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Monday, 23 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 23 Jan 2012
Naxalites changing strategy to trap cops
Made village head call police to the blast site

Garhwa (Jharkhand), Jan 22
In what appeared to be a change in strategy, the Maoists reportedly made a village head call up the police to solve a local dispute for executing their plan in killing the 13 policemen in the Bsariganwa forest area in the district, according intelligence reports.

The reports said Bargarh village head Ramdas Minz called up the Bhandaria Block Development Officer (BDO) Basudeo Prasad yesterday and requested him to visit the village, about 22 km from the ambush spot, to sort out a dispute that forced a road shutdown by a section of local people.

The BDO narrowly escaped as his vehicle drove past the area before the landmine blast that claimed the lives of 13 policemen. “We can’t rule out. We have not yet located him (village head). We have launched anti-Maoist operation in the Bariganwa forests,” Superintendent of Police, Garhwa, Michael S Raj said when asked whether the police suspected Minz following yesterday’s trap laid by the rebels.

Minz had recently come out of jail after getting a bail in connection with a case. Intelligence sources said usually the Maoists’ strategy was to call the police on the pretext of Naxal movement in a certain area and then ambush them. But the police soon got aware of such traps.

The security forces often use a different route to return from the visited spots, but yesterday the Maoists attacked them while the police party was heading to the assigned place.

Garhwa DC RP Sinha had said yesterday that the BDO and the police party were going to Bargarh to convince the local people to call off agitation. — PTI
Re-look at anti-landmine vehicles: ex-DGPs

Ranchi, January 22
Former Jharkhand Police chiefs today called for a re-look at anti-landmine vehicles as these are unable to withstand explosions often and suggested a support vehicle should follow it.

“Every aspect should be re-looked at. Whether the personnel inside the anti-landmine vehicles are fastening their seat belts and wearing helmets?” former DGP VD Ram said.

“The anti-landmine vehicle can withstand about 30/40 kg explosives. If 50 to 80 kg explosives are used, it cannot endure the impact,” he said.

Even if an anti-landmine vehicle is tossed up to 30 feet high due to an explosion and it falls back on the ground, the jawans, if wearing safety belts and helmets, could survive, Ram said. The jawans need not to come out of the vehicle risking gunfire, he added.

Another ex-police chief RR Prasad said, “I am surprised to know why this vehicle failed to withstand the explosion. We should examine the vehicle to find the reason.” He called for a re-look at the model of anti-landmine vehicles. — PTI
Lankan Navy ‘attacks’ TN fishermen; 9 missing

Rameswaram (TN), January 22
Nine fishermen from here were missing and more than 200 boats damaged in an alleged attack by Sri Lankan Naval personnel at the International Maritime Boundary Line in Palk Strait RPT in Palk Strait, officials said today.

Fishermen from the island who had set out to sea in 600-odd boats were fishing near the IMBL when they were allegedly surrounded by Lankan Naval personnel and attacked with stones, forcing them to return to the shores, fisheries officials said, quoting the fishermen.

This is the first attack on fishermen, allegedly by the neighbouring nation’s navy, after the External Affairs Minister raised the issue with authorities in Colombo during his visit last week.

Officials said nine fishermen onboard two of the 600 boats did not return. However, it was not known whether they had been taken into custody or had strayed.

According to fisherman Justin, whose boat was pelted with stones, the Navalmen attacked them with big stones damaging the windscreen of many boats. They also cut off the fishing nets and took them away. — PTI
Tribune analysis Army chief’s age row
A matter of honour vs propriety
By Raj Chengappa Editor-in-Chief

With over 1.3 million personnel, the Indian Army is considered to be among the world's largest armed forces and has many challenges to face. Vijay Kumar Singh, the Chief of Army Staff, in his statutory complaint to the Union Government on August 26, 2011 outlines some of them in the first paragraph.

Singh states, “The attention of the world is focused on how India is consolidating its military capabilities, with more focused strategy of strengthening military structures, realising military modernisation, expanding its strategic space in the region, becoming a reckonable military power and achieving a desired degree of military balance with leading nations.”

