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Thursday, 24 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 24 Jul 2014

How the initiative at sea was seized
The role of the Indian Navy in the Kargil war has not been talked about much. The former Navy Chief gives a first-hand account of the Navy’s Operation Talwar as the Kargil conflict unfolded
Admiral Sushil Kumar

Very little has been spoken or written about what the Indian Navy did during the Kargil conflict of 1999. In fact, it is largely believed and mistakenly so, that the Indian Navy played no role at all. While the Army and Air Force undoubtedly played a stellar role and won the war for us, the Navy, albeit on the sideline, made a silent but significant contribution. And this is a first-hand account of how the Kargil conflict unfolded and what the Navy’s Operation Talwar was all about. I recall the initial phase of how the Kargil conflict began. As the Navy Chief, I was also officiating as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee since General Ved Malik, the Army Chief, was abroad on an assignment.
The reports that first came in were quite vague and hazy. They alluded to stray incidents along the Line of Control with Pakistan. There was also a report of an Indian Army patrol that had not returned and of shepherds having seen strangers on our side of the Line of Control (LoC). Despite the uncertain nature of these reports, the Army was understandably concerned and requested for air effort by way of armed reconnaissance. At that stage, Air Chief Marshal Tipnis, the Air Chief, quite rightly advised, that hastily inducting the Indian Air Force may send the wrong signal. With scanty reports available, the situation was confused and seemed to be only a minor border incident in an area that had always been regarded as no-man’s land.

More than a border incident

By the time General Malik returned from his trip abroad, it became clear that the incursion on the Himalayan border in the Kargil sector was not just a mere border incident. Not only was the extent of the Pakistani intrusion very vast but it also appeared that something sinister was afoot. The manner in which the intruders had entrenched themselves on our side of the LoC, in well-prepared concrete bunkers at strategically commanding locations, clearly showed that this was a well-planned manoeuvre that had been executed over a carefully calculated time frame. There was no doubt that Pakistani treachery had caught us by surprise. Promptly, the Indian Government swung into action and gave the Indian Armed Forces a clear-cut directive: Evict the intruders. But do not cross the LoC was the Prime Minister’s diktat which proved to be a diplomatic masterstroke. This was the start up for Operation Vijay. For Navymen like me who had been around during the India-Pakistan war of 1965, the lasting memory had always been of the mischief carried out by the Pakistan Navy at sea. When all attention had been on the land war, a couple of Pakistan Navy destroyers had sneaked in one night and lobbed a few shells onto a deserted beach on the Gujarat coast. Ever since then, the Pakistan Navy has celebrated that event as “Pakistan Navy Day.”

By early June 1999, as our Army and Air Force were preparing for action on the LoC, task forces of the Indian Navy’s Western Fleet had already been deployed to their battle stations — to seize the initiative at sea. With the situation getting tense, it was at an important war council briefing that the Prime Minister reiterated his Directive of not crossing the LoC.

Operational constraint

For the Army and Air Force this was surely an operational constraint but not so for the Navy, as we always operate in international waters anyway. Moreover, coercive diplomacy has always been the Navy’s forte and the tactic of exerting pressure from over the horizon has always been a well- tested strategy referred to as gunboat diplomacy from Nelsonian times.

We realised that the Indian Navy’s forward deployment had certainly had the desired effect when we learnt that Pakistan had frantically started escorting its oil tankers at sea, for this indeed was their lifeline for survival.

By the middle of June, the Army and Air Force had scaled up their operations. With tension mounting, the situation looked as though it would escalate beyond a border conflict. At this time the Navy’s Operational Commanders re-appreciated the situation and decided to prepare for hostilities. The Navy’s Eastern Fleet from the Bay of Bengal was rapidly mobilised and deployed in strength to the Arabian Sea.

And so as the operations on the Himalayan heights at Tololing and Tiger Hill reached a crescendo, the Indian Navy remained poised with both fleets in full readiness. As we approached what seemed like the precautionary stage for war, operation orders for combat were issued with the rules of engagement clearly defined for commanders at sea. This was a very important threshold for us. The codename assigned was
Operation Talwar.
Threat of nuclear retaliation

It was around this time that Pakistani generals started resorting to threats of nuclear retaliation. Much of it was rhetoric but it could not be dismissed altogether, as we were obviously dealing with a desperate foe whose misadventure had been exposed, through recovered Pakistani documents and captured prisoners of war. By the end of June 1999, full-scale hostilities seemed imminent. At a crucial tri-Service briefing, the Army Chief General Ved Malik issued an advisory for the Indian Armed Forces — you better prepare for war, be it declared or otherwise. We in the Navy were fully armed and ready for battle.

