then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was under attack by the tribal raiders supported by troops of the newly formed Pakistani army. On October 26 Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the state, had signed the instrument of accession and appealed to the Indian government for help and the saga of the struggle in the J&K began. It was on the morning of October 27, 1947, troops of the First Sikh infantry battalion landed at the Srinagar airfield for liberation of Kashmir. Since then, to commemorate that landmark event, each year October 27 is observed by infantry regiments of the Indian Army as the ‘Infantry Day’.  The infantry component of the army has always been in the forefront during external aggression or while combating the internal fissiparous tendencies. It is the ‘sword arm’ of our army. Our troops have to fight the enemy in varied climatic and topographic conditions; from the deserts of the Thar & Rann of Kutch to the snow bound Himalayan peaks to the jungles of the NorthEast to the sea shores of the Andaman- Nicobar. In all these places it is the infantry, supported by the other fighting arms and the logistic services, which is always in the forefront. The infantry arm accounts for 60% of the strength of the Indian Army. Majority of our infantrymen belong to the rural background. Even though comparatively less educated, they are quick to learn the ‘art of war’.  Mere advancement in technology and computerisation do not instill courage, tenacity and bravery in any soldier. These qualities are instilled in an infantryman during his basic training itself. I end my tribute to the infantry with a quote from the great Field Marshal Wavell. He says:  “When it was the victory, the cavalier claimed it outright, the gunner boasted of his calibre but the infantryman stood silent with victory at his feet.”  Lt Col (Retd) BC Joglekar                   [Share]     [Dictionary: Double-click any word]     [Print]     [Email]      [Bookmark]     +    - Related links      Will burst crackers (Sanjay Nirupam) after Diwali is over: Raj Thackeray     Will fight religious apartheid in Pakistan, says Asif Ali Zardari on Diwali     Omar Abdullah's promise on AFSPA led to utter confusion: PDP     Better coordination with National Conference needed: Congress     4 lakh died in accidents in 2010 in India; majority 2 wheeler victims  Gallery Pictures: Wayward Diwali rocket sets flat on fire Video Video: Ronit Roy arrested


