Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

From Today's Papers - 30 Apr 2014

 Allow Sikhs to serve in US army: US-Indians to Defense Secy Hagel

Washington, April 29
Sixteen influential Indian-Americans from across the country have asked US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to allow Sikhs to serve in the armed forces with their religious faith intact.

"As entrepreneurs and community members dedicated to advancing issues important to the Indian-American community and strengthening ties between the US and India, we respectfully request that the US Department of Defense modernise its appearance regulations so that Sikh-Americans can presumptively serve in our nation's military while maintaining their articles of faith," 16 Indian-Americans wrote in a letter to Hagel.

According to the copy of the letter dated April 25, which was provided to PTI today, the Indian Americans - all of whom are major fundraisers and wield considerable influence in the nation's political circle - praised the recent efforts of 105 bipartisan members of the US House of Representatives, who recently had also sent a letter to Hagel expressing their support for Sikh-Americans in the US armed forces.

That letter was led by Congressman Joseph Crowley, who co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, and Rodney Frelinghuysen, who chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

"The importance of this issue to the Indian-American community is underscored by the fact that the Government of India issued a statement supporting the effort. As you know, our NATO allies already permit Sikhs to serve," the letter, which was signed by Shekhar Narasimhan, Ranvir Trehan, Shefali Razdan Duggal, Rajeev Sharma, Parag and Usha Saxena, Reshma Saujani, Frank Ismail, Raj Goyle, Anju Bhargava, said.

Among other signatories to the letter are -- MR Rangaswami, Mahinder Tak, Sunita Leeds, Aneesh Chopra, Vinod K Shah and Parag V Mehta.

"We wanted our Sikh-American brothers and sisters to know that, at the very least, the Indian-American community stands with them and while it may be seen as symbolic, their cause is our cause," Narasimhan said.

In the letter, the Indian-Americans said for more than a century, immigrants from India have strengthened and enriched America, even after overcoming obstacles. — PTI
 Soldiers injured on leave entitled to benefits: SC
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
Upholding a judgment of the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), the Supreme Court has ruled that soldiers injured while on duly authorised leave are entitled to grant of disability pension.

The Tribunal’s judgment was challenged by the Central government in the Supreme Court. The apex court dismissed the civil appeal observing that there was no infirmity in the conclusions reached by the Tribunal.

In November 2011, the Tribunal’s Bench comprising Justice Ghanshyam Prashad and Lt Gen HS Panag had, after discussing various Supreme Court judgments in favour of and against the proposition of grant of disability pension to soldiers injured during leave, held that disability pension would be entitled to such persons when the injury was not due their own fault and when they were not engaged in a militarily inconsistent activity.

Disposing a case where a soldier was injured in a road accident, the Tribunal had concluded that it was its duty to give a beneficial interpretation to such social welfare schemes and policy had to be interpreted liberally since roads were now flooded with vehicles while the rules were originally framed in 1950 and that otherwise it shall lead to grave injustice to soldiers who defend the frontiers.

The Tribunal had also observed that while civilians were retained in service on incurring disabilities, defence personnel could be discharged. It observed that if military personnel could not be retained they must be adequately compensated for being thrown out on account of disabilities so that they could meet their own and their families’ basic needs.

The issue of denial of benefits to disabled soldiers and tendency of the defence ministry of filing multiple appeals against disability pension to disabled soldiers in the SC, was also raised in the Parliament in August 2013 by several MPs.

Experts dealing with the subject state that it was only in India that defence personnel were not paid any kind of monthly pension on being discharged on non service-related disabilities whereas the services of disabled civilians were protected and they were entitled to pay and allowances till superannuation and pension thereafter.
Former Air Chief NAK Browne is Norway envoy
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 29
The Centre today named Air Chief Marshal (Retired) NAK Browne as India’s next Ambassador to Norway. Browne would take up his new assignment shortly, the External Affairs Ministry said in an announcement which is also bound to upset mandarins at the Foreign Office.

He succeeds RK Tyagi. ACM Browne, also known as ‘Charlie’ Browne, was chief of the IAF from July 31, 2011 to December 31, 2013.

The government had two years back appointed former Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma as the High Commissioner to Canada, courting a controversy. The then External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had proposed the name of senior diplomat Basant Gupta for the post but the PMO ignored his recommendation and appointed Verma. Before this, another former Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta was appointed as the High Commissioner to New Zealand.
India: Urgent Defense Reforms Needed
    On April 2, India’s outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, told a conference that: “As a responsible nuclear weapon state that remains committed to non-proliferation, India supports the idea of a nuclear-weapon-free world because we believe that it enhances not just India’s security, but also global security.”

    Less than a fortnight later, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), largely expected to lead the next government, sprung a surprise by declaring in its election manifesto that it will “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it to make it relevant to [the] challenges of current times.”

    That was a surprise, because India’s 15-year old nuclear doctrine that decrees “no-first use” of nuclear weapons was put in place by the last BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. If the BJP indeed comes to power and then delivers on its promise, it would mark a major shift in India’s nuclear policy.

    Tweaking or changing the course of India’s nuclear doctrine will surely alter India’s foreign policy too. The challenge for the new government will be to balance India’s own national interest with the current – and fast-changing – geopolitical situation in Eurasia.

    The outgoing United Progressive Alliance government has had a mixed record on strategic issues. It vacillated between unusual firmness on some issues (the Devayani Khobragade affair with the U.S. for example) but was erratic in dealing with China and Pakistan and sent out mixed signals in its interactions with other smaller neighbors like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh. In several instances, New Delhi failed to deliver on promises made to its neighbors, often putting the local leaders in those countries in awkward positions. For instance, New Delhi, despite its best intentions, could not fulfill two major promises made to Dhaka on concluding a land boundary agreement and sharing the waters of the Teesta river. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina faced a major political embarrassment at home because of New Delhi’s failure to keep its word.

    With Colombo too, India swung between two different positions during the vote against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council, and paid the price by losing considerable ground to China in terms of influence with the island nation. New Delhi’s failure to calibrate events in the Maldives is also seen as a setback for its own clout in the region.

    India’s next prime minister – and everyone believes Narendra Modi will be the man, post-May 16 – will need to step up and reboot foreign policy as a priority if India is to regain the influence it had acquired at the turn of the century and even during the first term of the UPA, but which was frittered away by its ineffectual leadership since 2010.

    However, a greater challenge awaits the new prime minister. The Indian military is in shambles not least because it is stuck with a largely 19th century mindset, is mostly armed with 20th century weapons, but has a 21st century ambition. The stark mismatch, topped by a risk-averse Defence minister, has left India’s military forces at their lowest ebb in decades.

    Two years ago when a letter written by the then Army Chief Gen VK Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh found its way into the media, there was much outrage and anger over the state of Indian Army’s preparedness. “The state of the major (fighting) arms i.e. mechanised forces, artillery, air defence, infantry and special forces, as well as the engineers and signals, is indeed alarming,” the General wrote to the prime minister. The army’s entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks,” while the air defence system is “97% obsolete,” he wrote. The infantry is crippled with “deficiencies,” while the elite forces are “woefully short” of “essential weapons.” Singh has since joined the resurgent BJP and is hoping to win a seat in parliament when results are declared on May 16.

    Since then, urgent steps have been taken to improve the deficiencies in some areas, especially in improving the stock of fresh ammunition. Still, many critical shortages remain unaddressed. For instance, the Army’s light helicopters are more than 40 years old; it has not bought new artillery guns since 1987; it is also short nearly 600,000 hand grenades. The list is endless.

    The Indian Navy, too, is short of conventional submarines. Its fleet of diesel-powered submarines is down to a single digit. Submarines in production in Indian shipyards are at least four years behind schedule. The Indian Air Force is down to 33 squadrons of fighter jets against the required strength of 39 squadrons. Its eight-year-old plan to purchase 126 new combat jets is yet to come to fruition, although a contract negotiating committee is currently talking to French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and hopes to ink a mammoth 15 billion dollar deal as soon as the next government gives it the green light. Even then, the first lot of 18 aircraft will enter service only in 2017, and only then if the contract is signed before the end of 2014.

    Acquiring critical weapons platform is but one of the facets of defense management. India has been found to be woefully inadequate in reforming its higher defense management structure. A combination of bureaucratic lethargy and cumbersome systems topped by a timid minister has weakened the Indian military alarmingly. The biggest hurdle in the Indian military’s quest for rapid modernization has been the country’s defense minister AK Antony. As a politician concerned solely with preserving his squeaky clean image, Antony has time and again put his personal obsessions above national interest.

    His record as India’s longest serving Defence minister (he’s held the post since October 2006) is a clear testimony to this. During his tenure, Antony has already barred or blacklisted half a dozen major international defense firms at the first hint of wrong doing and bribery and has cancelled contracts in the very last stage of the process leaving the three armed forces to battle with shortages and obsolescence.

    And so the three services continue to suffer. The new government and its leader will have to urgently press the reset button to put defense modernization on the fast track, equipping the Indian military with the teeth it needs required teeth to match India’s ambitions to become an important regional if not global player.
Retired deputy army chief N S Malik slams UPA government
Retired deputy chief of the Indian Army Lieutenant General N S Malik claimed here today that the security and integrity of the nation is not safe under the UPA government.

Malik, who is the BJP's national security cell convener claimed that India's defence preparedness is not upto the mark under the Congress-led UPA government.

Malik who is here to seek votes of ex-servicemen for Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha BJP candidate K Haribabu said that there is a need to modernise defence services including the air force and the navy.

Recommendations of the C Subrahmaniam Committee appointed by the NDA government after the Kargil war was not implemented by the UPA government, he said.

He said that during his recent election meetings Narendra Modi had promised to solve ex-servicemen's problems once the BJP comes to power at the Centre.
Solemnity marks cremation of Major
 Chennai on Monday bid an emotional farewell to Major Mukund Varadharajan. The 32-year-old officer, who laid down his life “in the most gallant manner in the finest traditions of the Indian Armed Forces” fighting extremists in Kashmir on Friday last, was cremated at the Besant Nagar crematorium.

The atmosphere at the crematorium, where the final rites were performed, was solemn with his parents, wife and their young daughter, accepting the condolences of officers, Ministers and people from various quarters. The coffin was draped with the Tricolour with his beret and battle gear uniform placed atop. The cremation was done with the full military honours, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence said.

Fourteen soldiers fired 42 rounds in the air as a mark of respect to the officer as bugles were sounded in line with the Army tradition.

Young people from across the city, including school and college students, assembled at the crematorium early in the day to pay their respects. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy called on the officer’s parents and wife at their home later in the evening on Monday.

Expressing his condolences, Governor K. Rosiah, in a letter to the Major’s father Raghavachari Varadharajan, said the death of Mukund Varadharajan was a great loss to the Army.

Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family and termed the loss irreparable.
Army undertakes major exercise along western front to hone combat skills

India may be raising a new mountain strike corps to counter China’s build-up of military infrastructure and capabilities all along the Line of Actual Control but it continues to hone its combat skills on the western front with Pakistan as well. A major exercise, codenamed ‘Sarvada Vijay’ (Always Victorious), is currently underway in the deserts of Rajasthan with the overall aim being to practice conventional cross-border thrusts into enemy territory.

With a large number of tanks, infantry combat vehicles and howitzers deployed, the exercise involves the Mathura-based I Strike Corps with some support elements. “Army chief General Bikram Singh will be visiting the Suratgarh area to review the exercise later this week,” said a source.

After Operation Parakram in 2002, which exposed operational gaps and the slow troop mobilisation along the border, India reorganised the Army formations along the western front to ensure the capability to deliver a more effective lethal punch if required.

This involved the creation of the South-Western Command (SWAC) in Jaipur in 2005 as the 1.18-million strong Army’s sixth operational command. While I Strike Corps falls under SWAC, the other two such “attack” formations are II Corps (Ambala) under the Western Army Command at Chandimandir and XXI Corps (Bhopal) under the Southern Army Command in Pune.

But with the focus for long being on a land battle with Pakistan, it is only over the last few years that India has belatedly turned its attention to China. So, while the three existing strike corps are largely geared towards Pakistan, the Army in 2009-2010 raised two new infantry divisions (1,260 officers and 35,000 soldiers) at Likabali and Missamari (Assam) for the “defence” of Arunachal Pradesh.

Now, India has begun raising the new mountain strike corps – the XVII Corps with its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal — to add some much-needed “deterrence” to the “dissuasive posture” against China. It will give the Army, virtually for the first time, some “rapid reaction force” capability to launch a counter-offensive into Tibet Autonomous Region in the event of a Chinese attack.

The XVII Corps is to be fully raised over the next seven years with around 90,000 soldiers at a cost of around Rs 64,700 crore. Apart from “integral units”, the new corps will have two high-altitude infantry divisions (initially being raised at Panagarh and Pathankot), two independent infantry brigades, two armoured brigades and two Para-Special Forces battalions, spread across Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.

This is deemed critical to counter China’s “aggressive” strengthening of its military capabilities along the LAC, including at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in Tibet. This allows China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there as of now, as earlier reported by TOI.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal