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Monday, 3 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 03 Jun 2013
India largest contributor to UN peace missions
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, June 2
Reflecting the important role it is playing in promoting peace operations worldwide, India has become the largest contributor to UN missions since inception.

So far, India has taken part in 43 peacekeeping missions with a total contribution exceeding 160000 troops and a significant number of police personnel.

About 8000 Indian UN peacekeepers, both men and women, are currently deployed in nine missions across the globe, including Congo, South Sudan, Liberia, UNDOF, Haiti, Lebanon, Abeyi, Cyprus and Cote de Ivoire.

India’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations came in for a huge applause at an event to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers at the Permanent Mission of India to the UN earlier this week.

Speaking on the occasion, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Asoke Mukerji recalled the supreme sacrifice made by five Indian peacekeepers from the 6 Mahar in an ambush on April nine in South Sudan while escorting a UN convoy of staff and civilians.

“The nature of the peacekeeping mandate is constantly changing in keeping with the situation on the ground. It is my hope that the troops contributing countries like India will be enabled to find a mechanism by the UN Security Council in drawing up the technical parameters of this mandate in consultation with the troop contributing countries to deal professionally with such new challenges,” he said.

As part of the event, a photo exhibition showcasing historical origins of India’s UN peacekeeping participation was also organised by the Indian mission. The contribution of Indian peacekeepers to assist civilian populations, especially women and children, and the role of the first-ever Indian all female formed police unit in the mission in Liberia were also highlighted at the exhibition.

43 peacekeeping missions

India has taken part in 43 peacekeeping missions with a total contribution exceeding 1,60,000 troops

About 8000 Indian UN peacekeepers are currently deployed in nine missions across the globe
Antony leaves for Australia today
First-ever visit Down Under by an Indian Defence Minister
KV Prasad/TNS

New Delhi, June 2
Defence Minister AK Antony embarks on a four-day sojourn to Australia, Singapore and Thailand tomorrow, heralding a new chapter in the country’s strategic architecture in the region. He will have the distinction of being the first Indian Defence Minister to visit Australia, an area now described as Indo-Pacific.

Although defence cooperation between the two countries is rather new, it has expanded significantly during the recent years with India and Australia having signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a joint declaration on security cooperation that includes regular exchange of visits of service officers and participation in multi-lateral fora like Milan and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

Antony’s visit to Australia assumes significance as he is expected to discuss with his counterpart ways to enhance cooperation in various fields, especially between the navies of the two countries. While the United States sees Australia as a lynchpin in the Indo-Pacific region and wants India to take up leadership role as it re-balances its strategy, New Delhi is wary of being seen as an ally or a counter-balance to China.

In 2007, the Indian Navy participated in exercises with the navies of Australia, Singapore, Japan and the United States. The move had attracted protest from China. The situation since then has undergone a change, with Canberra itself pushing for a strategic partnership with Beijing, an offer Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made during her April visit to that country this year.

Underscoring India’s importance in Australian strategic thinking, its Foreign Affairs and Trade Department Secretary Peter Varghese said at an Australia-Indian Institute function on May 16 that the Indo-Pacific region strategic arc now extended from India to Northeast Asia, including the sea lines of communication on which the region depended. “As the (Australian) Defence White Paper has made clear, the strategic importance of this broader region is being forged by a range of factors, not least of which is the growing impact of the Indian economy. India’s economic interests are pulling it eastward and as it so shifts it will inevitably play a larger role in the strategic affairs of the region,” said Varghese, who served as the High Commissioner here before returning to Australia.

During the visit of Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith to India during 2011, both sides agreed to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters against the controversy over the South China Sea.

While strategic analysts await the outcome of Antony’s visit, a paper by research fellow Zhao Qinghai at the China Institute of International Studies noted last October that there were obstacles to the deepening of India-Australia relations, but it was also full of potential. “With the growing power of the two countries, they may further draw on each other’s strength, and thus their strategic partnership will gradually mature. Then, the political pattern of the Asia-Pacific, particularly the maritime order in the Indian Ocean, will undergo great changes,” the paper noted.

Strategic move

    The minister will discuss with his Australian counterpart ways to enhance cooperation in various fields, especially between the navies of the two countries
    While the US wants India to take up leadership role in the Indo-Pacific region, New Delhi is wary of being seen as a counter-balance to China
China’s intransigence
Strategic concern influenced its actions
by Air Marshal R.S. Bedi (retd)

Chinese do not act in haste or, for that matter, impulsively. Their every action is pre-meditated and well thought out. Their 19-km-deep incursion across the LAC in the Daulat Beg Oldie sector last month was neither incidental nor a local affair. This was also not the first time that Chinese troops had transgressed beyond the LAC in this area. It may as well not be the last one either. Although they never questioned India’s sovereignty over this region and their maps too show it as Indian territory, their actions are, however, contrary to it. Obviously, these are rooted in some tactical and strategic logic.

It was on April 15, prior to the visit of the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, on May 19 that the crisis erupted suddenly. China instigated the crisis and took India by surprise. For days Delhi remained clueless about how to respond. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid continued to downplay the incident unconvincingly, calling it acne-like. The PM too brushed it aside as a localised incident. In nutshell, India failed to respond in time. The least India could have done was to deploy troops immediately to convey its intent clearly. Hesitant to avoid direct action, India always tends to back off. Whether China or Pakistan, this has always been the pattern of Indian response to our adversary’s offensives.

It took 21 days for India to get intransigent China to agree to pull back on May 5. At long last, India had to harden its stand by threatening to cancel External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s upcoming visit to China which would have cast a shadow on the all-important Chinese Premier’s visit to India. China could ill-afford to take such a risk at this juncture unless there was some cost benefit rationale in favour of it. Both countries had been cooperating all along on various issues like Afghanistan, the WTO, trade, economic affairs, BRICS and military exercises.

Only if the Indian leadership had handled the crisis more firmly and resolutely right from the outset, it would perhaps have not reached this critical stage. Political leadership was indecisive and hesitant.

No doubt, the military is to be guided by political hierarchy. For this, an enlightened political leadership is essential which is sadly missing in our case. Political leaders in this country have no interest in matters military. Except for 1971, when Indira Gandhi displayed tremendous acumen and trust of her military leadership, India’s political class has seldom exhibited such attributes.

The Chinese are aware of this. They know the weak and indecisive nature of the Indian political class. They perhaps expected it to cave in quickly. But the hysteria whipped up by the nation and the media forced the government to pick up the gauntlet reluctantly. Notwithstanding this, the government still tried to underplay the significance of the incident with its usual placatory statements and appeasement of China.

China finally agreed to pull back having remained in eyeball-to-eyeball contact for weeks, but only after getting its pound of flesh. Now that it had achieved its mission, it did not mind pulling back to the April 15 line, along with India pulling back, despite having insisted earlier that its troops had not crossed the LAC. Neither government was in a position to allow the face-off to turn into a military engagement. The Chinese are aware of the Indian armed forces’ current prowess. They went in for this adventure apparently under the mistaken belief that the Indian government would not precipitate the matter and cave in quickly under pressure. They obviously misjudged the nation’s response.

However, the disengagement did not come about so easily. During these flag meetings, the Chinese adopted a hard line and insisted on India pulling out unilaterally from the currently held face-off position. China insisted that India stop infrastructure build-up and construction of bunkers in the Fukche and Chumar sectors of Ladakh as a pre-condition for the withdrawal of its troops. Not only that, the Chinese also demanded that some forward observation posts, bunkers and shelters in this area be removed. They also expressed their concern as regards the reactivation of advanced landing grounds in the north and Nyoma in the east during the last few years. China had also been telling India to stop infrastructure build-up along the LAC. During these flag meetings, China was consistently raising objections to increased military activities, aggressive patrolling and infrastructure build-up by India on its side of the LAC. Despite this, the Chinese finally agreed to the Indian proposal to delink all these issues from the current crisis to be taken up separately.

What transpired between the two sides during the last flag meeting before the Chinese agreed to change their stand and pull back simultaneously is in the realm of conjecture only. However, there are enough indicators that suggest that India has indeed given in substantial ground and agreed to dismantle some border defences and also not to fortify the positions any further.

Realising the vast comparative disadvantage and the likelihood of two-front war, India had started to build infrastructure in a big way in the last five years. India needed roads badly for enhanced accessibility in the Himalayan mountains. A number of road projects were sanctioned by the government along different parts of the LAC. India also decided to reactivate the old advanced landing ground (ALGs), both in the western and the eastern sectors.

The Chinese have not been comfortable with these developments on the Indian side. China feels that the strategic balance that existed in its favour for decades would soon be affected if India continued its build up at the present rate. The fact that they started reacting immediately to India’s development plans along the LAC, even though on the Indian side, shows their understanding of strategic nuances and the emerging scenarios.

In contrast, years of development work in Tibet involving road, rail and other infrastructure projects and hardening of airfields for a variety of air operations did not fetch any protest whatsoever or critical response from Indian political leadership. It failed to comprehend the strategic importance of Chinese multifarious activities in Tibet. China has built as many as 15 airfields in Tibet. Of these, six full-fledged bases have been developed in western Tibet and Xinjiang province alone. Fighter aircraft with full weapon loads and transport aircraft like IL-76 with troops and heavy load on board can operate right up to the Indian forward defences. China has been operating Su-30MMk, Su-27 and J-10 fighter aircraft from these airfields regularly. It has also built a huge road/rail network in Tibet. The railway line from Gormo to Lhasa being extended to Shgatse and then further on to Kathmandu has enabled China to induct and sustain troops in Tibet as and when required. Besides, 58,000 km of roads have been constructed by the Chinese in Tibet.

Notwithstanding their own feverish infrastructure build-up along the LAC, they have the temerity to balk at India and halt its development by constantly raising objections and indulging in deliberate incursions to destabilise India. It is in this context that India failed to display the requisite political will in taking on the Chinese after their deep incursion and refusal to pull back unless their demands to dismantle Indian defences were met. Whether India put up any such demands is doubtful. While the Army and the nation were confident and no more bugged by the “1962 syndrome”, the political class, however, remained mired in pacifism. The angst in the nation is clearly palpable.
No takers for military advisers in red bastions

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has often termed the Maoists India’s biggest internal security threat and both the Centre and violence-hit states recognise the fight is partly military.

Yet, the UPA-ruled Centre and the Opposition-ruled Chhattisgarh (BJP), Odisha (BJD), Jharkhand (till recently BJP) and West Bengal (TMC) are sitting tight on a 2010 proposal to have military advisers to coordinate anti-Maoist battles.

This information comes ahead of a meeting of chief ministers of nine Maoist-hit states with Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials scheduled for June 5 to chalk out a strategy to check the growing violence, against the backdrop of the audacious May 25 rebel attack in Bastar in Chhattisgarh that left 27 dead, including key state Congress leaders.

Mooted by Shinde’s predecessor P Chidambaram, the MHA proposed appointing retired Indian Army Major Generals as military advisers to the four worst-hit states to direct central security forces and state police in the offensive and defensive operations, military style.

On a request from MHA, first made in June 2010, the Indian Army prepared a panel of names of retired Major Generals having vast experience in guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast, and in Sri Lanka during the IPKF campaign in late 1980s.

That panel was sent to the MHA at least half a dozen times since, but to no avail. “The list of names was last sent three-four months ago...that is, sometime early this year. We haven’t heard from either the MHA or the four state governments to the latest communication too,” a senior Defence Ministry official told The Sunday Standard.

The proposal was obviously mooted in the wake of the worst-ever attack that was witnessed in Dantewada in April 2010, when 76 security personnel sent into the Chhattisgarh forests to fight the Maoists were massacred in a well-planned ambush by the armed-to-the-teeth rebels.

“That 2010 attack gave the policy-makers the insight that this fight is not going to be easy without a military angle in the anti-Maoist thrust in the states. That was when the proposal to have military advisers directing the operations and coordinating among the Centre, states and the security forces was mooted,” noted a MHA official, who did not wish to be named.

Since Chidambaram moved out of the MHA in July 2012, there seems to be not much of an emphasis on the need to have military approach to the security men’s operations against the armed rebels, he added.

“The four states too have not responded on appointment of military advisers from among the panel sent to them,” the official said, indicating that politics could have something to do with their cold-shouldering the MHA move.

But the importance of military advisers to help make the security operations effective was emphasised by retired Lieutenant General Mukesh Sabharwal, a former Adjutant General of the Indian Army and an officer with vast counter-insurgency (C-I) and guerrilla warfare experience in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.

“There are a number of problems plaguing the anti-Maoist operations of the central and state police forces. These include poor command and control structures of the forces, inadequate equipment, and lack of leadership,” Sabharwal, who has commanded an Army corps in the North East, pointed out.
Three guerrillas killed, army foils Kashmir infiltration bid
Srinagar, June 2 (IANS) Three intruding guerrillas were killed late Saturday evening in north Kashmir Kupwara district, as the army foiled an infiltration bid from across the Line of Control (LoC), an official said.

A defence spokesman told IANS that a group of heavily armed guerrillas was seen trying to sneak into the Kashmir Valley late Saturday evening.

"The intruders were challenged. They fired upon the troops, triggering an encounter. Three intruders have been killed. The infiltration bid has been foiled, though searches are still going on in the area," the army spokesman said.

It must be recalled that Pakistan troops violated the bilateral ceasefire between the two countries in Nowgam sector of the LoC three times in the past week.

One brigadier and two troopers were injured last week when Pakistan troops resorted to unprovoked firing at Indian positions in Nowgam sector last week.

Although the army said troops retaliated in a calibrated response to the firing from across the border, intelligence agencies maintain that Pakistan troops have been using unprovoked cross-LoC firing as a standard practice to sneak in heavily armed guerrillas into the Indian side of the state.
Win confidence of downtrodden to fight Naxalism: VK Singh, Ex-Army chief
JAIPUR: Pressing the army into combating Naxals would be of little help as the government needed to win the confidence of the people in the affected areas to successfully deal with the problem, former Army chief Gen. (retd) VK Singh said here today.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a function here, Singh said that a lot of issues had to be taken into consideration before any decision on force deployment could be made.

He said that Naxals receive support from locals because the latter are still deprived of government support and social justice.

Thus, the government should try and resolve the matter by first winning the confidence of the people, Singh added.

Talking about social activist Anna Hazare's 'Jantantra Yatra' against corruption and other social evils, Singh said that the latest drive was gaining support among the people.

"There is a need for awakening (among) the people for positive change," Singh said.

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