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Saturday, 7 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 07 Jan 2012

IAF officer refused visa, defence team’s visit to China off
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, January 6
In yet another flare-up between India and China, New Delhi has called off a scheduled visit by its military delegation to Beijing. This comes after China refused visa to a senior Indian Air Force official as he hailed from Arunachal Pradesh.

The officer, Group Captain M Panging, was to accompany an Indian military delegation on four-day official visit to China starting from January 10.

After the visa was denied, there was little option for New Delhi but to cancel the visit, sources said. The development comes just a month after a Chinese military delegation had visited India to resume the annual defence dialogue (ADD). The two countries had decided to enhance defence exchanges as part of CBMs during the ADD. The two sides even promised to look at resuming joint exercises.

China is in a dispute with India over the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The visa was refused by the Chinese Embassy here without giving any reasons, sources said in New Delhi. China, which lays claim over Arunachal Pradesh, has often denied visa to those hailing from the state despite protests by India. The two nations have even fought a war in 1962 and special representatives of the two countries are in talks to resolve the un-defined boundary line - a legacy of the British times.

The IAF officer is stationed at a forward base at Tezpur in Assam. The four-day visit of the Indian team was under a bilateral defence exchange programme. The 30-member tri-Service Indian delegation, was led by an Air Vice Marshal-rank officer.
China denies visa to IAF official
New Delhi, Jan 6, (PTI) :

The complex India-China ties have come under stress again with New Delhi putting on hold the proposed visit to its northern neighbour by a team of defence personnel after Beijing denied visa to an Indian Air Force (IAF) official.

IAF Gr Capt M Panging hailing from Arunachal Pradesh was to visit China from January 10 as a member of a delegation under the defence exchange programme.

Though Beijing did not cite any reason for denying him the visa, the move was apparently in line with Chinese policy of negating India’s claim on the north eastern state. A team of 30 defence personnel drawn from the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force was to be led  by an Air Vice Marshal rank official. They were to travel to Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai.

Beijing’s denial of visa for the IAF official came up just after two Indian traders were illegally detained by local traders in Yiwu city following a commercial dispute. New Delhi also lodged a protest with Beijing over the ill-treatment of its who was negotiating for the release of the traders.

India had in August 2010 put on hold all its defence exchanges with China after Beijing declined to accept a proposal for a visit by Lt Gen B S Jaswal, the then chief the Northern Command of the Indian Army. Beijing had told New Delhi that it would not let Lt Gen Jaswal visit China as his operational area had included ‘disputed’ Jammu and Kashmir. India strongly protested and retaliated by denying visa to three officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army who wanted to visit the National Defence College in New Delhi and Army Education Corps Training College & Centre at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh.

The strains in bilateral defence ties were eased when Indian Army sent a delegation to China in June 2011. The delegation was led by Maj Gen Gurmeet Singh, the commander of the Delta Force of the Rashtriya Rifles deployed in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Though China had declined to open its door for Lt Gen Jaswal, it agreed to accept Maj Gen Singh as the leader of the visiting Indian Army delegation, despite the fact that the latter’s operational area too included J&K. Since November 2009, New Delhi has been persistently protesting against Beijing’s policy of issuing “stapled visas”.
India ally, China foe in new US defence strategy
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi January 07, 2012, 0:41 IST

America is investing in long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor & security provider in Indian Ocean region.

America will no longer remain mired in grinding counter-insurgency campaigns like in Afghanistan and Iraq; instead, it will reshape its military for the challenge posed by an emerging rival power, China.
That was the key message yesterday from US President Barack Obama. Flanked by his military commanders, America’s commander-in-chief unveiled the Pentagon’s new defence strategy in a made-for-television performance in Washington. With a re-election campaign looming and with Republicans painting Obama as weak on defence, the US president talked of his military successes — including the killing of Osama bin Laden; the degrading of Al Qaeda; the Libya campaign; and the end of the Iraq war — before announcing sweeping budget and manpower cuts.

“We’re turning the page on a decade of war,” said Obama before releasing the new strategy that committed the Pentagon to save half a trillion dollars in expenditure over the next decade through measures like reducing the army’s size from 570,000 to 490,000 soldiers.

Even while announcing this “peace dividend”, the Pentagon indicated its next big threat. “We will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region,” says the new strategy document (italics in original). Without naming China, the target area is identified as “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”

India is key to this new focus. Besides expanding “networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific.... United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region,” the strategy states.

America’s new strategy relies on significant military contributions from partner countries like India, while seeking to be their “security partner of choice.”

“Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence and advisory capabilities,” says the document (italics in original).

The strategy specifies that the US will “maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.” This refers primarily to China’s anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, in which anti-ship ballistic missiles like the purpose-built Dong Feng 21-D, attack submarines, anti-ship mines and swarms of small vessels, attack US aircraft carriers that approach China’s coast in a war, such as a Chinese operation to “liberate” Taiwan.

Entitled “Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defence,” the new strategy dilutes the US military’s requirement to be capable of fighting two major wars simultaneously. Such a capability was already in question given the Pentagon’s difficulty in sustaining the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns together.

The new strategy mandates a one-and-a-half war capability, specifying that “Even when US forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of — or imposing unacceptable costs on — an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.”

“Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats,” Obama said.

To maintain a range of capabilities, the downsizing military will rely on a “Joint Force” that will retain its accumulated expertise and corporate abilities for mounting a range of missions, including those that do not appear probably at present. If the need arises those elements will be quickly expanded, drawing on the all-volunteer military as well as the National Guard and the Reserves.

Driving the new national defence strategy, says The New York Times, are three realities: “The winding down of a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a fiscal crisis demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon budget cuts and a rising threat from China and Iran.”
Army chief age row: Government must show sagacity, grace
One can only hope that the Government of India will show the sagacity and grace, befitting the government of a great nation, by acting to correct (NOT change) the army chief's date of birth, thus setting right an anomaly, says An Old Soldier.
he Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on, nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash away a Word of it.'
--51st Rubai of Omar Khayyam of Naishpur,, rendered into English quatrains by Edward FitzGerald)

There has been a copious outflow of opinions, analyses and unsolicited advice in the media and on the Internet in past few months by experts, well-meaning comrades-in arms, ill-intentioned non-friendlies and general busy-bodies, on the rather unusual situation of the Indian Army [ Images ] chief having to go to the government, through the medium of a 'statutory complaint' to get his date of birth corrected, before he completes his tenure in May.

All this leaves an old soldier quite bemused and somewhat bewildered -- such things did not happen over 60 years ago, or even near 30 years ago, when one said farewell to arms!

Sage and mature people, supposedly running the affairs of a nation, settle such things by taking mature actions and do not create such a 'theatre of the absurd'!

One can gather from the media that the General has very soldierly and honourable reasons to get the age correction made before he retires. One can also perceive that the Establishment leans upon various policy and rule-based reasons to support their decision not to do so, at this stage.

To pass a valid value judgment on the merits of these differing contentions, one would have to have authentic knowledge of the nature and sequence of the happenings stretching over many years past -- all the passions, motivations, manoeuvrings and manipulations which may have brought things to this sad pass today.

An old-timer finds all this quite distasteful but all the same, times change and must change, and so must the prevailing mores and criteria of conduct and behaviour. Certainly, in these late years, the behaviour of the Establishment (the responsible political leadership, aided and abetted by the ever-willing bureaucracy), vis a vis our nation's armed forces does at times remind one of the foolish man, trying to chop-down the very branch of the tree, he is perched on.

National interests, nay the very existence of our nation in these perilous times demand institutional wisdom, sagacity and a spirit of sacrifice, which seem singularly lacking in this imbroglio.

(There is a widespread conviction amongst the soldier community that the bureaucracy, especially its Orwellian named 'Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare' is out to teach a lesson to the military, after the Sixth Pay Commission contretemps).

As for the Indian Army, 'Service, before Self' is, has been and will always remain, its staunch credo, philosophy and the very raison d'etre, irrespective of what the rest of the polity or society does. So, the institution of the Chief of the Army Staff (and thus the whole service) should not have been made to get involved in a matter, which is purely personal (eg, correction of an individual's age), as this has had, and will have wide and lasting repercussions, not of a beneficial nature for anyone.

A question of timing really -- before assuming, or after relinquishing the high office of the Chief, and the quest for justice would not have had any repercussions for the service as such.

But having said that, it is here that the wisdom of that feisty old philosopher Omar Khayyam makes sense -- the moving finger cannot be lured back to undo, what unfortunately has already been written down!

Time only will tell what the finale of this self-inflicted unpleasantness is going to be, and it would be presumptuous and ill-mannered for an outsider to spout unsolicited advice.

One can only express a pious hope that very soon and at the very first opportunity, the Government of India will show the sagacity and the grace, befitting the government of a great nation, by acting suo moto to correct (NOT change) the chief's date of birth, thus setting right an anomaly, which an honourable soldier strongly feels impinges on his 'izzat.'

And the gallant Chief, having already made it clear that he has no desire either to gain a few months of additional tenure or to upset the hierarchy of COAS succession in any way, would surely want to do what all good soldiers do, with their heads held high -- 'Never say die', but just fade away!
Self before service

Read more at:
Gen Singh's age row: Biggest casualty is the reputation of Armed forces

Read more at:
Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh's 21-month tenure has been consumed by a singular passion. He calls it transformation; turning the 1.1 million-man Army into an agile, lean and lethal force. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is more cynical. It believes the only change General Singh wants is to have his date of birth changed from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951 so that he can stay 10 months more in office. The Army chief claims his honour is at stake. The Government dismisses General Singh's demand as petulant, pointing out that the Army chief has been free with his public comments and quiet about his standoff with defence minister A.K. Antony.

South Block has not seen such an ugly confrontation between civilian and defence authorities, at least since 1998, when Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was sacked by the then defence minister George Fernandes for not agreeing to the appointment of the deputy naval chief. And that was a comparatively quiet fracas.

A joke within the armed forces testifies to the importance of heading the world's second largest Army: 'The Government listens to the Army chief, humours the air force chief and ignores the navy chief.' From his teak-panelled office on the first floor of South Block, the Army chief has a spectacular view of India's power centre.

He jets around in a 13-seat Embraer 135 jet from the IAF's VIP fleet, drives in a convoy of black bulletproof Ambassador cars,is consulted on border disputes and is a key element of India's military diplomacy.

General Singh has had a distinguished service record. As a young captain he saw action with the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh war of 1971. He topped the tough Rangers course in Fort Benning, US, in the 1970s and completed the Indian Army's commando instructor course. As a lieutenant colonel, he played himself in a cameo in Nana Patekar's Prahaar (1991). Yet, he was one among 35,000 other officers. General Singh hit the fast track after being promoted to Major General in 2003. The rank came after a complaint of being overlooked for promotion, not unusual in the Army.

Read more at:
'Defence review document to enhance US leadership in changing world'
Washington, Jan 6:

The US Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, has said the new Defence Strategic Review document that calls for a small and lean American Army and a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region along with better ties with India will enhance country’s leadership in a new world order.

“This new guidance is a critical element in our integrated approach to strengthening American leadership in a changing world. It enhances the capabilities and relationships we need to lead and meet our responsibilities for years to come,” Ms Clinton said.

She said it promotes US’ strategic priorities, including sustaining a global presence while strengthening its focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

The strategic priorities highlighted by her included: “deterring our adversaries and fulfilling our security commitments; investing in critical alliances and partnerships, including NATO; combating violent extremists and defending human dignity around the world and preserving our ability to respond quickly to emerging threats’’.

Her remarks came hours after the President, Mr Barack Obama, unveiled the document at the Pentagon.

Ms Clinton said moving forward with this strategy, US will continue to consult its allies and partners to address their shared concerns, to seize new opportunities, and bolster global stability.

The “21st Century Defence Priorities” unveil a new strategic guidance that reflects America’s 21st century defence needs and secures its leadership for the future, she said, adding that the Defence and State Departments will continue to work side-by-side to bring the full range of American assets to bear on our foreign policy.

“As the new strategy notes, meeting our challenges cannot be the work of our military alone. Diplomacy and development are equal partners with defence in our smart power approach to promoting American interests and values abroad, building up our economic prosperity, and protecting our national security,” Ms Clinton said.

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