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Saturday, 17 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 17 Dec 2011






remembering 1971 Ghost regiment that humbled Pak defences in B’desh

Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, December 16 It was in April 1970 that the 63 Cavalry, with its tanks, was moved from Sangrur in Punjab to Bagrakote in West Bengal. Some 20 months later, in December 1971, the regiment went on to create history and re-define the way that tank battles are fought.  It proved to be a vital element in the Indian advance into East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.  Startled Pakistani defences were pulverised as they did not expect tanks to make much headway in riverine and marshy areas.  In hindsight, Indian strategic planners played a masterstroke as they split the 63 Cavalry regiment - comprising some 54 tanks, including an independent squadron - into four separate squadrons and asked these to advance from four different corners of East Pakistan, accompanied by the infantry and artillery.  The obstacle-ridden terrain gave a false sense of belief to the Pakistani forces that the approaches would not favour tank movement.  The impact of the regiment was such that the Pakistanis named it the “ghost regiment”, says a book “Footprints - Indian Army’s Unique Achievements”, released in 2011.  The 63 Cavalry was only tank regiment that entered East Pakistan and even reached Dhaka at the time of the surrender.

PIL in SC over Gen VK Singh’s date of birth Judge recuses from hearing in the case

Legal Correspondent  Gen VK Singh New Delhi, December 16 A PIL seeking to revive the controversy over the age of Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh has been filed in the Supreme Court. The PIL, filed by an association of ex-servicemen from the Army through advocate Manohar Singh Bakshi, pleads for quashing of the government order declaring Gen Singh’s date of birth as May 10, 1950 and fixing his retirement for May 31, 2012.  The government order was contrary to the stand consistently taken by Gen Singh that his date of birth was May 10, 1951 and “backed by his matriculation certificate which is the only authentic document which can be taken into consideration for establishing the date of birth of a person,” the Grenadiers Association (Rohtak chapter) contended in the petition.  The government had taken his date of birth as 1950 on the basis of the age mentioned on the admission form to the National Defence Academy in 1966, but this was subject to correction after submission of the matriculation certificate, the petition said.  The PIL was listed for hearing before a Bench comprising Justices BS Chauhan and TS Thakur, but Justice Thakur opted out of hearing the case, without giving any reason. The petition would now have to be posted before another Bench.  Uncertainty over the tenure of the Army Chief would affect the capability, strength and morale of the forces as a whole and adversely affect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, the association argued.  The government order was contrary to the opinions rendered by four former Chief Justices of India - JS Verma, RC Lahoti, GB Patnaik and VN Khare - according to which the DOB on the school-leaving certificate was to be taken as authentic, it said.

Pak follies and birth of B’desh India remembers a memorable war

What was once East Pakistan became Bangladesh because of a combination of factors. Pakistan’s political and military elites were making blunder after blunder. The people of the then West Pakistan did not trust those in erstwhile East Pakistan. The West Pakistanis, in fact, considered those in the eastern part too inferior to be allowed to rule. They provided proof of all this when the East Pakistan-based Awami League, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, captured almost all the seats (167 of the 169 seats) in that part of Pakistan and won a simple majority in parliament after the 1970 elections there. The Sheikh’s party, therefore, deserved to have been allowed to form its government. The defeated People’s Party of Pakistan, headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, spoiled the atmosphere by holding large-scale protests, leading to the Punjab-dominated military’s intervention. This resulted in Pakistan getting the wages of its own sins. It lost its eastern wing. Bangladesh was born.  However, the situation would not have taken the turn it did, had Pakistan not made the mistake of attacking India during that time. The revolt that had already begun among the Bengali population of Pakistan against its military and political rulers got intensified with the full-scale India-Pakistan war in December 1971, leading to the Pakistan army’s surrender in Dhaka. India’s military leadership did play a major role in the birth of Bangladesh.  But what did India gain in real terms? This question is raised whenever there is a debate on the 1971 India-Pakistan war and the emergence of Bangladesh as a new nation. Those who came to power in Dhaka after the assassination of Sheikh Mujib began to doubt India’s intentions except for his daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajed. India had to suffer the influx of lakhs of refugees for a long time. Pakistan got back its 90,000-plus prisoners of war with nothing in return for India. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, was magnanimous in victory and signed the Shimla Accord, returning all the Pakistani POWs. A more astute leader would, perhaps have got the Kashmir problem settled forever, say her critics. The opportunity was lost, but that does not detract from the overall achievement.