Fine words, but then the next 91 paragraphs of his plaint to the government had nothing to do with the critical issues that the Indian Army faces. Instead, it spells out his crusade to get his date of birth corrected in the records of the military branches he oversees and seeks redressal from the Government on the issue. It is unprecedented for a serving chief to take recourse to filing a statutory complaint against the Government.

General Singh though believes it is a matter of his constitutional right and a question of his “honour” to set right what he believes is an organisation wrong. The crux of the confrontation pertains to the date of his birth. He maintains that his date of birth is May 10, 1951 while a wing of the Indian Army, the Military Secretary Branch, maintains that it is May 10, 1950 — a year earlier. The clash is being described as a “Matter of Honour versus Tenure”.

Impact on succession

If his date of birth is corrected, the Army Chief would get to serve till March 31, 2013 when he completes three years in service rather than retire on May 31, 2012 — an addition of 10 more months. (The Army Chief's tenure is for three years or till he completes 62 years of age, whichever is earlier). It would also have implications for the succession plan in the Army as many of the top brass from whom the next chief is to be selected would retire by then.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on December 30, 2011, went into great detail into the points raised in General Singh's statutory complaint and concluded, “After analysing all the issues raised by the complainant in the light of the documents on record and the applicable rules… his (the Army Chief's) official date of birth will continue to remain May 10, 1950” and for added emphasis the order spelt out the date in words “May Tenth Nineteen Hundred and Fifty”. The decision was “By order and in the name of the President”.

The Army Chief then stunned the Government and the nation by taking the matter to the next level of confrontation. He has now approached the Supreme Court for relief. It is the first time that a serving Army chief has gone to court challenging an order of the Union Government. The Supreme Court has so far not heard his petition. In the light of the importance of the outcome not just for the Indian armed forces but for the nation, The Tribune, presents the full facts of the case and the issues involved in public interest.

The first anomaly

The origin of the dispute starts from the very beginning of his career when Vijay Kumar Singh, then all of 14 or 15 depending on which date of birth is taken, applied for the entrance examination to the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Khadakwasla near Pune, the country's premier institute that imparts training to officer cadets of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Belonging to Hisar, now in Haryana, Vijay Kumar Singh, was the eldest of the three sons of Colonel Jagat Singh. He was then studying in Birla Public School, a boarding school in Pilani, Rajasthan. In personal conversations Singh recalled that he was good in mathematics and thought of pursuing engineering. Fate willed otherwise.

When the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on June 5, 1965 put out an advertisement for the NDA course commencing on July 1, 1966, his teachers urged him to apply for the armed forces as did his father.

It is here that the young Vijay Kumar Singh committed his first “error” by filling his date of birth as May 10, 1950 in the application form which he completed on July 29, 1965. It didn't make him ineligible to take the examination because the stipulation was that the candidate must have been born not earlier than January 2, 1949 and not later than July 1, 1951 to be eligible.

There are, however, various versions as to why and how this “error” occurred. Some media reports state that it was his school teacher who had helped him fill up the form and entered his date of birth erroneously.

That variance has been the subject of much debate as it involves a legal technicality for under the UPSC rules the candidate has to fill the form in his own handwriting and certify that the statements made therein are true to the best of his knowledge. Any violation, it is opined, may result in disqualification.

In his letter of May 10, 2006 to Lt General Richard Khare, the then Military Secretary, Vijay Kumar Singh, then a Major General and Chief of Staff of the 15 Corp in Srinagar, wrote that, “it is submitted that the date of birth given in the UPSC form was filled as per details given by the school clerk and the same was subsequently maintained till the original certificate was received. In the absence of original certificate the error due to what the clerk gave continued.”

In his second opinion on the matter to the MoD dated June 8, 2011, Goolam
E. Vahanvati, Attorney General of India, refers to an opinion given by Justice JS Verma, the former Chief Justice of India, who was consulted in the matter by a wing of the Army.

Justice Verma had opined then: “It appears that the only document relied on to provide a feeble support to a contrary view may be the initial UPSC Form of Application for Admission to the NDA that was filled by a teacher of the school where VK Singh was a student. That erroneously mentions that the Date of Birth as May 10, 1950. The teacher concerned has later unequivocally clarified that it was his mistake.”

Who filled the form?

