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Thursday, 16 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 16 Jan 2014

UK’s MI-5 officers visited Golden Temple: RAW officer’s book
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15
Former Additional Director of the Research & Analysis Wing B Raman notes in his memoirs that at the request of the then RAW Chief RN Kao, two officers of the British Security Service (MI-5) had visited the Golden Temple as tourists and advised then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to be patient and avoid action or use of police force.

There is no mention of a visit by members of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) of the UK, as mentioned in the latest controversy over its possible involvement in the military operation of 1984.

Recalling the run-up to the Operation Bluestar by the Indian Army to flush out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed men from the sacred place, Raman notes there was “some unease” in the intelligence community over the wisdom of the proposed course of action.

“One had an impression that Kao felt it would be better to be patient for some weeks instead of taking any precipitate action, which might prove counter-productive...I was given to understand that at the request of Kao, two officers of the British Security Service (MI-5) visited the Golden Temple as tourists and gave a similar advice to Indira Gandhi to be patient and avoid action or use the police,” Raman wrote in chapter “The Khalistani Terrorism” in his book “The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane” published in 2007. No date of the visit by these officers to the Golden Temple is mentioned. Raman, who died last June, retired as the Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat in 1994.

“Rajiv Gandhi and two of his close associates held a number of secret meetings, recording the discussions, transcribing them and putting up the transcripts to Kao for briefing Indira Gandhi. These talks failed to persuade Akali Dal leaders to cooperate with the Government of India by persuading the Khalistani elements to vacate the Golden Temple peacefully.

These transcripts, which were kept in the secret archives of RAW, were very valuable records. They showed how earnestly Indira Gandhi tried to avoid having to send the Army into the Golden Temple. One hopes they are kept safely and would be available for future historians” wrote Raman.

The Op that still rankles

    The Army action at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar called “Operation Bluestar”, which continues to rankle, was carried out between June 3 and 6, 1984
    Major General KS Brar (later Lt Gen), then GOC of 9 Infantry Division, was entrusted with the sensitive task of flushing out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed supporters from the precincts of the complex
    Though some accounts put the casualty figures higher, according to official accounts, a total of 83 Army personnel lost their lives and 248 were injured during the operation, while 492 civilians were killed and 86 injured. About 1,600 person were apprehended
    The operation led to a huge backlash, leading to the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, following which there was a large-scale violence against Sikhs in New Delhi and at some other places
 Multi-pronged plan to boost capabilities: Army Chief

New Delhi, January 15
The Army has drawn up a multi-pronged plan to boost its capabilities and a number of projects, including acquiring of night vision devices, upgrading of mechanised forces and augmentation of artillery firepower, are near completion, Army chief General Bikram Singh said today.

He said the Army had also submitted a time-bound plan to the government to enhance the capabilities of its aviation corps. “We have made plans. The government has approved many. Some of them have been completed while others will get approval by the end of the fiscal,” he said at an Army Day function here. Stressing the importance of superior equipment and firepower for the Army, he said a country was respected only when it was economically and militarily powerful.

“For the country to achieve its rightful place globally, it is must that our Army becomes a capable, effective, responsible and contemporary power and contributes to the progress of the country," he said. General Singh also made a mention about the approval granted for raising a mountain strike corps to underline the growing capability of the Army and said special attention was being paid to infrastructure development along the borders.

In his 15-minute-long speech, he spoke about the Army's efforts to deal with issues ranging from suicide to shortage of officers and facilities for its present and former personnel, and said the shortfall of officers would come down to 10% by 2018 from existing 20%. — PTI
‘Aam aadmi’ Kejriwal takes NCC brass by surprise
 The National Cadet Corps' top brass lined up to receive newly-elected Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on his visit to the annual Republic Day Camp (RDC) on January 8 were in for a surprise when he arrived there almost unnoticed in his personal blue Wagon-R without the official trimmings.

This was unlike the arrival of other customary VVIP visitors like the Vice-President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister and the service chiefs, who troop in at the camp with their heavy cavalcades and entourages. This also happened to be Kejriwal's first function that had been organised by a central government organisation. Clad in open toes sandals, maroon pullover and grey trousers, the CM was accompanied by his wife Sunita, an Indian Revenue Services officer.

The couple mixed freely with children and photo opportunities followed. Incidentally, for the 15 preceding years, the camp had been receiving the same Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dixit. Kejriwal looked the "aam aadmi," that he claims to be.

