Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Sunday, 14 February 2016

From Today's Papers - 14 Feb 2016

Two jawans, five terrorists killed in fierce Kupwara encounter
Tribune News Service

Srinagar/Kupwara, February 13
Two soldiers of the Army’s elite counter-insurgency unit and five militants were killed today in a 20-hour encounter in North Kashmir’s frontier district of Kupwara. Two Army personnel, including a Major-rank officer, were injured in the gunfight in snowbound Marsarri Chowkibal, 115 km from Srinagar.

The slain militants, attired in white, carried a snow axe and rucksacks, indicating they may have infiltrated recently, said sources.

On Friday, a joint operation was launched by the 41 Rashtriya Rifles, 16 Grenadiers, 19 Maratha Regiment and the elite 4 Para, along with the Special Operations Group of the J&K Police and the CRPF, following intelligence inputs on the presence of militants in the area. “The terrorists were entrenched in an abandoned house. The encounter continued through the night and ended this noon. Five terrorists hiding in the house were eliminated,” said Brigadier SP Singh of Trehgam Brigade, under whose command the operation was carried out. “We lost Naik Shankar Chandrabhan Shinde (34) of Nasik, Maharashtra, and gunner Maruti Sahadev (26) of Bijapur, Karnataka. Two other Army men, one of them an officer, were injured. Their condition is stable.” Shinde is survived by his wife and two children. Sahadev, who was engaged, was to go on leave in a week.
LeT knew Pak probe would be superficial, says Headley
Mumbai, February 13
Lashkar-e-Toiba and al-Qaida were convinced that 26/11 attack masterminds Hafiz Saeed and Zakiur Rehman would face only “superficial” action from the Pakistan authorities and within months plans were afoot for another terror strike in India, Pakistan-American terrorist David Coleman Headley said today.

Headley, who is serving a 35-year jail term in the US in connection with the 26/11 case, said this before a special court here via video link from the US during his deposition which concluded today.

The 55-year-old LeT operative told Special Judge GA Sanap that after the Mumbai attacks, he was concerned about the safety of Saeed and Lakhvi and hence was in constant touch with LeT operative Sajid Mir, who was his handler, and al-Qaida member Abdul Rehman Pasha (former LeT cadre).

“The FIA (Federal Investigating Agency of Pakistan) was conducting investigations, interrogating people and pursuing people from LeT. Hence I asked Mir about ‘old uncle’ (Saeed) and ‘young uncle’ (Lakhvi). Mir, in his reply, said young uncle is fine and flying high. I think by this Mir meant that Lakhvi’s morale was high even though he was in prison at that time,” Headley said. — PTI
Height of endurance: A soldier recalls Siachen stint
Empty jam bottles are great: Fill 'em up with kerosene, drill a hole for the wick and light it. That’s what they — 10 in all — did at a post located at 19,600 feet on icy barren Siachen Glacier. Those were the darkest nights and sunless days.

That’s how Akshay Singh (name changed on request) had his first day at the glacier. He was a young lieutenant with only six months of service in 2003. He got there after acclimatizing at 6,000 feet, 9,000 feet and 12,000 feet. He had to learn, and learn fast, in about 15 days how to cope with deadly ice at altitudes where even moving one’s limbs can cause breathlessness. There are several things that work against you simultaneously: Your own weight, a blinding white wilderness, gravitational pull and a load of clothes, bedroll, ration, weapon and the climbing rope. Fear is a constant companion, occasionally overcome by the desire to survive.

Akshay remembered all the points in the rule book drilled into his head at Siachen Battle School, like: If left alone, what he will do, how he’d survive an avalanche, and most importantly, how he’d have nothing but himself to depend on.

The first night was as if a black cloud had engulfed his post. “There was snow and darkness everywhere. The power generator lay at the headquarters, thousands of feet below. And that was meant for the equipment,” he recalls.

“The jam bottles did the trick for the next four months,” he said. Then began the routine at 22,000 feet where temperatures at times drops to minus 50 degree Celsius. The task was cut out: Be alert 24x7, keep watch over the frontiers, ensure patrolling, maintain routes, clear snow, cook, and secure the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL).

Akshay’s post was on an area of about 100 metres. For his solace was a separate accommodation, he being an officer: a Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) tent. Inside, there is no bed, no furniture, no posters and no family pictures. There is a bedroll, which he had carried to the post and a pillow made of a plastic sandbag filled with food wrappers to make it “fluffy”.

“The first two nights I could not sleep. I had never been in this kind of atmosphere. My FRP was on a crevice (cracks in the ice). The crevice shifts in and out and at night I could hear it cracking,” he recalled.

The other area of the post consisted of the men’s barrack, two toilets and a kitchen which was open from one side. “Fire hazard prevented us from cooking our food inside the tent or the barrack. We seldom felt hungry even though we had special ration such as chocolates and chicken nuggets. The drinking water came from the melting ice,” he said.

Going to the kitchen also means chances of falling sick. When a man falls sick, he is a huge burden because he has to be taken on a stretcher to the nearest post with a helipad by four men 3,000 feet below. “Walking there is like tying weights to your feet and then pushing ahead. Out of the four rescuers, at least two fall sick because of exposure. Similarly, if one falls into a crevice, saving him is like rescuing a drowning man with weights attached to your body,” he said.

When he was there, Pakistani side would often fire artillery guns and other weapons at his location. “We hardly used the bathroom because it had a bullet-riddled door,” he says.

Right below this post at 18,500 feet was Bhagwan Singh (name changed on request) with about 28 other men. He recalled that attending the call of nature was done in the open or through a wooden board shaped as a toilet and placed among rocks. Before leaving with a group of other soldiers to a “half-link”, he remembers how OP Baba’s blessings were evoked. A half link is located between two posts. The men from a post at a lower altitude place the rations for the higher post here, because covering the entire distance is very difficult.

“We would report to our commander before leaving. And the commander would turn his back to us, stand in attention and say aloud: “itne bande gaye hain” (these many men left). While returning, he would repeat the same drill and say “itne bande wapis aa gaye” (these many men have returned). Everyone believed in OP Baba. He is our protector,” said Bhagwan.

Akshay recalls the no non-vegetarian days in respect for Baba. “He was in the artillery regiment and posted at the glacier. No one knows how he died. But he is known as the Guardian of the Glacier. Sometimes, he’d come in a soldier’s dreams to warn him of a disaster. Some say during their duty if they dozed off, they’d be slapped and when they awoke they would find none,” says Akshay.

Akshay and his men had their own “look out man” at their post, a dog named Moti. “He was brought there as a pup. And he never slept inside the tents. He could not bark, but only whimper, and he did when the men went to the half-link. He would stop yapping when they returned,” he says.

Almost four months later, Akshay and his men returned to the base camp at 12,000 feet, as per their rotation. “I had not shaved and bathed for four months. And when I returned I took a bath for one-and-a-half hours. When I shaved I got blisters, but it felt good. The unit had made continental food for us. We began eating at 8.30pm and finished at 11pm!” he says.
F-16s for Pak: India summons US envoy
Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
India today summoned US Ambassador to India Richard Varma to convey its displeasure over the US decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The deal is being seen as a setback for India as it has come at a time when the country was trying hard to corner Pakistan over its support to terrorism, particularly in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks accused David Coleman Headley.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who met the US Ambassador, conveyed India’s discontentment over the defence deal. Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs said the government disagreed with the US rationale that it could help combat terrorism.

The sale of the jets to Pakistan has been notified by the Pentagon to the US Congress. For the sale to be finalised, the US Congress now has 30 days to approve it or veto the deal. The veto, though, is rarely used.

A number of US Congressmen, both from the Democratic and Republican parties, had voiced their opposition to the proposed deal, but the Obama administration chose to go ahead with it.

The eight F-16 jets, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, will be sold to Pakistan along with radar and other equipment and will bring in $699 million to the US economy.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which coordinates such foreign arms sales, said it had informed the Congress of the plans on Thursday. “This proposed sale contributes to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia,” it said in a statement.
Mortal remains of avalanche victims brought to Siachen base camp
Bodies embalmed at Hunder Military Hospital; to be flown to Delhi today
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 13
On the 11th day since a big avalanche wiped out an Army post on the Siachen Glacier at a height of 19,600 on February 3, mortal remains of nine soldiers were brought down to the Siachen base camp this morning and then taken to the Military Hospital at Hunder where their embalming was done.

“Mortal remains of all the nine soldiers were brought down to the Siachen base camp this morning and taken to the Military Hospital at Hunder, near Parthapur, where embalming and other procedures were performed,” said a senior Army officer.

Army Aviation copters, in a daring act, brought down all the nine bodies to the base camp, despite bad weather, he added.

Helicopters are now kept on a standby to further transport the mortal remains to Leh tomorrow where 14 Corps (Fire and Fury Corps) and Lt Gen SK Patyal shall be laying wreaths on them at a brief ceremony before they are further transported in an IAF plane to New Delhi, he added.

Though the weather between the Siachen base camp and Leh is not fit for air operations so far, but the weatherman has forecast a clear weather tomorrow.

“At New Delhi, Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag and political establishments shall be laying wreaths at another ceremony before the mortal remains are flown to cities close to their respective villages,” he said.

A soldier, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, buried under 25 feet of snow was found alive in a critical condition six days after avalanche hit the Sonam post on February 3. Nine other soldiers, however, were found dead under snow.

The rescued soldier, Lance Naik Hanamanthapa, also succumbed to hypothermia among other ailments at Research and Referral Hospital at New Delhi on Thursday morning.

The nine deceased soldiers have been identified as Subedar Nagesha TT of Tejur village in Hassan district of Karnataka, Havildar Elumalai M of Dukkam Parai village of Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, Lance Havildar S Kumar of Kumanan Thozhu village in Teni district of Tamil Nadu, Lance Naik Sudheesh B of Monroethuruth village in Kollam district of Kerala, Sepoy Mahesha PN of HD Kote village in Mysore district of Karnataka, Sepoy Ganesan G of Chokkathevan Patti village in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, Sepoy Rama Moorthy N of Gudisatana Palli village in Krishna Giri district of Tamil Nadu, Sepoy Mustaq Ahmed S of Parnapalle village of Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh and Sepoy (Nursing Assistant) Suryawanshi SV of Maskarwadi village in Satara district of Maharashtra.

Among the 10 soldiers died, four were from Tamil Nadu, three from Karnataka (including Lance Naik Hanamanthappa) and one each from Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Russian PM warns of ‘new Cold War’
Kerry tells Moscow to stop targeting moderate rebels in Syria, pull troops out of Ukraine
Munich, February 13
The world has plunged into a "new Cold War", Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said today, as East-West tensions over Syria and Ukraine dominated a gathering of world leaders in Germany.

With tensions high over the lingering Ukraine conflict and Russia's backing of the Syrian regime, Medvedev said: "All that's left is an unfriendly policy of NATO against Russia".

"We can say it even more clearly: We have slid into a new period of Cold War," he said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference.

"Almost every day we are accused of making new horrible threats either against NATO as a whole, against Europe or against the US or other countries."

Medvedev criticised the expansion of NATO and EU influence deep into formerly Soviet-ruled eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the Munich Security Conference that Russia must stop targeting moderate rebels in Syria and pull its troops out of Ukraine. "To date, the vast majority of Russia's attacks (in Syria) have been against legitimate opposition groups," Kerry told the audience. “To adhere to the agreement it made, Russia's targeting must change," he said, referring to the international deal forged yesterday, in which foreign ministers agreed to seek a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria within a week.

He spoke shortly after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the world had "slid into a new period of Cold War."

 "Every single day, Russian troops, Russian weapons, Russian ammunition penetrate into my country," said Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko.

He addressed Russia's President, who was not present, saying: "Mr (Vladimir) Putin, this is not a civil war in Ukraine, this is your aggression. This is not a civil war in Crimea, this is your soldiers who occupied my country."        

Kerry emphasised that sanctions on Russia would remain in place until it implements all aspects of the Ukraine peace agreement reached in Belarus' capital Minsk last year.

"Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions," he said.

An emotional Poroshenko also warned that "pro-Russian parties" were undermining Europe from within with an alternative set of values.

"Isolationism, intolerance, disrespect of human rights, religious fanatics, homophobia-this alternative Europe has a leader. His name is Mr Putin."

Medvedev had earlier criticised the expansion of NATO and EU influence deep into formerly Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe, which Russia still sees as its sphere of influence.

But he also struck a more positive note, saying: "Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago when a wall was standing in Europe." — AFP
Defence Security Corps: India's overlooked soldiers
The Indian Air Force station at Pathankot in Punjab is roughly 30km away from Pakistan by car, or three minutes away for a missile.

Sepoy Jagdish Chand was making tea in a cookhouse at the base on the morning of 2 January when six terrorists stormed in, guns blazing, and killed four of his fellow jawans.

Chand, a professional wrestler, ran at the attackers unarmed and tackled one of them. He grappled with the terrorist, turned his own rifle against him and shot him in the head. That act of bravery cost the 48-year-old sepoy his life. The five other terrorists surrounded him and sprayed him with bullets, reports in newspapers and magazines tell us.

Five out of the seven defence personnel who died in the next 72 hours—the time it took for more than 150 National Security Guard (NSG) troops and as many soldiers to cut down six terrorists on a wild firing spree—were sepoys like Chand, part of the Defence Security Corps (DSC), the Indian Army’s sixth largest corps, and are the ones most likely to be the first line of defence in attacks like the one on Pathankot.

Unlike the NSG or the Garud Commando forces, whose men were also killed in Pathankot, there is little in the public domain about the nature of the DSC (at least, not until the Pathankot attack brought the unit to the media’s attention). Just what does the DSC do?


The mother depot of all DSC platoons in the country is housed in a cantonment town in Kerala’s Kannur district. As cantonment towns usually are, the area is well planned: neat roads and pavements, surrounded by landscaped greenery.

Installed in front of the entrance to the walled-off compound is a larger-than-life statue of an ancient warrior wrapped in a mundu, with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. The statue is titled “Anga Chekavar” and a board next to it reads “Izzat, Imandari, Wafadhari” (respect, honesty, loyalty).

Anga Chekavars. That’s what soldiers, mostly from lower-caste families, rented by the Chera kingdom in Kerala during the Sangam age were called. The Cheras were continually at war with neighouring kingdoms such as the Cholas, and naturally, these Chekavars were in great demand then.

While India today is not, strictly speaking, engaged in decades-long, open-ended war with its neigbhours—unlike the 3rd century BC Chera kingdom or the present-day US—it does have Pakistan to guard against and several internal conflicts to combat, as well as strategic locations where the military has to be deployed throughout the year.

And then, the men in uniform are pressed into service during floods or other natural calamities, and they often become the face of such rescue operations. In 2015 alone, had the military not intervened in a timely manner, lakhs of people would have lost their lives when the heaviest rainfall in a century flooded Chennai in December, or when a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan hills in April.

The DSC performs a crucial role in India’s defence establishment, which runs pretty busy in this manner throughout the year. Founded by the British in 1947 in Uttar Pradesh as the Defence Department Constabulary Centre, the DSC’s job is to guard crucial defence installations from missile silos to troop stations.

It comprises ex-servicemen who are re-employed in the military for a few more years. There are roughly 30,000 to 40,000 DSC personnel working across India. About 35-40% of them come from the army and the air force, and the rest are from the navy and other wings of the military. The DSC was classified as a police force at first, and was reorganized in 1958 and made into a corps under the army.

As the army was modernized, just like the British army, between World Wars I and II, the need for reliable security at army installations grew, says Nitin Pai, editor of Pragati, a publication on strategic affairs, public policy and governance, and also co-founder of non-profit think tank Takshashila Institution.

Pilferage and stealing were so frequent in the rural areas where these installations were housed that the British established the DSC as a special police wing specifically to guard facilities like army stores, says Pai.

“It is a very commoditized part of the army. If the special forces are the elite, this is their exact opposite in the defence network,” he says.

About 3,000 new jawans from the rank of subedar major to junior commissioned officer join the DSC every year, and they all head to Kannur for basic training.

“They are basically people from middle- or low-income groups who have rejoined the army looking for job security. It’s not an easy decision to make. Because they may be retiring at a higher rank, but when they rejoin, they will only be a sepoy. So, it’s like starting a cycle all over once again,” says an officer in the Kannur unit, requesting anonymity.

“They don’t have to be extensively trained because they come with years of experience in the army. They are disciplined and know how to take orders. But when they were in the army, they would have been trained to deal with the enemies. Here, they are mostly trained to deal with civilians because they will be interacting a lot with civilians while on duty,” he says.

They clearly do. Just next to the giant Anga Chekavar, two DSC men in khaki uniform are checking ID cards as a stream of civilians enter the premises, most of whom are there to buy subsidized products from the military store, particularly liquor. Once they enter, those in search of subsidized alcohol proceed to the room of the store officer.

The half-open iron gates under the blue arch, emblazoned with the words “Defence Security Corps”, by the Chekavar statue are the only point of entry for civilians, who have to pass through another checkpoint inside as well. (A small feature of some interest: The pillars of the arch are painted red, dark blue and light blue, in that order from the top. Had the order been dark blue, red and light blue, it would have marked the entrance to the Pakistani military’s Joint Staff Headquarters. The colours come from the British origin of both armies, say experts. Traditionally, red denotes armed forces, dark blue the navy and sky blue the air force.)

A tree-lined path from the gate leads to a large courtyard with blocks of buildings on three sides. DSC jawans mill about, clad in either police khaki or military camouflage (they can use either uniform; most at the Kannur depot preferred the khaki, though while assigned to guard military bases elsewhere, they switch to camouflage).

