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Thursday, 31 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 31 Jan 2013
China to construct three more dams on Brahmaputra

Beijing, January 30
China has approved construction of three more dams on Brahmaputra river in Tibet in addition to the one being built, and much to the disquiet of India, it has not been informed about the plans so far.

A document approved by the Chinese cabinet recently mentioned three dams to be built at Dagu, Jiacha and Jiexu on Brahmaputra, Indian officials here said.

The document listing projects to be completed in China's 12th five year plan made a passing reference to the three dams without any details, they said. India has not been informed about the move so far, they said.

Asked about the plans to build the dams, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei told a media briefing here that "China has always taken a responsible attitude towards the development of cross border rivers".

"Any new project has to go through scientific planning and study with consideration of the interests of lower and upper stream countries", he said.

Brahmaputra river is known as Yarlung Zangbo in China. Asked whether plans to build the dams have been approved and whether India and Bangladesh, which were lower riparian countries of the river, have been informed, Hong said he needs to get specific information.

Beijing's decision comes at a time when India-China relations have improved considerably in all areas of cooperation and the two countries held lengthy round of the bilateral exchanges during National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon's visit here with his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo.

Sharing of cross-border river waters has figured in the discussions but apparently China has not informed India of its plans to build the dams. In his interactions with media after the talks, Menon has spoken about the two sides discussing water flows and China assurance that nothing what it is doing will affect the flows. — PTI
Navy, IAF adjudged best marching contingents
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
The Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been jointly declared the best marching contingents among the services and the CISF among the paramilitary forces in this year's Republic Day parade.

For the first time since India became a Republic, the Indian Navy marching contingent has won the award for the 'best marching contingent" at the parade.

Kerala won the prize for the best Republic Day tableau while Rajasthan was chosen second and Chhattisgarh third in the category of "best three tableaux", the official said.

The tableau presented by the Central Public Works Department has been selected for a special prize.

Children of the Eastern Zone Cultural Centre, Kolkata, won the prize for "best schoolchildren item" for Purulia's Chhau Dance. The consolation prize was won by Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Amalwas, New Delhi.

The official said three panels of judges were appointed for assessing the performance of marching contingents from the three services and paramilitary forces, the various tableaux and items presented by schoolchildren.
Zardari in difficult straits
Many factors may hit his party’s poll prospects
by G. Parthasarathy

President Asif Ali Zardari appears set to go down in Pakistan's history as the first head of a democratically elected government to complete its full term, without having been destabilised, dismissed or ousted by a military coup. President Zardari was under constant siege not only from his hawkish Army Chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, but also from the country's mercurial Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Chief Justice bears a deep grudge against the President because of the latter's disinclination to restore him to office after he was summarily sacked by President Musharraf in 2007.

The empathy between the Chief Justice and General Kayani goes back to the days when as DG (ISI), then Lt-General Kayani was the only army officer close to Musharraf who did not harangue the Chief Justice when Musharraf summoned and summarily sacked him in 2007. Moreover, while pretending to be a champion of democratic freedoms, Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had the dubious distinction of being among the first judges to sanctify the military coup by General Musharraf in October 1999. He was then Chief Justice of the Baluchistan High Court.

While haranguing the elected government and seeking the arrest of two prime ministers, the Chief Justice has treaded very warily in dealing with serving army officers. His decision to order the arrest of the present Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, came even while he looked the other way at allegations of kickbacks and illegal cash transfers in shady property deals by his son Arsalan Iftikhar. Moreover, General Kayani himself now has a tainted reputation even within the ranks of the army because of serious allegations of corruption and irregularities on the transit of NATO supplies against his brother.

President Zardari's troubles were compounded by the strange and unexpected return to Pakistan Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Barelvi cleric, who controls a vast network of charities, running hundreds of schools, colleges, libraries and medical facilities, primarily in the populous army-dominated Punjab province. A majority of Pakistanis are Barelvis and constitute a powerful, though leaderless and disorganised, vote bank.

While Qadri supported the 1999 coup by General Musharraf and was elected to Parliament, he soon found that he was marginalised because of the close links the military had with Wahabi-oriented groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, which periodically target and kill Barelvis and Shias. He obtained political asylum in Canada, leading many to allege that with his strong views against terrorism, he enjoyed CIA and western backing.

Collecting around 30,000 supporters, Qadri undertook a “Long March” to Islamabad, where he demanded that the present “corrupt” government be replaced by an interim government, appointed by the Army Chief and the Chief Justice. He also demanded removal of the highly respected Chief Election Commissioner Justice Fakhruddin Ebrahim. Interestingly, Chief Justice Chaudhry ordered the arrest of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on charges of corruption on the same day that Qadri reached the capital, sparking off yet another constitutional crisis. Pakistan's squabbling political parties got together and rejected Qadri's demands while calling for early elections as mandated by the Constitution. The National Accountability Bureau, investigating the case against the Prime Minister, rejected the Supreme Court's order for his arrest, stating that investigations in the case were still ongoing.

The Zardari government and Qadri reached an agreement on January 18, leading to the end of the agitation in Islamabad. While Qadri's demand for a national government appointed by General Kayani and Justice Chaudhry was rejected, the government agreed that the cleric would be “consulted” in the formation of an interim government. His other demands like the dismissal of the Chief Election Commissioner were also rejected. The government agreed that the National and Provincial Assemblies would be dissolved by March 16 and elections thereafter held within 90 days. It remains to be seen how a consensus would be reached on the formation of an interim government, though both major parties, the PPP and the PML (N), appear agreed that the army must not be allowed to intervene, using the Chief Justice and the likes of Maulana Qadri as proxies.

Preparations for the forthcoming elections are now gathering momentum. The anti-incumbency factor, amidst rising inflation, endemic power shortages and allegations of corruption will weigh heavily against President Zardari's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP). This is, however, countered by growing anti-Punjabi sentiments in rural Sind, the bastion of the PPP, about the assassination of two Sindhi Prime Ministers, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, purportedly at the hands of the Punjabi military establishment. Bilawal Bhutto has already played on these sentiments. More importantly, an important card for the ruling PPP-PML (Q) Alliance is its support for a separate state of “Seraikistan,” to be carved out of the Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan regions of South Punjab.

There is alienation in this Seraiki-speaking region against discrimination by Punjabi-speaking rulers, from the army-dominated North Punjab. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (N) have opposed this move and will find themselves at a disadvantage in South Punjab against a powerful array of politicians like Deputy Prime Minister Pervaiz Elahi and former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. With 80 per cent of Punjab's development budget going to the army-dominated North, which also dominates the Police and civil services, Seraiki grievances run deep. Insensitivity of the Punjabi establishment towards the aspirations of others has contributed significantly to the alienation in other parts of the country. The PML (N) is seeking to forge alliances with sectarian Barelvi groups to counter the Muhajir-dominated MQM in urban centres like Karachi and Hyderabad and in Punjab. Imran Khan, the favourite of jihadi and Taliban-oriented outfits and the military establishment, has been losing momentum but is likely to eat into sections of the traditional vote base of the PML (N).

The present scenario can change in the next five months in the run-up to the elections, given the propensity of the army to covertly influence the dynamics of politics. The army's traditional animosity towards the PPP runs deep as do its fears of what a strong leader from the Punjabi heartland like Nawaz Sharif can do to erode its domination of national life. Maulana Qadri's proposal for a caretaker government appointed by the army and the Chief Justice enjoyed tacit army support. Both Chief Justice Chaudhry and General Kayani are scheduled to retire this year. A handpicked caretaker government would perhaps not be adversely disposed to suitably “accommodating” them after their superannuation!
Mumbai varsity course text has material from Pakistani defence site
THANE: Thousands of undergraduate students, studying under the University of Mumbai, have taken lessons on human rights violations, the caste divide in India, and the alleged communal bias of the Indian Army and police from a Foundation Course-II (FC-II) book that has material sourced from Pakistan's defence website.

TOI reported on January 18 that Professor Michael Vaz authored the book, which has the controversial and communally sensitive content and is meant for first and second-year students. Vaz now claims that he was unaware that the selective content in the book came from the Pakistani site. "I was unaware that some of the content in the book was sourced from the Pakistan defence website. I do not want to talk on this issue, but will assure you that the new book will delete all such controversial references," Vaz told TOI. Critics had termed content in the book's chapter " Human Rights Violations and Redressal" as controversial.

The book, published by Mannan Prakashan, stirred a string of protests from political parties, with senior BJP functionary Sanjay Kelkar and general secretary from Navi Mumbai, Santosh Pachlag, holding a demonstration and burning copies of the book at Vashi, Navi Mumbai on January 18.

Pachlag said that less than a week after the TOI report, Vaz sent him a letter of regret stating that the controversial content in the book was not his own comments, but were sourced from newspaper reports and articles on the net. "In his letter, Professor Vaz shared the URL from where he had copied the content. One of the links was that of Pakistan's defence, wherein a commentator had painted a picture of India as an anarchic state torn by communal bias and caste-hatred," said Pachlag. "It's all vague commentary taken out of context by the writer and used to demonize India. However, it is very unfortunate that our students should be taught all that and that too in their textbook."

Pachlag added, "The topics in the FC course are meant to sensitize the student community towards human rights violations and bring before it a true picture of the goings-on. Instead, the book is a propaganda tool for spreading lies about our nation and Professor Vaz has copied the content from a Pakistani website without bothering to verify the facts. Neither has the learned academician or the publisher thought it important to present a view and counter-view on the issue and now they want to wash their hands of the controversy."

Pachlag said the book's publisher, Nitin Shah, has given an unconditional apology, but it is too little too late as students have prepared for their exams from the book which is bound to colour their minds.

The BJP functionary added that they will take up the case with the police and press for sedition charges against the author and publisher. "It is not only anti-national but also a fraud as there is a clear copyright violation here by the author."

Vaz, on his part, said his new book would be vetted carefully and any blame ascribed to political parties or the mentioning of names would be strictly avoided.
No Knowledge of Pakistan Complaints, Indian Officials Say
Following the recent killings of Indian and Pakistani soldiers near the Kashmir border, a local newspaper reported classified United Nations documents show that the cycle of violence between troops of the two countries has continued despite the cease-fire in 2003.

The Hindu, a national English-language daily newspaper, said Wednesday that Pakistan has repeatedly complained to the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan about the killings of at least 18 of its soldiers, including four beheadings, by Indian forces between 2000 and 2011. The United Nations group was set up in 1949 to monitor cease-fire violations between the two countries.

Indian officials denied the report on Wednesday.

In the worst flare-up since the 2003 cease-fire, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire near the Line of Control earlier this month, resulting in deaths on both sides. At the time, India accused Pakistan of beheading one of its soldiers, a charge Pakistan denies.

Among the complaints it filed, Pakistan alleged in 2003 that Indian forces decapitated one of its soldiers, the Hindu said.

The Hindu also reported that Pakistan also complained that Indian forces decapitated two civilians during a massacre in the village of Bandala in 1998, which claimed 22 civilian lives.

Indian army spokesperson Col. Jagdeep Dahiya described the article as “erroneous and speculative.”

“The Indian Army is highly professional and does not indulge in un-soldierly acts as alleged in the article,” he said. “The very fact that Pakistan has not raised such issues in bilateral interactions since 1998 bears testimony to allegations leveled against the Indian army being misleading,” he said.

Col. Dahiya also said that there is an existing mechanism to regulate conflict near the line of control between India and Pakistan. “The article seems to have been based on one-sided allegations made by the Pakistan army to UNMOGIP,” he said, an organization whose status is questionable.

Sitanshu Kar, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Defense, said that he had no knowledge of Pakistan’s complaints to the United Nations group, and that he had not been contacted for The Hindu article. “It’s the first time I’m hearing about this,” he said. “I have not seen any such document.”

Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for the India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said that India did not have any formal exchange with the United Nations Military Observer Group. “We feel that Unmogip has outlived its relevance,” he said. The country’s relationship with the organization ended after India and Pakistan entered the 1972 Simla Agreement, in which both countries said they would resolve their disputes bilaterally.

Mr. Akbaruddin added that Pakistan had not raised these complaints directly with India. “Frankly, this is not a discussion we have had diplomatically,” he said.

An official at the United Nations organization’s office in Srinagar refused to comment on the report, or whether such complaints by Pakistan had been received. Calls made to the group’s office in Delhi were not answered.

Lt. Gen. Baljit Singh Jaswal, who from October 2009 to December 2010 led the Northern Command, which supervises troops in Jammu and Kashmir, said that India had engaged in no cross-border violations during that time.

General Jaswal, now retired, added that Pakistan had violated the cease-fire “numerous times” and that India had exchanged retaliatory fire.
Indian Army denies torturing, decapitating Pakistanis
The Indian Army Wednesday described as "erroneous and speculative" a media report that Indian soldiers had tortured and decapitated Pakistani troops.

The army said in a statement that it was a "highly professional force and does not indulge in unsoldierly acts as alleged" in the newspaper story.

"The very fact that Pakistan has not raised any such issue in bilateral interactions since 1998 bears testimony to the allegations being misleading," it said.

It said it was incorrect to say that there was no agreed mechanism to regulate conflicts along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

It said that "existing hotlines were effective in reducing the tensions along the LoC recently". A front-page story in a newspaper Wednesday reported classified Pakistani protests to the UN that accused Indian troops of torture and decapitation of at least 12 Pakistani soldiers in cross-LoC raids since 1998.

The report and the army denial follow tensions along the LoC after a Pakistani soldier was killed Jan 6 by the Indian Army and Pakistani troops killed two Indian soldiers two days later.One of the Indian soldiers was beheaded and the head carried away. The other soldier's body was reportedly mutilated.

The Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries have since agreed to stick to the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 30 Jan 2013
Army hospitals still procure drugs shunned by controlling authority
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, January 29
In a revelation that reflects upon the control and monitoring mechanism of the Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) as well as on updating the knowledge base at the local level, military hospitals have been procuring drugs no longer recommended by their controlling authority.

A number of military hospitals continued to procure such drugs through local purchase even three years after an amended list of drugs was issued by the DGAFMS in 2009. Hospitals are holding such drugs worth lakhs of rupees.

A drug review committee (DRC) at DGAFMS periodically reviews drugs in the priced vocabulary of medical stores (PVMS) list and marks out drugs that are to be deleted from the list. The amended list is then issued to the medical heads of the three services for implementation.

Several factors govern the deletion of drugs from the PVMS list, which include drugs no longer being in vogue, drugs becoming obsolete due to serious or life threatening side-effects, or the introduction of new drugs. The last DRC was held in September 2008 and the amended list issued was in June 2009.

According to available information, Command Hospital, Chandimandir, procured ‘deleted’ drugs worth about Rs 18.66 lakh, while Army Hospital (Research and Referral) at New Delhi, the force’s most prestigious and advanced medicare institute, spent over Rs 9 lakh on such purchases. Base Hospital, Delhi, spent Rs 2.5 lakh. Procurements by other hospitals across the country also run into several lakh rupees each.

This revealed that the process adopted by the DGAFMS to cut procurement of drugs that it no longer found suitable to meet its requirements was not being strictly implemented, thereby affecting the established system to achieve better patient care.

The DGAFMS controls 133 military hospitals and 90 field hospitals in addition to medical stores depots. These are authorised to make local purchases of drugs, kits and consumables as authorised for their hierarchical level.

Hospitals on their part have contended that though the said drugs may have been deleted from the PVMS list, they were not banned for use by the Drug Controller of India and their procurement was made as per requirement or demands raised by hospitals wards. Authorities at some hospitals have decided to gradually stop the use of ‘deleted’ medicines in a phased manner. ‘Deleted’ drugs procured by: Command Hospital, Chandimandir: Erythroprotein, Norfloxacine, Amikacin Sulphate, Salbutamol Army Research and Referral Hospital, Delhi: Secnidozole, Thalidomide, Glutamide, Lignocaine Base Hospital, Delhi: Doxazocin, Thalidomide, Ketoanlogue, Betalistidine
Army rejects calls to raise new units based on caste or religion
NEW DELHI: The Army has once again strongly rejected calls for raising new "single-class" units like the Gujarat, Kalinga, Dalit, Ahir, Paswan or Tribal regiments as well as attempts to tinker with its "time-tested" regimental system.

"The policy since Independence is not to raise any new regiment on the basis of a particular class, creed, community, religion or region but to have a force in which all Indians have representation. This is the well-defined position of both the defence ministry and Army," said a senior official.

Added a top general, "Politics should not be played with the apolitical armed forces. The Army is an inclusive, secular force, open to all. It's for that reason the force had even opposed the religious headcount proposed by the Sachar Committee in 2005-06."

Having just finished with the Republic Day celebrations as well as the Army Day on January 15, which marks the day when Field Marshal K M Cariappa became the first Indian chief of the force in 1949, the 1.13-million-strong Army is equally steadfast about resisting any changes in its regimental system.

But it's the existence of this system, with a preponderance of "single-class" regiments like the Sikh, Gorkha, Dogra, Garhwal, Jat and the like, which propels politicians and others to demand a Dalit Regiment, like LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan often does, or a Gujarat Regiment, as proposed by L K Advani when he was the deputy prime minister.

Single-class or "pure" regiments were raised during the Raj based on the classification of certain communities as "martial races". After 1947, India, however, decided to continue with these caste or community-based units because "regimental history, ethos and loyalty" was considered to be the main driving force in combat effectiveness and operational performance.

"Soldiers from the same clan fight better from the same foxhole. These tradition-bound regiments have proved themselves in combat in all conflicts since 1947. They should not be dismantled," said a major-general.

This "battalion esprit de corps" was quite evident during the 1999 Kargil conflict. Quizzed why they had made those daredevil assaults against fortified positions held by Pakistani intruders, the common refrain among jawans was that the "paltan's izzat" (the battalion's honour) was at stake, more than loftier notions about fighting for the flag and the country.

While officers can be commissioned into any unit, the infantry's 23 regiments — with over 350 battalions under them — are basically of three types. Single-class units constitute around 60% of the whole. Even among them, the further sub-divisions are based on community or caste. The Army's seven Gorkha Rifles, for instance, recruit separately from the Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Magar and other communities, both from India and Nepal.

The aim after Independence has been to raise "All India-All Class" regiments, like the Brigade of Guards, where jawans are recruited from all over the country irrespective of class and percentage. "The endeavour is to progressively move towards such regiments," said a Brigadier.

In between these two are the "mixed" and "fixed" class units like the Grenadiers or the Mahar Regiment. The 4 Grenadiers, for instance, has two companies of Jats, one company of Muslims and one company of Dogras. Similarly, Rajputana Rifles has an equal mix between Rajputs and Jats, while the Rajput Regiment mainly has Rajputs and Gujars with a sprinkling of Muslims and Bengalis.

"Jawans, with similar language and eating habits, have kinship, brotherhood...they form a cohesive fighting force. Even in mixed class regiments like Grenadiers, individual companies - the basic fighting units — are `pure'," said a Colonel.

The other "fighting arms" like the armoured corps and artillery also have several instances of "pure" units among them. Many artillery medium or field regiments, for instance, are "pure" ones recruiting only Gorkhas, Sikhs, Jats, Ahirs or Marathas into their respective folds. But "support" arms like ASC, EME, Ordnance, Signals and the like are resolutely "all-class" units.
Indian army responsible for attack on Pakistan
NEW DELHI: Pakistan attack on Indian army was a reprisal to latter’s Sunday assault on former’s post, India media reported Thursday.

The reports citing sources in New Delhi’s ministries of internal and defence affairs on Thursday held Indian soldiers responsible for escalation of tensions between the two countries. The reports said that commandos from 9th Maratha Light Infantry caused provocation by launching attack on Pakistani position.

Sources in both the ministries said Islamabad attack was a response to Indian assault. The reports claimed that Brigadier Gulab Singh Rawat deputed at Charchanda Sector along the Line of Control (LOC) decided to launch aggressive attack that led to killing of Pakistani soldiers, including a commissioned officer.

A report pointed out that Brigadier Singh was an aggressive officer and his behavior affected nine-year old ceasefire agreement between both the countries.

The Indian army has ordered an investigation into the matter and a decision was likely against Brigadnier Singh, the India media reports said.
India Reverses Gear, Puts Arjun Tank Back in Production
India’s indigenous Arjun tank project began in 1974, and originally aimed to replace the Russian T-54 and T-72 tanks which made up the bulk of that country’s armored firepower. As has often been the case in India, its DRDO government weapons development agency sought an entirely made in India solution, even though this would require major advances on a number of fronts for Indian industry. As has often been the case in India, the result was a long and checkered history filled with development delays, performance issues, mid-project specifications changes by India’s military, and the eventual purchase of both foreign substitutions within the project (now 58% of the tank’s cost) and foreign competitors from outside it (the T-90S).

The 58.5 tonne Arjun tank wasn’t fielded with the Indian Army until May 2009. In contrast, Pakistan’s much more time-limited, scope-limited, and budget conscious approach in developing and successfully fielding its T-80UD “Al-Khalid” tank is often cited by Arjun’s detractors.

The Russian T-90S will form the mainstay of India’s future force, despite that tank’s performance issues in hot weather. That won’t change, but after beating the T-90 in a number of trials, the Arjun now has a clear future in India…
The Arjun is an indigenous project, but not wholly so. Imported items such as the engine/ power pack, gunner’s main sight, and other components account for 58% of each tank’s cost. This is not uncommon around the world. Israel’s Merkava tank family also relies on a foreign-built engine, for instance, as does France’s Leclerc.

It is uncommon among Indian policy-makers, but the reality is that a series of project failures gave them little choice. The Arjun has been plagued with a mix of problems over its 36-year development history, including its fire control system, suspension issues, and poor mobility due to excessive weight. It has also grown from a 40-tonne tank with a 105mm gun, to a 62-67 tonne tank with a 120mm gun. Predictably, project costs spiraled up from Rs 15.5 crore in 1974 to Rs 306 crore (INR 3.06 trillion). The army was not pleased. In an unusual stance, they accepted the tank only after a third-party audit by an international tank manufacturer, and orders were strictly limited.

The Indian army didn’t even stand up its 1st Arjun armored regiment until May 2009, 35 years after the program began. To underscore the point, even that milestone followed a development that seemed to end the platform’s future. In July 2008, India had announced that production of the Arjun would be capped at the already-committed total of 124 vehicles. Instead, development would begin on a new next-generation tank, designed to survive and serve until 2040 or so.

That appeared to close the book on a failed project, but opinion in India was sharply split. Many observers cited this as the final failure. Other were noting the problems with the T-90s, and the Army’s refusal to conduct side-by-side tests, alongside recent test successes that began earning the Arun some military fans. In May 2010 desert trials alongside the T-90S, the Arjun did surprisingly well.

In response, the government and the Army changed course somewhat. Arjun production would double to 248. That’s an improvement, but DRDO insists that a 500 vehicle order is needed to give them the volume needed to iron out all production difficulties, and provide a platform for future development.

The Army’s plan still calls for 1,657 T-90S “Bhishma” tanks at about 12 crore (INR 120 million, about $2.78 million) each if prices remain stable. About 1,000 of those are slated to be built in India by Avadi Heavy Industries, the same firm that builds the Arjuns. They will be joined by just 248 Arjuns at about 16.8 crore (INR 168 million, about $3.92 million) each, as well as 692 older T-72 tanks upgraded to the T-72M1 “Ajeya” standard. This overall plan changes the force structure proposed in 2006, from 3,780 tanks (1,302 T-90s and 2,480 T-72s) to 2,597 higher-end tanks.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

From Today's Papers - 29 Jan 2013
Father, son make history, fly IAF’s AN-32 together
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
It was a regular sortie but with a difference. As an IAF’s AN-32 tactical transporter got airborne from Air Force Station, Vadodara, today it carved a niche in aviation history as the aircraft was being flown by a father-son crew. An act so far unrecorded in the history of the IAF’s transport fleet.

Air Commodore RS Sodhi, Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station, Vadodara, made this record with his son, Flight Lieutenant Angad Singh Sodhi, who is presently posted at 12 Squadron, based at Agra. The family hails from Chandigarh.

While a number of fathers and sons/daughters are serving in the IAF at the same time and have even been posted to the same station, the instance of a “family aircrew” on a regular operational sortie has been unheard of.

Three generations of this family have served with the Indian Air Force. It began with Wg Cdr Bhupender Singh Sodhi (retd) joining the IAF in November 1949, being commissioned into the administrative/legal branch. Both his sons subsequently chose this illustrious career.

The elder son, Air Cmde PS Sodhi, joined as a medical officer and is presently commanding No. 5 Air Force Hospital, Jorhat.

The younger son is Air Cmde RS Sodhi. Flt Lt Angad, who is the latter’s son, joined the Air Force as a pilot in June 2010.

Air Cmde RS Sodhi was commissioned in June 1979 as a fighter pilot and has logged 3,500 hours of flying on various aircraft.

An alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College and the College of Defence Management, he has been decorated with the Vishisht Seva Medal distinguished service.
Indo-Pak engagement
CBMs should never be disturbed

It is a welcome development that India and Pakistan have decided to resume their normal trading activity through the border check-post in the Poonch sector. The suspended bus services between the two sides have also been restarted for the convenience of the public. Both trade and bus services were discontinued following the mutilation of the bodies of two Indian soldiers killed by Pakistani troops on January 8. However, it was not India which had taken the negative step despite the mounting tension between the two sides. It was Pakistan which unilaterally went in for suspending the bus services and bilateral trade, mentioning unjustifiable security reasons.

Trade and bus services through various points on the India-Pakistan border should never be disturbed unless practically impossible. These are important confidence-building measures (CBMs), which along with some other steps have helped in the expansion of the peace constituency on both sides of the political divide. There are, however, elements in Pakistan who are scared of their interests getting harmed if India and Pakistan succeed in the task of normalisation of their relations. Such elements include not only non-state actors but also officers in the Pakistan Army. Their divisive designs need to be frustrated in the interest of peace and growth in the region.

Such elements in the Pakistani trade and industry circles supported by religious extremists are preventing the Pakistan government from gathering courage to grant the most-favoured nation (MFN) status to India for business purposes. Islamabad last year declared that the formalities had been completed and it would go ahead to implement its promise by December 31, but it failed to do so. The government seems to have yielded to pressure from the extremists, keeping in view the coming elections in Pakistan. However, if there are elements opposed to granting the MFN status to India, there are people in trade and industry circles as well as other sections of society in Pakistan who feel that ultimately both countries will be gainers. India has already granted this status to Pakistan. There is need for those having a positive frame of mind in Pakistan to put pressure on the government in Islamabad to honour the commitment it has made.
India sends the right message to Pakistan
The recent incident of the Pakistan Army beheading two Indian soldiers has outraged the nation. To safeguard national interest, our resolution to employ the full spectrum of options at the tactical and strategic levels should be firm and clearly
Lt Gen Nirbhay Sharma (retd)

The recent barbaric act by the Pakistani Army has evoked a legitimately angry response across the country. The disappointment is heightened by the fact that India and Pakistan were working towards normalising relations. After the initial fire and fury, there is now a belief that the situation is relatively under control. This assumption may be misleading, unless the dynamics of the Line of Control (LoC) and its violations are fully comprehended. The drivers of this act and their motivations have also to be clearly identified and a comprehensive response enunciated. Failing this, such tragedies will continue to recur and may even spin out of control beyond redemption.
The LoC owes its origin to the ceasefire that came into effect in the State of Jammu and Kashmir on January 1, 1949. The two opposing armies then dug in their heels where they were and have stood confronting each other since then. It is a unique situation with no parallels worldwide. The LoC is 740 kilometres long and runs through undulating, forested and mountainous terrain with heights ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 feet and temperatures becoming as low as minus 20 degrees centigrade. To give a sense of scale, the LoC has more than a lakh of armed men in uniform manning it 24x7. While the Pakistani Army, along with its “strategic assets” defends the line, the Indian Army has to not only defend it, but also prevent infiltration through gaps in between the border outposts (BOPs). Much of it is in bad weather, difficult terrain conditions and in proximity to each other. It does not follow a well defined tactical alignment for the most part and is therefore, subject to military vulnerabilities.

A fence has also been constructed on the Indian side of the LoC. It is a formidable anti-infiltration obstacle system, but does not run exactly along the LoC. It is in fact, anything from a few hundred meters to two–three kms behind it. There are BOPs and small villages across the fence towards the LoC, which make counter-infiltration measures less effective. Recent incidents have taken place primarily via this space because herein transgression is more feasible.

History makes it obvious that the Pakistani Army views the progress of any peace track with India as undermining its own relevance. It is perhaps no coincidence that whenever peace initiatives gain momentum, provocative attacks derail the process. We need look no further than the 1999 Kargil conflict that was foisted upon us soon after then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s grand peace gesture. Instead of paying lip service to the cause of peace, the Pakistani Army needs to prove its credentials. Adhering to ceasefire regulations and freezing of cross-border infiltration of terrorists are the first set of steps that must be taken in this direction.

The resultant “locked ín’’ deployment, hostile environment and mutual suspicion have often resulted in violations, either by design or by default. At its peak, and prior to the current ceasefire effective from November 2003, more than a lakh of small arm rounds were fired on a virtually daily basis, with the escalation ladder sometimes climbing up to the exchange of artillery fire. There have also been occasional physical raids across the LoC by small teams, but the threshold has remained relatively manageable. So it’s fair to say that despite all the confidence building measures (CBMs)s and standard operating procedures (SOPs), occasional clashes do take place and are perhaps unavoidable. But the recent decapitating of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army is different. It is an uncivilised, unsoldierly and dastardly act. It would be simplistic, almost naïve, to bracket it as another case of the action-reaction syndrome. This development needs to be analyzed in terms of why the Pakistani Army did it and what response is merited.

A multitude of developments in Pakistan during the last few years have brought the stock of the Pakistani Army low within its country. It is no longer seen as the saviour of the nation within or without. Post the Lal Masjid incident, terrorists have repeatedly attacked the military. It is also bogged down in ethnic and sectarian violence and fighting insurgencies in most parts of the North-Western Frontier Province and Balochistan. Its helplessness against repeated drone attacks by the US and the killing of Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistan by US forces (independent of the Pakistani Army and the Inter Services Intelligence) have eroded the aura even further.

These factors have resulted in a newly found assertiveness in the Pakistani government vis-à-vis its army. A prime example of this is the uncertainty about the extension of the tenure of present Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani and the change of the ISI Chief against his advice. As a counter, the Pakistani army has fielded a belligerent Chief Justice, a “dual nationality” cleric and players like Imran Khan in order to unsettle a corrupt and beleaguered government. The one comforting news for the Pakistani Army is the American `Draw Down Plan 2014’. It has once again made the US mollycoddle the Pakistani army, thereby emboldening them. As a quid pro quo, it expects the US to perhaps overlook its aggression against India.

In the past, had overall circumstances been similar, the Pakistani Army would have exploited the internal situation and taken over, but General Kayani knows the pitfalls of such a move only too well. Out of all the emerging scenarios, the Pakistani Army is probably looking at continuing to rule the country by proxy. It aims to remove the present political dispensation and replace it with a new element of its choice. If the planned formulation is “tweaked right”, then the army’s confrontational agenda of raising the India bogey falls into place. However, it is also fairly possible that if the military thinks that the proposed national election will not yield a “suitably” functional system, it could hijack democracy once again. Given the mercurial and volatile history of Pakistan, the jury is still out on the final outcome.

History has made it abundantly obvious that in essence the Pakistani Army views the progress of any peace track with India as undermining its own relevance. It is perhaps no coincidence that whenever peace initiatives are gaining momentum, provocative attacks from the Pakistani Army derail the process. We need look no further than the 1999 Kargil conflict that was foisted upon us soon after then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s grand peace gesture.

There is yet another narrative that has been proffered, wherein Pakistan is viewed as a nation in the throes of an existential transition marked by uncertainty, violence and instability. It is argued that at the core of it all is change in the role and mindset of its military, which no longer sees hostility with India as its raison d’être. General Kayani’s recent statement that the real threat to the country comes from internal sources and not external enemies is seen to imply a nuanced shift in focus from conflict-mode to normalisation-mode with India. However, the ground situation and trust deficit between the two countries make it difficult to accept this hypothesis. Instead of paying lip service to the cause of peace, the Pakistani Army needs to prove its credentials. Shedding denial and accepting the folly of its recent savage act, adhering to ceasefire regulations and freezing of cross-border infiltration of terrorists are the first set of steps that must be taken in this direction. Till then, the safe premise has to be that Pakistan the country, and its army, are two separate entities. The Pakistani Army is not yet on the same page with regard to the peace process, as hostility with India continues to be in its DNA.

With this as the historical legacy between the two neighbours, recent events have obviously outraged our nation. An appropriate tactical response by the Indian Army to this gruesome act will come at a point and place of its choosing. To prevent escalation and safeguard national interests, our resolution to employ the full spectrum of options, both at the tactical and strategic level, should be clearly discernible and misperceptions, if any, removed firmly.

The Indian media, in general, has done well to steer the recent incident to the centre stage and create enabling public opinion. However, trying to drum up war hysteria or jingoism, as on display on some of our TV channels, is irresponsible and counterproductive. That said, overall the Indian approach has been quite measured and mature. The statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sent an unambiguous message to Pakistan and its impact is already discernible. Going forward, for sustainable resolve, credible military deterrence is essential. The gaps in our operational capability need to be filled in expeditiously. The proposed defence reforms are behind schedule and cannot be overlooked anymore. On this one issue, consensus across the political spectrum must emerge, as national interest is always supreme.

To sum up, for the immediate, the Indian response has reined in the Pakistani Army. However, statecraft demands a calibrated use of all tools, ranging from diplomatic to military in tandem and not just in lieu of one another. The country would do well not to forget that military is the last argument of the King and must be kept in a state of constant readiness. Ultimately, confident strength is the context in which a just and enduring peace can take root.

The writer has commanded a corps in Kashmir and is at present a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhidiscernible

Chronology of events

Jan 8: Pak troops cross LoC, brutally kill two Indian soldiers. Atleast eight Indian posts in Krishna Ghati sector come under enemy fire

Jan 9: Inda lodges strong protest through diplomatic channels. Defence minister AK Antony calls Pak act highly provocative

Jan 10: Pak suspends trans-LoC trade from Poonch—Rawalkote route. Ceasefire violation continues, with Pak losing a soldier

Jan 11: Pak halts Poonch—Rawalkote bus service. Antony says army’s prestige must be maintained.

Jan 12: Air Chief NAK Browne warns Pakistan against ceasefire violations. Fresh firing in Poonch.

Jan 13: Pak agrees to hold brigadier-level flag meet to defuse tension. Friring in Poonch again

Jan 14: Army Chief Bikram Singh takes tough stance, calling Pak act unpardonable and that orders have been issued to commanders on LOC to retaliate to Pak fire. Says India reserves the right to retaliate at the time and place of its choosing.

Jan 15: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says no business as usual with Pak over its barbaric act. Asserts those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book. Army Chief, Northern Army Commander reiterate tough stand. Firing again on LoC.

Jan 16: India and Pak DGMOs speak over hotline, agree to defuse tension|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE
India Presses Israel on Joint Missile Project

NEW DELHI — The Indian government has asked Israel to speed up development of its joint medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) project, which has faced technical snags since its inception in 2009.

MRSAM topped the agenda when Air Chief Marshal N.K. Browne, commander of the Indian Air Force, visited Israel last week, Ministry of Defence sources said here.

During his Jan. 21-23 visit, Browne was scheduled to meet with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak; Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, chief of the General Staff; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, commander of the Israeli Air Force; and Rear Adm. Ophir Shohaim, director of the Directorate for Defense Research and Development.

Browne also discussed with the Israelis air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions that India might want to acquire.

The MRSAM, a joint weapon development project being undertaken by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), along with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), seeks to deliver at least 18 firing units along with related systems at a cost of more than $2 billion. Each firing unit has 16 missiles. India also hopes the system can be used by the Indian Army, but that remains unclear, the sources said.

The MRSAM prototype failed its first test, held late last year, Defence Ministry sources said, but they provided no details. Development is being carried out under secrecy here.

MRSAM is intended to intercept enemy missiles at a range of 70 kilometers. It carries an active radar seeker and a bidirectional data link for midcourse guidance and kill assessment, an Indian Air Force official said. It will also be equipped with an advanced rotating phased array radar to provide a high-quality air situation picture.

The Indian Army also has a requirement for an unspecified number of MRSAMs to move with mechanized forces and provide organic mobile air defense protection. The Army requirement of MRSAM is also worth more than $2 billion.

Defence Ministry sources said that in addition to discussions on MRSAM, Browne reviewed information from the Israelis on air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions that India could acquire.

The Air Force already has purchased 18 Spyder surface-to-air missile systems from Israeli company Rafael to protect high-value assets following the failure of India’s homegrown Quick Reaction System, the Trishul, after nearly 15 years of development.

Last year, the Air Force bought the Israeli Derby medium-range active radar seeker air-to-air missile, made by Rafael, to be mounted on the homemade Light Combat Aircraft, which the DRDO is developing. Earlier, the Air Force had purchased Israeli Python-5 air-to-air missile systems.

Israel also has helped Indian scientists develop the homemade Prithvi air defense ballistic missile system. Though no formal agreement has been signed, DRDO and Israel are developing India’s land attack missile project, including a land attack cruise missile.
Kids of Indian Defence Personnel Reluctant to go their Parent's Way
In the present scenario, there is a need to inculcate more awareness in the conscience of Indian youth about wearing the defence uniform and feeling proud about it. It is the responsibility of Indian parents, especially those who are themselves serving the country to take up the challenge. Defence not only gives you honour, it pays well too, in terms of paycheck and perks. There is a need for schools to include more lessons about valiant efforts of our soldiers in the 1971 war, in the Kargil war and of course in the independence movement. It is the responsibility of the media too to come with awareness drives. And lastly it is the role of Indian government and armed forces themselves to promote its pride in the Republic Day parade and by celebrating Navy Day, Army Day and Air Force Day. Also the exit policies from the defence services needs to reviewed. Indian Armed Forces also should establish their own training academies instead of looking for officer-like qualities in candidates, it should start building them.

The time has come when just marketing won’t help. There are a lot of talented young people who can don the Military uniforms and serve the nation. The modern day India wants to see a perfect blend of engineers, doctors, businessman and SOLDIERS. Jai Hind!!
Sainik School hails alumnus' feat
RANCHI: Sainik School, Tilaiya has hailed the conferment of ParamVishistSeva Medal (PVSM) on Lt Gen. GyanBhushan, one of its distinguished alumnus, to mark Republic Day.

A highly decorated soldier who had earlier received the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Vishist Seva Medal and Ati Vishist Seva Medal, the general is now heading the South Western Command of the Indian Army. He was given this honour for his leadership and distinguished services to the country.

The general hails from Ranchi and is the first officer from the school to have achieved this rare distinction.

While a letter of appreciation was issued by the office of Indian Army at Deepatoli cantonment, another press communique by Sainik School Tilaiya said Lt Gen Bhushan, an alumnus of the institution bearing School No 141 had made the nation proud. "In 1970, he joined National Defence Academy as a cadet and was commissioned into the Mahar Regiment on 23 December, 1973 and thus started his long illustrious career in the service of nation wherein he commanded 1 Mahar Regiment, a Mountain Brigade and a Division and held many prestigious staff and instructional appointments. The General Officer has been the Defence Attache in central Asia has commanded the prestigious Indian Military Training Team and has commanded the Gajraj Corps," the release read.

School principal Col Vir Kumar Bhat received a commendation card from the GOC-in-C, Central Command, Lucknow acknowledging his performance and his services to Sainik School Tilaiya.

"A well informed intellectual on all subjects of academic interest, Colonel Vir Kumar Bhat was commissioned into the Army Educational Corps on 13 Jun 1992. Armed with a Masters Degree in both Maths and Education, his career in the Army is interspersed with significant appointments in various formations and training establishments," said media officer of the school Anjani Kumar.


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