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Thursday, 27 December 2012

From Today's Papers - 27 Dec 2012
Gen VK Singh, military deals were in sharp focus
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, December 26
Even though former Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s public battle with the Ministry of Defence seems to be a distant event, he, with his actions, overshadowed everything else and defined the year for the ministry and the forces.

It was an eventful first half when several unprecedented events cast a shadow on civil-military relations and also the Indian Army got divided on ethnic lines like never before. Moreover, Gen VK Singh’s actions also exposed the under-belly of murky defence deals.

In January, Gen VK Singh did the unprecedented by becoming the first serving Army Chief to move the Supreme Court against the government seeking a correction to his date of birth (DoB). The apex court was not in favour of entertaining the petition asking that his DoB may be treated as May 10, 1951, instead of May 10, 1950. Gen VK Singh withdrew his petition.

In March, he levelled allegations against Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (retd) saying he offered him a Rs 14-crore bribe for okaying the purchase of Tatra heavy-duty trucks. As a result, the truck purchase was halted, the CBI registered a case on the allegations while VRS Natrajan, Chief of Bharat Earth Movers Limited, the India collaborator for the Tatra Trucks, was suspended.

In all this, Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament that he had asked Gen VK Singh to take action (on the bribe offer) but he did not want to pursue the matter for unknown reasons. Antony said he himself did not act on the allegations, as he had not received any written complaint from the Army Chief.

After a few more twists and turns, new Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh took over on June 1. He would not have made it to the top had Gen VK Singh’s plea on his DoB been accepted. As Gen VK Singh retired, Antony set the tone with curt message to the officialdom and the Army saying “carry no baggage of the past and the bitter developments” should not be carried forward.

In the middle of this, in April, a few retired Defence and civilian personnel moved the Supreme Court and tried to give a communal angle to the elevation of Gen Bikram Singh, saying Sikh groups had lobbied for him. The Supreme Court struck it down and refused to entertain the plea.

On international front, India conducted the first ever Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation with Saudi Arabia. On the security front, India in April entered the exclusive club of countries having long-range ballistic missile capability when it fired the Agni-V to reach a point 5,000 km away in the Indian Ocean with remarkable accuracy.

In November, the DRDO displayed its progress on the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability against missiles. The air interceptor missile was demonstrated to hit an incoming missile at an altitude of 15 km.

Antony did his bit for ex-servicemen by allowing dual pension for ex-servicemen who have also worked on the civilian side of the government.

The ministry also enhanced pensions for those who retired before January 1, 2006.
5 NCC cadets from Delhi drown in Periyar river

Malayatoor (Kerala), Dec 26
Five teenaged NCC cadets from Delhi attending the National Trekking camp of the National Cadet Corps drowned after being caught in a whirlpool while clicking photos in the Periyar River here today.

As part of the camp, the cadets were taken for trekking through different routes daily and today they went to the Mahagony Forest Plantation at Moolamkuzhi near the river, a senior NCC official said. The boys went into the river to click photographs and were caught in the whirlpool moments after which they drowned, Lt Col Madhusoodanan, Administrative Officer, NCC, who was in the camp, said.

"There are standing orders in all NCC camps not to go to the water bodies. The boys were also told not to get into the water. But they said they are just going to click some photographs", he said.

The deceased were identified as Hemant (15), a school student, Mohammed Dishan (19), Sabeesh Baqri (19), Dilshad Alam (18) and Gulvez Ahamed (18), college students.

An inquiry has been ordered into the incident, a Defence press release said. A pall of gloom descended on the camp following the incident.

Over 1,000 NCC cadets from across the country have congregated at Malayattoor for the 8-day national level trekking camp which began on December 23. The camp was being organised by the Ernakulam NCC Group of Kerala NCC Directorate.

The Ministry of Defence has ordered a probe into the incident. — PTI
Stars, stripes and chakras
The future of US-India defence ties
by Manohar Thyagaraj

TWO weeks ago, the US Senate passed an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act for 2013, asking the Pentagon to report on an approach for “normalising” the US defence trade and relationship with India, including discussions of co-production and co-development of defence systems.

Seen in isolation, this is a statement of intent by Capitol Hill, in particular spearheaded by Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, to provide some ballast on the defence relationship. In fact, this mirrors a quietly ongoing coalescence of the US government’s notorious interagency process on the very same issue.

This coming-together, a revolution of sorts in Washington’s India orientation, has been sparked by the Carter initiative — led by Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, with Indian NSA Shivshankar Menon as his interlocutor. When taken together with the interest shown by Capitol Hill, the US now has a superstructure in place to look holistically at issues surrounding defence ties with Delhi, including India’s long-expressed concerns about technology release.

The November 6 election results conferred the blessing of continuity on President Obama’s “Asian pivot”. While the re-balancing of US strategic priorities in Asia will be happening regardless, India has a chance to shape this debate.

There is not yet a uniform understanding in Washington as to what military capabilities India might need assistance from the US in developing. This is the kind of discussion that the interagency coalescence encouraged by the Carter initiative is intended to bolster. India could table a discussion on areas it deems national priorities, and has a forum to raise specific export control cases.

From India’s perspective, what it might want to request from the US in terms of co-development possibilities or technical assistance would depend on an in-depth assessment of the out-of-area contingency operations it anticipates conducting on its own or jointly with other countries over the long-term (20-25 years).

The immediate future of the defence relationship will be measured along two fronts: first — the health of the defence trade, which includes not just Indian procurements of US defence equipment, but also co-production and co-development as long-term goals.

Here, India has been looking to the US as a supplier to its defence modernisation, with $8 billion worth of contracts being signed since 2008, and the positive experience of the delivery of the C130J aircraft ahead of schedule and under budget. The US is in line to be awarded additional contracts for M-777 Howitzers, Apache helicopters and Chinook helicopters. Follow-on orders are in the offing for C-130Js, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and C-17 heavy airlift aircraft.

With the security of the sea-lines of communication in the Asia-Pacific being of such mutual concern, future programmes could include the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and, if MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) issues are resolved, possibly Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS).

On the co-development side, many options appear to be open, and the direction taken will depend on where India wants to put its money, what system or platform branches of military service on either side will buy into, and what the export market for it would be.

The second front for measuring defence relations is the broad ambit of capacity building. This would include technical training and joint exercises. At the moment, the discussion gates appear to be open on technical training in many areas in which India expresses its interest. For instance, in the training of Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) for the Vikramaditya and subsequent aircraft carriers in the Indian Navy. Both countries conduct regular joint exercises, which is anticipated to continue apace.

Capacity building is a function of the quality of service-service interaction, for which regular exchanges of officers are vital. Services in both countries could also discuss regional contingencies in which they might be required to jointly operate, and without putting in place a priori arrangements that are politically charged, work on tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in case called on to do so.

As the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently identified, one area that is a good candidate for discussion on capacity building is humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief, feeding off the successful instance of both navies working together during the tsunami relief effort in 2004-2005.

The ongoing challenge for both governments is to define what exactly this “strategic relationship” is in form and function, in which context a defence relationship will mature. A historically mercurial relationship has settled into a pattern, where both Washington and New Delhi now largely understand the in principle intersection of grand national interests across many fronts, but recognize that the de facto reality cannot always reflect this. What disagreements there are can mostly be managed as being those between friends.

For India, the point to be noted is that the new superstructure offers promise to deal in a regularised manner with the issues it has historically complained about the most in regards to technology denial. It must educate its own internal constituencies to this effect, failing which it runs the risk of slowing down real collaborative possibilities.

There are still skeptics in both capitals — those bruised by past battles over non-proliferation, export control, nuclear issues, or just simple inertia — who think that nothing will ever change in either the US attitude towards India, or India’s attitude towards the US.

To them, a US-India defence relationship is the Teumessian fox from Greek mythology, the animal that can never be caught. The god Cephalus used the hound who caught everything he hunted — Laelaps — to try and catch the fox. The optimists on US-India defence ties have bet on the hound. It might just take him a while.
Former Army chief Gen VK Singh's security cover removed
NEW DELHI: The government has stripped former Army chief General VK Singh of his Z-Plus security cover.

The former Army chief, who waged a messy battle while in office with the defence ministry over his age, is now actively taking part in protests over corruption, the Delhi gang rape and other issues.

Government sources said the decision to withdraw all security provided to Gen Singh, from December 1 onwards, was taken after a home ministry review meeting last month held that Singh does not require any protection since there is 'no threat perception'.

"Normally, all retiring Army chiefs get Z-Plus security for six months. It continues after that only if the threat perception is high. Gen Singh will, however, continue to stay in his government accommodation in Delhi Cantonment for six months more since he had earlier sought and obtained permission for it from defence minister AK Antony," said a source.

As a Z-Plus protectee, Gen Singh had around 30-35 Army personnel providing him with 'proximate security' round-the-clock in shifts as well as six to seven vehicles including the main bullet-proof one.

While these have now been withdrawn, as also the Delhi Police outer cover, he will continue to get 'a few sahayaks and secretarial staff' as a former Army chief.

Gen Singh who retired on May 31, has been participating in several street campaigns and rallies against the government, particularly those led by Anna Hazare, and has even called for the dissolution of Parliament.

This had provoked some to question Gen Singh's actions as 'a political activist' while continuing to stay in government accommodation with a heavy-duty security cover.

Gen Singh and yoga guru Ramdev were also among the seven named in an FIR by the Delhi Police for allegedly inciting a crowd to march from Jantar Mantar to India Gate to protest against the gang rape in Delhi despite police restrictions.

In an indication of the extent to which Gen Singh had rattled the government while in office can be gauged from the fact that Antony — on the day the former chief retired — had urged the military brass and the civilian bureaucracy to shed their 'bitterness' and work closely together now.

Antony had then candidly admitted that the last six to eight months of the tenure of Gen Singh, who became the first serving military chief to drag the government to court over his date of birth controversy, was 'a turbulent phase, an aberration' that must not be carried forward.

Since then, new Army chief Gen Bikram Singh has ordered the shutting down of the Army's Technical Support Division (TSD), which reported directly to his predecessor and was accused of clandestinely tapping the telephones of top defence ministry officials during his prolonged stand-off with the government earlier this year, as earlier reported by TOI.
A much needed Army chronicle
The Official History Of Indian Armed Forces In The Second World War 1939-45, put together by the history division of ministry of defence in eight volumes, which had been finished and forgotten for decades, finally got reprinted by Pentagon Press and released at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses on 30 October 2012. The defence ministry’s effort was welcomed by scholars and historians.
The Army’s strength at the beginning of World War II, was about 200,000 men. By the end of the war in August 1945, it had become the largest volunteer Army in history, rising to over 2.5 million men. Serving in formations infantry, armour and a fledgling airborne force, they fought on three continents — Africa, Europe and Asia.
However, the bulk of the Indian Army was committed to fighting the Japanese Army, first during the British defeats in Malaya and the retreat from Burma to the Indian border; later, after resting and refitting for the victorious advance back into Burma, as part of the largest British Empire army ever formed. These campaigns cost the lives of over 36,000 Indian servicemen, while another 34,354 were wounded, and 67,340 became prisoners of war. In March 1944, Japan initiated an offensive into India and advanced as far as Kohima in Nagaland.
The British appreciated the valour of Indian soldiers during the World War II with the award of some 4,000 decorations. Twenty-eight Indian personnel were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), while 8 were awarded the George Cross (GC). Victoria Cross is the highest award for exceptional bravery the face of the enemy for Commonwealth armed forces, while George Cross is the highest gallantry award for civilians as well as for military personnel for actions not against the enemy. Originally awarded only to living personnel, posthumous awards were allowed from 1905. Another rule of this award being only for whites was broken in World War I, when the British had to accept and acknowledge the bravery of Indian soldiers.
Most of the Indian regiments and descendants of those Indian soldiers who participated in World War II — apart from the those which were transferred to form the Pakistan Army on partition — have constantly and repeatedly ensured India’s integrity, amply disproving unfounded doubts nursed by some of India’s founding political leaders.
The members of the Advisory Committee, under chairman, Dr Bhisheshwar Prasad, secretary, ministry Of defence for collating this history were Dr Tara Chand, Dr S.N.Sen Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, Prof. Mohamed Habib, Dr R.C.Majumdar, Lt. Gen. Sir Dudley Russell, Lt. Gen. K.S.Thimayya, Lt. Gen. S.P.P.Thorat and military advisor to the high commissioner of Pakistan in India. Many more Armed Forces officers and scholars were involved in putting together the campaigns.
Greatly impressed by the fighting capability of Indian troops, British officers in Indian regiments swore by them. Their epitomes were those like Field Marshal Sir William Joseph Slim and General Sir Claude Auchinleck — a commendable field commander and multi-linguist in Indian languages — was most highly regarded. However, during World War II, Auchinlech’s successor, the pompous, publicity-crazy Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, “1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein”, was one who certainly did not like Indians. No wonder, because Montgomery was a favourite of then British Premier Winston Churchill — rabidly anti-Indian — who reportedly opined: “Indians are a beastly people with a beastly religion”.
It was in 1995, when Allied countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their victory of World War II, that UK invited Indian VC awardees to attend the ceremonies and then prime minister John Major hiked their pensions to £100, but by that time there were very few still alive.
In October 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron, announced that £50 million would be spent by this government to observe the centenary of the start of World War I in August 2014.
It is a fact of history that the Indian Army then was the second largest component of the Allied forces. Indians arrived in Europe to join the war within a month of the outbreak of hostilities and more Indians died in World War I (69,000) than in any other conflict in the 20th Century.
Immediately after Independence, Indian Army was drastically downsized to less than half of what it was then — about 11,00,000 today — and officers’ salaries were slashed. And forget about acknowledging Indian Army’s World War II role, even giving due acknowledgement of it defending the country in numerous conflicts after Independence by way of timely increases in salaries, not only were Armed Forces Chiefs pushed far down in the order of precedence over the years, the recent anomaly in the grant of Non Functional Upgradation of pay to defence forces has caused serious command and control and functional problems, severely impacting progress of infrastructure development in border areas and social infrastructure in the hinterland.
The Official History Of Indian Armed Forces In The Second World War deserves to be read widely by both Indians and scholars/historians of Allied nations.
For Indians because this war was a major factor which hastened India’s independence. Because, while it has never been acknowledged officially, the fact remains that after World War II, it was the Royal Indian Navy’s mutiny which shocked the British.
Grave apprehension of what could happen if it spread to the very professional Indian Army, convinced them to wisely swiftly exit safely.

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