Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

From Today's Papers - 31 Oct 2012

Indo-Pak cricket ties to resume after 4 yrs
MHA gives nod to tour; first match on Dec 25
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 30
Cricket buffs are in for a mega treat. The Ministry of Home Affairs today cleared Pakistan cricket team’s tour of India for a limited-over series beginning December 25 and said the government will provide foolproof security to the visiting team.

The arch-rivals have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007 after cricket ties were snapped following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

A delegation of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) met Union Home Secretary RK Singh here today. BCCI senior official and Union Minister Rajiv Shukla said the Board delegation discussed with the Home Secretary about security and logistical issues. "We have discussed all security aspects. The tour is on," he told reporters here. The BCCI has finalised dates for the one-day series, with the first match due to kick off on December 25.

The series would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals between December 2012 and January 2013. The ODI matches are likely to be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Central forces will be deployed to aid the state police in guarding the match venues.

In July, the BCCI had decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the neighbouring country for a short series in December 2012-January 2013, to be sandwiched between the Test and ODI legs of the England team's tour of India.

Apart from the security issues, the Union Home Ministry also gives visa clearance to Pakistani spectators.

Thrill is back

    The arch-rivals have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007 after cricket ties were snapped following the 26/11attacks
    The BCCI has finalised dates, with the first match due to kick off on December 25
    The series would comprise three ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals. The ODI matches are likely to be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad
    Central forces will be deployed to aid the state police to ensure foolproof security

US keen to be a partner in Indian Ocean Rim dialogue
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, October 30
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will deliver his first major address on global affairs when he chairs the ministerial meeting of the 19-member pan-Indian Ocean grouping, called Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), at Gurgaon on Friday.

On the margins of the day-long meet, he will also hold bilateral talks with some of the foreign ministers scheduled to attend the conference. His talks with the foreign ministers of Iran, Sri Lanka and Australia will be keenly monitored.

The big question to be debated at the meeting will be whether the US should be made a dialogue partner of the grouping, which has completed more than 15 years of its existence but made little headway in terms of economic links among member nations.

Briefing reporters here today, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said America had shown interest in becoming a dialogue partner of the IOR-ARC during the India-US strategic dialogue held earlier this year. India had promised to put the matter before the meeting being held at Gurgaon.

However, it is to be seen if Iran will approve of associating the US with the grouping, given its current stand-off with the West over the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

Another major issue the meeting will be called upon to sort out will be the nomenclature of the grouping. Members such as Australia and Indonesia have suggested that the organisation should have a name that will reflects its true character.

The IOR-ARC association comprises Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. At present, it has five dialogue partners -- China, Japan, UK, France and Egypt.

According to Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the MEA, the Indian Ocean is vital for the transportation of oil and conduct of other forms of global trade. As far as India is concerned, over 97 per cent of its international trade by volume and 75 per cent by value passes through the ocean. Though the IOR-ARC is yet to find its bearings, it has great economic potential, he said.

The grouping

    The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation is a 19-nation pan-Indian Ocean grouping
    It comprises Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen
    At present, it has five dialogue partners: China, Japan, UK, France and Egypt

Envoy asks Italy for probe details
The ambassador in Rome, Debabrata Saha, has reportedly requested Italy for information on the “Indian middlemen”, including a serving army brigadier, in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal.

“The Ministry of Defence has requested the External Affairs Ministry to obtain information on the ongoing probe in Italy. We intend to take it up in Italy through our ambassador and we intend to take it up in Delhi,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Tuesday. “The Ministry of Defence would like to know the dealings with India and the possibility of Indians being involved. Our need for information is limited to what is related to India.”

India’s request though is not expected to yield results any time soon given that the Italian government does not have control over the probe — being conducted by the prosecution branch of the judicial system — and so no access to the information unearthed. It is learnt that Saha would also directly approach the prosecution branch, but it is unlikely they would share the details with a foreign nation.

AgustaWestland, the other source of information, being a private firm, can’t be forced to part with details. And even if it does provide such information, it can’t be relied on completely, anyway.

So, it seems, New Delhi will have to wait for the judicial process to take its course and for the Italian courts and prosecutors to make the documents public.

The court documents, as reported by The Indian Express, say investigators are looking into allegations that middlemen were paid Euro 51 million illegal commission to fix the Rs 3,546 crore contract. A letter seized from an alleged middleman, Swiss consultant Guido Haschke, claims that an army brigadier demanded $5 million to swing the deal.

Wake up, generals!
It is difficult to remain idealistic, motivated and dead straight -- the defining characteristics of young Indian Army [ Images ] officers -- when so much wrongdoing is evident at the top. Even honest officers are inevitably corrupted by a system in which outright financial dishonesty is condoned as "perks and privileges of office", says Ajai Shukla

The Indian Army fish is rotting from the head. Memories are still fresh of the bruising confrontation earlier this year between the politically ambitious General VK Singh [ Images ] and an inept government that had precipitated a civil-military firestorm over the Army chief's quest for an extra year in office. Now, another aggrieved general is going to court in his quest for the top job.

The current chief, General Bikram Singh, who took over from the divisive General VK Singh in June, has singularly failed to apply a healing touch and to undo the partisanship his predecessor unleashed. Most new bosses, even sports coaches, are expected to provide a new direction. In five months on the job, General Bikram Singh's new direction consists only of orders that officers must greet each other with the salutation of 'Jai Hind', instead of merely giving each other the time of day. The new chief also wants meetings to end with everyone chorusing 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'.

Intelligence reports have not yet confirmed that the Pakistani and Chinese militaries are quaking in their boots.

Let us be charitable; perhaps General Bikram Singh needs more time. His arrival in Delhi [ Images ] was traumatic and uncertain, since his predecessor assiduously sabotaged his elevation in the internecine fighting that now seems to be a part of the game. Once in Delhi, the new chief's priority was to set himself up in the five-star style that now defines our culture of generalship. In his first days in the hallowed office of legends like General KS Thimayya and Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw [ Images ], the new chief and his staff busied themselves with putting together a retinue of a dozen waiters, cooks, dhobis and assorted tradesmen to sustain life in Army House.

Called upon for retainers, a bevy of army formations milked out these retainers from combat units, where tough young officers and the legendary Indian jawan have learned how to make do with the dwindling resources that their own generals leave them. At least two senior flag-rank officers personally screened the men who would serve their chief, knowing that a spilt drink or over-salted soup could reverberate unpleasantly in their own careers.

The chief will naturally deny this, since none of these tradesmen is officially posted to Army House, his tony residence on New Delhi's leafy Rajaji Marg. Conveniently, this entourage is on "temporary duty" with Army units in the capital. But any visitor to Army House would find them working there, just as visits to many Army posts and pickets would find combat soldiers cooking and washing instead of training and patrolling, simply because their cook or dhobi is languishing in Delhi.

This travesty faces no resistance from subordinate generals, many of whom are hardly angels themselves. Lieutenant General Noble Thamburaj, who headed the Southern Army, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation for gross irregularities concerning defence land. Two Army chiefs, Generals Deepak Kapoor and NC Vij, along with several Army commanders, received illegal flats in Mumbai's [ Images ] infamous Adarsh Housing Society. Lieutenant General Shankar Ghosh, the Western Army commander until June, had his medical category downgraded last year, entitling him to disability pension. But when General VK Singh's confrontation with the government made dismissal a possibility, General Ghosh (then the senior-most army commander), upgraded his medical category to be eligible for a move to Army House.

If the generals believe that these shenanigans go unnoticed by junior officers or the rank and file, they are mistaken. The recent face-offs between officers and enlisted men in military bases near Samba, Amritsar [ Images ] and Leh suggest a decline in the ironclad faith that the Army jawan has always had in his leaders. Today's culture of entitlement at the top -- where funds, resources and manpower are poured into supporting the five-star lifestyles of a few dozen senior generals -- threatens to seep downwards, poisoning the entire system. It is difficult to remain idealistic, motivated and dead straight -- the defining characteristics of young Indian officers -- when so much wrongdoing is evident at the top. Even honest officers are inevitably corrupted by a system in which outright financial dishonesty is condoned as "perks and privileges of office".

As worrying as the corruption is the lack of intellectual direction that generals provide the Army's young leaders. This was evident from the recent flood of chain emails between mid-level and junior officers, expressing outrage that the Army was being blamed in the media for the 1962 debacle. In the intellectual desert that the generals have made the Army, every red-blooded officer has bought into the 'Haqeeqat myth', in which gallant soldiers, badly deployed by incompetent politicians and bureaucrats, mowed down hordes of Chinese before laying down their lives. While this is true in several cases, there are many more cases of entire Indian sub-units fleeing from strong defensive positions into waiting Chinese ambushes. Any professional military studies its defeats even more deeply than its victories. But professional study is not on the Army's agenda. The generals believe that officers and men must be busy with creating the illusion of command success, howsoever transient. With no time to read or no guidance and inspiration from the top, human development is merely a buzzword.
Preening incongruously amidst this crumbling edifice, General Bikram Singh has taken his media managers' ill-considered advice that controversies are best dealt with by avoiding the press. General VK Singh's mistake lay in seeking out the media, say the same advisors who had advised the previous chief. But with controversy increasingly swirling, the Army's leadership can no longer deal with its growing image problem by sticking its head in the sand.

New battle for next army chief
The dust has barely settled after General VK Singh's [ Images ] Supreme Court battle to be army chief for another year when another senior general is approaching the court with a petition which, if accepted, could make him the next army chief, instead of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, the eastern army commander who is currently in line.
Click here!

Business Standard has learnt that Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, currently the deputy chief of the tri-service Integrated Defence Staff, will shortly file a petition with the Armed Forces Tribunal, a high court-level legal body that adjudicates on military matters.

"My client has been unfairly denied the appointment of army commander, for which he fulfilled every condition. Instead, a post was kept vacant for Lt Gen Dalbir Singh who was under a vigilance ban. This was procedurally incorrect, and I will request the Honourable court to set it aside," says Major (Retired) Sudhansu Pande, who will represent Gen Dastane in court.

