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Thursday, 12 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 12 Jan 2012
‘Fake’ encounter returns to haunt Army chief’s likely successor
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Srinagar, Jan 11
Tipped to take over as the next Army Chief, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, has been accused of being involved in a ‘fake’ encounter that took place in Anantnag district of Kashmir in 2001.

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Youth Empowering Kashmir (YES-KASHMIR) had for long been claiming that the encounter, which took place on March 1, 2001 near TB hospital Junglat Mandi in Anantnag, was fake.

According to the NGO, a civilian was dubbed as a foreign militant after being killed in the encounter. “A 60 year-old man, identified as Rabbani or Abdul Matin Chahcha, was killed during the incident. He was branded as a foreign militant. The old man was a not a foreign militant but a local Kashmiri, Abdullah Bhat,” the NGO had claimed.

According to the FIR, two persons had also sustained injuries in the encounter that took place when Lt Gen Bikram Singh was a Brigadier and headed 5 Sector Rashtriya Rifles headquarters. However, the local police has maintained that there was "no case" against Bikram Singh. The high court here on October 13, 2011 had issued notices to the state government and the Defence Ministry asking them to file their objections in a writ petition, seeking reinvestigation into the alleged fake encounter. The court ruling came after the petitioners, family of Abdullah Bhat, had sought re-probe into the case.

Incidentally, YES Kashmir had also held protests in November last year in New Delhi demanding reinvestigation into the case.

Serious questions are being raised on how the 10-year old case against Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been allowed to fester in a court in Jammu and Kashmir. Though the notice has been served on the Ministry of Defence, Lt General Bikram Singh has not been given the notice as reported in the section of the media.

In these three months, the MoD and the Army have not been able to reply to the court forcing the judge to issue a final notice, a reply to which is mandatory by February. It is alleged that lobbies are at work in circulating allegations against the Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, who is poised to take over as the new Army chief after Gen VK Singh retires on May 31.
Technical Preparedness Of Indian Army
India during December 2011, practiced the biggest army exercise in its history "Sudharashan Shakti" in Rajhistan. In the exercise which took place 150 km away from Pakistani border, 60000 Indian soldiers, 300 tanks and 150 modern planes and drones participated. The basic objective of the exercise was to practically test a military strategy "Network Centric Warfare" (NCW) and to check its advantages and shortfalls.
The idea of NCW was conceived by American generals some 20 years ago. In simple words this idea can be described as integration of all the three wings of forces, air force, navy and army with the help of all the available means of information technology and to establish a system of contacts from high command to a soldier at the bottom. In the military language this system is termed "Chain of Command"
Therefore, on the eve of Sudharshan Shakti, 24 km away from the "battle field" a Joint Operation and Information Room (JOIC) was established. High commond of Indian air force and military sitting in this temporary center monitored the battle field issued directions to the soldiers. These general had been receiving information from the field through communication satellites, radars and computers , continuously.
It is a fact that information technology has made fighting in the battle field as well as keeping an vigilant eye on the enemy movement very easy. Therefore, military experts say that an ounce of silicon in computer has more power than one tonne uranium. So the American soldiers sent for wars are equipped with small computers in addition to weapons. The presence of computer has enabled them to send information and receive instructions from officers during the war on facebook or skype and all process takes seconds.
Indian experts say that their sudharshan shakti exercise was successful and they will implement gradually the system in all the army corps and in air force and navy.
Indian Army Launches Website for Defence Personnel
Wednesday, January 11, 2012  Afzal Ali  No comments

Aiming to facilitate smooth ticketing service for defence personnel posted in remote places, Indian Army launched a web portal for booking their travel tickets online and through telephone.

The portal has been launched by Balmer and Lawrie (a government of India enterprise) — authorised travel agent for the defence personnel.

It provides various facilities such as a round-the-clock call centre and a toll free number for inquiries. It also facilitates booking for personnel availing LTC to any part of the country.
Gorkha soldiers and Nepal’s changed context

Nepal has not been involved in a war with any country since the one with East India Company and British forces in 1814-16. But for close to two centuries, brave Gorkha soldiers (or Gurkhas as they are known in the British Army) from Nepal have fought numerous wars for others.

But the era of these brave men laying down lives for causes not associated with their motherland could soon come to an end.
As a new Nepal tries to emerge from the rubble of a civil war and demise of the 240-year-old monarchy, Gorkhas serving the British and Indian armies could become a thing of the past.

The Committee for International Relations and Human Rights of Nepal’s parliament recently endorsed a policy paper (‘Nepal’s Foreign Policy in Changed Context’) which besides offering suggestions on foreign policy also seeks an end to soldiers fighting wars under foreign flags.

“Gurkha recruitment gave the youth a small opportunity for employment, but serving foreign military powers has not always allowed the country to hold its head high…Since, ultimately, Gurkha recruitment will have to end, it is necessary to create alternatives,” the paper recommended.

If such a ban on recruitment is indeed put in place, it will end a unique chapter in military history where citizens of one country served in armies of others and fought against enemies with whom they had no enmity.

Recruitment of Gorkhas, first into East India Company and later into British Army, began during the 1814-16 war when impressed with their bravery the East India Company started enlisting them. The first Gorkha regiment, Nausiri Battalion, was formed in 1815.

Gorkhas proved their tenacity in many wars and later became part of British Indian Army when it was formed after the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. They served the British during the First and Second World Wars with distinction in many countries and the legend of the Gorkha as the ‘bravest soldier’ and his ‘khukri’ took firm shape.

After India’s independence, both Britain and India decided on retaining services of Gorkha regiments in their armies as per the Tripartite Agreement signed with Nepal. In the past 200 years, Gorkhas have earned battle laurels in over 20 countries for Britain and India during wars and peace-keeping efforts.

At present there are 39 battalions in seven Gorkha regiments of Indian Army. Nearly 30,000 Gorkhas including 120 officers are serving in these regiments. Every year thousands more join these brave men through recruitment drives conducted in Nepal.

Besides those serving, Nepal has 79,000 Indian Army pensioners, 11,000 widows of ex-servicemen and 17,000 retired Assam Rifles personnel. Indian Army pays them over Rs 1,200 crores annually in pension and provides other benefits to their families as well.

Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas comprise of 3640 men recruited from Nepal. Such is the level of trust enjoyed by them that they were recently entrusted the task of protecting Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, when he was secretly posted in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

All that tradition could soon fade away as Nepal mulls changes in foreign policy with the intention of holding its head high among as an independent, sovereign republic.

“The elimination of Gurkha recruitment, indeed, is a test of whether the new republic can settle the debate over her semi-colonial status and become a proud member of fully sovereign community of nations,” writes columnist Gyanu Adhikari in The Kathmandu Post.
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Will China threat last 2 yrs? FinMin stalls military expansion
The second phase of the government’s ambitious military expansion plan — worth Rs 65,000 crore — has run into rough weather. The finance ministry has red-flagged the plan with detailed queries and sent it back to the defence ministry with a bizarre question: will the Chinese threat last more than two years?

While responses have been prepared explaining the impossibility of ascribing a time period to the threat or even speculating on what the situation will be two years from now, sources said, the political understanding is that the finance ministry is probably not keen to clear such a high-cost plan this financial year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given in-principle clearance last year to a five-year expansion plan, which involves fresh accretion of 89,000 troops with 400 officers — one of India’s biggest one-time military expansion efforts.

The plan includes setting up a new strike corps in Panagarh, West Bengal, along with two more divisions. An independent armoured brigade along with an artillery division will be part of the set-up. These plans were fast tracked after the Army conveyed to the PM that according to available intelligence, China has been rehearsing military action during a limited local offensive.

It was in this context that the proposal for a new mountain strike corps, pending for over a year with the defence ministry, suddenly acquired momentum with the PMO promptly clearing it.

Sources said the finance ministry has also blocked the second stage of expansion of India’s first Navy-only bases, INS Kadamba in Karwar along the Karnataka coast. This Rs 13,000-crore plan involves creating more than a dozen piers and more berths which will host, among other ships, India’s next aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, better known as Admiral Gorshkov, which is now being refurbished in Russia.
Pakistan on edge as army threatens government
The dispute between Pakistan's civilian administration and the military has erupted again after the army warned of "grievous consequences" for the country and the Prime Minister sacked the Defence Secretary.

In the latest twist in a dispute that has simmered for months, the army yesterday issued a statement that said recent comments made by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had "very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country".

The army's stern warning came after an increasingly bold Mr Gilani gave an interview to a Chinese newspaper in which he said the army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the head of military intelligence, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, had acted unconstitutionally by giving evidence to a supreme court investigation. He claimed that they should have first sought the government's approval.

The dispute between the army and the government swirls around the ramifications of a memo sent last spring to the US military, allegedly at the behest of President Asif Ali Zardari.

According to a US-Pakistani businessman who said he was asked to act as an intermediary, the note asked for assistance in reining in Pakistan's generals and preventing them from launching a coup in the wake of the the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The fall-out from the so-called "memogate" affair has been extensive. The country's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was forced to resign after he was accused of involvement, despite his strident denials.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's supreme court has set up an investigatory panel to establish whether the note was sanctioned by Mr Zardari, something that could lead to his possible impeachment.

As part of the inquiry, Mr Kayani and Mr Pasha, along with many others, submitted statements to the court.

As the army issued its statement denouncing Mr Gilani, he announced that he was firing the country's Defence Secretary, Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired general who acted as a bridge between the military and the civilian government. Lt-Gen Lodhi was dismissed for what was described as "gross misconduct and illegal action" by submitting the statements of General Kayani and Lt-Gen Pasha to the court. He has been replaced by a bureaucrat close to Mr Gilani.

The memogate controversy underlines the tension that has existed since a civilian government came to office in Pakistan in 2008, constantly jockeying for influence and power alongside the army and an active judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Both Mr Chaudhry and General Kayani are known to have little time for Mr Zardari.

Earlier this week, the supreme court issued a notice saying it could dismiss Mr Gilani if he did not follow an earlier directive to reopen corruption proceedings against the President.
Army told to compensate kin of tribals killed in explosion
AHMEDABAD: A division bench of Gujarat high court has upheld a decision of Kutch's deputy collector directing the Indian Army to pay compensation to families of four poor persons, who were killed in an explosion in Khavda a decade ago.

Army personnel conducted an artillery firing practice near Khavda, the border region in the north of Kutch, on June 27, 2002. The next day, a shell exploded near the firing range in a tin shed killing four tribal persons from Dahod region and injuring four others. Those killed were collecting scrap after the firing practice.

A deputy collector conducted an inquiry into the incident and held the defence personnel responsible for negligence that they did not care to see that explosives were not left out after practice. The officer ordered the army to pay Rs 6.91 lakh to eight claimants with 12 per cent interest.

The decision was not acceptable by the Army, which moved HC claiming that the military had no connection with the explosion. The commandant stated that the firing range was free from any unused firing substance, therefore the headquarter and units in Kutch cannot be held responsible for the accident. It was contended that the explosion had taken place outside the boundaries of firing range. Therefore, to claim compensation from the Army is not applicable in this case under Section 5 of the Maneuvers Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act.

The central government even alleged the tribals of having indulged in a possible sabotage and claimed that army's liability is wrongly saddled without any justification.

The counsel for claimants, Apurva Dave contended that it was the duty of the army personnel to ensure that no blind shell is left behind. But after firing practice, some shells remained untraced and remained under soil. The kind of shell that exploded was usually used by army. Hence the army must give compensation to the affected because the army officials did not trace and deactivate the shell that was misfired.

In 2010, a single-judge bench had asked the commandant of regiment to pay compensation, but no payment was made by the defence establishment. Instead, it filed an appeal before a division bench, which was dismissed with observation, "It was the duty of the officer of to ensure that no shell misses out and if some shells are to be traced, then the same shall be taken into custody, and thereafter, deactivated."

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