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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 02 Nov 2011





Chinese airfields encircle Ladakh

* India has 2 airbases at Leh & Thoise * China has 6 fully-functional airfields adjoining Ladakh  Ajay Banerjee at the LAC in Ladakh  In the vast windswept and barren landscape that divides India and China in southeastern Ladakh, temperatures can drop to a numbing minus 10 degree Celsius at the start of winter. What’s more bone chilling for India is recent military developments in western parts of Tibet and Xinjiang province in China that pose a new challenge for Indian defence establishment and its forces. fortress-like three-storey Chinese observation post across the LAC in south-eastern Ladakh. A fortress-like three-storey Chinese observation post across the LAC in south-eastern Ladakh. Tribune photos: Mukesh Aggarwal  There can be no masking the fact that India needs to prioritise and speed up its thrust into eastern Ladakh. Setting up of vital airfields, infrastructure on the LAC, storehouses for supplies and better accommodation for troops just cannot be postponed any more.  At the beginning of October, the Indian Defence Ministry gave its nod to develop an airfield at Nyoma and expand the one at Kargil. At present India has two full-fledged airbases at Leh and Thoise.  Meanwhile, China has readied six airbases on its side in areas of western Tibet and Xinjiang province adjoining Ladakh.  The Indian security establishment has irrefutable visual inputs on Chinese airfields. Beijing now has the capability to launch fighter aircrafts carrying deadly strike weapons or transport planes carrying tonnes of equipment or hundreds of troops to land then close to Indian forward defence lines along the LAC. These fully-functional airfields virtually form a ‘ring’ around Ladakh.  A senior official explained to The Tribune the fresh challenges saying Kashgar, Korla, Yarkand, Hotan, Cherchen (Qiemo) and Gardzong, have operational airfields. Large planes like the IL76 transporter operate from there. Last winter, the Chinese conducted a major military exercise and even operated their own version of the Sukhoi-30 fighter from at least three of these bases.  In India, only Leh and Thoise allow operations of all types of small and large planes. The Kargil airstrip is just 6,000-feet long and allows only smaller planes like AN32 or the C-130-Js to land. It will be expanded by the year 2016.  Nyoma in southeastern Ladakh is a mud-paved advanced landing ground (ALG). This sits at a junction from where three pressure points along the LAC-Demchok, Chushul and Chumar sector-are close by. Indian strategic planners have ruled out having a full operational usage of the ALG’s at Fukche and Chushul as they are deemed too close to China.  In China, the accommodation coming up is all in concrete. China terms the structures as the ‘nomad-huts’. The Indian Army suspects these are of dual use and can be converted into supply depots or even bunkers. The Chinese watch towers at Domshele and Demchok are three-storey high and are visibly well protected and insulated. The Indian side has basic amenities but those are way behind China.  A China-watcher at the New-Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, Dr K Yhome, says, “From a military point of view, the Chinese infrastructure of airfields, roads and rail-network threatens India. Our pace is not quick enough,” he adds.  It’s important that defence planners take note of his assessment.


Lt-Gen SK Singh takes over as Army Vice-Chief

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, November 1 In an important development, Lt-Gen SK Singh, a soldier with vast experience along the Chinese and Pakistani frontier, took over as the new Vice-Chief of the Indian Army today. He will be the second senior-most officer of the 1.4 million strong Army, and in a way heralds a generational change at the top.  Gen SK Singh, who will have a 26-month tenure, is the first officer to be commissioned after India’s last full-fledged war in 1971 to rise to such a high post. He replaces Lt-Gen AS Lamba. At present, there are only four other officers in the Indian Army, including present Army Chief General VK Singh, who were commissioned in 1971 and took part in the war.  The new Vice-Chief was commissioned in December, 1972, in the 8 Gorkha Rifles, a regiment to which late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw belonged, and is termed as “Sam’s own”. He is also the colonel commandant of the Gorkha Rifles at present.  In the Army, the Vice-Chief is the most important post as he is the coordinator for all efforts like budgetary spending and new tactics. Gen SK Singh joins when the Army is set to transform itself. It conducted major exercises to test its capabilities on this front in May this year, while another one is slated at the year-end.  Till now, Gen SK Singh was the General officer Commanding-in-Chief (GoC-in-C) of the Jaipur-based South Western Command. Notably, Gen Singh has served in the vital Leh-based 14 corps as (GoC) and at the time of crisis when flash floods-hit the area in August 2010. He saw deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s. He was deployed in the anti-militancy operation, Rakshak, in Punjab. The general was commander of an infantry division on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. Besides, he has commanded a brigade in the Siachen Glacier.  Meanwhile Lieutenant-General Gyan Bhushan today took over as GoC-in-C of South Western Command to replace Gen SK Singh.


