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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

From Today's Papers - 24 Apr 2012
SC puts seal on Bikram Singh’s appointment as Army Chief
Dismisses PIL filed against his elevation
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, April 23
The Supreme Court today put its seal of approval on the elevation of Lt Gen Bikram Singh as the Army Chief by dismissing a PIL challenging his appointment. Gen Bikram Singh will succeed Gen VK Singh who demits office on May 31.

“It is very unfortunate” that the PIL petitioners had tried to give the appointment exercise a communal colour by dragging the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) and former Army Chief JJ Singh into the row, a Bench comprising Justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale observed.

The petitioners, who included former Naval Chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas and former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy, had alleged that the SGPC had lobbied for Bikram Singh’s elevation, while the succession plan for ensuring his appointment to the top post had been put in place way back in 2005 when JJ Singh was the Army Chief.

The apex court, however, ruled that the Union Cabinet Committee on Appointments, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had decided on the elevation of Gen Bikram Singh after assessing the three major allegations against him and taking into consideration the intelligence and other inputs from various sources.

The petition had challenged his appointment on two grounds - a case was pending in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court about his alleged role in a fake encounter in 2001, while a court of inquiry was on into the reported excesses committed by the Indian forces in Congo in 2007 when Bikram Singh was commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in that country.

After hearing the case for an hour in the morning, the Bench asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati and Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman to produce the Cabinet committee files relating to the appointment and adjourned the matter till 2 pm. After perusing the “top secret” files in the post-lunch sitting, the Bench observed the committee had not only gone into the two allegations, but also another charge that Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law was a Pakistani and other inputs from various sources. In the context of the alleged succession plan, the petitioners had mentioned the row over the date of birth of Gen VK Singh. The Bench clarified it had already settled the controversy and that it would not allow the matter to be raked up again in any form.

The apex court made it clear that the dismissal of the PIL would have no bearing on any legal or other proceedings pending with the judiciary or any other forum against Bikram Singh. During the arguments, Vahanvati contended that no way could the 2001 encounter be fake as Bikram Singh himself had suffered a gunshot injury in the incident and remained hospitalised for two months. Further, the militants had killed a Colonel and a jawan.

The Bench also clarified that it would not allow any attempt to destroy the reputation of the armed forces, which were discharging their duty under difficult circumstances.
Petitioners’ claims

    The petitioners, including ex-Navy Chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas and former CEC N Gopalaswamy, had alleged that the SGPC had lobbied for Singh’s elevation
    They had challenged Singh’s appointment on two grounds: a case was pending in the J&K High Court about his alleged role in a fake encounter in 2001. Secondly, a Court of Inquiry was on into the reported excesses committed by the Indian forces in Congo in 2007 when Singh was commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in that country

Court’s stand

    No way could the 2001 encounter be fake as Bikram Singh himself had suffered a gunshot injury in the incident and remained hospitalised for two months
    The Union Cabinet Committee on Appointments, headed by PM Manmohan Singh, had decided on Bikram Singh’s elevation after assessing the three major allegations against him and taking into consideration the intelligence and other inputs from various sources
Hostage crisis: Anti-Naxal ops put on hold in Bastar
Exploring all options for Collector’s release: Chhattisgarh CM
Raipur/New Delhi, April 23
Faced with the April 25 deadline set by the Maoists, the Chhattisgarh Government has suspended the anti-Naxal operations in Bastar region in the wake of abduction of Sukma district Collector Alex Paul Menon.

The state government has asked the security forces not to conduct any offensive against the Maoists in the Bastar region till he is freed by the extremists, official sources said.

The decision has been taken to ensure safety of the 32-year-old 2006 batch IAS officer, who was abducted by the Maoists on Saturday from Sukma district's Majhipara village when he was holding a meeting as part of the government's outreach programme Special Gram Suraj Abhiyan, they said.

"Since he has been kidnapped, there has been no video or audio clip from them (Maoists). So, everyone is wondering whether he is fine or not. There is no news. We have requested the government to take some kind of initiative to know about his well-being," a worried Asha, wife of Menon, said.

Efforts were underway to send medicines for Menon, who is an asthma patient. Menon is being held hostage at a Chhattisgarh-Odisha border area and is kept under watch by nearly 400 armed Naxals, the sources said adding Unmanned Aerial Vehicle undertook surveillance in the areas and reportedly took pictures of the location too.

"The state government is exploring all options and making efforts to ensure safe release of Menon," Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters in Raipur. He said the state government has been in continuous touch with the Centre since the IAS officer was abducted.

