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Mahathir’s spoke in the Chinese jugular BY LT Gen Bhopinder Singh

Mahathir’s spoke in the Chinese jugular

In calling the bluff on Chinese investments and recusing his country from earlier deals, the Malaysian Prime Minister may have eased India’s own concerns on Chinese presence around Malacca Straits

At 93, Mahathir Mohamad’s political career has spanned over 70 years and the wily nonagenarian has returned as the Malaysian Prime Minister after an itchy retirement lasting 15 years. The statesman, credited with transforming Malaysia from an agrarian to an industrial powerhouse in his first term of 22 years, has ostensibly returned to ‘save’ his country from the wrath of the multi-billion ‘1MDB’ scandal, substantial parts of which were linked to the Chinese involvement. Mahathir’s successful electoral campaign, pitched against the ‘great-grandmother-of-all-scandals’, was seen as a possible roadblock to the growing portents of Sinosphere under the previous Najib Razak regime, who had started courting mammoth Chinese investments into

Meanwhile, the Chinese have been on a relentless prowl to hook cash-strapped countries with its gargantuan Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create uninterrupted routes, connectivity and infrastructure along both land and seaways. The Chinese juggernaut towards this proposed solidification of interlinkages has led to infamous belligerence and appropriations in the South China Seas and the ‘String of pearls’ ports that dot along the life-sustaining maritime passages. The approach of the Chinese efforts varies from the simple ‘cheque-book diplomacy’ of funding investments (eg Philippines), coercion (eg Doklam in Bhutan) to surreptitious ‘debt-traps’ (eg Hambantota port in Sri Lanka).

A lethal and irresistible combination of financial, military and diplomatic muscle is leveraged to ensnare and ensure the requisite Chinese footprint. Often, this Chinese footprint initially comes under the guise of civil facilities and infrastructure, which later morphs into the dual-usage (civil and military) platforms, as was done recently at the mouth of the strategically placed Djibouti base of the Chinese Navy. The sophisticated pattern of patiently luring the bait follows the generous doles of ‘unpayable’ Chinese investments, which are, thereafter, settled with certain compromises in the form of invaluable bases, arrangements and irretrievable alignments. Recently, this had led the old warhorse and one-time critic of the West, Mohamad Mahathir, to presciently forewarn of the Chinese tact as a new version of colonialism.

Malaysia and the southern tip of the Indian Islands of Andaman and Nicobar overlook and physically dominate the most sensitive and vulnerable chokepoint of Chinese nightmares in the Malacca Straits. This ultra-narrow straits host the busiest shipping lanes in the world with over 100,000 ships plying nearly 30 per cent of the global trade. From a Chinese perspective, it sustains the ‘Chinese Dream’ fueled by trade and an unending appetite for energy sources. A potential doomsday scenario of a ‘choke’ in the Malacca Straits has led to two strategic actions: First, to attempt creating alternate corridors like the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or rail-linkages with the Eurasian nations, all dovetailed under the BRI initiative. Second, to invest disproportionately in the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) to create adequate energy buffer stocks to withstand any unforeseen disruption in these regime-sustaining seaways. However, given the best economic viability of the seaways as opposed to overland routes, the essential preference remains on ensuring the uninterruptedness of these seaways by way of establishing strong Chinese footprints all along the route.

Given that only India and Malaysia have the maritime real-estate around these vulnerable Malacca Straits (as narrow as 1.5 nautical miles wide at the Philips Channel) both from a sovereign and military perspective, any untoward presence of the Chinese could upset the applecart of power balance. Currently, this area is relatively free from overt militarisation, given that the traditional Chinese naval muscularity is restricted further up in the South China Seas and the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Tri-Services Command has also adopted a defensive posture and build-up. However, the presence of Chinese warships could undo the equations as they are threatening to do so in the Maldives, or in the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, where the Chinese have acquired port control for a 99 year lease. Till the recent change in the Malaysian regime, amongst various investments that the Chinese were dangling was to invest $7.2 billion in the redevelopment of the Malaysian Malacca Port to a deep sea port (capable of handling aircraft carriers), a promise that could rival Singapore port facilities. This had the signature Chinese debt traps written all over it, which could ultimately lead to Chinese presence in these calm waters.

