Monday, October 5, 2009

Air Marshal Bhangu takes over

Air Marshal Paramjit Singh Bhangu has taken over as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Gujarat based South Western Air Command.(whispers)

Will Beijing repeat 1962?

After about half-a-century, India-China skirmishes have once again started surfacing obviously much to the discomfort and restlessness of India. China would never like India to grow into a super power. In that case the bells of alarm could ring on the doors of Beijing.

During the last about two decades India  has made tremendous progress in several fields of life but for certain drawbacks which New Delhi has not been able to fully over come despite its frantic efforts. This bleak side of the picture includes uncontrollable explosion of population, rampant corruption, unabated communal clashes and inhuman exploitation of lower classes of the society at the hands of rich people belonging to  high castes.

China, on the other hand, apparently doesn’t have such class-ridden society and there are no people living in penury though its population is more than that of India.

What ails China is that it has certain doubts that India might soon emerge as a super power which could pose a threat  at some appropriate point of time to Beijing which is still boosting of its victory over India in 1962 Indo-china war and is haunting Indian government with its persistent claim that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of  China. This false claim is categorically rejected by the Indian government and genuinely so.

It is generally believed that the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in May 1964 was due to his receiving an unbearable  shock of Chinese invasion with whom India had forged a historical  friendship brought about thought the Panchsheel and Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai.

For the Sino-Indian War  that broke out in 1962, the disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for this conflict, but other issues also played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. Under a Forward Policy, India placed outposts along the border, including several of them north of the McMahon Line. The eastern portion of a Line of Actual Control was proclaimed by Chinese Premier Chou Enlai in 1959.

The Chinese launched simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on 20 October 1962, coinciding with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both areas, capturing Rezang la in Chushul in the western sector, as well as Tawang on the eastern side. The war ended when the Chinese declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and later withdrew from the disputed area.

The Sino-Indian War is notable for the harsh conditions under which much of the fighting took place, entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,250 meters (14,000 feet). This presented enormous logistics problems for both sides. The Sino-Indian War was also noted for the non-deployment of navy or air force by either the Chinese or the Indian side.

Since then Indo-Chinese relationship has all through been changing with shift in their foreign policies. China is also not prepared to take it lying low that New Delhi and Washington have of late come much closer to each other than ever before.

In his book, The Fear of China, Gregory Clark recalls: “The Chinese attack of October 1962 has led to an almost complete breakdown in relations between China and India. The level of each country's diplomatic representation in the other has been greatly reduced. Many thousands of Chinese nationals have been expelled from India. The few Indian nationals living in China have, in one way or the other, been forced to leave. Border incidents have continued. Both sides have launched extreme propaganda campaigns against each other, the Chinese denouncing Nehru as a representative of the "big bourgeoisie" and a tool for U. S. aggressive designs against Tibet, while the Indians denounce the Chinese for having aggressive, imperialist designs against Indian territory. Both sides have gone to great lengths to discredit each other inter- nationally. Both sides have increased their military preparedness along the Himalayan frontier, particularly India, which has doubled its military budget to a level it cannot afford.

The recent intelligence reports confirm a massive defense preparation of the Peoples Liberation Army along with its north-eastern borders.

Big wigs in the Indian army are concerned about the situation after confirming that Chinese army did make intrusions into the Indian territory from frontier region of Ladakh and also violated its air space recently. The exercise might be continuing even now.

China’s latest decision to issue stapled visa,  not stamped on the passports, to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State is looked as the revival of their plank that this State is not an integral part of the Indian Union. This decision is quite intriguing and has irked the Indian authorities. Chinese officials in their embassy in New Delhi however assert that this kind of separate visa is being issued also to the people of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and is conveniently accepted by the Indian immigration officials at the New Delhi international airport. With regard to the citizens of Jammu & Kashmir, New Delhi airport staff does not recognise the stapled visa papers and ask the visa holders to go back and get the visa properly stamped on their valid passports.

Here in Kashmir, this act is having mixed response from different political quarters. The secessionist Hurriyat Conference has hailed it as China’s genuine assertion of their policy  of not recognising the J&K state as part and parcel of India.

One cannot but be concerned about the deteriorating relationship between New Delhi and Beijing and there are no signs in sight of its turning friendly, normal and cordial.
In his recently published book,

President Bill Clinton has cautioned that in case of an  outbreak of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, the Pakistani state shall be entirely wiped off from the map of the world whereas in India, 500 million of its people, about half of the country’s population, shall be killed. The ramifications of this new holocaust can be imagined in the present scenario, with fright and horror.

The Indian air force chief has categorically assured that there shall be no repetition of 1962 between China and India. Let’s hope so.

Author can be reached at:

187 dead as rains, floods batter Andhra and Karnataka

The flood situation in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka showed signs of improvement with water levels receding on Saturday after three days of torrential rain.
The respite came not before heavy rains left at least 187 people dead in the two southern states and the Konkan region.
The downpour was in stark contrast to a worsening drought in most parts of the country.  All of India saw the driest monsoon since 1972, as the national average rainfall between June and September fell 23 per cent short of the normal level.  
The northern and southern districts of Karnataka received rain in excess of 23 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
Rescue efforts were intensified with troops backed by Indian Air Force helicopters shifting marooned people in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the worst hit with a toll of 161, to safer areas.
“More than 350 villages were affected by the rain and subsequent floods, the worst since 1972 in north Karnataka,” said H.V. Parashwanath, the state’s top disaster management official.
At least 116,000 houses had been damaged, he said.
In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, where the toll was 16, Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said 15 helicopters, some of them from the Army, and about 150 boats were involved in the rescue efforts.
The army has deployed around 700 troops in the flood-affected districts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Rail and road transport were affected in the rain-hit districts of both the states.
The rains have also hit the Konkan region, including parts of Maharashtra and Goa, where at least 10 deaths were reported.

Kalam’s dual standards

When the teams from BARC and DRDO replayed the tapes of the thermonuclear blast at Pokhran after they got back from Ground Zero, there was a further puzzled silence from Chidambaram and his team. The video showed the shaft intact. All that had happened was that the concrete casing that had been used to seal the shaft after it had been filled with sand had blown off. The video showed sand and mud being kicked feebly into the air. The mystery was all the more deep as that shaft had been configured for a fission blast and was not made any deeper. It is all the more strange considering that Raj Chengappa, who was given access to the dramatis personae (Chidambaram, Kalam, Sikka, Santhanam) and whose account (Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power, HarperCollins, 2000) is thus far undisputed by the Establishment, notes that the decision to explode the three devices together was taken (pages 425-426) because it was “felt that the impact of the hydrogen bomb to be lowered into the “White House” may damage the other two shafts — Taj Mahal (for the atomic device) and Kumbakharan (sub kiloton device).” And here, as they stared at the replay, it was obvious that the thermonuclear device, three times as powerful as the fission device, powerful enough to destroy Hiroshima three times over, had left even most of the shaft in which it was buried almost entirely intact.

Whatever happened to the millions of degrees of centigrade of heat Chidambaram had so graphically described, which would exert so much pressure that a crater would be formed (See “The Real Pokhran Story”, October 3)? By that count the crater ought to have been thrice as big as the one formed by the fission device in the first shaft. Could there be any explanation other than the fact that the device was a dud? Worse, Chidambaram, who firmly believed that it was not necessary to conduct any test outside computer simulation, had made no fallback option for additional testing (but that’s another story).

To save the situation, Chidambaram apparently tried to do some impromptu theorising.

He began to suggest that maybe there was some fault that ran under the shaft that had absorbed the brunt of the explosion. His other colleagues, uncomfortable with this glib theorising did not allow him to continue, suggesting, gently, they should take a harder look at the data before they formed an opinion.

Now, of course, Chidambaram sings another tune. He now claims that, “The surface feature produced at Ground Zero depends on the depth of burial and the rock medium around the shot point and the rock medium between the shot point and the ground. These were all different for the two device tests. The fission device was emplaced in rhyolite medium. The medium for the Pokhran-I test was shale and sandstone.

The geology in the Pokhran region is inhomogenous.

The propagation of the shock wave is affected by every interface. 3-D simulation calculations of the rock mechanical effects done by BARC scientists, after considering all these factors, accounted for the observed effects in the thermonuclear test.” Translated into English it would mean that Chidambaram wants us to believe that geology in Pokhran is such that at a distance of only 3,280.84 feet (one kilometre) a device three times as powerful would not make any impact on the surface because there was granite, not rhyolite or shale and sandstone, around it and just because it was buried fifty metres deeper.

It can be argued that granite, being harder, conducts shockwaves much better and produces more accurate readings. Does Chidambaram’s claim make any sense? Moreover, scientists who have participated in underground nuclear tests say that when shafts are dug they try to make sure that they will not be destroyed by an explosion in another shaft in the vicinity. A scientist as sure as Chidambaram is that there is no need to conduct thermonuclear tests should have had the courage of his convictions to test the thermonuclear device alone, giving a gap of, say, five minutes after the fission explosion before testing it. That way the readings would have been crystal clear and there would have been no ambiguity over the success (or failure in this case) of the test.

Here he gave a cock and bull explanation that there was a good chance the device might destroy the other shafts, and therefore the tests were better done simultaneously. When the explosion leaves even the thermonuclear shaft largely untouched Chidambaram comes up with disingenuous and lame post facto rationalisations.

Obviously he had no idea how his thermonuclear weapon would behave. It can thus be argued that Chidambaram wanted to conduct simultaneous explosions so he could obfuscate the data in case the test failed. The test failed. So it looks suspiciously like he is back to mumbo jumbo cover-ups including 3-D computer simulation of rock mechanical effects after he couldn’t find a suitable explanation of his failure. Obviously Chidambaram’s dud thermonuclear bomb is unfit even for low grade (pink) granite quarrying.

Immediately after Pokhran 1 the depth of the shaft was revealed to be 107 metres. Why is Chidambaram silent on how deep the White House shaft was? Further, the cratering of Pokhran 1 and that of the fission weapon are similar and on expected lines even though they were placed in different mediums. Where does that leave Chidambaram’s argument that the cratering depends on the depth as well as the medium a nuclear device is placed in? Chengappa clearly says that the scientists were worried when they saw no nuclear explosion signatures in the White House shaft site (page 431). Who, then, were “some of the scientists (who) looked worried”? Was A P J Abdul Kalam among them? Certainly, his silence at that moment is most curious.

It is in inverse proportion to the decibel level he hits now, shouting that the device did not fail. If he was confident then, he did not show it. Probably because Kalam is no stranger to failure. After Kalam was put in charge of India’s missile programme he learnt the hard way that the path to success is always paved with failure. Thus, while Kalam was project director, the SLV3 in 1979 tumbled into the Bay of Bengal. On February 22, 1988, the first launch of the Prithvi failed.

When Rajiv Gandhi visited the Defence Research and Development Laboratory on August 3, 1988 to witness the indoor testing of Trishul’s motor, much to Kalam’s embarrassment it was a failure. Rajiv apparently told Kalam: “I think your rocket motor has just exploded.” On April 19, 1989, Agni’s launch was aborted following a glitch. The second attempt on May 1 had to be aborted again. In November 1989, according to Chengappa, (page 361), “Prithvi’s subsequent flights had a fair share of goof-ups. Prithvi’s second launch in November 1989 took off well but in the terminal phase rolled uncontrollably and missed the target by several kilometers….In mid 1990 the missile was still far from ready. (page 362). Prithvi’s eighth test saw the missile go up barely a kilometre before coming down like a corkscrew and bursting into flames.” On May 29, 1992, when Agni was launched, “within the first minute after the lift-off ” on the giant monitor screen the scientists “saw the missile break up into two and explode.” (Page 372).

This reporter could go on but this is sufficient to illustrate that Kalam who presided over many, many failures, was applying an entirely different yardstick when it came to Chidambaram’s obviously dud thermonuclear experiment. Here was a situation where Kalam’s own Delta team had deep doubts over the success of the test and all Kalam did was listen thoughtfully all the while backing Chidambaram.

(Maybe Gujral should have given Chidambaram the Bharat Ratna, after all).

The preliminary readings clearly indicated that there had been no explosion of the kind that had been discussed and anticipated by Chidambaram and his team. The ground motion instruments did not pick up readings commensurate with a 45 kilotonne yield. The DRDO team wanted to be doubly sure so they took the time to check and double check before they made their case.

The DRDO team numbered about sixty at the site. The ballistics division, which was involved in the analysis, numbered about thirty.

A core group of about half a dozen prepared the draft, which was reviewed a number of times. To Kalam’s credit he did not hinder this process of review. That he took the side of Chidambaram in is thus all the more inexplicable, considering that the review clearly showed the test had failed. With this, one thing is sure about our deterrence as envisaged by the logic of the thermonuclear bomb: we do not have it.

To think that Chidambaram is science adviser to our Prime Minister. How cute is that? 

India to station all MiG-29s along Pak border

LAHORE: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to station all its MiG-29 squadrons at Adampur to beef up air defence capabilities and react in the shortest possible time along the international border with Pakistan, the Indian Express has reported.
“We consider ourselves to be a strategic air power establishment of the IAF in the western sector, ever ready for operations,” said Air Commodore HS Arora, Air Officer Commanding of the Adampur airbase. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with the RAC MiG aircraft corporation to extend the service life of the MiG-29 by 25 to 40 years. Arora said six MiG-29 fighters were being upgraded and flight-tested in Russia, adding the remaining aircraft would be overhauled in India with the aid of Russian experts. “The upgraded MiG-29 fighters will have better radar systems and avionics to help fighters, a new weapon control system and modernised RD-33 engines, which would increase the aircraft hitting capability from long ranges,” he added.
Separately, the Indian army is planning to acquire 300 light tanks for deployment in the mountainous regions of the border with China and Pakistan, the Press Trust Of India has reported. It cited army sources as saying the tanks would be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir in the north and Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in the northeast.

8 soldiers killed in Himachal accident

Shimla: Eight Indian Army personnel were killed in a road accident in Himachal Pradesh's Shimla district on Sunday evening, police said. 

"Eight Army personnel were killed this (Sunday) evening when the vehicle in which they were travelling fell into the Satluj river near Tattapani in Shimla district," Superintendent of Police R.M. Sharma told. 

Seven bodies have been fished out and operations are on to trace the remaining body, the police officer said. 

Sharma said the army personnel could be from Shimla-based Army Training Command (ARTRAC) but it is yet to be confirmed. He said the cause of the accident is being ascertained. 

Army authorities here refused to comment on the accident. 

The accident spot is located 55 km from here.

India's next big buy is a missile from US

New Delhi: India is looking at the possibility of yet another major government-to-government military deal with the United States. 

The army headquarters is in the advanced stages of evaluating the Javelin anti-tank missile for large-scale induction. If the missile suits India, it could lead to another FMS (foreign military sale) deal with the US, without competitive international tendering, and possibly even without extensive field trials.

The arrangement, if it works out, would be a strong signal about India's intention to continue taking in US military products despite hiccups in bilateral ties that cropped up since the Obama administration took charge in the US. Sources said the deal could run into several hundred million dollars.

It is not clear how the induction of Javelin would affect the indigenously developed Nag anti-tank missiles, which were cleared for production this July after two decades of trials and research. The Indian Army has ordered 443 Nag missiles and 13 missile carriers.

Since the Nag was on the drawing board for several years, the Army started desperately looking for new generation anti-tank missiles to penetrate modern day tanks. As of now, the Army has old Milan missiles, a European product, and the Russian Konkours, both of which are manufactured in India under licence at the Bharat Dynamics Limited.

Last summer, India was looking to purchase the Israeli anti-tank missile, Spike, but that plan had to be abandoned after the missile failed miserably at the trials in Pokhran. It may just be a coincidence that the Army has not opted for international competitive tendering for buying the missile, and it fits into the larger trend emerging in military purchases -- of minimal competitive tendering, and preference for non-tender purchases.

Beneficiaries of this easy route are Israel, US, and to some extent Russia. While purchases from Israel and US are mostly new, Russia is the beneficiary of "repeat orders" on the Sukhoi-30 MKI and MIG-29K fighters as well as helicopters.