After commanding the Leh-based 14 Corps in 2011-12, Gen Dastane is eligible to be appointed an army commander, a pre-requisite for becoming army chief. The army has seven commands: six geographical (northern, western, south-western, southern, central and eastern); and one functional command, the Army Training Command or ARTRAC. There is also the tri-service Andaman & Nicobar Command, commanded in turn by officers from the army, navy and air force.

The key date in the current dispute is May 31, 2012, when two army commander posts fell vacant with the retirement of former army chief, Gen VK Singh [ Images ], and the western army commander, Lt Gen Shankar Ghosh.

Army records examined by Business Standard indicate the three senior-most generals on that day who were eligible to become army commanders (the pre-requisite being that they must have commanded a corps) were, in order of seniority, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, followed by Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, followed by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane.

As was widely reported in the media at the time (and corroborated by Major Pande), Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was under a discipline and vigilance (DV) ban, having received a show-cause notice from the former Army chief, Gen VK Singh, for a botched operation by the 3 Corps Intelligence Unit under Dalbir's command.

With Dalbir ineligible for elevation because of the DV ban, the Army appointed Chachra as western Army commander (MS Branch signal 388218/2012/MS(X)/79 dated May 30, 2012). Dastane, however, was not given the second Army commander vacancy. Instead, it was kept vacant until Lt Gen Dalbir Singh's showcause notice was nullified on June 8 by Gen Bikram Singh, who had taken over as Army chief.

On June 15, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was appointed the eastern Army commander through MS Branch signal 388246/ 2012/MS(X)/94 dated June 15, 2012. Two weeks later, the MS Branch restored his seniority of June 1, 2012, through MS Branch letter A/45751/2012/ LG/Army Cdr/EC/MS(X) dated June 24, 2012.

Dastane's Statutory Complaint to the MoD, filed on August 6, objects to the differential standards applied, in which one vacancy was filled by appointing Lt Gen Chachra, while "reserving" one vacancy for Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, and granting him retrospective seniority.

"They appointed Lt Gen Chachra because he was retiring on May 31. But my client was as eligible as he was, and if Chachra was considered for army commanders' appointment on May 31, that concession should also have been given to me. The government could have taken a stand that we will not appoint anyone before Dalbir's showcause notice is resolved. But they considered and appointed Chachra," points out Pande.

The next army commander's vacancy arises only on January 31, by when Dastane would have less than two years of residual service, rendering him ineligible by current guidelines to be appointed Army commander.

Dastane's lawyer says his petition to the Armed Forces Tribunal will plead for his promotion as Army commander with effect from June 1, 2012, and that he be physically appointed to head the next Army command that falls vacant.

If this is granted, says Dastane's lawyer, the general will have a strong legal case to demand seniority above Dalbir Singh, who was appointed only on June 15. That would make Dastane the senior-most qualified lieutenant general on July 31, 2014, when the current chief, Gen Bikram Singh, retires. The MoD convention has long been to appoint the senior-most qualified officer to succeed an outgoing chief.

The MoD's viewpoint, say ministry sources, is that Lt Gen Dalbir Singh's claim was alive on June 1, though subject to a decision on his showcause notice. The MoD, therefore, left one Army commander's vacancy unfilled, in anticipation of a decision on the show-cause notice.

Indian Army's new role: teaching Jammu's tribal kids
The Indian Army has donned a new role in Jammu and Kashmir, with the border state enjoying a period of relative peace. It had adopted a project to educate the children of Gujjars and Bakerwals, tribal goatherds and shepherds who inhabit the Pir Panjal range in the state's Jammu

The classes were held for a month at Bhattadurian, Chhatral and Poshiana villages of Poonch district, about 260 km northwest of Jammu.

The army personnel conducted lessons in elementary arithmetic and reading. For many children, it was their first taste of school and they were left deeply touched by the experience.

Eight-year-old Ameen Hussain of Bhattadurian village said that he had not imagined that studying could be such fun. He now yearns to be like his instructor, and become an army man. "My teacher has told me that if I study, I can become an officer in the army. Now I have made up my mind to do that," he said.

Not all the children, though, have such dreams: Hashim Din, a friend of Ameen Hussain and nearly the same age, said: "One month is good enough. I enjoy being with my herd of goats. That's far better, more free."

Defence spokesman Col RK Palta said that the aim of the classes was to encourage parents to send their children to school.

"The requisite study material, including stationery, books and appropriate teaching aids for these classes were provided by us. The aim was only to encourage parents to send children to school," Col Palta said.

The Gujjar and Bakerwal tribes inhabitthe Pir Panjal range. Traditionally, their lives have been nomadic. There is a lack of basic facilities like schooling and children often accompany their parents to graze sheep and goats and gather fuel wood.

According to state government statistics, of a total population of 1.25 crore, there are about 20 lakh Gujjars and Bakerwals in the state, of whom 5,00,000 continue with their nomadic life. The nomads move to mountainous pastures in summer and spend the winter in the plains, along with their animals.

