Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Humour in Uniform…

Military Humour






















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Army to supervise major offensive against Naxals

RANCHI: A major offensive to be launched in Jharkhand under direct supervision of Union home ministry in the next month will be coordinated by senior officers of the Indian Army.

The decision was taken at a meeting of chief ministers of seven Maoist-hit states held with the Union home minister P Chidambram in Delhi on Monday evening.

The meeting which took place in presence of governor K Sankaranarayanan, as Jharkhand is currently under President's rule, and senior officers of the state including chief secretary and director general of police decided the nitty-gritty of the final assault on Naxals.

The state will be divided in to different sectors and the Maoists stronghold will be attacked from all sides. Air power will also be used to corner the rebels in case they take shelter in difficult terrains.

Officials present at the meeting revealed that the offensive would be launched under direct guidance of senior officers of the Army who have expertise in guerilla and jungle warfare.

During the meeting, it was also agreed that the Centre would provide need-based additional Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) during the operation. The number of companies of (CPMF) would be need-based as similar operation will be launched in other states including West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Orissa which borders Jharkhand, said an officer.It is expected that at least 50 companies will be provided to the state till the operation is over, the official added.

The Jharkhand police have launched limited operations in different sectors of the state to check its preparedness before the final offensive. The operations have been launched in parts of Bokaro and East Singhbhum.

Jharkhand police spokesperson IG SN Pradhan said the state police launched operations at strategic locations to flush out the Maoists

India to seal defence pact with Maldives

Amid fears by Maldives that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists in the absence of military assets, India will sign a defence pact with that country during Defence Minister A K Antony's three-day visit there. 

The agreement envisages Indian help to Maldives in setting up a network of ground radars in all its atolls and
linking them with the Indian Coastal Command. 

Indian Navy and Coast Guard warships would patrol Maldives' pirate-infested waters and secure it from terror threats under the agreement which comes after Male conveyed its fear to New Delhi. 

Antony, who will lead a high-level delegation, will hold discussion with Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed, apart from government leaders and the military top brass. 

He will also hold bilateral discussions with his counterpart Ameen Faisal on ways of expanding military cooperation between the two countries, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said today. 

The Defence Minister's delegation will comprise ministry's Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Armed Forces Medical Services director General Lt Gen N K Parmar, Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and Deputy Chief of Navy Staff Vice Admiral D K Joshi.Antony will also attend the closing session of the India-Maldives Friendship event, besides paying a visit to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the most visible symbol of Indo-Maldives cooperation and friendship.

The 200-bed general and speciality hospital, established by India, has over the years provided Maldives greater self-reliance in the field of medical care. 

The two countries share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy close, cordial and multi-dimensional relations. 

India was among the first to recognise Maldives after Independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country. 

New Delhi's prompt assistance during the 1988 coup attempt, when Indian armed forces repulsed the Sri Lankan Tamil military group's attack on Maldives but withdrew after the crisis was defused, marked a watershed in bilateral ties.  India was the first to rush relief and aid to Maldives when Tsunami struck the island in 2004. 

In April 2006, India gifted a fast attack craft, INS Tillanchang, to Maldives as a goodwill gesture.