Vahanvati in his opinion points out that: “This by itself is a remarkable statement considering the fact that the (UPSC) Application form itself in the very fourth line at the heading instructs as under ‘To be filled in the candidate’s own handwriting’. Not only that, but the declaration made by the candidate is that, ‘the statements made in the application are true to the best of my knowledge’ and belief.”

Vahanvati then goes on to add: “I need not labour this point further except to point out that the statements now made, if it all this can be considered, makes the matter more serious as it shows that the Application which was required to be filled in the candidate's own handwriting was in fact filled by a teacher and not by Shri VK Singh.”

Vahanvati does not pursue this line of argument in his opinion. But in all subsequent petitions including in the writ petition to the Supreme Court where a reference to the application form is made, General Singh states that the error was “inadvertent” with no mention of the clerical error or the teacher filling up the form. He now maintains that it was he who filled the form.

An error in an application form is always subject to correction so even if it was filled up by him there was scope to make amends. But then a peculiar set of circumstances resulted in conflicting dates being maintained in Army records subsequently.

For verifying the age, under the rules, the UPSC requires that either the candidate submit his matriculation certificate or in case he is to appear for the examination have an age certificate issued by the headmaster/principal of the institution from where he is studying, showing the date of his birth or his exact age as recorded in the institution’s ‘Admission Register’. But the instructions are clear: A candidate would finally need to submit his original matriculation or equivalent certificate before he is admitted to the NDA.

As Vijay Kumar Singh was to appear for his Class X Board examinations being conducted by the Rajasthan Secondary Education Board later that year to provide proof of date of birth he states that his father had a certificate issued from the Officer Commanding of his unit, 14 Rajput Regiment, dated August 3, 1965, submitted to the UPSC before the written examinations that was held in December 1965.

It states: “Certified that according to record of service in respect of IC-3753 Major Jagat Singh maintained in this office, the date of birth of his son Vijay Kumar Singh is May 10, 1951.” Significantly, the year mentioned of his birth is 1951 and not 1950.

Getting into NDA

The young Vijay Kumar Singh then appears for the NDA examinations and subsequently for his Secondary School examinations. In early May 1966, the UPSC writes to him stating that he has been declared successful in the NDA examinations and provisionally admitted to the Academy, subject to furnishing proof of having passed the Class X examination and a medical examination in one of their centres.

On May 11, 1966, Vijay Kumar Singh then clears a medical test done by the AFCME, Delhi, wherein his date of birth is shown as May 10, 1951. His father then writes to the Headmaster of Birla Public School on June 10, 1966 stating that he needs to send proof to the UPSC that his son had passed Class X. His father gives as reference a letter from the UPSC dated June 1, 1966 to Vijay Kumar Singh asking for it. His father marks a copy of the letter to the UPSC branch concerned.

On June 16, 1966, Radha Raman Pathak, the then headmaster, Birla Public School, writes to Jagat Singh stating: “I am happy to inform you that your ward Vijay Kumar Singh has passed in the Secondary School Certificate Examination of 1966 conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Rajasthan and has managed to get a First Division with distinction in maths.”

The school is also said to have issued a transfer certificate during that period. In the General's writ petition, a duplicate copy of the transfer certificate from the Birla Public School is produced as an annexure which lists his date as May 10, 1951. Curiously, the duplicate copy is issued on October 19, 2011. No date is indicated of when it was originally issued.

On June 18, 1966, the UPSC sends a letter about the discrepancy in the date of birth as compared to what was filled by Vijay Kumar Singh in the original application form. It is not clear whether it was referring to the birth certificate submitted earlier by his father or the one that has just been sent.

Discrepancy found

Sri Krishan, Under Secretary, UPSC, in his letter to Vijay Kumar Singh states: “With reference to your application to the above examination, I am directed to say that you have claimed May 10, 1950 as your date of birth in column 5 of the application where as in the certificate submitted by you, the date of birth is shown as May 10, 1951. You are required to clarify the discrepancy and intimate the correct date of birth.”

Singh in his petition then states that his father wrote to the UPSC on June 20, 1966 enclosing the letter sent by the school that he had successfully cleared the Secondary School Certificate “with distinction in maths”. No mention though is made about the date of birth or reference to the letter of June 18 sent by the UPSC requesting clarification of the discrepancy in the date of birth.

Vijay Kumar Singh clarifies that in response to the letter of the UPSC dated June 18, 1966, he went personally to Delhi and alongwith a letter dated June 24, 1966 submitted a provisional matriculation certificate clarifying that his date of birth is May 10, 1951. The UPSC issued a receipt to him of the letter on June 27, 1966 and he has produced a copy of the receipt in his writ petition.

According to Singh, “As far as I was concerned the UPSC had noted my date of birth as May 10, 1951 even before I was selected for training at the NDA. Had this clarification not been accepted then clearance for me to join the NDA would not have been given.”

When the MoD went into the whole matter last year, the UPSC reported back that it was not able to locate any of the records pertaining to the correspondence with Vijay Kumar Singh or his father, Jagat Singh. Also they were not able to retrieve the personal files of his father which would have had a record of his son's date of birth as these files were destroyed after a certain period of time.

These facts have compounded the General's quest to prove that he had been wronged.

Tomorrow: The Second Big Anomaly
Iranian paranoia
Like time and tide national security/foreign policy issues await none, not even a government in Delhi distracted by the Foreign Direct Investment Bill, five state elections, the Uttar Pradesh one critical to the demise or consolidation of UPA-2, or flip-flops over religion-based quotas etc. Ironically the Supreme Courts of both India and Pakistan are contending with corruption issues and irate Army Chiefs. The difference being, as the wit quips, though the Indian government normally determines the Indian Army Chief’s tenure and the Pakistani Army Chiefs that of Pakistani governments, both are currently clueless.
Levity aside, the storm clouds over India’s extended neighbourhood need immediate handling, despite the government’s domestic distractions. A mishap was averted when the attempted coup in Bangladesh was aborted. If successful, it would have undone the rebuilding of a secular and pro-India fabric by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s churlish boycott of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Bangladesh visit, on parochial grounds, was unwise. To prosper, West Bengal needs, not doles from the Central government, but rail and road connectivity through Burma and Bangladesh to the 10 Asean nations, making it a bridge for investment and trade. Ms Hasina must be strengthened to exorcise the ghosts of Pakistani genocide in 1970-71 and participate in the Indian economic surge.
The electronic media entirely and the others largely ignored the visit of Dai Bingguo, Chinese state councillor and special representative for the 15th Sino-Indian border talks. Being Mr Dai’s farewell visit, as the fifth generation of leaders take over this year, he radiated controlled bonhomie, emphasising “substantial progress” and hoping to “work miracles”. Though a working mechanism was agreed upon for better border management, at the joint secretary level, China seemed to be stepping back, perhaps tactically, from the brinksmanship of the last two years when assertiveness at the border was accompanied by pinpricks like stapled visas, denial of visas to senior Army officers and residents of Arunachal Pradesh.
Chinese President-in-waiting Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is visiting the US. On the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s breakthrough visit to China on February 21-28, 1972, Mr Xi talked of “cooperative partnership” and “strategic trust” between the US and China. The year of the dragon, which has just commenced, and apparently a harbinger of historical shifts in 12-year cycles, seems to have made the Chinese cautious of the damage they have done to their regional relations through aggressiveness towards all neighbours, providing the US an opening, manifested as President Barack Obama’s Asian Pivot. For the moment, it is smiles all around.
The real danger is of an Iran-US-Israel stand-off. The November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report revealed Iranian work on re-entry vehicles, high explosives etc indicating interest in nuclear weaponisation. Mr Obama, heading into an election, signed on December 31, 2011 new sanctions on entities dealing with the Central Bank of Iran, to choke Iran’s oil and gas exports. The Iranians mounted provocative naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, cautioned Gulf Cooperation Council countries to not ramp up their oil production and finally warned the US aircraft carrier group, which had exited the Gulf, to not re-enter.
The US’ fifth fleet being headquartered at Bahrain, the US normally maintains one-and-a-half carrier groups in the area, which now has been raised to three. Having positioned the stick, Mr Obama conveyed a conciliatory message to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, through diplomatic channels as well as President Jalal Talabani of Iraq that Iran should not impede freedom of navigation in the Strait, offering talks on security in the Gulf. The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, also moderated Israeli stridency conceding that Iran may not be building a deliverable nuclear device. While this is welcome, it is no comfort to realise that 17 million barrels of oil, one quarter of world’s supply, transit Strait of Hormuz daily, which Iran can close at will. The US would perhaps be able to reopen it in two weeks, but only following major military action against onshore Iranian defence facilities and perhaps a wider conflagration.
The US sanctions will hit India, Republic of Korea, Japan and China the worst in Asia. In Europe, Greece, Italy and Spain, already financially challenged, are the main buyers. While China has already started diversifying, Japan sought a waiver. The European Union ministers meet on January 23 and would perhaps seek six months to implement. Meanwhile, Iran is letting the IAEA inspectors in, after provocatively announcing enrichment up to 20 per cent at a new tunnelled mountain facility at Fordow, near the holy city of Qom. The usual Iranian tactic of defiantly enriching and then talking and dissimulating.
However, the game is about Iranian domestic politics, as the ninth parliamentary elections loom in March and the reformers, forcibly stymied in 2009, advocate a boycott. In the past, voter turn-out has been around 50-60 per cent. In 1996 and 2000, with liberals rising, the percentage climbed to 71 per cent and 67 per cent, respectively. The Islamic regime renews its legitimacy through periodic, albeit guided, elections, which also have a cathartic effect on the masses. A large-scale boycott can undercut Iran’s leadership in the Islamic world, particularly amongst the Shias, at a time when the Arab Spring is reordering the regimes in West Asia. The Iran-US confrontation is not only between two security orders, one led by the US, pegged in Israel in the West, and the other by the GCC in the Gulf, but between two worldviews. Iranian influence stretches through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean and Israel’s borders. The US’ reach flanks Iran in the East in Afghanistan and from the South via the GCC allies, exacerbating Iranian paranoia.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao spent six days in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar to ensure alternative oil supplies, finalise infrastructure deals like an oil pipeline in UAE to bring their oil to the Arabian Sea bypassing Hormuz and new Saudi refineries. Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna did some West Asian tourism in Israel and West Bank — symbolism without content. India needs a comprehensive West Asia and Gulf policy shorn of the twin bugbears of a UPA government: Malayalee jobs in the Gulf and Muslim clerics’ votebanks. It would take more than scaring Salman Rushdie away and firing Dr Singh’s media adviser to do so. Herodotus the Greek historian’s fifth century BC query, why the people of the East and the West could not live in peace, is as valid today. The answer: because India’s wisdom has not found a means to express itself.
India’s cheering for you
In the winter of India’s political discontent, all eyes are on a brand, new spring unfolding in Pakistan these days.