While the state's literacy rate is 68.7% according to the 2011 census, only 21% of Gujjars and Bakerwals are literate. Among those who continue to be nomadic, there are barely any literates at all.

Palta said that the army's teaching initiative began after a request was made by the elders of the three villages during one of the regular amity meetings that the army holds.

"Besides providing an exposure to basic education to the children of the area, these classes would also act as a catalyst in kindling the desire amongst children for  education. We hope to also generate an interest in education in the parents. The immediate benefit of these classes would be only rudimentary knowledge for the tribal children," the spokesman said.

About twenty students attended the classes that the army offered at each of the three villages.

Seven-year-old Zubeda Sayed of Poshiana attended the classes regularly, without missing even one. "It was a happy time for me, studying. I would like to study more," she said.

"The army will continue to hold such classes in future. We would also be only too willing to sponsor students from remote areas so they can attend regular Army Goodwill schools across the state," the spokesman said.

He said the weather will not be an impediment to the effort. "We can continue the classes in winter, even when the place is snowed under. The children have nothing else to do at that time," he added.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

From Today's Papers - 30 Oct 2012
5 states defy NHRC orders to compensate victims’ kin
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, October 29
In a disturbing development, states have started dishonouring recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission in cases of fake encounter deaths.

At least five states have in the recent past refused to grant compensation that the NHRC had ordered to be paid to the next of kin of fake encounter victims.

While the Maharashtra Government declined to honour one such recommendation on the ground that “such payment would demoralise the police force”, the Andhra Pradesh Government refused to follow the commission’s recommendation in three cases. The NHRC inquiry had concluded that the encounter of alleged Naxals was fake in those cases. It had ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the family of victims. The Andhra Pradesh Government did not offer any reason for not making the payment.

Similar decisions have been taken by the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in separate cases of fake encounter deaths which the NHRC was mandated to look into to determine genuineness of the police claims.

The trend is growing at a time when the cases of encounter deaths are rising across India, as reflected by the data maintained by the NHRC. As per the NHRC mandate, the police of every state has to mandatorily intimate to the commission of every encounter death within 48 hours of its occurrence. The commission, under the National Human Rights Act, 1993, is empowered to inquire into every such death to see if the encounter was genuine.

Besides intimation of encounters by the police, paramilitary forces and Army personnel, private individuals also have the right to file encounter complaints with the NHRC which it investigates as mandated by the law.

Since its inception in 1993, the NHRC has received 2,068 encounter cases through intimation alone. Maximum (1,996) cases involve police, followed by 49 involving defence forces and 23 involving paramilitary forces.

Among states, UP leads the pack with 948 cases; followed by 229 in Assam, 124 in Maharashtra, 120 in Andhra Pradesh, 54 in Madhya Pradesh and 50 in Rajasthan. States with higher encounter death rates (like UP, Maharashtra and Andhra) are also the states increasingly refusing to implement NHRC recommendations on fake encounters.

Through private individuals, the commission has received another 1,796 cases of fake encounters, a whopping 1,697 involving allegations against the police. Together, the cases total to 3,864.

The commission is naturally worried about the growing trend of states’ refusal to take its recommendations seriously, said member Justice BC Patel (retd). In an order on Andhra Pradesh’s refusal to compensate wards of three Naxals killed in fake encounters recently, the commission had said, “We have received these letters with some surprise and considerable regret. Since we make recommendations that are not binding on states, we can’t do much once the CMs decline them. However, we always give substantive reasons for our recommendations and hope that when a state disagrees it will also explain why our view was wrong. In these three cases, we have been given no reason whatsoever. The conclusion that follows is that the state has given carte blanche to its security forces and a mandate to execute with impunity anyone believed to be an extremist.”
Chopper deal held in abeyance following bribe allegations
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 29
The Defence Ministry today decided to hold in abeyance its decision to buy 197 light utility helicopters for the Indian Army till the details of a Brigadier having allegedly sought a bribe from an Italian chopper maker were not clear.

Sources confirmed that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister AK Antony today did not take up the matter of deciding on the company that was selected for the chopper deal. Two companies, Eurocopter and the Russian Kamov, have been shortlisted and one of them is to be finalised.

Even as the Defence Ministry was about to finalise the deal, details have emerged from a court in Naples that a Brigadier who was involved in flight trials had sought a $5 million from AgustaWestland which was ousted from the competition after the trials. The ministry is also seeking details from Italy over its investigations in the VVIP chopper deal in the allegations of payments of kickbacks to secure the deal.

Today at the DAC, Antony cautioned the three Services to be “transparent” in the process of weapon trials and procurement as he cleared proposals worth around Rs 6,000 crore for the armed forces.

Antony’s message comes in the backdrop of latest bribery allegations in the proposed purchase of 197 choppers. “The Defence Minister asked the three Services that the trial process has to be fair and transparent manners especially when there is stiff competition among international contenders”, officials said here this evening.

The meeting also cleared proposals for purchase of search and rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF choppers at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore, 3,000 hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) for the Army at Rs 800 crore and a Cadet Training Ship for the Navy at Rs 480 crore, which will be built by private sector ABG Shipyard, they said.

The DAC, which is the top decision-making body of the Defence Ministry, also cleared an IAF proposal to procure two Dornier surveillance and transport aircraft from the HAL. The DAC cleared the construction of two Special Operations Vessels (SOVs) for the Marine Commandos of the Navy at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore The SOVs are like mini-submarines which can accommodate a small detachment of armed MARCOS commandos.
Chinese inroads into Bhutan worry India
The strategic scenario on India’s northern borders will get greatly compounded if Bhutan and Nepal were to fall into the Chinese sphere of influence. Bhutan’s neutrality is absolutely imperative as it forms a barrier and buffer to the Chinese desire for expansion towards the Siliguri plains
Brig (Dr) Arun Sahgal

Strategic concerns about China arise from its emergence as the most influential player in Asia with the ability to shape the future balance of power that could be detrimental to Indian interests.
A Chinese amphibious assault exercise on the Tibetan plateau. Increased military presence and rapid development of infrastructure in Tibet point towards Chinese attempts at upgradation of its operational posture
A Chinese amphibious assault exercise on the Tibetan plateau. Increased military presence and rapid development of infrastructure in Tibet point towards Chinese attempts at upgradation of its operational posture

Despite a dominant Indian desire at cooperation rather than competition with China, the vexed and unresolved boundary issue together with China’s continued military modernisation and incremental upgrade of its military posture in Tibet that enable rapid force deployment, backed by logistical capability and communication infrastructure, complicates the relationship.

China’s attempts at strategic balancing in South Asia by forging military and economic ties with all of India’s neighbours, some of whom have fractious ties with New Delhi, and by expanding its naval power in the Indian Ocean Region further exacerbate bilateral tensions.

Latest manifestation of this is the Chinese attempts to build inroads into Bhutan. Chinese Premier Wen Zia Bao and Bhutanese Prime Minister Jiome Thinley`s meeting on the sidelines of Rio +20 Summit was a result of Bhutan’s ambition for a non permanent seat in the UNSC in 2013, which China appears to have exploited.

Implications of Chinese moves

Chinese success in Bhutan together with moves in Nepal, where it is enhancing its economic, military and infrastructural footprints will have grave strategic implications for India. The landlocked Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has borders of 470 km with Tibet and 650 km with India. India has a special relationship with the Bhutan having signed a Treaty of Friendship way back in 1949, which was updated in 2007, that provides among others unilateral guarantee for the defence of Bhutan.

While China officially does not recognise Bhutan and has no diplomatic relations, it does conduct periodic talks to reduce border tensions. China claims 300 square miles of Bhutanese territory, mainly in the Chumbi valley, the Torsa Nala, and some areas opposite Haa (western Bhutan) along with some grazing areas in the north.

The strategic scenario on India’s northern borders will get greatly compounded if Bhutan and Nepal were to fall into the Chinese sphere of influence. Bhutan sit’s at the centre of the Sino-Indian eastern sector, and as long as it remains neutral, any Chinese military adventurism in the Chumbi valley and Tawang would largely be through attritional mountain offensives invoking Indian reaction in self defence.

However, if Bhutan and Nepal were to come under Chinese influence, the precarious land route along the Siliguri Corridor, a virtual ‘chicken neck’ for the north eastern states, would become vulnerable to being cut-off by a determined Chinese push – isolating the entire eastern sector. Hence Bhutan’s neutrality is extremely important and absolutely imperative as it forms a barrier and buffer to Chinese desires of expansion to the south towards the Siliguri plains.

Two other issues are important. China is rapidly developing road infrastructure opposite Chumbi Valley, including plans to extend the rail network from Lhasa to Zangmu and Shigatse, and possibly to Yadong at the opening of the Chumbi Valley. These developments point to Chinese attempts at upgradation of operational posture. What should be of concern to India is the fact that in the event of hostilities it is unlikely that China will respect Bhutanese neutrality.  The defence of Bhutan therefore is irrevocably linked to the defence of India.

Strategic perspective

An essential ingredient of the China’s forward policy, Chumbi Valley, a vital tri-junction between Bhutan, India and China, is significant as it is just five kms from the Siliguri corridor. It is also of geostrategic importance to China as it shares borders with Tibet and Sikkim.

It is this geo strategic context that has made New Delhi sit-up and take notice of recent Chinese overtures to Bhutan. China and Bhutan have held a range of boundary talks and are moving towards a joint field survey to harmonise the reference points and names of the disputed areas. The survey focused on disputed areas in the western region constituting pastoral lands of Doklam, Charithang, Sinchulumpa and Dramana.

The focus on this sector is important due to its close proximity to Chumbi Valley. Bhutan and Nepal are critical cards for China against perceived Indian military maneuvering. It needs to be underscored, however, that the China- Bhutan reconciliation can only come with the settlement of the boundary issue where China seeks the Dhoklan plateau overlooking Chumbi Valley while making tradeoffs in the grazing grounds in North Bhutan.

