Sanjha Morcha

Rajmata’s memory will endure for decades By K. Natwar Singh

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I write as a son-in-law. I cannot be either detached or objective. Both are banished. Rajmata Mohinder Kaur passed away last Sunday in Patiala.

On the day of her cremation, at least a hundred thousand people turned to pay homage to their beloved Rajmata. She lived to see her son, Maharaja Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister. Her great-great grandchild was born a few months before her death.Why this outpouring of grief at her death. For several good reasons. She was an exceptional person, affectionate, creative, public-spirited, compassionate, large-hearted, generous and without malice or rancour. In the 50 years I knew her, I never heard her raise her voice and saw her ill-tempered.She was married to Maharaja Yadavindra Singh at the age of 16 in 1938. She was endowed with stunning beauty and her husband was arguably the most handsome man in India. By the time she was in twenties, her four children – Heminder Kumari, Rupinder Kumari, Amarinder Singh and Malvinder Singh – had been born. All brought up in the lap of princely luxury. The family, however, not lost its common touch.India won independence on August 15, 1947. Joy was short-lived. The tragedy of Partition affected Patiala in an unexpected and tragic manner. Tens of thousands of refugees from Pakistan poured into Patiala. The Rajmata – then Maharani – provided solace, food and shelter to people whom the Partition had left destitute.

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This genuine and caring philanthropy last for a number of years. Inevitably, she came into close contact with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, more so with the latter. After the death of her husband Feroze Gandhi in September 1960, Indira Gandhi had a severe breakdown. Maharani sahiba took her to Chail for a month to recover her health. Then followed an unpleasant parting of ways due to rampant intrigues in the higher echelons of the Congress party. This is not the time to go into that melancholy episode.

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When the Congress split in 1969 Maharani sahiba joined the Morarji Desai camp. I was then working in Indira Gandhi’s office. I overcame a conflict of interest with some anxiety. My mother-in-law did not hold it against me for being in the Indira Gandhi “camp”. Indira Gandhi did not bother about my being in the Patiala “camp”.

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Nevertheless, it was a period of anxiety for me and my wife, Heminder Kumari. Amarinder and Malvinder joined the Army. The former participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak war with distinction. The Gandhi-Nehru and Patiala links were strengthened in the next generation when Amarinder and Malvinder became intimate friends of Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi at the Doon School. At the time of the ill-fated Operation Blue Star in 1984, Amarinder was a Congress MP. Had his advice been taken by Rajiv Gandhi, the history would perhaps have taken a different turn. After Blue Star, Amarinder resigned from the Congress and the Lok Sabha.Although Rajmata Mohinder Kaur has sailed to the other shore, her memory will endure for many decades to come. I myself prefer remembering to mourning – mourn we should. Remember we must.Loyalty and politics are strangers. The past few days have displayed low-class political opportunism. The enemies of yesteryears have become friends today. When the next opportunism appears, opportunists cannot be far away.The events in Pakistan are yet another example of the failure of democracy in that country. Janab Nawaz Sharif has been shown the door for corrupt practices and much more. If the subsequent uncertainty continues, three alternatives could be available – swearing in Imran Khan, declaring President’s rule and going for fresh elections. Thirdly, the Army takes over. It is in our interest to see a stable and peaceful Pakistan. An unsettled Pakistan has repercussion throughout SAARC.


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Militarising students by S Nihal Singh

Militarising students
Taking it too far: A tank should have no place on any campus.