From now, call him Lieutenant Colonel Dhoni

New Delhi: India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Olympian gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra on Tuesday officially became honorary Lieutenant Colonels in the Territorial Army with the army chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, pipping their ranks on their shoulders.  President Pratibha Patil had approved the grant of honorary commissions to the two illustrious sportspersons on Sep 13 in recognition of their achievements in their respective sports.  Dhoni led India to victory in the cricket World Cup earlier this year and was instrumental in taking the team to the top spot in Test rankings for the first time last year. He had also led the team to victory in the inaugural T20 World championship in 2007.  Bindra won the only individual Olympic gold medal for India at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Along with the two sportsmen, the army also honoured Deepak Rao, a medical doctor by qualification but a martial arts specialist by choice, who got about 15,000 of the army troops trained in close quarter combat, with the rank of a Major.  While Dhoni and Deepak Rao were commissioned into the elite Para Regiment in the presence of the Colonel of the Regiment, Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia, Bindra was welcomed into the Sikh Regiment by Lt. Gen. Sumer Singh, its Colonel of teh Regiment.  "I have got the maroon beret now, but I have to earn it," Dhoni said soon after, pointing out that becoming a member of the elite Parachute Regiment was not child's play and involved rigorous combat and airborne operations training.  "I will soon find time to go for my training, will meet with the soldiers on the borders and encourage youth to join the army," said Dhoni, who has earlier interacted with army personnel during visits to cantonments. He was asked by his wife Sakshi, how he would contribute to the army.  "Joining the Territorial Army and donning this uniform is a childhood dream come true for me," he added.  On his choice of the Para Regiment, the cricketer said he wanted to be part of a regiment that had members from all over the country and from all regiments of the Indian Army, and hence the choice narrowed down to the Para Regiment.  Bindra, his usual humble self, said his interaction with the army was relatively new and hence he would learn more now that he is donning the Olive Green uniform.  Rao, who has Annaji as his middle name, has been training all the elite forces of the country, including the National Security Guard, for 18 years now, having developed his own unique style of close quarter combat.  Asked how he would contribute, Rao said he had only trained 15,000 soldiers till date, but the armed forces were 14 lakh strong. "I have many more years to go," he said.  The two sports personalities and the martial arts expert joined an exclusive group of personalities, including senior cricketers Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar, who have been conferred honorary ranks in the armed forces.  Kapil Dev was conferred the honorary Lt. Col. rank in the Territorial Army in 2008, while Tendulkar was made honorary Group Captain in the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2010.


New Army Vice Chief to focus on modernisation of defence forces

New Delhi, Nov. 1 (ANI): The new Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lieutenant General Shri Krishna Singh, on Tuesday said that his focus is on the restructuring of the forces for internal and external security of the country and endeavour to mould the Indian Army to be most modern.  Lieutenant General Shri Krishna Singh, who today took charge as the new Vice Chief of the Indian Army, is the first officer commissioned after the 1971 war to rise to the post of Vice Chief of Army Staff.  Lieutenant General Singh told the media here that his focus would be on the modernisation of the forces.  “The major challenge is that we are in the process of a lot of restructuring and doing a lot of modernisation, acquisitions. So these are the ones, which are, you know, how we manage the transition to become a very modern army that is going to be our major challenge,” he said.  Lieutenant General Singh further mentioned that the modernisation of the defence forces is essential for the internal and external security of the country.  “In both external as well as internal security- the role of the army and basically from the external point of view, we are getting well prepared. From the internal challenges also we are doing well and in J andK (Jammu and Kashmir) and northeast, but these are challenges where you know the militants tend to acquire new techniques and we have to be always vigilant to make sure that we are one step ahead of them,” he said.  An officer from the Gorkha Rifles, Lieutenant General Shri Krishna Singh replaced Lt. Gen. Arvinder Singh Lamba who retired on Monday.  After paying floral tribute to the eternal soldier’s memorial known as the Amar Jawan Jyoti, Lieutenant General Singh inspected the formal Guard of Honour at the Army Headquarters.  Lieutenant General Singh commanded a brigade in Siachen Glacier, an infantry division on Line of Control (LoC), a corps in high altitude in Jammu and Kashmir and was chief of South Western Command before assuming his new responsibility. (ANI)


Lt Gen Gyan Bhushan takes over as SW command's new GOC-in-C

Jaipur, Nov 1 (PTI) Lieutenant General Gyan Bhushan today took over as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Jaipur-based South Western Command of the Indian Army. An alumnus of Sainik School, Tilaiya (Bihar), National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy, Bhushan was commissioned into Mahar Regiment in December 1973, a defence spokesperson said. Lt Gen Bhushan replaced Lt Gen S K Singh, who has taken over as the Vice-Chief of the Indian Army. Lt Gen Bhushan has been honoured with Chief of the Army Staff Commendation Card, Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM), Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) and Uttam Yudh Seva Medal (UYSM). A graduate of Defence Staff College, Wellington Higher Command, Mhow, and National Defence Course, Delhi, he has been an instructor in College of Combat, Indian Defence Attache at Kazakhstan and Commandant of the prestigious India Military Training Team at Bhutan, he added.


Indira’s decisiveness on national security

It was some time in 1970 when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla near Pune, that some of us, then cadets under training there, got to see her up close. On our course, we were attending the early morning physical training period in separate squads at the gymnasium, where we saw her walking past us with as military a gait as the commandant and officers escorting her and viewing all the activity with quite the quick observant eye of a field commander. Thereafter, she impressed us with her speech in the cadets’ mess during the guest lunch in her honour. Her speeches during the 1971 India-Pakistan War were inspiring too and worth giving a second hearing. Years later, after her assassination, during an interaction with former Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal (then Squadron Leader) Fali Major, who had often piloted the VIP squadron helicopter transporting Mrs Gandhi, I recall him recounting how particular she used to be about the general welfare and billeting arrangements for the air-crew while on tours. Mrs Gandhi’s first instance of assertiveness on national security was when the Chinese People’s Libera-tion Army (PLA) began upping the ante on the Line of Actual Control at Nathu La, in Sikkim in 1967 — five years after the Chinese aggression. Brig. M.M.S. Bakshi, who commanded the brigade at Nathu La then, related the incident to this writer. While the Indian Army had strict orders about opening of fire, Brig. Bakshi explained: “Local commanders were authorised to open fire with small arms only in self-defence. As for heavier weapons, such as artillery, even high-ranking field commanders had not been delegated the authority to employ such weapons. It transpired that this authority was vested only in the Prime Minister. Such a control has some logic of limiting a local incident from escalating into a clash of serious proportions in normal times.” Although border-fencing had been agreed to at the level of the two armies’ formation commanders, to avoid frequent bickering which the politically-motivated PLA soldiers resorted to, they continued to do so when fencing work began. Eventually, the situation reached a boiling point. Brig. Bakshi continued: “They (PLA) opened up with all the weapons they had, including their mortars and even artillery. Our troops were taken by surprise in the open and many fell in cold blood. The commanding officer of the battalion was severely wounded by a burst of machinegun in his stomach and had to be evacuated. There was utter panic and confusion when two more officers — a captain and a major — were killed as they led their troops in the open.” Deciding that an artillery response must be given, Brig. Bakshi requested for it. He described: “Apparently the divisional commander passed on the request for artillery fire to the Corps commander located in Siliguri who in turn asked the Army commander (GOC-in-C, Easte-rn Command) in Calcutta. It so happened that the Army commander was in Delhi those days, standing in for the Chief of the Army Staff, who had gone abroad on an official visit to France. But it was astonishing that even the Chief was helpless without the express permission from the PM who was in Parliament at that time and could not be disturbed. Eventually, when appro-ached she (Indira Gandhi) gave the go-ahead instantly. When we did get the permission to use artillery, we went in with a vengeance and gave them as well as we got. The firefight went on for five days in all its fury. Mercifully, neither side made any effort to make an incursion into the other side’s territory and both sides began to realise the futility of this misadventure. We started getting orders to de-escalate, but before that our medium guns destroyed a convoy of trucks bringing Chinese reinforcements moving up the road through Chumbi Valley to reach the Pass.” In one fell stroke Mrs Gandhi undid the humiliation by China which her father was responsible for and sent a message to the Chinese that they could forget about repeating 1962. On April 8, 1975, Indian tanks and soldiers surrounded the palace the King of Sikkim and placed him under Indian observance. In the process of this annexation one member of the Sikkim guard was shot dead. It was delightful to hear late Field Marshal (FM) S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, recall his discussion with Mrs Gandhi, when he was the Army Chief in 1971. “I have seen several angry women, including my wife. But never one like Mrs Gandhi,’’ said the Field Marshal while releasing the book, Liberation and Beyond: Indo-Bangladesh Relations by J.N. Dixit, former foreign secretary, in the capital. In early 1971, when the problem of the great influx of East Pakistani refugees entering India was being discussed in a Cabinet meeting, Mrs Gandhi had asked for Sam, then Army Chief to be present. When asked by her as to what he had done about this influx he had replied that he was doing nothing about it as doing anything about it would amount to an act of war. At the end of the meeting, when she asked him to stay on, he admitted during some interviews with the media that he had prepared himself to tender his resignation. However, when she resumed the discussion with him in private, he gave her all the reasons why he felt India should not go to war at that point of time. She then asked him to suggest the date and in sign language conveyed that he should pen it down on a piece of paper. He wrote December 4, 1971. If the war began on December 3, it was thanks to Pakistan. One of the versions of the discussion between Mrs Gandhi and Field Marshal Manekshaw with quotes which this writer accessed while researching on the 1971 India-Pakistan war is: It was the afternoon of April 29, 1971. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had called an urgent Cabinet meeting. Those present were defence minister Jagjivan Ram, agriculture minister Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, finance minister Y.B. Chauhan, external affairs minister Sardar Swaran Singh, and a special invitee, Army Chief Gen. Sam Manekshaw. “What are you doing?’’ a fuming Mrs Gandhi asked the general, throwing reports of the refugee influx from East Pakistan sent by the-then West Bengal chief minister Siddartha Shankar Ray on the table, Field Marshal Manekshaw recalled. ‘’I want you to walk into East Pakistan,’’ Mrs Gandhi told her Army Chief. ‘’That means war,’’ the General said. ‘’I don’t mind if it is war,’’ was Mrs Gandhi’s characteristic reply. Field Marshal Man-ekshaw was unruffled by the outburst. “Have you read the Bible?’’ he asked the Prime Minister in his usual breezy manner. ‘’What has the bible got to do with this?’’ Swaran Singh intervened. ‘’In the beginning there was darkness. God said let there be light and there was light. He then divided light from the darkness,’’ Field Marshal Manekshaw quoted the Genesis to impress upon the ministers that the Army was not prepared for a sudden war. “I have only 30 tanks and two armoured divisions with me. The Himalayan passes will be opening anytime. What if the Chinese give an ultimatum? The rains will start now in East Pakistan. When it rains there the rivers become oceans. I guarantee 100 per cent defeat,’’ Field Marshal Manekshaw told Mrs Gandhi, disapproving the idea of an immediate attack. Mrs Gandhi, who adjourned the meeting to 4 pm, held back Field Marshal Manekshaw, who was the last man to leave the room. ‘’Shall I send in my resignation, on grounds of health, mental or physical?’’ he asked. Mrs Gandhi finally gave her Army Chief the time he wanted to elaborate his strategy. It was Mrs Gandhi’s decision, for the first time since Independence and in the third war with Pakistan, that it was properly planned and the Indian Navy was used and with telling effect. The end result was Pakistan getting dismembered with 13 days and Bangladesh getting liberated. In 1984, Mrs Gandhi ordered the Army to fight its way into the main shrine where Khalistani with quotes militants had established their headquarters. The occupiers refused to depart from their holiest shrine and a firefight ensued, with 83 soldiers and 493 occupiers, including the leaders, killed, and many more injured. While Operation Blue Star had some negative effects on the Army, it cost Mrs Gandhi her life. Her speeches and notes/writings related to national security must be heard and read time and again by our country’s decision-makers. Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi


IAF to hold 'Exercise Maha Gajraj' with Indian Army

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Air Force (IAF) will deploy its major frontline combat aircraft including the Su-30, Jaguars and the Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) in a massive joint exercise codenamed 'Maha Gajraj' with the Indian Army over the western desert in Rajasthan.  All major war-fighting equipment will be deployed in the joint exercise with the Army over Pokharan in Rajasthan, senior IAF officials told PTI here.  The exercise, which will mainly have the aerial assets under the Gandhinagar-based South Western Air Command, will start in November and culminate in December.  The SWAC area of responsibility extends from Rajasthan to Maharashtra and has several important bases such as Jodhpur, Naliya, Bhuj, Jamnagar and Pune under it.  It also looks after the maritime security aspect of the western region and has aircraft such as the Su-30MKI, maritime Jaguars, MiG 27 and MiG 21s under it.  During the exercise, the IAF will validate its war-fighting doctrines and practice joint manoeuvres with the Army troops on ground.  The Army bit of the exercise has been codenamed 'Sudarshan Shakti' and will involve over 50,000 troops and over 200 main battle tanks mainly from the Bhopal-based 21 Strike Corps and the Jodhpur-based 12 Corps.  The two Services will hold the wargames under SWAC Commander Air Marshal Anjan Kumar Gogoi and Southern Army Commander Lt Gen A K Singh.


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