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Role of Indians in WW-I highlighted

Role of Indians in WW-I highlighted

Sqn Ldr Rana TS Chhina

Chandigarh, December 8

A panel of historians discussed the role of Indian soldiers in the World War-I at the festival today. Sqn Ldr Rana TS Chhina said the story of the Indian freedom was largely a political narrative and the contribution of Indian soldiers had never been studied.

He suggested declaration of the orange marigold as a remembrance flower for honouring the fallen Indian soldiers on the lines of red poppy chosen by the British for the same cause. Prof Anju Suri said princely states from the Punjab region had major contribution towards the war effort and the rulers of Patiala, Jind, Kapurthala, Nabha and Malerkotla paid handsome incentives to soldiers. David Ommissi, a history lecturer in the UK, said this muted description portrayed the sufferings endured by Indian soldiers. — TNS


India, US partners in defence, says American commander

India, US partners in defence, says American commander

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Hawaii. courtesy: Twitter

Washington, December 8

India and the US are global partners in defence and regional security, a top American commander has said, as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman toured the headquarters of the strategic Indo-Pacific command in Hawaii before concluding her maiden visit to America.

Sitharaman described her US visit as part of her endeavour to “take forward the bilateral defence cooperation”.

Noting that the India-US relationship in defence has acquired the dimensions of a strategic partnership over the last decade, she said that the two countries have made considerable progress.

Sitharaman capped off her trip with a visit to Hawaii -– the headquarters of what early this year was rechristened as US Indo-Pacific Command. The US calls Asia Pacific as Indo-Pacific. It has renamed Pacific Command as Indo-Pacific Command or INDOPACOM.

“Our two democratic nations are committed to upholding a rule-based international order which has brought decades of peace, stability and prosperity. We are global partners on defence and security, and this exemplifies our mutual cooperation to assure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said US INDOPACOM Commander Admiral Phil Davidson. — PTI

Rahul hails Gen Hooda’s surgical strikes remark

New Delhi, December 8

Congress president Rahul Gandhi today lauded Lt Gen DS Hooda (retd) for his remarks in Chandigarh yesterday that the 2016 surgical strikes should have been carried out secretly, and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for drawing “political capital” from the issue.

“Spoken like a true soldier General. India is so proud of you. Mr 36 (sic) has absolutely no shame in using our military as a personal asset. He used the surgical strikes for political capital and the Rafale deal to increase Anil Ambani’s real capital by 30,000 Cr #SurgicalStrike,” Gandhi said on Twitter.

Later in the day, former minister P Chidambaram also spoke with “pride” of people of eminence shedding their fear and speaking their mind. “Glad to see important persons shedding their fear and breaking their silence. First it was Dr Arvind Subramanian who called demonetisation a massive monetary shock. Next it was outgoing CEC who said note ban had no impact on the use of black money in elections. Now, it is General Hooda who has decried the hype over the so-called ‘surgical strike’ and its politicisation by government,” he tweeted. — TNS

427 pass out from IMA

427 pass out from IMA

Officers now: Cadets celebrate after their passing-out parade at the Officers’ Training Academy in Gaya on Saturday. PTI

Dehradun, December 8

A total of 427 gentlemen cadets, including 80 from seven friendly countries, took part on Saturday in a colourful passing-out parade at the end of their training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA).

The parade was held at the Chetwode drill square in front of Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Devraj Anbu to mark the successful completion of their autumn course.

Chief Reviewing Officer Lt Gen Anbu congratulated the cadets on the completion of their training. He said it was a matter of great honour for him to address the cadets on this occasion at an institution where he himself participated in a parade as a young cadet many years ago.

This year 53 cadets were from Uttar Pradesh followed by 51 from Haryana, 36 from Bihar, 26 from Uttarakhand, 25 from Delhi, 20 from Maharashtra , 15 from Himachal Pradesh, 14 from Punjab, 12 from Jammu and Kashmir, 10 from Madhya Pradesh and eight from West Bengal.

The 80 foreign gentlemen cadets who passed out of the academy on Saturday represented seven friendly nations, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tazakistan and Vietnam. After the conclusion of the parade, a pipping ceremony was held at Somnath stadium of the IMA in the presence of friends and family members. — PTI


Xi a mystery man, decode him to know China: Expert Says West’s belief that communist nation will fail unfounded

Xi a mystery man, decode him to know China: Expert

Author SK Verma speaks as Maj Gen Govind Dwivedi (retd) looks on during their session ‘Overhang of the Sino-India war in 1962 and today’.

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 8

In what is a significant assertion, a “China-watcher” on Saturday suggested it is imperative to “decode” Chinese President Xi Jinping to understand modern China and termed him as a “mysterious person”.

Major General Govind Dwivedi (retd), a former Defence Attache to China and North Korea who is now with the Faculty of International Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, while speaking at the Military Literature Festival, used a phrase from the early 20th century and termed the present regime as ‘Xi — the Long March’. The ‘long march’ is a term used for the tactic used by Army Generals of China in the 1910s.

“Until you decode Xi you cannot understand China. He is the ‘new emperor’ and President for Life (China okayed an amendment in March this year to remove the two-term cap on Presidents). The West thought China will fail, but China is not going to fail,” he said at a session ‘Overhang of the Sino-India war in 1962 and today’.

China, he said, was on a mission to ‘buy’ and ‘rent out’ friends, the obvious reference to China funding smaller countries in Africa.

Claude Arpi, a noted France-born author, who is now holding the Field Marshal KM Cariappa chair of excellence at the United Service Institution of India, for his research on the Indian presence in Tibet during 1947-1962, suggested “India should declassify all papers relating to Tibet. At present, we (researchers) depend on CIA (US spy agency) documents. Today you can get more Chinese documents than Indian documents”. He went on to warn “China will select its own Dalai Lama, be prepared”.

In another key opinion, Shiv Kunal Verma, author of 1962: The War That Wasn’t asserted there was “no point in talking what Nehru did, it’s like today saying a Brigade Commander will hinge his actions on what Nirmala Sitharaman is doing or what (Narendra) Modi is doing. We need to understand what happened. Time has come to hold a mirror to our face. We need to wipe the slate clean and look at China differently”.

In his opinion, “had a one brigade commander stood up, we would have a different story to tell (of the 1962 war).” Maj Gen PJS Sandhu (retd), who authored 1962: A view from the other side of the hill, said several questions prevail why India did not use air power. “There was unrealistic assessment of Chinese air capabilities by intelligence”.


MILITARY LITERATURE FESTIVAL Bring intel arms of 3 services under DIA command: Ex-chief

Bring intel arms of 3 services under DIA command: Ex-chief

Former RAW chief AS Dulat (retd) speaks as (from left) Lt Gen Kamal Davar (retd), Lt Gen Sanjiv K Langer (retd) and IPS KC Verma look on at Lake Club in Chandigarh on Saturday. Photo: Ravi Kumar

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 8

Former intelligence chiefs today suggested a change in the command and control structure and functional ethos of the intelligence set-up in India to make it a more effective instrument to assist decision making.

“I am afraid that at the apex level of intelligence, you have the NSA who is also coordinating the functioning of intelligence agencies apart from his other jobs. The country needs a Director of National Intelligence who coordinates the work of intelligence agencies as the NDA’s charter of policy making and advisory is far too large and significant for merely being a coordinator,” former Director General of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Lt Gen Kamal Davar, said while speaking at a session ‘Wisdom of Spies’ at the Military Literature Festival.

He suggested that for the intelligence arms of the three services to be effective, they should be brought under the command of the DIA. The lack of expertise in languages was a major weakness with Indian intelligence and we needed to be much more serious about Asian languages, he added. 

The country had a good intelligence set-up with good coordination among different agencies, but we needed to sharpen our arsenal and covert capability, he said.

Pointing out that covert capability takes a very long time to build, but two Prime Ministers in the past dismissed a fair amount of such capability in an outright manner, Lt Gen Davar said decisions at the highest level have to be made carefully and deliberately and not based on emotions.

“Unfettered access to decision makers in a converged paradigm is extremely important in the Indian context and there is no question in a democracy of all intelligence agencies reporting to one man,” Lt Gen Sanjiv Langer, another former DIA chief, said.

Stating that we don’t want to create another J Edgar Hoovar (a former long-time FBI chief who wielded immense power), he said in the present Indian political environment, it would be suicidal to have one person controlling all agencies.

He said that in the present era, intelligence required marriage of intellect with technology and spies had to be treated as a capital asset and not just a resource that could be used and thrown away. Parliamentary oversight over intelligence agencies, an over-the-horizon vision and an attitudinal overhaul were required, he added.

While sharing his experiences of dealing with the heads of various foreign intelligence agencies, AS Dulat, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, suggested the recently elected Prime Minister of Pakistan has been in place for just a couple of months and should be given time to enable him to improve ties with India.


India getting edged out in Kabul: Experts ‘Russia, China subtly backing Taliban’

India getting edged out in Kabul: Experts

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 8

India faces a tough challenge in Afghanistan as the Taliban, backed by Russia and China, gets mainstreamed. It could soon get control over some parts of the strife-torn country.

Discussing what is, in strategic circles, termed the “new great game”, leading strategic thinkers from the Intelligence-gathering community, military and diplomacy — speaking at the Military Literature Festival here on Saturday — warned how India is being edged out.

The original phrase “great game” (1813-1907) stems from the expansionist policies of the British empire and the Czar-led Russia.

Maj Gen BK Sharma (retd), who heads the Centre for Strategic Studies and Simulation at the United Services Institution (CS3), said: “We are in the new Cold War. The strategic embrace of Russia and China is to push out the US from Afghanistan.”

The General cited the “reconciliation talks” at Moscow where the Taliban came up with an irreconcilable list of demands like the release of 30,000 prisoners, rewriting of Afghanistan’s Constitution  and asking the US to leave. “India is getting isolated. Russia is playing a game to avenge the US-forced withdrawal of the erstwhile USSR (from Afghanistan) in 1989. China is playing a subtle game.”

An anti-US alliance has emerged, forcing the US to open a direct channel with the Taliban. “India should try and bring the US to become a forerunner of any reconciliation process,” said the General, who has just returned from the India-Afghan security dialogue in Kabul. India had a principled stance that it would not talk to the Taliban, he added.

Suggesting a more realistic approach, former Ambassador Gurjit Singh suggested: “We tend to lose friends quickly. The need is to make more friends without trying being to be the ‘Vatican’ or moralistic about it.” He said new rules of the game were emerging and “we have to be ready to play by the new rules”.

“In the 1970s, we wanted the US out of Indian Ocean, now we want the US to remain there and keep the Chinese out. Our worry is China’s move into southern Indian Ocean and the US may not do much about it.”

China-watcher and officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) Jayant Ranade said: “The US has allowed China to grow. Today we are witnessing a scramble between the US and China to grab more authority or retaining what they have.”

“The suspicion Moscow and Beijing have of each other will show up soon,” asserted Ranade. Tilak Devasher, former director of the Intelligence Bureau, who has authored ‘Pakistan: At the Helm’, moderated the discussion.



MILITARY LITERATURE FESTIVAL The world & words of warriors

The world & words of warriors

Feathers. Isn’t it interesting that we see them in both — arrows and pens, arguably the first two long-range weapons that extended the range of the individual who wielded them?

Roopinder Singh

Feathers. Isn’t it interesting that we see them in both — arrows and pens, arguably the first two long-range weapons that extended the range of the individual who wielded them?

While it took three or more vanes or feathers to make the fletching that gave stability to the arrow, just one feather made a quill and enabled the mind to focus on thoughts enough to express them with the expectation of a degree of longevity.

For as long as there have been wars, there have been discussions/debates/disputes about them — accounts of soldiers who fought, officers who led them, the victors and the vanquished, all make for a colourful spectrum of literature that has a definite niche of its own, even as it feeds the need among a broader audience to know more about that ultimate engagement that too often results in death and destruction.

While the debate about whether war is fundamental to human nature or a product of circumstances is an old and unresolved one, however, the actions of individuals faced with life and death situations that take them far beyond what they have experienced so far can be fascinating. Polemology or the study of war is an ancient and honoured pursuit.

India has a long tradition of war literature. Parts of the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita and the Arthshastra refer to war, its physical and moral dimensions, and weapons.

Many folk songs feature the distress of the damsel whose husband or loved one has gone into battle. Prithviraj Raso, an epic poem written by Chand Bardai (1149 – c. 1200), is considered to be of the first works in the history of Hindi literature which has accounts of war. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Subhadra Kumari Chauhan have written some of the epic Veer Ras poems.

The havoc caused, especially in Punjab, by the eager Indian princes drafting able-bodied men for World War I led to empty homes and literature of longing, expressed in folk songs, poems and prose in Punjabi and Urdu.

There have been other accounts and serious studies of war in various languages, including in English, which are more widely seen, discussed and feted than those in regional languages.

Chandigarh has one of the largest concentration of veterans in India, and it is only fitting that it has become the venue of the Military Literature Festival. Preceded by the carnival that served a broader audience, the festival has an impressive line-up of speakers and will thus become the focal point of much discussion during and after the sessions.

The disciplined and distant world of the armed forces becomes intelligible through interaction with soldier-scholars. Indeed, the felicity with which some of them wield the pen may come as a bit of a surprise for those who have not previously interacted with them.

The mass movement of soldiers to faraway lands had to impact them in various ways. The exposure showed the Indian soldier that he was not inferior to any, in fact, often he vanquished his counterparts. No doubt, they were part of the British Indian army which served the British Empire, but they had their own minds, and once they left the Indian shores, many spread out. Indeed, 90 per cent of the members of the Ghadar Party, established in 1913 to overthrow the “English Raj”, were Sikhs from Punjab — half of them Army veterans.

Indian soldiers returned from wars, including the World Wars with battle scars and bright ideas that illuminated their quest for freedom against the colonial yoke. As they served their motherland, they gained more, and thus have more to share with us and teach us.


MILITARY LITERATURE FESTIVAL From WW-II to Indo-Pak wars, three chiefs have diverse literary choices

(L-R) Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa. File photo

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 6

As the three-day Military Literature Festival kicks off in Chandigarh on Friday, a look at the literary interests of the three service chiefs shows they have diverse preferences, almost like the forces they command.

Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s favourite book is ‘The Battle of Dien Bien Phu’, which is based on the French-Vietnam war and was authored by Jules Roy (first published in 1963).

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, currently the senior-most military commander, marks ‘The Cruel Sea’ as his favourite book. It is based on a British naval fleet in the North Atlantic during the World War-II (1939-45) and was authored by Nicholas Monsarrat (first printed in 1951).

IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa’s preference is more recent, the 2016 released ‘India’s Wars: A Military History, 1947-71’, authored by Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam (retd). The author was a fighter jet pilot, so is the IAF Chief. The book is detailed and has insider viewpoint and provides some lessons for military planners. A Ph.D in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras, the Air Vice Marshal is said to be researching for a sequel to his book and will cover the 1972-2015 period.

Monsarrat served in the Royal British Navy during WW-II and rose to the rank of Lt Commander. He served on warships in the North Atlantic. His book is a portrayal of ordinary men learning to fight and survive in a battle with German U-boats (submarines). The book went on to be made into a movie by the same name in 1953.

‘The Battle of Dien Bien Phu’ is considered a decisive battle. The Vietnamese rebels led by Ho Chi Minh fought against the French and attacked their garrison, something considered as turning point in the first Indo-China War (1946–54). The term Indo-China was used for former French colonies Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

After WW-II, French forces tried to re-occupy the area and camped at Dien Bien Phu valley in late 1953. Vietnamese commander Vo Nguyen Giap amassed troops and placed heavy artillery in caves of the mountains overlooking the French camp. Boosted by some Chinese help, Giap mounted assaults, eliminating use of the French airfield. The Vietnamese forces overran the base, which led to the signing of the Geneva Accords of 1954.