Ex-soldier relives memories of Bangla war

KENDRAPADA: It was December 1971. Nrusingh Charana Das, a soldier with the Indian army joined Bangladesh's Mukti Bahini wearing a lungi to hoodwink the Pakistanis.  "We fought against Pakistani soldiers at Kushtia in Bangladesh. This intense tank battle was one of the major victories of Indian soldiers and Mukti Bahini to reach Dhaka on December 10 and 11, 1971," recalled the war veteran sitting in his house in Kendrapada's Shyamasundarpur village. "A large numbers of Mukti Bahini members had been trained by the Indian Army to liberate Bangladesh," added the war veteran, now 70.  "After the Pakistan army surrendered on December 16, 1971, we all celebrated in Dhaka. Many Bangladeshis hugged and danced with us on the streets. I will never forget that moment of joy," Nrusingh said.  Das had joined in the army in 1962. During his three decade long service he fought Bangladesh war at Khulana, Chittagong , Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh.  "After the end of Bangladesh war, I worked in Assam and Calcutta. In 1987, I worked with the 120 Infantry Battalion in Bhubaneswar till my retirement in 1992. Now, I work as the president of district ex-serviceman's association," added Nrusingh, much revered in his village.  "All my children and grandchildren take pride in me being a war hero who helped liberate Bangladesh from the clutches of Pakistan," he said.  Nrusingh feels that Bangladesh was liberated because the people felt that it was their war, not ours. But the war veteran was never felicitated by the government.  "But I hold no grudge against the government. My wife and five sons take care of me," he said.  But Nrusingh is upset that Odisha government never built a war memorial in memory of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives even 40 years after the liberation of Bangladesh.