The army store and the accompanying office occupy two sizeable buildings on one side of the courtyard. Officers in khaki, assisted by DSC jawans, bustle about. The officer in charge is the busiest man in the place. A queue of civilian visitors, most looking to buy alcohol, leads up to his office. He barks out orders to his staff, telling them to prepare a presentation on the store’s sales for an upcoming visit by senior military commanders, while also talking to a group from a local organization who wanted him to attend their Republic Day event.

The people looking to get liquor passes shuffle in, smiling and winking at 39-year old Rajesh Kumar (a jawan in the DSC), who assists the officer in charge, who rapidly signs off on their requests, seemingly without checking their legitimacy. The jawans assisting him, though, seem to have a knack of weeding out those who shouldn’t be there. “Sir, isko…” Kumar would whisper in the officer’s ear, who would immediately stop, look up and say, “Get out.”

In some cases, Kumar would murmur something else, and the officer would hand the request back, saying, “Subah subah hi peena hai kya? Ek baje ke baat aajao (Drinking this early in the morning? Come back after 1pm).”

In effect, every attempt to steal liquor, no matter how sophisticated, was caught. One could see what prompted the British intelligence to create a separate unit for guarding their stores. The DSC jawans project a sense of dominion and entitlement, and an enormous amount of scepticism, which seems to ease the officers’ job to a great extent.

As for the locals, they seemed to ignore the presence of the uniformed jawans for the most part. Imagine an invisible double lane, taking people in civilian clothing from the gate to the army store and back. None seem to deviate from this track, walking along sharply, almost as if guided by an unseen force. Some pick up the pace on the way back, almost running, with a bottle or two hugged close.

Let’s come back to Rajesh Kumar. After spending his teenage years in Hyderabad, Kumar served in the army for 18 years in Srinagar, Sikkim and Punjab. After retirement, he rejoined the military through the DSC last year and now lives with his family at the army quarters in the cantonment. His two children are studying in the army school there.

“When I came out of retirement, my original plan was to settle abroad or do business,” says Kumar. But he took the advice of friends working in the DSC. “Friends ne mujse bola ki kuch bhi karne se fayde nahi, yeha pe aane me security bhi he savings bhi he (Friends told me there’s no benefit in other things, here you will have both security and savings),” he says.

It is the same mindset that drives many ex-servicemen back to the force, in spite of the great demand for retired personnel in the private sector, experts say.

“In the 1970s and ’80s, there were no places for these people to get employed if you were an ex-serviceman; there were very few job opportunities. Banks needed to have someone with a weapon to guard the currency chests, some big companies may be used to hire some ex-servicemen. But by and large, once you are a jawan and after you are retired, you were pretty much jobless,” says Pai.

“But if you are a retired defence personnel today, you have a lot more options than you had 15 years ago. On the one hand, you have companies like Mahindra Special Services group; they do high-quality security cover for CEOs of big companies... and all the way down to apartment complexes to small buildings. So, the whole range has been filled up... Ex-servicemen have great demand in foreign countries for security duties too,” he says.

The only attraction of a career in the DSC now is the familiar army culture, according to Pai. It’s the same environment; if you have kids, you can put them in army schools, continue getting military benefits such as housing, medical services and canteen. And moreover, DSC personnel are eligible for a double pension.


However, while the obituaries have been piling up for the DSC personnel killed in Pathankot, questions have also been raised about leaving the security of crucial strategic locations and organizations such as the DRDO to DSC troops, who are generally over 50 years old.

“DSC, composed of retired military veterans well past their prime, can hardly repulse a well-equipped and motivated terrorist suicide squad,” wrote Ajai Shukla, a retired colonel, war correspondent and writer on strategic affairs, in Business Standard.

Kumar pauses for a moment and adjusts his thick-rimmed round spectacles when asked how he feels about such comments.

“People call us ‘bhudda fauj’ but we work overtime guarding the bases,” says Kumar, who had been stationed at Pathankot for three years from 2001.

According to him, a DSC jawan will usually work for three days straight, taking a periodic rest of four hours after every two hours of work, and then take a day off. But when there is a shortage of staff, they will work continuously for weeks together without an off day, says Kumar.

Is there a need to modernize the functioning of the DSC? Is that what the Pathankot incident shows us?

Those questions can wait, according to experts like Pai. India has much bigger threats from the encroachment of defence installations area than from the lack of modernization in the defence security core itself.

Although the cantonments and plants were first built 20-30km away from cities, they are right in the middle of residential and commercial establishments now as those cities have ballooned, says Pai.

The point, he says, is that the DSC men are not sort of farmers with guns and they are doing their basic functions well. “They are a useful force. In many other countries, this job is performed by local police or by private security because that kind of labour is hard to get.”

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal