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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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