Govt gives in, shifts Lankan air force trainees
Ashok Tuteja & Ajay Banerjee/TNS
New Delhi, July 6
Bowing to unrelenting pressure from the ruling AIADMK and other political parties in Tamil Nadu, the Centre has decided to move Sri Lankan Air Force trainees from the Tambaram Air Force Station near Chennai.
Government sources said the Lankan personnel had completed their current phase of training at Tambaram. Appropriate arrangements were being made for their training elsewhere, they added.
The nine men have reportedly been moved to the Yalahanka base in Bangalore. Their nine-month training is aimed at helping them learn ground handling of transport aircraft.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had strongly objected to training of Lankan personnel in the state. "This is anti-Tamil and inappropriate at a time when the whole world is seeking action against Sri Lanka for violations in the war," she had said.
Joining the chorus, DMK chief M Karunanidhi and MDMK founder Vaiko said the move was "condemnable" and demanded that the Sri Lankan personnel be sent back.
Any sort of military assistance to Lanka by India has always triggered a strong reaction in Tamil Nadu. Some years ago, political parties in the state opposed the supply of radars to the country. Last year, a training programme for 25 Lankan soldiers at the Defence Service Staff College at Wellington was scrapped following political pressure.
Even as the merits of the decision were embarrassing, the move was unnecessarily, and rather mysteriously, made public through the media. The Chennai-based public relations officer of the Ministry of Defence issued a release announcing the decision to shift the men out of Chennai.
A sheepish MoD started an impromptu in-house fact-finding mission to probe how a press release was issued on such a sensitive international matter. Initial inputs suggested it was a faux pas. Till late in the night, the MoD and the Ministry of External Affairs were in damage control mode.
Talks without results
Pak needs to do more on terror
The two-day India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks ended in New Delhi on Thursday without any tangible result. This was quite expected in view of the past experience of dealing with Pakistan on the issue of cross-border terrorism. The talks, held soon after the arrest of one of the Mumbai terrorist attack masterminds, Zabiuddin Ansari, also known as Abu Jundal and Abu Hamza, were bound to be dominated by this development. The details revealed by Ansari about the principal actors — both state and non-state — behind the 2008 Mumbai mayhem strengthened India’s argument that the perpetrators of the terror attack like Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed must have been brought to justice by now had the Pakistan government been serious about it. But Islamabad has been only looking for alibis to justify its inaction. Its failure to pursue the case against Saeed and others like him has helped them escape the clutches of law.
Such an attitude cannot lead to an atmosphere when the trust deficit between the two neighbours gets reduced. In fact, the whole world wants the known culprits behind the Mumbai terrorist killings to be punished to send across the message that anyone indulging in terrorism cannot go scot-free. Ansari’s revelations that Saeed was guiding from his Karachi “control room” the terrorists killing innocent people on that fateful day in 2008 leave no excuse for Pakistan to justify its argument that lack of concrete evidence helped them to get freed by courts.
Despite Pakistan’s record on the terror front, India has been engaged in the peace dialogue with Islamabad because of its conviction that nothing should be allowed to come in the way of efforts for normalisation of relations between the two neighbours. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said time and again, India and Pakistan cannot ignore their common history and geography which make it imperative for them to find ways to live in peace with each other. That is why India’s stand has been that people-to-people contacts and other such measures need to be promoted so that the dividing line in Kashmir becomes irrelevant. But this should not be interpreted to mean that India would accept the terror masterminds based in Pakistan not getting their just deserts.
No training for Sri Lankan air force men anywhere in India, demands Jayalalithaa
Chennai: Under huge pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu, the government has decided to end the training of Sri Lankan personnel at the Tambaram Air force Station near Chennai. The nine Sri Lankans have been moved to the Yalahanka base in Bangalore. Their nine month training is meant to help them learn ground handling of transport air craft.
As a way of justifying their move from Chennai, the government says that this phase of the Sri Lankans' training is complete; the new one will begin in Bangalore.
But Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa says Lankan airmen should not be trained anywhere in India. "Tamils want action for war crimes against Sri Lanka. We will not accept the training of Sri Lankan airmen anywhere in India, " she said.
Ms Jayalalithaa had taken offense to the training being offered in her state. "This is anti-Tamil and inappropriate at a time when the whole world is seeking action against Sri Lanka for violations in the war." Other parties - including the DMK, a key member of the coalition at the centre - had joined her.
The alleged discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka by the majority Sinhalese is an emotional issue in Tamil Nadu. Last year, parties together pressured the centre to vote against Sri Lanka at a UN Human Rights session. The resolution adopted there asked Sri Lanka to extensively investigate atrocities and human rights violations in the last few months of the country's civil war in 2009.