Personal safety chosen over national security

RECENTLY, VARIOUS newspapers were abuzz with the news coming out from the defence establishment of the country, which stated that the defence ministry is on course to inking a multimillion dollar deal. The deal is to acquire 12 EH/AW-101 helicopters, manufactured by Italian aviation major Agusta Westland. According to defence ministry sources the deal is now in its concluding stages as the Cabinet Committee on Security is all set to give its stamp of approval to the deal. This will be the third major deal in recent years to ensure Indian politicians and other VVIPs are able to travel in a fully secure environment in and around the nation. First, the Rs727-crore deal for five mid-size Embraer 135BJ Legacy jets was inked in September 2003 during the NDA regime. Then, the Rs937-crore agreement for three Boeing Business Jets (BBJs), with advanced self-protection suites to safeguard against missiles and other threats, was signed in October 2005. With the Legacy jets and BBJs already inducted, the VVIPs will also get the 12 helicopters to travel around in style.
The EH-101 helicopters will have self-protection systems like missile-approach warners, chaff and flare dispensers and directed infra-red electronic counter-measures to protect the VVIPs on board. The new helicopters will replace the ageing Russian-origin Mi-8s and Mi-17s being operated by IAF's elite Communication Squadron, which ferries around the President and the Prime Minister. The AW-101, will ferry 10 passengers in its VVIP configuration tailor-made for Indian netas. The helicopter has three engines for better power and safety, and were found suitable by the Indian Air Force and the Special Protection Group. Moreover, the AW-101 was found to be a rugged crashworthy helicopter with damage-tolerant features, capable of hovering even in wind speeds over 80 kmph. This incidentally, comes at a time when the IAF is finally all set to commence the trials for its quest to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft starting at Bangalore next week. The entire process of testing the wares of six competitors is expected to last till April 2010. Each of the six vendors who are competing for the US$10.2 billion (approximately Rs48,000 crore) deal will be bringing in their fighter jets to India that would be tested in home conditions across three climate zones- hot, humid and cold.
The IAF team of test pilots at Bangalore, Leh in Jammu and Kashmir and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan will examine the diverse participants. Besides being a cold-weather terrain, Leh is a high-altitude location while Jaisalmer is a desert area with hot winds. The competitors include the Swedish Gripen, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Super Viper, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG 35 and the French Dassault Aviation’s Rafale would also be provided an opportunity in the trials. The IAF has formed two teams of two test pilots who would assess the flying machine against the precise requirements of the IAF at each of these three locations. Planning for the trial schedule began some time back with the Indian test pilots being trained at the vendor’s country of origin. The second phase begins with the flight trials in Indian airspace and in the third and final phase, the aircraft would be run through a number of tests to check the efficacy of its weapons the manufacturers would have mounted on the aircraft at home country.
The IAF officials however said that the possibility of the trials overlapping cannot be ruled out since the IAF hopes to complete the exercise latest by March/April 2010. Once the trials are complete and the aircraft is identified, commercial negotiations will be instigated. India plans to acquire 18 of these in ready-to-fly conditions with the rest being manufactured in India under transfer of technology. However, both these deals, that is the deal to procure 12 high-end helicopters for Indian VVIPs and the other deal to acquire 126 fighter jets for the IAF have an altogether different facet to it. While on the one hand, all the deals related to the security of the lawmakers of the country have been fast-tracked and have been inked in the past six years, the IAF has been criticised for its lacklustre approach towards acquiring the 126 MMRCA which could enhance the air might of the country. But the IAF is not to be blamed in this regard; rather it is the government who has thwarted all the efforts made by the IAF to obtain the jets as early as possible.
Although the process of securing 126 war planes was initiated by the Indian Air Force in the year 2002, due to the careless attitude of our politicians to national security, the project was delayed for years and now the first tenders will be floated for the production of the first of the jets only in 2010. The procurement of these fighter planes is crucial for the IAF, because the force is in serious need to expand its fleet of squadrons from the current 30 to a more admirable 42. Moreover, the IAF wants to replace its aging Mirage and MIG fleets, so that the air superiority of India is maintained over its old time foe Pakistan and the threat of a Chinese invasion can be kept in check. Pakistan at present has F-16s at its disposal. Even though such a scenario has been continual, over the past few years, our politicians have not realised that the security of the country should be given the utmost priority, and that the modernisation process of our Armed Forces has to be put on the fast lane, rather they remaining inclined towards safeguarding themselves from the not-so-serious threats of terrorists. One needs to ask the netas how many leaders have died due to lack of security since Independence and compare that to the number of IAF pilots killed in crashes is unquestionable.

'He was a man of conviction'

PUNE: Lt Gen Eric Alexander Vas, an astute military thinker, who is known for his writings on national security and controlling terrorism, passed

away in his sleep at his residence at around 11 pm on Monday night. He was 86.

Vas is survived by his wife, Maureen, son Eric Junior and daughter, Asha. Vas was cremated as per his wish with full military honours at the crematorium in Golibar Maidan on Tuesday.

Born on May 15, 1923 in Karachi, Pakistan, Vas moved to India during the partition. He had served as the Commandant, College of Combat during its inception and was the founder of the Army's Higher Command Force.

During his long career in the Indian armed forces, Vas served the country as a Brigadier General Staff, Southern Command; the Commanding officer 1st Battalion 9th Gorkha Rifles; General Officer Commanding, 12 Infantry division and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Army (Kolkata).

Vas was active even after his retirement and had even founded the Indian Initiative for Peace Arms Control and Disarmament (INPAD) in Pune.

He had a gift of pen and wrote several articles on national security and international affairs in various magazines and national newspapers. He has four published books to his credit, including the Terrorism and Insurgency: a challenge of Modernisation'.

"He was well-known as a thinking general and liked by all. As a person who more or less instituted the College of Combat of the Army in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, he encouraged officers to question dogmas and doctrines instead of following them blindly," said Col Anil Athale (retd).

Maj Gen S C N Jatar (retd) called Vas a person of strong convictions, who was not afraid to stand by them. "I have known him for over five decades and even served under him in Punjab in 1974-75. His conviction and his straight forward attitude set him apart from his peers," said Jatar.

Vas was also one of the life members of a citizens' activist group the Nagrik Chetna Manch that was founded by Jatar. Air Chief Marshal H Moolgaonkar (retd) said, "I have known him for a long time. An educated person, he formed the Group of 12' which now has 18 members who meet every month and organise discussions on various subjects. He was a gallant officer.

Terror camps still operating in Pak, says Antony

KOCHI: There is no doubt that anti-India terror camps are operating on Pakistan soil. Unless they are closed down, there is always danger from across the border, said Defence Minister A K Antony. He was replying to reporters' queries here on Tuesday."There is nothing to add to what the Prime Minister has said on the issue. We had demanded that the terrorist training camps operating on the Pakistani soil should be closed down immediately, after the Mumbai terror attacks," he added. Antony said that India had not got any indications that it had changed.On the ASEAN trade pact, Antony assured the farmers that the signing of the pact would not in anyway affect them as a special plan to upgrade the agricultural products was being worked out. He said that it would take about 10 years before ASEAN agreement reached its completion. By that time, Indian farm products would achieve international quality standards. "Most of the products are in the negative list and those few which are in the cleared list will be highly subsidised and will be beneficial to the farmers." The Centre has formed a ministerial committee to look into the details. Keralites can rest assured that the interests of farmers in the state would be protected as he and Vayalar Ravi were members of the committee. "China is already a member of ASEAN and India cannotlag behind in building trade ties with these countries. "We already have trade links with Singapore and Malaysia and are building ties with other countries too," he added.

Security forces escape naxal ambush

Midnapore (WB): A landmine explosion and sporadic clashes between joint security forces and tribal activists in West Midnapore district marked the first day of the Maoist-sponsored indefinite bandh in the tribal-inhabited districts of West Bengal on Tuesday.
The landmine exploded at Birkara village on the Lalgarh-Salboni border near where the joint forces were patrolling, SDO P Ulganathan said. However, no one was injured in the incident.
One person has been arrested as the forces started an operation against the Maoists, he added.
Meanwhile, activists of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities, a tribal organisation, clashed with the joint forces at adjacent Madhupur in West Midnapore district, police said, adding that nobody was injured.
The Maoists called an indefinite bandh in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts demanding withdrawal of security forces from Lalgarh, reopening of schools where the forces have set up camps and release of the arrested.
Normal life was disrupted in the tribal areas as there was no transport on the roads.
Twenty-three CPI-M members and another person have been killed and eight others, including two policemen, missing since the anti-Maoist operation began on June 19.
Bandh supporters set ablaze four trucks on Jhargram-Bankura road at Ataria near Binpur in West Midnapore district.
The police said they had stopped eight trucks carrying goods from Jhargram to Bankura. Bandh supporters later set fire to four of them, the police said.

Terrorists had used Callphonex

Mumbai, Aug. 18: The owner of a US-based Internet telephony service provider, Callphonex, on Tuesday confirmed that the 26/11 attackers had used their services to reach their handlers in Pakistan during the attacks.

The Palestinian national, who deposed from a hotel in Toronto, Canada through video conferencing told the court that one Kharaksingh had contacted him on October 20, 2008 seeking his company’s services.

According to the witness, Kharaksingh had introduced himself as a reseller of Voice Over Internet Protocol services from India.

“We provided him three types of services — 15 personal computer to phone accounts, 10 common client accounts and five direct inward dialling services based on Austrian numbers,” said the service provider.

The witness said that one Mohammed Ishfaq had made the first payment of $250 from Pakistan, when the special prosecutor, mr Ujjwal Nikam, enquired about the payments made to his company

'Indian aid to Afghanistan irking Pakistan'

WASHINGTON: The developmental efforts undertaken by India to help rebuild a war-ravaged Afghanistan have stirred concerns in neighbouring Pakistan, a media report said on Tuesday.

Post-Taliban, New Delhi has pledged $1.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, making India the fifth largest donor nation to the country after the US, Britain, Japan and Canada.

Pakistan does not rank in the top 10, The Wall Street Journal wrote today in a piece titled "India Befriends Afghanistan, Irking Pakistan".

After shunning Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, India has become a major donor and a new friend to the democratic government -- even if its growing presence here riles arch rival Pakistan, it said.

From wells and toilets to power plants and satellite transmitters, India is seeding Afghanistan with a vast array of projects, the daily said.

The $1.2 billion in pledged assistance includes projects both vital to Afghanistan's economy, such as a completed road link to Iran's border, and symbolic of its democratic aspirations, such as the construction of a new parliament building in Kabul.

The Indian government is also paying to bring scores of bureaucrats to India, as it cultivates a new generation of Afghan officialdom, it said.

"We are here for the same reason the US and others are here -- to see a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic Afghanistan," Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

Pakistan has however said it was not worried about Indian assistance to Afghanistan, but wants adherence to a policy of non-interference.

"We recognise that Afghanistan needs development assistance from every possible source to address the daunting challenges it is facing. We have no issue with that," says Pakistani foreign-ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

"What Pakistan is looking for is strict adherence to the principle of noninterference," he told the daily.

The newspaper said for years, Pakistan refused to allow overland shipment of fortified wheat biscuits from India to feed two million Afghan schoolchildren.

India instead had to ship the biscuits through Iran, driving up costs for the program.

The World Food Program, which administers the shipments, said the Pakistan government gave its approval for overland shipment in 2008 -- six years after the first delivery.

"Why did it take six years ... is something that WFP cannot answer," a spokesman for the aid organisation said, adding: "However, we are indeed thankful to the government of Pakistan for allowing transit for the fortified biscuits".