"All neighbouring states have been alerted about the abduction and there is better coordination in all the states...We are continuously in touch with the Centre," the Chief Minister said.

The Chhattisgarh Government has set up a ministerial team under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister to look into the abduction issue. State Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar, Tribal Welfare Minister Kedar Kashyap, Water Resources Minister Ramvichar Netam and School Education Minister Brijmohan Agrawal would be part of the committee, sources said. In New Delhi, a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister P Chidambaram took stock of the situation arising out of the hostage crisis. Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Additional Director General of Police Ram Nivas (anti-Naxal operations) said Menon was "safe". "The state police is in touch with their counterparts from the bordering states," he said. Maoists had yesterday demanded release of eight of their jailed leaders, including two women, in Chhattisgarh and a halt to anti-naxal operation for the release of Menon. — PTI

Maoists name mediators

    Prashant Bhushan, BD Sharma and Manish Kunjam will mediate on behalf of the Maoists for talks on release of Alex Paul Menon
    They have asked the mediators to bring medicines for Menon (an asthmatic), terming his condition as critical

Month on, Hikaka still captive

Bhubaneswar: BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka on Monday completed a month in the captivity of Maoists. A Maoist court will decide the fate of the tribal legislator by April 25, but there is no information about its exact time and venue. — PTI
Siachen – an unending conflict
Opportunity to find a lasting solution
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

Pakistan’s military appears to have finally realized the futility of continued confrontation with India at the Siachen Glacier. There are perhaps a number of factors which have brought about this change of heart. Cooling of relations with the United States of America, economic distress, internal threat from terrorism and the loss of nearly 150 lives at Gyari seem to spur this new thinking. The avalanche hit the military camp in the early hours of April 7. The dead at Gyari are buried under thousands of tonnes of snow and it will be some time before their bodies can be dug out and given proper burial. This tragedy seems to have created a ground swell in the country against aimless confrontation with India at this most inhospitable terrain.

The 1947-48 operations in J and K ended by delineating the Cease-Fire Line (CFL) under the aegis of the U N (Karachi Agreement ) only up to Point NJ 9842 on the Saltoro Range in the area of Shyok Valley (South of Siachen Glacier). Beyond Point NJ 9842, the CFL is meant to run ‘thence North to the glaciers’. While the entire area is glaciated, it is the wording, ‘thence North’ (grid North/magnetic North or generally North!) which determines the specific line and direction. According to India, this line runs along the Saltoro Range, (North of Pt NJ 8942 ) whereas Pakistan has been interpreting the line to run towards the Karakoram Pass (North-Eastwards)

Pakistan had been sending international expeditions across the Siachen to the peaks east of it. During April 1984 intelligence reports indicated that the Pakistan Army was geared up to occupy the Saltoro Range which runs along the Western flank of the Siachen. The Indian Army realising the import of this move and the subsequent difficulties of dislodging the Pakistan Army from Saltoro Range, preempted the Pakistan Army and occupied this mountain range. Since then the Pakistan Army has made many unsuccessful attempts, at great cost, to gain a foothold on the Saltoro Range. Finally, it did succeed by landing troops by helicopters at an impossible peak and called this post, ‘Quaid’. It was a Herculian task for the Indian Army to evict Pakistani troops from this post and in the process lost a number of soldiers and officers. An Indian post was established on this peak and named ‘Bana Post’ after the JCO who led the final charge to capture ‘Quaid’.

Some Indian defence analysts have tried to project the Siachen as an area of great strategic importance. To the west of it (across the Saltoro Range ) is the road linking Gilgit with Zinjiang and to the north-east is the important Karakoram Pass. To the north is the Shaksgam Valley (part of J and K) ceded to China by Pakistan. It is often contended by experts that the Siachen region would facilitate a link-up between POK and China, across the Karakoram Pass, on one side and for India to intercept the Gilgit -Zinjiang road on the other.

The Gilgit-Zinjiang road is nearly 250 km across the most forbidding terrain. The Karakoram Pass from the glacier is across a group of first magnitude peaks in the world, which only a small mountaineering expedition can hope to traverse. The Shaksgam valley across the Indra Col (named by the Workman couple who, crossing over the Bilafondla Pass on the Saltoro Range, in 1911-12, camped on the Siachen and named it after goddess Lakshmi) on the Karakoram Range is inaccessible from the glacier region. The route to the Karakoram Pass emanates from the Nubra valley and is well away from the glacier. Another route is along the Shyok River. So, a viable link-up between POK and Tibet across the Karakoram Pass is not feasible. In any case, Indian troops are camped at Daulat-Beg Oldi, just below the Karakoram Pass.