In Delhi — in many ways still a refugee city, although the multilingual capitalist class has burrowed away at the edges — everyone is an expert on Pakistan, of course, and much of it is driven by the black-and-white shrieking about a neighbour which it believes is really run by the army and the civilian government is only a ‘mukhauta’ or a mask.

But as we have seen in past weeks, the united colours of Pakistan are so much more varied and interesting. Whether or not Pakistan’s army chief has threatened the ruling class to operate within prescribed limits, it’s clear that the Zardari-Gilani government has decided to create a few rules of its own.

In Delhi, a sneaking admiration for the people shoring up the fort and refusing to let the rulers buckle, is fast gaining ground. It doesn’t matter that Nawaz Sharif’s petition in the courts actually helps the military, his implacable enemy, skewers the PPP, or that the courts have taken on a political role that far exceeds their jurisdiction or that both Mansoor Ijaz and former president Pervez Musharraf are planning a comeback to add to this chaos.

It’s clear in Delhi too that a coup, like in 1999, is hardly possible. In fact, quite the contrary. Both Gilani and Zardari may yet go down fighting, but to witness the courage with which they have tested themselves and their country’s all-consuming fear of the army by refusing to buckle so far is testimony to the people’s overwhelming yearning for democratic normalcy.

What is unfolding in Pakistan, really, is the stuff of which novels are made of. In authoritarian societies like the former Soviet Union or the former Czechoslovakia, it was easy to distinguish the extremes: The establishment that declared its writ with vigour and the tiny-but-rebellious underclass which sought to undermine the state from within.

But somewhere in that vast, faceless, majority were men and women who went about earning their daily bread but refused to succumb to the grey, enveloping fear. They were never important enough for the gulag nor for the sweet imprisonment of privilege. But imagine how they battled their fears within, on a daily basis and kept the flame alive. Right versus wrong. Personal choice versus collective good. It was their accumulated tiny victories that shored up people like Andrei Sakharov.

In our part of the world, the similarities end quickly. India accepted former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s emergency from 1975-1977 because of middle-class obsessions like trains running on time or, cleanliness is next to godliness. Just like in Pakistan, when the people hardly resisted the peremptory bundling out of Nawaz Sharif in 1999 because they were fed up with the all-consuming corruption during his era.

Both countries have learnt quickly. India will no longer accept an Anna Hazare-like figure, despite his apparent fondness for a Gandhian simplicity, because we know of his authoritarian streak that dismisses dissent.

As for Pakistan, you can’t but admire President Zardari’s panache as he recently flew to Dubai for a day and returned home, dismissing rumours that he was opting for a sinecure. Then there was Gilani, joking about Imran Khan and sacking the defence secretary in the same breath.

Whatever happens in Pakistan in the coming days, one thing is for sure: India’s people are keenly aware of the sophisticated courage on display in the ongoing eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the government and the army. And you must know that we’re cheering for you.
Former Army officers ridicule SNP plans to transfer famous regiments into 'Alex Salmond's home guard'
FORMER Army commanders have reacted angrily to plans for some of Britain’s most famous regiments to be transferred into “Alex Salmond’s home guard”.
One said the First Minister’s proposal was “pie in the sky" and suggested there was nothing for soldiers to defend in Scotland apart from oil rigs.

Others said his ambition to cherry pick the Scottish regiments was “ludicrous” and “back of the fag packet Scots Wha Hae politics”.

Mr Salmond wants the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Regiment of Scotland - whose five battalions include the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – to be part of a “Scottish Defence Force” if he wins a referendum on breaking up Britain.

But senior figures canvassed by The Daily Telegraph said the SNP administration had failed to work out the defence needs of an independent Scotland and failed to understand the complexity of what it was proposing.

Lt Col Sir Andrew Ogilvy-Wedderburn, former commanding officer of The Black Watch, said Mr Salmond had "absolutely no grasp of how the British Armed Forces work”.
He added: "This would lead to the downfall and demise of famous regiments, such as the Scots Guards and The Black Watch, as the soldiers would vote with their feet and leave because their pride would not allow them to serve with what is little more than a third world militia."

Col Clive Fairweather, former commanding officer of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and former deputy commander of the SAS, said the idea of removing regiments was laughable.

He added that Scotland would not produce an officer training school, so officers trained at Sandhurst would be faced with the choice of "joining a military that has a future, or joining one stuck up in Scotland".

"There are all sorts of practical problems, but the first thing to say is why do we want any of them at all? What is the threat to Scotland, why do we need any troops?

"The only clear threat that we would require a military for would be some sort of special force to protect the oil rigs because that is our number one economic force - not a Scottish SAS but an SOS, Salmond's own specialists.

"In terms of ground troops, are they to be used to stop English football fans rioting when they come over the border?

"I can't see why they need a few battalions unless it is to be there for the installation of Mr Salmond as king of Scotland.

"I have respect for some of the stuff the SNP have come up with and are proposing, but when it comes to defence I don't think they have a scooby.

"I do find Mr Salmond very, very, very weak in this area. I have watched him, I have been with him, he doesn't really understand it, he doesn't get it."

He suggested an independent Scotland could make do with territorial battalions.

Maj Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor, a former Scots Guards officer and former chief of staff of the Territorial Army in Perth, said it was pie in the sky to say regiments that were part of a much bigger operational force could be cherry picked.

He added: "There is no reason why the soldiers in the Scots Guards shouldn't say, we are based in Yorkshire and we don't actually want to go and live in Scotland and guard oil rigs, we want to be part of a proper army with a history and a reputation that is second to none."