Here I must add that while our task forces were well poised; we had our fingers crossed. Our warships were vulnerable with no Anti-Missile Defence (AMD) against the Pakistan Navy’s deadly Harpoon Exocet sea-skimming missiles. It was a serious vulnerability but the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, Vice Admiral Madhavendra Singh, and I had taken stock of the situation. There is always the fog of war and the adversary may not be entirely aware of the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, we had deployed in preponderant strength and our strike forces were aggressively poised. It certainly had the desired effect. We knew that the Pakistan Navy had gone on the defensive when we monitored a special message from the Pakistan Navy high command to all their warships ‘Remain in harbour’.

Seizing the initiative at sea

The signal from the Pakistani Naval (PN) Headquarters said it all and that day, at the briefing for the Chiefs of Staff Committee, I informed my colleagues that the Indian Navy had achieved what it had set out to do. We had seized the initiative at sea. Tri-Service cooperation had many facets during the Kargil operations and the Navy was able to chip in where needed. The Navy’s squadron of specially equipped electronic warfare aircraft operated extensively along the Line of Control in support of land operations. Specialist hydrographic survey teams of the Indian Navy were conjoined with the army’s artillery batteries to pin-point gun locations. But all this is trivia compared to the overall canvas of tri-service understanding and cooperation that Kargil 1999 portrayed. Many too are the lessons that the Kargil conflict has brought forth. Most important of all being that the Indian Armed Forces have the natural ability and resilience to face adversity when the chips are down. Kargil had caught us by surprise, yet motivated by the Government, the Armed Forces turned the tables onto the Pakistani intruders.

Force-multiplying effect

What Kargil also demonstrated was that when the Service Chiefs are in sync everything falls into place with a force-multiplying effect. General Malik, Air Chief Marshal Tipnis and I had trained together initially at the National Defence Academy as young cadets while still in our teens. In later years we served together on various operational and staff assignments and we also had the opportunity to serve concurrently as Vice Chiefs of our respective service.

When Kargil erupted we finally came together as the three Service Chiefs of the Indian Armed Forces. All this certainly mattered and was in sharp contrast to what happened on the other side of the border.

Undoubtedly, students of military history will remember Kargil as an operation conducted on the snowy Himalayan heights where the Indian Army and the IAF brought glory to the country. The role that the Indian Navy played during Kargil may yet remain lost as a footnote. But that is the way navies operate anyway; over the horizon and unseen. Perhaps, that is the reason why the Navy has always been known worldwide, as the silent service.
India, Pak Foreign Secys to meet on August 25
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
India today agreed to hold with Pakistan the foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad on August 25 even as New Delhi unambiguously told the neighbouring country that meaningful bilateral cooperation could not take place amid "violence and the sound of bullets".

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had a half-an-hour telephonic conversation this evening with her Pakistani counterpart during which she raised the issue of incidents of firing by Pakistani troops along the International Border (IB) in recent days.

She underlined that incidents of this nature would impede the positive work the political leadership of the two countries desired to undertake. Sujatha told the Pakistani diplomat that maintenance of peace and tranquillity along the LoC was one of the most important Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) for both India and Pakistan.

Briefing reporters, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the two foreign secretaries decided that they would meet in Islamabad on August 25 to discuss how to move forward in the relationship between the two countries.

The spokesperson clearly indicated that the proposed meeting on August 25 could not be termed as resumption of the stalled dialogue process. The two foreign secretaries would meet in accordance with the directive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif who had met in New Delhi on May 27 after the swearing-in of the new government in India.

The spokesperson for the Pakistan Foreign Office also issued a statement in Islamabad, saying, "In keeping with the visions of the two PMs to improve and establish good neighbourly relations, the foreign secretaries agreed that the dialogue process between the two countries should be result-oriented."

This was the first contact between the top diplomats of the two countries since the meeting between their two PMs in Delhi. Only last week, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit had indicated that the two foreign secretaries would meet soon. He had also emphasised that the two countries should hold uninterrupted talks on all outstanding issues between the two countries.

The talks remain suspended since January last year when Pakistani troops had beheaded an Indian soldier and killed another along the border. India appears in no mood to resume the full-spectrum dialogue until ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops stop.
 India, US, Japan naval exercise from today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Almost seven years after China had protested against an India-US-Japan trilateral naval exercise, the three nations are to start a major week-long exercise, “Malabar”, in North Pacific along the Japanese Coast. So far, China has maintained silence on the matter.

The move to invite Japan was okayed in December last year, especially after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed keenness to expand ties with India. In 2007 China had protested when Japan and joined the bilateral Navy exercise “Malabar”.

The exercise starts on Thursday and ends on July 30. The US will be fielding its nuclear attack submarine, the USS Columbus and the newly made sea-borne aircraft carrier the USS George Washington. Indian Navy will be using three ships — the Stealth frigate INS Shivalik, INS Ranvijay and fleet tanker the INS Shakti.

The Japanese will field their warships and also the sea plane the U-2. India has showed interest in buying these planes.

The Malabar exercise used to be a bilateral one between India and the US, but China had protested when the war games – then conducted in the Bay of Bengal — were expanded in 2007 to include the Australian, Japanese and Singaporean navies as well.

China views multilateral groupings as a mode to “contain’’ it. Beijing is locked in separate boundary disputes with India and Japan.

New Delhi has tried to do a tight rope walk between countries like the US and Japan on one side and China on the other. India and China are also of course competing for the same strategic space in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and also energy resources.
 Must respect each other’s concerns: Modi told Chinese Prez

New Delhi, July 23
Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to create the “right conditions” to harness the true potential of ties with India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for respecting each other’s “interests and concerns, including in the shared neighbourhood”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, while giving details of last week’s meeting in Brazil, told Parliament today that Modi spoke about the “enormous opportunities” that exist to “work together not only to reinforce each other’s development, but also to contribute to peace, stability and progress in Asia and the world”.

Modi “stressed the importance of strengthening mutual trust and confidence, maintaining peace and tranquility on the border and respecting each other’s interests and concerns, including in our shared neighbourhood, for realising the full potential of our relationship,” she said in a suo motu statement made in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

She did not elaborate on the “interests and concerns” in the “shared neighbourhood”, but India has been worried over Chinese efforts to expand its influence to countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Modi underlined to Xi that increased people-to-people contacts between the two ancient civilisations could greatly strengthen the bilateral relationship, Swaraj said while giving details of the first meeting between the two leaders that took place in Fortelaza.

Xi “shared our views on creating the right conditions and building a higher degree of engagement and familiarity between the two countries,” Sushma said. — PTI
Oldest regiment’s youngest battalion takes first step

The Army’s oldest regiment also happens to have the youngest battalion. With new battalions being formed for the upcoming Strike Corps against China, the Punjab Regiment has raised an additional battalion. Designated as 29 Punjab, the unit, with Col HS Guleria as its first Commanding Officer, moved to its first operational deployment somewhere in the western sector earlier this month.

On the eve of its departure from the Punjab Regimental Centre at Ramgarh in Jharkhand, where it was raised, Lt Gen BS Sachar, Colonel of the Punjab Regiment, addressed all officers and men of the battalion and exhorted them to uphold regimental traditions and strive for professional excellence. With this, the Punjab Regiment’s strength has gone up to 19 regular battalions in addition to four Rashtriya Rifles and three Territorial Army units. One of the oldest and most highly decorated regiments of the Army, it traces its history to 1761. The Army’s two elite outfits, First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and the First Battalion of Brigade of The Guards, are erstwhile Punjab Regiment units.

C’wealth Games: Army fields women shooter

In the list of 17 persons from the Army who are representing India in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, one name — Seema Tomar — stands out. A non-combatant, she the only woman in the Army’s contingent.

She was employed by the Army in 2004 under the sports quota as a part of the Mission Olympics and is working as a clerk. The 32-year-old shooter has trained at the Army Shooting Nore in Mhow and won a string of national and international shooting competitions.

The 215-strong Indian contingent has 30 shooters out of which 13 are women.

70th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal

Seventy years ago, the month of July saw the turning point in favour of the allies during the Burma Campaign of the World War-II. It was the Battle of Imphal, which was fought between the British and the Japanese between March and July 1944.

The battle took place in the region around Imphal in Manipur. The Japanese army attempted to destroy the allied forces and invade India, but were driven back into Burma with heavy losses. This was the largest defeat suffered by the Japanese till date. The Battle was largely fought by Indian and Gorkha troops with the 17, 20 and 23 Indian Infantry Divisions, 20 Indian Parachute Brigade and 254 Indian Tank Brigade under IV Corps as part of William Slim’s 14th Army.

The allied air forces also played a decisive logistic role, ferrying in troops. “The disaster at Imphal was perhaps the worst of its kind yet chronicled in the annals of war.” Kase Toshikazu, a Japanese Foreign Office functionary later recorded.

War-decorated General passes away

Lt Joginder Singh Bakshi, a recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), passed away at New Delhi this week. He was 86. As commander of a mountain brigade in the eastern Theatre during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, he had launched successful attacks and captured a number of well-prepared enemy localities, culminating in the capture of Bogra.

His MVC citation states that he had displayed professional competence of a high order and by his daring execution outwitted the opposing forces breaking their resistance and capturing a large number of men and equipment including the commander of 205 Brigade of the Pakistan Army. He later raised and commanded 3 Corps in the north-east and was also Colonel of the Jat Regiment.

Veteran sailors’ meet

The Veteran Sailors’ Forum (North Zone) is scheduled to hold its 6th Annual General Body Meeting on July 27 at Varunika in New Delhi. In addition to taking up issues related to ex-servicemen welfare, medicare, pension, interaction with agencies associated with ex-servicemen welfare, the Indian Naval Placement Agency, Indian Naval Benevolent Association, Directorate of Pay and Allowances, and Pension Disbursal Agencies will also take place.

Representatives of ECHS are also scheduled to address the veterans to update them on the new facilities.
 Leh airfield unfit for fighter ops
Runway degradation, lack of requisite lighting system to blame
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 23
Runway degradation and the non-availability of a requisite lighting system at the Leh Air Force Station have affected the operational preparedness of the strategically vital airfield. Besides rendering the runway unfit for fighter operations, limitations have been imposed on night flying by transport aircraft.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved resurfacing of the runway in March, 2009, at an estimated cost of Rs 29.39 crore. Later, changes in the design were made and a revised sanction for Rs 34.45 crore was obtained in March 2010. The work was completed in October 2011 at a cost of Rs 36.12 crore.

After the completion of the work, the Air Force noticed continuous degradation of the runway due to surface wear and tear. After temporary repairs were carried out in 2012, the runway surface was checked after landings by a few aircraft and it was found that the runway had suffered from abrasions to the surface due to trye friction and adjudged unfit for fighter operations.

In 2013, an inspection revealed that Rs 3.22 crore would be needed for temporary restoration of the runway and Rs 10.21 crore for permanent measures. The chief engineer claimed that the surface was damaged due to the unconventional method under which salt and chemicals were used to remove snow.

The Comptroller and auditor General (CAG), in its latest report, rejected this notion on the grounds that the surface had damaged immediately after resurfacing was done. It also observed that a final decision to go in for temporary repairs or permanent measures was still pending.

The CAG also pointed out that a drainage system to prevent flash floods was sanctioned in April 2007 at a cost of Rs 3.27 crore and was to be complete in a year. However, till July 2010, only 43 per cent work was done which too was damaged by a cloud burst that had hit Leh, covering the airfield with mud and debris. The drainage system is still to come up.

Further, the CAG observed that the airfield lighting system conceived in 1999 to facilitate nigh flying by transport aircraft is yet to be installed. The Leh airfield is used to sustain forward Army positions in Ladakh. In the absence of a lighting system, solar goose neck flares were being used.

The board of officers for the system was initiated in December 1999 and finalised in June 2003, but sanction for work was accorded only in 2008. The work, however, was not released for execution and the Air Headquarters later stated that the project had been closed.

The provision of a lighting system at Leh will be included in the phase two of the project for modernisation of airfield infrastructure after the completion of the first phase covering 30 airfields.

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