Terrain and climate at the Saltoro Range is most forbidding where even a few steps can leave one gasping for breath. Some Indian posts are at heights above 21,000 feet. Unable to evacuate due to bad weather, etc, the Indian Army, over the years, has lost many lives due to high altitude sickness. The cold gets to one’s bones and the constant fear of being afflicted by one of those high- altitude sicknesses during night or bad weather and the impossibility of being evacuated under such conditions has a depressing psychological effect on the mind. Indian troops and their officers have endured these hardships and afflictions for 28 years with rare stoicism and forbearance.

Of late, there have been renewed attempts by India to improve relations with Pakistan through dialogue and trade. Both sides appear to realise the futility of maintaining a hostile attitude towards each other. The policy of exporting terrorism to India has finally recoiled on Pakistan itself. It is a case of chickens coming home to roost. This push to terrorism, its effect on the country’s economy due to the disturbed environment and excessive expenditure on defence has left its finances in dire straits.

The last attempt to resolve the glacier issue got stalled on the requirement of authentication and demarking the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on maps, held by the two sides, before troops could be withdrawn and the area declared demilitarised. The Pakistan Army did not agree to this requirement. Perhaps due to the fact that all this while the Pakistan public has been made to believe that its army is in part occupation of the Siachen. Marking positions on the map would have exposed this lie. Further, the Indian Army has reason to suspect that once positions on the Saltoro Range are evacuated, Pakistan may occupy these and the cost in lives in taking these back will be prohibitive.

There is some justification in the Indian Army’s apprehensions. Those of the Indian Army who have operated on the LoC in J and K invariably experienced trust deficit with the Pakistan Army. Since there are large gaps in Indian posts along the LoC, it has been a practice with the Pakistan Army to, now and then, ingress across the LoC into Indian territory and establish a post. It takes considerable effort and loss of life to evict such

Pakistani posts. Therefore, there is some justification on the part of the Indian Army to be wary of entering into an agreement without iron-clad guarantees.

Then there are larger issues which have created a climate of suspicion between the two countries. Pakistan feels that it was cheated out of the Saltoro Range in 1984 by India, and New Delhi has Kargil as a constant reminder of Islamabad’s perfidy. But it is time to shed this mindset and move forward. So many valuable lives have been lost to terrain and climate, on both sides, due to the inability of these two countries to resolve this not-so-intractable a problem.

It has been India’s view that Pakistan’s defence policy towards this country is dictated by its army. Jolted by the latest tragedy at Gyari, and the groundswell at home against this costly adventure of hanging on to the idea of Siachen, the Pakistan Army appears to realise the futility of being at the most inhospitable terrain on earth, coupled with its inability to dislodge the Indian Army from the Saltoro Range.

Gen Ashfaque Kayani, chief of the Pakistani military, has finally struck a reconciliatory note and appears amenable to a reasonable resolution of the Siachen problem. Here, perhaps, is an opportunity to get to grips with the Siachen issue and work out a reasonable and lasting solution of this problem.
India cut Agni V range under NATO pressure: Chinese media
Beijing:  Continuing its tirade against the successful launch of Agni V, Chinese state media accused India of buckling under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pressure to cut down the missile's range from 9,000 kilometres to 5,000 kilometres.

The state-run Global Times which derided the missile even before it was launched saying that Chinese nuclear power is "stronger and more reliable and India had no chance" to catch up, said today, in yet another scathing write-up, that "India has little to celebrate" as China has raced ahead and outclassed India in development.

"The Manmohan Singh government, because of pressure from the NATO member countries, has kept a slow pace with their Integrated Guided Missile Programme (IGMP). "The Agni V is deemed to be in its final stage, whereas in fact the IGMP ought to have progressed to develop a range of 9,000 kilometres," it said in the write-up posted on its web edition.
Commenting on Sino-India relations, the paper pointed to an international effort to portray India and China as enemies and said the two countries need to make bridges of friendship that would fail such an effort.

"Although there is an international effort to paint India and China as enemies and to make the two countries go to war with each other, such an effort will fail. The Chinese and Indian people share a long history and culture, and what is needed is more discussion between the two about their economics, education, tourism and culture. We must create so many bridges of friendship that the plans of other countries to make China and India into enemies will fail," it said.

The paper said India and China can together make the Asian continent strong but if divided "all of Asia will remain weak". The paper said the celebrations over the missile "conceal the inadequacies and slow pace" of the programme, and "hide the fact that successive Indian governments have capitulated
to pressure from NATO to restrict the range and power of their launch vehicles", it said.

It said India was embarrassingly behind China in its space programme and also faced a huge vulnerability as over 80 per cent of its critical weapons systems are imported from France, the US, Russia and Israel. "If these countries cut off supplies or ammunition during a conflict, India would be helpless," it said.
Army chief hints at one-rank-one-pension
Scheme to cost Rs 3,000 cr, but is less from the point of soldiers' welfare, says Gen V K Singh
Press Trust of India / Ballia Apr 23, 2012, 14:48 IST

Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh today hinted at implementation of one-rank-one-pension and said all information regarding ex-army men would be collected and their problems would be sorted out.

Addressing a conference of ex-army men Gen Singh said that all efforts were being made to implement one-rank-one-pension from the last two years.
Stating efforts were also being made to remove disparity in the family pension scheme, the COAS said it may take time, but there would certainly be one or the other good outcome.

Implementation of the one-rank-one-pension scheme would involve an expenditure of Rs 3,000 crore, but it was less from the point of the welfare of the soldiers, Singh said.

He was here to unveil the statue of former Prime Minister Chadrashekhar at Devsthali.

Assuring soldiers after becoming pensioners they would not be forgotten, the General said both unit and headquarters have been directed to speedily redress pension related and other complaints of ex-army men.

He said that all details of ex-army men, including that of their families, were being gathered and they would include whether any family member of an ex-army man was aggrieved and what his problem was.

Though the media was kept away from his programme some reporters managed to enter the venue and enquired Gen Singh whether he would hand over documents related to the bribery case to the CBI.

Gen Singh refused to comment and said that media should gather information from the CBI in this regard.

At a public function later, Singh emphasised on setting up of better educational institutions in rural areas and said they should focus on all round development of students.

"It is the responsibility of the younger generation to take the country forward," he added.

Chandrashekhar's son and MP Neeraj Shekhar and MLC Ravishanker Pappu were also present at the event.
Siachen what next?

April 23rd, 2012 | 1 Comment

By Prof Farakh A Khan (22.4.12):

On April 7, 2012 an avalanche (or Glacier Surge) buried the battalion headquarter under hundreds of feet of snow and boulders in Siachen’s Gayari sector killing some 130 people (Syed, Baqir Sajjad and Ali Farman. Intense rescue efforts under way. Dawn. April 8, 2012; Baabar, Mariana. US, India offer help in Siachen search operation. The News. April 9, 2012). This suddenly jolted Siachen in focus. Unfortunately we know very little about Siachen conflict since the Siachen policy is firmly under military control. The media and politicians have been suddenly reminded of the wasteland of Siachen (Akhundzada, M Taqi. Nawaz asks Pakistan to lead India to pull out of Siachen. The News. April 18, 2012). On April 18 showing concern over the deaths of the soldiers Mian Nawaz Sharif followed by President Asif Ali Zardari made quick trips to Siachen.

Siah in Balti means roses and Chin means abundance. May be this was a pun on the snowy wasteland. Siachen Glacier melt forms the Nubra River flowing into Ladakh where it joins Shyok River. The Shyok River joins Indus up stream of Skardu. To get Siachen the last major town in Khaplu. Khurkund is the last permanent habitation at 11,000 feet where there are hot sulphur springs. In Siachen the Pakistan Army Brigade Headquarter is in Goma, which is less than 10,000 feet elevation. Battalion headquarters are in Gayari and Chilung. Gayari is at an altitude of 13,000 feet while Chilung is lower. These headquarters are approachable with difficulty by jeep with snow chains during six winter months. The to get to Siachen Saltoro Range has to be crossed through Sia La (23,960 feet), Bilafond La or Saltoro Pass (20,210 feet), Gyong La (18,500 feet), Yarma La (20,000 feet) and Chilung La (19,000 feet). In the 14th century despite high altitude and extreme cold Saltoro Pass was crossed by Syed Ali Hamdani who travelled to Kashgar to spread Islam. In the 16th century Turkish Sultan Abu Sayid invaded Ladakh from Xingjian now part of China. Siachen was discovered by the British in 1907 (Sugarman, 1996).

Pakistan spends Rs15 million per day to maintain three battalions in Siachen, which amounts to Rs. 5.4 billion a year. So far 8,000 Indian and Pakistani soldiers have been killed since April 1984. There are 4,000 Pakistani troops and 7,000 Indian soldiers stationed in the conflict zone (Mir, Amir. Over 8,000 Indo-Pak soldiers killed at Siachen. The News. April 9, 2012). Most of the dead are from Northern Light Infantry. We have no idea as to the annual casualty rate in Siachen.

I am appalled at the poor information regarding the cause of war and survival at high altitude. This has prompted me to give some information and maps of the area.

Let us first focus on the origin of the conflict. Karachi Agreement of 1949 and Simla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan referred up to a point on the map called NJ 9842, which was to pass northeast below the Siachen Glacier but remained un-delineated and hence disputed by the two sides. At the time of agreement neither side paid any attention to the deserted icy area, which later became disputed. The Indian military made plans in 1981 to capture 3,000 km of Siachen area. The Indian armed forces prepared 300 soldiers (Kumaon Regiment and Ladakh Scouts) for Arctic conditions before they were launched (Saleem, Farrukh. The aggressor in Siachen. The News. April 19, 2012). They were sent for training to Antarctica in 1982. Minor skirmishes were reported as early as 1982. The Indians launched its major attack in the area on April 13, 1984 calling it ‘Operation Meghdoot’. Pakistan claims that the Indians have captured 1,000 km of Pakistani territory in the area and want it back (pre 1984 position). The Indians want the Actual Ground Position Line to be maintained. There have been more than 12 secretary level talks between India and Pakistan but with no results.

In 1987 after a flowery presentation by generals Imran Khan and Bangash to former President Gen Ziaul Haq authorisation was given by Zia to launch the Siachen attack called ‘Operation Qeadat’. The objective was capture of a ridge opposite Bilafond La by barrage of artillery fire before the ground assault. Army knew nothing about acclimatisation at high altitude or the protective gear required to function in the cold environment. The attack included 1st and 7th Azad Kashmir Regiments and commandos. They were in their low altitude winter uniform and ordinary tents. The 7 AK Regiment suffered more than 300 casualties mostly due to affects of high altitude and severe cold. Later the soldiers were provided with imported special uniforms and igloo tents.

It is claimed that General Bangash was totally incompetent and a coward but he survived this setback. Heavy casualties were suffered and it was clear that it was disaster on the very first day. Bangash was transferred and Imran was not touched since he was to retire soon. From then on the army was just carrying on a holding operation. In 1980s the cost of one chapatti was Rs 150 for the soldiers on the frontline. The food was in ample quantities rather too much (Gen Zafar Amjid. PC Gaap. June 5, 2009). The ceasefire has been in place since 2003.

Many talks between India and Pakistan have taken place before. The fifth round of talks were held between Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Dr Humayun Khan and India’s Foreign Secretary in Islamabad on December 17, 1985 where it was agreed to redeploy troops according to Simla Agreement. However there was an uproar in India and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to reverse the agreement.

The three days Track-II dialogue took place in Bangkok in 2009. The talks were sponsored by US Ploughshares Fund. Maj Gen Dipankar led the Indian 11 member team while Riaz Khokhar and Najmuddin Sheikh headed the seven-member team from Pakistan. Indians want the region between NJ9842, K2, and Karakorum Pass to be declared as ‘International Science Park’ and ‘Peace Zone’ under UN Environment Programme. Pakistan wants Siachen Glacier to be declared as ‘Peace Park’ since it was eroding the Glacier rapidly (Kiani, Khaleeq. Track-II forum floats idea of Siachen ‘Peace Park’. Dawn. December 3, 2009).

Talks were again held in New Delhi headed by Lt Gen Syed Ather Ali from Pakistan and Mr Pradeep Kumar on Siachin issue in 2011. This was 12th meeting after a gap of four years. The talks were inconclusive (Naqvi, Jawed. Talks on Siachin cordial but inconclusive. Dawn. June 1, 2011). We can only speculate what actually transpired during the talks. Maleeha Lodi in her article gives some information (Lodhi, Maleeha. Siachen: ten questions. The News. April 17, 2012).

According to WikiLeaks the Indian Army is against any deal with Pakistan on Siachen. Indian Joint Secretary TCA Raghavan revealed this in 2006. The BJP is the other big hurdle. The annual cost of the army in Siachin for the Indians is $670 million, which is not much when compared to the total defence budget. Agreement on Siachin was very near in 1989 and 1993 but was set aside because of the Indian army top brass (Sattar, Madiha. Indian army hurdle in way of Siachin solution. Dawn. June 2, 2011).

The two sides also have their eyes on Kashmir issue. Historically the British sold Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846. Kashmir was defined as land east of Indus excluding Chamba and turbulent Hazara. Gulab Singh had conquered some parts of lands west of Indus including Ladakh. The British did not contest these claims. Siachen area was never part of Jammu and Kashmir Empire of the Sikh ruler. Siachen is now part of Baltistan.

Due to Indian army activities Siachen Glacier is shrinking by 110 meters annually. A lake at 15,500 feet half a kilometre long has formed due to the glacier melt. The Baltoro Glacier on the Pakistani side on the other side of Saltoro Ridge is stable since 1904. Other Himalayan glaciers are also melting. Because of Indian army access over Siachen Glacier severe environmental degradation is taking place (Kiani, Khaleeq. Indians’ presence at Siachen causes rapid glacier melting. Dawn. December 7, 2009). No one realises the amount of pollution these 12,000 troops have created. It will take years to clean up the mess created by the troops. This is the most stupid war ever.

Let us highlight problems faced by the soldiers stationed at high altitude (up to 22,000 feet) with temperatures hitting -70 degrees centigrade.

Lt Gen Ayaz Ahmed speaking in a talk show (April 13) as an expert on Siachen tragedy on Geo TV claimed that the problem was of low oxygen and it was difficult to boil water! No wonder our army is still in the WW I era.

Our group launched its first high altitude research project with poor resources at a camp located at 12,000 feet in 1981 in the Kaghan Valley. This was the first ever-serious research on effects of high altitude done in Pakistan. Subsequent projects on yearly basis were taken place elsewhere. We subsequently published our results in two books ‘Man Mountain and Medicine’ I and II edited by Dr Mohammad Ilyas. Our studies were initially on unacclamatised subjects and later on local population. Our suggestion of establishing a permanent high altitude research centre was never taken seriously.

I would not go into details of acute and chronic mountain sickness. Acute mountain sickness afflicts the unacclamatised subjects with wide variety of symptoms after few hours stay at high altitude (9,000 feet and above). After each step the subject has to stop to take a breather. Physical exertion will exacerbate symptoms. At extreme altitude (above 20,000 feet) acclimatisation is not possible. More serious symptoms due to brain oedema and water in the lungs (breathing problem) can lead to rapid death. The only certain cure is to bring the patient down to lower altitude as quickly as possible. The high altitude symptoms are due to low atmospheric pressure (not fall in oxygen percentage), which does not allow sufficient oxygen to dissolve in the blood. The low pressure also brings the boiling point of water down thus at some altitude the water will boil at below 30*C. Surprisingly dehydration is another problem. Strong ultraviolet rays can cause painful first-degree skin burn. Without protective eyeglasses can lead to ‘snow blindness’. This is a painful condition. Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting can cause serious weight loss and reduce ability to function. Disorientation and loss of mental function can cause serious problems.

Extreme cold brings its own problems (-70*C in some places). Special protective clothing and living accommodation is required to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Fibreglass igloo tent parts are hauled over difficult conditions up steep slopes where they are assembled. The living conditions in the igloo are appalling. Then soldiers face blizzards, crevasses, rock falls, avalanches and isolation. To get to some posts the soldiers have to undertake serious rock climbing.

Beside cold and high altitude I have been told that artillery and rocket fire is also most inaccurate at high altitude. Almost all casualties are due to the weather and high altitude rather than enemy fire.

After the Siachen tragedy the key players in Pakistan made statements. Nawaz Sharif suggested unilateral pull out from Siachen, which he later denied. Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was also in favour of troops pull out. The Indian Minister of State for Defence Palam Raju appreciated the stance of Gen Kayani. However the Pakistani Foreign Office claimed that there was no change in policy regarding Siachen (Nawaz reiterates Siachen withdrawal call. OC. The News. April 20, 2012).

Why is India and Pakistan in Siachen, which is of no strategic value to either side? The Indians claim that they fear Chinese intrusion in the area. Why has Pakistan and India not been able to reach an agreement in Siachen (since 1984) and Sir Creek (since 1964)? I do not have insider information of past negotiations between the two countries so I cannot comment on what transpired between the two. Idea of ‘Siachen Peace Park’ is perhaps the only solution. I am sure that with some bending from both sides these issues should be resolved before we take up the more serious issue of Kashmir.
US naval chief's visit to strengthen Indo-US defence ties
NEW DELHI: India and the US on Monday discussed ways to further strengthen their already expansive bilateral defence, in the backdrop of their Malabar naval combat exercise being successfully held in the Bay of Bengal earlier this month.

Visiting US chief of naval operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert held talks with Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and Army vice-chief Lt-Gen S K Singh, apart from calling on defence minister A K Antony and national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.

Admiral Greenert will also be visiting key naval establishments, including Western Naval Command at Mumbai, the INS Hansa base at Goa, the new Karwar naval base and the training establishment at Kochi, during his five-day visit.

India, however, still remains reluctant to ink bilateral pacts like the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) that are being pushed by the US for the last several years.

But there have been no full-stops in either the flurry of joint military exercises between the two countries as well as armament deals, with US notching up sales worth over $8 billion to India over the last decade and many more contracts in the pipeline. In just the military aviation sector, the US is going to notch up sales worth well over $11 billion, ranging from over $2.2 billion for 12 C-130J `Super Hercules' aircraft to $3.1 billion for 12 P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
Indian Army's summer exercise in Rajasthan's deserts
PTI | 09:04 PM,Apr 23,2012

New Delhi, Apr 23 (PTI) With some of the frontline fighter aircraft and other aerial assets from Indian Air Force (IAF) providing support, Indian Army is all set to test its desert warfare skills in the peak summer in Rajasthan. Codenamed 'Exercise Shoorveer', the exercise is aimed at validating the fighting skills of its troops during peak summer, along with accuracy and lethality of its modern weapon systems, Indian Army officials said here today. "At present, the formations are practicing their battle drills in designated training areas... A number of field firings are being carried out to check the accuracy and lethality of the weapon systems," they said. The exercise will also provide a platform to validate new concepts, modifications, armaments and logistics inducted by the force in the last few years. Defence Minister A K Antony will visit the exercise to review the war games and interact with the troops and senior army officials. "A large number of innovations and modifications carried out by the Army units and formations to enhance their combat power are being tested in the field", the officials said. On participation of IAF, they said "the momentum of training is gradually building up with the increased combat tempo to set the stage for a major joint Army-Air Force exercise." The exercise will culminate with Jaipur-based Sapta Shakti Command along with IAF carrying out swift battle manoeuvers and joint operations, they said.
Tata Motors, DRB-Hicom to supply trucks to army
11:03PM Apr 23, 2012           
Indian auto giant Tata Motors said today said it has tied up with DRB-Hicom Bhd to supply trucks to Malaysia's armed forces, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported from New Delhi.

"Tata Motors and DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (Deftech), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DRB-Hicom Bhd, Malaysia, have signed a cooperation agreement," Tata Motors said in a statement.

According to the agreement, both firms will together develop, promote and market the "Tata Motors high mobility 4x4 trucks with payloads ranging from 2.5 tonnes to 5.0 onnes" to the Malaysian armed forces, it added.

Initially, Deftech will work on two Tata Motors models - LPTA 715 and LPTA 1623, PTI reported.

"These vehicles are suitable in various configurations, including troop carriers, command post, ambulance, reconnaissance missions as an armoured carrier communication shelter and others," the news agency quoted Tata Motors as saying in the statement.

Since 1958, Tata Motors has supplied over 100,000 vehicles to the Indian military and paramilitary forces.

It has also exported its range of specialised defence vehicles to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an organisation of South Asian nations, Asean and African countries.
How we can fix corruption in defence deals

By: G R Gopinath

Napoleon Bonaparte, military leader and former Emperor of France, had said, "The army marches on its stomach." It was metaphoric. Troops can win wars if they are well stocked with not just food but guns, ammunition, clothing and more. While our soldiers are one of the finest in the world, it is the lack of resources that has been their bane ever since the Chinese war that exposed them to their vulnerability against an army vastly superior in armament and logistics.

Napoleon also said that it is not canons alone but lightening speed that helps armies win wars. It is key not only at the level of army commanders on the battlefield, but also as critical at the political leadership level that can be fatal for troops and compromise sovereignty of the country.

In the days of emperors, the army came directly under their command. And so, in matters of deciding on equipping their armies or building forts, their actions were as prompt as their thoughts. They knew intuitively that delay may cost them their kingdom. Our defence ministers, at worst, may have a change of portfolio. It was said of Chengiz Khan that he shortened a straight line to reach his objective.

Now we are all agree that we don't want a dictator ruling us. The worst democracy is preferred to the best monarchy. So, here is a dilemma: how do we get democratically-elected leaders to act with speed?

Take an example: the Indian Army put out a tender for helicopters 12 years ago. The tender itself was late by 25 years! The current fleet of Chetak helicopters is 50 years old in technology and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics. The defence ministry has yet to award the contract.

Even a layman can grasp that if a contract is delayed beyond two or three years, then a host of issues like obsolescence, expiry of quotes, lack of continuity due to change of people dealing with the contract, change of government, etc, will crop up, rendering the whole exercise futile. And an award never gets finalised.

In fact, people from Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce, etc, told me that it just takes two to three years get a defence contract in countries like Brazil, Turkey or South Africa. Never more. Even those countries are not free of vested interests and the proverbial middlemen.

How can we fix it

Regardless of the motive of army chief Gen V K Singh, we have to only ask, is there truth in the General's letter to the PM? The General has written what is an open secret. Most chiefs of the defence forces try to be circumspect and leave their exalted office without pointing fingers when they retire. Some may have an eye on post-retirement sinecures.

So, let's salute the General for telling the bitter truth: the Indian Army is alarmingly ill-equipped. That the cause of inordinate delay has been due to vested interests: from ignorant or rapacious politicians to bureaucrats, and retired Generals to arms dealers, conniving to divide the spoils from the kickbacks of the deal is not in doubt.

Competing bidders scuttle the deal when they discover they are likely to lose it. An arms dealer is like any salesman. He doesn't care which weapon you buy as long as he pockets his commission. But as the General said, it is a different matter if those awarding the contract compromise with the middlemen and recommend substandard equipment, then he has committed 'high treason'.

We are not speaking here of defence minister A K Antony in particular. He's a good man and is called 'Saint Antony' and known to be incorruptible. But he is also generally perceived as being lacking in dynamism. There's credence to both. We are speaking of correcting the system. Can we afford an honest leader who is indecisive or a corrupt one who decides in haste? Here are some pointers for the way forward:

Make a defence procurement policy in the next six months that can be reviewed once in three years.

Look at the anomalies. Defenceprocurement is not preferred from Indian private sector. Being aholy cow, procurement was only from moribund government ordnance factories. But it is alright to buy from foreign private companies! Bofors, Jaguar, Boeing, Mirage, Dassault and Eurofighter are all private companies.
A defence procurement committee must be formed with a minimum tenure of five years, comprising of people with specialised knowledge from all three services including members from foreign service and intelligence like RAW, etc, so that all aspects are considered, especially strategic, in view of geopolitical interests, while awarding technically-qualified bids.

Policies must be put in place that contracts are awarded within three years after all formalities are completed. And delays must be investigated and accountability established, both within the forces and ministry, and guilty punished.

Similarly, defence officers posted within the procurement directorate of the three forces must have knowledge and minimum qualifications with a tenure of at least five years. And internally, the organisation must be restructured, and rules framed to ensure that technical evaluation and shortlisting is completed in time.

It is well known that while 'something is rotten' in the defence ministry, all is not well within the three forces either. The arms dealers worm their way through retired Generals to senior officers who are in charge of technical evaluation and user trials, to get better rating for their own arms and fudge those of their competitors. And they use all means: gifts, Swiss accounts and honey traps.

All officials must be vetted by intelligence agencies and the best with impeachable integrity must be appointed and strict vigil kept on them at all times.

Corruption in defence procurement should be treated as treason and Indian Penal Code should be suitably amended.

We have many extremely capable, honest and eminent people who can be picked up to not only formulate a defence procurement policy and enact a robust framework to plug loopholes but also knowledgeable men to fill those posts for procurement on a revolving basis.

May be a separate directorate for procurement is created with stringent qualifications and minimum tenure so that we don't have IAS officers, howsoever brilliant (and most are), who have spent all their life in Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh in animal husbandry presiding over purchase of crucial high-technology weapon systems.

Systemic changes can be brought about if there's a will and urgency.

Political leadership need not necessarily have expertise in weapons or fighter jets to be able to lead the forces in deciding what armament to acquire, but we can ill-afford lame-duck ministers who are manipulated by an apathetic bureaucracy, who are indecisive and out of depth for the portfolio they hold. In times of crisis, we need political leaders who can galvanise the defence forces and lead from the front.

And the buck stops with the Prime Minister. He can take inspiration and courage from his own life when his mentor P V Narasimha Rao brought him in, a rank outsider and novice to politics, to rescue the country from financial disaster. It may be a good idea to do the same in the defence ministry now, to clean up the Augean stables and lay down sound policies and strengthen the country's defence before it is too late.

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