There was also nothing to stop the British Army making Scottish soldiers “an offer they couldn’t refuse” in the same way that Ghurka regiments joined the British Army in 1948 following Indian independence.

He said it appeared nobody in the Scottish Executive had worked out what a Scottish Defence Force would do, and what its strategic and operational aims and missions would be.

Ben Wallace, who served with the Scots Guards and was a member of the first Scottish Parliament before becoming Conservative MP for Wyre and Preston North, pointed out that the Scots Guards performed royal guard duties.

He said: "The Scots Guards, like many Scottish regiments, have shone in serving Britain and to relegate them to Alex Salmond's Home Guard is something that they, and no doubt the Queen, would seriously object to."

Another former commanding officer of a famous Scottish regiment said: “Mr Salmond's fundamental point is that an independent Scotland is 'entitled' to anything that seems to have any kind of Scottish name. There is an Aberdeen Angus steakhouse in Piccadilly Circus, is he going to demand its return, too?"

Mr Salmond said the UK defence review had produced a template of how armed forces would look in an independent Scotland, with a set-up of one naval base, one airbase and one mobile armed brigade.

Labour accused the First Minister of hypocrisy for previously campaigning against the closure of the Leuchars and Losseimouth air force bases and now accepting that the outcome of the Government’s defence cutbacks is “exactly the configuration” it wants.
Coimbatore to host meet on role of SMEs in Defence
Coimbatore, Jan. 22:

With the Indian Defence Ministry's (multi-billion dollar) deal to procure 126 combat aircraft entering the last mile and an attractive offset policy which mandates ploughing back 30 per cent of the deal to the country, the opportunities for SMEs and MSMEs to be part of indigenisation of India's Defence and Aerospace seem huge.

To highlight this opportunity, Amrita's ACE – Amrita Center for Entrepreneurship is planning to organise an international seminar on ‘Role of SMEs in Defence and Aerospace' on January 23 at Coimbatore.

The seminar is being organised in association with the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies and Industries (SIATI) and is supported by Codissia, the apex body of small industries here.

Industry experts estimate defence expenditure at around $100 billion over the next 5-10 years.

The offset business is expected to flow to SMEs through tier 1 and 2 vendors of global OEMs.

Senior officials from the Army, navy and air force are expected to participate in this seminar to give more clarity on DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure) and Offset policy.

Representatives from EADS (one of the two shortlisted bidders in combat aircraft), Deloitte and HAL would also participate in this seminar, states a release from Amrita ACE.

The organisers are also planning B2B sessions for those interested in pursuing opportunities.
Exercise Yudh Abhyas: US tanks to roll in India
For the first time, American tanks will roll on Indian soil in wargames codenamed 'Exercise Yudh Abhyas', which will mark the beginning of the series of military engagements scheduled between the two countries for this year.

For the first time in Indo-US wargames, Americans will
deploy their tanks in the company-level Exercise Yudhabhyas scheduled to be held in the Mahajan field firing ranges in Rajasthan desert in March, army sources said.

Apart from fielding three tanks, the US will also deploy around 200 men accompanied by armoured personnel carriers for the wargames, they said.

In the last edition of the exercise, the American Army had brought its Stryker infantry combat vehicles which were being inducted into war operations in Afghanistan.

However, it is not yet clear which tanks would be deployed by the American side for the exercise.

India will filed its Russian-origin BMPs along with tanks for the wargame.

After the 'Yudh Abhyas in March', Indian Infantry troops from the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles regiment will fly to California to engage their American counterparts in the Exercise Shatrujeet.

130 troops from the 19 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles battalion will fly to California in April and engage in counter insurgency and counter terrorism drills there for the Exercise Shatrujeet, sources said.

The Special Forces of the two countries will also test their skills in a mountain exercise codenamed 'Vajra Prahar'.

60 troops from American Special Forces and an equal number of them from the Indian Army's 3 Para (Special Forces) will take part in a wargame in Chaubatia in Uttarakhand in August this year in mountain terrain.

Indian troops from 1 Para (SF) had visited Seattle last year for the Vajra Prahar exercise last year.

The Navies of the two countries are also scheduled to exercise with eachother in 2012.

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