Agni-IV places India on a new generation missile trail

considered a landmark event in India’s missile programme, the Agni-IV missile was successfully test-fired from the Wheelers’ Island, off the Orissa coast, on November 15, 2011.  The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) press release stated that the most advanced long-range missile, launched from a Road Mobile System at 9 am, followed its trajectory “in a textbook fashion”, attaining a height of about 900 km and reaching the pre-designated target in the Bay of Bengal. All the systems functioned perfectly, encountering the re-entry temperatures of more than 3,000ºC. All mission objectives were fully met. According to the DRDO, this missile is one of its kind. It showcased many new technologies for the first time and is a quantum leap in terms of missile technology. The missile is light in weight and has two stages of solid propulsion and a payload with re-entry heat shield. The composite rocket motor technology, which has been used for the first time, has also given excellent performance. The missile system is equipped with modern and compact avionics with redundancy to provide high level of reliability. The indigenous ring laser gyros-based high-accuracy INS (Rins) and micro navigation system (Mings) complementing each other in redundant mode, have been successfully flown in guidance mode for the first time. The high-performance onboard computer with distributed avionics architecture, high-speed reliable communication bus and a full digital control system have harnessed and guided the missile to the target. The missile reached the target with a very high level of accuracy. Radars and electro-optical systems along the Orissa coast have tracked and monitored all the parameters of the missile. Two Indian naval ships located near the target have also witnessed the final event. Defence minister A.K. Antony congratulated the DRDO team on its achievement. Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, scientific adviser to the defence minister, secretary, department of defence R&D and director-general, DRDO, who witnessed the launch, congratulated all the scientists and employees of the DRDO and the armed forces upon the successful launch of Agni-IV. Mr Avinash Chander, distinguished scientist, chief controller (missiles & strategic systems), DRDO and programme director, Agni, while addressing the scientists after the launch referred to it as a new era in the modern Long Range Navigation System in India. He said, “This test has paved the way ahead for the success of Agni-V mission, which will be launched shortly.” Tessy Thomas, project director, Agni-IV, who with her team prepared and integrated the missile system and launched the missile, jubilantly said that the DRDO has produced and proven many new state-of-the-art technologies in the Agni system. She highlighted the role of the composite rocket motors, highly accurate ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system, micro navigation system, digital controller system and very powerful onboard computer system. Agni-IV, capable of carrying strategic warheads will be produced in huge numbers and delivered to the armed forces as early as possible. The missile is expected to provide good deterrence against external aggression. The use of rockets and missiles in India dates back to the 18th century, i.e., during the period of ruler Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. They used rocket artillery brigades against infantry formations for mass attacks. Men were trained to launch rockets from a launch angle which was calculated from the diameter of the cylinder and the distance of the target. The launchers had the capability to launch 5-10 rockets in salvo firing mode. Tipu Sultan had 27 brigades and each brigade had a company of rocket specialists. With such a huge force, he defended the Mysore kingdom against the British until his death in Srirangapatnam in 1799. Even Marathas used rockets at the Battle of Panipat in 1761. With the death of Tipu Sultan, Indian rocketry also met its demise, only to be revived in the 1970s by Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, among others. Two of the rockets, captured by the British at Srirangapatnam, are displayed in the Royal Artillery Museum in London. Defence Science Organisation, formed in 1956 for initiating studies and development of work on futuristic weapon systems, was headed by Dr B.N. Singh who formed the special weapon development team (SWDT) for study and development of guided missiles at Metcalfe House, Delhi. He worked on the first generation of anti-tank missile (ATM) for gaining developmental experience. SWDT later became the Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) at old Ahmed Manzil, Hyderabad in June 1962 under Grp. Capt. V. Ganesan as its director. A project formulated at DRDL in 1964 was supported by the Army after the 1965 Indo-Pak war and was later converted to a “staff project”, which tested an indigenously developed anti-tank missile in 1970. It was considered as a major achievement by the DRDL, which later moved to the Defence Research Complex at Kanchanbagh, on the periphery of Hyderabad’s Old City. Later, some scientists in collaboration with the Army, Navy and the Air Force officers developed the Devil missile. All the preliminary understanding and development of electronics sub-systems of the Devil missile, including its airframe and aerodynamics were carried out at Ahmed Manzil lab. Leading scientists like Burman, J.C. Bhattacharya, Admiral Mohan and Surya Kantha Rao gave thrust to electronics, navigation, guidance & control and telemetry & instrumentation areas. Dr Ranga Rao, Dr Rama Rao, Dr Bala Krishnan, Krishnan and Dr Achyuthan gave priority to airframe, structures, aerodynamic and system-related areas. This was further strengthened by the techno-managerial leadership of Lt. Gen.(Retd) Dr V.J. Sundaram, Lt. Gen. R. Swaminathan and Squadron Leader Shah in the area of airframe controls and integration. Rocket Test House (RTH, presently near Kanchanbagh) was identified for carrying out propulsion-related design and tests. The liquid and solid propulsion areas were continuing with vibrant leadership of Dr Gopal Swamy and Wg. Cdr. Sen. Re-entry technology and ballistic missile programmes were spearheaded by R.N. Agarwal. The state-of-the-gyro test facility was initiated by P. Banerjee within the campus. However, the whole facility of Ahmed Manzil was shifted near Kanchanbagh in 1975. Full-scale missile laboratory (DRDL) was built from then onwards. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) under India’s defence ministry, began in early 1980s for the development of a comprehensive range of missiles, including the intermediate range Agni missile (surface-to-surface), and short-range missiles such as the Prithvi ballistic missile (surface-to-surface), Sagarika, the naval version of the Prithvi, Akash missile (surface-to-air), Astra missile (air-to-air), Trishul missile (surface-to-air), Nag missile (anti-tank) and also an inter-continental-ballistic-missile (codenamed Surya missile) with a range of 8,000-12,000 km. Managed by the DRDO in partnership with other Indian government labs and research centres, one of the most prominent chief engineers on the project, Dr Abdul Kalam went on to become the President of India. The last major missile developed under the programme was Agni-III intermediate-range ballistic missile which was successfully tested on July 9, 2007. After the third test of Agni-3 on May 7, 2008, the DRDO announced the closure of the IGMDP since most of the missiles in the programme have been developed and inducted into Indian armed forces. These were the Akash, Nag, Prithvi, Trishul and Agni (as re-entry technology demonstrator). According to a statement to the media by Dr S. Prahlada, former director DRDL and CC, R&D (services interaction and aeronautics) and presently vice-chancellor Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, Pune, new missile and weapon systems will be developed in new five-year programmes and will include both Indian private industries as well as foreign partners to reduce costs. Independently continuing further development of Nag missile, the DRDO is also developing a laser-based weapon system as part of its ballistic missile defence programme to intercept and destroy missiles soon after they are launched towards the Indian territory. In 1998, the government of India signed an agreement with Russia to design, develop, manufacture and market BrahMos (Brahmaputra-Moscow rivers), a supersonic cruise missile system that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. The mission was successfully accomplished by 2006. At speeds of Mach 2.5 to 2.8, it is the world’s fastest cruise missile, about three-and-a-half times faster than the American subsonic Harpoon cruise missile. BrahMos is reportedly attempting a hypersonic Mach 8 version of the missile, BrahMos II, the first ever hypersonic cruise missile, expected to be ready by 2012-13. According to the Internet, three BrahMos missile regiments raised so far have been deployed in the western sector to counter threat from Pakistan and in the second phase of military expansion along the China front, the government has reportedly given the go-ahead for deployment of BrahMos cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh. The fourth regiment cruise missiles, with a 290-km range, will improve India’s military reach into the Tibet Autonomous Region and counter China’s elaborate missile deployment along the Sino-Indian border. On December 6, 2011, the first fully-modified aircraft for the indigenously developed Indian Airborne Warning and Control System (AEW&C) took to the skies on its maiden flight at the Embraer Complex, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. The Emb 145 AEW&C platform developed for India has about 1,000 mission system components provided by the Centre for Airborne Systems of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (Cabs, DRDO), Bengaluru. The support also includes the critical item AESA (Active Electronic Scanning Antenna) Radar Antenna, which have been certified by the Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil, International FAR Certification Agency. The agency is responsible for regulating safety and security matters related to civil aircraft and its components, personnel licensing, operations and aerodromes. While this aircraft will undergo the full certification process over the next two years, the Indian Air Force will receive two aircraft by the middle of 2012 and by 2013 mission systems developed by various DRDO labs, currently undergoing ground integration and evaluation at CABS, are expected to be integrated.