Indian Army desperately needs modern artillery

Since a major power's military capabilities or those of a group of major powers still play a decisive role in the world (as recently demonstrated in Libya), it is important to take stock where India's modernisation plans stand in this regard.  India's defence preparedness has always been adversary-specific. The arming and organisation of the Indian Armed Forces have been planned mainly keeping Pakistan in mind. However, a minimum deterrence against China has been maintained since 1962 was too bitter a pill to swallow for India.  However, over the last 12 years, there has been a perceived change. The three wings of the Armed Forces have advocated moving away from an adversary or threat-specific approach to a capability-specific approach. The political class has, in principle, agreed to this.  The second-largest standing volunteer Army in the world is currently undergoing a transformation in terms of organisation as well. The Indian Army currently has a mix of offensive, defensive and mixed corps. India right now has three 'Strike' or 'Reserve' Corps - 1 Corps headquartered in Mathura, 2 Corps headquartered in Ambala and 21 Corps headquartered in Bhopal.  However, since a doctrinal change in terms of swift penetration inside the adversary's territory without the need to mobilise the old-fashioned way has been doing the rounds, the requirement for cutting-edge weaponry is being felt more and more.  While the Army plans to induct a total of 1600 Russian-origin tanks, a mix of T-90M Bhishma and the older T-90S, the indigenous Arjun MBT has finally proved its mettle. Though substantially heavier than the T-72s and T-90s, the Arjun has proved to be more capable in terms of firepower and armour protection, if certain sources in the Army are to be believed. Till now, around 248 Arjun tanks have been ordered and a regiment of tanks (numbering around 90) are already in service.  There were certain technical issues with the Russian T90 series tanks in terms of their performance in the extreme desert climate but Army HQ sources are saying they have been sorted out.  However, the Army's artillery modernisation drive has taken a major hit. The Army's last major artillery buy was in the 1980s when they bought about 400 FH-77 guns from Bofors, Sweden.  Just when a contract for 120 self-propelled (SP) guns on tank tracks and 180 wheeled SP 155mm guns was about to be concluded after years of protracted trials, Denel, the South African arms manufacturer and a leading contender for the contract, was alleged to have been involved in a corruption scam in an earlier deal for anti-material rifles (AMRs). Since, the other two howitzers in contention, from Soltam of Israel and BAE Systems, reportedly did not meet the criteria, the Army recommended fresh trials.  In January 2008, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued three global tenders for 155mm guns and howitzers for the mountains, the plains and self-propelled guns for the deserts. The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) of MoD had earlier approved the procurement of 1,580 guns in 2007 and an RFP issued within the first quarter of 2008. It was issued to eight manufacturers including BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Nexter (France), Rhinemetall (Germany), Samsung (South Korea) and ST Kinetics. The guns of BAE Systems and ST Kinetics were shortlisted. But since ST Kinetics came under the scanner for some wrongdoings, the RFP was cancelled.  The DAC had also approved the procurement of 145 light-weight towed 155mm, 39-calibre howitzers in 2006 and an RFP was issued to ten global vendors in 2008. ST Kinetics was the only one to submit a technical and commercial offer for its Pegasus Light Weight Howitzer. As it became a single-vendor situation, the MoD initiated the procurement of light-weight howitzers through the direct Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route from the US government. Trials of the US BAE Systems M777 A1 howitzer were held in the Pokhran range and reportedly trials were held in the mountains of Sikkim too. But a sudden report leak case, which the Army is probing, has since held up the matter.  Since the Bofors 155mm Howitzer was introduced into service, the indigenously designed and manufactured 105 mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) the Light Field Gun (LFG), inducted further back, also need replacement. Approximately 180 pieces of 130mm M46 Russian medium guns have been successfully "up-gunned" to 155mm calibre with Israeli help. The new barrel length of 45-calibres has enhanced the range of the gun to about 40 km with extended range ammunition.  It was recently found out that the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was sitting on the drawings of the FH-77 guns which came with the Bofors' deal - and this when the Army has been keeping about 300 of the old guns fit by cannibalising the other 100 pieces. OFB has now been asked by MoD to build six prototypes within 18 months.  However, the Army's artillery power has received a major shot in the arm by progressive induction of modern rocket artillery systems. Two regiments of the 12-tube, 300mm Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) system have been raised. The Russian system has a 90 km range and has massively added to the true long range firepower of the Army. Extended range (ER) rockets have enhanced the 122 mm Grad MBRL's range from 22 to about 40 km.  The indigenous Pinaka MBRL system has also added to the Army's firepower. The system had first proved its mettle in Kargil War where it successfully neutralised enemy positions. The Army has inducted three Pinaka regiments till date while more are likely to be inducted between now and 2017. Each Pinaka regiment typically consists of three batteries with each battery comprising six 12-tube launchers. A full battery salvo of 72 rockets in 44 seconds can neutralise one square km of area. A few sources say India already has inducted as many as 80 of these systems.  The Pinaka will be operated in conjunction with the Indian Army's Firefinder radars and indigenously developed BEL Weapon Locating Radar of which 28 are on order. The Indian Army is networking all its artillery units together with the DRDO's Artillery Command & Control System (ACCS), which acts as a force multiplier. The ACCS is now in series production. The Pinaka units will also be able to make use of the Indian Army's SATA (Surveillance & Target Acquisition) Units which have been beefed up substantially throughout the late 1990s, with the induction of the Searcher-1, Searcher-2 and IAI Heron UAVs into the Indian Army as well as the purchase of a large number of both Israeli made and Indian-made Battle Field Surveillance radars. These have also been coupled with purchases of the Israeli LORROS (Long Range Observation and Sighting System) which is ideally suited for long range day/night surveillance.  Induction of the Brahmos cruise missile and Prithvi ballistic missile systems has re-affirmed the Army's battlefield domination ambitions. With modern infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) joining the force every year and the Army in the process of augmenting its flying gunship force levels, it is the necessary induction of between 3000 and 4000 pieces of towed and self-propelled artillery that can really hamper the 1.1-million strong Army's progress on the battlefield. The Army has recently beefed up its mountain warfare force by inducting two new mountain divisions or about 30000 terrain-fighting soldiers.


Apache to give army more teeth

After the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-130J Hercules, it will be the turn of another US manufactured aircraft to prowl the Indian skies and perform air defence duties.  Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III is all set to bag the contract for the Indian Army’s procurement of 22 attack helicopters as the other Russian bidder Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ has failed to meet the requirements of the armed forces.  According to Russian news agency Novosti the Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ failed to meet the technical requirements and was found short on the sensors and combat systems integration leaving the AH-64D Apache Block III the only competitor.  India has issued a Request for Proposal for procuring 2.5 tonne twin engine helicopter with all weather and terrain capability in May 2008.  The AH-64D Apache Block III, Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ along Augusta Westland AW-129 Mangustu and Eurocopter Tiger were the other contenders for the 22 attack helicopters which is to replace the existing fleet of the army’s ageing attack helicopters.  However, Eurocopter Tiger and Augusta-129 Mangustu pulled out of the race for the tender some time back. Experts pointed out the selection of the US the manufactured chopper over the Russian Mi-28N ‘Night Hunter’ come as no surprise considering the recent acquisitions from the US.  For Russia, losing out on the deal will mean a big setback as it was hard selling the Mi-28 N along with other helicopters and short-range air defence at Aero India 2011.  “The AH-64D Apache Block III will complement the indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) once it is inducted into the armed forces. They will play an important role in strengthening the air defences by carrying out attacks against slow moving aerial targets, destruction of enemy air defence operations, support of combat search and rescue operations, anti-tank suites and scout duties,” Army sources said.


