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    Ex-serviceman found dead outside house

    Ex-serviceman found dead outside house

    Ranjit Singh

    Abohar, April 19

    An ex-serviceman, Ranjit Singh (41), who had participated in Operation Rakshak in 1999 in Jammu and Kashmir, was found dead outside his house in Baba Deep Singh Nagar here today.

    His brother Kuldeep Singh, who had escorted their mother to Chandigarh, returned today and noticed the body lying in a pit outside the house where Ranjit was living alone.

    Kuldeep said Ranjit had become a psychiatric patient during Operation Rakshak. After getting treatment for three months, he started living here. As injuries were spotted on head and neck, the police sent the body for postmortem examination. Further action would be initiated after receiving the medical report, the police said. —



    IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman shifted out of Srinagar

    IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman shifted out of Srinagar

    Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

    New Delhi, April 20

    Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face of the tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, has been shifted out of Srinagar and posted to a frontline air base in the western sector, official sources said on Saturday.

    It is also learnt that the IAF was going to recommend Varthaman’s name for Vir Chakra, the coveted wartime gallantry medal, which is the third highest after the Paramvir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra.

    Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan on February 27 during an aerial combat with Indian Air Force, had returned to his squadron in Srinagar last month though he was on a four-week sick leave.

    Orders have been issued for his transfer from Srinagar to another base in the western sector, sources said, terming the transfer as “routine one”.

    The IAF pilot went on leave in mid-March after security agencies completed a nearly two-week debriefing following his return from Pakistan.

    Sources said a medical board will review his fitness to help the IAF top brass decide whether he can return to fighter cockpit as desired by him.

    Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat.

    Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.

    After he was captured, Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general.

    Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26.

    Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the IAF thwarted their plans.

    The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers. — PTI

    Israel to honour late Lt Gen Jacob

    Israel to honour late Lt Gen Jacob

    New Delhi, April 20

    Lt Gen JFR Jacob, who played a key role in negotiating the surrender of Pakistani troops in Dhaka (then known as Dacca) after the 1971 India-Pakistan war, will be honoured by Israel.

    Lt Gen Jacob, who after retirement was Governor of Punjab (November 1999 to May 2003), was a Jew by birth and religion and Israel is a Jewish country. He will be honoured by unveiling of a plaque on the wall of Honour at Jerusalem Ammunition Hill for Jewish soldiers men, women and who served with distinction in armies of other countries. A special ceremony is scheduled on April 30.

    At that time of the 1971 war, Lt Gen Jacob was a Major General and the Chief of Staff of the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command. He later became the eastern Army Commander (August 1974-July 1978). He died on January 23, 2016, at the age of 92 in New Delhi. — TNS

    Navy gets missile-destroyer Imphal

    Navy gets missile-destroyer Imphal

    Missile-destroyer Imphal at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai, on Saturday.

    Ajay Banerjee

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, April 20

    The Indian Navy today launched a new warship, Imphal, making it the first ship to be named after a state or capital city in the North-East. Imphal is the capital of Manipur. 

    The Navy names its warships sequentially. At present it is in the middle of naming new ships after a city in each of coastal states—INS Kolkatta, INS Chennai and INS Kochi have been commissioned—all three are frigates.

    Guided-missile destroyers Visakhapatnam and Mormugao have been launched and will be commissioned soon. There are existing warships named INS Mumbai and INS Mysore. The word INS (Indian Naval Ship) can be prefixed only once a ship is commissioned. 

    The name Imphal has come up after breaking the sequence. The next two guided-missile frigates of the ongoing Visakhapatnam class were supposed to be named from Odisha and Gujarat—both states otherwise have a huge naval presence.

    A warship exists by the name of INS Brahmaputra, but since the river flows only in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, the remaining north-eastern states remained unrepresented in the Navy’s warship-naming sequence. The Navy has some 150 warships.

    Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba launched the third ship-guided missile destroyer Imphal at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, Mumbai, on Saturday. In keeping with maritime traditions, Reena Lanba, the wife of the Navy Chief, broke a coconut on the ship’s bow.

    The ship features cutting-edge advanced technology and is comparable to the best ships of similar class anywhere in the world. These ships have been designed indigenously by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design. It spans 163 metres in length and 17.4 metres at beam and displaces 7,300 tonne. Four gas turbines will power it. Enhanced stealth

    features have been achieved through shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fittings, which make these ships difficult to detect.