Basit, the foreign-ministry spokesman, did not respond to a question about the Indian food assistance, wrote The Wall Street Journal.

Reality check on Pakistan

Aug 19 : It is plausible to detect in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech at the chief ministers’ conference on internal security on Monday an effort to turn his back on the Sharm el-Sheikh joint statement which succeeded in creating the unfortunate impression that India will persist with engaging Pakistan even if terrorist actions continue. Although there is no specific threat that the government knows about — as Union home minister P. Chidambaram made clear — Dr Singh saw it fit to sound a terror alert, urging the top executives of diverse hues from the states that India simply cannot afford to drop its guard. He is quite right. Terrorist acts from Pakistan have been so numerous and so persistent for a quarter-century as to form a dark trend line. Considering this, India’s signature at Sharm el-Sheikh was no more than a wispy hope that Pakistan’s new civilian leadership will be able to deliver on terrorism at least at the present conjuncture when Pakistan itself is in the crosshairs of some terrorists. New Delhi had obviously not factored in the Pakistani military establishment, whose shadowy relationships with terror outfits of every shade baffles even Washington, Islamabad’s original "all-weather" friend. Dr Singh’s bold assertion before the chief ministers was made on the strength of the chatter picked up from Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, the masterminds of the Mumbai attack who are said to be in detention. Whatever their status, they are clearly in a position to go on plotting. In the light of this it is not a little disingenuous of Pakistan to ask India after the Prime Minister’s speech to provide it, in terms of the recent joint statement, details of any actionable intelligence it may have in its possession. Given what we know, the government needs to work out if it is still feasible for the two foreign secretaries to hold consultations with a view to kickstarting the abandoned dialogue process at the political level.

It was disturbing to hear the home minister say that the "urgency" to checkmate terrorism generated after the Mumbai outrage appeared to have dissipated, and it was now "business as usual". If this implies that the National Investigation Agency — set up with such fanfare after the 26/11 Mumbai attack to deal with real-time intelligence based on inputs from the common intel pool of all Central and state agencies — has failed to take off, then our ability to fend off terrorist strikes from across the border looks thin. It is not clear what lessons the chief ministers have taken home from the conference. Briefings to the media did not indicate if there was any opportunity for the Central leadership to hear those who run state governments on the vital question of reinforcing the national internal security grid. Considering that we live in a fragile geopolitical region, a truly national effort is called for in meeting the demands of keeping our citizens safe from terrorism and subversion.

Army keen to acquire Spyder missile

Aug. 18: The Indian Army is keen on the acquisition of Israeli Spyder surface-to-air missile system to shore up its outdated air defence mechanism. The Indian Army is keen on forming at least three regiments with Spyder missiles and is pushing for an initial one regiment at least of the Israeli missile. Each regiment could have about 12 Spyder missile systems. The issue is believed to have come up for discussion at the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council of the ministry of defence on Monday. Sources said the Indian Army is keen to shore up its air defence capabilities.

The Spyder missiles are a quick-reaction medium-range surface-to-air missile system that is capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters and drones. The Indian Air Force is also keenly looking forward to acquisition of Spyder missiles.

The current air defence missiles with the Army are the Igla, Strela, Quadrat and OSA-K missiles. The Indian Army is of the view that missiles with the latest technologies need to be incorporated into its air defence arsenal so that defence preparedness is not affected. "Most air defence missiles with the Army were acquired before 1985," sources said.

A large percentage of the Indian Army’s air-defence guns are also obsolete and the Army will need to acquire modern air defence guns also, sources have said. Currently, the Army has air defence guns of Soviet Russian vintage like the L-70 (single-barrel guns which were acquired in the 1960s), the ZU-23 (twin-barrel guns which were acquired in the 1980s) and the Schilka air defence guns (four barrel guns acquired in the 1970s). Sources said the Army will need modern eight-barrel air defence guns capable of ensuring adequate air-defence. The government has been maintaining that it is modernising equipment of the armed forces.

Brigadier held blameworthy for irregularities

Chandigarh, August 18
An Army court of inquiry (COI) has acquitted a Brigadier of allegations of misbehaving with a junior officer’s wife, but has held him blameworthy on several counts of financial irregularities and procedural lapses. The COI has recommended that “suitable action” be initiated in the matter, it is learnt.

Last month, the wife of a Captain had alleged that Brig Bhupinder Singh, Commandant of the Kumaon Regimental Centre in Lansdowne, had misbehaved with her at a public function.

Based upon the complaint, the GOC-in-Cm Central Command, had ordered a court of inquiry into the matter. The allegations could not be established during the COI, presided over by General Officer Commanding 6 Infantry Division, Maj-Gen DK Jamwal.

Army sources said the brigadier, who had been approved for promotion to the rank of Major-General, had been held blameworthy on seven other counts of irregularities.

