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Saturday, 24 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 24 Dec 2011






Army denies reports of Chinese military damaging wall

Itanagar, December 23  The Army today rejected media reports on the alleged Chinese intrusion at the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh recently. A few regional TV channels had yesterday telecast footage of the Chinese army damaging a 'wall' constructed by the Army on the Indian side of the Sino-Indian border.  Brigadier Sudhakarjee of Army’s 190 Mountain Brigade said there had been no such incident reported at the international border in Tawang district. The Brigadier’s clarification came in the wake of the reported telecast of footage TV channels on the Chinese intrusion to have happened at the Tawang sector, during a meeting he had with Tawang Deputy Commissioner Kemo Lollen at his office, official sources said.  He said the information about the Chinese intrusion was nothing but a rumour. The DC, who convened the emergency meeting, while expressing his concern on the rumour, assured the Brigadier that he would inform the people of Tawang, in particular, and Arunachal Pradesh that the news footage aired on some TV channels was false.  He said such "unfounded" news items may create panic and apprehension in the minds of the people. Meanwhile, GOC, 4 Corp, Lt Gen Shakti Gurung, during a meeting with Chief Minister Nabam Tuki yesterday said everything was normal along the borders. Tuki, during the meeting, had expressed concern over the report of the Chinese troops damaging a 'wall' constructed by the Army in the Tawang area. — PTI


Storm over lone contender for Army’s top legal post

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, December 23 With controversy shrouding the lone contender for the top slot in the Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAG), the Army’s legal wing could end up without a chief for some time.  The Armed Forces Tribunal has stayed the promotion of Brig PS Rathore, senior-most brigadier in the department, to the rank of major general following a petition alleging that he had earlier been indicted by a court of inquiry (COI) for administrative irregularities and harassment.  Brigadier Rathore is presently posted as the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the South Western Command. The Special Selection Board considered him for promotion in October, results of which were expected to be declassified this month.  If promoted, Brig Rathore would have been tipped to take over as the Judge Advocate General from present incumbent Maj Gen BV Nair, who superannuates on January 31, 2012. Sources said that Brig Rathore is the only officer in the reckoning for the department’s top post. He is of 1979 seniority and the next batch of 1980 would have four brigadiers in the race for the JAG’s post.  Directing the Defence Ministry and Army Headquarters not to take any final decision in respect of the promotion of Brig Rathore, the Tribunal’s bench comprising Justice SK Gupta and Lt Gen KPD Samanta said on December 19 that this interim order would continue for six weeks with liberty to either party to seek extension or modification of the order. February 7, 2012 has been fixed as the next date of hearing.  In his petition, Lt Col Mukul Dev, then posted at Headquarters Central Command, alleged that though a COI had held two brigadiers, including Rathore and four others, blameworthy in a case pertaining to his arbitrary and illegal transfer to a non-legal, administrative post. He contended that his “illegal” transfer was aimed to harass him and harm his career prospects. While four junior officers were punished, no action was taken against the two brigadiers, he added.  He claimed that he was moved out from the JAG Department at Command Headquarters and posted to the branch dealing with land matters, even though he was then on the mandatory “Adequately Exercise” tenure after being transferred to the JAG Branch. He alleged that the transfer orders were issued by the then Brig UK Chopra (Personnel and Administration) at the behest of Brig Rathore.


Pak army rejects coup fears   Read more at:

Islamabad:  Pakistan's army chief has denied accusations that the military is working to oust the country's civilian government amid tension over a secret memo sent to Washington earlier this year about an alleged coup, the military said Friday.  The memo scandal has heightened long-standing tensions between the army and the government at a time when the country is struggling to deal with a violent Taliban insurgency, a stuttering economy and deteriorating relations with its most important ally, the United States.  Pakistani Taliban fighters attacked a paramilitary fort in north-western Pakistan on Friday, killing one soldier and kidnapping 15 others, police said. The brazen attack was followed by a statement to media in which the militants said they would kill the abducted troops.  Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed Thursday that there was a conspiracy under way to topple the government. He did not specifically point to the military, but said the army must be answerable to the parliament and cannot operate as a "state within a state."  Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani denied the allegations and pledged the force would continue to support democracy in Pakistan.  "The army is fully cognizant of its constitutional obligations and responsibilities," Kayani said Thursday, during a trip near the Afghan border. His remarks were cited in an army statement Friday.  The army is the strongest institution in Pakistan and has ruled the country for much of its 64-year history after carrying out a series of coups. Analysts have expressed doubt that a coup is likely at this time, but have speculated the army may try to pressure the country's embattled president to resign over his alleged role in the memo scandal.  Pakistan's former ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, has been accused of masterminding the memo, which asked Washington to help avert a supposed coup in the wake of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May. Haqqani allegedly acted with President Asif Ali Zardari's support.  Both Haqqani and the president have denied the allegations, but the envoy resigned in the wake of the scandal. Tension has increased this week as the Supreme Court opened a hearing into the memo.  The political crisis could distract the army from its fight against the Pakistani Taliban, who aim to topple the government, partly because of the country's alliance with the U.S.  The nearly three dozen Pakistani Taliban fighters who attacked a paramilitary fort in Tank district with assault rifles before dawn Friday burned down buildings and captured a significant amount of weapons, said local police chief Ejaz Abid.  One soldier was killed and two were wounded in the fighting, said Abid. Another 15 are still missing and believed to have been kidnapped, he said.  Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to The Associated Press and said it was carried out to avenge the death of a local Taliban commander. He claimed 30 soldiers were kidnapped.  But another Taliban commander who said he carried out the attack, Asmatullah Shaheen, told the AP that he had 15 soldiers in his custody. Some others managed to escape after the militants captured them, he said.  Abid, the police chief, said at least 22 soldiers were missing originally, but seven managed to return.  Shaheen said the militant commander being avenged, Taj Gul, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in October in South Waziristan, an important sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban next to Tank.  The militants attacked the Pakistani soldiers in response because of the country's alliance with the U.S., he said.  Ehsan, the Taliban spokesman, said the militants have no intention of bargaining for the kidnapped soldiers' release and intend to kill them.  "We are going to cut these soldiers into pieces one by one, and we will send these pieces to their commanders," said Ehsan.   Read more at:


NATO air strike: Report blames both US and Pak   Read more at:

Kabul:  A United States military investigation has concluded that checks and balances devised to prevent cross-border mishaps with Pakistan failed to avert a deadly NATO airstrike last month in part because American officials did not trust Pakistan enough to give it detailed information about American troop locations in Afghanistan.  A report by the inquiry concluded that mistakes by both American and Pakistani troops led to airstrikes against two Pakistani posts on the Afghan border that killed 26 Pakistani troops. But two crucial findings - that the Pakistanis fired first at a joint Afghan-American patrol and that they kept firing even after the Americans tried to warn them that they were shooting at allied troops - were likely to further anger Pakistan and plunge the already tattered relationship between the United States and Pakistan to new depths.  In a statement and at a news conference here on Thursday, the Defense Department said that "inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani military officers" and "incorrect mapping information" that NATO had provided to the Pakistani authorities capped a chain of errors that caused the debacle.  "This, coupled with other gaps in information about the activities and placement of units from both sides contributed to the tragic results," George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.  The episode, the worst in nearly a decade riddled with fatal cross-border blunders, underscored gaping flaws in a system established in recent years to avoid such mistakes. American officials acknowledged that the policy of not divulging to Pakistan the precise location of allied ground troops in Afghanistan - for fear Pakistan might jeopardize their operations - contributed to the accident and underscored what the chief investigator called an "overarching lack of trust between the two sides."  On Nov. 25, the same day the episode began, Gen. John Allen, the allied commander in Afghanistan, met in Islamabad with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, to try to improve border coordination procedures.  Pakistan has insisted that its forces did nothing wrong, and that they did not fire the first shots. Rather, senior Pakistani military and civilian officials have accused the United States of intentionally striking the border posts, even after Pakistani officers called their counterparts to complain that their outposts were under allied attack.  Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the Pakistani military spokesman, said in a text message on Thursday: "The Pak Army does not agree with the findings of the US NATO inquiry as being reported in the media."  In an important detail that was not disclosed at the Pentagon briefing but is likely to further aggravate relations with Islamabad, an American officer in Afghanistan said the joint patrol of 120 Afghan and American Special Operations soldiers, operating along the often poorly demarcated frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan, had come under Pakistani fire as it was entering an Afghan village, endangering civilians as well as the soldiers. The American officer said he believed that the Pakistanis had used night-vision technology because their shooting was unusually accurate, even though there were no casualties.  The Defense Department statement included an expression of regret, though it did not appear to go as far as the apology that Pakistani officials have demanded. "For the loss of life, and for the lack of proper coordination between U.S. and Pakistani forces that contributed to those losses, we express our deepest regret," it said.  A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said the United States was prepared to make bereavement payments to families of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed. But a senior Pakistan security official in Islamabad said last week that Pakistan would refuse any "blood money."  Pentagon officials said Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. James N. Mattis, head of the military's Central Command, called General Kayani on Wednesday to tell him that the inquiry was complete and to offer a briefing. It was unclear when that briefing would happen, American officials said.  In a telephone briefing with reporters here, Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Clark of the Air Force, who conducted the inquiry, said that both sides made mistakes.  According to a chronology by General Clark and other American military officials, the patrol planned to raid the village of Maya, about one mile inside Afghanistan's Kunar Province and near the Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand. Hiking up steep "goat trails" on a moonless night, the patrol came under heavy machine-gun fire from the ridge above at 11:09 p.m. on Nov. 25.  American officials said the first allied mistake was that NATO had not informed Pakistan about the patrol, so the Pakistani soldiers would not have known to expect allied forces nearby. NATO and Pakistani forces are supposed to inform each other about operations on the border precisely to avoid this kind of mistake.  After the allied ground force came under fire, the Americans tried to let the Pakistanis know that they were shooting at Americans. There was no direct verbal communication, but an AC-130 gunship fired flares and an F-15E fighter jet made a deafening, 600-mile-per-hour low-level pass in an effort to signal who they were.  Whether or not that message was understood was unclear, but the Pakistanis kept shooting.  As the Pakistanis continued to shoot, the AC-130 gunship opened fire for six minutes starting at 11:24 p.m. That was the result of a second error. That strike was set in motion when ground commanders believed they had been told no Pakistani troops were in the area. In fact, NATO was still checking.  From 11:44 p.m. until midnight, the AC-130 and Apache helicopter gunships resumed firing on "rudimentary bunkers," the report said.  About the same time, Pakistani officials called NATO to say their outposts were under attack. The NATO liaison then gave the Pakistani Army only a general location of the airstrike targets, and a wrong one at that because he had incorrectly configured his digital map.  "This goes back to the opening part of an overarching lack of trust between the two sides as far as giving out specifics, but it's also a very specific failure that occurred now that we have a firefight on our hands," General Clark said.  The Pakistanis made mistakes, too, he said. Pakistan never told NATO that it had established the border posts, which had been up for about three months. Pakistan has said it did tell NATO. Each side is supposed to inform the other when setting up new border positions.  Why the Pakistanis were firing remained unclear. Pakistan refused to participate in the inquiry, but General Clark acknowledged that he did not take into consideration news media reports on several detailed public briefings held by the Pakistani military in recent days.  A third engagement took place starting at 12:40 a.m., when a heavy machine gun began firing from the Pakistani side "a little further north" of the first Pakistani shooting. About 1 a.m., American officials finally confirmed the Pakistan presence at the posts, and firing ceased.  The joint patrol resumed its mission in the village, the American officer said, and seized one of the largest caches of weapons in Kunar Province this year, along with a bomb-making factory.    Read more at:


Indian Army’s modernization drive gathers steam

NEW DELHI: The Army's futuristic programme to transform its infantry soldiers into high-tech, self-contained killing machines is gathering some steam, after a long delay, under the F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) project.  Having issued global tenders for new assault rifles, "close-quarter battle'' (CQB) carbines and light-weight ballistic helmets with internal communication gear, the defence ministry is preparing similar RFPs (request for proposals) for light-machine guns, modular bullet-proof jackets, holographic reflex weapon sights, soldier-wearable computers, communication and surveillance equipment.  The first phase of F-INSAS itself will cost upwards of Rs 25,000 crore, with the 1.13- million strong Indian Army having 359 infantry battalions, each with 800-1,000 soldiers.  The programme, which will be implemented in phases, is spread over the 12th, 13th and 14th five-year plans (2012-27), say sources.  Somewhat similar to US Army's "land warrior" and "objective force warrior" programmes, F-INSAS is aimed at converting foot-soldiers into fully-networked, all-terrain weapon platforms by enhancing their "lethality, survivability, mobility, sustainability and situational awareness".  F-INSAS is divided into five sub-systems - modular weapons; body armour and individual equipment; weapon sights and hand-held target acquisition devices; communication equipment to make soldiers capable of transmitting and receiving complex voice, data and video systems; and portable computers in the shape of "wrist displays" for soldiers and "planning boards" for commanders.  Take the weapon systems, which include CQB carbines, assault rifles and light machine guns equipped with third-generation night-vision devices, laser designators, detachable under-barrel grenade launchers and the like.  The Army is examining the bids submitted by armament majors to acquire around 44,000 CQB carbines off-the-shelf for over Rs 4,500 crore. This will be followed by the indigenous manufacture of a large number of similar modular carbines by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) under transfer of technology.  Then, the global tender for direct acquisition of around 66,000 advanced assault rifles was floated in November, which will be followed by licensed manufacture to equip the armed forces as well as the 8-lakh Central paramilitary forces.  This mega project for new assault rifles, with interchangeable 5.56mm and 7.62mm barrels and holographic reflex sights to replace the 5.56mm INSAS rifles being used, could alone run over Rs 20,000 crore.  "Soldiers will use the 7.62 x 39mm barrels for counter-insurgency operations since they are more effective for that role. But if deployed for conventional warfare, then they will use the 5.56 x 45mm barrels," said a source.  The Army is shopping for tripod-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine guns (HMGs), which can fire high-explosive, incendiary and armour-piercing rounds at a rapid clip, to further boost the high-volume firepower of its infantry battalions.


Three-day army mela set to woo Goan youth

PANAJI: The Southern Army Command is busy giving final touches to the three-day army mela scheduled from December 28 at Margao, to rekindle interest among Goan youth to choose the armed forces as their career.  The three-day exhibition will be held at Margao, opposite the railway colony ground.  Commandant of Southern Army Command brigadier K S Chauhan told mediapersons that it is very difficult to find Goan officers in the army. He also said that people of Goa are not aware of what the army is all about.  "Know-your-army exhibition and army mela is being organized in Goa with the aim of showcasing the might and capabilities of the Indian Army to the people of Goa," he added. Chauhan also said that the event will give people an insight into the life of the Army and introduce them to various weapon systems and equipments, "It will give citizens of Goa a hands-on experience of various weapon systems and equipment used by the Army," he added  The public will also be able to witness band display, slithering, sky diving and various other displays like martial arts including kalaraipayttu and taekwondo by a team of 2 signal training centre.  "Through this exhibition the Army also intends to reach out to it's ex-servicemen to update them on various post-retirement issues including pension problems through pension grievance cell being established by the CDA (pension), Allahabad.  He also said that the army mela would have informative stalls giving details of how to join the Army. "Thrilling games and mouth-watering refreshment stalls have also been planned. The exhibition is very informative, educative and exciting, particularly for the youth of Goa" said Chauvan.


Indian Army issues tender for multirole assault rifles

Seeking to boost the firepower of troops to undertake conventional and counter-insurgency operations, the Army has issued a tender for procuring over 60,000 multi-role assault rifles.  In the global Request for Proposal (RFP) issued to 34 vendors, the Army has stated requirement for a gun which has two barrels that can be used in different types of operations, pti reported quoting army sources as said here.  For counter-insurgency operations, we want the guns to be equipped with barrels of 7.62mm calibre bullets, and for conventional warfare, we want the gun to fire 5.56mm bullets, they said.  The multi-role assault rifles are being procured to replace the existing INSAS series of rifles from the Infantry battalions, they said.  The sources said such a rifle would also help in saving cost for procuring two different types of guns for the troops and would require only three parts, including the barrel and the magazine, to be changed which would be possible at the unit level only.  The Army wants the new guns not to be heavier than 3.6 kilograms, almost half kilogram lighter than the INSAS rifles.  The Army has sought complete transfer of technology from the vendors so that the guns can be license produced at Indian ordnance factories.  The force also wants the rifles to be equipped with under barrel grenade launchers and capable of firing indigenously-produced ammunition.  The INSAS rifles, designed by the DRDO, were inducted into the armed forces in the 90s and have been used in the Kargil war and counter-insurgency operations also.  In its early days with the force, the rifles had faced reliability problems in cold climate in places such as Kashmir Valley and Siachen glacier.


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