    It is packed with an array of state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, including multi-functional surveillance radars and vertically launched missile system BrahMos for long distance engagement of shore, sea-based and air targets.

    Admiral Lanba said India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant will be delivered to the Navy by 2021. “Harbour acceptance trials are in progress and sea acceptance trial of this will commence in the latter half of this year,” he said.


    Of battles beyond the Line of Control

    The uncomplicated reality is that the rivalry between Indians and Pakistanis arises not so much from being different, but from being similar

    Of battles beyond the Line of Control

    Theatrics: The Beating the Retreat at Wagah is hugely popular. PTI

    Rahul Bedi

    The fierce rivalry between India and Pakistan extends beyond incipient war, military stand-offs, cross-border terrorism, diplomatic demarches and all-round bellicosity to the daily life of people on both sides of the volatile border. It stretches beyond conducting tit-for-tat underground nuclear tests — Pakistan undertook six to India’s five in May 1998 — acquiring better materiel and battling military and political comeuppances, to competitiveness in everyday life.

    Each country’s people claim to grow sweeter mangoes, melons and grapes than the other, produce better music, singers and television programmes, and even entertain and dress better and keep a more lavish table than those across the border.

    Pakistanis are convinced — some believe with demonstrable justification — that their women are more attractive than their Indian counterparts, and their men folk are brimming with rakishness, charm and chutzpah. They also pride themselves with a keener sense of humour, higher intellect and finer sense of tehzeeb than most Indians. Both sides also believe their sporting prowess in cricket and hockey, which India and Pakistan had played with dexterity as one before Independence from colonial rule, is superior to the other. Cricket matches between the neighbours are particularly tense events, as the losing side faces the ire of millions of fans in either country, which, over years, has often turned nasty for the losing team returning home. The victorious cricketing or hockey side, on the other hand, is lauded and lavished with accolades and financial rewards for having bested the ‘enemy’.

    The uncomplicated reality, however, is that the rivalry between Indians and Pakistanis arises not so much from being different, but from being similar. This, in turn, locks them into an unending competitive cycle to outdo one another in all spheres in order to feel superior.  However, one domain in which most Pakistanis willingly, but grudgingly concede to Indian supremacy is Bollywood.  They reluctantly acknowledge that Lollywood, Pakistan’s nascent film industry, based out of Lahore that gives it its name, is what it really is: a deprived Bollywood imitation.  But they reassure themselves by pointing out that, for decades, a majority of Bollywood icons have been Muslims like Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Amjad Khan and Aamir Khan. Muslim Bollywood actresses like Katrina Kaif and Shabana Azmi, too, are household names in Pakistan.

    The competitiveness between India and Pakistan, however, manifests itself daily like nothing else at Wagah, when impeccably turned out border guards lower their respective flags at the sunset. Specially trained Indian Border Security Force personnel, selected for their height, fierce moustaches and military bearing, and similarly recruited Pakistan Rangers try and outdo one another in starched uniforms, marching, pirouetting and screaming ear-splitting commands, as they go about their flag lowering.  The spectacular theatrics that take place in amphitheatre-like surroundings, backed by robust commentary and patriotic songs, are cheered by thousands of spectators on either side of the frontier. Over the years, these daily performances have become hugely popular and rated high on the tourist circuit.

    After the border gates are closed at the sunset, Pakistanis and Indians, separated by a few hundred yards of no-man’s land, shout out to each other extolling the performance of their border guards as well as their overall superiority.  At times, this desire for one-upmanship reaches ridiculous, and often wily, but sardonic heights.

    During the 2001 bilateral summit in Agra, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was assigned, in keeping with protocol, an unusually tall Indian Air Force officer as his ceremonial aide de camp. The Indian motive was simple but crafty: it would compel the visiting leader, that too a soldier, to look up to the Indian military man.

    In February the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought four wars since Independence, came close to another conflict after an Indian combat aircraft bombed an alleged Islamist groups training camp inside Pakistan. India was retaliating against the Jaish-e-Mohammad after it owned responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed over 40 paramilitary personnel in Pulwama a fortnight earlier. The Indian strike prompted a riposte from Pakistan, which led to a dogfight between the two air forces on February 27 over the Line of Control.

    Expectedly, Delhi and Islamabad made competing claims regarding their military successes, categorically rubbishing the others assertions with disdain, each side rabidly convinced of their righteousness.

    Srinagar-Baramulla highway ban relaxed Curbs only on Sunday, review after May 6

    Srinagar-Baramulla highway ban relaxed

    Tribune News Service

    Jammu, April 20

    Amid the growing clamour against the “highway ban”, the Jammu and Kashmir government today limited the restrictions on movement of civilian traffic on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway to only Sundays.

    It also announced a complete review of restrictions after the last phase of parliamentary elections in the state on May 6.

    On April 3, the state had notified two dedicated days in a week — Sunday and Wednesday — exclusively for the movement of security forces’ convoys on the Jammu-Srinagar and Srinagar-Baramulla sections by enforcing a complete ban on civilian traffic from 4 am to 5 pm.

    According to an official spokesperson, the government has once again reviewed the requirements of security forces, particularly in the light of successful conduct of elections in Baramulla and Jammu on April 11 and Srinagar and Kathua on April 18.

    “There has been a large-scale movement of security forces on an unprecedented scale after the Pulwama terror attack on February 14. The forces were required both for anti-militancy operations and for conducting General Election peacefully. As the requirement is now reducing as they are de-inducted, the government has decided to partially relax the traffic restrictions,” the spokesperson said.

    The restrictions would continue between Srinagar and Udhampur as earlier.

    “However, these would be reviewed periodically and relaxation allowed as the need for restriction reduces,” the spokesperson added.

    The High Court has sought a detailed report from the government on the restrictions while hearing a bunch of petitions.

    Wednesday off list

    The curbs on civilian movement between Srinagar and Baramulla highway would now be limited only to Sundays from April 22. There would be no prohibition on civilian traffic on Wednesday. Govt spokesperson

    Terrorists using Chinese grenades sent by Pak: Intel Zoom

    he main purpose of using Chinese grenades is that Pakistan doesn’t want any weapons used in Jammu and Kashmir to be traced back to it

    NEW DELHI: Pakistan is supplying Chinese-made grenades and sophisticated ammunition in large quantities to terror groups in the Kashmir Valley so that it cannot be blamed for subversive activities in India, an assessment by agencies conducting counterinsurgency operations has concluded.

    According to an internal document accessed by HT, 70 Chinese grenades (64 in 2018 and six so far in 2019) have been seized by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir since January 1 last year.

    The document said security forces had recovered pistols, armour piercing incendiary (API) shells and tracer rounds of Chinese origin from terrorists belonging to different groups.

    “The API includes both mild steel core and hard steel core (which can pierce bulletproof jackets used by Indian security forces) and its use brings a new dimension of threat for the security forces,” the document stated.

    Other than the seizures, a dozen incidents documented in the past 15 months involved either trained terrorists or overground workers (OGWs) of terror groups lobbing grenades at patrol parties, bunkers, vehicles or camps of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir Police, and the army.

    The most recent grenade attack in the Kashmir Valley took place on Tuesday, when a terrorist hurled a grenade at a National Conference election meeting in the Tral area.

    Two people were killed and 32 injured in a grenade attack at Jammu’s inter-state bus stand on March 7.

    An Indian Police Service officer involved in counter-insurgency operations, who didn’t want to be identified, said: “These attacks had a mix of both grenades made in China and Pakistan, but there is a sudden spurt in the use of Chinese ones.”


    Remembering Jallianwala Bagh via Khoo Korian

    The fear and terror unleashed by General Dyer still stalks the people living in Khoo Korian. Stories of his vengeful punishment are passed on to generations as tales of woe and suffering permanently etched upon the collective psyche

    Nonica Datta

    Jeevan Lata is a woman who worked as a mid-wife all her life. She lives in utter poverty on Khoo Korian, a mohalla close to the historic site of Jallianwala Bagh. The 13th of April is a significant date for her for two reasons. First, General Reginald Dyer shot dead innocent people in her city of Amritsar. Second, Dyer also made the people of her lane crawl on the street before he had their bodies lashed. In her mind, the massacre and the crawling episode fall on the same date.

    Khoo in Punjabi is a well and Korian means flogging. Thus, Khoo Korian is a reminder that Dyer’s rage did not end on 13th April 1919. He wanted to punish Amritsar more. On 19th April, he promulgated the ‘crawling order’, with reference to a street where Miss Sherwood, a lady missionary, had been assaulted. The order, which was strictly enforced, disallowed Indians to pass through the lane, and if they did, they had to crawl. They were also tied to tiktiki (flogging post) and flogged with several stripes. Dyer also ordered 11 ‘insolent’ inhabitants to crawl between the two pickets. According to Amritsar’s popular writer, Naresh Johar, among those who were made to crawl included a blind man, a few handicapped people and a pregnant woman.

    Jeevan Lata has grown up with the memories of the horror of 1919. Though her father was a survivor of the massacre, she, too, indirectly became a witness to the trauma of the violence. She shared with me the brutality enacted on her street by Dyer. A master storyteller, she identified the main sites connected with Dyer’s savagery. For her and the people in her neighbourhood, Dyer is remembered as a living monster, a khooni Dyer, a paapi Dyer, a katil Dyer and a kasai Dyer. She showed me the ramshackle building where Miss Sherwood had gone to conduct the exams for girls. I was then led to the house of Lalu halwai, who had rescued the lady missionary, and along with other friends, hidden her in Badri Nath’s old haveli. Jeevan Lata said, ‘She [Sherwood] was saved, if she had been killed, the entire mohalla would have been wiped out [O bach gayi si, je mar jandi, te mohalla urh janda]’.

    The fear and terror unleashed by Dyer still stalks the people living in Khoo Korian. Stories of his vengeful punishment are passed on to generations as tales of woe and suffering permanently etched upon the collective psyche. I notice a six-year-old girl correcting her grandmother by adding ‘General’ to Dyer’s name and saying that Dyer arrived with a kora (hunter) in his hand. Indeed, the cycle of collective torture associated with the crawling street becomes a reference point to remember and forget the trauma of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The residents conflate the massacre in the Bagh with Miss Sherwood’s assault and Dyer’s inhuman crawling order. The violence at Khoo Korian remains the most powerful living memory, whilst that of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre recedes into the background. Many downplayed the significance of the Amritsar massacre: ‘It’s just a jalsa (community gathering) on the Baiskahi day which the sarkar (the ruling dispensation) organises for swtantrta senanis (freedom fighters).’ But, Khoo Korian, for these people, represents torture, humiliation and violation. The gaps in popular memory make the hidden histories of the Amritsar violence impenetrable in present times. I tried to find Punjabi folk songs around Amritsar district on the massacre, but to no avail. Communities do not remember. The irony, according to the local historian Madan Lal Vij, is ‘visitors go to Jallianwala Bagh, but never come to see Khoo Korian, which is just 10 minutes away.’

    The locals remember the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy in varied ways. The shifting memories evoke unleashing of violence on a victimised collectivity. Some of those living in the vicinity of the Bagh, however, admit: ‘Shehr da sabto wadda hadsa si’ [it was the biggest tragedy of the city]. Different castes and communities, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, were present on 13th April. The city people feel that saadda (our) Amritsar was let down by the British Empire that they had devotedly served during World War I. Such memories are devoid of nationalist ideas and mainstream political meanings. Gandhiji’s name is absent from the scene. However, people remember the outstanding role of Punjabi leaders like Drs Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal, Chaudhry Bugga Mal and Mahasha Rattan Chand. Hans Raj, the agent provocateur, who masterminded the Jallianwala Bagh meeting, has disappeared from public memory, almost the same way he vanished just before Dyer started shooting.

    Sudarshan Kapoor, a well-known lawyer from the city, recalls that his father and grandfather saw the army entering the Bagh from the terrace. There were no women in the crowd, recalls Kapoor—a memory which challenges the dominant narrative that women were present in the Bagh. Kapoor tells me that an old man, Shankar Singh, munadiwala (public announcer), used to pass through the bazaar when he was growing up. He had publicly announced General Dyer’s infamous proclamation and order in the city, with the beating of the drum before the Jallianwala Bagh meeting. Kapoor’s father often asked him to repeat that pronouncement for the entertainment of his sons. Shankar Singh would declare in a loud voice: ‘Khalqat khuda di, mulaq Badshah da, Hukam General Dyer da’ [the public belongs to God, the country belongs to the King, the order is from General Dyer], implying that the gathering of more than four persons was prohibited and anyone disobeying the order, will be shot at sight. But people did not pay heed. Some did not even hear. They went to the Bagh and fell to Dyer’s bullets.

    On the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, such popular memories have been revived in gali-mohallas, katras, nukkads and dhabas of Amritsar. They are the most tangible testimony to the broken history of the massacre and the memory of the brutal violence perpetrated in Khoo Korian. The silences are equally telling. They point to the spiral of unresolved trauma that the people of Amritsar experienced in April 1919.

    Khoo Korian is a reminder that Dyer’s rage did not end on 13th April 1919. He wanted to punish Amritsar more. On 19th April, he promulgated the ‘crawling order’, forcing Indians to crawl on the street where Miss Sherwood, a lady missionary, had been assaulted

    * * *

    The residents conflate the massacre in the Bagh with Miss Sherwood’s assault and Dyer’s inhuman crawling order. The violence at Khoo Korian remains the most powerful living memory, whilst that of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre recedes into the background

    * * *

    Communities do not remember. The irony, according to the local historian Madan Lal Vij, is ‘visitors go to Jallianwala Bagh, but never come to see Khoo Korian, which is just 10 minutes away.’

    — The writer is  associate professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

    A conspiracy that stirred a nation’s consciousness

    The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the result of a well-planned conspiracy aimed at bringing together a crowd which could be killed by Dyer, says eminent historian VN Datta in conversation with Nonica Datta

    Nonica Datta: You were born in Amritsar. What did you understand about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as a child?

    VN Datta: It was horrible… Our house was a 10-minute walk from Jallianwala Bagh at Katra Sher Singh in the walled city of Amritsar. My elder sister told me that she heard the bullets and that my mother began to beat her chest thinking that my father was dead. When I was about six years’ old, I used to walk in the Bagh and observe the bullet marks on the walls. Because of my family memory, I, too, became an indirect witness to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Later, I wrote extensively on the subject. My book, Jallianwala Bagh, appeared in 1969.

    ND:Why do you think Brigadier General Reginald Dyer did what he did? 

    VND: You have to think of the circumstances which led to Dyer’s action. After the victory in World War I, British confidence was at its peak. In addition, Punjab was ruled by the iron hand of Lieutenant Governor, Sir Michael O’Dwyer. He terrorised the troops and peasants. And then came the infamous Rowlatt Bills. There was political unrest in the province.

    Dyer did not look upon Jallianwala Bagh massacre as an isolated event, but as an integral part of the Amritsar disturbances. Three days before, on the 10th, the city had been the scene of widespread violence following the arrest of local leaders from Punjab—Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, Dr Satya Pal, Bugga and Ratto; five Europeans had been murdered; and a lady missionary, Miss Sherwood, had been assaulted. I would say that the assault on Miss Sherwood provided the context for Jallianwala Bagh incident to happen.

    As a result, Dyer became furious and determined. He rushed from Jalandhar on 11 April. On 12 April, he moved around the city of Amritsar. On 13 April, from the Hathi Gate, he reached the narrow Jallianwala Bagh. He could not take the machine guns inside. With 50 troops on the platform—25 Gurkhas, 25 Baluchis—he shot about 1,650 bullets, and I calculated around 700 people died. He later told the Disorders Inquiry Committee that he realised his force was small and to hesitate might induce attack.

    I believe Dyer’s decision in Jallianwala Bagh was partly influenced by his seeing Amritsar as a possible storm-centre of rebellion and partly by the circumstances of 10 April.

    The Punjab Government feared that on the Baisakhi Day a large number of villagers would come to the city and their presence would make the situation sinister. On 12 and 13 April, Dyer issued two orders banning public meetings and processions in Amritsar city. When the massacre took place, martial law had not been introduced and the Brigadier General was not empowered to take charge of the city. But Dyer assumed full control of the situation and ignored the civilian officers. My argument is had he acted in concert with civilian officers, it is possible that the catastrophic episode might have been averted.

    As soon as Dyer arrived in the Bagh, he stood on the raised platform and opened fire without warning. Not only this but, he fired continuously even when he could see that people were running for their lives. The Hunter Committee accused him of infringing the principle of minimum force, but failed to explain satisfactorily why he did so, maintaining that Dyer merely exceeded the bounds of his duty.

    All these insights were possible because of my discovery of the volumes VI and VII of the Disorders Inquiry Committee (also known as the Hunter Committee) to which Dyer gave an account of his actions. I noticed that the previous volumes, I–V, did not contain the material that these two volumes possessed. These latter volumes included consolidated reports secretly maintained by the British government. I was the first to bring these volumes to the notice of scholars and able to discover hitherto unknown facts.

    ND: It is evident that your pioneering work provides an altogether different historical perspective on 1919. Tell us how you would interpret the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? 

    VND: I feel that the massacre was the result of a well-planned conspiracy aimed at bringing together a crowd which could be killed by Dyer. There was no martial law (in Amritsar and Lahore) till 15 April. There were no police present at Jallianwala Bagh. The Deputy Commissioner was absent from the scene. Dyer took no steps to prevent the meeting.

    ND: Why do you call the massacre a conspiracy? 

    VND: In order to understand the massacre, it is necessary to follow the movements of Hans Raj, the chief organiser of the Jallianwala Bagh meeting. At the time of the meeting, when some people began to move away, he urged the crowd to be seated and declared ‘the Government will never fire’. After a while, he waved his handkerchief and Dyer and his Indian troops appeared. When the shooting began, Hans Raj had already left. He was an agent provocateur. He was later spirited away to Mesopotamia and his house in Amritsar was burnt.

    ND: Who was in the crowd? Who were the prominent leaders present in the Bagh? 

    VND: Before the massacre, Jallianwala Bagh was a dumping ground of no political significance. In his testimony to the Disorders Inquiry Committee, Dyer said that the crowd was not innocent but hostile. He claimed it was a planned affair, with an organised mob assembled with the intent of defying authority.

    But the crowd was an amorphous lot. Many had come to the city as part of a cattle fair on the Baisakhi festival and had wandered into the Bagh. There was no leader of importance present there. I talked to people who had survived the massacre. I interviewed Rattan Devi, Uttar Kaur and Uttam Devi, who rushed to the Bagh immediately after the firing. Their testimonies formed an essential part of my book, Jallianwala Bagh. I also had long conversations with Dr Kitchlew. Despite his failing health, he gave me valuable information. Hans Raj Mittal, a leading lawyer of Amritsar, told me that the Jallianwala Bagh episode was a conspiracy hatched by Hans Raj.

    ND:  What is the legacy of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? 

    VND: After the massacre—as SK Datta, principal of Forman Christian College, Lahore, said—there was a parting of ways between the British and Indians. The massacre paved the way for the ultimate downfall of the British Empire and a new leadership by Gandhi appeared on the national scene.

    In my works, I have tried to move away from a nationalist hagiography of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. However, there is no doubt that it proved a great asset to the nationalist cause. 1919 changed the political complexion of Punjab, which could never recover from that military violence.

    — This interview is one of a series of interviews with VN Datta conducted by Nonica Datta between July 2018 and April 2019 in New Delhi.

    Fighting tactical battles for one-upmanship by Pravin Sawhney

    Separate doctrines of the Army and the Air Force, and with each service doing its own training, are evidence that no amount of modernisation would help if the focus of the service chiefs remains on tactics. Success in war between India and Pakistan depends on the operational level of war.

    Fighting tactical battles for one-upmanship

    Face-off: Had India retaliated to the Pakistan Air Force’s counter-strike, an escalation was assured.

    Pravin Sawhney
    Strategic Affairs Expert

    SPEAKING at a recent seminar, the Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, while referring to the February 26/27 Balakot air spat, raised the critical war-winning issue. He said: “Did they (Pakistan Air Force) succeed in their objective? The answer is a clear ‘No’, as the attack was thwarted, while we achieved our objective in Balakot. This is the main argument.”

    This is the wrong argument. If the Indian Air Force (IAF) had followed the correct argument, it would not have lost seven lives in the Mi-17V helicopter on the morning of February 27 when the air exchange was going on. Since the helicopter was not hit by Pakistani fire, it is reasonable to suspect that it went down by friendly fire.

    The correct argument is that the IAF breached Pakistan-controlled airspace on February 26 for hitting ‘non-military’ targets in Balakot. These were tactics (battle). The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) struck the next morning and also breached India-controlled airspace. This was done by the PAF in order to maintain balance at the operational (war-fighting or campaign) level of war. The operational level of war is where tactical battles in a particular area or theatre are given a coherent design and tackled as a whole. Moreover, since escalation was not the motive of the PAF either, it goes to its credit that they managed to miss military targets in the area which has extremely high density of Indian Army troops. Destruction of Indian Army installations would have compelled the Modi government to escalate, resulting in war, which neither side wanted.  

    The success in war between India and Pakistan depends on the operational level of war. A country can be successful at the operational level of war because of good higher defence management, firepower, joint training and mindset despite fewer numbers in terms of manpower and equipment, which is the case of the Pakistan military vis-à-vis the Indian one. Since air power, given its reach and flexibility, is central to success at the operational level, PAF’s quick retaliation was expected to maintain its air power credibility.

    Yet, the IAF was not prepared for the inevitable. Had it been ready, the IAF would have seized control of airspace management after its February 26 strike, since it is its responsibility in war. The air corridors would have been marked and assigned, and all ground-based air defence networks (of the Air Force and Army) would have followed war protocols, waiting for the enemy’s counter-airstrike. Clearly, no one told the ill-fated helicopter not to take off on a routine peace-time flight, and the ground air defence observers, too, were caught on the wrong foot. 

    The issue, thus, is about tactics and operational level of war. The Pakistan military, learning from the Soviet Union, has always given importance to the operational level. This is why in the 1965 and 1971 wars, despite being more in bean-counting of assets, India never won in the western sector. Proof of this are the ceasefire line and the Line of Control, which otherwise would have been converted into international borders.

    The situation, regrettably, remains the same today. Separate doctrines of the Army and the Air Force, and with each service doing its own training is evidence that no amount of modernisation would help if the focus of service chiefs remains on tactics. For example, after the Balakot operation, a senior Air Force officer told me that the PAF would not last more than six days. He believed in tactical linear success. What about the other kinetic and non-kinetic forces which impact at the operational level?

    This is not all. Retired senior Air Force officers started chest-thumping about the Balakot airstrike having set the new normal. Some argued that air power need not be escalatory, while others made the case for the use of air power in counter-terror operations like the Army. Clearly, they all were talking tactics, not war. Had India retaliated to the PAF’s counter-strike, what it called an act of war, an escalation was assured. It is another matter that PM Narendra Modi had only bargained for the use of the IAF for electoral gains.

    Talking of tactics, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa spoke about relative technological superiority. Perhaps, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would not have strayed into Pakistani airspace if his MiG-21 Bison had Software Defined Radio (SDR) and Operational Data Link (ODL). The SDR operates in the VHF, UHF, Ku and L bandwidths and is meant to remove voice clutter. The ODL provides the pilot with data or text, in this case from the ground controller. The officer, separated from his wing-man, and without necessary voice and data instructions, unwittingly breached the airspace and was captured by the Pakistan army. There are known critical shortages of force multipliers in addition to force levels in the IAF. Surely, the IAF Chief can’t do much except keep asking the government to fill the operational voids. But, he could avoid making exaggerated claims since his words would only feed the ultra-nationalists, and support the Modi government’s spurious argument of having paid special attention to national security.

    The same is the case with Rafale and S-400. These would certainly help, but would not tilt the operational level balance in India’s favour. For example, the IAF intends to use S-400 in the ‘offensive air defence’ role rather than its designed role of protecting high-value targets like Delhi, for which it was originally proposed. For the protection of high-value targets, the Air Headquarters has made a strong case to purchase the United States’ National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS). This is ironic, because while S-400 can destroy hostile ballistic missiles, NASAMS can’t do so. It can only kill cruise missiles and other aerial platforms. The thinking at the Air Headquarters is that since there is no understanding on the use of ballistic missiles — especially with Pakistan — both sides are likely to avoid the use of ballistic missiles with conventional warheads lest they are misread and lead to a nuclear accident. So, NASAMS may probably never be called upon to take on ballistic missiles.

    Given the direction of the relationship between the India and Pakistan, this assumption may not be the best to make when procuring prohibitively expensive high-value assets.