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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

From Today's Papers - 02 Dec 2014

Maoists ambush CRPF squad in C’garh; 13 dead
Using human shields, Maoists today killed 13 CRPF personnel, including two officers, and injured an equal number in the second attack on the force in 10 days in the same area in the Naxal hotbed of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh.

A senior Chattisgarh police official said the attack on a CRPF squad by a large group of armed Maoists took place near Chintagufa, about 450 km from here, at 10.30 am in the dense forests in south Bastar region when the security personnel were returning to their camp after combing and area domination operation in the region that lasted for several days.

"Two officers, one in the rank of Deputy Commandant and an Assistant Commandant, have been killed," R K Vij, Chattisgarh's Additional Director General of Police (Naxal Operation), said. The Deputy Commandant and Assistant Commandant were identified as BS Verma and Rajesh.

A CRPF officer here said over a dozen personnel have also been injured and there could also be casualties on the Maoist side in the encounter during when the rebels opened indiscriminate firing. The squad comprised personnel from the 223 and 206 battalions of CRPF and its commando unit CoBRA.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh strongly condemned the attack as an act of cowardice and a "dastardly act" of violence. He is leaving for Chattisgarh tomorrow for an assessment of the situation.

"I express my condolences to the families of our brave CRPF men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is an act of cowardice. I strongly condemn this dastardly act of violence. Deeply saddened and disturbed to know of 13 CRPF men being killed by the Naxals during an ongoing encounter in Chhattisgarh," he said.
Singh also spoke to Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and asked him to monitor the situation. A CRPF officer said that the Maoists fired at the CRPF patrol party using the cover of locals and villagers and hence the force had to fire with restraint.

One squad was in the jungles for the last 10 days to carry out operations, he said. Most of the victims suffered bullet injuries, he said, adding the injured and the dead will be airlifted to Jagdalpur and the state capital tomorrow.

Reinforcements are being sent to the area and the offensive by security forces is being led by CRPF Inspector General (Chhattisgarh), HS Sidhu.

Five CRPF personnel were injured on November 21 in the same area in an encounter with Maoists who also attacked an IAF helicopter. An IAF commando was also injured.

The attack came a day after Chief Minister Raman Singh said the day is not far when Chhattisgarh will become "Naxal-free" due to the joint efforts of the State Government and the Centre. In the recent months, several dozen Naxals have surrendered in Chhattisgarh, one of the worst states to be affected by Left wing extremism.
India, France to 'fast track' resolution of issues
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 1
India and France tonight agreed to "fast track" the resolution of all pending issues on defence cooperation, including the purchase of French company Dassault Aviation’s 126 Rafale jets by the Indian Air Force.

Differences had cropped up between the two countries over work share and liabilities of the work done by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian over dinner at the Kota House here. The two decided to iron out the differences in a "fast track" manner, sources said after the meeting.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Rafale out of six global bidders in January 2012 to meet its need of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).

Nothing happened after that as the two sides could not agree on certain issues and the matter is pending with the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD)-appointed Cost Negotiation Committee.

The first 18 jets are to be imported and the rest manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In January 2012, four sub-committees were formed to study the contract as it involves complexities like transfer of technology, pricing, work share between Dassault and HAL.

The MoD has not accepted the terms proposed by Dassault which is reluctant to accept responsibility for the 108 fighters to be built by HAL as far as liquidity damages and timelines for production are concerned.

The HAL and MoD have reminded the French that this was part of the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs) when the request for proposal was sent out. The ASQRs are the guiding parameters in defence deals and bidders have to meet those to qualify.

As it is like the company seeking a waiver after having submitted a bid, it is now for the highest political authority to decide the matter, said sources.

India faces a harsh reality that almost 40 per cent of the IAF fighter jet fleet is on its last legs and needs immediate replacement.

On October 4, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha sounded an alarm saying most of the fleet of fighter jets was “on its last legs”. The ongoing acquisition programmes to replace these ageing jets with new ones are running years behind schedule while the ongoing mid-life upgrade of existing fleets of MiG 29, Jaguar and the Mirage 2000 has slowed down.

“There is a delay in each and every project (for fighter jets)… We have lost timelines...overruns are much more than they should have been. It is definitely a matter of concern,” the IAF Chief has warned.

At present, India has 34 fighter jet squadrons (16-18 planes in each) against the projected need of 45 squadrons. Without Rafale, the IAF will have to continue to fly its fleet of MiG 21s and MiG 27s for longer periods.
India 'seriously looking' to co-produce weapon systems with US
Washington: India has shortlisted five of the 17 hi-tech items of military hardware offered by the US for co-production and co-development under a one-of-its kind American offer to boost bilateral defence cooperation.

These items are believed to be - naval guns, mine scattering anti-tank vehicles, unmanned aerial surveillance system, Javelin missiles, and aircraft landing system for carriers, informed defence sources familiar with the development between the two countries, told PTI.

The five are "currently being looked at more seriously" by India's DRDO and Defence Ministry.

It was more than a year ago that the US in consultation with its private sector had offered India a list of 17 hi-tech defence items for co-production and co-development.

The one-of-its kind offer was made under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) launched under the previous UPA government.

The list of 17 American defence items, which remains classified and has not been made public, was reviewed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Ministry of Defence.

According to informed sources, these five projects are now being reviewed by the Indian army, navy and air force, following which the Indian government would convey its decision to the Pentagon about the projects that it is interested in for co-production and co-development.

Despite India opting for the Israeli "Spike" anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the US-made Javelin has not been ruled out, sources said.

The US has offered to co-produce the third-generation Javelin ATGMs, and co-develop its fourth-generation version.

It is believed that India had pre-informed the US about its decision to opt for the Israeli missile to meet its immediate and short-term needs.

"We respect the Indian decision making process on this. It is a sovereign decision that India has to make. Obviously we think that American products and American systems have a lot to offer. We would have liked to win that (Javelin) competition.

"But there is a huge amount of possibility, and a number of spheres we want to talk to India about," US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Puneet Talwar said on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.
Here is why India's armed forces urgently need a complete overhaul
As India’s 36th Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, more than any other minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, has the toughest job ahead of him. The challenges are multiple.

For one, the three Armed Forces are desperately short of modern equipment. For nearly a decade, an indecisive AK Antony as India’s longest defence minister, brought the already complex acquisition process to a virtual halt, thanks to his obsession with maintaining a squeaky clean image. Antony’s go-slow attitude has left all the three services grappling with severe shortage in critical areas.

Secondly, mistrust between the civilian bureaucracy and top military leadership has never been more pronounced as it was during Antony’s tenure as defence minister. The mutual suspicion has held back vital reforms in higher defence management of the country.

Third, changing socio-economic conditions have impacted the military as never before, resulting in a spate of suicides, fratricide and increasing instances of rebellion in the ranks, a worrying trend no doubt.

A look at major deficiencies across the three services is frightening. For instance, the Army’s light helicopters are more than 40 years old; it has not bought new artillery guns since 1987 (although the Parrikar-led Defence Acquisition Council has ordered purchase of fresh guns last week, their induction is still two years away).

The Indian Navy is short of conventional submarines since 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. And they are going to be without vital defence against enemy missiles for a while. 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 in the final stages of negotiations with French manufacturers Dassault Aviation and hoping to ink a mammoth 20 billion dollar deal soon. Even then, the first lot of 18 aircrafts will enter service only in 2017, and only if the contract is signed before the end of 2014.

Big bang purchases apart, the government needs to urgently turn its attention towards some basic issues. The infantry--that hard working, non-complaining arm of the Army--needs new and more lethal weapons. So the assault rifle, the carbine, light machine gun (LMG), the sniper rifle and even the anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), essentials in an infantry battalion, need to be replaced over the next five years. Many of these weapons currently used by the troops, are of 1960s vintage.

Purchasing major platforms and weapons is only part of the future plan. Maintaining them is a major task. That 32 Indian Air Force planes and helicopters have crashed between April 2011 and November 19, 2014 and the Navy has suffered 24 major and minor accidents since January 1, 2011, killing 20 persons, points to a much deeper rot which needs urgent correction.

The situation will however not change until the civil-military relationship in the country is overhauled. The post-1947 history is replete with episodes that suggest a constant state of tension between the ‘generalist’ bureaucracy and the ‘specialist’ military leaders, with the political executive watching and sometimes encouraging the bureaucracy to keep the military under control.

The political executive, starting with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, has generally excluded the military leadership from the decision-making process at the highest levels. In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) under renowned strategic thinker and writer K Subrahmanyam had, among other vital issues, focussed on reorganisation of the higher defence management.

The KRC recommendations were followed by the formation of a Group of Ministers (GoM) which set up four task forces on intelligence reforms, internal security, border management, and higher defence management to undertake in-depth analysis of various facets of the management of national security. After year-long deliberations, the GoM, among other comments observed: “There is a marked difference in the perception and crisis of confidence among civil and military officials within the MoD and Service HQ regarding their respective roles and functions. There was also lack of synchronisation among and between the three departments in the MoD, including the relevant elements of Defence Finance. The concept of ‘attached offices’ as applicable to Service HQ; problems of inter-se relativities; multiple, duplicated, and complex procedures governing the exercise of administrative and financial powers, and the concept of ‘advice’ to the Minister; all these had contributed to these problems.”

Parrikar will have to crack the whip to get the bureaucrats to work on the advice of the military and not allow them to be unilateral in their approach.

Reorganisation of higher defence management apart, the Indian armed forces are grappling with a crisis of identity. The Army for instance remains rooted in an outdated, British-inherited system that is struggling to cope with the combination of challenges posed by the demands of modern warfare and a society that is undergoing a great churn. This has posed a great challenge to the famous officer–men relationship in the Indian armed forces. In the past decade, the armed forces have had to face a new problem: increasing incidents of indiscipline, suicides and fratricide. Are these incidents happening because the traditional bond between officers and men, the bedrock on which the military functions, is fraying at the edges?

Some studies have been initiated to get to the root of the problem after it was noticed that more than 90 soldiers were committing suicide every year since 2003, going up to an alarming 150 in 2008. Adding to the worry are the growing cases of indiscipline and intolerance. In 2012 alone, there were at least three cases of a showdown between men and officers. At least 50–60 soldiers of an artillery unit clashed with a group of officers after a young officer allegedly beat up a jawan, leading to near mutiny among the soldiers. There were a couple of other instances where tension between jawans and officers boiled over, both the incidents happening in two different armoured regiments, one following a suicide by a soldier. This set the alarm bells ringing in the Amy Headquarters.

There are external factors too. The fact is, the society no longer respects the soldier and his work in protecting the nation. A local politician, a thanedar, etc., seem to command more clout in the society today. This has often led to loss of self-esteem among ordinary soldiers. That Australian cricketer Philip Hughes who died in an unfortunate accident on the cricket field garnered more news space than three Indian soldiers who were martyred in Jammu the same day while battling terrorists, says something about our priorities. The soldier needs constant support from the society he protects.

As Defence Minister, Manohar Parikkar certainly has a gigantic task ahead. He needs to get the armed forces ready for future battles by inducting cutting-edge technology and at the same time restore the primacy of soldiering in a society that no longer values its military. Will he be able to rise to the occasion?
Budding officers with defence background leave a mark at NDA
PUNE: The sentiment of continuing the family legacy of serving in the defence forces reigned supreme for the 127th batch that passed out from the city-based National Defence Academy (NDA) on Saturday.

A total of 355 cadets graduated from the academy and passed through the portals of the prestigious Khetarpal Parade Ground. Ten cadets from Tajikistan and five cadets from Afghanistan were also part of the parade.

Academy Cadet Adjutant Arpit Sangwan won the President's gold medal for standing first in the overall order of merit. Battalion Cadet Captain Lalit Thapliyal won the silver medal, while Cadet Captain Agrim Sharma won the bronze. The November Squadron bagged the Chief of Staff Banner presented to the champion squadron.

All three medal-winners have some association with the defence forces, which they feel has helped them get the right guidance in NDA. Fathers of Sanwan and Sharma work in the defence forces while Thapliyal's sister is part of the Air Force.

"It is one of the most important moments in my life. My family and friends inspired me to reach here," said Sangwan.

Sharma said that his aim was to serve the nation in the best possible way. "I want to keep my family tradition and sprit of patriotism alive. I will give my 100% to the service," he said.

The cadets passed out of NDA with a parade reviewed by Gen Dalbir Singh, Chief of Army Staff. A fly-past by Mi-17-V5 helicopters followed by three Super Dimonas aircraft each in VIC formation and a grand finale by three Su-30 aircrafts marked the event.

School buddies parting ways after eight years

School buddies Academy Cadet Adjutant Arpit Sangwan, the gold medal winner, and Battalion Cadet Captain Lalit Thapliyal, sliver medalist, will be parting ways after spending eight years together. Sangwan and Thapliyal have studying together since standard VIII and were classmates at the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehradun for nearly five years. After completing junior college, their paths crossed again in National Defence Academy (NDA) where they spent three years. On Saturday, however, they chose different paths for their future. Thapliyal will join the army wing, while Sangwan will serve the Indian Navy.

"We have been friends for around eight years. We feel sad that we are choosing different paths now, but we are happy that we have performed well in NDA. Now we have the responsibility to serve our nation," they told reporters.

Prepare for any eventuality, army chief tells cadets

Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh, during his address to cadets, said that they should prepare themselves and "must be ever ready to meet the challenges". The budding officers should continue training themselves into a force to be reckoned with all over the world.

"Considering the recent aggression displayed by our neighbours, we must be prepared for any eventuality. Preparedness is of course the surest way of ensuring peace in the region because strength respects strength and our strength must prove a deterrent for anyone who dares to violate our sovereignty," he said.
Indian Army remembers 1917 battle on Cambrai Day
In the Rajya Sabha last week, an MP argued in favour of making military training, or conscription, mandatory in India. During his speech, Rajasthan MP V P Singh Badnore proudly talked about his relative winning a Victoria Cross in the First World War. He didn't say the real name of his ancestor, but he did remember how he won the VC. That description matched the exploits of Lance Daffadar Gobind Singh Rathore of 2nd Lancers (Gardner's Horse). And what he also probably didn't know was that his remembrance was very timely—the brave officer won his VC for his gallant action on November 30-December 1, 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai.

That battle is still remembered by different Indian Army Armoured Corps regiments. This year, too, the old cavalry regiments observed Cambrai Day on November 30 and December 1. "We remember it and our people who fought and died in that terrible, terrible battle. We celebrate their valour every year. We still have two paintings in our officers' mess depicting the battle. It was a bloody engagement, a military disaster for the Allies that ended in a stalemate. Over 40,000 died on the British side, including many Indians. Yet it escapes almost everyone's notice," said Lt Col Anil Bhat (Retd) of 4th Hodson's Horse. His regiment, then 9th Hodson's Horse, fought in that battle along with other cavalry regiments like the Royal Deccan Horse (now 9th Deccan Horse), 34th Poona Horse (now 17 Poona Horse), 38th Central India Horse (now only Central India Horse) and 18 Cavalry.

The battle is unique in history for several firsts: it was an 'all arms' battle involving artillery, infantry, cavalry, tanks and aircraft; it saw the first mass use of tanks; and it was the first time the British artillery used 'silent registration' to acquire targets, instead of firing range-finder shots. Therefore, when the attack began with 1,000 British guns opening up, the enemy was caught by surprise. The attack began successfully, but because of its over-ambitious nature, it didn't end on a good note. The cavalry action, in particular, was poorly coordinated.
By 1917, the Indian Army had already faced four European winters. The infantry divisions had been withdrawn in December 1915, but the cavalry corps was retained in the hope of using it for a decisive sweep—an opportunity that never came. But with all those trenches and barbed wire, the Indian cavalry had to frequently fight as infantry. At Cambrai, too, Indians fought mounted and dismounted. That's where Gobind Singh's unit got cut off from the rest of the brigade.

A message had to be relayed to the rest of the brigade about the siege. Singh and Sowar Jot Ram volunteered. Both galloped out on two different routes. Jot Ram was killed by enemy fire while Singh's horse was shot. Singh covered the rest of the distance on foot, attracting enemy fire all the time. He went back and forth thrice and three horses were shot from under him. He wanted to go for a fourth time, but permission was denied to him.

"The Victoria Cross was well-deserved. See, that's what the Indian Army did. And it's sad that ill-informed Indians today abuse such brave souls by calling them 'slaves'. Imagine what great odds they fought a century ago. Imagine what it must have been for trained horsemen to fight as infantry. Add to that the cold, mud and sleet and you had a killer combination. Yet the Indians adapted fast to the conditions," said the former spokesperson of the Indian Army and ministry of defence.

At Cambrai, tanks got ditched, cavalry couldn't cross properly, senior officers got killed—it was a disaster all throughout. Then the Germans counterattacked and wrested back some of the lost ground. But nevertheless, there were some lessons that were learnt in that battle: lessons that were put to good use in later engagements in 1918.

"In our regiments today, we observe Cambrai Day on November 30 and December 1. We have sports and games and a function in the officers' mess on November 30; on December 1, officers go to the JCOs' mess for dinner. There's also a race for ex-servicemen. So you see, even after a century, there's a lot of huffing and puffing for us," Bhat ended on a lighter note.

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