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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 07 Dec 2011

US seeks better military ties with China amid strains
Amid growing uneasiness in the United States over the rise of Chinese military power, Washington asserted that its interest in the Asia-Pacific region is not targeted towards any specific country, but towards the general peace and security of the region.  "The United States views the Asia-Pacific region as a top priority. Our policy is focused on the region and not on any one country in particular," George Little, the Pentagon [ Images ] Press Secretary told reporters during an off camera news conference.  "With respect to China, they have the right to develop military capabilities and plan just as we do and we repeatedly call for transparency from the Chinese and that's part of the relationship we are continuing to build with the Chinese military. That's important and transparency is the key," Little said.  The remarks came after the Chinese President Hu Jintao urged his navy to prepare for military combat and advance naval modernisation as part of effort to safeguard world peace.  The navy should "accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security and world peace," Hu said in a speech.  US President Barack Obama [ Images ] had recently indicated that America would be looking at increasing its presence in the Asia Pacific, where it already has significant military assets.  China has the right to develop naval forces, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt John Kirby.  "Our naval forces are ready," he noted. "The peaceful rise of China is a good thing for the region, is a good thing for the world. We continue to seek a better military relationship with China. We continue to pursue that. That is not only in their interest, ours but the entire world as well," Kirby said.  Amid China's increasingly belligerent posture in the Asia-Pacific, especially over the South China Sea, India [ Images ], US and Japan [ Images ] will meet here for the first tri-lateral dialogue on December 19.  The South China Sea has become a major issue between China and other countries with Beijing [ Images ] claiming complete sovereignty over the resource-rich waters.
India and China to meet for military talks after several prior cancellations
NEW DELHI - India and China will sit down this week for military level talks, small compensation, analysts say, for the cancellation or postponement of several high-level exchanges including what was planned to be the biggest of all - a trip to New Delhi by Vice-President Xi Jinping.  Indian defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and China's deputy chief of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Gen Ma Xiaotian, will meet on Friday for the fourth round of Annual Defence Dialogue, an official press release from the Indian defence ministry confirmed last week. On Monday, China confirmed the talks which come a fortnight after the two sides cancelled border talks at the last minute because of Chinese objections to a global Buddhist conference in New Delhi to be addressed by the Dalai Lama. These are the highest military level exchanges between the two sides in 23 months, the last meeting being held in January 2010.  The scheduling of the 'annual' dialogue suggests the tensions between Asia's twin giants over the past year on a host of issues, ranging from China's unwillingness to accept an Indian military delegation led by a general commanding troops in Kashmir, to New Delhi's rapid beefing up of forces along the China border and assertive moves in the South China Sea, where it plans to do joint prospecting for oil with Vietnam in disputed waters.  Indian officials confirmed that a trip to New Delhi by Vice-President Xi, who also is vice-chair of the Central Military Commission, will not take place in 2011. India was keen to host Mr Xi, who is expected to succeed Mr Hu Jintao, before his much-awaited elevation as president in 2012. 'We won't be seeing Mr Xi this year,' a senior Indian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'This hasn't been a good year for visits from China. Neither their foreign minister nor foreign secretary came, and it was their turn this time.'
Motorbike rally held to create awareness on territorial army
A group of 28 local youth organised a bike rally from Mumbai to Pune to spread awareness about the Territorial Army (TA). The rally, which began from the Gateway of India on Monday, traversed the 183 km distance in 11 hours, before concluding at the Shivaji Preparatory School in Pune in the evening, Bhushan Joshi, a participant, said.  The rally passed through Marine Drive, Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Matunga, Sion, Chunabhatti, Chembur, Mankhurd, Vashi, Belapur, Panvel, Khopali, Khandala, Lonavala, Talegaon, and Pimpri Chinchwad areas.  The Territorial Army in India (TA) is an organisation of volunteers who receive military training for a few days in a year so that in case of an emergency they can be mobilised for the defence of the country.  It is not a profession, occupation or a source of employment. It is only meant for those who are already in mainstay civilian professions.  "Not many people know about TA, so there is a need to spread awareness about it," he said. Anyone who is a graduate, in the age group 18-42 and earning around Rs 7,000 a month can apply for TA and details can be found on the Army website, he said.  More such rallies will be held, Manoj Sanap, assistant director (Information and Public Relations) in Mantralaya, said.
No change in militants' intentions: JK Police chief
Attributing the constantly dwindling number of militants to "better coordination and synergy" among security agencies, Jammu and Kashmir police chief Kuldeep Khoda on Wednesday said there has been no "intentional and capability changes" from across the border and "continuous infiltration attempts" were being made by the perpetrators of terrorism.  "We have made much improvement in our methodology. Sophisticated operative procedure has been adopted to deal with any situation but there is no input for any intentional and capability changes from across the line and continuous attempts (by militants) are being made to infiltrate into Indian side," Khoda told reporters in Jammu.  The Director General of Police, who was the chief guest in the 49th Raising Day function of Home-guards and Civil Defence organisations, however, claimed there has been 47-48% fall in militancy related incidents till November end this year and it was due to the improved border management vis-à-vis the role being played by the Army and the para-military forces with active cooperation from local populace.  "There is fall in militancy-related incidents from 350 in 2010 to 185 this year up to November ending. It shows nearly 47-48% decline. There is also a dip in other militancy related parameters this year," he said.  The DGP maintained that the credit of "significant improvement" in overall situation went to forces, including police, army and para-military personnel who were working in better coordination and synergy.  "People too are cooperating fully with security forces because they are fed up with violence and instability. They want stability. They want education for their children. They want a secure environment," he said.  He, however, maintained the infiltration bids were still being made from across the border and instructions were being given to them (militants) to enter the state.  He said the "border management has been intensified" and borders were alert to thwart any "nefarious designs of the anti-nationals".  Asked about the 'curfew' imposed in some parts of Kashmir Valley ahead of Muharram processions, the DGP said there was no curfew in the Valley but "restrictions" had been imposed in some vulnerable areas for smooth and incident free processions.  He however refused to comment on the raging debate over partial revocation of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state.  On the possession of passports with the militants entering the Indian territory from across the border, the DGP said, "number of incidents were reported and there is nothing new in it but action will be taken as per the law."
Pakistan fires at LoC mosque in 46th truce violation
Pakistani troops opened indiscriminate firing on a mosque Complex, destroying all the solar panels at the Line of Control (LoC) in Karna sector of Kupwara district in North Kashmir.  The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon, when the authorities were installing solar panels on a mosque at Chatkaryan village on the LoC. Pakistani troops objected to the panels and fired at the panels, causing damage.  The firing from across the LoC came despite the Indian army informing their Pakistani counterparts on the hotline about the installation of the solar panels. The Indian troops did not retaliate to the firing and there was no casualty.  “We have lodged a strong protest against this ceasefire violation (with the Pakistani army),” said Lt Col JS Brar, defence spokesman.  Defence sources said the work to install solar panels was being carried out by the civil department and the field commanders had informed the Pakistani army about the same.  District commissioner Kupwara Mohommad Shafi Rather however said he has no knowledge about the incident. “It is better to contact the defence spokesman.”  Official figures reveal around 45 ceasefire violations were reported from January to November this year along the India-Pakistan border in the state.
Indian cavalry’s victorious trysts with India’s history
December 3, 2011 marks 40 years of the outbreak of the third India-Pakistan War, which like the earlier two, was sparked off by Pakistan. On that day, the statue of Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, Param Vir Chakra (posthumous) was unveiled at his alma mater, Lawrence School Sanawar, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh. Arun, then recently commissioned into the Poona Horse, became the youngest recipient of India’s highest award for gallantry in war, for outstanding valour, which was praised even by his then enemy tank squadron commander. Ms Maheshwari Khetarpal, Arun’s mother, received the medal and scroll by the then President V.V. Giri on the Republic Day, 1972. On November 19, 2011, Ms Khetarpal was honoured during the Cavalry Day wreath-laying ceremony held at the Teen Murti monument, which was of greater significance as it was held during the run-up to the 40th Anniversary of the 1971 Indo-Pak War. While the first of the armoured fighting vehicles, christened as tanks, were used or rather, tried out, in World WarI, it was in WWII, that well-developed tanks, which had replaced horsed cavalry, proved to be a very decisive factor in modern warfare. While the Indian Army redefined mountain warfare by fighting at the height of 14,000 feet and even hauling Stuart tanks of 7th Cavalry there in 1947, after WWII, it was in the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars that intense tank battles were fought. And it was in both these wars’ tank engagements that the incompetence and lack of training, leadership and motivation of Pak Army became obvious. Pak Army’s US doled Patton tanks were then the most modern compared with Indian Army’s Centurians of much earlier vintage. Yet in both these wars Pak armoured units took major bashings from Indian Army’s regiments like 4th (Hodson’s) Horse, The Poona Horse and some others. Pak armoured corp’s major drawbacks, which caused them very heavy losses of Patton tanks against Indian Army’s Centurian tanks, were: (a) their tank gunners were not even familiar with the gunnery procedure applicable to the Patton tank and (b) owing to fear of dying by flames, Pakistani tank crew bailed out as soon as their tank was hit even if it had not caught fire and its guns were still functional. The story of Arun Khetarpal’s role in the Battle of Basantar did not end with this 13-day war, resulting in the demise of East Pakistan and the creation of the newly liberated Bangladesh. Major Khwaja Mohammad Nasir, then a Squadron Commander of Pakistan Army’s 13th Lancers, the regiment pitched against Poona Horse, who came bandaged the next day to collect the dead bodies of his fallen comrades, wanted to know more about “ the officer, who stood like an insurmountable rock” and whose troop of three Centurian tanks was responsible for decimation of his entire squadron of 14 Patton tanks. His bandages were owing to injuries sustained by him in the final engagement of his and Arun’s tank. The 13th Lancers is the same regiment which exchanged its Sikh squadron with the Muslim squadron of The Poona Horse, during the Partition in 1947. Nasir’s tribute to Arun did not end in the battlefield in December 1971. Arun’s father, Brigadier (Retd) Madan Khetarpal, residing with his wife, Maheshwari, in New Delhi, had for long nursed a desire to visit his hometown, Sargodha, Pakistan. Speaking to this writer, he mentioned that in 2001, when he sounded his old friend, retired Lieutenant General Kirpal Singh Randhawa, of 7th Cavalry, who visited Pakistan a number of times in the past couple of decades, the latter merely asked him for his passport, which he brought back a few days later with the Pakistan visa stamped on it. Not only that; he had also arranged with his Aitchison’s College (Lahore) mate, the same Khwaja Mohammad Nasir, then a Brigadier and manager of Pakistan’s cricket team, to host Brigadier Khetarpal. During this visit, Nasir hesitatingly admitted that he was the one at whose hands Arun got killed. “He (Arun) was singularly responsible for our failure. He was a very brave boy,” said Nasir to the senior Khetarpal, who even in his sorrow, stoically remained an officer and a gentleman. Of the 66 gallantry awards conferred on Indian Army’s Armoured Corps personnel, apart from Arun, who got one of this war’s two Param Vir Chakra, there were three Maha Vir Chakra (one posthumous and one awarded for the second time to the same person), 23 Vir Chakra, one Vishishtha Seva Medal, 17 Sena Medals (including one posthumous) and 21 Mentioned-in-Despatches. The second-time Maha Vir Chakra awardee was Brig. A.S. Vaidya of the Deccan Horse, who later became the Army Chief and after retirement was killed by Khalistani terrorist Harjinder Singh, aka Jinda, at Pune. Twice every year serving and retired officers and their family members assemble in the morning at the traffic roundabout to lay wreathes at the Teen Murti Memorial. Once is during the Cavalry Week on the second or third Saturday in November and the other is on May 1, celebrated as Armoured Corps Day, which marks the process of mechanisation of the Indian Cavalry, beginning with the Scinde Horse in 1939. On both these occasions, Sowars of all armoured regiments clad in cavalry ceremonial dress with tall lances stand around Teen Murti roundabout, while four Sowars of the 61st Cavalry, the only horse cavalry regiment in the world still maintained, are positioned at the two entrances to the roundabout. All serving and retired Armoured Corps officers and families, who attend this solemn ceremony assemble and lay wreathes as the Sowars dip their vertically held lances to the left horizontal in time with the trumpeters sounding the Last Post , followed by the Armoured Corps Band playing Auld Land Syne. During the recent wreath-laying function at least 20 busloads of school children passing the Teen Murti roundabout were enthusiatically waving out to the gathering of armoured corps personnel, singing Saaray jahan se achaa, Hindustan hamara loud enough to be heard over the cacophony of traffic. Teen Murti, the memorial of three bronze statues of the Indian cavalry soldiers around a white stone obelisk, is how the palatial building where India’s first Prime Minister resided, got its name of Teen Murti Bhavan. Erected in the centre of the roundabout road junction just outside the entrance to Teen Murti Bhavan, the statues were sculpted by Leonard Jennings and the memorial was constructed in to commemorate those killed from the cavalry of the Indian Army during World War I (1914-1919) in battles fought in Sinai, Palestine and Syria. The three statues represent Sowars (as cavalry and armoured corps soldiers are known) from the three Indian state forces — Hyderabad, Mysore and Jodhpur — together with detachments from Bhavnagar, Kashmir and Kathiawar, which were part of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. Designed by Robert Tor Russell, who was part of Lutyens’ team, Teen Murti Bhavan was India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s residence after Independence. Since his death in 1964, it was made the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. Shikargah, also known as Kushak Mahal, after which Kushak Road is named, is a hunting lodge built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq, on a mound within the compound and is accessible by stairs. It has three open bays containing arches which are supported upon typical stone shafts and each bay is divided in depth into three compartments. The Nehru Planetarium is also in the same compound. The house is set amid large beautifully maintained gardens with a rose walk from where Pandit Nehru plucked his trademark buttonhole each morning. Nearby is the Jawahar Jyoti , the eternal flame, lit on his birthday in 1964. Adjacent on a rock is his epitaph. After the wreath-laying ceremony all officers and families move to the lawns of the Officers’ Mess of President’s Bodyguard (PBG) in the President’s Estate nearby, where refreshments are followed by the Cavalry Officers Association’s general body meeting. Raised as the governor-general’s bodyguard in 1773 at Benaras, by the then governor-general Warren Hastings, with a strength of 50 specially picked troopers and horses, PBG today is a small body of men comprising four officers, 14 JCOs and 161 bodyguardsmen backed up by administrative support personnel. Equipped with armoured cars and about to be equipped with tanks, its men are trained for operational duties, both as tankmen and airborne troops with the parachute brigade, in addition to their ceremonial role. PBG’ are bay and dark bay in colour, except that for the regimental trumpeter and the colour party, who traditionally are always mounted on grey chargers. Required to be of a minimum height of 157.5 cms, measured at the shoulder, they are the only horses of the Indian Army permitted to wear full manes, like their counterparts of the Household Cavalry, UK. The rest of the ceremonies of Cavalry Week this year were a lecture in honour of Late Maj. Gen. Rajindar Singh Sparrow (7 Cavalry), MVC bar, delivered by his son, Lt. Gen. (Retd.) M.S. Shergill, PVSM, AVSM, VRC, at DGIS auditorium on November 17; a golf tournament was held at the ITC classic golf resort, Gurgaon, including ladies’ putting on November 18 and a grand cavalry dinner held at the Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, November 19.  Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

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