S Nihal Singh

THE amazing proposal of JNU VC Jagadesh Kumar to station an Army tank on the campus is the tip of the iceberg. In reality, it represents the second phase of the Sangh Parivar’s programme to change the idea of India.The first phase of the ruling dispensation was to “catch’em young”, as the old adage would have it. It began with the indoctrination of young schoolchildren by revising textbooks, banning foreign language instruction. For older school-goers, a drastic revision of textbooks was undertaken, with the Mughal period airbrushed, new heroes lauded and the myths of the RSS propagated. The indefatigable RSS warrior, Dina Nath Batra, is still at it, calling for editing of India’s Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore to take out words of foreign origin.   The second phase of the BJP’s programme is the militarisation of Indian society. The Parivar has always been jingoistic in its nationalism and what the world witnessed in the 20th century through the rise of Nazism and Mussolini’s fascism comes naturally to it. Employing the venue of the JNU has a ring of triumphalism for the Parivar’s supporters because the institution has long been in its sights. The JNU is all that the Parivar abhors: free thinking along several shades of the Left, a fraternity of rebels, as every such institution should be, and scholarship combined with testing the limits of conventions. Like the early morning drills with staves that are the staple of the RSS, the Parivar prizes obedience also to the myths of a bygone age.Thus the appeal of Jagdesh Kumar to the former Army chief and now a junior minister, Gen VK Singh (retd), to get him a tank for the university is a natural follow-up of the Parivar’s philosophy. Nationalism has to be clothed in the Tricolour to be effective after the examples of Hitler and Mussolini. And with the elections of 2019 looming on the horizon, few high-level decisions are taken without the electoral calendar in mind. The Parivar misses few occasions to conflate religion with politics. Its very ideal of a Hindu India derives from the nation being a Hindu country with Muslims and other minorities living on sufferance, as it were. Religion can be a potent force, as we have seen in the Arab world in more recent times, but it is ultimately raw nationalism that, given the right circumstances, drives peoples to frenzy.Cow protection vigilantes, fake or genuine, and their fondness for lynching those transporting cattle often to death are one aspect of mixing religious creed and the Hindu veneration of the cow with criminal activity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dilemma is that he cannot cross the red lines drawn by the RSS and after long delays in commenting upon brutal acts of barbarity, he has now chosen to pass on the buck to the BJP-ruled states. But the problem will not go away.The problem of the militarisation of the country is of a different order. It is, in a sense, moulding the mind of the young into an attitude of obedience because discipline is a sine qua non of a good Army. And in the Parivar, discipline and obedience are valued above all virtues. The Parivar is obsessed with discovering the cause of foreign conquerors ruling India over centuries. Its simple conclusion seems to be that it was the people’s unpreparedness for war and the martial arts that let foreigners invade and rule. Thus far, its recipe is two-fold: the morning drill with staves substituting for guns and building of and conjuring up a golden ancient age in which India was a superpower.We have it on the authority of Modi that modern planes flew in ancient India, a country then proficient in cosmetic surgery and transposing heads and reaching a very high level of knowledge. His speech at an opening ceremony of a Mumbai hospital lauding the wonders of ancient India was quickly deleted on the web, but his beliefs are a reminder that he spent his formative years in the RSS cradle.Thus far, the JNU Vice-Chancellor’s suggestion of installing a tank on the campus has invited much derision and a riposte from the JNU Teachers Association suggesting that the university cannot be made into a “theatre of war”, and that the JNU was not a “boot camp”. But the ruling dispensation is serious about its intent to spread the message across institutions of learning that the armed forces must be an object of adulation and the discipline that keeps them alert and ready for all eventualities is the new motto of the patriotic student.This new campaign to reboot the country’s student population is bound to fail because although the BJP’s student wings will do all they can to burrow their way into unions’ leadership posts, the young are by nature rebellious and somewhat wild. It is an acknowledged fact that every conservative in later life was once a fire-breathing Left-wing student. If the space for dissent in student politics is closed, the young can only go to extreme philosophies to express themselves. There is little reason to doubt the seriousness of the Parivar in militarising the student body. But it remains an open question whether it has thought through the seriousness of the consequences of its decision on the country’s future. Leaving students with no option but to espouse extremist creeds to express their rebelliousness even as the country’s security forces are already fighting Maoists and others is a bad idea.The occasion for pronouncing Kumar’s words of wisdom was the celebration of the Kargil Vijay Diwas for the first time in the university’s history. Whether the tank will duly arrive remains to be seen but the thought processes of the Parivar and its supporters are clear. The RSS has reluctantly given up shorts for trousers for its obligatory morning drill but its thought processes have not changed.

Army Chief wraps up his Jammu visit

Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 29

Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat wrapped up his two-day visit to the Jammu region today. During his tour, he visited the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri district and held threadbare discussion with Army officers on the security situation in the state.Sources said the Army Chief was scheduled to visit forward areas in Poonch district today but due to bad weather, he cut short his visit and returned to New Delhi this morning.On Friday, General Rawat had a firsthand account of the Army’s preparedness at the LoC, where Pakistan has been violating ceasefire for the past few months.The Army Chief reviewed the security situation with Northern Command chief Lt Gen D Anbu and General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 16 Corps Lt Gen AK Sharma.The Northern Command PRO, on Friday, said that General Bipin Rawat complimented the troops for their unflinching efforts and reiterated the need to remain ever prepared to counter the nefarious designs of the adversary.During his visit to Rajouri on Friday, the Chief of Army Staff was briefed on the Army’s operational readiness by the GOC, Ace of Spades Division.During his visit to the 16 Corps, he reviewed the operational preparedness and the prevailing security situation in the Corps zone.

Prudent conflicts by Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh

Prudent conflicts

Chinese soldiering traditions date back to the Shang dynasty (1600 BC), with seminal strategists like Wu Qi and Sun Tzu propounding classic military treaties and instincts for the modern day ‘Terracotta’ warriors of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). Across the Tibetan Plateau and the natural barriers of the Himalayan ranges, lies an even more ancient civilisation with its own profundities on war and martial traditions that the British Raj amalgamated and chiselled into a fine institution, Indian Defence Forces, the most combat-exposed outfit in the world today. Genealogically, as the two nations emerged from the bondages of foreign invasions – a certain heterogeneity of masses, absolutist power and ideology, along with expansionist tendencies ensured that the independent People’s Republic of China became a much larger entity as compared to the vivisected nations of British India, including India.

The two geographically-contiguous but historically-distanced civilisations morphed into modern states with competing ambitions and opposite systems – a totalitarian construct of efficiency got pitted against the surety of democracy. Unsettled borders and geostrategic impulses led to a war in 1962, and frequent border ‘skirmishes’ and standoffs, like the one in Doklam. In 1962, India was to pay a price for the institutionalised ‘secondment’ of its Armed forces and its security imperatives, especially when the PLA sensibilities were the centrifugal forces of Chinese governance. Professional forewarnings by India’s serving DGMO and the-then, recently retired Chief, General KS Timmayya, “I cannot, even as a soldier, envisage India taking on China in an open conflict on its own,” were rubbished and replaced by a puerile ‘forward posture’. The expected consequences followed in 1962, but the invaluable lessons learnt for posterity and the security dimensions have since never been the same. Quick confirmation of the change was indirectly showcased in the 1965 war, but very directly confirmed in the ‘limited’ war against the Chinese in 1967 (Nathu La and Cho La).

Bhopinder Singh

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Doklam Standoff: The Real Reasons And How Far Can It Be Taken by Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain

Doklam Standoff: The Real Reasons And How Far Can It Be Taken


There is no alternative for India but to do more than lip service to its dire need for better infrastructure and military capability for a two-front conflict.

Doklam will not be the last time it will face intimidation.

The standoff in the general area tri-junction and specifically the Doklam Plateau on the China-Bhutan border has now been on for over six weeks without a bullet being fired. There is rhetoric on both sides but many times more by the Chinese public relations and propaganda machinery to send home the most intimidating messages seen in a long time. The status is stuck on national egos with both sides under public pressure. In such standoffs, situations can go out of hand with the faintest of wrong gestures, words or even perceptions. The Nathula incident of 1967 comes immediately to mind where large-scale casualties were reported by both sides once the standoff developed into a conflagration.

A few facts will set the tone for this analysis. The Chumbi Valley is a narrow wedge of territory between Bhutan and the Indian state of Sikkim. The boundaries of China, India and Bhutan meet at the disputed tri-junction near the southern end of the valley. Doklam is an 89 square kilometre plateau on the eastern side of Chumbi. The Chinese claim it as theirs and so does Bhutan.

The issue in contention is that the Chinese commenced constructing a road on the disputed plateau to bring an artery to the southern end of the Chumbi Valley. The road, if completed, will alter the operational picture quite drastically as the Chinese can more effectively develop operations southwards, although they would be reasonably unsure of success with their base wedged between two potential adversaries. India’s objection is from two angles. First is that the road construction alters the strategic and operational scenario. Second that it transgresses disputed territory of a country with whom it has a mutual assistance treaty.

So if the Chinese are really professional why have they chosen to address this border issue where they are at operational disadvantage? There can be much conjecture on that, commencing from the question whether this entire standoff is an accidental one, which the Chinese did not think through sufficiently, to whether it is a deliberate selection of a point of dispute where the complexities are large; the Chicken’s Neck and the involvement of Bhutan making it a little more out of the ordinary than Depsang Plateau or Chumar in Ladakh, where the standoffs took place in 2013 and 2014.

The answer lies in a couple of factors, which have not emerged in recent analyses. It’s a question of forcing India to remain fixated on the continental dimension of its security. To do that, it is important for China to draw India into these standoffs to keep the threat of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) alive and making it two front by also playing the Pakistan card. This is the domain, where India is all alone as land boundary disputes do not draw as much international attention as maritime disputes or even just the entire gamut of the maritime domain. The latter draws far greater attention with sea lanes, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones.

China’s strength lies in the continental dimension; that is the matter of detail that chairman Deng Xiao Ping, the father of modern China, possibly misread and did not direct as part of his four modernisations. Although the military domain was the last in priority, within that domain the PLA Navy received even lower priority. That was surprising because China’s actual security priority lies in the maritime zone. Its economy is dependent on energy transported by sea. Its disputes in South East and East Asia are both in the oceans.

The Indian Ocean in its huge expanse is vulnerability for China, because located at the crown is India, which with a strong navy can remain a threat in being against China’s sea lanes of communication (SLsOC). These SLsOC carry almost 80 per cent of the energy needs especially to the well-developed eastern seaboard. That is the reason for China focusing on its string of pearls strategy, which off late has received a bit of a fillip. None other than Raja Menon, the doyen of India’s maritime experts, has argued for long along the above lines. In fact, China’s New Maritime Silk Route is partially based upon the need for strengthening its outreach to overcome the weaknesses of its stretched SLsOC.

Thus China must keep India pegged to the continental security domain to prevent it from concentrating on and developing its maritime security capability. The increasing cooperation of the Indian Navy with other naval forces, primarily the US, Japan and Australia, is not in China’s interest and this phenomenon keeps it worried. The politico-diplomatic reasons for China resorting to intimidation along with the above rationale can only be traced to three issues.

First is the moral victory, which India appeared to have scored over the Dalai Lama visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier in 2017. Second is most likely the refusal of India (and Bhutan) to join in even the basic sensitisation discussions on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) conducted by China in May 2017; China’s self-perceived magnum opus. Third, perhaps are the increasing indicators of a stronger and more strategically emerging relationship between the US, India and Japan. The plain deduction in the Chinese strategic mind would be the necessity to intimidate India and show it its place in the international strategic scenario at a time when the world order seems more confused than ever before.

The choice could have been anywhere along the disputed areas; Doklam made response and subsequent handling by India more complex. Little did China realise that the complexity will also become a millstone around its neck after India refused to be intimidated and came to Bhutan’s assistance. So where does it go from here? The viral propaganda in the official Chinese media, quite uncharacteristically impolite by any international standards of behaviour, is also a crude attempt at intimidation with the hope that it will force India into submission. The reverse has happened.

However, it is not something for India to be happy about because it does not seek conflict anywhere along its borders and is committed to its economic growth and betterment of lives of its people. China too has to realise that in its relationships it cannot expect nations to acquiesce to its strategic desire at the cost of their self-respect.

Such politico-military-strategic situations cannot simply be glossed over without at least a brief commentary on the military aspects. The most noticeable thing this time is China’s attempt to employ hybrid aspects with psychological warfare at the core. Its aim is to create fear in the minds of the Indian leadership and paint a scenario of India’s helplessness in comparison to China’s economic and military strength. There hasn’t been any subtlety about it reflecting crass attitude in the hope that India will back off.

It is a misnomer for China to think that it can walk all over India’s armed forces. What it is achieving in the bargain is the buying of new generation enmity, which will last into the future. While it may not be correct to assume that we have the fullest support of the international community yet China-Pakistan collusion to target India is not going to be viewed very positively either.

A long standoff stretching into winter, which analysts are speculating about, is not in anyone’s interest as a single spark can anytime put a full border on fire. Bhutan, which has unfortunately been caught between the interests of its giant neighbours, could actually hold the key to a potential dilution of tension. Considering that mutual withdrawal is being considered as a potential Indian success, Bhutan’s request to India to withdraw its troops alongside stoppage of all construction activity by the PLA with a follow up of a resumption in China-Bhutan talks could be a face saver for all. Bhutan could insist on subsequent PLA vacation of Doklam and return to status quo ante for the talks to resume.

The important thing is that with this incident the next may not be too far away. There is no alternative for India but to do more than lip service to its dire need for better infrastructure and military capability for a two-front conflict. Doklam will not be the last time it will face intimidation.

China-India standoff Diplomacy rolls back clouds of war

China-India standoff

INDIA’S National Security Adviser Ajit Doval does not appear to have brought back good tidings after a visit to Beijing. The standoff on the India-Bhutan-China trijunction is likely to persist and even stretch into months unless China has a change of heart. But the interaction at the top political level may have ebbed the threat of a clash that could spiral into something worse. India’s commendable restraint, in acute short supply when it comes to Pakistan, may have played a no mean role in reorienting the resolution of the military dispute towards talks. India did not react when the Chinese media stooped to name calling Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Doval. Instead of joining battle with the Chinese media in cyberspace and losing control over the narrative, India has sought to steer the conversation back among diplomats by drawing attention to the established mechanisms for addressing the border issue. The fly in the ointment is that China may have tried to strengthen its infrastructure in a disputed area but it was doing so on its territory. So while India wants a simultaneous withdrawal of troops from both sides, China wants Indian soldiers to first walk back. Many compromise formulas have been aired such as a simultaneous withdrawal by Indian troops and the Chinese road building crew. But any withdrawal by Indian troops while the PLA stays put will mean India may lose face after having jumped in the fray on behalf of Bhutan. Can a compromise formula work in a dispute that has the imprints of a broader geostrategic competition? We will never get to know whether the differences were discussed during the closed-door meetings in Beijing. But from all indications, both sides are in for a long haul since trust and mutual understanding are at a discount. The smooth conduct of the BRICS NSAs’ meeting suggests that the border dispute may not cast a shadow on the forthcoming five-nation summit. That suggests the diplomats have succeeded in decoupling the border standoff from Sino-Indian cooperation in BRICS. In the current environment of unsettled global equations, that should be an achievement.  

Pakistan violates ceasefire in J&K’s Rajouri district

“The Pakistani Army violated ceasefire by using light weapons and MMGs (medium machine guns) along the LoC in the Baba Khori belt of Naushera sector of Rajouri district at 2230 hours tonight,” Deputy Commissioner Rajouri Shahid Iqban Choudhary said.

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In another case of ceasefire violation along the Line of Control (LoC), the Pakistani army opened fire on Indian posts in Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district late on Sunday night. “The Pakistani Army violated ceasefire by using light weapons and MMGs (medium machine guns) along the LoC in the Baba Khori belt of Naushera sector of Rajouri district at 2230 hours tonight,” Deputy Commissioner Rajouri Shahid Iqban Choudhary said.

This is the latest incident in a series of recent ceasefire violations by Pakistan. On Saturday, Indian and Pakistan Armies exchanged heavy fire along the LoC in Digwar area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district after Pakistan resorted to unprovoked shelling and firing at Indian positions. This occurred around 7.30 pm.

On July 21, Indian Rifleman Jayadrath Singh was killed in Sunderbani sector of Jammu and Kashmir when Pakistani army initiated unprovoked firing in the evening.

There have been 23 incidents of ceasefire violation, one BAT attack and two infiltration bids by Pakistan in June, in which 4 people, including 3 jawans, were killed and 12 injured.

In July, 11 people, including 9 soldiers, have been killed and 18 injured in ceasefire violations by the Pakistani army along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan Ceasefire Violation: 1 killed, 3 Civilians Injured In RS Pura

Chinese military has ability to defeat all invading enemies: Xi Jinping

“Our military has the confidence and ability to write a new chapter in building of strong military and make new contributions to towards realisation of the China dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and safeguarding world peace,” Xi said

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said the People’s Liberation Army is capable of vanquishing “all invading enemies” and praised its combat readiness as he reviewed a massive military parade to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the world’s largest armed force. Dressed in camouflage, Xi inspected 12,000 troops in various formations from an open-top military jeep at the parade held in Zhurihe — Asia’s largest military training centre in the middle of a desert in Inner Mongolia.

Over 100 fighter jets flew overhead and almost 600 types of weaponry were on display for the occasion — nearly half of which were making their debut in public, according to the Chinese Defence Ministry. In his address to the soldiers, Xi said the PLA should strictly follow the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China and “march to wherever the Party points to.”

“I firmly believe that our gallant military has both confidence and ability to defeat all invading enemies,” said Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission, which holds the overall command of the PLA – the world’s largest army. While there was no reference in his speech to over a month-long India-China military standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim section, his remarks came in the midst of shrill official media campaign and assertions by the Foreign and Defence Ministries here accusing Indian troops of trespassing into Chinese territory at Doklam.

The Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Zhurihe was selected to highlight the PLA’s combat readiness, but he emphasised that war-zone trainings had been long scheduled. “They have nothing to do with the current situation in the region,” Colonel Ren Guoqiang said in a statement.

Clad in camouflage military suit, 64-year-old Xi said the Chinese military has the confidence and ability to safeguard, national sovereignty, security and development interests. “Our military has the confidence and ability to write a new chapter in building of strong military and make new contributions to towards realisation of the China dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and safeguarding world peace,” Xi said in his about 10-minute address – an event carried live on state television and radio.

India-china Standoff- Diplomatic Channels Will Continue To Be Used, Says Mea

The military parade was the biggest since 2015 in which army and air force displayed some of the most modern weapons including a new tank which reportedly held exercises in the high-altitude along the Indian border. The other weapons included long range nuclear and conventional missiles, the new J-15 – the new aircraft based carrier.

In his address, Xi asked the military to further improve its combativeness and modernise the national defence and armed forces. The Chinese military has the world’s second largest defence budget of USD 152 billion next to the US military. The PLA was founded on August 1, 1927 when the ruling CPC under the leadership of Mao Zedong carried on with his national liberation movement.

It is one of the rare national armies which still continues to function under the leadership of the CPC and not the Chinese government. “Officers and soldiers, you must unswervingly stick to the fundamental principle and system of the Party’s absolute leadership over the army, always listen to and follow the Party’s orders, and march to wherever the Party points to,” said Xi, the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

PLA officers and soldiers should firmly adhere to the fundamental goal of serving the people wholeheartedly, and always stand together with the people, Xi said. He also said China needs a strong army more than ever, urging the building of PLA into a world-class military force.

Enjoying peace is a bliss for the people while protecting peace is the responsibility of the people’s army, he said. “The world is not all at peace, and peace must be safeguarded,” said Xi, who is expected to get a second five year term at the key meeting of the CPC later this year.

“Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history, and we need to build a strong people’s military more than any other time in history,” he said. He urged the PLA to fully implement the CPC’s thoughts on building a strong military, follow the path of strengthening the army with Chinese characteristics, strive for the CPC’s target on strengthening the PLA under the new circumstances, and build the heroic PLA into a world-class military.

About 12,000 troops took part in the parade in which 129 aircraft and 571 pieces of equipment were on display. Dongfeng missiles which include short, long and medium rage of rockets, variety of armoury including light tanks, drones were also deployed.

Helicopter borne troops demonstrated in quick landing and taking combat positions. Xi Jinping presided over the military parade, hours after US President Donald Trump renewed his criticism over Beijing’s failure to rein in North Korea.

North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on last Friday which it claims could reach all of the US. President Trump has been piling pressure on China, Pyongyang’s only major ally that provides an economic lifeline to the reclusive regime, to use its leverage to make North Korea halt its nuclear and missile programs.

“I am very disappointed in China,” Trump had said in a tweet yesterday, adding that Beijing could have easily solved the problem posed by North Korea. China is also concerned by the tense situation in the Korea Peninsula and the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile by US in South Korea to counter threats from North Korea.


N. Korea’s game of dare by Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh (Retd)

With tempers running high in the restive Korean peninsula, negotiations seem unlikely.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Photo: AP)

 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Photo: AP)

The hermit kingdom is increasingly isolating itself with its nuclear ambitions that threaten its neighbourhood. And now with its proven, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities the entire world is feeling the heat. Hwasong-14 was fired from Panghyon airfield in Kusong, remaining afloat for 37 minutes and flying 578 missiles. When the flight and trajectory data was analysed and extrapolated by international experts, it confirmed the worst nightmares of an ICBM capability that could theoretically reach 6,700 km or the state of Alaska, United States, with its successful demonstration. If this latest missile delivery capability is contexualised with North Korea’s known ability to fuel nuclear devices, with weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, the threat of hitting “the heart of the US” no longer seems to be a standard propagandist boast. With this, North Korea joins the select ICBM club — US, Russia, China, France, UK, India (Agni) and possibly Israel (Jericho III). For once the deeply-polarised global order was broadly on the same page with the United Nations, US, China and Russia amongst many others, condemning the latest North Korean provocation (perversely presented as an Independence Day gift to the US on July 4).

A reciprocal ratcheting flared up with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warning that North Korea’s actions were “quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution”. The North Korean endgame of perpetuating and strengthening the Kim regime (starting in 1948 with the ascendancy of the “Eternal President” Kim Il-sung, to his son the “Eternal Chairman” Kim Jong-il, to now the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-un), the cult-based narrative has consistently and furiously sought regime-protection and to bully the external world into economic gratification with nuclear threats and illicit trade. The totalitarian state is the last remaining bastion of the George W. Bush’s maxim of the “axis of evil” (Iran, Iraq and North Korea). Pyongyang is a compulsive disregarder of the various international treaties, norms and sanctions — having brazenly conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016, besides conducting frequent tests for its missile delivery systems, like the latest ICBM, Hwasong-14. The fingerprints of North Korea’s mandarins appeared closer home when the nexus with the equally infamous Pakistani nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan and the Pakistani military establishment came to light with the US government dubbing the same as a “serious proliferation risk”. It is this sovereign venality, unpredictability and wanton irresponsibility that makes North Korea a menace to global peace.

Even though there are some questions raised on the North Korean weapon systems, given the questionable ability to miniaturise its nuclear warheads to fit into a missile nosecone, yet the confirmed existence of a nuclear weapon stockpile — along with these missile delivery systems of unproven efficacy — is still a very dangerous portend. Further, the possibility of its chemical and biological weaponry getting misused with these delivery systems to churn out crude “dirty bombs” cannot be ruled out. The irresponsibility accompanying the act was further accentuated with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un simultaneously alluding to the tussle with the US having reached the “final stage”. Given that the entire legitimacy of the Kim regime pivots on playing up the ostensible threat from the US and its allies, like South Korea and Japan, as also the fate of other roguish and totalitarian anti-US leaders (who were importantly, without nuclear weapons), like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi — it is unlikely that Pyongyang will turn down the belligerence quotient. If anything, North Korea believes that it now has a more powerful position on the bargaining table to extract its endgame imperatives. With a crippled industrial base (accelerated by the disintegration of the Communist bloc), souring relationship with its biggest trade partner China, with its state-sponsored international counterfeiting industry backfiring — the utter desperation to leverage its sole lever of “nuclear threat” has now got dangerously magnified.

China has historically indulged the dictatorial rule in North Korea to prevent both a regime change in North Korea to a democratic country or even prospects of “reunification” with South Korea, as both scenarios would logically entail a pro-US dispensation or country (with US military bases) on Chinese borders. While ideological considerations played a role in the Korean War (the Soviets and Chinese aided North Koreans), it is modern day aspirations amongst the CPC leadership in China of the “Chinese century” that allowed Beijing to offer the long rope to Pyongyang. However, the patience in China with its protégé has been running thin and the ICBM “red-line” has pushed the Chinese into an uncomfortable spot with North Korea. Still China realises the importance of a status quo on North Korea, as it offers an invaluable buffer to the potential presence of US troops along the 1,420-km-long Sino-Korean land border. Already, South Koreans and Americans are fuming at the North Korean dare and are conducting their own military exercises and deploying the dreaded Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in the near proximity that is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach.

This parallel build-up worries China as it foresees the use of the same against its own defence systems. Expectedly, the blame game on North Korea ensued with the irrepressible Donald Trump tweeting, “So much for China working with us” and “end this nonsense”, the Chinese while condemning the North Korean action urged for a halt to the “China responsibility theory” and owing to their own geostrategic considerations, propounded a dual-purpose statement (along with the Russians) aimed at both North Koreans and the US, “The two sides propose that the DPRK (North Korea) as a voluntary political decision declares a moratorium on testing nuclear explosive devices and ballistic rocket launches, and the US and South Korea refrain from carrying out large-scale joint exercises.” North Koreans realise their geo-strategic importance in a deeply-polarised and suspicious world with competing ambitions — the lack of a cohesive and impactful response to their misdemeanours — has further emboldened the Kim Jong-un regime on the merits of their blackmailing approach. With tempers running high in the restive Korean peninsula, negotiations seem unlikely given the efficacy of the various sanctions. Herein lies the dangers of the only other plausible option — a militarised solution, either in the form of a pre-emptive strike or full-blown escalation, either ways that would surely escalate and engulf a lot of space more than just the Korean peninsula.

Bhopinder Singh's profile photo

Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh (Retd)
Former Lt Governor of Puducherry & Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Fraud On Veterans And Con On Those In Service : Culprits Need To Be Exposed

By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces Veteran

To eat or not to eat that remains the question. Firstly lets categorically state that no FREE RATION has ever been given to anyone in the Defence Services till date. In case anyone is in disagreement then he must accept that till date only FREE SALARY has been paid to everyone in the Govt of India from President down to a peon.

All ranks in the Forces have always been getting their entitled rations when deployed in Field areas. In peace areas only JCOs and Jawans were getting their entitled rations. However since 1983 this facility was extended to the officers too.

This was done after it became very clear that keeping the Forces Fighting fit was not just a phrase but a responsibility of the Govt of India and it included the officers too. The entitled ration scales have been worked out for high altitude areas down to the plains, on ship and submarines, for flying, for Cadets and recruits, for extra strenuous training / exercises with all the nutritional and calorie requirement worked out to the minutest details.

For Siachen types of places it is a totally different scale. So  that is the reason of giving the rations in kind to officers and all those JCOs and men living in married quarters too. Next merely giving an allowance for buying rations even at the market rates would imply that Govt has simply absolved itself of the responsibility towards the Forces.

In that case it may also extend allowances for private purchase of defence vehicles and finally even for purchase of individual weapons and ammunition and its upkeep, certainly not a bad idea.

After all, in the days of yore this used to be the standard practice by many Kings and Emperors. What has further rubbed salt into wound inflicted has been the ridiculous rate of daily allowance of Rs 96. Whereas the daily ration scales for officers include

Mutton……260 gms (or 4 eggs or 500 ml of milk + 25 cheese + 9 gms maltova)

Eggs………02 (or 250 ml of milk)

Milk…….. 250 ml



Green Vegetables……260gms

Onion……… 60 gms



Cooking oil….80gms


Fruit…… 230 gms





Cooking gas…..130gmsPlus

Other items like ham/ sausages/etc…..7gms,

Cornflakes/ custard etc……7gms

As it is now a days less 20 % of the officers are posted in the peace areas and by depriving them of the entitled rations is Govt of India saving millions or billions and what about the trillions lost in…..morale of the Officers, moral of the Sovereign promise, goodwill etc.

Further all talks of ration management and even the talk of CORRUPTION is all rubbish. Even if there is some malpractice there, then instead of eradicating it with all the administrative powers vested together with all pervasive Army Act why this easy way out of abolishing ration in kind? Then why criticize poor Anthony as Raksha Mantri after all he ensured NO PURCHASE of Defence Equipment for 10 long years because of the prevailing foreign slush funds being offered. Let’s hope the Railway Minister does not start following this after the next rail accident……jai Prabhu.So Colonel Mukul Deva, kudos to you. Well done. You have done what the QMG should have done on his own without even waiting for a nod from the Chief.

Now let’s come to another subject that is a Plot hatched somewhere in Lutyen Zone to deprive the Veterans of the ECHS Scheme. As per the plot, someone raised observations on the ECHS cards with electronic chips being issued to the Ex Service men and their dependents.

Today we have nearly 25 lacs ESM with another 1crore as their dependents and this number rising every month.With unveiling of ECHS for Veterans……a category of Govt servants who actually give their sweat and blood during service and are even ready to give their life voluntarily in case required, ECHS cards began to be issued from 2004.

Then as has been observed by Commander Ravindra Waman Pathak, Veteran the cards came under scrutiny of CAG and subsequently the parliament. There were serious insinuations of malpractice in 2013 and. 2014 by people manning the highest levels of the Ministry of Defence. Dhoti shivering Antony did nothing as usual and permitted the plotters to beat down the Forces and the Veterans once again.

The contract of card making was to finish on 31 May 2015. Not wanting to proceed on accusations of corruption Army HQ refused to renew the cards till Govt which controls the finances and CAG which does the audit, approved the card as part of ECHS. At least someone in the Adjutant Generals Branch took a stand and kept the flag flying and kept giving membership on a paper as Temporary Membership Card.

Finally now the MoD and Finance Ministry have accepted the contention to issue card with a RFP tendering TEC and PNC procedure. A firm has now been finally contracted to produce the ECHS cards, Kiosks with card readers and guidance modules. Old chips are not usable as the previous firm hurt by loss of a lucrative contract refuse to provide computer record backup.

In time all 50 lakh card will have to be changed. Presently first those without any formal card that is retirees after 01 Jun 2015 will be issued with new cards followed by replacement of older lots. The portion in red/underlined is a cause of concern for all existing Veterans and their dependents. How can data submitted by a serving soldier / Veterans to Army HQ in true faith for making ECHS Cards made available to a Firm (A private entity) become its property for life time.

There must have been a clause in the contract on the propriety of the database. But since the firm is reportedly refusing to give back the data there a doubt arises of such a clause was indeed there. Further what was the obligation of the security and safety of the data and its misuse by the Firm at any stage either during or after the contract was over? Being peeved at loss of contract is no excuse for the Firm even if it is owned by an influential person, for the data not being handed over to the army (MD ECHS) personal data submitted by the veterans include Name, Personnel Identification Number, Rank, Regiment

  1. Address
  2. Spouse and Children Name
  3. Telephone and / or mobile number
  4. Bank details5. Aadhar card details etc

In view of the above, firstly the AG Branch must file a case against the firm and ask the Raksha Mantri to apply Defence of India Rule (still existing) against the Firm SITL (Score Information Technology Limited) and have it closed down after confiscating all its records.Secondly all ESMs and their dependents should be ready to file cases against the culprits for theft of personal data.

Raksha Mantri also needs to probe and fix the responsibility on those responsible for this fiasco even if it was the Defence Secretary of that period. In case found guilty then action to be initiated against all those found responsible for this.

The PM and his Cabinet must also take responsibility for all decisions pertaining to Defence Forces, it cannot be treated merely like another department of the Govt. Let not Babus, Munims and even Scientists drive agendas affecting the Defence Forces.

There has to be direct interaction between the elected political authority and the Defence Forces Commander on matters military. So instead of losing trillions by removal of rations in kind, spend a few millions on restoring it as a first step.

After all who is a Veteran? As sent by Commander R W Pathak, a Veteran is one who