These include irregularities in the sale of canteen items, unauthorised diversion of funds meant for civil works, and irregularities in the utilisation of training funds and other grants worth several lakhs.

Sources said the officer had denied having committed any irregularities and had maintained that he had only carried on with the precedents and norms already being followed at the centre.

He had been attached to the Headquarters, Uttar Bharat Area, during the proceedings of the COI, but the attachment had now been revoked.

India’s strategic role in Nepal

Madhav Kumar Nepal, when general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) was invited to Delhi in 2007 by the Ministry of External Affairs as part of its outreach diplomacy. He told a Delhi-based newspaper that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had counselled strengthening unity among democratic forces, adding “you have the Maoists on board now, that’s a big advantage”. Mr Nepal, back as Prime Minister, will ask Mr Singh to help get the Maoists to join his Government.

India’s backing for his Government is crucial to its strategy of buying time to tame the Maoists as it made a colossal error of judgement in writing off the Maoists in the elections to the Constituent Assembly in which they won more seats than the Nepali Congress and CPN(UML) put together. Worse, National Security Adviser MK Narayanan said that India was “used to working with the Nepali Congress”. Their electoral performance was the decisive turning point in the peace process.

Emboldened by their success and confident of leading the Government till the new Constitution was drafted, the Maoists bungled when their charismatic leader, Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, egged on by party hardliners, dismissed the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Rukmangad Katwal, who was seen to be blocking the Maoist grand plan of dominating all state institutions, including the Army, by resisting the integration of Maoist combatants with the forces, the only organisation not under its domination. President Ram Baran Yadav restoring the COAS was seen by the Maoists as violation of civilian supremacy and reason for Prachanda to resign. In their book, civilian supremacy is tight party control of the Army, the power flowing from the barrel of the gun.

Prachanda’s plans for a ‘new’ Nepal and a socioeconomic revolution went awry when the Maoists crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. How can they change ‘old’ Nepal into ‘new’ Nepal without first changing themselves, is the common refrain. Sacking Gen Katwal, a monumental miscalculation which cost them the Government, was the second turning point of the peace process, ending the period of consensus. Maoist relations with other political parties, the Army and India are the worst ever.

Shock and insecurity at losing power in the name of civilian supremacy has spilled on to the streets and in the Constituent Assembly. Prachanda has vowed that the Maoists will soon return to lead a new national unity Government. It is against this skewed balance of power where the Maoists, the single largest party, are on the streets instead of in the House, that Mr Nepal is in Delhi.

Mr Nepal’s Government requires India’s demonstrable support for its legitimacy and restoring the peace process. In his book, Raj Lives On — India in Nepal, Sanjay Upadhyaya has observed that no one can rule in Nepal without India’s nod and recognising its legitimate security interests. The Maoists apparently don’t think so. They are advocating ‘Looking Beyond India’, accommodating a more assertive China to balance India. Chinese political, military, economic and diplomatic activities and people-to-people contact in Nepal have increased dramatically during the Maoist interregnum.

Through one of their key military leaders, Barsaman Pun (Ananta), the Maoists have indicated that the present standoff can be resolved only on their terms. He says Mr Yadav’s action restoring the sacked Chief of Army Staff is only part of the problem. The Pun panacea prescribes correction of the President’s action through a debate in the House, a new comprehensive peace agreement followed by a Maoist-led national Government.

The longevity of the Nepal Government is irrelevant to the peace process unless there is improvement in the law and order situation, progress in drafting the Constitution and integrating the armies. The new Government has to demonstrate it can govern better than the inexperienced guerrillas-turned-politicians. The Army Integration Special Committee is stuck over the question of its chairmanship — Prachanda, Maoists say, was replaced by Mr Nepal without consulting them. Constitution-drafting is marking time.

The Maoists are sulking and still cannot be trusted over their commitment to rule of law, multi-party democracy and human rights — in short, they have failed to transform from a guerrilla force into a political outfit. They remain on the US Terrorist Exclusion List and according to former US Ambassador Nancy Powell, the Young Communist League has obstructed Constitution-writing. India, the architect of the historic 2005 Delhi Accord which axed monarchy, is following the US way: Judge the Maoists by their deeds and not words.

Maoist-India relations have plummeted with Prachanda accusing India of installing a puppet regime, even plotting with the US to attack China. High-decibel anti-India sentiment draped in nationalism is being whipped up which is nothing new for Delhi.

Charges of Indian interference and anti-Indianism have to be managed, sometimes ignored.

Clearly, things will get worse before they get better. Mr Nepal cannot perform effectively without the Maoists on board the peace process which is linked with the United Nations Mission in Nepal on its fourth extension, overseeing the integration of armies. India has lost ground in Nepal and Sri Lanka by neglect of the neighbourhood. Given Nepal’s location, it is crucial to the security of the strategic Indo-Gangetic plains. Equally, reaching out to the Maoists and reducing the trust deficit are pivotal.

While Mr Nepal can be lavished with all the political confidence, economic goodies and assurances of cooperation, these will not operationalise the peace process. Nepalis feel India has a moral duty to break the political impasse. The Maoists require to be placated over civilian supremacy — though CPN(UML) leader KP Oli says their civilian supremacy is with YCL — integration, including restoring Prachanda’s chairmanship of AISC, and other inducements. New red lines have to be drawn over Chinese penetration into Nepal and activities of the YCL as part of a new Delhi Accord.

The Maoists have outlined two options: A Prachanda-led Government or revolt, and have discounted a third option. But there is one: Maoists joining the current Government. This requires to be worked out.

A high-level India-Maoist back-channel dialogue addressing issues holding up the peace process is urgently needed. Another mechanism is required to fix a disturbed Madhes which has around 109 armed groups, many of which simply comprise criminals. Mr Nepal must go back reassured that India has Nepal’s core interests at heart while facilitating a restart of the peace process.

Army’s valiant bid to trace Brahma kamal, snow leopard

For a month beginning next Thursday, a group of soldiers will make a rare attempt in the higher Himalayas to trace the legendary Brahma kamal and the supposedly extinct snow leopard.

The Indian Army has set itself a new goal: To research flora and fauna on the high altitudes of Northern Himalayan region, which is practically out of human reach. A band of 15 soldiers from IV Garhwal Rifles, stationed in New Delhi, will undertake the trip to Gangotri glacier, Nandanvan, Vasuki Tal and the Satopanth peak, among other places, to identify and collect proof of rare species of animals and plants still available in the region. According to Commanding Officer Ajay Kothiyal, the research material would be forwarded to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and its scientists.

“Due to the area’s inaccessibility and extreme weather conditions, there has been little research on the flora and fauna in the Himalayan region. Flowers like the Brahma kamal, blue poppy, snow lotus and some local medicinal plants find mention in books only (written years ago) and so do rare species like the Ibex (snow goat) and snow leopard. We want to make available some recent data on their availability,” said Kothiyal. He said a group of 15 officers and jawans, all of them Garhwalis born and brought up in the region, will start for Gaumukh - at an altitude of 14,000 ft — on Thursday and then climb from Gangotri glacier to Nandanvan to Vasuki Tal to Satopanth and Chaukhambha peaks. “During this expedition, they will photograph and videograph all the rare flora and fauna they come across,” he added.

The rare species found in this region include the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), brown bear (Ursus arctos), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), blue sheep or bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Koklass (Pucrasia macrolopha) and Himalayan snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis).

“At the intermediate level, I was a student of biology. I even took admission in B Sc programme but left it midway after I got a call from the Army. The mountaineering expedition will give me a chance to learn first-hand about the flora and fauna. I am sure we will do some pioneering work and pave the way for further research,” Praveen Joshi, one of the expedition members excited with the idea, said.

The Indian Army doesn’t have any particular wing for environment-related research. This effort by the Garhwal Rifles, if successful, may give the nation a pioneering idea on researching areas that have got out of reach for the common man and specialists alike.

All about US military robots

The US military and intelligence agencies deploy thousands of unmanned vehicles in the air and on the ground, including Predator and Reaper drones used to bomb militants in Pakistan.

The robots include:

MQ-1 PREDATOR: The Predator is a propeller-powered drone that can fly at an altitude of up to 7,620 meters (25,000 feet) for up to 24 hours, with video cameras and radar sending back data to a control center thousands of miles away.

Originally designed for surveillance and used heavily in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Predator can be armed with two Hellfire anti-tank missiles. Slightly smaller than a Cessna plane, the Predator is about eight meters (27 feet) long with a wingspan of more than 14 meters (48 feet). The aircraft, made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, cruises at a speed of 70 knots.

MQ-9 REAPER: The Reaper is a larger, more powerful and heavily-armed version of the Predator that can be equipped with precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles. Manufactured by the same firm that makes the Predator, the plane is 11 meters (36 feet) long with a wingspan of 20 meters (66 feet). It can cruise at 200 knots and reach an altitude of up to 15,240 meters (50,000 feet).

RQ-4 GLOBAL HAWK: Designed to replace the Cold War-era U2 spy plane, the jet-powered Global Hawk flies reconnaissance and surveillance missions at high altitude using sophisticated sensors and cameras. The plane, made by Northrop Grumman, can fly for up to 35 hours at an altitude of 18,288 meters (60,000 feet) and reach a speed of 340 knots.

RQ-11 RAVEN: The smaller Raven can be carried in a backpack and is launched into the air by hand, allowing soldiers to look at video from around a corner or over the next hill. Weighing in at 1.9 kilograms (4.2 pounds) and less than a meter long, the Raven can fly for up to 80 minutes and reach a speed of 52 knots. Manufactured by Aeroenvironment, the plane was first deployed in 2004.

PAKBOT: An unmanned ground vehicle equipped with cameras, sensors and a mechanical arm, the Pakbot can climb up stairs and over rocks with its tank treads. Resembling the robot in the animated film "Wall-E," the vehicle comes in different sizes and can weigh from six to 20 kilograms (14 to 42 pounds). The vehicle lacks the autonomy of an unmanned plane, and has to be steered remotely by a soldier. The Pakbot has been used mainly to search for and dismantle explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SWORDS: The Special Weapons Observation Remote Direct-Action System (SWORDS) is a ground robot designed to be armed with an M-16 rifle, a machine gun or a rocket launcher. Three robots have been built so far and reportedly the military and the contractor, Foster-Miller, are working out remaining technical problems. The US Army has reportedly used the SWORDS robots for surveillance and guard missions in Iraq but the vehicles have not fired a
shot in combat.

MULE: The military is testing and developing other armed ground robots, including the MULE -- a vehicle about the size of a Humvee armed with anti-tank missiles and a turret-mounted machinegun. The Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) robot is supposed to fire only when a human operator remotely pulls the trigger. The MULE could be ready for deployment as soon as 2014.

Army chief faces dissent from his commanders

New Delhi: Army headquarters has become a cold war zone, with army chief General Deepak Kapoor facing serious dissent from some of his key commanders. The bone of contention is General Kapoor's promotion policy which, some believe, will promote sycophancy rather than professionalism. Three senior lieutenant generals, all members of the army promotion boards, have written to the army chief questioning the changes.
click here

At the centre of the heartburn are two moves initiated by army headquarters which will impact the promotion of officers to senior ranks, especially to the ranks of lieutenant general and major general. The first move brings to life a proposal originally mooted by General K Sundarji, when he was army chief in the late 1980s, to split senior officers into two streams: staff and command. The former would be given administrative and staff duties while the latter would be given corps and army commands.

In January this year, the army chief and his eight army commanders, who together make up the promotion board, cleared 15 major generals for promotion to the rank of lieutenant general. The army commanders are the senior-most lieutenant generals who include the vice-chief of the army staff, the heads of the north, east, west, south, southwest and central army commands, and the army training command.

Army headquarters sent the names split into two lists -- 10 for the command stream and the rest for the staff
stream -- to the ministry of defence for final clearance. According to a couple of dependable sources, the
promotion board had not agreed to split the recommendations into command and staff, and had witnessed "heated arguments" over the proposal. General Kapoor had, at the meeting, apparently agreed to carry out a study on the impact of such a move, according to thesources.

At least three of the army commanders who participated in the promotion board meeting have now opposed in writing the move to split the promotion list into two, sources told DNA.

It is not clear if the army chief has acted on the objections of the generals whose consensus he claimed while
forwarding the promotion list to the ministry.

The ministry, civilian sources told DNA, cleared the 15 names after "some amount of haggling" with army
headquarters. When the proposal was originally made almost two decades ago, the ministry had objected to it and the idea was shelved, but the file remained "alive", and has now resulted in promotions with two streams - command and staff.

One of the affected officers told DNA that the move was "hurried through on January 9 before the last Republic Day," which resulted in a few surprises in the rank list. If the board had taken into account the Republic Day

awards announced a few days later, "some of the generals in the staff stream would have been in the command stream and vice versa," he told DNA.

This is because promotions are based on a merit ranking system that takes into account an armyman's annual
confidential report (ACR), which also covers parameters such as courses attended, commands held, and awards received. In fact, 95% of the marks are allotted on these considerations. The remaining 5% was awarded by senior generals on the basis of the reputation of an officer ("spoken reputation").

General Kapoor initiated his second controversial change to change this. He made the assessments automatic with 5% marks being proportional to marks in the ACR. This took away all the discretion left with senior officers to identify promising officers who may otherwise have scored a bit less in their ACRs.

A senior army officer in the headquarters, however, defended General Kapoor's moves, saying the decisions have "actually made the system much more scientific, and it is not left to the discretion of seven or eight army
commanders now."

Many army commanders have objected to this saying that giving undue weightage to what is on the ACRs "will breed sycophancy." A senior army officer whom DNA spoke to said that the contributions of army officers who dared to speak up, while remaining within discipline, must be recognised. "And it cannot be left to the ACRs and awards alone. Leadership is more than that, depending much on spoken reputation."

Another officer pointed out that the increasing trend of "begging for awards" and "high marks in ACRs" was taking away the sheen from a "mechanical marking" system. "We cannot create a class of brahmins within our ranks based on good ACRs that are given at the discretion of an officer's immediate senior. It would just boost chamchagiri (sycophancy) in our ranks," he said.

As a result of these ongoing standoffs, all three promotion boards for senior ranks, one for lieutenant general and the other two for major generals, have witnessed arguments this year between the army chief and his senior commanders.

Take action against 26/11 terrorists, Krishna tells Pak

New Delhi/Islamabad: As Pakistan asked India to share information on fresh terror threats, New Delhi on Tuesday said unless Islamabad takes credible action against the 26/11 suspects, it will be 'extremely difficult' to resume meaningful talks.

India also underlined that it has already "shared solid proof of possible terror attacks" from the Pakistani

"Unless visible and credible action is taken against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, it will be extremely
difficult to hold any meaningful talks with Pakistan," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on the sidelines of a function held to release a book on India's foreign policy.

`Pakistan has owned four 26/11 terrorists`

"The prime minister has made his position clear," Krishna said when asked about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks on Monday about Pakistan-based terrorists plotting attacks against India.

"We are hoping that the perpetrators of 26/11 will be brought to justice," Krishna said.

The book, 'India's Foreign Relations - 2008 Documents', is dedicated to the memory of V. Venkateswara Rao and Brigadier R.D. Mehta, Indian diplomats who were killed in an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul July 7, 2008.

The attack was blamed on Pakistan-backed Taliban militants, which put the India-Pakistan composite dialogue under stress.

Krishna's remarks came hours after Pakistan asked India to share information on fresh terror threats.

"If the (Indian) prime minister says something like this, we can't take it lightly," Pakistan's Foreign Minister

Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters on the sidelines of an official function in Islamabad.

Kasab wants to plead guilty to all charges

"If there is such information with (India), share it with the government of Pakistan so that we can pre-empt such an act," he said.

"In all sincerity, we would request India to share information they have and for our part we stand ready to
cooperate fully in pre-empting any act of terror," Pakistan's Foreign Office said.

The Indian envoy in Pakistan asserted that proof of this had already been shared.

India has already provided to Pakistan solid proof of possible terror attacks being staged on it from this country, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal was quoted as saying.

India provided enough evidences to Pakistan: Krishna

"Terrorists living on Pakistani soil are posing a serious threat to India and it is the responsibility of the
Pakistani government to eliminate it," the Online news agency quoted Sabharwal as saying.

The terrorists who executed the 26/11 Mumbai carnage belonged to Pakistan and proof of this had been provided to Islamabad, which should take the necessary action in this regard, the envoy said.

'India, China unlikely to allow mutual conflict'

New Delhi: India and China are unlikely to allow their high economic growth to be disrupted by any military
conflict in the coming decades, a former Navy officer said on Tuesday.

"Both the neighbouring countries are on path of high economic growth and a war between them may ruin the process

completely, which both the countries would not like to allow in the coming decades," Rear Admiral (Retd) K Raja

Menon said here.

Provide proof of terror threats, Pakistan urges India

Underlining the growing importance of India and China, Menon, a defence analyst, said the two countries were being so influential that a full fledged war between them will take the shape of another 'world war'.

Speaking about Pakistan, Menon said the country is facing different internal crises and is unlikely to recover from them in years to come.

"Pakistan is facing many internal crisis which it will not be able to contain as a huge number of 'youth bulge' in
the country will be a great obstacle in coming days," he said.

Dalai Lama to attend Czech rights meeting: spokesman

Menon was addressing a gathering after receiving the Professor M L Sondhi Prize for international politics for

The award instituted by M L Sondhi Memorial Trust and M L Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs in 2006
comprises a cash of Rs 1 lakh and a plaque.

Is this what Independence means?

The Letter
From  Group Captain R K Prasad
Jt Director Operations
Directorate of Operations Room
Air Headquarters (Room No 490)
Vayu Bhavan, Rafi Marg
New Delhi - 110011

22 Jul 2009
To Sri P Chidambaram
Union Minister for Home Affairs
Govt of India.
New Delhi

Honourable Minister Sir,
At the outset, I must express my deepest sense of gratitude to you for taking bold and firm steps towards eradicating the Naxal menace plaguing various states. It also gives me a sense of security and reassurance to be able to address my problems to you through the opportunity granted through your ministry's website.
I am a pilot with the Indian Air Force with 28 years of meritorious service, with most part as a fighter pilot and subsequently as a helicopter pilot. I am presently employed as a Joint Director in Directorate of Operations Room at the Air Headquarters, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi.
It may not be out of context to mention here that my father, Honorary Capt BN Prasad, is a proud ex-serviceman who retired in 1975 after 30 years of military service as an infantry man. My younger brother, Sri SK Prasad, with whom my parents live as both are more than 80 years old, served for 12 years in the Indian Army before he took premature retirement in 1990 due to the poor health of my parents. My son, Flying Officer Ashwin Prasad, is also a fighter pilot with the IAF, commissioned in June 2008. And I wish to mention here that my daughter, Ms Neha Prasad is no less motivated and is all set to join the IAF and go for training at the Air Force Academy in January 2010.
Sir, such pride and honour in military service and uniform, to commit three generations to take the pledge to make even the Supreme Sacrifice, when called upon for the sake of the nation, could not have been possible without faith and absolute trust that honourable and great leaders like you are at the helm of affairs, and are examples to ordinary citizens like us, in leading the nation ahead in it's march to glory.
However, not all is as well as it sounds.
Image: The author's father, Sub Maj BN Prasad at Leh in 1971. Picture copyright Group Captain R K Prasad. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.