India honours its soldiers with apathy; war memorial remains on paper

India has fought four wars in its short independent history and lost thousands of soldiers, but the country is yet to honour its martyrs with a memorial.  The proposal for National War Memorial (NWM) was first mooted in the 1960s and is still stuck in the long corridors of political and bureaucratic apathy. Virtually all defence ministers, past and present, have promised it but no decision has been taken so far.  A key dispute for NWM has been the choice of location, as the Indian Army wanted it to be behind the historic India Gate.  But it was opposed by the union ministry of urban development. Forty years on, specious arguments continue to fill file notings of many ministries.  Unable to find any solution, the matter was ultimately referred to a Group of Minister in August 2009.  “Shockingly, Bangladesh has a war memorial and Sri Lanka has built a memorial commemorating the sacrifices made by the Indian armed forces during Indian Peace Keeping Force operation between 1987-89. Sri Lanka built it right next to their own national war memorial in Colombo,” said an armyofficer.  “But it is sad that we do not have any memorial for the supreme sacrifice of our soldier who laid their lives during war. Though we have India Gate, but it is in the memory of soldiers of British India. Memorial for post-independence soldiers is still in waiting,” the officer added.  “A proposal for construction of National War Memorial at India Gate Complex has been under consideration for some time in consultation with the ministry of urban development, which has to assign the land for the project. Necessary action can be taken only after the recommendations of the GoM are finalised,” minister of state for defence Pallam Raju had stated in Parliament.  The India Gate, which at present is the only national war memorial, was built in the pre-independence era for Indian soldiers killed in action during the World War I and the third Anglo-Afghan War.  General JFR Jacob, whowas chief of staff of Eastern Command during 1971 war told DNA, “When I was governor of erstwhile Punjab, I made efforts to built National War Memorial. But now, I am tired of pushing the case for long time. Still our government can not decide on it. When most of the countries do have memorial for their war heroes, it is sad we are still missing that even after the glorious war of 1971.”

Army Lieutenant, 12 fighters killed in Gurez valley gunfight

Srinagar:The Indian army on Saturday said that 12 fighters and an officer were killed, while two troopers were injured during a gun-battle in the Gurez Valley of Bandipora Dist of North Kashmir on the Line of Control.  The militants were challenged by the troops, leading to a gun-battle, in exchange of firing 12 fighter were killed. Indian army spokesman said in Srinagar  Indian army soldiers carry coffin of her officer during a wreath-laying ceremony at a garrison in Srinagar,who was killed in gunfight in gurez bandipora kashmir He said a lieutenant was also killed while two troopers were injured in the operation. More in GK Report In one of the fiercest gunfights so far, army claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid by killing 12 militants along the Line of Control in Gurez sector. The fire-fight also left an army Lieutenant dead while two soldiers were injured. Army spokesman, Colonel Mario Demonty said following the inputs from army and civil intelligence, they laid an ambush in Bakhtor area of Gurez. At around 1:30 Am, Demonty said the army contingent noticed a suspicious movement near the Kishenganga river when around a dozen persons were seen trying to sneak in from across the LoC. “The soldiers intercepted the infiltrators while they were crossing the Kishanganga River in a Pneumatic boat in a bid to infiltrate on our side,” Demonty told Greater Kashmir. Afterwards, Demonty said, heavy fire-fight took place resulting in killing of twelve militants. “Six militants were killed while crossing the river. Their bodies were washed away in the river. We have pressed more contingents to search for the bodies,” he said. “The other six militants were killed near the shore”. Demonty said one army officer was killed while two soldiers sustained injuries in the operation. The officer has been identified as Lieutenant Navdeep Singh. The army said he was 26 year old officer, and was commissioned in March this year into the Army Ordinance Corps and was serving in 15th Battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry regiment. Army said five AK rifles, one Pistol, two boats, 50 assorted grenades, two radio sets, two compasses and one Global Positioning System besides a large quantity of war like stores were recovered from the site. The army said it was the new trend that militants have crossed the river in the boats. “This is certainly a new development. The militants were carrying an inflatable five- man Dinghy. They in fact were crossing in it,” another army official said. Demonty said the combing operation was still going on in the dense forests in the area. “Taking equipment and ammo into consideration, it was a group of 12 militants,” he said. “But we feel there might be more. That is why search operation is in the progress” This is the eighth infiltration attempt this month and the largest so far this year, army said. Meanwhile, sensing the sensitivity and importance of the matter, army on Saturday afternoon flew a huge media contingent from Srinagar to Gurez, possibly to give a clear impression of the situation in the area. DIG North Kashmir Range, Muneer Khan said a police team had been dispatched to encounter site.

21 Corps logs on to 21st century solutions

A HORDE of cameramen jostled to capture the rising sand cloud as another blast rocked the desert. Four Mi-35 attack helicopters degraded the enemy defences as a line of T-90 and Arjun tanks entered the battlefield, leading the way for an all-out infantry assault. As two helicopters flew in, dropping off a team of para commandos, another swooped to pick up an injured soldier from the desert.