The moves in Bhutan together with rapid Chinese inroads into Nepal would greatly contribute towards China’s desire to establish a continental bridge through Tibet. Bhutan on the other hand would provide the PLA with the requisite launch pad to cut off the Siliguri Corridor either as pre emptive action or in concert with larger territorial designs. Trading off some territory in the north to Bhutan in lieu of the pastoral land of the Doklam plateau, therefore, appears to be a pragmatic step towards achieving the larger strategic objective.

Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are countries where India has ceded strategic space to China through acts of omission and commission, land locking it from North and East. Restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan therefore would inevitably constitute a strategic shock for India.

India’s strategic calculations

Strategically, Bhutan sits between Sikkim in the West and Arunachal Pradesh in the East. It’s neutrality is an important construct in providing depth to the Chumbi Valley leading to Siliguri Corridor and Tawang -- the centre of Tibetan spiritual abode in India. Should Bhutan diplomatically ally with China, these two vulnerabilities would be greatly exposed with all the attendant military ramifications. Access to Chumbi Valley through Bhutan, in addition to the traditional routes would severe and isolate the north east in the event of a war with China. Simultaneously, Bhutan would open the western flank of Tawang--Tenga sector, exposing the threat to the plains of Assam.

Indian economic investments in Bhutan are exemplified by Bhutan becoming a hydropower exporter to India. By 2020, India expects Bhutan to export 10,000 MW of power to India. There are also a large number of other economic programmes afoot. India is considered a trusted friend and an ally in Bhutan. At present, there is no anti-India lobby in the country and, given the geographical imperatives of Bhutan, India is likely to remain the most important partner in its foreign policy calculus in the coming years. Bhutan also leverages India’s role as its strategic partner.

While geopolitics shapes the bilateral relationship in a major way, one needs to take note of the fact that Bhutanese society is changing fast. With the youth constituting almost 50 per cent of the total population, a new generation is emerging in Bhutan. As evident in the India--Bhutan power cooperation, Bhutan is getting increasingly assertive in negotiating various issues with India. India needs to address these growing nuances, which could soon emerge as visible sores in India--Bhutan bilateral relations.

In initiating diplomatic ties with China thus, Bhutan will have to make some stark strategic choices. Replacing India with China would mean economic and ecological trade-offs in a balancing strategy aimed at maintaining harmonious relations with its two big neighbours. the bigger issue is how far Bhutan is ready to become a pawn in the Chinese designs in Tibet and against India. The ultimate formula to settle the boundary dispute would dictate the extent of this engagement between the two.

Bhutan`s strategic choices are thus of great geostrategic and military concerns to India. How it makes them would depend on the range and depth of Indo--Bhutan relations. The above discourse need not only be seen from the perspective of geopolitics alone. Is China pushing reconciliation with Bhutan to convert it into a continental bridge linking with the Bay of Bengal, of course through connectivity with India to create another Silk Route? In this regard the recent resolution of boundary dispute between China and Tajikistan to create an access to Afghanistan in pursuit of its economic investments provides a possible window into Chinese designs. In case China is able to develop close political and economic ties with Bhutan and incrementally bring it into its circle of influence, it will be a win–win situation for China and a matter of grave concern for India.

The issue for India is that as a sovereign independent state Bhutan has the rights to pursue an independent foreign policy commensurate with its larger interests. While being closely aligned with India it has sought to pursue a policy of neutrality. Will the Chinese overtures change this? How should India respond what are the options and policy choices before it, is the dilemma that India needs to deal with.
China rebuilds defence ties with India
Visit by Chinese defence minister Gen Liang Guanglie, after a hiatus of eight years, comes at a time when bilateral relations are marked by growing economic and political cooperation and concerns over growing Chinese influence in South Asia and the extended Indian Ocean region (IOR).

The visit, weeks prior to the 18th National People’s Congress scheduled to be held in October, raises issues about both the timing and purpose of the visit. Was it a confidence building exercise or a mere performa interaction at the minimal to signify resumption of high level defence interaction? As the Chinese media highlighted, the visit was to build trust, by resumption of military dialogue, military exercises as also to promote exchanges in non traditional security fields such as maritime cooperation.

Going specifically by military-to-military contacts between the two countries a lot is happening. Two joint naval and counter-terrorism exercises ahv ebeen conducted, with discussions for a possible joint air exercise. The hiatus in bilateral ties came about when China, in an extremely provocative step, denied a visa to a senior Indian military officer and made provocative statements over the prime minister’s recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The ties have since recommenced. The Fourth China–India Defence Dialogue in New Delhi last year has been followed by senior level military exchanges and Indian and Chinese warships visiting each others’ ports.

The defence ministers discussed issues ranging from developments in Asia–Pacific, including South China Sea, wherein the Indian minster was familiarised on the Chinese approach to the standoff and its aspirations on conflict resolution. Apparently, the Chinese conveyed their growing concerns about US’ strategic shift to the region after a decade, with an eye on American attempts to make India the lynch pin of regional strategic engagement. The post—2014 situation in Af–Pak was reportedly discussed, particularly growing radicalism and terrorism, given Chinese concerns on developments in Xinjiang, where they are pushing hard to reduce links with Pakistan and improve economic links with Central Asia and Russia.