Any form of military help to Sri Lanka has always triggered strong opposition in Tamil Nadu. A few years ago, political parties in the state opposed the supply of radars to the country. Last year, a training programme for 25 Sri Lankan soldiers at the Defence Service Staff College at Wellington near Ooty was scrapped following political pressure.
Sri Lankan airmen shifted out of T.N.
A day after a spate of protests led by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa against training being imparted to Sri Lankan Air Force personnel at the Tambaram station near here, the Union government on Friday announced that all the trainees were “being sent off” from the station.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said the Sri Lankan airmen were being shifted to a training centre outside the State on completion of their course and “there is no move to send them back to Sri Lanka.”
The sources declined to give the name of the new centre but said “it is outside the State.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Jayalalithaa, in a statement, urged the Centre not to train the Sri Lankan airmen in any part of the country. “The nine personnel should be immediately sent back to Sri Lanka.”
On Friday the Union government sent the airmen to the Yelahanka Air Force station near Bangalore. “People of Tamil Nadu suspect that the Centre, which includes the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is acting against Tamils and Tamil race,” she said.
It was unacceptable to Tamils that the training programme, though removed from Tamil Nadu, was scheduled in Bangalore.
It was the wish of the people of the State that action should be taken against those who acted against Sri Lankan Tamils and violated international law during the conflict. They should be declared by the United Nations as war criminals, she added.
Asked about his stand if the training resumed in any other State, DMK president M. Karunanidhi said: “Let us see when that happens.”
How Pakistan helped India during 1962 war with China
Late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told then Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon in 1961 that he had received reliable information that the Chinese would not offer resistance if there was a show of force to make them vacate the check-posts...
As the 1962 war began, the Shah of Iran sent Nehru a copy of letter he had written to Ayub Khan, suggesting that he send his soldiers to fight alongside Indian forces against the 'red menace'...
General P N Thapar had submitted a note to the government when he took over as chief in 1960. In it, he had pointed out that the equipment with the army was in such poor condition and in such short supply that China or Pakistan could easily defeat India...
Veteran journalist and former member of Parliament, Kuldip Nayar has written in length on the wrangling inside the corridors of power in New Delhi in the run up to the war with China, in his latest book titled Beyond the Lines
We reproduce excerpts from the book with his kind permission
After Govind Ballabh Pant's death on 7 March 1961, Lal Bahadur Shastri was appointed home minister. He changed virtually the entire personal staff, the two survivors being the driver, who drove very fast, and I whom Shastri described as that 'lamba presswala who publicised Pantji so much'. In time I became so close to him that he confided to me many political secrets, and I read all his mail.
His secretary, Rajeshwar Prasad, became a friend and would share with me all the information he received. During Pant's time too I would see letters and notes but usually secretly and not openly as was the case with Shastri.
I also felt more comfortable with Shastri and wasn't in awe of him as was the case with Pant. Shastri's simplicity and modesty were in their own way as impressive as Pant's sagacity and maturity. Both represented the best of the Indian independence movement and its traditional values.
They wanted to do all they could to take the country forward, personal interest never so much as crossing their minds. How diminutive in comparison were the leaders of political parties whom I saw from close quarters forty-five years later as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
By mid-1961, Chinese border forces had advanced 70 miles west of the Sinkiang-Tibet road from the position they had held in 1958. This meant the occupation of 12,000 squares miles of Indian territory. Krishna Menon told me many years later that nobody in India appreciated the fact that India 'encroached on 4,000 sqm of territory belonging to China'.
The war was, however, preceded by a string of events. I am reconstructing the story after having spoken to General P N Thapar, the then chief of army staff and Defence Minister Krishna Menon. Somewhat peeved by the criticism, (then Prime Minister Jawaharlal) Nehru ordered Thapar to evict the Chinese from the posts they had built within Indian territory.
The army chief was reluctant to do so because he thought it would be like 'disturbing a hornet's nest'. A meeting was held under the chairmanship of Krishna Menon, who was all for action. Thapar argued that the Indian Army did not have the necessary strength, the ratio being six Chinese to one Indian. Menon responded confidently that he had met Chen Yi, the Chinese deputy premier, at Geneva and had been assured that China would never fight India over the border issue.
When I asked Menon specifically whether this information given to me by General Thapar was true, his reply was: 'That toothless old woman; he did not know how to fight a war.'
Thapar had submitted a note to the government when he took over as chief in 1960. In it, he had pointed out that the equipment with the army was in such poor condition and in such short supply that China or Pakistan could easily defeat India. This was in sharp contrast to Nehru's statement, which I heard from the press gallery: 'I can tell the House that at no time since Independence has our defence been in better condition and finer fettle.'
It appeared as if the government was determined to fight the Chinese without reorganising or re-equipping the army. At Menon's meeting, Thapar was supported by only one person, V Vishwanathan, then the additional secretary in the home ministry. He said that if Gen Thapar felt that India was unprepared there was no point in being foolhardy, but Menon was obdurate about attacking China.
Faced with no option other than an immediate military operation, Thapar sought an interview with the prime minister to seek his intervention. A few minutes before his departure for Nehru's house, SS Khera, then cabinet secretary, met him and said: 'General, if I were you, I would not express my fears before Panditji for he might think that you are afraid to fight.'
Thapar's curt reply was that he must tell the prime minister the truth; the rest was for him to decide.
Before Thapar got into his car, Khera once again said that he must realise that if India did not fight, the government would fall. Thapar did not argue further but was more convinced than ever that the decision to resist China was motivated by political considerations.
Thapar repeated to Nehru how the Indian army was unprepared, untrained, and ill-equipped for the operation it was being asked to undertake. (Menon told me before he became defence minister that there was no army worth the name and no equipment worth the mention.)
Nehru said Menon had informed him that India was itself producing a substantial part of the army equipment it required. Thapar emphasized that India was nowhere near the stage of even assembling the weapons required for war. He then mentioned the note he had submitted, complaining about the poor shape of the army and its equipment. Nehru said he had never seen it.
To reassure Thapar, Nehru told him that he had received reliable information that the Chinese would not offer resistance if there was a show of force to make them vacate the check-posts. Thapar knew from where the information had come. Obviously, the government had not taken any note of the Chinese warnings that 'the Indian aggressor must bear full responsibility for the consequences of their crimes'.
The general was still not prepared to take the risk. He asked Nehru to speak to some of the army commanders. Lt Gen. Prodip Sen, commander-in-chief Eastern Army Command, who was in Thapar's room in the defence ministry at that time, was summoned. He supported Thapar and said that the army was far from prepared. Nehru repeated that his information was that the Chinese would not retaliate.
Thapar took heart from this. If that was true then even his unprepared forces might wear the crown of glory. No general can resist the temptation of marching at the head of a winning army, and Thapar was no exception. He began preparing for action. Thapar told me on 29 July 1970: 'Looking back, I think I should have submitted my resignation at that time. I might have saved my country from the humiliation of defeat.'
Shastri took me along when he flew to the Northeast to make an assessment on the ground, as he had been asked to do by Nehru. When we reached Tezpur in Assam, Lt Gen. Harbaksh Singh was in command. B N Kaul, the controversial commander, had gone to Delhi on leave. Hostilities were yet to begin.
Harbaksh Singh explained to us how the Indian forces would do better Lal Bahadur Shastri as Home Minister despite many handicaps. He assured Shastri that it would not be a walkover for the Chinese. Shastri was happy and told me on our return flight that he would request Panditji to let Harbaksh Singh stay on in place of Kaul. However, in the evening we heard on the radio at Calcutta that Kaul was back from leave and had resumed charge.
Menon's specific instructions were not to move a single soldier from the border with Pakistan. India's assessment since Independence had been that it would have to fight Pakistan one day. Detailed plans of 'projected action', if ever it became necessary, had been prepared in the defence ministry and kept ready. The border between China had however been left unprotected because no attack was expected from there.
Even as late as August 1962, a few weeks before the Chinese attack, Menon was talking of Pakistan's preparations against India. In those days, Rajeshwar Dayal, India's high commissioner to Pakistan, was in Delhi. One morning Dayal, as he told me, received a call from the defence ministry for a meeting.
When he reached the ministry, he was ushered into a room where Menon was sitting with the army commanders, including Thapar. Dayal had barely taken his seat when Menon asked him to tell the commanders about the preparations that Pakistan was making along the Indian border.
Before Dayal could reply, Thapar told him in Punjabi, which Menon could not understand, that Dayal should not allow himself to be tricked because the projected danger from Pakistan was part of a larger plan.
Dayal said that he knew nothing about the preparations and that he had found no such sign at the border on his way to Delhi. Menon was annoyed and asked Dayal to send him a report to confirm that there was no evidence of preparations by Pakistan to invade India.
Against this backdrop, Thapar had been reluctant to ask for the withdrawal of any troops from the Pakistan front, but now conditions were different. He wanted a division to be withdrawn from that sector. Nehru immediately conceded to his request.
