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Saturday, 19 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 19 Oct 2013

 India, Russia begin war games in R’sthan
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, October 18
The Indian Army is set to achieve a feat of having conducted military exercises with all the five permanent UN Security Council members within a year (2013). The five countries - US, UK France, Russia and China (P5) - enjoy a veto vote in the powerful UN Security Council being its permanent members for more than five decades.

India is an aspirant for becoming the sixth permanent member to the council which is seen as global-high table of decision making.

Today, the India-Russia military exercise commenced in Rajasthan. Using the mechanised infantry, specialised troops carrying armoured vehicles, the two countries have tasked their soldiers to practice the ability to operate jointly as integrated forces. The 10-day long exercise ends on October 28 and is part of the annual exercise ‘Indra’. “It is aimed to improve defence cooperation between both armies and enhance their ability to operate as integrated forces in a well-coordinated manner at the tactical level, within the framework of UN peacekeeping operations,” officials said.

After completing the engagement with Russia, an Indian Army infantry contingent from the 16th Sikh Light Infantry moves to Chengdu China for a joint exercise between the two armies. This will be codenamed ‘hand-in-hand’ and will mark the resumption of formal military exercises since the suspension of defence relations between the two countries in 2009. It will be conducted from November 4 to 14 making India one of the very few countries, who would have practiced with forces of the five UN Security Council members within one year.

The Indian Army’s run of such high-profile exercises started in April when the British troops arrived for an exercise at Belgaum, Karnataka, for a month-long joint exercise. Code named ‘Ajeya Warrior’ it was to test the preparedness of both the armies to carry out joint counter-insurgency operations.

In September, Paris hosted Indian Army for a joint exercise ‘Shakti’ in the French Alps. This was the second joint military exercise between the two countries. In the first week of October, Indian and US soldiers troops practised an amphibious war scenario - that is landing troops near a sea beach using specialised ships.

The high five

    Hand-in-hand: After military exercise with Russia, an infantry contingent moves to China for a joint exercise there
    Ajeya Warrior: Joint exercise with Britain to test the preparedness to carry out joint counter-insurgency operations, in April
    Shakti: In September, Paris hosted Indian Army for a joint exercise in the French Alps at Grenoble
    Shatrujeet: In the first week of October, Indian and US soldiers practised landing troops near a sea beach
 Artillery woes
Find a route to reverse this obsolescence

The Army’s second-largest arm, the Regiment of Artillery, continues to be a victim of repeated setbacks that has caused it to remain the most obsolescent wings of the Army. In the latest such incident, BAE, the maker of the M777 ultra light howitzer (ULH) for which India had contracted purchase of 145 pieces, has reportedly decided to shut down its production line in the UK. This is a setback for two reasons. One, the ULH was meant to equip the Army’s recently sanctioned first-ever Mountain Strike Corps which is vital weaponry for such a formation. Second, the purchase was to be made from the US under the foreign military sales programme, which is a route devoid of kickbacks and therefore safe from controversies that have otherwise mired defence negotiations.

Artillery guns play a crucial role in supporting both Infantry and Armour formations by softening the enemy through brute firepower from a distance of 40 km and beyond. It is especially critical in mountains where mobility of Infantry soldiers is slow. The Army has made some progress in acquiring surveillance and target acquisition equipment (unmanned aerial vehicles and gun-locating radars), rocket artillery (Smerch and Pinaka) and missiles (Prithvi and BrahMos). But it is seriously lacking in medium artillery guns. Just how outdated continues to be the Regiment of Artillery is borne by the fact that it has Soviet-era 130 mm M46 field guns, 122 mm D30 towed howitzers and 105 mm light field guns. The ‘latest’ artillery gun, the Bofors 155 mm FH77/B howitzer, was purchased almost three decades ago. The 1999 Kargil War demonstrated the criticality of both the artillery and the 155 mm howitzer. Instead, the Army is down to just 200 pieces of this 155 mm howitzer.

In recent years, all attempts to buy the much-needed ULHs, towed artillery and both tracked and wheeled self-propelled guns have been victims of last-minute cancellations due to a mix of allegation of kickbacks, blacklisting of firms or the inability of the manufacturer to come up to expectation. All that the Army has managed is acquire 180 pieces of 130 mm guns upgraded to 155 mm / 45 calibre by an Israeli firm. But with most artillery gun producers being blacklisted and Indian private firms having no experience of making such guns, the Artillery remains horrifically outdated. Clearly, the government needs to find a route to reverse this obsolescence, a situation that the Army can ill afford.
Indian government covers up military’s anti-constitutional activities
By Kranti Kumara
18 October 2013

Over the past month a series of Indian media reports and comments by retired Indian Army chief V. K. Singh have revealed that the Indian army has been engaged in numerous illegal and unconstitutional activities, including attempting to overthrow an elected state government, bribing politicians, and bugging Ministry of Defence officials.

The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has responded to these explosive revelations with indifference, issuing pro forma statements that the matters are being investigated and that appropriate action has and will be taken.
The government’s concerted attempt to suppress public interest in the revelations is all the more remarkable given that V.K. Singh, who is at the center of the allegations of wrongdoing, is a longtime government opponent. Not only did he repeatedly butt heads with the Congress-led UPA while army chief, he has openly identified himself with the Congress’ chief rival, the BJP, appearing last month alongside the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, at his maiden campaign rally.

On Sept. 20, The Indian Express published a report revealing that V.K Singh had set up a secret intelligence unit reporting directly to him that had sought to use bribery to bring down the elected state government of Jammu and Kashmir, paid an NGO to sully the reputation of his successor with a view to derailing his appointment, and bought “off-air interception equipment” to conduct “unauthorized” covert operations, including eavesdropping on the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The Indian Express exposé was based on the findings of a high-level army inquiry ordered by Bikram Singh, who became army chief in May 2012 after V.K. Singh retired.

The army had forwarded its findings to the government way back in March. So alarmed was the army’s top brass by the transgressions, it asked the government to order an investigation by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), an agency charged with probing criminal activities by top officials and institutions.

In doing so, the army took a virtually unheard-of step; the military has always been loath to allow “outsiders” to “intrude” on its affairs. That it did so suggests that it does not have confidence in the willingness or ability of either the military or the MOD to lay bare what has happened and punish the guilty.

The government, however, apparently saw no urgency in acting on the army report and has thus far refused to say what if anything it has done in response to it.

When reporters enquired as to the MOD’s reaction to the Indian Express exposé, an MOD spokesperson stated: "The [army] report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further actions after a careful examination of the report.”

In response to a supplementary question, the MOD official said no decision has been taken on whether to ask the CBI to investigate the patently illegal and unconstitutional activities of the secret army intelligence unit.

That the government has yet to carry out a “careful examination of the report” after the passage of a half-year indicates that it intends to bury the matter. At most it will carry out a few changes in appointments and procedure, in secret and in close consultation with the military top brass.

What is incontrovertible is that the government wants to keep the Indian people entirely in the dark as to the anti-democratic conspiracies that are developing from within the country’s national-security apparatus. Similarly, the Indian government and press have refused to conduct any serious examination of the ties that have developed between current and retired military personnel, including officers, and violent Hindu supremacist groups. (See: India army officers linked to Hindu supremacist terrorism )

Soon after the appearance of the Indian Express article and in an attempt to explain away the giving of money to a Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) politician by the secret army intelligence unit under his supervision, V. K. Singh said that the army has long used secret funds to bribe J&K ministers. Moreover, he added, this has been standard practice since India gained political independence from Britain in 1947.

India’s only Muslim majority state, Jammu and Kashmir has been convulsed by an anti-Indian insurgency since 1989. The Indian army has combatted this insurgency, which erupted in response to the central government’s flagrant rigging of the 1987 state election, with all-manner of anti-democratic methods, including torture, disappearances and summary executions.

"The Army,” said the ex-Army Chief V.K. Singh, “transfers money to all the ministers in Jammu and Kashmir... there are various things to be done. As part of the stabilising factor in Jammu and Kashmir, as part of the activities to be organized."

When asked whether the secret army unit under his immediate command had used its funds to bribe J&K Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir as alleged by the Army probe, V K Singh said, "If such a possibility is there, I am sure there must be a reason for a particular transaction or number of transactions to this person.”

V.K. Singh added that the army has doled out these funds, from secret slush funds, without the knowledge, let alone oversight, of its ostensible civilian overlords. When questioned about whether the use of such funds had the approval of the Minister of Defense, Singh bristled, demonstrating his contempt for the subordination of the military to civilian authorities. “He doesn’t have to be aware of it. He has given us a task and we carry it out.”

Singh’s remarks caused an outcry in Jammu and Kashmir, where the political elite felt compelled to demonstrably protest against the claim that they were routinely accepting army bribes.

The Congress-led central government, by contrast, has ignored them. This is in keeping with its attempt to suppress all public discussion of the anti-constitutional activities of sections of the military.

When the Indian Express exposé appeared, the BJP leaped to V.K. Singh’s defence. It charged that the government had leaked the army report so as to smear the ex-army chief after he had indicated his support for Modi. The Congress responded by saying it would never use such tactics as they would harm “national security.”

However, after V.K. Singh revealed that the army had long been bribing politicians in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP thought it politic to distance themselves from him, as this revelation was seen as damaging to India’s efforts to legitimize its rule over the state, which is claimed by India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

The Congress government’s opposition to exposing and alerting the Indian people as to the anti-democratic and unconstitutional activities of military leaders reveals its indifference and hostility to fundamental democratic rights. It fears exposure of these activities would undermine the popular legitimacy of the military and at the very least undermine support for it and the Indian elites’ plans to massively expand India’s armed forces. The Indian bourgeoisie views an expanded military—including a blue-water Indian Ocean navy and a sea, land and air nuclear strike force—as pivotal to realizing its great power ambitions. Moreover, it recognizes the military as the ultimate bulwark of its class rule. Under the UPA government’s Operation Greenhunt, the military has taken an increasingly important role in directing the government’s campaign to defeat a Maoist-led tribal insurgency in some of India’s remoter highland and jungle regions.
Indian Army for closer ties with Bhutan army
KOLKATA: What is it to India that Bhutan's King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk, who will turn 56 a month from now, is a keen cyclist? Not much, but for the fact that it has provided an opportunity to the Indian Army to display the cordial relationship it shares with Bhutan Army. On Friday, a weeklong Indo-Bhutan Army Cycling Expedition was flagged into Sukna Cantonment in North Bengal. The expedition was flagged-off on October 12 in Bhutan and travelled through Chimakothi, Hasimara, Binnaguri, Bagrakot, Pedong and Sevoke.

"This was an important event. Ties between the Indian and Bhutan armies are crucial. There is Chinese activity in the Chumbi Valley region and the country has laid stake on the Doklam Platuea in Bhutan. The plateau practically overlooks the 'chicken-neck' corridor that connects India's northeast to the remaining part of the country. If China were to go ahead unhindered, the People's Liberation Army could be patrolling the northern boundary of the Siliguri or 'chicken-neck' corridor. This would jeopardize India's military movement in that area," a senior officer said.

The Indo-Bhutan Army Cycling Expedition was led by Lieutenant AK Singh of the Indian Army. All throughout the route, the cyclists were accompanied by vehicles with banners highlighting Indo-Bhutan Friendship. The cyclists were met enroute by the general officer commanding of the Kripan Division. At Sukna, the participants were welcomed and felicitated by Lieutenant General KJ Singh, GOC, Trishakti Corps. Both the Trishakti Corps and the Kripan Division under it are entrusted with security along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"Lieutenant General Singh highlighted the cordial relations between the Indian and Bhutan armies and said that such activities would further cement the ties between the two countries. Military ties between the two countries go back a long way. Nearly 10 years ago, the Royal Bhutanese Army conducted flushing-out operations against anti-India insurgents. Officers of the Bhutan army receive training in India," the official added.

In the recent past, there has been some resentment in Bhutan over India's plans to reduce subsidies to the land-locked country. China has been quick to capitalize on this. However, China's claim over land in Doklam, Jakarlung and Pasamlung hasn't gone down well with Bhutan. The new government in Bhutan has expressed its desire to improve ties with India further. While experts believe that Delhi should take up this opportunity to reciprocate and reclaim any ground it may have lost, the Indian Army, concerned about the possibility of the PLA marching across Bhutan, is keeping the show going.
Lt Gen Prakash visits 111 Infantry battalion
ALLAHABAD: Lieutenant general Om Prakash, AVSM, SM and colonel of the Kumaon and Naga regiments and Kumaon scouts visited 111 Infantry battalion (Territorial Army) Kumaon on Thursday.

The defence public relations officer, group captain Basantkumar B Pande said Col RK Pathak, the commanding officer of 111 Infantry battalion (Territorial army) Kumaon briefed the lieutenant general about the training activities and events being undertaken by the battalion.

The lieutenant general interacted with the officers and junior commissioned officers (JCOs) of the unit and inspected the unit lines. Thereafter, he interacted with all the troops of the battalion and exhorted them to work zealously in all the tasks assigned to them. He emphasised the importance of security in the present day scenario and conveyed his appreciation for all the good work being done by the battalion in various parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the authorities of the 508 Army base workshop celebrated the 70th EME Corps Day on Tuesday last. A special joint sammelan, presided over by brigadier SP Singh, the commandant and managing director of the base workshop, was also held on the occasion which was attended by all the employees of the workshop.

Messages received from headquarters were read out during the sammelan, highlighting the achievement of the Corps. Among these, prominent messages were from chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), Uttam Yudh Seva Medal UYSM), Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Sena Medal (SM), Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) and Aide-de-Camp. Along with this, messages from lieutenant general AS Chabbewal, (AVSM, YSM) and lieutenant general NB Singh, (AVSM, VSM), director general (DG) and senior colonel commandant, Corps of Electronics and Mechanical engineers and other senior officers were also read out.

In his address, brigadier SP Singh said that with rapid modernisation of the Indian Army, the Corps is facing an ever-increasing challenge to provide effective engineering support to a plethora of sophisticated equipment being inducted. With a dynamic approach and continuous thrust, the Corps has made phenomenal progress over the years and kept pace with the changing technological and economic environments. On the occasion, awards for professional excellence were also given to the employees based on their performance, informed the defence PRO.

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