Sanjha Morcha

Admiral Lanba is CoSC Chairman

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 29

Chief of the Navy Admiral Sunil Lanba today was formally handed over the ‘baton’ of the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC). This committee is headed by the senior-most among three service chiefs and participates and decides on all matters relating to joint operations and training.This effectively means that the talks of Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi being elevated as the CoSC to the post stand nullified. Lt Gen Bakshi, despite being the senior-most Army commander was overlooked when the government appointed his junior, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, as the next Army Chief.Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha handed over the ‘baton’ to Admiral Lanba at a ceremony in South Block. The Admiral would, however, be assuming charge as Chairman of CoSC from December 31. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who also retires from service on December 31, was also present on the occasion.Admiral Lanba, who hails from Palwal (Haryana) assumed command of the Navy on May 31, 2016, retires in May 2019.

India needs 200-250 Rafales to maintain edge: Raha

India needs 200-250 Rafales to maintain edge: Raha
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

New Delhi, December 28Outgoing IAF chief Arup Raha on Wednesday made it clear that just 36 Rafale fighter jets would not suffice as India needs about 200-250 more fighters to maintain its combat edge over adversaries.The Air Chief Marshal, who is set to retire on December 31, also rued that the tender for the much needed “force multiplier” mid air refuellers had to be withdrawn. He said a fresh tender is in the offing and the procurement will be speeded up.Underlining that the teeth of any air force are the combat fleet, Raha said the country needs another production line besides the Tejas.He explained that the strength sanctioned by the government is 42 squadrons “which was a numerical value. He said what is needed “is also a capability mix”.Raha said India has enough of heavy weight fighters — the Su30 MKI — which will last for another 30-40 years. He said the light weight spectrum would be served by the 123 Tejas light combat aircraft ordered by the IAF.Terming Rafale as an excellent aircraft, Raha said it comes in the medium weight spectrum.”It is tremendously capable in all its roles. It is a multi-role aircraft and can be used very effectively. It can prove its worth in any situation,” Raha said.”But we have just ordered 36 aircraft and we require more aircraft in this middle weight category to give entire spectrum of capability,” he said.Raha said a void has been created in the past because of obsolescence and many of the squadrons will be past their use-by date.”We have already used them for four decades plus. It is time to retire them and get new aircraft,” he said adding this void has to be filled up quickly and 36 Rafale aircraft “will not do as we require much more”.”Over the next 10 years, we must have 200-250 aircraft.It has to be balanced out. In the heavy weight spectrum, we have enough. But in the medium weight category, we need to have more. Yes, about 200 will be very good,” he said.India and France finally signed the Rafale deal on September 23 this year, over a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the deal during his Paris visit in April 2015.The planes, equipped with latest weapons and tailored for Indian needs, will be delivered to the IAF between September 2019 and April 2022.The IAF currently has 33 fighter squadrons, against the sanctioned 42.Raha also rued that IAF’s Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 tanker fleet was plagued by maintenance problems and more midair refuellers were a “strategic requirement” to extend the range of fighter planes.IL-78 fleet had served the IAF well but its availability for missions has been less due to maintenance problems. India floated a global tender for six midair refuellers in 2007 but it has been scrapped twice in the final stages.”Sadly, there have been some problem areas in the acquisition. A new tender will be out soon,” Raha said.The air chief said the terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base and the An-32 crash in which 29 people were killed were “the worst memories of my career”.”We have flown in the fighter fleet 40,000 hours, more than last 10 years due to better serviceability. We have done an average night flying of 27 per cent which was less earlier,” he said speaking about the achievements under his tenure. — PTI 

The Afghanistan jam by Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta (retd)

India’s role will be even more challenging in the changed scenario

The Afghanistan jam
STAND BY: The $3-billion aid makes New Delhi the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan.