'Normally, the time given to the defence forces to attack is a fortnight and an attack is timed at the break of daylight,' said Thapar. The Chinese attack came on 20 October, at 5 am in the eastern sector where the sun rose early, and at 7 am in the Ladakh area where daylight was late to arrive.
As the war began, the Shah of Iran sent Nehru a copy of letter he had written to Ayub Khan, suggesting that he send his soldiers to fight alongside Indian forces against the 'red menace'. (I have seen the copy.)
I recalled what Jinnah had said at Law College in Lahore when I had asked him what Pakistan's reaction would be if a third power were to attack India. He had said that his soldiers would fight alongside Indian soldiers. Ayub told foreign powers who wanted him to help India that the fact that Pakistan did not take advantage of India's vulnerability was a form of assistance and a sufficient gesture.
At the end of hostilities, Shastri recalled the Shah's letter and said that had the Pakistani soldiers fought alongside us and 'shed their blood with Indian soldiers', it would have been difficult to say 'No' to Pakistan even if it had asked for Kashmir (Agar wo Kashmir bhi mangte to na karna mushkil hota).
Probably he was right because emotions played a substantial part in our decisions.
Extracted with permission from Beyond the Lines: An Autobiography by Kuldip Nayar. Rs 595. Published by Roli Books.
Indian Peacekeeper killed in Eastern Congo, even as fighting between the Congolese army and M23 intensify
The United Nations confirmed today that one of its peacekeepers had died in the clashes between the Congolese Army and the March 23 Movement (M23), near the strategic border crossing of Bunagana.
Madnodje Mounoubai, a UN official said that the peacekeeper, hailing from India was killed yesterday night, as a result of injuries resulting from an exploding shell, as the rebels attempted to overrun the town of Bunagana.
A major conflict is ongoing in the Congolese province of North Kivu ever since last April, when hundreds of soldiers under the Tutsi strongman Jean Bosco Ntaganda defected from the army and formed the M23 rebel group. Most of the rebels are former soldiers with the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). They have since captured many of the towns and villages along the Ugandan- Congolese border.
The Congolese government had earlier claimed that the M23 has been largely defeated, with over 200 of the rebels killed and close to 400 captured by the army. Meanwhile the Rwandan military and government officials have repeatedly denied the allegations that they are providing military equipment and training to the rebel group.
The Ugandan military sources announced today that more than 600 Congolese soldiers, who had fled the conflict in Bunagana, had crossed over to Uganda. Colonel Sultani Makenga, a senior official with the M23 claimed that the rebels were forced to counter-attack, after the Congolese troops undertook an offensive against them yesterday. He said that the entire population of the town, and the Congolese soldiers who were posted there earlier, had fled the area, crossing over to the Ugandan side of the border.
The Indian peacekeepers are deployed in the area as a part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). There has been no press statement so far from the Indian contingent, and the UN has not yet revealed the identity of the deceased soldier. India is the largest troop contributor to the MONUSCO, providing 4,400 servicemen out of a total of 16,475.
So far a total of 87 UN servicemen have lost their lives, during their mission with the MONUSCO. Three members of the Indian Army’s 19th Kumaon Regiment were killed in August 2010, when another rebel group (the Mai-Mai) attacked their base.
The Siachen Deadlock Continues
The April death of 130 Pakistani soldiers in an avalanche close to the Siachen glacier has triggered renewed outcry from Pakistan to de-militarize what some call the world’s highest battlefield. But June talks between Indian and Pakistani defense officials in Islamabad ended yet again in stalemate.
That stalemate, after India and Pakistan’s 13th round of talks, ended with yet another bland joint statement, that explained: “The talks were held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere. Both sides reaffirmed their resolve to make serious, sustained and result-oriented efforts for seeking an amicable resolution of Siachen. It was agreed to continue the dialogue on Siachen in keeping with the desire of the leaders of both countries for early resolution of all outstanding issues. Both sides acknowledged that the ceasefire was holding since 2003.”
Nevertheless, the process still matters.
Indian and Pakistani troops have been stationed on the glaciated heights in strength since 1984. Many soldiers have died due to the vagaries of weather. Temperatures can drop down to negative 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both sides would benefit immensely from a long-term resolution. But the devil is in the details.
India wants the current positions and posts to be authenticated both on the ground and on any map that gets exchanged in any possible agreement. Pakistan on the other hand says it is unnecessary.
Therein lies the stalemate.
At the heart of the problem is the interpretation of the 1949 Karachi and 1972 Simla agreements by both sides. India and Pakistan demarcated their borders only up to Point NJ 9842. This includes the 772 km Ceasefire Line in 1949, now known as the LoC or Line-of-Control. It was stated in the agreements that the border would run north from NJ 9842.
While India interprets this to mean due north (along the ridge line, as is the international convention), leading to the northern tip of the Saltoro ridge known as Indira Col., Pakistan claims that the line should run northeast towards the Karakoram Pass which leads into Tibet.
However, for over a decade after the Simla agreement, neither side bothered about areas beyond NJ9842.
In late 1983 to early 1984, Indian intelligence discovered several Pakistani tourism and mountaineering expeditions making forays into the hitherto unexplored Siachen glacier areas. Until then it was thought that the forbidding terrain with altitudes in excess of 18,000 feet would serve to be a deterrent for anyone trying to venture into the area. Alarmed by the possibility of Pakistani troops positioning themselves on the Saltoro ridge located to the west of the Siachen glacier and thereby opening access between Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, and the Karakoram Pass, a small team of the Indian Army’s Kumaon Regiment was launched to interdict the Pakistani advance. Indian Army troops managed to beat the Pakistanis in the race to the glacier and occupied two passes west of the glacier at Bilafond La and Sia La while the Pakistan Army could only reach Gyong La.
By occupying the heights along the Saltoro ridge, the Indian Army had gained the upper hand, preventing a possible Pakistan-China ‘handshake’ in the high Himalayas.
Since 1984, India has occupied the higher posts that sit astride the 78km-long glacier. Pakistani troops are nowhere near the glacier. Even the avalanche that hit a battalion headquarter was to the west of Saltoro ridge and at a much lower altitude than the Indian posts.
The Indian army, having captured the dominant heights at a considerable monetary cost and loss of troops, has told the government that it will be a strategic mistake to vacate the heights without Pakistan agreeing to authenticate and accept the respective current troop deployment. Pakistan is however loath to accept this basic premise. It has consistently ‘sold a myth’ to the people that its troops are sitting atop the Siachen glacier. In reality, Pakistani posts are far away from the glacier. Moreover, the Indian Army top brass has pointed out to the decision makers the likely dangers of a China-Pakistan link-up through Siachen which would expose India’s defenses in Ladakh.
For several years now, Pakistan has allowed the Chinese to come into the Gilgit-Baltistan area. Intelligence reports concerning China’s troop presence and the construction of tunnels, possibly to store missiles aimed at India, have also been available for some years now. Pakistan had also—some thought illegally—ceded part of this area known as Shaksgam Valley to China in the 1960s. This was seen as an attempt to make China a party to the Kashmir conflict. Shakshgam valley incidentally lies just north of the northernmost tip of Saltoro ridge, currently dominated by Indian troops. Any withdrawal at this stage, the Indian Army has warned the government, will only serve to strengthen the Pakistan-China alliance in the area.
As retired Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, Director of the Indian Army’s think tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), says in a commentary: “We need to look into the larger game plan of Pakistan which seeks to take the Glaciers by guile as it has failed to do so by force. The aim appears to be to link Pakistani presence and control over the glaciers with Chinese-occupied Aksai Chin. The strategic implications of such a move are obvious. Guarantees by Pakistan that it will not move into the areas vacated by India are worthless. And what would happen if Chinese troops move in? How would India respond then?”
Since these questions have no clear answers, the civilian leadership in India has so far backed the military’s stand despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s avowed wish to make Siachen a “mountain of peace.” Relations between India and Pakistan have certainly improved with several recent attempts at confidence building, increased bilateral trade being one of them. However, giving up a dominant military position on Siachen without iron-clad guarantees would be a fool’s errand.
Two militants killed in encounter in Handwara in J&K
Two militants were on Friday killed and a jawan was injured in an encounter in Handwara area of Kupwara district.
Army and police had launched a joint operation in Bowan village of Nowgam sector, 100 kms from Srinagar, on Thursday evening following information about the presence of ultras in the area.
"Two militants have been killed in the operation in Nowgam sector of Handwara," defence sources said.
They said a jawan of Special Operations Group of police was injured in the operation, which was going on till last reports came in.
The identity and group affiliation of the deceased militants was not known yet, the sources said.
Security forces have intensified anti-insurgency operations along the Line of Control in Kupwara district since last week.
Three militants were killed in a gunbattle with Army and police in Bangus valley of Kupwara yesterday.
The sources said the operation against the militants in the area is still going on. An Army jawan and a policeman were also injured in the exchange of firing with the ultras in the area.
One unidentified militant was killed in an encounter with security forces in Handwara area on June 29.