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Thursday, 3 November 2011

From Today's Papers - 03 Nov 2011

US offer: Can team up with India to develop super stealth fighter
F-35: The advanced Flying machine  The F-35 is a fifth generation all-stealth fighter being developed by US armament giant Lockheed Martin in a joint consortium with eight other countries - the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia. The F-35 Lightning II boasts of advanced airframe, autonomic logistics, avionics, propulsion systems, stealth and firepower at the most affordable cost.
Washington, November 2 The US today offered India partnership in the development of the world's most advanced flying machine, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, months after losing the lucrative $ 10 billion contract for 126 war planes.  Acknowledging that India's recent decision not to opt for America's F-16 and F-18 fighters was a "setback", the Pentagon said it is still interested in selling its top notch fighters to India.  "Despite this setback, we believe US aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), to be the best in the world," the Pentagon said in a nine-page report to the Congress.  "Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the United States would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements (infrastructure, security, etc) to support India's future planning," the Pentagon said in a one-of-its kind report on India submitted to the US Congress.  The F-35 is a fifth generation all-stealth fighter being developed by US armament giant Lockheed Martin in a joint consortium with eight other countries - the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.  The F-35 Lightning II boasts advanced airframe, autonomic logistics, avionics, propulsion systems, stealth and firepower at the most affordable cost.  The US has already undertaken some test flights of the fighter. F-35 is the only other fifth generation aircraft to fly in the world besides the F-22 Raptors. Washington has refused to share the Raptor technology with any other nation, even its closest allies the UK and Israel.  India has demonstrated keenness to expand its air power and the 126 MMRC deal is part of efforts to upgrade its air inventory. The European consortium EADS fighter Typhoon and French fighter Rafale have been have been shortlisted for the contract. India is also keen to acquire the 5th generation fighter technology and signed a deal with Russia for development of the Sukhoi 5th generation fighter aircraft.  Though the US lost the race for fighter jets in India, the Pentagon report noted that in less than a decade, starting at zero, the foreign military sales to India have shot up to approximately $ 6 billion. The sales include C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft, TPQ-37 fire-finding radars, Self- Protection Suites (SPS) for VVIP aircraft, specialised tactical equipment, Harpoon missiles, Sensor-Fuzed Weapons and carrier flight and test pilot school training. The Pentagon report indicated the Obama administration's keenness for continually looking for ways to expand defence cooperation with India.
Four years later, Army strips officer of permanent commission
Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, November 2 In a strange case, the Army has not only “unilaterally” cancelled the permanent commission (PC) granted to an officer in 2007 and converted it into short service commission (SSC) but also issued him a notice for demotion of his rank from major to lieutenant.  The move was initiated by the Army on the grounds that on the date of grant of PC to the petitioner, he was not in an acceptable medical category (SHAPE-1).  The Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has stayed the conversion after the officer concerned filed a petition challenging the Army’s move. He has contended that the Army’s reason is not only legally but also factually incorrect.  The petitioner was commissioned in the Infantry (Punjab Regiment) as an SSC officer on September 9, 2002 and served in field, counter-insurgency and high-altitude areas, including the Siachen glacier. As per policy, he was to be considered for PC in the fifth year of service and it was to be granted with effect from September 2007. His papers were processed for PC in 2007 as per procedure and his medical board was also conducted, confirming he was in medical category SHAPE-1.  Towards the end of August 2007, he had a bout of unconsciousness after participating in a cross-country run and was advised to see a medical specialist four days prior to when he became a PC officer. The petitioner was, thereafter, kept under observation. His medical category was downgraded from SHAPE-1 to SHAPE-3 on September 29, 2009.  He has contended that the down gradation of his medical category was much after the date of grant of PC.  When his IAST application was being considered this year, an objection was raised that since he was referred to hospital four days prior to grant of PC, he was to be treated as downgraded to SHAPE-4 and hence, his PC was not correctly granted.  In July, he was issued a letter cancelling his PC granted more than four years ago. Thereafter, he was issued a show-cause notice for demoting him from the rank of substantive major to substantive lieutenant that is two steps down, since he has been stripped off of his status as a PC officer.  He has also contended that while processing his hospitalisation records, the Army omitted to peruse relevant Army Orders that stipulate that the medical category can only be brought down after a person is brought before a Classification Medical Board and hence the same cannot be done unilaterally.
Chinese challenges India’s defence preparedness inadequate
India seems to be somewhat careless when it comes to handling China. Or, perhaps, we believe that China, calculatively working on its ambitious programme of becoming a superpower, cannot afford to militarily engage India again as it did in 1962. One gets this impression from the fact that India does not have even metalled roads in many areas near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, as revealed by a series of Tribune reports. Many strategically significant approach roads leading to the LAC are an apology for roads. Our airfields near the LAC are no match to those built by the Chinese. Most of our airfields cannot handle big planes whereas this is not true in the case of those on the Chinese side. India has been acquiring latest equipment for some time to meet any threat from across the Himalayas, but China is far ahead of us in this respect too.  How will our soldiers accomplish the task assigned to them in the absence of adequate and dependable infrastructure? India’s plan to recruit one lakh soldiers specifically for deployment at the border with China cannot serve the intended purpose unless our military personnel have all the facilities required for their effective functioning. We must ensure that any surprising development should not make us face the situation that we did during the 1962 India-China war. In 1962 Indian soldiers suffered at the hands of the Chinese because they were not only poorly trained for mountain warfare but also had poor equipment and clothing.  The boundary problem with China still remains unresolved. It has been flexing muscles off and on. The growing bilateral trade with China is no guarantee that our borders are safe. Beijing has also been expanding its presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India cannot be expected to speak forcefully against Chinese designs with the kind of military preparedness it has. One reason for this sorry state of affairs appears to be that our armed forces are nowhere in the defence policy and planning loop. India needs to take corrective measures soon to defend the country’s vast borders.
Withdrawing AFSPA It will affect Army’s functioning in J&K
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)  Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s decision to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Act (AFSPA) from some parts of Jammu and Kashmir should be taken as a welcome move. However, it would have been far better for him to have discussed this issue within the state security set-up, more so with the Army, rather than just the Home Minister in far away Delhi before making such an announcement. Hopefully, it is not to divert public attention from the Chief Minister’s current political problems, but is the result of a well-examined ground situation. However, this move, for the time being, has been stalled by Delhi.  The apprehension of terrorists shifting their operations, or seeking temporary relief by moving out of areas under AFSPA, into those districts from where this Act is withdrawn need not be overplayed. To prevent this from happening, the police in the areas from where this Act is revoked has to be extra vigilant.  In case insurgency resurfaces in the districts from where the Act is revoked and the Army is once again called in, it will take considerable time and effort to re-establish itself, etc, and invoking this Act again may pose political problems. However, such possibilities should not deter us from the withdrawing the Act from the areas where peace prevails.  Efforts are afoot in Delhi to dilute the AFSPA itself. While the Home Minister is keen to do this, some others are clamouring for its removal from the statute books. The state police and CPOs are as well equipped as the military (in the counter-insurgency context) and on their own should be able to deal with the insurgency problems, especially when Home Minister has donned the CPO hat. The Army, other than manning the LoC, should move to its barracks and focus on training relevant to the operational tasks.  Insurgency survives when there is sympathy and support for its cause. Though where the law and order situation is poor, insurgents can draw local support through coercion and acts of violence. In the Valley there is alienation of the population too. So, in combating insurgency, this issue of local support to insurgents is very relevant. In almost every case of encounter with terrorists or where civilian casualties occur as a collateral damage, evidence will always be marshalled against the Army. For obvious reasons, it is far more difficult for the locals to give false evidence against the police than the military.  Detailing just three cases will suffice to establish the validity of this assertion. In the Northeast, Manorma was alleged to have been tortured, raped and murdered. Manorma was a hardcore terrorist and member of the PLA, involved in laying IEDs in which six civilians and two security personnel were killed. One transmitter and two grenades were recovered from her. Two independent autopsies ruled out torture and rape. The nature of bullet injuries confirmed the escape story.  The second is the case of alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian, in J and K, where local doctors confirmed rape and murder, consequent to an autopsy. Later when the bodies were exhumed and a team of independent doctors conducted the second autopsy, rape was ruled out and death was attributed to drowning. In another case, a charge of mass rape of 22 girls in Kunan Poshpura village in J and K was levelled against the Army. An independent inquiry by Press Council of India termed the story as a complete hoax.  Nothing reinforces this point more forcefully than the recent statement (absurd as it is) of Mr Mustafa Kamal, an important functionary of the National Conference, that the Army is behind the recent grenade attacks in the Valley.  So, it is in such hostile environments that the military is called upon to undertake anti-insurgency operations. Since the Army does not have even the police powers, it would be impossible for it to operate without the cover of the AFSPA. Counter-insurgency operations are a messy affair, and in certain types of encounters some collateral damage is inevitable.  So far 572 officers and more than 8,750 soldiers have died since the Army was committed in counter-insurgency operations and that adequately highlights the lethal nature of these operations. Now if troops are deployed without the cover of the AFSPA or provided with one in its diluted form, they will be rendered toothless and there will be too much caution, hesitation and procrastination in going the whole hog after the insurgents, especially where there are chances of collateral damage. While combating insurgents, besides facing a threat to life, there will be chances of Army personnel being dragged into endless court cases for the rest of their military career, with all manner of evidence piled up against them.  Were the military to acquire an attitude of caution and hesitancy, it will become an ineffective instrument to deal with external security challenges. It is this aspect of the danger of the military’s attitudinal change and debilitating of its soldierly responses which the higher commanders must apprise the government of and resist committing troops without the cover of the AFSPA or its diluted form.  Violations of human rights by officers and troops is unacceptable in the Army. Every case reported is thoroughly investigated. From 1995 to 2010, 1400 cases of violation of human rights were reported against the military. Only 54 of these had some substance. This resulted in innumerable court-marshals, where punishments ranged from life imprisonment to termination of services. More than 37 officers were punished. Where else can one find such wilful internal cleansing?  As for the unmarked graves, during the early stages of insurgency in J and K (1999-91) large groups of insurgents, who had earlier crossed over to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), on the return journey had to traverse through the areas of Poonch and Rajouri to get to the Valley. These groups were intercepted south of Pirpanjal and hundreds of them died in fierce encounters with the security forces. The police could not get anyone to identify the dead and their bodies were buried with the help of locals. In other cases, insurgents from across the LoC and locals died in encounters within the Valley, away from their homes. As such, the police could get no one to identify the dead bodies.  Finally, the abrogation or dilution of provisions of the AFSPA will definitely affect the Army’s ability to conduct, efficiently and resolutely, anti-insurgency operations. The J and K problem calls for a political solution, and integration and assimilation of its people into the national mainstream. It is here that we have miserably failed.n  The writer, a retired Deputy Chief of Army Staff, commanded a corps in J and K during the more virulent period of insurgency.
When India almost went to war with Pakistan 
Political scientist and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in her memoir “No Higher Honor” has shed light on behind the scenes action on three instances when India almost went to war with Pakistan. While the book is still to hit the Indian market, the released excerpts have triggered off a fresh debate on whether India was seriously contemplating to go to war with Pakistan after December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament and November 26, 2008 Mumbai massacre or New Delhi was just staging a haka for the international audience.  According to the released excerpts, it was active diplomacy between Rice, then National security advisor to George W Bush, and her Indian counterpart Brajesh Mishra that actually helped defuse the India-Pakistan crisis post Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist attack on Indian Parliament.  Similarly, Rice also takes credit for lowering the temperatures in the sub-continent after then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee threatened Pakistan with war after the dastardly 26/11 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist attack on Mumbai.  She brings out the confusion within the Bush administration after the Parliament attack as CIA believed that India was going to war with Pakistan while Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld thought otherwise on the basis of satellite imagery of the western theatre.  Rice, according to reports, also has talked about India moving its nuclear missiles to the western borders after the terrorist strike at Kaluchak army camp in Jammu on May 14, 2001.  The Indian posture after these terror incidents has been subject of intense debates with Brajesh Mishra once telling me that New Delhi was ready to strike at least on two occasions after the Parliament attack. Many believe that Indian warmongering after December 13, 2001 was part of its so-called coercive diplomacy, which yielded good results initially and then outlived its utility.  While we will have to wait for Mishra’s memoirs to find out what happened on Raisina Hill those days, it is certain that NDA leadership under Atal Behari Vajpayee had given a green signal to Indian military to strike at Pakistan in December 2001 and then again in May 2001 but the military brass failed to deliver.  Post 26/11 attack, the Indian mood was ugly but there was no plan on the table to attack Pakistan or Lashkar headquarters at Muridke, Lahore even though Mukherjee read the riot act to Islamabad. When Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major talked about a missile strike or air strike on Pakistan post 26/11 at a Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting, he was dismissed as being too emotional. However, the Indian posture post Parliament attack was really angry and meant business. Two days after the Parliament attack, the CCS under Vajpayee ordered full scale mobilisation of forces on the western borders. The window for limited war in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was last week of December but the military took its own sweet time to mobilise and was just about prepared to go across by December 28, 2001.  International diplomacy had taken over the course by that time with US putting pressure on Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharaf to ban LeT and JeM groups, and also condemn jihadists based in Pakistan. With top diplomats like British Prime Minister Tony Blair, then US secretary of state Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage making to and fro trips to New Delhi and Islamabad, the war opportunity was lost as the then home minister LK Advani was given a preview of Musharraf’s impending January 12, 2002 speech during his January 8 visit to Washington. Once the war moment was lost, Mishra and then foreign minister Jaswant Singh called it coercive diplomacy.  With Indian troops deployed at the border as part of Operation Parakram, tensions flared up yet again after terrorist attacked Kaluchak army camp near Jammu on May 14, 2001 leaving 31 dead including 18 family members of Indian Army personnel in the camp. The attack was gory and brutal with terrorists killing children of Indian Army personnel and shooting the women in their private parts at the camp.  The CCS met yet again on May 18, 2002 and gave a nod for strike to the military, which was seething with revenge. This time again the Indian Air Force delayed the proceedings as it ran short of laser guided ammunition and night vision pods. New Delhi gave a SOS to Tel Aviv, which sent three C-130 J Hercules full of laser guided bombs and pods on June 5, 2002 at Palam airport with Israeli Director General (Defence) Amos Yaron on board. But a fortnight delay was too much for the international community to let go.  Musharraf was yet again hauled by the scruff of his neck by Armitage and the dictator again made a public statement on May 27, 2002 stating that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terror attacks against India. While Mishra did meet Atomic Energy Commission officials at Kudankulam on May 24, there was no evidence of Indians mating nuclear warheads on their missiles or even moving them towards border.  It is quite evident now from Rice’s book excerpts that Mishra decided to get maximum diplomatic mileage out of Kaluchak as he knew that Indian war plans were not coming to fruition. The fact is that American diplomacy worked post Parliament attack as Indian military and not political leadership faltered. Rice’s memoirs would have been different and so would have been history had Indian war plans worked out.

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