Involving over 60,000 military personnel, 500 tanks, UAVs and IAF fighter jets, Sudarshan Shakti was the largest military exercise India has seen in the past 20 years. But the real military marvel was tucked under camouflaged nets 25 km away: the Joint Operations and Information Room (JOIR). Linked to a standalone server and an array of antennae, the JOIR, set up by the army’s 21 Corps, is the first practical application of network-centric warfare (NCW) at the corps level in India.  Armies around the world are becoming leaner and meaner thanks to technology. In today’s information age, where “one ounce of silicon in a computer can have more power than a tonne of uranium,” according to US cyberwarfare expert Alan D Campen, NCW is the new way to fight.  Imagine a combination of Skype and Facebook enabling a soldier to send video feeds, information, orders and suggestions up and down the chain of command, all in real time. Soldiers pinned down by fire can directly ask for an air strike, guiding the pilot or UAV to the target themselves. UAVs, satellites, human intelligence and multiple services combine to provide the central command with real-time information on the enemy’s movements. NCWenables battlefield transparency, allowing you to seize the initiative by predicting your enemy’s movements and links every aspect of the military to a single command centre.  “For mobilisation, we are dependent on the nation’s infrastructure,” says 21 Corps Commander, Lt Gen Sanjiv Langer, “and in the past few years, India’s infrastructure has developed substantially. We have gained from the information technology revolution that hit India. Combined with better weapons systems, we were able to take stock of our capabilities and set up a joint command centre.”  The JOIR looks like a high-tech set from a Bond movie. It comprises four shipping containers that could be assembled anywhere in two hours flat. Multiple screens line the walls and officers shuttle between maps and workstations. Each station was responsible for a separate set of information. Some access real-time intelligence reports from UAVs, direct satellite feeds for the first time (a separate military satellite is in the pipeline), special forces, radars and enemy intercepts. Another station maintains a constant link with the IAF. Others look at supplies, artillery and enemy degradation. A data wall allows the commanders to view information as and when required, as well as stay in touch with different headquarters and centres simultaneously. The biggest breakthrough is a constantly updated map, with red and blue dots denoting enemy positions — movement and our responses.  “It is an interactive centre, where information flows up and down the command channel,” explains Brig Rahul Bhardawaj. Through radio, real-time visuals and information coming up the channel allows the commander to plot enemy movements on a map, analyse enemy capabilities and structure the army’s response. They are able to provide troops on the ground with supplies, reinforcements, air support and visuals of enemy camps, enabling them to plan their point of attack and even strategically launch rockets 90 km into enemy territory.  “Sometimes there are advantages in entering a field late, we can learn from others’ mistakes,” says a senior officer. The lessons learnt are reflected in the NCWset-up. The Corps HQ is connected through LAN, the only way to hack into the system is physically. Choosing to stay away from civilian networks, the connectivity down the channel is through the army’s own intranet systems, ASCON and AREN.  Imagine a combination of Skype and Facebook enabling a soldier to send video feeds and info, all in real time  “I’m not saying that hacking is impossible, but the system has to be hacked from an army computer. As we develop our NCW capabilities, we will have to develop firewalls and protection systems, that is the only way,” says the officer. To prevent an information overload, data is screened at a Unit, Brigade and Division level before being forwarded to the Corps level. The apex body will remain the Corps and each system will not overlap. “We have opted not to follow the networks-of-networks system. Soldiers out on the field have only a one-to-one link with their respective command centre, they are not connected to the entire network,” explains a senior officer. “Say five soldiers are behind enemy lines, one is captured and is unable to access the kill switch on the radio. The enemy will not be able to tap into the NCWsystem as the soldiers radio set is not connected to the entire system. They provide information up the channel, which is processed on a need-to-know basis. Our system will recognise the change in voice signature and modulation and we will cut off that particular set.”  The 21 Corps NCW set-up will be analysed and a workable model will be established after more tests. All this is part of the new-look army. Foreign Policy magazine has labelled 2011 as the year of India’s military expansion: “India has kept pace with its neighbour to the north and, in some areas, is actually exceeding it.”  India accounts for 9 percent of the world’s total arms transfers, making it the largest weapons importer in the world. India is slated to spend an estimated $80 billion on military modernisation by 2015 and over the next 20 years will acquire 103 new warships, compared to China’s 135. The army has also commissioned four new divisions to be set up along the eastern border, the biggest such expansion in decades.  BUT INDIA needs to move fast, according to the 2010 white paper on China’s Defence; not only is it expanding its navy, it has started the process of putting an NCW system in place under the new doctrine of ‘people’s war under modern conditions’. “Nobody is clear about China’s NCW capabilities, but one thing is clear: inspired by the US model, they are putting all their technology, capability and resources into developing their network,” explains strategic expert Ajai Shukla.  The 21 Corps NCW set-up will be analysed and a workable model will be established after more field tests  Though Pakistan is lagging behind in the race towards network centricity, the threat on our western front remains constant. A system like 21 Corps JOIR could have helped India avoid the Kargil War and 26/11 through better surveillance and faster responses. China’s growing interests in the region continue to antagonise India and in the world of “realistic deterrence”, where war is avoided through mutually assured destruction, we have to keep pace.  While 21 Corps has achieved a first, there are many hurdles in the way. At present, the army’s bandwidth is limited, only audio and visual feeds; the bandwidth needs to be increased. Anti-hacking and cyber warfare systems need to be constantly updated. India is still faced with the problem of cross-border communication deep in enemy territory, a system needs to be developed to enable such communication. India needs to remember the lessons learnt by the US: over-dependence on technology is detrimental, boots on the ground cannot be replaced by technology and even your enemy has networks.  “This exercise is about capability building, making us a leaner and meaner army,” explains Lt Gen Langer. “All these latest technologies create battlefield transparency not only for us, but also for our enemies. However, wars are won by superior plans and a will to win.”

Army Ties AFSPA With AfPak Riddle

TO JAMMU & KASHMIR Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s demand for the partial repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state, the army’s response is not ‘No’ but ‘Not yet’. And its reason is not the residual militancy in the Valley but the fast evolving geo-strategic environment in the region, especially after the US-led forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

Here is how the Indian Army sees the scenario play out across the region: Kashmir will become the renewed target of Islamabad’s attention after the NATO allies’ exit. Coincidentally, Pakistan will start its non-permanent stint on the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term in 2012, together with the representatives of some Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries. This could set in motion a process that culminates in Kashmir’s independence.  The model, a copy of which is with TEHELKA, is the basis for the army’s resistance to efforts at rollback of AFSPA. It spans a series of geopolitical landmarks, from the conception of Operation Topac in 1984 through the “political tipping point” in 1987, which led to militancy to the “agitational resistance” in 2010.  It lays out an integrated six-year plan (2011-16) being allegedly worked out by Pakistan that draws on the opportunities of the unfolding regional and global situation. In Kashmir, this will include the incremental process of galvanising a fresh public groundswell followed by escalation of the militant struggle geared to bring the state back into global focus. The steady build-up would include subversion of J&K Police, disempowerment of the army and diversion of Taliban to the Valley in 2012-13, followed by engineering of a ‘tipping point’ and mobilising of ‘Intifada’ in 2013- 14. In 2015-16, Pakistan in concert with OIC is expected to move a UN resolution for plebiscite in Kashmir leading to the state’s secession.  “This scenario may or may not play out but this is the likeliest trajectory that the situation can take. And we as defence forces have to be ready for this,” says General Officer Commanding 15 Corps Lieutenant General Ata Hasnain. “The army’s job is to offer the best security opinion and stick to it.”  That is why the army feels the demand in the Valley for the rollback of AFSPA is far outweighed by a “pronounced and bigger external dimension” of Kashmir, which makes it an inalienable part of the ongoing great game in the AfPak region — a Kabul- Islamabad-Srinagar axis. What could be a game-changer is the factor of rising China. The army apprehends that in the current situation, an uncanny echo of the events that followed the exit of USSR from Afghanistan around 1989, exactly the time jihad began in Kashmir.  “At the time, nobody imagined the rise of Islamic fundamentalism around the world and the situation that would confront us. Who knows the situation could follow an identical trajectory. We have to be ready for the worst-case scenario,” says Lt Gen Hasnain. “Kashmir is not an ordinary place. We see the conflict in the place as the existential threat. Our job is to ward off this threat.”

THE ARMY doesn’t buy the argument about its absence in Budgam and Srinagar districts as reason enough for AFSPA to go. It contends it has both adequate presence in the districts as well as security assets to protect. “If not through day, we operate through the night. We lay around 150 nightly ambushes in Budgam alone,” says Lt Gen Hasnain. “Besides, there is an airfield in Srinagar that demands layers of security and the area domination to protect it. And what about our convoys that regularly pass through Srinagar?”  In response to human rights grievances in the Valley, the army nevertheless mounts a strong defence of its record of acting against the erring personnel. Lt Gen Hasnain says the army has taken action in 108 cases, which include dismissal from service of many personnel.  Lt Gen Hasnain himself headed the court martial of Major Rehman, who was charged with raping a mother and daughter in Kupwara in 2004. The Major was dismissed from service in February 2005 once the case against him was proved.  In case of Pathribal too, where the army killed five innocent civilians in south Kashmir and passed them off as foreign terrorists who gunned down 36 Sikhs in Chittisinghpora during then US President Bill Clinton’s visit to India in 2000, the army plays up the fact of state government not acting against the J&K police personnel “who informed the army about these persons”. Even the army chief, General VK Singh, in an interview to a television channel, tellingly highlighted the fact that the Superintendent of Police Farooq Khan, who was involved in the encounter, is now Deputy Inspector General of Police.  Similarly on the Machhil incident, the army blames the state government for delaying the action. “The case is in the court. We have filed a petition that we want to try the accused in a military court,” says Lt Gen Hasnain. “But for the past seven months, the state government has not filed the objections, which has held up the decision. The case can go to either court. But if the case comes to us, we will ensure that justice is done in the shortest time possible.”  In the given situation, AFSPA’s role, the army feels, is that of an umbrella. “We use the umbrella only when there is rain. In case of sunshine, there is no use for it,” says Lt Gen Hasnain. “More peace is there, less the need for the army to act and least the likelihood of the army being involved in human rights violations.”  As for the urgent need to address the deep public concerns in Kashmir on AFSPA, the army feels it has taken steps towards dilution of the law even while it remains against its rollback.  This dilution comprises four parts: one, Supreme Court’s dos and don’ts which among other directions forbid the custody beyond 24 hours and advises use of minimum force and co-opting of police in its counter-insurgency operations. Two, Chief of Army Staff’s Ten Commandments that call for the respect of human rights of the people in the state including “no rape and no torture resulting in death or maiming”. Third, Rules of Engagement, which similarly seek to promote a sense of restraint in army’s response to militancy and the non-violent agitation. Fourth, Force Ethos which teaches army personnel to respect the local population.

National war memorial may finally see light

New Delhi: The longstanding demand for a national war memorial for armed forces is likely to be met soon with Defence Minister AK Antony on Friday saying that "serious dialogues" are on to sort out the issue.  "I think the things are now nearing to a solution. Serious dialogues are going on to sort out the issue," Antony told reporters on the sidelines of 'Victory Day' celebrations here.  The Defence Minister was replying to a query on dedicating an exclusive war memorial for the three armed services to honour their war heroes and martyrs.  Army Chief General VK Singh also hoped that an early decision will be taken in this regard.  Observing that the government is looking into the matter, Gen Singh said, "We hope an early decision is taken to honour all the people who have laid down their lives for the nation."  Antony along with the three Services chiefs today laid wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in memory of the soldiers who died during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.  The Defence forces today celebrated 40th year of their victory in the war which resulted in the independence of Bangladesh.  The proposal for a National War Memorial (NWM) was first mooted in the 1960s but the matter is still stuck with several departments and ministries, citing reasons such as the lack of availability of space and finance.  A key dispute for the war memorial has been the choice of its location. Indian Army wanted the memorial to be constructed behind the India Gate, which was opposed by the Urban Development Ministry, municipal bodies and several heritage organisations.  The matter was referred to a Group of Minister in August 2009.  India Gate, which presently is regarded as the national war memorial, was built by the British Army to honour the soldiers killed in the First World War.


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