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Saturday, 28 July 2012

From Today's Papers - 28 Jul 2012

 Military threat from China
Beijing preparing Tibet as future war zone
by Gurmeet Kanwal

ON July 10, an intelligence report issued by the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) warned of the clear and present danger of a conflict being initiated by China along its border with India ostensibly to divert attention from mounting domestic problems, including political dissent, economic challenges and social discord. On July 26, Mr Ranjit Sinha, Indo-Tibetan Border Police chief, said that China was not a friend and was not to be trusted. The Naresh Chandra committee on defence reforms has also sounded a warning about China’s military preparations.

The R&AW report points to increased activity by units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the areas across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by way of enhanced surveillance and military training exercises which could be tantamount to full dress rehearsals. Recent exercises have included one on the rapid induction of airborne divisions into Tibet in 36 to 48 hours from bases in adjacent military regions. J-10 air-to-ground strike fighters have been battle-tested to hit targets in high-altitude terrain. SU-30 MKK and SU-27 UBK fighter-bombers have also been practising landings in Tibet and have been deployed there during summer months.

The PLA has been steadily engaged in developing military infrastructure in Tibet. The railway line from Gormo to Lhasa, which is to be extended further to Shigatse and on to Kathmandu, has made it possible for the PLA to quickly induct and then sustain much larger forces in Tibet than had been the case before it was commissioned. All-weather roads totalling 58,000 km have been constructed so far. Five fully operational air bases have been built at Gongar, Pangta, Linchi, Hoping and Gar Gunsa. New helipads, missile bases, storage sites for ammunition and for fuel, oil and lubricants are being constructed rapidly. Modern military encampments with multi-storey buildings are coming up close to the border with India. This will considerably reduce mobilisation time for deployment on the border. Both landline (optical fibre cable-based) and radio communications are being improved. Microwave towers now dot the countryside. Several new command and control nodes have come up.

By no stretch of the imagination can it be presumed that these developments are for the welfare of the sparse population. Nor are these designed to support tourism as China claims. Some years ago the conventional wisdom was that the PLA would need one summer season for stocking and inducting troops and would be able to launch military operations against India only over the next summer season. With substantive improvements having been made to improve the PLA’s military posture in Tibet, it will now be possible for the PLA to induct troops and wage war in a single campaign season. Some analysts have estimated the number of fighting formations that could be inducted in a high-level threat scenario in one month as 30 infantry divisions (12,000 soldiers each).

In stark contrast with developments across the border in Tibet, India’s own efforts to improve its defensive posture and military infrastructure along the LAC have been lagging behind. Most of India’s forward infantry divisions are dependent on a single road axis that is mostly one-way throughout its length, and sharp bends do not permit the smooth induction of heavy guns and rocket launchers. Even the most conservatively drawn up plans for infrastructure development have failed to achieve targets for one reason or another. It has been reported that only 50 per cent of the work has been completed on 73 road projects sanctioned so far — Arunachal (27), Uttarakhand (18), J&K (14), Himachal Pradesh (7) and Sikkim (7). Additional plans have been made to construct 277 roads with a total length of 13,100 km in all.

However, the issue that needs to be analysed is whether Chinese efforts in Tibet are aimed at bringing about routine improvements in the habitat of the troops in some of the harshest weather conditions in the world, or if there is a clearly offensive aim in upgrading the military infrastructure. In military parlance, a threat equals capability into intention. While there is absolutely no doubt or ambiguity about the PLA’s concerted efforts to enhance military capabilities in both Lanzhou and Chengdu military regions so as to be able to launch and sustain operations from the LAC along Tibet’s border with India, it is difficult to discern a clear intention to do so in the short term. The formulation that China might do so to divert attention from domestic discord does not appear to be realistic and is, therefore, unconvincing.

The strategic stakes would be very high and the Chinese leadership will not risk sanctions and international opprobrium as well as the multi-billion dollar mutual trade relationship with India simply to divert the attention of people on the mainland. However, as long as the territorial and boundary dispute between India and China is not resolved to mutual satisfaction, while the probability of conflict remains low in the short term, its possibility cannot be ruled out. This is so because even 15 rounds of border talks involving the politically appointed interlocutors have failed to lead to the demarcation of the LAC — the first essential step to ensure that a major patrol clash does not lead to an ugly incident.

Patrol face-offs are common as both sides patrol up to their perception of the LAC and this often results in the transgression of the LAC from the other’s perspective. Though both sides have been adhering to the laid down procedure of warning the opposing patrol through large banners that it has transgressed across the LAC and must immediately go back, a face-off can quickly turn into a shooting match if there is a hot-headed patrol leader on either side. A small incident of this nature can lead to a border conflagration if the situation is not handled with maturity and calmness by the military and political leadership on either side.

What India needs to do is to upgrade its military strategy from dissuasion to deterrence. Genuine deterrence comes only from the ability to launch and sustain major offensive operations into the territory of one’s military adversary. Towards this end, the early raising of at least one strike corps for the mountains is an inescapable operational necessity. As manoeuvre is extremely restricted in the mountains, simultaneous efforts must be made to upgrade the firepower potential of the Army and the Air Force by an order of magnitude. Also, the development of military infrastructure along the border with Tibet must be taken up as a key priority area of the Ministry of Defence.
Did Army let down Assam when it was needed most?
New Delhi: Top generals of the Indian Army appear to have failed Assam - the state which Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh represents in Parliament.

On July 19 the first reports of communal violence in lower Assam emerged. A day later, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers men were murdered.

From there on, the ethnic clashes between the indigenous Bodos and Bengali Muslims raged out of control. Entire villages were set on fire, thousands were left homeless everyday. But the Indian Army - which remains the most secular institution of the country - seems to have squandered time waiting for clearances.

The government of Assam requested the Indian Army for help on July 23. The first request was made by the local administration of Kokrajhar for help. However, it was only two days later that the first Army columns rolled out.

The Indian armed forces are legally required to assist the government in emergencies.

State governments seek the help of the Indian armed forces in three broad categories - to help restore law and order, to maintain essential services during strikes or crisis, and to provide assistance during natural disasters like earthquakes or floods. In all these cases, the armed forces do not need prior permission and clearances from the Ministry of Defence if a state government asks for help.

Yet, the Army consulted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on whether it should carry out flag marches - a critical exercise where soldiers march through a town to convey the Army is present and vigilant to counter any major danger to residents.

As the riots worsened the Tejpur-based 4-corps and Army formations under it in Chirang, Gaolapara, Kokrajhar districts - the epicentre of the violence - were documenting and reporting the escalating emergency to senior officers.

What is perhaps more sad is that unlike Central Para-military forces who had to be rushed to different states by road and air, the Army is already deployed in Assam. All that it had to do was change the deployment from a counter-insurgency posture to law and order mode.

Sources tell NDTV that the Army initially conveyed to the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs that it shouldn't be involved in managing the crisis since the developing situation was "communal" in nature. It was only after much back and forth, a second request from the Assam government on July 24 and then an official letter from the Chief Secretary of Assam that got the Army to finally move.

Sources told NDTV that the Army is reluctant to intervene in a communal conflict since some of its units rebelled after the Golden Temple was stormed in 1984. Also, NDTV was told by a senior Army source that "if each and every request of the civilian government is accepted, there won't be end to any Army deployments." As a convention, therefore, the Indian Army acts only when the request is made by certain level of officer - preferable by the Chief Secretary of state - and is cleared by the Ministry of Defence.
Violence worst crisis, Army arrived late: Assam CM Tarun Gogoi
NEW DELHI/GUWAHATI: Delay in deployment of Army troops in violence-hit areas of Assam led to spread of the clashes between Bodos and Muslim immigrants there, officials said on Friday. The deputy commissioners of Kokrajhar and Chirang districts, the worst-hit by the violence, had requested the local Army units on July 23 for deployment of army personnel.

However, the local Army commanders did not accept the request saying they need an order from the ministry of defence, after which Assam chief secretary Naba Kumar Das sent separate letters to Union home secretary RK Singh and defence secretary Shashikant Sharma, they said. Singh also spoke to Sharma and requested him to ensure deployment of Army troops in violence-hit areas.

"Finally, the troops were deployed two days later--on July 25. Had the Army personnel been deployed earlier, many lives could have been saved," an official said. Army troops could have reached the trouble spots within three to four hours as two major Army stations are located within a distance of 150 kms from both Kokrajhar and Chirang. Section 130 of CrPC empowers an executive magistrate to requisition Army troops and says the officer concerned of the Armed forces "shall obey such requisition".

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi too said that Army presence from day one would have prevented the "unprecedented crisis" and loss of so many lives. Union home ministry officials admitted there was delay in deployment of paramilitary forces in violence-hit areas as most of the forces were sent from other states and from places as far as Jamshedpur and Imphal.

Worst crisis

Describing the violence in the four Assam districts as the worst crisis his government has faced, the chief minister said 45 people had been killed and three lakh people rendered homeless till now.

Gogoi said the Army and paramilitary forces were keeping a constant vigil on the situation, which is still fluid.

During a visit to Kokrajhar yesterday, Gogoi had said the situation was improving.

The chief minister said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would visit Assam tomorrow to take stock of the situation.

"We have ordered for exra relief and hope that the Centre will help," he said while assuring people that all steps would be taken to restore normalcy.

Curfew had been relaxed in Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang and trains resumed their services, he said.
Army develops technology to modernise military communication
Army is working on providing a safe and seamless exchange of data between various formations involved in fighting a modern war.

"The need for a state-of-the-art Tactical Communication System (TCS) has been long felt.The TCS being conceived for the force will bridge the gap between existing and contemporary technologies in the sphere of military communication," Army's Signal Officer-in-Chief Lt General S P Kochhar said here.

He was delivering a keynote address during a curtain- raiser for the Defcom-2012 seminar, scheduled to take place in November.

"An information grid is required to be established to generate precise war-fighting effects and orchestrated operations at an unprecedented operational tempo," Kochhar said, highlighting the need for establishing an independent defence communication network.

Noting that a network-centric force will have the ability to share and exchange information in "near real time", he said, "Challenge is to achieve a successful integration of sensors, shooters and decision makers through a dynamic, reliable and secure loop."

These networks need to interwork seamlessly in a fluid, adhoc, dense and hostile operational environment to enable force projection and delivery of decisive combat power at the decision-making level, the officer said.

For the TCS project two development agencies- Bharat Electronics (BEL) and a consortium of L&T, Tata Power and HCL Infosys Ltd- has been selected by the government as per the laid down norms of Defence Procurement Policy.
Weekend date for user trial of BrahMos missile
 BALASORE: The Indian armed forces are preparing for a user trial of supersonic cruise missile BrahMos from a test range off the Balasore coast. The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will provide logistical support for the test.

The trial will be conducted from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea, anytime on Saturday or Sunday. DRDO scientists and Army officials have been working on the test since the past fortnight.

The BrahMos has been developed as a joint venture between the DRDO and Russia's Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM). The missile is named after two rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Moskva.

A scientist associated with the mission said the supersonic BrahMos is a unique missile, unmatched in speed (Mach 3), precision and power. It is also unique in that it has no known counter.

"Preparation for the test is on in full swing. While the missile has already been integrated with the launcher, tracking systems and other technical instruments are being placed to track the missile in full length. The missile will be tested in full operational configuration," the scientist told TOI over the phone.

BrahMos is a two-stage missile. It is nine metres tall and weighs 3.9 tonnes with the canister. It can reach a speed of 3 Mach and has a range of 290 km. It can be launched from ships, silos and road and rail mobile launchers. It can carry a conventional warhead weighing 300 kg. tnn
Assam violence: Army denies delay in deployment of troops
New Delhi: Army on Friday denied reports suggesting there was delay in deployment of its troops in Assam and said it followed the established procedure before sending its men on riot control duty in a situation having communal overtones.

Army is a little wary of deploying its troops in any situation having communal overtones and in all such circumstances clearance is sought from the Defence Ministry before deployment, sources said.

The requisition for deployment of troops was received on July 23 and immediately the Army sought directions from Defence Ministry for final action.
Assam violence: Army denies delay in deployment of troops

As soon as the permission was given troops were deployed and the Army columns started conducting flag marches, the sources said.

In Guwahati, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi shifted the blame on the Centre saying the situation would not have deteriorated had the troops been deployed on the first day.

"We wanted the army from day one of the crisis and now when it is there, the situation is gradually limping back to normal," he told reporters.

Sources said the state government officials, who are authorised to summon Army units for riot control, had requested deployment of troops on July 23.

It was noted that the practice of seeking Defence Ministry permission has been adopted by the force from last over two decades as it is not advisable to put military troops on regular internal security duties and riot control activities.

So far a total of 18 army columns comprising around 1500 troops have been deployed in four riot-hit districts-Kokrajhar, Chirang, Dhubri and Bongaigaon- of Assam.

The death toll in these areas on Friday rose to 45. Round-the-clock curfew has been imposed in all the affected areas with shoot at sight orders in badly affected ones.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on Saturday scheduled to visit Kokrajhar district, which has seen the maximum number of casualties, to review the situation.

Nearly two lakh people have taken shelter in 250 relief camps, the sources said.

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