The exchanges point to disquiet within the Chinese establishment and strategic community about developments in Asia–Pacific and the post-2014 Af–Pak scenario. Concerned by the evolving geopolitical situation in Asia, and a possible standoff with the US, the Chinese seem to be trying their own rebalancing act to prevent India lodging itself in the US camp. Indian policy of strategic impendence and autonomy also appear to have convinced Chinese leadership that if handled properly, India can be wooed into a balancing act where a judicious mix of pragmatism and nationalism pushes Sino-Indian relations forward without compromising its core interests.

Signs of such a thinking appeared during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Beijing, where Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang told Indian foreign minister SM Krishna that Sino–Indian ties would be the most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century. Chinese scholars also affirmed that while there were multiple stakeholders, it was China and India who would need to take the major lead to maintain regional stability.

The Chinese defence minister’s visit could be described as both, to affirm bilateral defence ties, lower stakes for confrontation as also to induce India from becoming a tool in US rebalancing strategy. Following the visit, it will be important to follow the trend lines of the trajectory of bilateral relations, for India to shape its policy responses. — A.S.
Dissolve Parliament now, say former Army chief VK Singh and Anna Hazare
Mumbai: Activist Anna Hazare has announced a new front against corruption, whose name will be disclosed before Diwali. The co-founder of his movement, the former chief of the Indian Army, VK Singh, said Parliament must be dissolved immediately and elections held because the government beset by graft and conjoined to big business, has stopped caring about the people.

"We need to awaken the the General and I will travel all over the country starting January 30," said Anna, who is 75.  He said that General Singh and he will not campaign in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, which vote in November and December. Anna said the structure of his front has yet to be finalised, but he plans to install a team in every state. For the general elections, he said, his team will assess candidates from different parties and advise voters on who to support.

"I will support his candidates if they are clean," Anna said today, when asked about his protege Arvind Kejriwal, whose decision to launch a political party ended their partnership. "If Arvind contests, I will support him," he added.
Targeting the Prime Minister, General Singh asked him why the government was "looting" people. "The opposition and the government have abandoned the people's interest," said the former chief, who retired at the end of May in a whorl of controversy over his allegations of being offered bribes while in office, and the government allegedly ignoring his complaints.

"As per the Constitution, India is a welfare state in which a democratically elected government is duty bound to protect and improve the lives of the people. However, the current system has completely ignored the directive principles enshrined in the constitution and has surrendered to market forces," General Singh said.

Till barely two months ago, Anna was the face of India Against Corruption, a conglomerate of civil society groups stewarded largely by Arvind Kejriwal.

For most of last year, Anna and Mr Kejriwal championed the cause of an anti-graft law or "Lokpal Bill" named after the national ombudsman that the legislation would create, when it is passed by parliament. It remains stalled in the Rajya Sabha, a delay which Anna and Mr Kejirwal attribute to the government's apathy in fighting venality.

When Mr Kejriwal announced that he would set up a political party, Anna balked.  The India Against Corruption movement was ripped asunder. Mr Kejriwal formally launched his party earlier this month; it has yet to be named.

Why doesn’t the Army name all Indian martyrs?

The recent public ceremony honouring the martyrs of the 1962 war, 50 years after the event, ought to prompt many more such acts. Indians deserve to know the names of all Indian armed forces and security forces personnel who have been killed or are missing presumed dead since independence.

The military high command holds the information. At the army, the information should be with the branch of the Adjutant General. But it’s a shame that these names are not publicly listed. It’s almost as if there is a negativity about honouring our war-dead.

Anit Mukherjee, an ex-Indian army officer, who is now an academic working in the field of military affairs, tried out find out the number of security force personnel killed in Jammu and Kashmir, he revealed during a talk he delivered last week at the King’s India Institute in London on ‘Absent Dialogue: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations in India.’

In a paper published in India Review in 2009 he wrote the following:

“The costs of battling Pakistani-trained and, later, Pakistani militants have been borne mainly by the security forces. Since the outbreak of the Kashmiri insurgency in 1990, including casualties from the Kargil war, approximately 5,000 members of the Indian security forces have been killed. The majority of the deaths (over 65 percent) occurred after 1998, when insurgency in the valley shifted from indigenous roots to acquire its current pan-Islamic jihadi characteristics.”

He obtained the figure from data posted in Indian Home Ministry’s annual reports and it was corroborated by the Indian army’s website honouring its fallen soldiers. It used to be accessible via and But now the army webpage has been taken down.

According to him, both the Defence Ministry and the Army have refused to declassify documents pertaining to the 1962 war, let alone any relating to the more recent conflicts, such as the IPKF operation in Sri Lanka. In contrast, the British military not only names every fallen or wounded soldier in Afghanistan but these names are prominently published and broadcast by every major British media outlet.

This Indian reluctance, says Mukherjee in his Absent Dialogue paper, may be related to criticism about the armed forces’ perceived lack of preparedness.