Why 1962 will not be repeated

On October 20, very few in India remembered that 49 years ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army massively attacked India. Tawang district, Arunachal Pradesh, bore the brunt of the aggression. Since then, the names Thagla ridge and the Namkha Chu have become synonymous with defeat, humiliation and shame.  The wise man will say, ‘the past is past’; but the question remains, could the debacle be repeated?  In recent months, the Indian press has been full of reports about the amazing infrastructure development to the north of the LAC: new airports, four-way highroads, five-star hotels, and a railway line coming closer and closer. Article continues below the advertisement...  Wanting to find out for myself, I travelled to Tawang. Though most of the border areas are still ‘restricted’ to ordinary citizens, after spending a few days in Tawang and listening to the local people, one gets a fair idea of the situation.  The answer to my question is definitively, ‘No, 1962 will not be repeated.’  During the last decades, many things have changed in India. Just after independence, the principles of the administration of the Northeast were laid down by Verrier Erwin, the guru of soft integration of tribal areas: “We should avoid imposing anything on the local people.”  It had disastrous consequences as far as infrastructure was concerned. In October 1962, when the Chinese entered Indian territory, north of Tawang, Nehru was forced to wake up from his romantic dreams.  In January 2008, during a visit to Itanagar and Tawang, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs24,000 crore package for the state. Priority was given to roads (in particular, the construction of a Trans-Arunachal Highway).  With the road being enlarged between the plains of Assam and Tawang, one drives on the messiest imaginable construction site. It is the favourite topic of local jokes: some say if the Chinese dare to come again, they will break their vehicles and their noses; others curse the army’s Border Road Organisation for having started work on all the stretches simultaneously.  The fact remains that the present state of the road is not propitious for an armed conflict. There are other differences between 1962 and 2011. The then foolish leadership did not dare to use the air force, it will not be the case today; especially after a full squadron of Sukhoi-30 aircraft have been deployed at the Tezpur air base in Assam (another squadron has been brought to Chabua in Upper Assam).  Further, the IAF is planning to open six Advanced Landing Grounds, as well as several helipads in areas close to the border.  If India was attacked today, it would not remain a localised conflict like in 1962; any Chinese misadventure would trigger an ‘all-out’ conflict. The Chinese are aware of this. It has been in the public domain that two new infantry divisions (with their headquarters in Zakama, Nagaland, and Missamari, Assam) have been raised and that the government is looking for a place in the Northeast to set up the headquarters of the Mountain Strike Corps.  Walking in the bazaar in Tawang, one has a feeling of a harmonious relation between the army and the local population. This is a crucial factor that was not here 50 years ago. I was told that some villages fully supported the invading Chinese troops in 1962. This explains how the PLA was able to build a road from Bumla, the border pass, to Tawang in 18 days. One can imagine the amount of accurate intelligence required for this feat. Such a situation does not exist in Tibet where the alien PLA has to deal with a resentful local population.  Though it cannot be construed as a sign that nothing untoward could happen, today there is relative peace and bonhomie on the border. Indian tourists can get a pass from the deputy commissioner’s office for a darshan of Tibet at Bumla border post. I was told that on October 1, 300 Indian and Chinese visitors participated in a mela on the occasion of China’s Republic Day.  The general comment was that Chinese noodles are not as good as Indian parathas and sabzis.  Lastly but most importantly, the local Monpa population is among the most patriotic in India. Though the Chinese propaganda calls this area ‘Southern Tibet’, this will never be accepted by the local population. Once, there was a demonstration of the local population chanting ‘Dudh mangoge to kheer denyenge, Aruncahal mangoge to chir denyenge’ (If you ask for milk, we’ll give you kheer; if you ask for Arunachal, we’ll give you arrows).  If China wants again to ‘teach a lesson’ to India, it will be a Himalayan task, and in the process, the PLA may get a ‘bloody nose’, as they say in the army.


Deficiency syndrome’ haunts Indian Army

New Delhi, OLR, Indian Army faces a shortage of 41,000 crore to upgrade its equipment and ammunition . Without the specified amount, the 1.13-million-strong force will a daunting task in future operations.  The Army has in its 11th Plan (2007-2012) review,  emphasized operational gaps in artillery, aviation, air defence & nightfighting capabilities, ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles), PGMs (precision-guided munitions) and specialized tank and rifle ammunition, say sources.  Pointing out the deficiency, Army has conveyed to the defence ministry via 11th plan that around Rs 41,000 crore will be required to bridge the gap, in the face of rapid modernization in China and Pakistan. Incidentally, the Army itself has projected the remote but nevertheless plausible eventuality of a simultaneous “two-front war” in a worst-case scenario.  But the force has a long way to go to achieve cent per cent operational capability and considering an earlier estimate it would be possible only by the end of the 14th Plan in 2027.



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