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Thursday, 1 November 2012

From Today's Papers - 01 Nov 2012
Senior Army officer’s case referred to Law Ministry
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, October 31
The Defence Ministry has asked the Law Ministry to adjudicate on a plea filed by a Lieutenant General of the Indian Army, who has alleged that he was bypassed for promotion. The case assumes significance as the decision could result in yet another battle for the top post of Army Chief.

Defence Minister AK Antony referred the matter to the Law Ministry after Lt Gen Ravi Dastane filed a statutory complaint, sources said today.

Lt Gen Dastane, who is now posted as Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), has commanded the Leh-based 14 Corps.

He had filed his complaint to Army Chief General Bikram Singh, who referred it to the Ministry of Defence, which has now asked the Law Ministry to give its opinion.

In his complaint, Lt Gen Dastane contended that he was one of the three most senior officers when two posts of the Eastern Army Commander and the Western Army Commander fell vacant on May 31 after General VK Singh retired.

While General Bikram Singh vacated his post as the Eastern Army Commander, Western Command chief Lt Gen Shankar Ghosh retired on May 31.

Lt Gen Dastane contended that he fulfilled all conditions to become an Army Commander but was denied the post of Eastern Army Commander, as it was kept vacant for Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who was facing a vigilance ban, sources said.

On May 31, when the two posts of Army Commander fell vacant, three officers were on the seniority list - Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag followed by Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra and Lt Gen Dastane.

While Lt Gen Chachra was promoted as the Western Army Commander, Lt Gen Suhag could not be promoted before the vigilance ban against him was removed on June 8 and his seniority restored on June 15.

He was then made the Eastern Army Command chief. Lt Gen Dastane contended that he should have been considered for promotion when Lt Gen Suhag was facing a DV ban, imposed by the then Army Chief, General VK Singh.

Sources said if Lt Gen Dastane’s plea was accepted and was made the Army Commander from retrospective date of June 1, he would become senior to Lt Gen Suhag, who became an Army Commander on June 15.

As a result, when General Bikram Singh retires on July 31, 2014, Lt Gen Dastane will be the most senior Lt General in line for the top post.

General Dastane's plea

    On May 31, two posts of Army Commander fall vacant
    Three officers - Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, Lt Gen Dastane - are on seniority list
    While Lt Gen Chachra is promoted as Western Army Commander, Lt Gen Suhag, who is facing a vigilance ban, is given charge of Eastern Army Command once the ban is removed on June 8
    Lt Gen Dastane contends he should have been considered for promotion when Lt Gen Suhag was facing a vigilance ban|head
Airbus Wins India’s Tanker Rebid
EW DELHI — Airbus has been selected as the preferred vendor over Russia’s Ilyushin to supply six aerial tankers for the Indian Air Force in a $1 billion tender, according to Indian Defence Ministry officials.

After the commercial bids were opened earlier this month, the base price of the Russian Il-78 tanker was quoted as lower than that of the A330, but when factoring in maintenance and fuel costs, the Airbus was the better value, said a Defence Ministry official. The official refused to provide the exact quotes of the bids, and said the Russian government-owned company had not yet been officially informed about the decision.

Russian diplomats confirmed they had not been informed of the Airbus selection.

Boeing withdrew from the competition in 2010, leaving only the A330 and Il-78 in competition. The tender in 2010 also was sent to EADS, Lockheed Martin and Antonov of Ukraine. Antonov did not qualify, and Lockheed and Boeing did not participate.

The Indian Air Force is using six Il-78 midair refuelers bought from Uzbekistan and plans to buy 12 additional tankers, which includes the six from Airbus.

Defence Ministry sources said it is not yet decided if a fresh tender will be opened to buy the remaining six or if a repeat order will be given to the winner to the current competition.

The current tender is itself a rebid of a 2006 tender in which the A330 finished behind the Il-78 tanker, but the Indian Air Force preferred the European tanker. When the matter was sent to India’s Finance Ministry, it said the lowest bidder should be the winner. The controversy led to the cancellation of the tender.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony wrote the Indian Parliament on Dec. 14, 2009, that the Finance Ministry had expressed reservations about the competition.

“The procurement proposal had been progressed in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure — 2006 and thereafter referred to the Ministry of Finance who has expressed certain reservations relating to the competitiveness of the bids and the reasonableness of the price,” Antony wrote.

The Indian Air Force plans to deploy the tankers at Panagarh Air Base in the eastern state of West Bengal to help increase the range of its Su-30MKI fighter jets, which would enable the Indian aircraft to penetrate deeply into China, an Air Force official said.

In addition to lower fuel costs, the Airbus tanker is optimized for high-altitude cruise and fitted with advance avionics, the IAF official said.
Akash missile project director dead
Hyderabad, Oct. 31:

Top defence scientist and project director of Akash missile (surface to air missile) Ramprasad Ramakrishna Panyam died of a massive cardiac arrest.

An outstanding Scientist and Associate Director of Defence Research and Development Laboratory, Hyderabad, Panyam was 58. He is survived by wife Nalini Panyam and two children.

He was instrumental in establishing the solid integral ramjet rocket technology in India. His contribution to Akash missile resulted in placement of production orders from the Indian Army and Indian Air Force, said a release from the Hyderabad-based laboratory.

Akash is one of the missile which has gone into production. The Bharat Dynamics Ltd was given orders to the tune of over Rs 5,000 crore initially to produce the missile for the Indian defence forces. The public sector company is in the process of establishing production lines to meet the demand.
The Two Myths of 1962
In the 50-odd articles that have appeared in the media on the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Sino-Indian Border War, two issues have not been adequately addressed. First: the myth that the Indian Army had not provided viable military options to the then Government of India. Second: The reasons for the non-use of the combat potential of the Indian Air Force.

Until 1959, the defence of NEFA, now called Arunachal Pradesh, was the responsibility of the Ministry of External Affairs and not the Ministry of Defence and its borders were manned by personnel of the Assam Rifles. Most Indian readers are not aware of this. This was done to avoid annoying the Chinese.

In 1957 when Lt. Gen. SPP Thorat took over command of the Eastern Army then based at Lucknow, his area of responsibility stretched all the way to the eastern end of India’s borders, but NEFA was not included until 1959 when border clashes began increasing in frequency and intensity.

After he had visited many places in his command, Thorat called for the maps of the area and made a thorough and detailed appreciation. He assessed that there were at least six major ingress points or passes in NEFA through which large and organised bodies of enemy forces with heavy equipment and transport could enter India. The terrain favoured the Chinese because the landscape across the border does not have steep hills and mountains but in fact a few kilometres down merges into the vast Tibetan Plateau. There would only be a limited advance due to the difficulties of terrain and the Chinese would have to go back before the passes became snowbound in winter. The use of motor transport and very large bodies of troops could not therefore be sustained along these routes for long periods of time.

In Thorat’s assessment, a minimum of 70 platoons, with 20 in reserve, were needed for the defence of the Northern Sector of NEFA. The Assam Rifles then had only 36 platoons. (Three platoons per company would mean some 30 plus companies or 10 battalions were needed to man what he called ‘screens’ or small bodies of troops to provide advance warning of a Chinese attack. The need for additional support troops, equipment, signals communication, mortars, artillery and the like was also listed. Additional troops were obviously needed for the main defences.1

After studying the topography of the terrain, Thorat then forecasted the need for setting up in-depth positions which could be properly defended because the terrain and access to roads would favour the defender. These positions were roughly half way between the McMahon Line and the foothills. Thorat also underscored the urgent need to develop roads and other surface infrastructure in the area to support the movement of such large bodies of our own troops. Earlier, in 1950-51, a committee led by Deputy Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Himmatsinghji2 had already toured the area very extensively and submitted a similar requirement for the development of the surface infrastructure. The tardy progress of this initiative was known. Both GB Pant, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and later Union Home Minister, and Dr. Sampurnanand, another Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, had directly complained to Nehru about this and yet little progress was achieved.

In 1959, the Indian Army’s 4th Division was ordered to move to the East after it had completed the now ‘famous’ Op. Amar Housing Project at Ambala for the Jawans under the ‘dynamic’ leadership of Lt. Gen. BM Kaul who was awarded the PVSM for it. On reaching the foothills, 7 Brigade, then under Brig. DK (Monty) Palit (a VrC of the 1947-48 Kashmir War and a horseman, Shikari and mountain trekking expert) walked all the way to Tawang and beyond as there was not even a jeep-able road in the West Kameng Division of NEFA and wrote an appreciation in which he chose Se La as the area where he would site his main brigade defences. By the time the war started, a jeep-able road linking Tezpur to Tawang had come up but beyond that the 30 odd kilometres to the border was still a hard slogging march. A helipad and some logistics areas were also established in the Tawang area. 3

On 8 October 1959, the Thorat plan was sent to Army Headquarters where General Thimayya approved it and personally showed the requirements to Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon. But Menon dismissed them as alarmist and unnecessary and boasted that he was confident of stopping the Chinese on his own with diplomacy and, therefore, the plans were not shown to Nehru. Another major reason for the rejection of the army’s plans arose from the inability of the civilian leadership to understand simple army tactics. Nehru had promised Parliament that he would defend every inch of Indian Territory. How could India defend every inch of her sacred land against the enemy if the army envisaged siting its main defences half way down in the foothills? The civilian leadership failed to realise that defending every inch of territory does not mean posting small groups of Jawans all along the border without mutual fire support and logistics back up. They also missed the role of the screens posted at points of likely ingress along the border. What if the Chinese came in and just stayed put? The army would then have to launch a counter attack to evict them. Thorat retired in May 1961 but was called to Delhi by Nehru after the battle in NEFA in October 1962. When Thorat personally showed him the plans, Nehru asked as to why he was not shown these earlier to which Thorat said Menon might provide the right answer.

In 1962, the Indian Air Force (IAF) then had some 25 Squadrons consisting of 100 each of Hunter, Mystere fighters and Canberra medium bombers, a squadron of photo-reconnaissance Canberra, some 75 each of relatively old slow speed and less capable Toofani and Vampire fighters and about 30 Gnat Mk.1 fighters in its inventory. The photo- reconnaissance Canberra had mapped the Chinese Road in Aksai Chin and provided a mosaic to Menon before Nehru made his statement on the issue in Parliament. A Canberra had also flown over NEFA but could not photograph the borders due to clouding. The pilot then flew below the clouds and visually confirmed the well-entrenched positions, Nissan Huts, artillery and transport of the Chinese PLA and reported this to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal AM Engineer, who was personally present at Jorhat airfield to brief and debrief the pilot on landing. 4 Before the war, a Hunter had been asked to fly over Ladakh but was not allowed to come down below 15,000 feet. This pilot later rose to be the Chief of Air Staff. The Hunters based at Ambala were more than capable of engaging the Chinese in Ladakh especially when Chushul was threatened. Rezangla would then have seen a very different outcome. According to my information, some experienced fighter pilots were already deployed at forward bases such as DBO and Chushul for Forward Air Controller (FAC) duties to direct the IAF fighters. Although JK Galbraith was correct in assuming that the Chinese invariably marched by night and across country, he based this on the experience of the Korean War. His belief that for this reason alone the IAF would have been ineffective is not quite correct since the entire Aksai Chin region is without even a ‘blade of grass’ and the road/paths followed by the PLA in Kameng and Lohit Divisions of NEFA could have been effectively attacked, interdicted or, better, Chinese logistics and heavy artillery across the border could also have been targeted. All of the fighting did not only occur under the cover of darkness. The IAF was already familiar with Machuka, Tezu, Heleluyang, Tri-Junction, Walong, Tawang, Sela and Bomdila in the East and DBO, Chushul, Rezangla, Chip Chap Valley in the West, since all of these areas were after all being air supplied for many years prior to the conflict. Finally, the use of IAF combat power would have in all probability prevented the second wave of Chinese attacks that came on 18 November. The Indian political leadership was apparently fearful of escalation into an all-out war!

The Army suffered reverses not for want of valour but due mainly to the inability of a few generals to see the situation in the right perspective, a total disconnect between the military and civilian political leadership, a false sense of bravado (‘Throw the Chinese Out’), the inexplicable reluctance to talk to the military leadership, Nehru’s fondness of relying upon foreign advice (Mountbatten in 1947 and Galbraith in 1962), and above all a major misreading of the prevailing geopolitical climate which caused Nehru to think that the Chinese would not attack India since that would invite the direct intervention of the super powers – a clear over estimation of India’s importance. Finally, neither the Army nor the political establishment saw it necessary to speak directly to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal AM Engineer, and take his views on the actual capabilities and effectiveness of the IAF. We must therefore not learn the wrong lessons from this 50 year old border conflict. India does not want war but what if it comes anyway.
Karnataka HC to Indian Army: Stop coming in the way of lovers like khaps do
his story could well be fodder for a sizzling silver screen romance, only the Karnataka High Court nipped the Indian Army’s opposition of two young lovers in the bud.

A Bangalore-based major who fell in love with a Sri Lankan student studying in the same city ran into trouble after the defence establishment got suspicious of his and his lover’s motives. In fact, according to a Times of India report the Army ordered an ‘investigation’ into Major Vikas Kumar’s ”purpose behind coming in contact with a foreign national”.

Representational image. Reuters

When Kumar, in order to get married to the 29-year-old Sri Lankan student, tried quitting from the service as the Army rules don’t allow serving officers to marry foreign nationals, his superiors refused to relieve him of his duties citing ‘staff crunch’. That is when he moved court.

A bench headed by chief justice Vikramjit Sen at the Karnataka High Court then rapped the Army saying that their bid to stop the lovers from being together is khap panchayat-like.

The TOI report says:

    Displeased with the arguments of the government counsel, Justice Sen observed: “This is not a khap panchayat, this is the Army.” He also said, “We can’t understand the Army’s stand at all. This is most unfortunate for the man. One of India’s Presidents, also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was married to a foreigner.” (A reference to K R Narayanan who was married to Ma Tint Tint of Myanmarese origin).
Army procurement must be subject to stringent oversight
Two recent reports related to procurement and purchases in the army provide cause for serious concern. First, in an internal audit carried out by the Comptroller of Defence Accounts, irregularities were found in 55 transactions under the Special Financial Powers of army commanders. The emergency purchases made by the generals not only led to an estimated financial loss of Rs 100 crore but also compromised security protocols. That the purchases were made in blatant disregard of guidelines, through agents rather than directly from manufacturers, calls for a thorough probe. The breach of protocol is further exemplified by the fact that in some cases the manufacturers were based in India itself.

Read along with the Italian report on the purchase of VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force — where three Indians are being probed for their role in the Rs 3,546 crore deal in which bribes to politicians and money laundering have been suspected — the evidence points to a deep-rooted malaise. It is clear that foreign military procurement is often compromised by middlemen and lobbyists. The end result is that the equipment procured is neither up to standards nor value for money. However, while boosting indigenous defence production is a good long-term strategy, Indian defence manufacturing is yet to become cutting edge. In such a scenario, foreign defence procurement must continue but with stringent oversight. This should also apply to generals exercising special financial powers. The army brass ought to be sensitised about financial profligacy and the corresponding loss to the public exchequer. Probity in defence deals must be maintained at all costs.

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