Considered the most prestigious of all NCC camps, over 1,500 cadets from across the country attend the RDC in the Capital after a tough selection process at the state level.
Army fatalities go down

There has been a decrease in the number of fatal casualties suffered by the Army over the past five years. The list of martyrs released on Army Day 2014 reveals that 64 personnel, including three officers, had lost their lives in the line of duty in 2013. The figure for the preceding year was 75, including six officers.

The fatalities are primarily on account of continuing counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-east, though this year there were also several casualties due to Pakistani troops resorting to heavy cross-border firing in violation of the ceasefire agreement or their so called border action teams sneaking across the Line of Control and targeting Indian soldiers. In the recent past, the bloodiest year for the army was 2010, when it lost 187 men, including 14 officers.

The year before that it had lost 107 men, including 10 officers. The dip in the fatalities over the past couple of years has been attributed to an improved security environment in the hinterland, though some security experts have cautioned that the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan this year could affect the situation.

Army Chief avoids controversy

At his press conference in New Delhi on January 13, Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Bikram Singh, avoided any controversy and making any comment on his predecessor, Gen VK Singh, or the statements of the political leadership. A journalist referred to Gen VK Singh's claims of giving bribes to Kashmir politicians and asked the Chief "There are bizarre allegations that the Indian Army has been bribing Kashmiri separatist leaders to buy peace?" "No comments," retorted the Chief.

The journalist tried again, asking, "Is it correct on part of the J&K Assembly to summon a former Chief?" The reply was on same lines. When questioned about Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan's statement on Kashmir, the Chief said, "I never comment on statements of political leaders".

He avoided any comments on what the Army will do or is doing along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. "It's our policy that the Ministry of External Affairs comments on this. The Army's duty is to maintain peace and tranquility. We have to work as per national strategy and not come out and speak what we have done along LAC," he said.

Priority treatment for battle casualties

Polyclinics under the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) are apparently ignoring directions to give priority to the war disabled, battle casualties and physically disabled veterans during consultations, check-up or issue of medicines.

A letter issued by the ECHS Central Organisation a few days ago states that ECHS authorities are continuously getting complaints and representations in this regard.

The Central Organisation has directed all ECHS regional centers to issue necessary instructions to the officers in charge of polyclinics to ensure that such veterans are accorded priority treatment, keeping in mind their physical condition and old age.

It has also advised regional centers to set up a 24-hour helpline to redress the grievances of the ECHS clientele.
 International Crisis Group meets today
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15
The International Crisis Group (ICG) meets here tomorrow with a single-point agenda. And this agenda is to get Afghanistan agree on having international forces in a supportive role of training and counselling after the international forces start withdrawing in June this year.

The ICG on Afghanistan and Pakistan will discuss security situation in the war-torn country that is gearing up for the polls in April amidst US-led international troops withdrawal. So far Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US. Several leading political figures and civil society groups have urged Karzai to sign the BSA as it will pave the way for presence of some forces.

German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, speaking on the sidelines of function at the German Embassy, today confirmed: “We need the agreement of the Afghanistan Government for that. I am confident that this will come about. It’s important that Afghanistan agrees to modalities as this is a pre-condition to have forces there”.

Germany is one of the leading nations in the ICG on Afghanistan and its representative will lead the talks tomorrow. India will be represented by its Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan SK Lambah. As many as 53 countries will be at the meeting tomorrow.

He cited how at the Bonn conference it was decided that Afghanistan needs 10 more years of attention.

Single-point agenda: To make Karzai agree on having forces beyond 2014
Needless battles
MoD driving ex-soldiers to litigation

A department set up for the supposed welfare of ex-servicemen and war widows in 2004 has decided that in six categories of litigation, including disability pensions, the Ministry of Defence will automatically appeal against unfavourable verdicts up to the Supreme Court level. Much of litigation can be avoided if the department is run by officers who are efficient, pragmatic and humane. Even if litigation becomes inevitable, the department should accept the first unfavourable court judgment gracefully and rectify the wrong.

However, the bunch of officers manning the department seem to believe that they can't go wrong and should lose no battle even if it takes years of litigation and wastage of the taxpayers' money and courts' time. To deter such officers from mindlessly persisting with needless litigation, courts should impose hefty fines payable by them from their own pockets. At the MoD level there should be investigation of, and punishment for, apparently wrong decisions, overturned by courts, which make the retired soldiers or their dependents run from pillar to post just to get what they think is their due.

Already, ex-servicemen with modest means and unable to fight the might of the institution they once proudly served give up legal cases midway. Now it seems to have become the official policy of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare to tire out the soldiers who dare challenge its decisions. The department, headed by a Secretary-level officer and functioning under the Minister of State for Defence, Jitendra Singh, is well aware of the plight of former soldiers. Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, whose disability entitlement was raised by just 5 per cent by the 5th Pay Commission, was denied his dues and his case dragged on for years. The MoD, perhaps, wanted to set an example for others thinking of entering a legal battle. Why so many soldiers are forced to move courts against what they perceive as arbitrary decisions and injustice to them needs to be looked into.
Despite army chief's restraint, Pakistan gets hard-line message
Army chief General Bikram Singh's unmistakably optimistic assessment of the situation on the borders, in Afghanistan, and in Jammu & Kashmir has ironically evoked a sharp rejoinder from the Pakistani military's public relations wing. The reason - with the Indian media reporting only hard line statements, cherry-picked from the army chief's overall positive appraisal, the sense conveyed was of hawkish posturing, rather than the positive mood that Gen Singh tried to strike.

Speaking at his annual Army Day press conference on Monday, the army chief had made an important statement on ceasefire violations. Insisting the army would not be easily provoked, he stated: "Our country wants to move head. These (ceasefire violations) are issues at the tactical level. And, tactical level operations should not impinge on the strategic initiatives of the nation, which are for growth of the nation in a regional context. They are part of the grand strategy of the nation. My job is to ensure that I engage the adversary where necessary to the quantum of force that is required and do not escalate the situation into one that will impinge on the strategic initiatives."

He said after the two armies' operational chiefs, the director generals of military operations (DGMOs), held talks last month, relative calm had been restored on the Line of Control (LoC). He stated: "I think it is a move in the right direction to ensure that the ceasefire holds and the environment over there is conducive for development on both sides and the aspirations of the locals. A large number of locals in those areas suffer (in firing incidents) and the ceasefire looks after their aspirations."

The army chief added, "At the moment I am quite positive… We are having the meeting of two brigade commanders the dates for which have not been fixed. The DGMOs are speaking to each other on the hotline on a regular basis. We are hopeful that this will result in ensuring ceasefire along the LoC."

At the same time, Gen Singh revealed the Indian Army was responding to firing with firing. "Let me assure you that action has been taken. If you see the Pakistani media, I was watching Geo TV on 23rd December, they were talking of one (Pakistani) officer and nine jawans being killed, and 12 or 13 being wounded. This has happened due to the firing of your soldiers on the ground," he asserted.

The army chief was upbeat about the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between China and India, stating the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement the two countries signed last October would ensure "better understanding and bonhomie and peace and tranquillity on the borders."

Taking a broader strategic view of patrol violations on the ground, he said, "This agreement is going to further strengthen the understanding at the LAC level and even at the army headquarters level and also at the national level. Our endeavour is to move ahead in right earnest to ensure that we maintain peace and tranquillity to enable the strategic and national initiatives to fructify and consolidate."

In contrast to the foreign ministry's pessimistic assessments about Pakistani influence growing in Afghanistan after the NATO troop drawdown this year, the army chief believes the Afghan National Army (ANA) would hold its own against any challenges. "Given the capacity that has been given by the international community, along with our contribution, the ANA and police forces should be able to deal with the situation."

While Indian intelligence agencies have sounded dire warnings about jihadi fighters from Afghanistan being funnelled into J&K after NATO leaves, the army chief was far less pessimistic, conveying this was no more than a possibility. "A good army man hopes for the best but caters for the worst. From that point of view, it is axiomatic, it is imperative that we see that there might be a certain spillover from Afghanistan into Jammu & Kashmir. There are certain inputs alluding to this already. And therefore we need to be on our guard," he said. Asked about the possibility of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from J&K, the army chief did not reject the idea as flatly as the army has done in the past. He said, "We need to look at what happens in Afghanistan in 2014 before we can (consider revoking AFSPA). Perhaps it may be prudent to watch and wait for a while."
Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra terms 2014 as 'challenging year' for Army

Northern Command Army Commander Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra Wednesday termed year 2014 as 'challenging year' in the backdrop of withdrawal of US troops from the Afghanistan and internal conditions of Pakistan.

Asserting that Army is fully prepared, the General said, "US troops will withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and the impact in the neighbouring country will also have impact on Jammu and Kashmir, but Army is prepared to fight any situation".

"Pakistan has the capability to calibrate violence," he told reporters during media interaction at Akhnoor after investiture ceremony adding that on the LoC, troops are given directions to remain alert and foil any nefarious designs.

He said that terror infrastructure is in place across the border but Army is efficient enough to meet any challenge and give a befitting reply to the enemy any time.

On Border Action Team's attack on Indian posts in August last year in Poonch in which five soldiers were killed, the Army Commander said, "we have ensured that such BAT actions do not take place in future. Three days back Pakistani tried BAT operation but we foiled their attempt following alertness and defence prepared by us".

The Army Officer further said that peace and tranquility has restored in the state and it was only possible due to the elimination of 'tanzeem' (outfit) leaders in assistance with the local police, para-military forces and other agencies.

However, on militants reaching Jammu and Kashmir via Nepal route, the GOC-in-C termed it as 'threatening' and said that measures are being undertaken and check is also being maintained.

The General further said that in the year 2013, there was spurt in ceasefire violations from Pakistan's side and rise in infiltration bids but all attempts were successfully foiled.

On Chinese incursion along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh region, Lt Gen Chachra said, "there is peace and stability along the LAC. We are patrolling at our perceptions and there is a very clear and comprehensive border mechanism put in place."

He however, also ruled out any migration from Damchuk area of Ladakh in view of Chinese incursion.
Afghanistan withdrawal, J&K polls pose challenges: Army

Akhnoor, Jammu and Kashmir: Due to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and polls in Jammu and Kashmir, this year will be a challenge for the security forces, a top Army commander said today in Akhnoor. "I must say that once the troops in Afghanistan leave, once the people are out of job, they (militants) will try to come to this side. We are aware of that reality. We are a responsible professional Army," Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, GOC-in-C Northern Command told reporters.

"We know that there is threat inside JK and threats from these inimical elements to peace. We are prepared for it—it is prudent to plan for it also—there are no such (Al Qeada) indicators, but yes we will be prepared for this eventuality," he said. Lt Gen Chachra said this year may pose serious challenges before the Army. "2014 is a challenge for us. If there are problems in the neighbouring country, the affect would be found here also. They (militants) want to pollute democratic process in J&K. Terrorists inspired incidents are taking place, but you see that they are targeting soft targets or those areas where they want to achieve success and run away. We are prepared for it," Lt Gen Chachra said. The officer was here to attend concluding ceremony of Investiture Ceremony held at Sangha Auditorium, Akhnoor border belt today. "The militants will make efforts to vitiate atmosphere in Kashmir Valley. We should not give them the cause to vitiate atmosphere so that they cannot start a cycle of violence in Valley or anything to trigger a communal tension," the Northern Command chief said. "See, the fact is that the terror infrastructure is in place. A day before we killed three of the top terrorists including a big leader. We are going after the leaders," he said. Lt Gen Chachra was replying to a volley of questions about militants' plans this year, when Assembly and Lok Sabha polls are going to be held, cross-border infiltration, spillover of militants of Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan after the troops withdrawal. Referring to terror infrastructure in Pakistan and infiltration attempts, he said, "Number of militants across keep changing, but we know how many camps, how many launching pads are there. Militants are ready to infiltrate, recently their focus has changed from North (Kashmir) to South (South) due to weather conditions. "There are reports that attempts were made from North area to infiltrate taking benefit of bad weather. "The pattern of infiltration has not changed, the numbers have increased, the attempts have increased, they are still making attempts. It is only that we have put in place a comprehensive counter infiltration strategy which has ensured enhanced security guard on the borders."
Know why Indian Army celebrates Army Day
New Delhi: The Indian Army is celebrating  66th Army Day on Wednesday, reaffirming its pledge to defend the nation against all adversaries, external and within.

January 15 is the day on which 15th Lieutenant General K M Cariappa became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief in 1948.

Since then It is celebrated every year at all the Army Command headquarters and national capital by organizing army parades including many other military shows.

It is observd to pay homage to and salute the brave jawans and officers who sacrificed their lives for protecting the country.

Indian Army General Kodandera Madappa Cariappa succeeded the British Indian Army General Roy Butcher and became the first Commander-in-Chief of armed forces in independent India.
Indian Army: A national asset (Article)

New Delhi, Jan.14 (ANI): The Indian nation celebrates Army Day on January, 15, every year with great fervour. January, 15, has been chosen for this event due to its historical significance. It was on this day in 1949, that the Indian Army divested itself of British control with General (later Field Marshal) K. M. Cariappa taking over as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Army from Sir Francis Butcher.

A number of parades, memorial lectures, equipment displays, investiture ceremonies organised by the army on this day elicit tremendous response from the general public.

The Army Day is also a time to revisit the achievements of the army in the year gone by. The pace for this exercise is set, in no small measure, by the traditional press conference of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

This year, the press conference by General Bikram Singh, COAS, was held at the Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw Convention Centre in New Delhi on January, 13. Many issues of relevance came up during the press conference.

The COAS made a short introductory statement where he spoke of enhancement of combat power and gave out figures of the amounts expended for the purpose through the year.

His focus was on the raising of an additional corps in the North-East that has been on the drawing board for some time now. It has got a denomination (17 Corps) and the skeleton is in place. This constitutes good news, since its raising is imperative to cover strategic gaps in the nations defence.

Other points covered by the COAS were the strides being made by the army in the domain of human resource management where the thrust has been on work culture and maintaining the secular profile of the force.

The COAS dwelled on the importance of “jointness” in the evolving strategic thought process globally and the efforts being made by the Army in this direction.

Major issues came up during the question and answer session. As is usual, it was security in Jammu and Kashmir that elicited the maximum questions.

With regard to continued Chinese belligerence along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the COAS said that the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement signed by the two countries recently would strengthen existing mechanisms and interface at the theatre level.

When asked to elaborate on the crucial aspect of an imbalance in infrastructure between India and China in the border regions, he tacitly admitted to the need for more effort in this direction, and added that a plan has been submitted to the government whereby, development of infrastructure would be outsourced. Efforts are also being made to enhance the capability of the Army’s Border Roads Organisation.

On the recent meeting between the Director Generals of Military Operations, COAS held forth a view that India agreed to the meeting in view of the aspirations of the local population on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) who were the worst sufferers of the frequent ceasefire violations and wanted an end this continuous harassment, loss of life and property. He emphasised that as a fall out of the meeting ceasefire violations have reduced substantially.

On the subject of barbaric acts by Pakistan Army soldiers coming across the LoC to kill Indian soldiers, the COAS clarified that Indian soldiers on ground have been given the freedom to retaliate appropriately.

He said that India would desist from all actions that can escalate the conflict and would also follow rules of engagement as specified in the civilized world by statutes like the Geneva Conventions.

However, if rules are not followed by the adversary, then Indian Army would also not follow them.

The critical aspect of continuing enabling legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Jammu and Kashmir were covered by the COAS in the context of the overall security situation of the region.

The drawback of ISAF forces from Afghanistan and the possible resurgence of the Taliban that could give a boost to terrorist activity against India in Kashmir dictates a wait and watch policy. Hence, for the moment, dilution of the security threshold in the region is not an option.

When queried on the issue of human rights violations the COAS reiterated that the policy of zero tolerance to human rights violations is being followed by the army assiduously. This is evident from the court martial ordered in the Machil incident which would have a “salutary effect.”

As mentioned, Army Day is the time to revisit all achievements of the army in the year gone by. There are some critical aspects that were left uncovered in the press conference. On the issue of combat power, the most critical aspect of acquisition of major military hardware like artillery guns, air defence equipment etc was not touched upon.

The number of our brave soldiers who attained martyrdom in the line of duty was not mentioned nor was their bravery and sacrifice acknowledged.

An assessment of the security situation in conflict ridden zones, especially Jammu and Kashmir was not provided; this is most important in view of the two major elections to be held in the state in 2014.

The army’s role in disaster management was not highlighted; this was especially necessary in view of the sterling contribution made by the brave soldiers in the Uttarakhand calamity. Equally significant is the contribution to international peace keeping initiatives through the United Nations; a major factor this year was the sacrifice made by two brave Indian soldiers in the line of duty in South Sudan. The strides being made in the crucial arena of sports and adventure went wholly uncovered.

It becomes quite apparent from the issues discussed that India is going through some testing times and that the Indian Army is prepared for all eventualities.

It has the capacity to effectively perform its responsibilities towards the nation. On the occasion of Army Day, it is only befitting to remind the nation about its bounden duty to ensure that the blood spilled by its brave soldiers as also their contribution to the national cause does not go waste.

To ensure the same all out efforts should be made to maintain this valuable national asset at the highest pedestal professionally, socially and psychologically. By Jaibans Singh (ANI)
Why General Kalashnikov couldn't sell the AK in India

Russia's greatest small arms designer Lt General Mikhail Timofeyvich Kalashnikov was buried with full state honors in Moscow on December 27. The ceremony for the legendary gun designer, who died aged 94 on December 23, was attended by President Vladimir Putin. 

General Kalashnikov visited India only once, in February 2004 where he kicked up a row. The star attraction at Defexpo, a biennial defence exhibition in the capital, was being escorted around the stalls at Delhi's Pragati Maidan. He stood transfixed at the Indian Ordnance Factory board pavilion. On display there was a knock-off of his assault rifle with its distinctive banana shaped magazine. The pretense was so thinly veiled that the weapon was even called the 'AK-7'. The general made his disgust known. The OFB had illegally copied his design. His protest had an instant impact. OFB shelved the AK-7.  Izhmash, the Russian factory that has produced the rifle since it was accepted for service in 1947, however did not pursue the copyright violation. Andrey Vishnyakov, Izhmash's fast-talking sales manager told me it was purely business. Russia hoped to sell the OFB the rights to make genuine AK-47s. Roughly two-thirds of India's military hardware, MiG fighters, T-72 tanks and Kilo-class submarines, were of Soviet origin.

What had baffled the arms factory executive was that India had however not purchased the pinnacle of Soviet engineering design, the ruggedly simple AK-47 from Russia. They had instead, Vishniyakov told me ruefully, bought poorer cousins made in the Eastern Bloc. The Soviet Union had aggressively exported AK designs along with its ideology. But had not patented the design as rigorously. Now, its capitalist successor, the Russian Federation, felt the pinch from over a dozen countries that continued to manufacture the rifle.

The Indian army had discarded its bolt-action .303 Lee Enfield rifle after the debacle of the 1962 war. The venerable rifle had been outgunned by Chinese variants of the AK rifles. The Belgian FN-FAL L1A1 7.62 mm Self Loading Rifle license produced by the OFB since the 1962 war was obsolete by the 1980s when the Indian army found just why militants in Punjab, Kashmir and Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka favored the AK-47. Optimized for close range combat, light, easily-concealed, its tremendous firepower of over 600 rounds a minute, leveled the playing field for inferior forces. The rifle was rugged and required little maintenance and survived after being buried in muddy fields and immersed in water. These were lessons the US army had come up against fighting in Vietnam in the 1960s. But while the US replaced the bulky, self-loading M14 with the lighter M16 in the early years of Vietnam, the DRDO-designed indigenous Indian Small Arms Systems or INSAS assault rifle that promised deliverance, was still years away from induction in the 1980s. The Indian army looked at short term solutions. It equipped itself with some of over 12,000 AKs it had captured from insurgents in the mid-1990s. Many of these captured weapons were ironically, made in Russian factories like Izhmash and Tula.

The army then turned to Romania, Bulgaria and erstwhile Czechoslovakia that made cheap AK variants. Among the first AKs purchased for the Indian army were the Czech-made VZ-58, an assault rifle that outwardly resembled the AK.

The rifle also filtered into Indian folklore. Sanjay Dutt was first jailed for possessing an 'AK-56' in 1993 (actually, a Norinco Type-56, the Chinese variant of the AK). The Rashtriya Rifles, an army formation that fights insurgency in J&K since 1990, has two crossed AK-47s as its unit insignia. Despite the induction of the indigenous INSAS rifle after the Kargil war in 1999, Indian army units in militancy affected regions continue to be equipped with the AK. India continues to be one of the world's largest importers of AK-type rifles. Again, these weapons aren't from Kalashnikov factories in Russia but from Bulgaria. The home ministry has bought over 100,000 Bulgarian-made AKs in the past decade to equip police and paramilitary units.

A Bulgarian AK-47 with its distinctive black plastic finish cost just Rs.22,000 in 2011. This was significantly cheaper than the Russian AK variant made in Izhmash and Rs.5000 less than even the INSAS assault rifle. One home ministry official told me that the Bulgarian manufacturer, Arsenal, ran three shifts a day to keep up with the Indian order.  Against this AK onslaught from the erstwhile Eastern Bloc, Russia's Izhmash had only a small glimmer of hope, a modest sale of AK-103s, to the Marine commandos, a decade ago. Hopes of selling newer AK variants to the Indian army have faded. The Indian army is looking at a multi-calibre rifle, one that can shoot both 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm bullets, as the weapon to replace the INSAS and the AK-47. Izhmash now belatedly called the Kalashnikov concern since August this year, is out of the contest because it does not have such a weapon. Even Russia's other option, India's vast paramilitary forces, may soon be weaned away from AK imports. The OFB has developed yet another AK-47 clone, the Trichy Assault Rifle. India's fascination for the AK-47 continues. Only that General Kalashnikov's design may not roll out of a Russian factory. 

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