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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 16 Sep 2015

India, Lanka vow to jointly fight terror
Deepen defence ties, work together for security and stability in maritime neighbourhood
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 15
India today reaffirmed its commitment to continue development partnership with Sri Lanka. Both countries recognised their “closely aligned security interests” and promised to deepen defence and security cooperation.

Reviewing a range of relationships with visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said both sides had agreed to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism and work together for security and stability in the maritime neighbourhood.

The three-day visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, which began yesterday, is significant as it is his first official overseas tour since his election last month. The bilateral relations took a dip during the previous Mahinda Rajapakse government amid indications that he was inclined towards China.

However, with President Maithripala Sirisena assuming leadership earlier this year, the relations resumed its upward trajectory. At a joint media briefing after the meeting, Modi said Sri Lanka is India’s largest partner in defence training programme and “we will continue to expand our cooperation in this area”.

While security and defence issues were on the table, accent on trade and investment was pronounced with India seeking the support of Wickremesinghe for Indian investors who are keen to take part in the country’s economic development in the field of infrastructure, energy and transport.

“We would like to see our trade grow and become more balanced for Sri Lanka. We discussed how we can achieve these goals in a more open and competitive Indian market, including through bilateral arrangements for trade and investment,” Modi said.
Army relives ’65 war days in Delhi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 15

A six-day exhibition titled “Shauryanjali” opened at the India Gate lawns today as part of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indo-Pak War of 1965. It recreates the battle scene in various sectors of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir besides the Rann of Kutch. The ceasefire and Tashkent Summit are also described in detail. The captured equipment from Pakistan, especially the Patton tanks, are on display.

At the opening of the exhibition, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India scored a decisive victory in the war and recalled the overwhelming, emotional and material support the war had generated nationwide for the armed forces. “The enemy was shown its place by the professionalism of our armed forces,” Jaitley said, releasing two commemorative coins of Rs 50 and Rs 5 denomination on the occasion.

Minister for Information and Technology and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad released a set of stamps and the First Day Cover to mark the occasion.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar narrated how he was deeply influenced by the heroism of Company Quarter Master Havildar (CQMH) Abdul Hamid, who was awarded the Paramvir Chakra — the country’s highest gallantry award. Army personnel re-enacted a battle near Ichogil canal — west of Ferozepur — 50 years ago in the water channels running parallel to the Rajpath.

The exhibition will showcase tableaux, regimental and cultural events, martial arts, tattoos and band displays besides dancing teams and motorcycle riders.
Western Command marks Raising Day
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 15
The army’s Western Command observed its 68th Raising Day at Chandimandir military station today. To mark the occasion, the Chief of Staff, Western Command, Lt Gen Gurdip Singh laid a wreath at the Veer Smriti war memorial to pay homage to those who laid down their lives in the line of duty.

Many officers and other ranks attended the ceremony. A ceremonial Guard reversed arms while buglers sounded the Last post as a mark of respect to martyrs. Social events for officers as well as troops were also organised.

The genesis of the Western Command can be traced to one of the most momentous and tragic periods of the history. Raised on September 15, 1947, on the disbandment of the Punjab Boundary Force and the Military Evacuation Organisation, it oversaw the exchange of populace to and from India and Pakistan. The first major role of the Command was to restore law and order in riot-torn Punjab in the wake of the Partition.

Initially known as the Delhi and East Punjab Command with Headquarters in Delhi, it was re-designated as the Western Command in January 1948. In 1954, the Headquarters of the Command moved to Shimla.
Pentagon Creates India Rapid Reaction Cell
Washington:  The Pentagon has established a first-ever country special cell to speed up its defence ties with India and accelerate the process of co-development and co-production of hi-tech military equipment in the country.

Established soon after Defence Secretary Ashton Carter assumed Pentagon's leadership role in February, India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC) is headed by Keith Webster, Director, International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

India is the only country to have a specific cell of its kind inside the Pentagon.

Currently, seven persons are working on this cell, representing various wings of the US Department of Defence. Given the new thrust on India-US defence relationship under Mr Carter, officials say there is quite a few on the waiting list who have shown keen interest in working at the Pentagon's India Rapid Reaction Cell.

"The purpose of India Rapid Reaction Cell is to work all the initiatives that we have ongoing under (India-US) DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative) - both the initiatives that for example came out of the joint statement between the (US) President and the Prime Minister in January (in New Delhi) to move quickly and timely and be through, which in my opinion requires dedicated support to ramp up the operational tempo," Mr Webster told PTI.

"We are embarking on some new initiatives and the operational tempo is not declining at all," he said.

In the next coming months, a series of high-level exchanges are scheduled to take place, including that of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the Pentagon. Defence and Strategic relationship would be a key topic of discussion when US President Barack Obama meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

India Rapid Reaction cell, he said, has been instrumental in accelerating the DTTI projects and has started the process to send some new proposals to India for co-production and co-development.

The mobile hydroelectric initiative and for-the-next- generation initiatives required negotiations, conclusion and signing of bilateral agreements.

"Statistically, such a negotiation between US and India which was done before many times takes on an average a year and half to three years. We were done within three months on the US side with India," he said, adding that the documents were finally signed by the Indians last month.
Maldives, India wrap up annual joint military exercise
Ali Naafiz, Haveeru Online
Maldives and India has wrapped up the sixth round of joint military training exercise, India's mission in the Maldives announced on Tuesday.

The exercise, titled Ekuverin (Dhivehi for friends) 2015, began on August 31 and was carried out until Sunday at the Indian army’s Pangode Military Station in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum. A total of 45 soldiers each from both the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Indian army had taken part in the exercise.
In a statement, the Indian high commission in Male said on Tuesday that a tactical exercise involving the two troops was held at the end. Brigadier Samir Salunke, Chief Director of the exercise and Station Commander at the Pangode Military Station, and Brigadier Ali Zuhair of MNDF witnessed the final phase of the exercise and reviewed the standards achieved, it added.

“The aim of the joint exercise is to acquaint both the forces with the other’s operating procedure in addition to forging increased understanding and inter-operability between the two armies,” the statement read.

“The exercise provided an excellent opportunity for fostering jointmanship and interoperability between the defence forces of both countries.”
Soldiers from Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Indian army participate in the sixth round of joint military training exercise held between the Maldives and India from August 31 to September 13. PHOTO/ INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION

The bilateral annual exercise, which commenced in 2009 in Belgaum, India, is alternately held in India and the Maldives with the aim of enhancing military cooperation and inter-operability between the two countries and increased understanding between both the armies.
n November 1965, India established diplomatic relations with the Maldives, becoming the first country to do so following the latter’s independence from Britain in July.

As the two countries prepare to officially mark the golden jubilee of relations, a series of year-long activities is being organised by the high commission since last November. The activities include a culinary festival, which saw cooking workshops held by visiting top Indian chefs and a master-chef style cooking competition, a Bollywood movie festival, health awareness programmes and a yoga festival.
Late last month, India also announced the completion of the first phase of a coastal radar system in the Maldives.

Under the first phase of the project, three radar systems had been installed across the Maldives; one at the southernmost Addu city’s Gan island in 2007, the second in the northern island of Uligamu in 2012 and the third in the central island of Kadhdhoo in August 2015.

India plans to establish additional seven radars and AIS stations as part of the second phase of the project. On completion of the project, the Maldives would have all round coverage of the sea areas around the country.
Have the OROP protests politicised the Indian Army?
The announcement of grant of OROP was done at a press conference by the defence minister of India on Sep 05, 2015. A long pending demand of the military personnel appeared to have been met. It stirred up another controversy around VRS.

Later though, Narendra Modi the Prime Minister rested all doubts on VRS later at Faridabad rally a day later. This however did not appear to have satisfied the veterans protesting at Jantar Mantar. They have since continued to express their dissent. 

What has happened recently on the street at Jantar Mantar for the past 80-plus days is unprecedented. The narrative changed on the August 14. Bishimber, an 82-year-old veteran who had fought the men in Khakis during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars was manhandled by his own country's men in Khakis, "the Delhi police".

The citizens of India have not yet fathomed the magnitude and the scale of the tectonic shift that has taken place at the core. This silent shift that has taken place far beneath the surface appears unseen. The vibrations are not felt thus far.

It touched the nerve of lakhs of tomorrow's Ex-servicemen who still don the Olive Green uniform in service of India. The pain of the push and the shove suffered by Bishimber was felt by all and sundry within the armed forces.

Till that day a vast uniformed majority questioned the unmilitary like conduct by their predecessors. This incident shook that off forcing many to rethink. Today lakhs and lakhs of rupees are pouring in from none other than the servicemen themselves in support of the cause. The ears and eyes of the government ideally should have picked up the sentiment correctly.

A senior officer serving in a strike formation informed me how these protests have become the centre of all discussions within the army. He said generally the feeling across is "now or never".

They feel the protests should continue till such time the government conceded towards accepting 'One Rank One Pension' and stop thumping its chest over the granted 'One Rank Five Pensions'. This common argument resonates all across the cantonments and gives immense strength to those sitting at Jantar Mantar.

A presently serving General who happens to be the General Officer Commanding of a formation said, "The trust between the Govt and the Defence Forces has been eroded to a large extent. The Defence Forces will in their manner and means demand their rightful place, may be in a more forceful manner in times to come".

Another officer, a Colonel doing a higher defence management course down south said, "These OROP protests and the ensuing debate has opened our eyes. How oblivious we were till yesterday. The fact of the matter is that we have been exploited by the political class and the babus because we were good soldiers who never questioned".

Interestingly, a friend of mine who is a country head of a multinational company raised a very pertinent doubt. He said is it not surprising as to why the government has not conceded to the fundamental demand of the veterans.

In-spite of the high pedestal the Indian Armed Forces stand on, they are finding getting public, media and the celebrity support so difficult. Why? 

Whatever may be the reason for this lack of support, the fact remains that a civilian counterpart draws a pension three times that of a soldier. A civilian's pension gets equalised annually without any so-called administrative problems as highlighted by Arun Jaitley the finance minister, while justifying delay in announcing OROP.

Going by the Supreme Court ruling, the pension is a payment due for the services already rendered. OROP thus is a justified demand for this payment denied. While the civilians see it as a fight for extra money, the serving and the retired soldiers see it as a fight for honour and equality with their civilian brethren.

Narendra Modi at the Riwari rally in 2013 had probably reset the course of destiny. He rekindled the long-suppressed aspirations of the military personnel who had been demanding equality through the OROP.

And in doing so he had inadvertently underscored their relevance in the overall power play. Jantar Mantar is just one such manifestation.

Let the history judge, nevertheless it is high time to sit and analyse on the policy of suppression started by Nehru towards the armed forces personnel arising out of the fears of a military coup.

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