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Thursday, 17 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 17 Apr 2014

 Rising defence spending
India, in top 10 big spenders, needs indigenisation

The latest report on world military expenditure for 2013, prepared by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), serves as a grim reminder of the huge quantum of money that continues to be spent on defence the world over and also how many countries remain either smitten by power, control and force projection or ridden with suspicion, fear, tensions and small wars and insurgencies. In 2013 alone, most countries put together spent as much as $1.75 trillion or $ 1,747 billion to keep their respective countries secure. The overall figure would in fact be higher considering that data from several countries was not available while some other countries such as China and other authoritarian regimes are quite likely to have suppressed the actual amount spent on defence.

India, with its major modernisation programme underway, remains among the top 10 spenders although it fell to the ninth position from eighth in 2012 as the world’s highest defence spender. Of particular concern to India and the South and South-East Asian region is the fact that China has increased its defence spending by 7.4 per cent to touch $ 180 billion making it the world’s second highest defence spender after the United States of America. Russia figures at the third place. A surprise high spender is Saudi Arabia, which has leapfrogged over the UK, Japan and France to have doubled its defence spending since 2004 and become the world’s fourth largest spender to touch $67 billion.

Saudi Arabia’s 14 per cent increase in defence spending is indicative of the instability that currently exists in the oil rich Gulf and Middle East region where tensions exist between Saudi Arabia and Iran, between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and also Riyadh’s need to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential ‘Arab Spring’ type protests. Even the smaller emirate of Bahrain has increased its defence spending by 26 per cent possibly to quell any potential for inner opposition. The fact, however, remains that despite India’s high defence spending, the armed forces are still saddled with a considerable amount of antiquated equipment. India remains dependent on imports from foreign nations for its armed forces, which hardly augurs well for a country that aims to be a military power to reckon with. New Delhi needs to work seriously on attaining a higher degree of indigenisation.
 IAF copter ferries Ladakh kids, teachers to school

In what is a major help for schoolchildren of the remote Zanskar-Padam region of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Air Force has adopted a few villages and is providing helicopter services for the children and teachers, saving them the treacherous ‘chaddar trek’ over the Zanskar river that freezes in winter.

The 114 Helicopter Unit at Leh, working jointly with Rigzin Spalbar, Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, has ensured that the students and teachers are airlifted -- twice a year -- in an IAF helicopter to reach their schools at Leh and back home to the Zanskar-Padam region.

Earlier, the ‘chaddar’ trek over the frozen Zanskar river was the only and a dangerous way for children and teachers of the area to reach Leh. The valley remains cut off from the main road access for more than eight months in a year.

Top-level changes soon in Northern Command

New commanders will soon assume charge of all the three corps in Northern Command, the Army’s most-active operational command.

Lt Gen K Himalaya Singh will be taking over as General Officer Commanding (GOC), 16 Corps, at Nargota this week. Commissioned into 2 Rajput, he had commanded 27 Rajput during the 1999 Kargil war for which he was decorated with the Yudh Seva Medal.

He also commanded 25 Infantry Division at Rajouri before moving as Chief of Staff (COS) of the Bhopal-based 21 Corps, a strike formation.

The GOC of 21 Corps and a cavalry officer, Lt Gen Amit Sharma, moved as COS, South Western Command, Jaipur, a few days ago. Sources said that Major General BS Negi, who commanded the Uniform force in Jammu and Kashmir and is presently GOC, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh Area, is tipped to take over as GOC, 14 Corps, at Leh.

Major General Subroto Saha, who commanded the 22 Infantry Division and is serving as Additional Director General Military Operations at the Army Headquarters is tipped to take over as GOC, 15 Corps, in Srinagar. Both officers are from the Assam Regiment and have been approved for the rank of Lieutenant General.

The incumbent GOC, 15 Corps, Lt General Gurmeet Singh is expected to move as Director General Military Intelligence at the Army Headquarters.

Army’s youngest command turns nine

South Western Command, the seventh and the youngest command of the Indian Army, turned nine on April 15. Also known as the Sapta Shakti Command, the Jaipur-based formation has jurisdiction over parts of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, which have a high density of serving and retired armed forces personnel.

Created to rationalise troop deployment and plug operational gaps along the western frontier, South Western Command has the unique distinction of being the test bed for the implementation of the Army’s TacC31 (Tactical Command, control, communication and Intelligence) system.

Over the past few years, the command has developed world-class training infrastructure at Mahajan Field Firing Ranges which are utilised in joint exercises with friendly foreign countries like Russia, USA, UK, France, Thailand and Kazakhstan in addition to routine training of the Indian Army.

International recognition for DRDO lab

The Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), Delhi, has been recognised as an affiliate member of the International Military Testing Association (IMTA) for a duration of three years.

Affiliate membership bestows international recognition and acclamation to DIPR and military testing in India. IMTA is an international organisation that promotes various kinds of military testing and has more than 30 countries as affiliate members.

DIPR, a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, provides psychological support to the armed forces in selection, training, effective man-machine interface and motivation to enhance mental health and operational efficiency of the armed forces. The laboratory has been a member of IMTA since 2010 and will be hosting the annual convention of IMTA in 2016.
Army, People's Liberation Army celebrate Bihu, Baisakhi
GUWAHATI: The Indian Army and People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China celebrated the harvest festivals of Bihu and Baisakhi at the border post in Arunachal Pradesh's Bum La on Monday.

An Army official said the troops of the two countries celebrating the harvest festivals at the border posts holds immense significance at a time when India and China were holding sixth round of strategic dialogue in Beijing on the same day.

The Indian troops deployed at Bum La invited PLA soldiers for friendly volleyball matches, tug of war and archery. The first-of-its-kind celebration came to an end with the troops paying respect to their national flags as the national anthems played on.

"There was mild snowfall and the wind was chilly. The spirit of the soldiers was high. Along with military band performances, there were cultural shows that included Bihu and Bhangra dances," the official said.

An Army statement said the PLA guests appreciated the Indian initiative which will go a long way in creating a feeling of bonhomie, peace and tranquility.
Bonhomie through volleyball and greetings at Nathu La
 KOLKATA: Coinciding with the Indian harvest festival, a special Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) was held with a delegation of People's Liberation Army (PLA) from China at Nathu La in Sikkim on Monday. The meeting was held in high spirits with the Chinese delegation extending warm wishes to the Indians for the year to come.

"The delegations, comprising eight officers each from both sides, were led by Brigadier equivalent officers. The meeting was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere and the PLA delegation members wished their Indian counterparts on the occasion," an Indian official said.

A friendly volleyball match between the two teams comprising a mix of PLA and Indian troops was also played out. The keenly played match was enjoyed by the delegation members and the PLA seemed keen for more such sporting activities in the near future with the Indian Army, the official added.
SC to hear petition on alleged role of Indian Army in Sri Lankan civil war
 The Supreme Court will hear on Friday a writ petition for a probe by a Special Investigation Team into the alleged role of the Indian Army in the war in Sri Lanka.

The petitioner, Ram Sankar, an advocate and human rights activist, said a probe was necessary in view of the publication of U.N. Secretary General’s expert panel report implicating Indian armed forces for their involvement with the Sri Lankan army in alleged war crimes against Tamil civilians, including persons of Indian origin.

He also cited the report of the Permanent People’s Tribunal indicting the Indian government for the involvement of its Army in the war.

The petitioner alleged that the Indian government deployed its Army in Sri Lanka without the authority and approval of the President of India and without the sanction of Parliament. He said there was no provision in the Constitution for permitting the use of the Indian Army for any purpose in a foreign soil other than for the defence of India.

Contending that the aid and abetment of the Indian Army with the Sri Lankan armed forces was unlawful, the petitioner sought a direction for constituting a SIT to probe into the role of Indian Army in the ethnic killings.
Rajput regiment turns 72
BANGALORE: April 15, 1942, Fatehgarh, the Rajput regiment was raised by field marshal Cariappa. Today, the regiment turns 72.

And ministry of defence's group captain Tarun Kumar Singha, chief public relations officer, Kolkata, features the regiment from Kolkata. Times of India got access to his article authored from Kolkata, and it reads: "Among all battalions of the Rajput Regiment, 17 Rajput has a unique place in present day history of the Indian Army. It was raised during the period of Quit India Movement in 1942. It was also among 10 other Rajput Battalions that were raised following outbreak of World War-II from 1940 to 1943."

In so far as its historical significance is concerned, 17/7 Rajput as it was then known, was the only 'War Raising' battalion by any Indian Officer who was none other than Lt Col KM Cariappa, OBE, popularly called 'Kipper' who went on to become the first Indian commander-in-chief and later the chief of army staff. He was also conferred the highest rank of field marshal on April 28, 1986.

Popular in the army as the barhe chalo battalion, a motto coined by the first commanding officer to spur his troops, it was meant to convey 'get cracking on'. The battalion continues to crack on regardless in pursuit of glory as one of Indian Army's proudest and finest fighting outfits in recent times.

17/7 Rajput was raised at Fatehgarh on April 15, 1942 as the Machine Gun Battalion of the erstwhile 7th Rajput Regiment. A distinctive colour of maroon and blue was adopted for the new outfit. On August 1, 1942, the battalion was converted into a Regiment of Indian Armoured Corps (IAC) and designated 52nd Rajput Regiment IAC (Bawanja Risala) and moved to Lahore.

On September 15, 1942, the battalion was converted into a 'Lorried Battalion' and moved to Secunderabad to form part of 268th Lorried Brigade. On March 16, 1943, Kipper was transferred and succeeded by Lt Col G.B. Macnamara. In May 1944, 17/7 Rajput moved to Kohima and later deployed at Imphal.

Informed readers may know that Rajput Regiment is one among the senior most regiments of our country. It must therefore, logically, rank higher in the hierarchy of the nomenclatures. Then why the seventh standing?

Evidently, Maj Gen Parr, who had commanded the 7th Rajput in Mesopotamia during World War-I desired that the Regiment to which his battalion belonged be named 7th Rajput Regiment. The suffix '7' was adopted and remained so for all battalions of the Rajput Regiment between 1920 till Independence, where after it was dropped altogether.

In the redesignations that followed, Barhe Chalo became 17th Battalion of the Rajput Regiment on May 1, 1948. Later when its founding father, Lt Gen KM Cariappa became Army Chief on January 15, 1950 (commemorated as Army Day), an honour was bestowed on the battalion. The distinct maroon and royal blue hackle of the unit was now adopted by all Rajput Regiment battalions. In 1965, Barhe Chalo participated in Op Riddle as part of 7th Infantry Division, where it successfully executed its task of capturing Bedian bridge. The unit also participated in Op Cactus Lily in 1971 as part of 86 Infantry Brigade in Dera Baba Nanak sector, where it captured Khokherke and Sadhuwan posts of enemy and provided a firm base for Op Akal. The unit was also successful in capturing a crucial enemy post for which Capt Nawal Singh Rajawat and Late Sep Satyawan Singh were awarded VrC.

In 1982, the battalion underwent a change in class composition and reorganised to include Rajputs, Gujjars, Brahmins, Bengalis, Jats, Ahirs and Muslims in equal percentage composition. If ever anyone needs to see the secular credentials of an Indian Army's fighting unit, one need not go beyond Barhe Chalo whose war cry - Bol Bajrang Bali ki Jay! Hanuman ki Hunkare! - yelled by one and all can easily curl any enemy's guts.

The battalion was also the first unit of Rajput Regiment to be inducted in Siachen Glacier in 1991. The unit had a successful tenure without having a single fatal casualty, which indeed is a unique achievement.

Among the wars and major operations that Barhe Chalo participated include World War-II, between May to August 1944, Indo-Pak War of 1965 between September 1965 to February 1966 and Indo-Pak War 1971, from October to December 1971. Among the various military operations include Operatons Orchid, Rhino, Vijay, Rakshak and Parakram.

Glory to the Barhe Chalo has been brought through its gallant officers and soldiers through 2 Military Cross, an OBE and PVSM each, 7 Kirti Chakras, an AVSM, 4 Shaurya Chakras, 3 Vir Chakras, 12 Sena Medals, 3 VSM, 6 Mention-in-Despatches, 38 COAS, 7 VCOAS and 33 GOC-in-C Commendation Cards including several other gallantry certificates.

The battalion is presently serving at an undisclosed high altitude location standing vigil under Eastern Command. The Barhe Chalo battalion is presently being commanded by Colonel Balbir Singh Siwach, a second-generation army officer, commissioned in December 1990.

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