EVERY successive year, for over a decade now, New Delhi is rated in surveys as the most popular country in Afghanistan. This year, it bagged 64 per cent of the vote. Afghan Ambassador to India, Shaida Abdali, calls India a national partner. At this month’s Heart of Asia conference at Amritsar, in the presence of the Pakistan  delegation led by de facto foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, President Ghani lambasted Pakistan for waging an undeclared war on Afghanistan by covertly supporting terrorist groups, including the Taliban. By suggesting that Pakistan should use the $500 m aid pledged to Afghanistan for combating terrorist networks on its soil, he struck at the heart of the problem: cross-border terrorism. The latest biannual Pentagon report states: ‘Afghanistan-oriented militant groups, including Taliban and the Haqqani network senior leadership retain freedom of action from safe havens inside Pakistan’.President Ghani reignited the old idea of non-interference (by regional players) through an international or regional mechanism — whichever was acceptable to Pakistan — to verify terrorist intrusions and their activities inside Afghanistan. This is a total U-turn in Afghan policy towards Pakistan, a country whom Ghani would generally pay obeisance to. Now, he sounds like his predecessor, Mr Karzai, the famous Pakistan and US baiter. This reset has enhanced India-Pakistan combativeness in Pakistan.Other strategic alignments are shaping in the region. With the US footprint likely to diminish (despite two Generals, John Mattis and Michael Flynn, being appointed Defence Secretary and National Security Adviser), regional ambitions are on the rise among Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China. A new grouping of Russia, China and Pakistan has emerged which wants to revive the peace process which died under the watch of the US-China-Afghanistan-Pakistan quadrilateral. Russia and China will not get involved proactively, except in activating the reconciliation process.In 2013, Chinese interlocutors sounded diffident about China’s policy in Afghanistan. It was characterised by five ‘nos’: no interference in internal affairs; no criticism of US; no objection to Taliban legally entering power-sharing agreements; no use of the Northern Distribution Network; no boots on the ground. Coupled with Pakistan what has changed is Beijing’s deep involvement in Afghanistan’s political and peace process. China brings to the region elaborate connectivity programmes like the OBOR and CPEC. Last month, some 300 trucks from Chinese mainland delivered their cargo in Gwadar for onward journey to Africa. Pakistan has offered Afghanistan a connect with the CPEC through Chaman for access to Gwadar. Similarly, it has invited Russia to use the corridor.For India, the recent Russia-Pakistan engagement is disconcerting. In September, the two countries held their first-ever military exercise in Pakistan, followed by a dialogue of officials on subjects of mutual interest, including connectivity, trade and economic cooperation. While Moscow is committed to selling four Mi-35 attack helicopters, Islamabad wants to buy Su-35 combat jets.Russia and Iran have been talking to the Taliban for years and quietly providing material support. Russia, Iran and Pakistan are keen to alter the focus of combat in Afghanistan, from fighting the Taliban to fighting the IS, which is bound to complicate the ground situation. Russia calling the Taliban a ‘national military and political movement’ ignores the red lines imposed on the organisation by the international community. New Delhi wants the Taliban to eschew violence and follow democratic norms before it is invited to the high table. This will put two old allies, India and Russia, at odds with each other. Little is known about the peace process other than back-channel efforts to get authentic Taliban representatives to engage in direct talks with Afghans without Pakistani presence. The Taliban has its own terms for talks with Kabul — acknowledging its political office in Doha, removal of its leaders from the sanctions list and withdrawal of foreign forces. On the ground, there is a stalemate with the Taliban in control of one-third of the territory without any  provincial or  major district headquarters in its possession. According to the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Nicholson, who was in New Delhi last week, almost 70 per cent of the population lives under government control. A defeat of the Taliban is out of the question, as is any strategic collapse of Kabul. Afghanistan is confronted with the problem of terrorist sanctuaries in  Pakistan. Only the US could have dismantled the Quetta and Peshawar Shuras but President Obama was cautious. Of the 292 drones used against terrorists, only two were used on Pakistani soil. Can Trump force Pakistan to cooperate in Pakistan? Pakistan will stick to its concept of strategic depth in Afghanistan which has been partially achieved by the Taliban controlling swathes of land contiguous with Pakistan. It also translates into a friendly government in Kabul which would allow the Taliban holding key posts in Kabul. No dramatic change is likely. According to  Afghans, the insurgents are losing 100 fighters and the government 25 soldiers a day, losses which can’t be sustained. At the last Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had pledged to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces. After Pakistan let down the US and Afghanistan, the US has taken a belated hard line on Pakistan: making $400 m coalition support funds conditional on action against the Taliban and Haqqani Network, and urging India to step up military assistance to the ANSF — unthinkable two years ago.  Till recently, as the fifth largest donor — now $3 bn (the maximum India has given any country) — India used its soft power of development cooperation and capacity building. It has expanded its military training programmes for the ANSF in India. Besides non-lethal equipment, military hardware is to be provided in accordance with provisions of the 2011 strategic agreement. India should spare no effort to bolster the fighting capacity of the ANSF. It should consider doing more: deploying training teams and medical facilities in the vicinity and employing covert means to deter Pakistan’s neo-colonial concept of strategic depth. Cross-border terrorism has to be fought at source, if not in Pakistan, at least in Afghanistan which has sought our help.  — The writer attended a regional conference on Afghanistan in Berlin recently 

Army chief on farewell visit to Western Command

Army chief on farewell visit to Western Command
Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh meets jawans at Chandimandir in Chandigarh on Sunday. Tribune photo

Chandigarh: The Army Chief, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who hangs up his boots on December 31, on Sunday visited Chandimandir, near hereon his farewell visit to the Western Command. Lt-Gen Surinder Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command, received the Army Chief, who was accompanied by his wife, Namita Suhag, a defence spokesman said here. He was accorded a warm farewell by all ranks of the Western Command. Suhag addressed all officers of the Western Command and applauded all ranks for their selfless commitment and fortitude in discharging their duties under trying circumstances. He exhorted all ranks to inculcate high standards of professionalism and to uphold the core values of the Army. He later called on Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and CM Manohar Lal Khattar, the spokesman said. TNS

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Russia, Pak move closer on Taliban; India wary

Simran Sodhi

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15

India now has a new cause for worry that involves the movement of its old ally and friend Russia towards Pakistan.The reason underlying the shift is Afghanistan amid Russian concerns that the Islamic State will reach Russia if not checked. To fight the IS, Russia is now backing the Taliban and that is where it finds itself on the same side of the fence as Pakistan. While Afghanistan has denounced the Russian “contacts” with the Taliban and even accused it of supplying it with modern warfare, for India the worry is greater.Officially today, India said it has nothing to state on the relations between Pakistan and Russia. However, it was quick to reiterate the “special” relationship that India shares with Russia but in the same breath India stuck to its old position on the Taliban and said that the Taliban have to respect the “internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al-Qaida, agree to follow democratic norms and not to do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years”.The controversy erupted with Russian Ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytskiy stating that his government maintains ties with the Taliban but they are not “intensive”.“Yes, we do have contacts (with Taliban) but they are aimed at ensuring safety of Russian nationals and encouraging the Taliban to engage in peace talks (with Kabul),” Mantytskiy told the Afghan senate committee on international relations on Saturday.

New Delhi sticks to stand on terror

  • India reiterated the ‘special’ relationship it shares with Russia but in the same breath stuck to its old position on the Taliban
  • It said the Taliban have to respect the ‘internationally agreed red lines, give up terrorism and violence, sever all ties with al-Qaida, agree to follow democratic norms and not do anything which will erode the gains of the last 15 years’

Vijay Diwas celebrations begin in Fazilka

Vijay Diwas celebrations begin in Fazilka
Army personnel, schoolchildren and other residents during a cleanliness drive at Asafwala village in Fazilka. TRIBUNE Photo

Our Correspondent

Fazilka, December 14

The three-day Vijay Diwas celebrations began at the Asafwala War Memorial in Fazilka today. Army personnel, school students and members of Shaheedon Ki Samadhi Committee who have been maintaining the memorial complex from the last 44 years started the cleanliness drive.The historic annual festival commemorates the martyrs of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.Sandeep Gilhotra, president of the managing committee, said Health Minister Surjit Kumar Jyani, Major General GS Bisht, Brigadier Gaurav Sharma, Deputy Commissioner Isha Kalia, Senior Superintendent of Police Narinder Bhargav, Additional District and Sessions Judge Lachhman Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioners Arvind Kumar MK, Jarnail Singh and Charandev Singh Maan would lay the wreath at the sanctum sanctorum at the war memorial on December 16.On December 15, a grand victory parade would be held by residents of the town and the Army to mark the solidarity they share and reaffirm the resolve that they will safeguard the country from any misadventure by the adversary. People in large numbers are expected to converge at the historic clock tower, the termination point of the victory parade.A light and sound show by the Army formation here will also be organised on the evening of December 15 to project the battle field of the 1971 operations in Fazilka sector.The events would also include a national unity marathon.

Army recruitment rally in Ferozepur from January 4 to 11

JALANDHAR : The district army recruiting office will hold a recruitment rally for Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Saheed Bhagat Singh Nagar districts in Ferozepur from January 4 to 11.

The registration for the rally is open from November 4 to December 19. Online registration on is mandatory for candidates .

Only candidates who have registered online will be allowed in the rally to be held at Jyoti Stadium, Ferozepur Cantt.The candidates, who successfully register online, will be sent admit cards on their e-mail address intimating them of the date and time of reporting for the rally. Candidates will be required to get their educational qualification certificates, caste, residence certificates and 20 passport size photographs (for Sikh candidates photos should be with and without headgear).


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15 days to go, no clarity on new Army, IAF Chiefs

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 13

With a fortnight to go for the Army and Air Force Chiefs to retire, the announcement of their successors is the talk of the South Block here.Such appointments, normally, are made four to five weeks in advance. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said the file for the appointment of the new Army Chief was with the PMO. The name is announced after the selection by the PMO is formally approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha will retire on December 31. If the government goes by seniority, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi (Eastern Army Commander) and Air Marshal BS Dhanoa (Vice-Chief of the Air Force) stand to become the Army and IAF Chiefs. Though the matter of appointing the Army Chief, who commands around 1.3 million men, or the IAF Chief, who commands a fleet of some 1,300 planes and helicopters, is rarely discussed among services personnel, the “unprecedented delay” has become a topic of debate. Other than rare exceptions, the government goes by the principle of seniority.Lt Gen Bakshi is from the Armoured Corps, the 1st Horse (Skinners Horse). Air Marshal Dhanoa is a fighter pilot who commanded a fighter squadron during the Kargil conflict. He is the son of a former Punjab Chief Secretary SS Dhanoa. The delay in making the announcement has led to a speculation that someone else could be considered in place of Lt Gen Bakshi. His immediate junior is Lt Gen PM Hariz, who heads the Southern Command, while the next in line is Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, the Vice-Chief of the Army. The last time an Army commander was superseded was when Gen AS Vaidya was appointed Chief in July 1983. His senior Lt Gen SK Sinha had quit in protest.The need for an announcement four to five weeks in advance arises as the new Army Chief needs to be briefed by his predecessor.

Direct entry for NCC girls as Air Force pilots in offing

Direct entry for NCC girls as Air Force pilots in offing

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 12

The Air Force is opening its doors to female NCC C-Certificate holders for direct entry as commissioned officers in the flying branch. The benefit is at present available only to male cadets.“A related policy has already been cleared by the Air Headquarters and is expected to be implemented within next few months,” a senior officer said. “We hope the policy comes into effect when the forthcoming induction cycle begins.”This would be a big advantage for cadets aspiring to be Air Force pilots. The IAF has a large number of women pilots who fly transport aircraft and helicopters. On an experimental basis, the IAF inducted three women pilots in the fighter stream this year. The IAF has 1,584 women officers, followed by 1,512 in the Army and 453 in the Navy. Unlike the other two services, the number of women officers joining the IAF has shown a consistent rise over the past three years, with the intake being 144, 155 and 223 for 2013, 2014 and 2015.The IAF’s direct entry scheme allows NCC Air Wing C-Certificate holders, who fulfil the stipulated age and education criteria, to bypass the written entrance examination and appear directly for interview before the Services Selection Board (SSB). The cadets have to apply through their respective air squadrons and the Directorate General, NCC.Apart from basic military and adventure training, the NCC also imparts flying training to cadets and a formal syllabus is prescribed for them. They have to pass written and practical examination to obtain the C-Certificate over a three-year period.The Army and the Navy also have separate entry schemes and reservation of seats in training academies for C-Certificate holders.

India to get Rafale fighter jets in 3-year time: IAF chief

India to get Rafale fighter jets in 3-year time: IAF chief
Rafale fighter jet is capable of carrying nuclear weapons. — AFP file

Kolkata, December 10

India will get the first tranche of Rafale fighter jets from France in the next three years, Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha said on Saturday.”Rafale contract caters for delivery time between 36 months to about 66 months if I am not wrong. So within three years time we will have the first few aircraft delivered to us and within five-and-a-half years we will have two full squadron of aircraft in operation,” Raha said at a function here.He said the fighter jets, capable of carrying nuclear weapons and equipped with latest missiles, will tremendously increase the force’s capability.When asked about the depleting strength of jets, he said besides Rafale, India is going to produce Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in large numbers.”The effort is on to increase production lines. The more the number of aircraft we produce, the faster we ramp up the capacity to close the gap created by obsolete and old aircraft,” Raha said.IAF has put on display one such obsolete MiG-27 fighter aircraft in front of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here. The installation was inaugurated by the Air Chief Marshal.He also said the government is also thinking of procuring another fighter aircraft to fill up the gaps faster.On the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Raha said they are already working with Russia on research and development.”The project is already negotiated. Preliminary design on our part is over and if this R&D negotiations are over and we sign the contract then we should have these aircraft in another 5-6 years,” Raha said. — PTI 

Training for over 450 cadets ends at IMA

Tribune News Service

Dehradun, December 8

Lt Gen SK Saini, Commandant, Indian Military Academy (IMA), today complimented Gentleman Cadets (GCs) for an immaculate turnout and excellent drill movements. It indicates a high level of motivation, pride and cohesion achieved by them during their training at IMA, he said at the commandant’s parade here today.The commandant’s parade marked the culmination of the training of 401 Indian and 53 foreign Gentlemen Cadets from eight countries. Lt Gen Saini said the Army was one of the most outstanding institutions of the country. “GCs have made the wisest and the most honourable choice of joining the Army, irrespective of the hardships they will have to endure. People of the nation have reposed their faith in them and one should never break their trust. They should remain true to Naam, Namak and Nishan of their units and always uphold the traditions of the Army,” he said.Lt Gen Saini encouraged GCs to put in their very best for the final passing out parade. A large number of schoolchildren from Dehradun and neighbouring cities, local residents and army personnel along with their friends and families witnessed the parade.