The sagacious Mahathir had to walk the tight rope of calling the bluff of Chinese investments, as also recognising the importance of maintaining cordial relations with its biggest trading partner. His first port of international call after assuming prime ministership was Beijing, where he was feted and honoured with the disconcerting realisation that Mahathir had personified the anti-Chinese sentiment and had to be charmed for future acquiescence. However, age hadn’t withered the blunt Mahathir who lost none of his chutzpah in declaring on Chinese soil, “We are not against Chinese companies, but we are against borrowing money from outside and having projects which are unnecessary, and which are very costly”, after he had announced the cancellation of three major Chinese contracts for an East Coast Rail Link and two gas pipelines, arguing the cost was inflated and the terms weren’t favourable to Malaysia. The Chinese are not known to take sleights of colonialism very easily but are cognizant of the fact that Mohamad Mahathir at 93 will be resolute on sovereign pride, independence and legacy that could militate against Chinese ambitions and debt-imperialism.

With a spiralling debt of $250 billion, declared concern on Chinese intent and non-issues with the existing infrastructure around Malacca Straits, Mohamad Mahathir may have inadvertently eased India’s own concerns on Chinese presence around the Malacca Straits. Even his remark that “free trade should also be fair trade” had unmistakable pointers of correcting the ‘China-first’ approach that dominated the Malaysian narrative. Mahathir will be welcomed into comity of the Sino-wary nations in the Asean region and will find alternate trading partners in the Japanese, Indian and Australian markets, who have their own long-term concerns and apprehensions with the formula of initial Chinese benevolence and its subsequent aftermath.

(The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry)

On Nepal and Bhutan, Army chief General Rawat is right, and wrong too

Army chief General Bipin Rawat is both right and wrong about why Nepal and Bhutan cannot delink from India. First, he is right that Nepal and Bhutan are geographically inclined towards India. Both the countries are geographically sheltered from the north because of the Himalayas. Nepal’s northern frontiers are the Great Himalayan Range with the highest elevations in the world such as Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and others. Bhutan’s northern front is again a natural wall of glaciated and very high mountain peaks.  On the southern side, both the landlocked countries share borders with India. Nepal’s southern lowland plains bordering India are part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Bhutan is nestled between the Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh in the east, Assam and West Bengal in the south and Sikkim in the west.

However, General Rawat is wrong to pin so much importance on geographical proximity. British imperialism, which led to the occupation of over 24% of the earth’s total land area in the 20th century, established amply that geographical bulwarks succumb to other forces. The strength of shared cultures and harmonious history, developed due to geographical access, also fail under economic imperialism. Especially in an age where the technology of warfare has improved tremendously; moreover where big powers rely on sub-conventional or asymmetric warfare and economic imperialism rather than conventional invasions, the sharp edges of geography are reduced dramatically.
With China’s rapidly growing economic and military influence, it will be a powerful force in Nepal and Bhutan. However, New Delhi has some aces up its sleeve as well which it must be exploited to their full potential — its legacy of friendly ties with Nepal and Bhutan as well as the latter’s fear of a suffocating Chinese embrace, as seen in Pakistan or Sri Lanka. But it is imprudent for India to be complacent by assigning too much weight to geography alone.
Read story here: Nothing comes for free, says Army chief Bipin Rawat on aid from China 

AFT upholds dismissal of IAF officer for having extramarital affair with subordinate’s wife

The case dates back to 2012 when the officer was posted as Commanding officer of 29 Equipment Depot (ED), IAF, Kanpur where he engaged in an extramarital relationship with one of his subordinate officer’s wife.

The principal bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at New Delhi has upheld the dismissal of a Group Captain of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for having extramarital relationship with the wife of a subordinate.

Dismissing the petition of ex-Group Capt JK Pandey on September 17, the bench of Justice Virender Singh (retd) and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd), has said that the records amply indicate that the petitioner had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of an officer who was working under him in his unit. “Such a relationship, in the armed forces is taboo and against the ethos and norms of the sacred principles of camaraderie and soldiering. We do not wish to go any further on this subject, suffice to say that such a misdemeanour in the armed forces needs a quick and effective
retribution,” the bench said.

The case dates back to 2012 when the officer was posted as Commanding officer of 29 Equipment Depot (ED), IAF, Kanpur where he engaged in an extramarital relationship with one of his subordinate officer’s wife. He was subsequently posted to Air HQs, New Delhi, in March 2012 but he returned to Air Force Station Kanpur. And on April 14, 2012, a scuffle took place between him and the subordinate officer. Consequently, a Court of Inquiry was ordered by the Station Commander Air Force Station Chekeri (Kanpur).

The Court of Inquiry found the officer guilty of maintaining “inappropriate and illicit relationship” with the wife of a fellow officer and thereby “stealing affection of wife of a brother officer”. On finalization of the Court of Inquiry and pursuant to the order of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS,) a Show Cause Notice was issued to the officer as to why he should not be dismissed from the service under Section 19 of the Air Force Act. After considering the reply, the CAS opined that the retention of the officer was not in the interest of the service and recommended his dismissal to the central government. Based on these recommendations, the central government passed an order in June 2013, dismissing him from the Indian Air Force.

The officer had filed a petition in the AFT stating that the conduct of Court of Inquiry against him progressed with a pre-conceived mind and did not follow the procedures laid down under the regulations for the Air Force. He also alleged that the evidence of the most crucial witness, the complainant and his wife, was not recorded on video as was done for other witnesses.

The government counsel had rebutted the arguments of the petitioner by saying that there is enough evidence to support the findings of the Court of Inquiry and the applicant was counselled twice by the station Commander, Air Force Station, Kanpur, to stop/terminate the inappropriate relationship. Also the wife of the subordinate officer has also admitted in her own handwriting to the Station Commander about her emotional extramarital relationship with the applicant and also asked for forgiveness so that she could save her marriage and secure future of her children.

Dismissing the petition, the AFT bench observed that the government had given relief to the officer by granting him pensionary benefits in response to a mercy petition. “Even after being found blameworthy for such a grave misdemeanor adequately proven, the applicant should feel fully satisfied with the sympathetic consideration of the competent authority in their order granting him basic pension at Rs 31,784, commutation of Rs 16,45,204 and gratuity of Rs 9,00,000, which is equivalent to ninety per cent of the monetary/pensionary benefits given to a retired officer,” the bench observed.

Pak army officers see terror at home a bigger threat than India


WASHINGTON: A younger generation of Pakistan Army officers tends to consider home-grown terrorists, an enemy they have personally fought, a more significant threat than India, according to a new study by an elite Pakistani training school for senior officers who go on to man the upper echelons of the force.

They are forced to keep their views to themselves though, to private dinner parties and smaller conversations, and away from older officers, who seek to enforce the traditional anti-India narrative to safeguard and perpetuate their own legacy, the study says.

The Quetta Experience, written by retired US Army colonel David O Smith, an alumnus of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, and published by the Washington-based Wilson Center, offers an inside look at Pakistan’s middle-level and senior officers, their thoughts, attitudes and angst as expressed in unguarded moments to or around their American classmates.

Smith interviewed US Army officers who attended the Quetta institution, which counts Indian Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw among its alumni, under a long-term US programme from 1977 to 2014, on what they saw there and heard from Pakistani classmates, the directing staff and faculty.

The study was completed in 2014 but a decision was taken then not to distribute it, fearing adverse impact on US Army officers serving at the Quetta facility. The US cancelled the programme in 2016 and Smith felt confident enough to publish it after he was told in late 2017 that it would not be resumed.

In the section on India, Smith charts changing attitudes of Pakistani officers based on accounts of their American classmates going back to 1977.

One US student heard a Pakistani officer describe India to his child as “evil”, another officer recalled widely held contempt for the Hindu religion. But changes were under way. And so it stayed for most of the 1980s.

According to the report, a US student from the 20092010 batch noted a “generational divide” between old and long-time Pakistani officers clinging to their longheld anti-India bias and the young crop of officers who were the “complete opposite”.

Govt blames UPA for HAL exclusion from Rafale deal

SITHARAMAN VS ANTONY Debate over contract details continues

› The UPA should have ensured that HAL’s offer was appealing enough for Dassault to conclude the agreement… It’s not for us but for the UPA to answer why the agreement did not happen NIRMALA SITHARAMAN, Union defence minister
Since there is a growing perception that the Modi government’s Rafale purchase deal has more skeletons in its closet, let there be a JPC probe to bring out the truth AK ANTONY, former defence minister

NEWDELHI: The NDA government and the Congress locked horns over the controversial ₹59,000crore Rafale deal on Tuesday, with defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman asserting that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) lost out on the chance to build the warplanes because of the previous UPA regime, and former defence minister AK Antony accusing Sitharaman of suppressing facts and demanding that a joint parliamentary committee probe be set up to investigate the deal.

“Dassault Aviation (the maker of Rafale jets) and HAL could not agree on production terms… The UPA government should have ensured that HAL’s offer was appealing enough for Dassault to conclude the agreement (to build 108 Rafale jets in India),” Sitharaman said, while interacting with reporters at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

The NDA’s decision to enter into a government to government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was announced in April 2015 with the deal signed a little over a year later. This replaced the UPA regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by HAL.

Sitharaman said it was for the UPA regime to answer why HAL was not chosen as a partner for the contract. “It’s not for us but for the UPA to answer as to why the agreement between Dassault and HAL did not happen.”

In a separate press conference, Antony accused the government of being guilty of “gravely compromising” national security in the Rafale deal. “Since there is a growing perception that the Modi government’s Rafale purchase deal has more skeletons in its closet, let there be a JPC probe to bring out the truth,” the former minister said. He said the parliamentary committee could reveal the truth by poring over all the files related to the Rafale deal .

Antony accused Sitharaman of trying to blemish the HAL’s image. Last week, Sitharaman said the previous negotiations for 126 fighters collapsed as HAL did not have the required capability to produce the fighters in collaboration with Dassault.

Antony said if the deal negotiated by the NDA was better than the UPA’s then why did the government buy only 36 aircraft and not 126 planes.

A Congress leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, later said leaders of the party planned to meet the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Wednesday to ask for a thorough investigation in the matter.

Sitharaman underlined the government had responded to price issues raised by the Congress in Parliament. “It was our duty to ensure that we get the best price. The price you (UPA) obtained for a basic aircraft when compared with the inter-governmental agreement that we have done, it is 9 per cent cheaper,” she said.




Now, Captain Service in long route trains

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 18

The Northern Railways has decided to start Captain Service in long route trains operating in the region to felicitate passengers. According to the Railways authorities, the decision was taken in view of increased rush of passengers during the festive season.

They said this service would be provided in more than half dozen long route trains operating from the Northern Region.

The railway authorities said the ticket checker deployed in trains would be given additional charge of Captain in long route trains. “The Captain will be given a complaint book and passengers can inform him about the problems being faced by them while travelling. The mobile number of the Captain will also be displayed on the reservation chart,” a railway official said.

In fact, the rush of passengers is expected to increase manifold during the festive season in the coming some days. “A badge will be given to the train Captain, so that passengers can easily recognise him. Passengers can register their complaints with the Captain. They can also give their feedback and suggestions about their travelling experience in trains,” said Ludhiana Railway Station Director Abhinav Singla.

He said the railways expect to improve its service on the basis of suggestions and feedback given by passengers. “We are duty bound to provide best possible service to passengers. We appeal to the passengers to give their valuable suggestions to the train Captain about the facilities provided in the trains, so that we can improve in future,” Singla said.

SAD-BJP purposely delaying Kartarpur corridor issue, says Cong leader Nimisha

SAD-BJP purposely delaying Kartarpur corridor issue, says Cong leader Nimisha

Nimisha Mehta, Cong leader

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 18

Attacking the BJP-led Central Government and the SAD, Congress leader Nimisha Mehta questioned the “will” of the two parties to have the Kartarpur corridor open for Sikh devotees.

Nimisha said Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had all the time to point fingers at the conversation between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu but it was sad that she had not realised that her dear NDA government ministers were awaiting a proposal from Pakistan for opening the corridor.

“It is strange that it is the need of Sikh devotees of India to open the corridor and the Central Government, of which Harsimrat Badal herself is a part, and the Centre is expecting a proposal from Pakistan itself. How is it possible? If Indians are being affected, of course the Indian Government will have to put in a request and take an initiative keeping in view the faith of people,” said Nimisha.

But the statements of Union MoS VK Singh that they expect a proposal from Pakistan itself clarifies that it was a sheer delay tactic and a deep-rooted conspiracy of the SAD.

“How can we expect Pakistan to initiate things on its own when we need it the most here as devotees of our country want to visit Pakistan and not Pakistanis want to come here,” she said.

Nimisha said if Sidhu had gone to Pakistan, at least he raised the issue pertaining to millions of Sikh devotees whereas when the Badal family visited Pakistan they returned with buffaloes as a gift in 2012.

She added that the SAD was making tall claims of building the corridor now, whereas its leaders never accompanied the party’s then sidelined leader Kuldip Singh Wadala, who passed away months ago, even for a single prayer for opening of the corridor.


Maj Gogoi shifted out of his unit, ‘attached’ to formation HQ for Summary of Evidence

Maj Gogoi shifted out of his unit, ‘attached’ to formation HQ for Summary of Evidence

Major Leetul Gogoi . ANI file photo

Srinagar, September 18

The Army has shifted Major Leetul Gogoi, who was at the centre of the ‘human shield’ controversy, out of his unit and attached to local formation headquarters after being indicted by an Army Court of Inquiry (CoI) for “fraternising” with a local woman in Srinagar, officials said on Tuesday.

Last month, the CoI instituted by the army indicted Gogoi, an officer with 53 Rashtriya Rifles—a specialised anti-militancy force for Jammu and Kashmir, on two counts—“fraternising” with a local in spite of instructions to the contrary and “being away from the place of duty while in operational area”.  It recommended Summary of Evidence against him, a step before court martial proceedings are initiated.

The officials said Gogoi was shifted out of his unit in Budgam and “attached” to Awantipora-based Victor Force headquarters.

The officer, whose decision to tie a civilian to the bonnet of his vehicle in Kashmir on April 9 last year as a shield against stone-pelting by a mob had kicked up a huge controversy, will now face Summary of Evidence, a process similar to framing of charges. The process is likely to take three months.

Based on the Summary of Evidence to be compiled by “competent authorities”, the Army is likely to decide further action in the case which may include General Court Martial (GCM) or Summary General Court Martial (SGCM). The GCM is like a full court whereas the proceedings in SGCM are conducted in a much shorter time span and cases are disposed of quickly.

Gogoi, who was commissioned as a lieutenant in December 2008, was detained by Jammu and Kashmir police on May 23 following an altercation at a hotel in Srinagar where he was allegedly trying to enter with an 18-year-old woman.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had supported the young officer’s action and honoured him with the Army chief’s ‘Commendation Card’ for his ‘sustained efforts’ in counter-insurgency operations.

However, after the name of the major was embroiled in a controversy involving a girl, Gen Rawat said exemplary punishment would be given to Gogoi if he was found guilty of “any offence”.

“If any officer of the Indian Army is found guilty of any offence, we will take strictest possible action,” he had said. — PTI

Police suspect Hizb hand in soldier’s killing in Kulgam

Police suspect Hizb hand in soldier’s killing in Kulgam

Soldiers carry the coffin of Lance Naik Mukhtar Ahmed Malik in Shurat village. Tribune Photo: Amin War

Majid Jahangir

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, September 18

The J&K Police’s preliminary investigation into the killing of Lance Naik Mukhtar Ahmed Malik of the Territorial Army in south Kashmir’s Kulgam has pointed towards the involvement of local Hizbul Mujahideen militant group as the assailants had posed as journalists to gain entry into the house of the Army man.

“We have found the involvement of a local Hizb group in the killing,” a senior police officer said, requesting not be quoted.

The police have so far identified three members of the group who had posed as journalists and shot dead the off-duty soldier inside his house at Shurat village in Kulgam. Lance Naik Malik, 43, had gone home to mourn the death of his 17-year-old son who died on Friday.

“Terrorists are under immense pressures, especially in south Kashmir, and are carrying out such dastardly acts,” the officer said.

No militant group has so far owned the responsibility for the attack.

Before joining the Territorial Army, Lance Naiik Malik was associated with ‘Ikhwan,’ a government-backed counter-insurgency militia in the 1990s.

He is the second Army man killed by militants in Kashmir. On June 15 this year, Army jawan Aurangzeb was abducted and later killed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Last year, Lt Umar Fayaz was killed by militants in Shopian.

Meanwhile, the Army on Tuesday paid befitting tributes to Lance Naik Malik.

In a solemn ceremony at Badamibagh Cantonment , Lt Gen AK Bhatt, Chinar Corps chief, and all ranks paid homage to the slain soldier, an Army spokesman said. Representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to Lance Naik Malik.

“Late Lance Naik Mukhtar Ahmad Malik bravely resisted the attack by the terrorists but was overpowered and killed by them,” the spokesman said.

Lance Naik Malik had joined the Army in 2004. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Army pays tributes 

  • The Army on Tuesday paid befitting tributes to Lance Naik Malik n In a solemn ceremony at Badamibagh Cantonment, Lt Gen AK Bhatt, Chinar Corps chief, and all ranks paid homage to the soldier
  • Representatives from other security agencies also joined in paying their last respects to Lance Naik Malik



Sidhu’s act of hugging Bajwa demoralised Indian soldiers: Sitharaman

Sidhu’s act of hugging Bajwa demoralised Indian soldiers: Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. File photo

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 18

Ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party continue to criticise Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu over last month’s visit to Pakistan where he was caught on camera hugging the country’s army general Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday that Sidhu’s popularity made his action significantly worse.

“I speak as Raksha Mantri, hence with double (sic) responsibility—Sidhu should have avoided that singular gesture of hugging the Army Chief. He’s popular: his action has demoralised soldiers and people,” she said.

Sidhu visited Pakistan on August 17 to attend the swearing in ceremony of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan in an event that continues to haunt him a month later. A camera caught Sidhu hugging Bajwa at the function—an act that was excoriated by his critics and gave his former party the BJP ammunition to target the Congress with.


Hope the Defense Minister should have given second thought before giving such a illogical statement . If Army gets demoralise on HUG than Pakistan will escalate HUG war against India to completely shattered Indian Army Moral. Why mix politics with forces .Is the India Army soldier mentally so weak that an act by some minister will lower their morale.

What is the govt doing to uplift the morale of soldier till date .