“It also has deeper historical resonance – with the army outgunned in Sri Lanka in the late ’80s, Kashmiri militants possessing superior radio-sets vis-à-vis the Indian Army, whispers of Israeli technicians providing critical support to the air force during the Kargil war and armoured units being ‘blind’ at night during Operation Parakram in 2001-02. In fact, the Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers report and numerous standing committees on defence allude to the lack of defence preparedness and its corollary, military effectiveness, both directly and indirectly.

“The capability of the armed forces also has consequences for the type of power India aspires to be.”

This is a matter that every Indian should be concerned about – because honouring a nation’s war-dead cannot and should not be the exclusive preserve of bureaucrats in the army or the ministry of defence. In a democracy, it is a people’s right.
Be transparent in deals, Antony tells service chiefs
TNN | Oct 30, 2012, 01.28AM IST
NEW DELHI: Defence minister A K Antony has cautioned the military top brass to ensure complete transparency in acquisition of military equipment in the wake of the controversy surrounding Italian military giant Finmeccanica and its deals in India.

Addressing the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), comprising military chiefs, the defence secretary and senior officials of the military establishment, Antony said there must be fairness in the selection process in all acquisitions by the military.

His caution came even as the DAC decided to wait for further inputs from Italy before taking up the proposal to purchase 197 light utility helicopters for the Indian Army. According to documents filed in an Italian court, an Army brigadier had sought a bribe of $5 million to fix the trial results of the contract.

The documents are part of an ongoing investigation in Italy into alleged malpractices by Finmeccanica, which is accused of paying a bribe of 51 million euros for getting the 2010 contract to supply a dozen VVIP helicopters to Indian Air Force.

The defence ministry has sought details of the case from the Indian embassy in Rome. Pending a formal report from the embassy, the DAC postponed a discussion on the proposed purchase of 197 LUHs, sources said.

The DAC, however, cleared defence deals worth about Rs 6,000 crore, including the one for procurement of 3,000 Light Support Vehicles (LSVs) for the Army at a cost of Rs 1,500 crore. It approved the purchase of Special Operations Vessels (SOVs) for Marine Commandos of the Navy at a cost of Rs 1,700 crore. The SOVs will be built at Hindustan Shipyard, sources said.

Monday's meeting also cleared proposals for purchase of Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment for IAF choppers at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore and 3,000 Hand-held Thermal Imagers (HHTIs) for the Army at Rs 800 crore.

The DAC also cleared the purchase of a Cadet Training Ship for the Navy at Rs 480 crore. It will be built by private sector ABG Shipyard.

An IAF proposal to procure two Dornier surveillance and transport aircraft from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was also cleared.
Indian World War II history republished
New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Eight volumes of the Indian Army’s World War II history, which have been out of print for a long time, are being published here again.

When World War II began in 1939, the Indian Army’s strength was about 200,000 men. When it ended in August 1945, it became the largest volunteer army in history, rising to over 2.5 million men.

A series of 24 volumes describing the role of the Indian armed forces was published by the History Division of the defence ministry some 60 years ago.

Eight of these volumes, describing major operations by the Indian troops, have been out of stock for some time.

Re-published by Pentagon Press, these volumes will be released here Tuesday by Lt Gen (retd) J.F.R. Jacob at an event also attended by Arvind Gupta, director of the Indian Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

World War II cost the lives of over 36,000 Indian servicemen while 34,354 were wounded. Another 67,340 became prisoners of war.

The British awarded some 4,000 decorations to the Indian soldiers.
Former Indian army chief calls for dissolution of parliament
MUMBAI: Former army chief of India General VK Singh has called for the dissolution of the Indian parliament, alleging that the government was corrupt and “anti-people,” Express News reported.

Singh, who joined forces with anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, was addressing a joint press conference in Mumbai on Monday.

Hazare said that together with Singh, they would travel across the country from January 30, in order to create awareness amongst the people of India about the government’s corruption.

The 75 year old activist was expected to launch an anti-graft team after severing ties with Arvind Kejriwal and India Against Corruption (IAC) over their decision to form a political party.

According to a Times of India report, Singh added that the government was “bending to the whims of the corporates,” questioning Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on why the government was “looting” the people.

The former army chief retired this year amidst controversy regarding his age, wherein he took the defense ministry to court in a failed attempt to prove he was a year younger than the army records showed.

Singh was also accused of writing to the prime minister expressing serious concerns about India’s defense capabilities, triggering allegations he was behind the leak.

He has since denied the allegations.
Army jawan commits suicide in Rajouri
Press Trust of India / Jammu October 29, 2012, 13:55

An Army jawan allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself with his service rifle along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Vijay Singh, a newly-recruited jawan, shot himself in Noushera forward belt of Rajouri district last evening, PRO, Defence, Col R K Palta said here today.

The Army has ordered a Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the incident to ascertain the reason behind the suicide, he said.
The 22-year-old jawan was taken by his colleagues to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.

Singh hailed from Faridabad in Haryana and the body is being shifted to his native place.

In another incident, a Special Police Official (SPO) Mohmmad Riyaz tried to consume poison at his residence in Darhal area of Rajouri district and was shifted to hospital for treatment last night.


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal